Friday 25 October 2013


I know that I harp on about how essential it is to revise your work, and today is no exception.

stolen car boogie

kate said after she got out of the car she hugged the wall laughing with hysteric relief why didn’t i get out couldn’t i see they had stolen that car


in those days i didn’t drive so paid no heed to the crashed gears or that jumping car at the green light go

i knew they were bullshitting just thought them as stoned as we were so i stayed got driven to town saw all that jazz

caught a bus back home cause no one gave rides out of Plymouth

to be truthful i’d had weirder lifts

You can read an earlier draft here.

When I’d shown this at a writing group the general consensus was that it was not clear who was speaking and that this confused the narrative. I think it works better now in first person.

This next one had me reflecting on the last image for a long time. I thought that it was introduced too quickly. I also removed the second line from the first stanza as it seems to work as well without it. 

You can read the earlier draft here.

In the big blue bowl lie blackcurrants,
it is between us,
the place to fix my eye,
as reluctantly I listen.
Hear more than I would choose to know.

Your hands comb these cobbles,
collect stalk and leaf.
We walk around your puzzlement,
you talk to make it sense.
The arguments…the silences…

You hold a large blackcurrant,
I imagine it an ivory ball,
You have placed your bet
the wheel spins,
don’t you know the house always wins?

I also removed the penultimate line as I thought it repeated the last line.

There is something to be said for putting the poem away from a couple of months, as it’s easier to see the flaws when you are not so close. Also don’t be afraid to remove words or lines. If the poem works without that line in then you don’t need it. Put it away somewhere safe, it may come in handy. 

To end with here’s Graham Nash singing Another Sleep Song in 1974.

Sunday 20 October 2013


I have a couple of poems today written (well, started) when I was in India.

photograph borrowed from here
This was the photo of the day in the Hindustan Times. I have mixed feelings about poems that require the image that inspired them to be effective. I think that a poem should stand without support but this for me is such a sad photograph that I think it complements the poem.

Man shaves the head of his monkey with a razor before it performs tricks in Lahore on Monday: Hindustan Times photo of the day.

The hand encompasses the head of his monkey,
skin is stretched to dull blade.
This is the face of our near cousin,
eyes close, it endures with
patience or resignation. I cannot tell.
What hope for our relations
when we leave our children to starve? 

I also bought a couple of bottles of beer from a government shop- alcohol sales in India are more tightly controlled than in the UK.

He knows what I want,
just as he knows his own sin,
which is larger I suspect than mine.
In this legally licensed shop
the social is removed from drinking.
I know what he is about
So let him lead me,
show me some beer in a broken fridge.
I decide on a couple,
his hands caress each bottle,
like this was love.
He tells me what to pay,
I do so then hand him a crumpled note.

If I am honest I am still processing my impressions of the country. 

Watch this space.

Wednesday 16 October 2013


I am just back from Delhi and a little jet lagged, which explains my recent silence blog and twitter-wise.
Here are some photographs that never made it onto the blog due to space.
The above are more of the light show from Purbeck.

These are of the bees in our garden in July. I've been wanting to add these for a while now.

I am ending with a video of the sublime Annabelle Chvostek. She has just posted this and it is a joy.

Enjoy the rest of your week. I shall be both writing and posting photographs of India later.

Tuesday 8 October 2013


The wrong people are in charge. All those who crave power should not be let anywhere near it. It proves too much for them. Their humanity melts in its presence like Colonel Breen before the re-activated Martian ship (ok that’s too esoteric for anyone who is not familiar with Quatermass and The Pit-but believe me it fits them only too well –watch the movie).

It’s always the people who think that their life experience is typical who try and tell the rest of us what we should be doing. No one’s life experience is the same as another’s. We all live unique lives. You cannot know the emotional weather inside another. The more you crave power the less empathy you seem to exhibit. Also what works for you will not necessarily work for me-life is not that simple.

No politician has the strength of conviction these days to look beyond the next sound bite. The next election at the most. Governments seem to be happy being told what to do by big business-when did this change? It used to be the other way round.  The time for the squabbling that the political parties seem to delight in has gone. We are in too much of a mess for that.

Politicians have failed us, as we have failed future generations. We have let those people in power erode our rights. Their wilful determination to pretend that an infinitely expanding economy is a good thing-let alone even possible on a finite planet with finite resources, insults our intellects.

I have no answers. I think we need to talk. Talk to our neighbours. Take stock of where we really are, how much oil is left, how many fish are left, discuss how we can have sustainable power sources, how we can feed ourselves without flying food half way round the world.  Take unpopular decisions to reach a balance-the sort of thing our politicians seem incapable of doing. 

Here is a brief poem. John Whyndam was a popular SF author in the 1950s and 1960s. He wrote stories of catastrophe that focussed upon a few well drawn characters. My brother remarked recently that on a bad day it seems like we are living in one of those stories. I have to agree.

John Wyndham’s Blues

Allegiances have altered.
The weather has stopped being our friend.
We can no longer count on it being on our side.
We feel its anger already,
A wettest year in memory,
the hottest summer ever recorded.
Soon it will rage,
Shake our fragile hold.

This is our future.

Saturday 5 October 2013


Another poem about my father.

Why do I write as many as I do? I am not sure how many I have written, but there are at least five poems about some aspect of his life or other. I think, though, I write to make sense of my experience and to try to understand what life must have been like for him.

Regular readers will probably know that he worked for ICI for a large chunk of his working life and may know that he was in the Second World War. He served from 1939 until 1945. He was with the Eighth Army at El Alamain, through to Monte Casino in Italy.

I still have trouble getting my head around what his life must have been like in those six years. How different his experiences were to mine. I have had it easy. Born, as I was, into the world that the sacrifice of that generation had bought us. We owe them a great deal.

What I have written so far does not convey the man just the epoch changing events he was involved in. He was quiet until he’d had a drink then he would talk about anything. He liked music and his tastes ranged from Steve Earle to Joan Baez taking in opera and Leonard Cohen along the way. 

There was something unformed about my father:
Always tip the barman when you first buy a drink,
that way he’ll serve you before all the others.
He made his way through this world, survived the war.
Returned with tales of food and opera
that he only ever told when the beer was in him.
I tried to probe once when I was a child,
to tap the depths of hidden heroism:
It must be hard to kill a man…
He laughed and said it was easy to fire back
when someone is shooting at you.
On reflection, as an adult, I am not so sure,
some men freeze.
My father was up for anything, a rough neck,
a rugby league fan, a man among men.
I often wonder what he made of me…

But I know he smiled when he read a poem about his life.

What I have written so far does not convey the man just the epoch changing events he was involved in. He was quiet until he’d had a drink then he would talk about anything. He liked music and his tastes ranged from Steve Earle to Joan Baez taking in opera and Leonard Cohen along the way. like father like son...