Friday 23 February 2018


This post's poem came from the phrase a car with one headlight. Which in its turn came from discovering that my car had only one working headlight and it occurred to me that it was a wonderful way of negatively describing someone. The poem wrote itself and had to be about a politician.

A car with one headlight,
the near side,
fitful, flickering at best.
Unexpectedly butterfingered when it came to love,
dyspraxic even,
he dropped hearts.
Women remained an irrelevance to him,
men fared no better,
a human solvent
he sundered ties expediently,
so the path of his life was strewn with debris,
disgruntled ex-lovers,
metaphorical corpses with too real knives in their backs.
But how he can talk,
silver haired, silver tongued
An iguana basking in the flash light glare.
I leave you to draw your own conclusions. Let's face it there are many of them out there who could fit the description.
Brooke Sharkey is touring soon, here are the dates. Brooke is a captivating performer and a wondrous songwriter. If you can go and see her.
I saw an interesting band last night Bahla, they combine jazz and Jewish folklore traditions. The music is amazing, they are on tour too.
Here is Brooke:
And here are Bahla:
Until next time.

Tuesday 20 February 2018


 Early in my teaching career I witnessed the devastating impact of a pupils death on that childs classmates and the school as a whole. I quickly realised that there was very little support and guidance on how best to support children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities) with grief. At times the grief of these children was either ignored or not fully acknowledged, with staff not knowing how to deal with the difficult situation.
Death is a certainty for us all and although we may not wish to think about it, we all experience death and we all experience other forms of loss (such as the loss from a close friend moving far away or the loss of a relationship through divorce or separation). Most children are fortunate in that their first experience of death doesnt normally occur until they are older, maybe as a teenager with the death of a grandparent. Children with SEND often experience death at a much younger age due to the nature of the medical conditions that some children in special education have.
When working in special schools severe learning difficulties, profound and multiple learning difficulties and complex needs I experienced (on average) the death of one pupil a year.
Consider for a moment that if a child joins a special school aged four, by the time s/he leaves aged 16, there could well have been as many as 12 children die in that school.
S/he may not have known all of those children well, but the impact of those deaths will be immense. How many of us experienced 12 deaths by the time we were 16? And this doesnt take into consideration any deaths that may occur outside of the school environment.
UK educational statistics show that up to 70 per cent of schools have at least one bereaved pupil on roll at any one time (Holland, 1993). In one survey 78 per cent of 1116-year-olds said that they had been bereaved of a close relative or friend (Harrison and Harrington, 2001). By the age of 16, 1 in 20 young people will have experienced the death of one or both of their parents (Parsons, 2011).
At the time of writing this book there was no specific data available that showed the number of bereaved pupils in special schools. My personal experiences and research indicate that all special schools will have at least one bereaved pupil on roll every day of every school year. This includes pupils who are bereaved due to the death of family members, as well as those who have experienced the death of a classmate or friend at school. Following the death of a pupil, there will often be periods of time where whole classes and even the entire school community are grieving.
I passionately believe that all children need to be well supported with their grief and although this support could be better for all young people, it most definitely needs to be improved for children with SEND. Children with SEND are more likely to be affected by grief at a younger age and in greater frequency than typically developing children. This, combined with the understanding and communication difficulties that SEND children have, only strengthens the importance of them having good bereavement education and support.
So, are death, bereavement, loss and grief part of your school curriculum and culture? If not, ask yourself why. Im sure it is not due to a lack of need. Is it instead more to do with a lack of training? Or a lack of awareness of its importance? Or do staff not want to acknowledge that children with SEND experience grief (because they dont truly understand and value the childrens emotions and loss)? Or could it be due to staff personally being unable to handle and discuss death and other forms of loss? 

A Special Kind of Grief by Sarah Helton 
The complete guide for supporting bereavement and loss in special schools (& other SEND settings)

Remembering Lucy by Sarah Helton 

A children's story book about grief and bereavement in a school

Both books are published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and are available from AmazonWaterstones and all other good book sellers.

Bereavement & Loss Widgit Resource Pack - A set of symbol resources designed for children, young people and their families to help them through the process of bereavement and loss.
Available from

Friday 16 February 2018


Apologies for the lack of a post last week. I had forgotten how all absorbing moving house is and being in the midst of unpacking the days went by unheeded. That could be the first line of a poem...
Last Saturday evening I had one of those brief moments of illumination. I was washing up, late at night, after everyone else was in bed and as I picked up the rice pan the water in it swirled, for one second it felt like the whole of reality turned around that pan.

the water
in the burnt rice pan




the axis of the universe
I welcome those moments of other worldly awareness. I think William Blake was correct when he urged people to cleanse the doors of perception. What a prophet the man was.
The end of last year I was travelling on the train from Totnes to Taunton one Saturday morning and marvelling at the beauty of the seascape. I wrote this:

train travel in Devon

a winter morning estuary

grey tidal flats

the still water
tight fisted mercury
unwilling to spend
more than a farthing's reflection

who would want to be anywhere else?
I saw Martha Tilston last Friday evening. She was superb as ever. Here is Stags Bellow.
I have a guest post for next Tuesday. Sarah Helton has been kind enough to write about her new book.
Until then.

Friday 2 February 2018


I have just moved house and subsequently have had no internet, hence no post last week. It was attached yesterday. I am back.
Here is a poem about that point in the house sale when you are sat on the stairs waiting for the transactions to go through.

he tells me it will happen
at some point
because it always does
you will end up sitting on the stairs
all actions halted
until the money is transferred
from that bank to another bank
and this house will cease to be your home
while another
somewhere else
equally empty
assumes that title
and as you unlock its front door
you will hope it will be a happy one
I realise that I am in a privileged position to have the opportunity to move when I want to.  

the wasp and the window

wrong side of the glass
beyond comprehension
but repeat the action until
I have been there too
so have you
This is an older poem that I wrote after liberating a wasp.
I've not set up the sound system yet. I'm listening to music on a sound bar courtesy of my DX50. 
Here's Sean Taylor. He's doing a brief UK tour in March.
This is So Fine
Until next time.