Friday, 27 November 2020


I recently participated in a Zoom poetry workshop with the Secret Poets. I came away with these two poems.

the sea strand

I could never piece together

these jumbled jigsawed sand grains

and here comes the sea

to chaos any illusion of order

I often walk on the beach at Oddicombe and imagine all the grains of sand rubbing along next to each other. I suppose if the poem is about anything it is our human desire to give the world an order we understand. If only we could...

This second poem relates to the bedroom I work in. I had just finished painting it when we did the workshop and one exercise set me thinking about the items in the room. I'm not sure what the American term for cling-film is, I've looked it up and it appears plastic wrap is the word.

notes from a nearly decorated bedroom

the cling-film sighs, resigned as it is to wrapping brushes

and so back to the staid darkness of the kitchen drawer

the paint scraper's blunted edge from increased labour

is content to dream, until it cuts again

the walls try out this new colour

uncertain, but with no choice

the wardrobe, the chest of drawers

and this table I write on, will welcome the quiet

Here's a band from the late 60s Blonde On Blonde with Castles In The Sky.

Here's Chorale.
There's appears to be, in the words of Carl Rogers [and his brother Roy], a bit of conditional positive regard going on in the song.
Until next time.

Friday, 20 November 2020


Just before this second lockdown we went to Wedmore for the night. Wedmore is on the edge of the Somerset Levels, a particularly flat area, close to sea level. 
When I lived in Somerset I was always conscious that, not so long ago, this whole area had been tidal marsh.
I think it was this that sparked the poem.


its nearly the end of the world

we wait in the flat lands

word may come in days, or weeks, or never

that the water will return is certain

rolling over fields, obliterating streams

dykes will yield, roads disappear

once all this was not ours

but living memory is too short a span

we think we know, we do not

but the eels remember

as they slither through the wicker traps

what was once, and will be again

The end of the world reference could have been to the coming lockdown or the American elections. In a way it doesn't matter. I'm not sure how I chanced upon the eels, I've used them before as an image for something that is hard to catch. Still two poems in six years hardly is a theme. 
I suppose the song should continue the water image.
Here's Spirogyra [the English freak folk band not the US jazz funk combo].

And this is The Wreck of the Hesperus by Procul Harum.

Until next time.

Friday, 13 November 2020



This post is not about the mad emperor across the sea, though given the ignorant and undignified manner in which he has presented himself this week, the title could fit him like a glove. The more I observe him the more distressed I become. On reflection a good title for a poem about him would be Conduct Unbecoming.

This poem attempts to look at three different outcomes arising from the same situation.

A man about to meltdown

Not the one who’s barricaded

himself behind his front door

and is now shouting threats

at the coppers through the letter box

while his uncomprehending family

huddle mutely on the sofa,

as if it were a life raft.

Not the man who faced by the road block

must turn his bus around,

inch by inch in front of the stopped traffic

the one for whom

a street has never looked so narrow.

But the one who suddenly cannot get home

and it has begun to rain.

He’s not the worst off by half

and inside he knows it

but in its own predictable, deadening way

this is all too much.

I was attempting to capture the panoramic consequences of an action. I'd be interested in your thoughts. 

It's felt like a long seven days. Here is a band from the 80s, the Mulemena Boys. I have one album on tape and it's wondrous but I've never been able to track down an album or cd.

Here's the album.

Until next time.

Friday, 6 November 2020



In the world in which we are living is just getting crazier. Hopefully the Mad Emperor Across the Water will be stopped and our own bunch of clowns given their marching orders sooner rather than later. I just want to say my thoughts are with you all in America.

I  was in Bristol last Saturday. I had been to Flow, a superb vegan restaurant the previous evening. This sign outside the Registry Office caught my eye.


Sign outside Bristol Registrar Office

The last Saturday before the second lockdown

The woman in the deep violet suit

is telling her father:

I’m not nervous at all, isn’t that strange?

The group of six huddle

as winds blow through the city

skittling leaves and lives

Tomorrow you will phone

tell me your wedding is off

death by a thousand regulation changes

Here for the ceremony queue the rain has returned,

the bride, the groom and their chosen four

run for any sort of shelter they can find

The penultimate stanza refers to a friend's wedding plans that have been scuppered by the pandemic.

This is the poem I was going to run this post.

Cheap Fireworks in the Rain

I left my family for this? he mutters.

He has already told me

this is a new start.

That he’s drawing a line under

the collapsed business

the catastrophic marriage,

and has taken the opportunity

to study English in England.

So here he is in Totnes

observing us natives celebrate the anniversary

of the putting to death of some Catholic.

It is a Sunday.

It is drizzling.

The kind of rains that soaks through

and there we are all outside

with the cheapest packet of fireworks

glumly igniting each one in turn.

And you do this every year? he asks

as finally the sodden blue touch paper

I’ve been trying to light for the last two minutes

suddenly flares into life

and very nearly takes my eye out.

