Saturday 25 June 2011


Well, I got my wish on Thursday after writing that I wanted instant feedback. The editor likes the book and we are going ahead with a series of four that will be collected in a single graphic novel. I can’t say much about them as the story is still forming in my head. I am so pleased that it is finally coming together and if I am honest it still seems a little unreal. I will keep you informed.
On a more homely note I was cooking last night and as I wilted some cabbage, I remembered my mother saving the cabbage water for my brother and I to drink. It was one of those moments when you are telescoped by to an event in the past that you haven’t thought of for many years-I’m sure Proust describes it far more eloquently. But here is a poem about it.
In those days vitamins were indestructible.
Boil the cabbage and they simply migrated.

I can still see that steaming water,
Murky with suspended goodness,
As my mother carefully divided it
Between my brother and me.
The long finish.

“Drink it all up.
It will keep you well.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

New Worlds and Old Paint

I have been burning the paint off the woodwork in my hall today and am glad to have stopped. There is a rhythm to the work, but I do not find that it enables me live in my head while I work. It is far too fiddly for that, instead I have to keep my attention on ensuring the lowest layer; a sort of brown varnish is removed. I suppose it is good to have a day or two where I interact with the world rather than inhabiting my head.
Before continuing with the DIY I had just completed the second draft of a script for the first part of a graphic novel. It is early days yet but I think in the preceding two weeks I had created a suitably different world that chimes with this. I now await the comments of my editor. I am really impatient; I want instant feedback and know as I write this, that it sounds ridiculous. It is not possible, wheels that grind fine grind slowly. I will keep you informed.
When I stripped the wallpaper in the last house I lived in I wrote this about the experience:
Stripping Woodchip
Even with an industrial strength steamer,
The paper will blister and bubble
Before stretching under scraper blade.
It will take longer to remove than to fit.
Heavy paste, no worries if the paper stretched
And it will cover many things.
In this case institutional green walls,
The shade of urinals and forgotten wards.
It seems the whole house was this colour.
Did it comfort the painter
Knowing every room was identical?
Was the woodchip a stop gap?
Or an illustration of limited thinking?
There are no pencilled signatures under the coarse Paper,
No record of identity or belonging.
The job expands and takes forever.

Friday 17 June 2011


My brother is being made redundant today, after twenty three years with the same firm. I, myself, was made redundant three years ago after twenty four years with Social Services. My brother is losing his job because it is more profitable to rent out the land than it is to make beer. I was made redundant because the department I worked in was judged to have too many staff.
My brother tells me that there has been a general feeling of satisfaction about the plant closing; that the workforce did their best. The last week has been a celebration of all those years of making beer, many more years than he has worked there. The fabled brewery bar, long ago closed for health and safety reasons, was open for business yesterday and will finally close today when the last person leaves.
I cannot help but contrast that with my own redundancy process. I was part of the first wave of local authority redundancies; there was no celebration, just a vague feeling of embarrassment on the part of my colleagues. We quietly left in the middle of the afternoon, as it has turned out, the first of many to be “let go”.
The whole redundancy process struck me as being unreal. I wrote this after attending a “consultation” day when our ideas would “be listened to”:
“Give Them a Nice Cheap Treat.”
We gather in a cut rate room,
I cannot vote with my feet,
My tongues tastes the gloom
Of this cardboard cut-out consultation.
So we jump through the hoops
With a shambling resignation,
Keep to our designated groups
As every word we write is measured,
Against some secret plan.
Their outcome is assured
For this day is a total sham.
I always intended to revisit it but never had. If I’m honest, it doesn’t seem worth the effort. By the end I was glad to be going. I did not look back.
My brother has already got another job, thanks to the last Tory government’s decision to stop apprenticeship schemes there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen. I can’t help wonder what the legacy of this present government will be.

Tuesday 14 June 2011


I was talking recently to Tony Watts, one of Taunton’s Fire River Poets, and he was telling me that he never knows where the next poem will come from, or for that matter if one will come. I had to agree with this. I never know when the next poem will call, but I do have faith that one will, at some point, arrive. Is this simple optimism? No. I am always on the lookout for ideas and I know that eventually these will coalesce in some form or other.
It can be very interesting trying to divine where the ideas come from, what influences shape our writing. I recently read China Mielville’s The City & The City. This is a meditation on identity, culture and reality. Essentially there is one large city that is split into two different countries, the borders are random and the population of each city has learned to “unsee” the other. These thoughts are dressed in a detective story.
This was an idea that I frequently returned to in my head, so it came as no surprise when I wrote the following:
Sometimes, I am invisible,
Can pass through the crowd unseen,
Not noticed, walked into, anonymous.
In another life I would have tailed you,
Noted your conversation,
Those you stopped to talk with,
Then reported you for some meaningless infraction.
Here, you bump into me,
I am out of phase, happy not to be seen.
You do not follow me,
For I keep watch.
I can see that something in China’s book has chimed in me. The idea of two worlds touching but the people in each unseeing the other I find rather powerful, but there again, I am a sucker for any parallel world story. Perhaps the roots of some poems are easier to discern than others.

Tuesday 7 June 2011


Bridgwater Arts Centre writer-in-residence, the talented Sinead Gillespie, has added an extra session to her series of script writing classes. The dates are the 18th June and the 9th July and they will be held at Bridgwater Arts Centre. The cost is £7 per session or both for £12. I would urge you to attend I thoroughly enjoyed the first class on the May, it was challenging and very enjoyable, the time flew by too quickly.

The first exercise was to write about the phrase “ice scribble”. I wrote the following, though it needed to be tidied up at home:

Ice Scribble

There will be no finger prints,

No traces to categorise,

Not even a watermark on the glass,

All is temporary.

But tonight another fractal star will accrue,

Ice scribbled on the inside of your window.

You do not need to have attended the first; each session can work as a standalone. If you are interested bring a pair of scissors and some magazines with you on 18th, the session starts at 10.30.

This Autumn Bridgwater Arts Centre and Tacchi Morris in Taunton will be running a series of Scratch Nights-this will be the opportunity to see your work performed. So whether you attend or not, get writing!