Ross Wallis + Digital Media + Art

teacher and enthusiast

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I was writing this song on the anniversary of the school shooting at the Colombine High School, when I learned that school students in the States had chosen this day to protest American gun law - so I added the last verse.
I love taking candid 'street' photos of the characters that I meet in my local little city, especially on market day. Sometimes I stop and chat to them, and ask if I can photograph them, sometimes I just sneak photographs. If you know Wells market, you may well have come across some of the folk in my song.
This is a slightly uptempo version of the same song - a bit less of a dirge, strummed rather than finger - picked
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Sargent Lee's Story

Original Version
Version Two


I was on my way back to my childhood home of Leicester, sitting on a train and knitting, when the fella opposite me started chatting - and out came his extraordinary and painful story of post traumatic stress disorder. Everything in the song are the things that he told me, I made nothing up.

Sargent Lee's Story

Ross Wallis


1 I was knitting on a train to help time pass when a man near me lent over and asked If I thought that knitting was good therapy, he said it was for him anyway just, sitting there watching me knit.

2 He said “you mind me talking to you? I don’t want to bore you, that’s not what I’d want to do, I just like sitting here watching you knit”.

3 “Something hand-made”’ he said, “that must feel good”, and his eyes filled up with tears, he hoped I understood. He said he'd been a sous-chef till they gave him the sack, and now he's only got these shelves to stack.

2 Sargent Lee of the infantry, didn't want to bore me with his history Now he's just stacking shelves all day.

1 “My name is Lee, I was a sergeant in the army, they don't look ex soldiers like me. But I have my car, my Xbox and my wide screen TV, everything that I need, everything that I need”.

2 He said he'd joined up after 9/11, to see the world, learn a trade, be occupied 24/7  And he was just sitting there watching me knit.

3 The CO said get on the transport, not saying where too, but they had all seen the news so of course they all knew. And it was hot in Iraq, in all that gear, the sand, the heat and the fear, the sand, the heat and the fear.

2 “They don't look after ex soldiers like me, it’s thank you very much and goodbye to the army, now I’m stacking shelves all day, stacking shelves for minimum pay”.

1 “I didn't join to kill, but the money was good, I drove big machines, and I cooked good food. I didn't know how I would feel till we got to Iraq, till we were actually there and we were under attack. And it was me they were trying to kill”.

2 “And I never saw them, but the CO he said shoot, so I kept my finger on the trigger like they told me to. And it was me they were trying to kill”.

3 “I didn't loose a leg, that might have been more easy, something at least that people could see, I bleed inside, where the pain I can hide, and I’m still hurting after all these years, still hurting after all of these years”.

2  “Iraq, it done my head in, PTSD, they give it a name, but it doesn't help me know who's to blame”.

1 “I can’t wash clean, the desert sand still in my hair, 12 years on it hasn't gone and it simply isn’t fair. Was I to blame when I wrote my name, did I have a choice? The moment I signed on the line I signed away my voice, but I never wanted to be there”.

2 “I used to cook, when I wasn't on patrol, cooking was my secondary role, and thats why it wasn't me that day”

2 “My good mates out on patrol there, were blown to bits by a teddy bear. An IED stuffed in a toy kangaroo, there was simply nothing I could do. Simply nothing I could do”.

2 “They don't look after you not once you leave, they never taught us how to grieve, and I don’t know why it wasn’t me that day”.

1 “Now I can't get the sand from under my nails, no matter how I scrub, washing always fails, I didn't join to kill, but the uniform was cool, and I got a medal too, for being such a fucking hero. A young and impressionable fool”.

2 “Sargent bloody Lee of the infantry, still bleeding internally, they taught us how to kill, but not how to grieve, and I still don't know why it wasn't me that day”.

3 “My dad was in the falklands, and saw men die, but he can’t talk about it, can’t help me understand why, And I can’t talk to my missies cause I know I’d only cry. And it’s still hurting after all of these years”.

2 “Sergeant bleeding Lee,  sorry to be boring you with my history. I Just like sitting here watching  you knit”.

Sitting there watching you knit

Sitting there watching you knit



Columbine High Columbine

Ross Wallis



Richard and Rachel lying on a spring green lawn 
eating a picnic in the morning sun
no idea what had just begun 
That April day in 99 
on the school campus of Columbine

Rachel didn’t want to eat in the school canteen 
A pretty girl just turned 17, 
wearing a summer blouse and faded jeans
That fine spring day in 99
lying on the grass outside Columbine

Harris and Klebold were preparing a rout
A rampage of slaughter to serve them right
Weapons in the trunk and a plan for a fight
in the parking lot at Columbine

A school of friends, of love and learning
Teenage romance, angst and yearning
All to end in blood and burning
With those two gun crazed boys returning
To their school campus at Columbine 

The shooting started, Rachel’s life ended
Lead in the head instead of the learning intended
And Just because of the school she attended
A broken body that could not be mended
On the School campus of Columbine

Eric and Dylan they were bullied at school 
made fun of and ridiculed 
didn’t want to be remembered as fools
Would pay them all back with some real cool tools 
on their school campus in Columbine 

Spattered blood on battered books 
shattered glass, and terrified looks 
spent cartridge cases of shiny brass 
scattered in the aftermath
On the school campus at Columbine

Mothers have the right to bare arms 
to wrap around their children and keep them from harm
Not the agony and pain as they are lowered in the ground 
A lifetime to grieve for the life that is gone 
and a lawn that is forever now a shrine

