ross wallis - artist and artisan

art + music + poetry + photography + craft

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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.



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


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.


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






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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…………………………………………………………………………………………………

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 - the only bit that I missed out was about his wife leaving him because she wanted children and he didn't - he didn't feel that it was fair for him to have children as he felt he wouldn't be the best father.

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 here watching you knit

Sitting here watching you knit





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?






Fantastic Plastic


Plastic is a very fine thing
A very fine thing indeed
Without it I don’t know what we’d do
It’s often just what we need
Even our clothes are made of the stuff
Those fashionable skinny stretch jeans
Think of life without elastic
Your pants around your knees

But every time you wash your clothes
Microfibres wash out to sea
They even end up in the drinking water
That we wrap up in PVC
Now plastic bottles they are a very fine things
We are on a plastic spree
Millions being made everyday
To be discarded by you and me

It’s Brill! It’s brill! Let’s feed it to the krill
A new link in the chain
Mussels and shrimps and limpets and krill
All containing Polyethylene!
Buy shrink wrapped fruit from a tropical zone
Just a car ride from your home
And wild Alaskan salmon steaks
Wrapped up in polyurethane foam

And when you’ve finished with the bags
You can chuck ‘em in the wheelie bin
Then maybe take a stroll along the beach
To see what the tide’s brought in
Ear buds wet wipes panty liners
And plastic bags galore
Condoms tampons drinking straws
All washed up on the shore

Plastic rope and fishing net
Stuck around a dolphin’s tail
Albatross chicks with a bellyful of bits
And Fishing lines drowning whales
Cling film, bubble wrap, all kinds of crap
All swirling in the ocean
A great big rash of plastic trash
A tsunami of pollution

With Polystyrene trays from burger chains
And plastic cutlery
This fast food throw away society
Is whose responsibility?
We burn the gas the oil the coal
Release the CO2
The irony of melting ice
That keeps our fridges cool

With farmers coverin’ up their land
In miles and miles of fleece
And lengths of thin black silage wrap
Left flapping in the breeze
Dog owners baggin’ up the poo
Which is a good thing we agree
Though the next time you are passing through
You’ll see it hanging in a tree

Plastic is fantastic
It’s the most amazing stuff
Ending up in the remotest spots
So perhaps we’ve made enough?
Millions of tons dumped everyday
The problem it is drastic
Sometimes I just feel like sticking my head
Into a bag that’s made of... paper

A plastic bag is a very fine thing
Without them we’d be lost
But do we ever stop and think
About their actual cost?



I heard a thought on the radio - if plastic is made of oil, and oil is made of prehistoric life forms - including the bodies of dinosaurs, then a plastic dinosaur may well contain real dinosaur…


The Flies Demise (No flies on us)

Listening to the headlines I am regularly hearing
Scientific studies show that bugs are disappearing
Many species on the brink that may soon be extinct
Statistics that are sickening and give us pause to think
For without the creepy crawlies, there won’t be you and me
The web of life is intricate a complex filigree
If bugs go other beings will not be having fun
Pull on one thread of the web it will all become undone

So look after the maggots, the caterpillars and beatles
Blue bottles dragon flies the gnats and the mosquitos
Every creature has its place in this natural web
Break just one link in the chain and all may soon be dead

It was only in my father’s day they invented DDT
A miracle concoction that was revolutionary
Get rid of pests, protect the crops, a world without disease
Killing off mosquitoes to make the world malaria free
And when my dad was telling me about the birds and bees
He didn’t mention gmo's or the grubbing out of trees
Climate change, colony collapse, inconvenient facts
Like pesticides, insecticides and loss of habitat

So look after the maggots, the caterpillars and the beatles
blue bottles dragon flies the gnats and the mosquitos
Every creature has it’s place in this web of life
If we break just one link in the chain it will cause no end of strife

You could tell a happy cyclist by the bugs upon his teeth
He is gritting them now, as the trucks roll by and the bugs are gone with the butterflies
In the headlights of the car, moths as thick as snow
A windscreen of squished critters and a radiator full
But I’d rather clean the car I think it couldn’t be as sad
As this concrete hell with plastic grass that makes me feel so bad
Wiping out whole ecosystems to make our veg more virile
Mechanised monoculture and the whole world going sterile