And is it always so bleak?

Always I reply.

The story is about as true as any poem I write. It the event is Bonfire Night, a traditional celebration of the fact that Guy Fawkes did not blow up Parliament.

I leave you today with Paul Simon singing American Tune. Who would have thought there could ever be a worse President than Nixon?

Until next time.

Friday, 30 October 2020


Am I the only person who finds this new style blogger format difficult to operate? Every time I write a post I struggle with centring the first image. Much distress is caused. I have to confess I am a person who never reads instructions believing that I can pick it up as I go. Perhaps I need to start...
I contacted my MP yesterday to ask why if he had had a change of heart about voting against free school meals for children in the half term holiday. 
I have to say his reply was swift, but written some time ago as it included the line:

Turning to yesterday’s vote on an opposition motion calling for the provisions made in summer to also be extended into the Christmas School Holidays.

I think I have received a circular. Still as they say in Widnes "owt is better than nowt". Voting to feed children would be better than them going hungry.

The origin of this post's poem is that I was thinking about people sharing a silence because they did not need to speak, because they knew one another so well words were unnecessary. Thanks must again go to the Secret Poets for their insights.

if he had stayed in this village,

and lived out his life amongst these men

he would be sharing their silence

but here he is talking

about people and places of which

they know little and care less

wordlessly judging him

by their own lived experience

that’s how it always goes

now his father is dead

the last link severed

he will not return

for him there would be no

sea captain’s homecoming

with money and tales of the sea


he would be like Lot

and he will not look back

I had no idea how it would end when I started. I was going to title the poem after where ever it was Lot went to after he fled Sodom but decided that would be too abstruse even for me. Suggestions welcome as ever. Titles are always difficult.

I've been painting a bedroom this week, this is not a photograph of what it looked like, can't remember where I took this. 
Anyway I've been listening to lots of David Bowie on the mp3 player as I have painted. So here is a slice of nostalgia.
I sent this video to a friend and they asked what exactly a bipperty- bopperty hat is? I have no idea.

Until next time.

Friday, 23 October 2020


I write my posts a couple of days before they go live and usually I do not change them. I check for mistakes the day before, but that's it.

This week however, I am adding a comment to express my disgust at the cabal of poltroons that allegedly govern us. 
You may have heard of Marcus Rashford's campaign for free school meals over the half term holiday. Sounds reasonable, you may think, in this time of pandemic and hardship, but not for our government. 

No. Instead we had the woeful Paul Scully turning the debate into a chance to attack the opposition by claiming that many children went hungry under previous Labour governments. Nice one Mr Scully. It appears it is more important to score a political point than feed starving children. Two wrongs obviously make one right for you.

On Wednesday the Bill to feed hungry children was defeated by 322 to 261. I hope those who voted against can sleep at night and look at their reflections in the mirror. 

Normal service will now be resumed.

Here is another poem that popped into existence with not a warning. 

Honestly I got the first line and the rest wrote itself. It was one of those poems that live in my head for a couple of days before being written down. I always write out drafts longhand. It helps me to get the feel of the poem. Rarely do I compose on the keyboard.

When I'm rewriting the poem I always refer the the original draft as I think that helps to keep me from drifting, or diluting the essence of the poem.

On the road to Jericho

we bitched about the gig,

hunted out mouthpieces

long unused and dusty.

On the road to Jericho

we raked over old grudges,

squabbled about the set list.

Unspoken fears every step of the way.

By the second tune

we knew the notes to play,

the size of the walls no longer mattered.

That last day, the seventh,

almost made the previous forty years make sense.

The only line I am unsure about is the last line of the second stanza. I'm not sure that it works. 

Next year will be ten years of Magpie Bridge! It doesn't seem that long. I shall be unveiling some surprises as the year unfolds. 

I have been listening to Leyla McCalla  a lot recently. I was first attracted by her recordings of Langston Hughes' poetry- superb. 

Here's Money is King from her latest album The Capitalist Blues.

Here's Heart of Gold, the lyrics are taken from a poem by Mr. Hughes. 

Until next time.

Friday, 16 October 2020


The term honey trap relates to the act of luring an individual into a compromising situation and then blackmailing them. I know the term from watching too many spy films. Apparently it was a favourite tactic of the Stasi.
I was recently discussing the poem with the Secret Poets who were of the opinion that the poem is broader than the cold war terminology. I was not as sure. I shall leave you to decide.

honey trapped

someone is always alert

on the lookout to turn the weak

to inflame their hidden desires

a chink

a crack

a vector to the soul

and so they are compromised

then asset stripped

run through their upside down lives

mouths full of ash

I do know that the poem is complete, but it shall be going into the drawer for a couple of months anyway, just to make sure.

Here's the marvelous Palooka 5 and their new tune Possession of the Surf Tsar. Honestly this band gets better and better.

Until next time.