Politicians  respond with inane speeches 
Recruiting soldiers to teach and arming teachers 
spouting rhetoric like evangelical preachers
but the 2nd amendment remains enshrined
no lessons learned at Columbine 

The selling of rifles is an assault on a nation
You don’t need a math lesson to work the equation
To connect the event with a direct causation 
Rise up now in condemnation 
of the crazy laws that led to Columbine

Still the NRA hold sway in the good ol’ US of A
The land of the free and the not so free
In Rachel’s case, the not to be
Shot dead in April 99

Bath school, Virginia tech
Marjory Stoneman and Sandy Hook
Douglas, Dunblaine and Hungerford
The list it grows longer all the time

The school students themselves now say no more
To armed guards in the corridors 
To surveillance and to locks on doors
to selling guns in discount stores
To the meme that spread from Columbine
like a Stain, malignant and malign
When and where do we draw the line
we must join them, they’re our future
yours and mine.

The children who call time on Columbine




Wednesday Morning Wells Market

Ross Wallis


From the penniless porch a tin whistle plays a gap toothed old man whistling for a few quid a day
Whilst a thin dark skinned girl is selling the big issue she begs with her eyes, and her lips mouth a thank you

and I can't help but wonder where they’re bound, where they’re from and there but for fortune go the words  of a song

And the bald man rolls by in his Rolls The barrow man he sells sausage rolls And an old woman bent double in ill fitting clothes
Just a Wednesday morning market day throng And some passers by passing by in the words of a song

There's a young man all dressed up in camouflage gear except for a colourful hat and the ring in his ear
and a woman grown so large that  she can’t even walk she’s eating a burger and she’s drinking a Coke 

and I can't help but wonder where they’re bound, where they’re from and there but for fortune go the words  of a song

And the bald man rolls by in his Rolls The barrow man he sells sausage rolls And an old woman bent double in ill fitting clothes
Just a Wednesday morning market day throng And some passers by passing by in the words of a song

There’s an amputee in a wheelchair and I am wondering how it is that he got to be there 
whilst a thin pale lady with scarlet  painted lips signals for a taxi with her fingertips

and I can't help but wonder where they’re bound, where they’re from and there but for fortune go the words of a song

And I'm thinking that I might be any one of these but for an accident of birth, and a family tree
Whatever it might be that makes me me. 
They all had their mothers, and suckled at a teat
They must all have beds to go to, and their meals to eat 
strangers  passing by in a market place
with very different lifelines etched across their faces  
Just a Wednesday morning market day throng
And some passers by passing by in the words of a song

Just a Wednesday morning market day throng And some passers by passing by in the words of a song 
And some passers by passing by in the words of a song


Progress

Ross Wallis


From the moment that our ancestors picked up sticks and stones
We cracked each other’s skulls open and broke each other’s bones
Violence and aggression is in our DNA
It seems that homo sapiens has always been this way
We learned to use some twisted flax
To bind the stick and stone
To create an axe with which to chop and a spear that could be thrown 
these first crude tools were just the start
We humans gained the skill
To develop ever better weapons with which to maim and kill

Progress, Progress, - we talk about progress
From throwing a stone, to flying a drone
but is this really progress?

With the spring we found in a length of wood, 
and that twisted length of grass
We could shoot an arrow 600 feet with a flight both true and fast
We learned to forge and hone an edge
to create a fearsome blade 
To cut and slash and disembowel to impale and behead
We then discovered gunpowder to fire a cannonball 
that could travel 60 meters and knock down castle walls
With blunderbuss and flintlock we could fill the air with lead, 
and fire upon a line of troops till everyone lay dead

Progress Progress - we all go on about progress
From throwing a stone, to flying a drone
Yeah sure, but can we really call this progress?

We could batter down the battlements with trebuchet and ram
cut and slice and poke and skewer and spike our fellow man
Burn and rape and pillage and generally misbehave 
Then idolise the warriors, the knights, warlords and braves
The age of the crusades is called the age of chivalry
When we butchered the Infidel for Christianity 
With colours flying and armour shining and all the pageantry 
We’ve romanticised the knights of old with all their heraldry 

Progress, Progress - we all go on and on about progress
From throwing a stone, to flying a drone
but can we really call this progress?

With regiments of infantry the army did expand
With ordinance and cavalry and regimental bands 
With Young men willing to take the shilling to kill destroy and trash 
for patriotism or duty, or even for the cash
But In the last century we really have excelled
The pace of change has accelerated in a way unparalleled 
with mechanised killing on an unprecedented scale
With industrialised slaughter and all that that entails

machine guns, barbed wire, poison gas munitions
battleships, cruise missiles, nerve agents and genetic mutations
nuclear bombs napalm agent orange spayed in formations 
stealth jets nerve gas cyber attacks even satellite stations
water boarding torture radicalisation of whole populations
human rights violated the genocide of whole Nations 

In just a few millennia we've gone from stone to drone
Using a games console with which a remote weapon is flown
we kill without leaving our home or spilling our cup of tea
Such is our ingenuity, such crazy technology
But The social skills of our caveman ancestors lie close beneath the skin
How not to kill in the first place, is the place we should begin 
Thousands of years of progress, and we haven’t progressed at all
not until we can get it together to ban all need for war

Progress Progress - we all go on about progress
From throwing a stone, to flying a drone
Yeah sure, but is this really  progress?