Friday 31 January 2014


A narrative poem this week, a story I heard many years ago and thought, at the time, would make a good poem.

It hinges, I suppose on the naive idea that things remain unchanging-even though we do not see them for many years. It’s the image that exiles have of their homeland that bears no relation to reality, as though frozen on the day that they left.

All the emotional details I made up. I wanted the adult in the poem to be changed by the visit.

My father drove the borrowed car,
red and shiny.
the vinyl seat stuck to my legs,
heat clouding round my feet.

The house was inside my head,
my father had talked it into existence
our dream estate described.

Now we see the gate posts,
then the drive bends to reveal


Smooth green mounds,
a sense of space and sky.
No geography,
he walks this ground adrift.
How can this house have gone,
and me not have heard?

Eventually he stops.

Silently, we drove the way we had come.

My father changed after that.
Hugged me and my sister more,
seemed to labour over his tales,
talked only of times we had shared.

I found a photograph,
creased, yellowed,
in his wallet,
after his death,
of the front of a house.
Smiling ghosts on the drive.

I am not sure how well it works. This is an earlier draft:

My father drove the borrowed car,
Red and shiny.
The vinyl seat stuck to my legs,
Heat clouding round my feet.

The house was inside my head,
The house my father had talked of
All through my life,
Our dream estate described

Then we saw the gate posts,
Now the drive bends to reveal


Smooth green mounds,
A sense of space and sky.
No geography, he walks this ground adrift,
Mutters: “How can this house have gone,
And me not have heard?”

Eventually he stops.

Silently, we drove the way we had come.
My father changed after that.
Hugged me and my sister more,
Seemed to labour over his tales,
Talked only of times we had shared.

After his death I found a photograph
Of a house in his wallet,
Creased, yellowed.
Smiling ghosts on the drive.

There are a number of differences between the two versions. The second was published in my first collection burning Music – now long out of print, though I keep saying I am about to publish it as an ebook. Watch this space…

Here is Annabelle Chvostek singing A Piece of You. I was trying to load her singing This Machine from the other night in Totnes-but it won't let me for some reason...

Friday 24 January 2014


Something different this week. A short story I wrote about 5 years ago. I'd be interested in what you make of it.


The sun had been unexpected. As we drove along the estuary that early July evening we talked about how lucky we had been, that this holiday would have been far different if we had not had the sun. Neutral topics to ease this journey, I was hoping we could relax in the warm of the sunset and listen to the music, take the focus of our stuttering relationship.

I had seen in the local paper an advert for this gig and we had nothing better to do. As I said it would stop us picking at the sore that was our marriage. Reluctantly I had come to suspect it had never been right.  I was surprised to see it was Unison sponsored gig, my union, here somewhere near Carnarvon. We saw the signs then the tent, and we parked.

The gaggle of people waiting to enter the area looked to me like any audience at any gig in a place where they don’t normally have live music, in other words everyone you could imagine and more besides. Youth and singles, thirty somethings and people like me. The sad music obsessed who would go to any event in the hope it will be good music.

The ticket office was a white portacabin. The front of house were amateur and hassled. The toilets stood next to the ticket office fifty yards or more from the music. To reach the tent you had to cross this field and walk by a small clump of trees, raggedly planted and more an attempt to define a space than to create a copse of trees. I suspected this was more some sympathetic farmers’ gesture than a serious attempt to start a new venue.

We entered the tent flashing our fresh ink stamped flesh. The stage was to the front and the stacks covered with white Unison banners, celebrating something or other.  We had been getting on rather better on this holiday; Claire looked at me with that superior smile as if to say this is it? Of course Claire didn’t want a drink; “they appear to only be selling cans of beer”. Oh the scorn in those words.

We stand there in this canvas tent that smells faintly of the earth and wait for the music to start. I notice that Claire is staring at what I assume to be a family, a woman in her forties with a small girl by her side and a man, in his early fifties, well built going to paunch, shiny head and moustache. He has hold of the girls arm and wants her to stand by him. The girl does not look as though she really wants to and the woman continues to stare out over the crowd. The bloke looks our way and seems to hold Claire’s gaze for a second.

A man in a crimpoline suit has walked onto the stage to the desultory applause of the long haired metalers down the front, who says irony is wasted on the young? Synthetic man talks of the importance of diversity how we need to celebrate different cultures that make up modern Wales, this diversity is reflected in the bill, Soca, Combia and local lads Dragon Blitzkrieg. Another cheer from the metal boys at the front. I begin to think that perhaps irony is more widespread than I thought.

“Get on with it” Claire is impatient, bored. Her received pronunciation supercilious. It is obvious that she knows better than the organisers how to run the gig.

The Soca band take to the stage, party hearty music and the reason I wanted to drive across from our cottage and stand in a tent in a field. Carnival music from Trinidad and Tobago, with a beat that would have the dead dancing and if you are lucky a lyric to make you think, consciousness music they call it. We were not lucky it was all lets party and honey I’m a love machine but I danced anyway, as well as a man with two left feet can.