So look after the maggots, the caterpillars and the beatles
Blue bottles dragon flies the gnats and the mosquitos
Every creature has it’s place in this natural web
Break just one link in the chain and all may soon be dead

I have a dream I’m a politician one of the chosen ones
Half way through an important speech I see my flies undone
Not Half the nightmare as waking up to find you are the one in power
And in your hands is the fate of the earth in this eleventh hour
The politicians do nothing and the sand is almost gone
It’s time to strike with all our might to save the earth from further harm
I don’t mean to alarm you but the time to act is now
Extinction Rebellion stand up and tell us how

To look after the maggots, the caterpillars and the beatles
Blue bottles dragon flies the gnats and the mosquitos
Every creature has it’s place in this web of life
Break just one link in the chain and the problems will be rife


Where have all the flowers gone - long time passing...
Insects pollinated them, everyone...

So the next time you see a fly fly by, don’t swot it leave it be
It has just as much right to life as do you and me
Its really hard to grasp I know but it might just be the last
Another species bites the dust its happening that fast

Look after the maggots, the caterpillars and the beatles
Blue bottles dragon flies the gnats and mosquitoes
Every creature has it’s place in this natural web
Break just one link of the chain we all may soon be dead

Break just one link of the chain we all may soon be dead






Carved In Stone

A soldier dressed in rough blue serge
Lies face down on a muddy verge
No goodbyes, he died too soon
Blood and mud and a mortal wound

He was once a babe in arms
A beloved son a treasured one
Every one a mother’s son
All the names now carved in stone

And the young man who fired the gun
Did he believe when it all began
In king and country and in playing the game
To kill an enemy who believed the same 

He too was a babe in arms
A beloved son a treasured one
Every one a mother’s son
All the names now carved in stone

A Wave from the platform to cheers and tears
tearstained cheeks and unspoken fears
A pretty young girl throws a flower
Caught up in the passion of the hour
The nationalistic patriotic jingoistic refrain
And only a mothers scant hidden pain

For once they all were babes in arms
Beloved sons, treasured ones
Every one a mother’s son
All the names now carved in stone

If the crowd that cheered them on their way
Knew then what they later came to say
Would they have cheered so load and felt so proud
Sending these children to an early grave

For once they all were babes in arms
Beloved sons treasured ones
Every one a mother’s son
All the names now carved in stone

And the cattle trucks that rattle by
Did the watchers stop to question why
Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters 
Destined for that place of slaughter

All were once babes in arms
Beloved ones treasured ones
All the names now carved in stone
Every one from a mother begun

And the cattle trucks still rolling by
With bullock calves on their way to die
Deprived too soon of their mothers love
The fields and the sun and the sky above

They don’t have their names in stone
A number is the best they get
And when their time and number comes
Who among us knows regret?

The young drug dealer, knifed for turf
A man in a suicide vest, blessed or cursed
A tortured man who won’t confess
A hapless hopeless homelessness 
The fascist who beats the air with a fist
A man beats his wife when he comes home pissed
The bully and the cheat who wreck other peoples lives
The drug addict and the child labourer who strives

If there is no god above
Nor earth mother beneath our feet
It’s up to each of us to love
Each and every heart that beats

For all of us were babes in arms
Beloved ones treasured ones
A mother is where we all begun
A fact that should be carved in stone





Planet Titanic


RMS Titanic ploughed blindly on
Unsinkable symbol of industrial might
A flat dead calm and a starry dome
Steaming fast into an icy night

No panic yet on planet Titanic
The 1st class passengers still clink their drinks
Ice cubes melting in the gin and tonic
A disaster unfolding as the ship it sinks

Seven and a half billion we are all on board
There are no lifeboats, no place elsewhere
The water will rise as the ice is melting
As fossil fuel burning fumes foul our air

The water will rise as the ship goes under
Lowlands swallowed up by the sea
Nowhere to go for many millions
The world on the brink of misery
Our planet floating in this deep dark ocean
An endless sea and no planet B