Claire gave it a go, taking small steps that make it look like you are not moving. Claire was not in to this, her body said as much as she avoided contact with me. I attempted to party hearty. The Soca Soul Boys played for an hour and rocked it out. Cheerful party music, not remarkable or heavy with lyrical worthiness, but we could dance. At some point I’d got a beer and Claire a bottle of a supermarket lager.

The place had filled up and most of the tent was making it like Madi Gras was late and in Carnarvon tonight. It had got hotter in the tent and I could see that the sun had set. The Combia band, I can’t remember their name walked on the stage to genuinely warm applause, this surprised me, Combia being the poor cousin to salsa in Europe, but not in this tent tonight. They began to play, if I am honest I couldn’t tell the one style from the other, but the crowd were lapping it up. Claire shouted in my ear she was going to the toilet and would be back in a minute. I nodded and began to follow the beat.

As I said the place was crowded and my eye caught the feet of the two women dancing to my right. Their feet were in time and as they performed a complex routine which seemed to consist of moving in a cross shape and reminded me of the start of the film Viridiana. Just after the titles when we see a girl skipping and singing, her feet describe a cross as she skips. This was just like that, save there were two of them and as I looked at their faces I suspected they were with the band. They were just too cool to be from round here.

I was enjoying their dancing as much as the music when Claire returns looking weird, her mouth a line, she does not look happy-even for Claire. I lock eyes but before I can speak Claire says: “That man over there, don’t look! The one with the little girl, you know we saw them earlier” I nod. “He just exposed himself at me. I was coming back from the toilet and he was standing there in the trees. He said “Look at this” and exposed himself. Don’t look.”
This was not what I had expected. I went to put my arms around her-“Don’t do that!” Claire snapped “These people want you to be excited by their actions, it justifies what they do. Don’t touch me, and don’t look over.”
The music was forgotten now. I thought, Christ, what am I supposed to do? “I’ll go and have a word with him.”

“You will not. I am not having a scene.” Claire had raised her voice and was looking everywhere but in the direction of the man. “They get off on this.”
“Look. I’ll go over and have a word, tell him it’s out of order.” I was thinking he may have the weight but I am younger and taller with a longer reach. Then I think-what am I saying? Do I really think I am going to fight with this bloke?
The Combia band finishes their set. The tent is quiet once the locals stop clapping, there are no encores tonight, too much music to get through.

Claire was speaking again, her words fast, choppy. “That woman looks beaten down. That’s what these bastards do. They strip you of your power. I feel sick, the way he was pawing that little girl. What can I do? You are not going over there making a scene. He will only twist it around and make me look wrong. What can I do?”

I listen to all of this, my heart sinks. You are somewhere else tonight as well as here, but I am not brave enough to ask where. Do I even want to know? We stand there talking, arguing about what to do. Claire waves her social work training in my face once more, that and her years working for the NHS. I feel out of my depth. The night started out as one thing and has turned into something else. What should have been a relaxed evening of music has mutated into some lesson on sexual perversions.
I try to hold Claire. “I told you don’t give that man any signs that I liked it! That’s what he wants”.

My hands fall to my sides, I glance at the stage, and the changeover of equipment seems to be taking an age. “Shall we go home?” I say, though I am not sure I want to. I can see another sleepless night stretching in front of me as I try to keep awake and Claire finds fault with everything, especially me. Some nights she is just like that and this has all the makings of one of those nights.

The metal band crank it out. We leave the tent, the leather boys at the front are going for it. All air guitars and rocker moves. I secretly glance at the man. He is holding the little girl in his arms, she appears to be asleep she is so still.

The night feels cold after the muggy tent though this is July. I try to put my arm around her shoulders she brushes me off. “I told you, no!” Claire looks small and vulnerable and in some other place. I think that I am in for a sleepless night of accusations. I am in no hurry to go back to the rented cottage.

“I should tell the woman, but she looks so beaten down. That’s what these men do, chip away at your core until you are just a husk and too bloody frightened to say anything. Men are disgusting. What should I do?” I move to say something, she cuts me off. “You’re no bloody use. What should I do?” Claire’s voice rises, she becomes even more distressed.

A sickle moon is in the sky, skeletal it seems to hang above the tent. Now the music is so loud I imagine it repelling the moon, the waves of sound pushing the moon from its orbit. Save there are no sound waves in space and they can’t hear you scream. I think I want to scream. I am in a field in Wales, the evening lies in ruins around me, and Claire has made the space between us even greater that it was. There will be no sleep tonight. 

Wednesday 22 January 2014


The talented singer songwriter Brooke Sharkey is recording a new ep. If you have never heard her sing then you are in for a real treat, here is a link to listen to the first song she is recording.

You can pre-order the ep here.

Regular readers will know that I interviewed Brooke a while ago and you can read the interview here.

I think that it is important that we support new singers and those who are working outside of the chains of music industry. There are many people out there making quality music that we never get to hear of. Well you have the chance to hear Brooke and to support her new ep.