Stop denying that the world is dying
It’s time for action, to ring the bell
Living simply so the world will live on
Stop pretending that all is well, well well well

A capitalist empire built on oil and mining 
Stripping the earth of wealth and life
unsustainability built into the system
It’s time to turn this ship around
Half truths, spin, and lies abounding
It’s time to turn this ship around

Already in the midst of mass extinction 
Already the cause of so much need
Felling trees to feed obsessions and addictions 
Consumerist and capitalist growth and greed

Blindly steaming full ahead burning
burying our heads deep in the sand 
Planet Titanic will keep on turning
A lifeless dessert of a no man’s land

Time to call time on this one way ticket
Time to be a rebel rebel with a cause
No more lies from our lords and masters
It’s time to turn this ship around
Frack off all you Fossil fools you
It’s time to turn this ship around

If not now then when?
If not us, then who?

Respect existence or expect resistance

It’s time to turn this ship around

(Well we’ll well, who’s that a calling…)

Stop denying that the world is dying

It’s time for action, to ring the bell
Living simply so the world will live on
Stop pretending that all is well, well well well




All the gifts (I might receive) A song

My habitual way is to hide away
To get on my bike and to ride away
Like miss matched magnets I miss your eye
Though I always hoped things might change by and by
if I try
Yet It’s too crazy to conceive
That I might wear my heart on my sleeve

I don’t want to talk too much today anyway
I wouldn’t have too much to say anyway
I wear my armour plate draw the curtains bolt the gate
Turn the key in the door, not have to talk to anyone anymore
It’s just too crazy to believe
That I might wear my heart on my sleeve

Maybe I was wounded too deep
The wound is still raw, can still make me weep
Some time long ago in the past
My heart was pierced through and through
when my world fell apart first and last
And maybe it’s still that I believe
Perhaps I do wear my heart on my sleeve

Like a snail I hide in my shell
I retreat like a hermit to my far away cell
I don’t want to let anyone in
I don’t even know how to begin I don’t know where to start and it’s me I deceive
If I can’t see what I might achieve
We’re I wearing my heart on my sleeve

like a hedgehog I’m curled in a ball
All prickles outside but feeling so small
Though my belly is soft and warm
I long for your touch so much to keep me from harm, the strength of your arm
Though I fear that I might be thought to be naive
To be wearing my heart on my sleeve

And for sure it’s a lesson to learn
To trust and to melt in my turn
To soften and open up and let others in
Unravel this tight knitted brow to begin, let the whole world know here I am, I am here
all the gifts I might Receive
If I bravely wear my heart on my sleeve





In These Strange Times


In these strange times
I hear people say
In these strange times
Living day by day
In these strange times
keeping all at bay
And what’s to come, who knows?
Same old same old I suppose

But hey, what am I gonna do about it today?

In these strange times
Of grave emergency
Governments respond
With all due urgency
And we all blunder blindly on
Towards catastrophe
In these strange times, in these strange climbs
The warning bells They chime

But hey, what we gonna do about it anyway?

In these strange times
We struggle for control
In these strange times
Swimming round in my our goldfish bowls
In these strange times
Whilst we count the day’s death toll
Counting on man’s humanity to man
Whilst Gaia she is making other plans

But hey, what we gonna do about it today?

In these strange times
We see what our leaders lack
In these strange times
We ask that our governments must act
humanity before profit
And Environment before that
getting our priorities right, being told the facts
No more papering over the ever widening cracks

But hey, what they gonna do about it today?

In these strange times
When we live so differently
In these strange times
Maybe all of us can see
That for us to go back to how it was
Is not the way it can be because
Everything must change, nothing can be the same
Forget the status quo, I think we all must know
That If we don’t act, then Gaia will
And these strange times will become stranger still

Hey, They will, they will become stranger still.




Panic buying toilet roll
And hand sanitiser
(Kills 99.9% bacteria)
And pasta
Empty shelves in the less than super markets
Pubs shut
Clubs suspended
School out
Sport fixtures
While the real emergency
This mutating virus
May just be a symptom
Of a much larger emergency
Sapiens
Climate change
Wet market
Zoonotic
As we spread like a disease across the new world
The long established peoples of the old world succumbed
To