Please listen to the song and if you like it order the ep.

Friday 17 January 2014


Here is a poem I have been working on for a month or so. The majority of the poem came tumbling out one morning, as a lot of my poetry does. However, having got the bare bones of the poem, it took a great deal longer to shape the poem. In this process I took it to meetings of Juncture 25, and the Secret Poets, two poetry groups I belong to. I mention this to emphasise that as well as revision a poem needs to be read loud and commented on by other people who you respect. Thanks guys.

Many Worlds Theory
Sometimes we will grip beyond reason
any idea which hints at salvation;
left field, widdershins, it chimes.

The compass points at the wall.
On the other side there is grace,
alternate choices, better endings.

The problem is the brick wall,
how do you pass through?

Taunted by the possible,
tortured by the Many Worlds Theory,
oh, how it hints and denies.

You are here, now - all the wrong turns,
so you watch that film again and again,
then climb the barrier, pockets loaded with stones.

You jump, sink and do not come up in this world again.

The person in the poem refuses to believe that this is how reality is structured and wishes to believe the Many Worlds Theory, parallel worlds to you and me. The person wants to be in a different reality where the choices they made were more sustainable.

Below is an earlier incarnation (about draft 10) of the poem. Interestingly it was when I read it to the Secret Poets that the lines about the Copenhagen Agreement sounded clunky.
Sometimes we will grip and hold beyond reason
any idea which hints at salvation;
left field, widdershins, it chimes.
The compass points at the wall,
but it is where you want to live.
On the other side
there is grace, a different life
of alternate choices, better endings.

The problem is the brick wall,
how do you pass through?
Taunted by the possible,
you rip up the Copenhagen Interpretation,
are tortured by the Many Worlds Theory,
oh, how it hints and denies.

You are here, now - all the wrong turns,
so you watch that film again and again,
then climb the barrier, pockets loaded with stones,
we know the reference only too well.

You jump, sink and do not come up in this world again.

The Copenhagen Interpretation refers to Quantum Physics. It means, as I understand it, that when you observe a particle you reduce the number of possible values to one random value, if you look away and look again, then the value will have again randomly changed. You can get a more coherent explanation here.

I’d really like to know what you make of this.

Here is a video I've found of Elis Regina and Tom Jobim singing Aguas de Marco, I think it's from the recording of the Elis & Tom album. It's such a delight to hear and see them singing together. 

Have a good week.

Friday 10 January 2014

SCRAP PAPER POETRY- Barcelona, a Friday, 2007...

This is an old theatre that I saw that day
I am a hoarder and once in a while I try and declutter. This last week I was sorting through some old papers, prior to recycling and I found a draft of some poems that I had obviously put to one side and forgotten about.

I remember clearly the events the poems described. I was lucky enough to be in Barcelona with a free day, and nothing to do. I should explain that we are fortunate to visit the city frequently and over the years I have seen all the attractions. On the rare occasions when I have a free day what I like to do is simply to ride the Metro, observe people and see where I end up.
I took this at one of the stations I visited
There was a prelude to the poems at the top of the sheet:

Take the L6-as six was your childhood lucky number and lilac is nearly purple; the colour of Reiki. I am on an adventure, randomly riding the metro for the day

This describes my rationale for selecting the Metro line L6. I wanted to go to parts of the city I had never been to. I decided to get off the train at places I liked the names of. The station was busy and when I left on a different train I watched a man jump on board just as the doors closed. There was a woman who was a split second too late, as the train pulled out she seemed to glare at the occupants of the carriage.

he sprints for the train
leaps aboard all Hollywood
the star of the movie of his life
she is a second too late
the closing doors lock her out
her eyes accuse
each person in the carriage
as the train pulls out

As I remember I got off at Tres Torres and found myself on a busy street. I then changed lines and end up at a park.

an upright piano
(rawlbolted to the spot)
prompts people to play

i watch

iisten to notes rubbing shoulders
in unfamiliar combinations
resist the urge to touch the keyboard
as its exactly what I am supposed to do

the sun clouds over
i walk away

As I read the scrap of paper I thought that the lines would work better in a different sequence.

Originally the second poem began:

Rawlbolted to the spot
The upright piano in the park
Prompts passers-by to play

I thought that the alliteration was laid on rather heavy and detracted from what I wanted to say. I changed the lines around because I liked the idea of the first image being the piano in an unusual setting rather than the industrial rawlbolt.
I also opened the poem up, spacing is important and it is worth playing about with the layout as it can change the feel of the poem.
No, I'm not in goal for writing bad poetry, just the other side of a set of railings
I am not sure that I have captured the caterwaul of sound that cascaded from the keyboard (see what I mean about how alliteration can be as much a hindrance as a help).

Originally in the metro poem the woman clocks each person in the carriage. As I read the poem the memory came back and partly for dramatic effect I decided she could glare at the passengers.

What do you think?

I am leaving you today with a song. Here's the late John Martyn signing Spencer The Rover.