Friday 25 May 2018


On the way back from Australia we stopped over in Abu Dhabi for a couple of days to catch up with some friends. We stayed on the New York University campus and early one morning I watched a group of men drag an electrical cable across an overpass. It was back breaking work even in the cooler hours of the dawn [jet lag had me awake at strange hours].
I wrote this:

Abu Dhabi 2018

Over this bridge anchored in dream,
before the real heat of the day builds,
in a snaking, straining line,
seven men haul a cable,
every step an individual battle with friction.
Reluctantly it unwinds from a large wooden spool,
as opportunistic gravity amps up their burden.

Three stories up and further away than geography,
I watch their struggle,
more than distance separates us.

This was the view from the lounge window and it was across this long overpass the men were unspooling the cable. The vista looked like something out of a J G Ballard novel.
On my first morning I awoke even earlier, in the half dawn, and watched a bus drive along the overpass. It was so dreamlike. I was reminded of the final scenes of Ghost World. You can watch it here.
I've been listening to Loch Lomond's latest lp recently, Pens From Spain. Here's the title song.
And here is Your Eyes.
Until next time.

Friday 18 May 2018


A  couple of poems about the past. 
The first concerns a book I read in the early 1970's, that promised to be a guide to astral projection. Now you can find out the technique on Wiki How

Astral Projection

We pooled our resources,
bought the book together,
a common strategy in those days.
Whoever read it first,
tight lipped until the other
slowly reached the final page.
I want to say it was a primer,
that it opened my life fantastically,
but it did not.
Active dreaming could not be learnt from that book.

In Bali, several lifetimes later,
every night while I slept
I soared over Somerset fields.
That was the nearest ever I came.
This next poem was sparked while painting. An image of the white bands of paint that used to be painted on the main road in the factory where I used to work just popped into my head. 

Castner-Kelner Poem 2

There were these white lines of paint
on the main road inside the factory gates
where the company tested
its domestic paint range.
Every week, it was someone from the Labs job
to check how they fared
under the industrial traffic and tainted air.
That’s how it was back then,
a huge complex system that gave lives meaning.
Employment has coarsened over the years,
now zero-houred, I do not have that security.
We let it go too easy.
I do think we have lost job security since the 2008 Crisis. The gap between rich and poor is growing and social mobility is a thing of the past.
I leave you with Anna Ternheim Keep Me in the Dark.

Until next time.

Friday 11 May 2018


I haven't got much to say about this post's poem save I began it at the start of this academic year and only managed to complete it last week. 
I had been thinking how when we are new to a job, house, city, everything looks new to us. We do not yet have the connections, the history of the place.

Of course the room had been sanitised:
floor swept; windows washed;
shelves dusted; desk polished bright.
It's all so shiny and new
to the man who,
one day each week
sits behind it.
Which just leaves the dust in my head,
the taste in my mouth
and the sequence of unoccupied spaces
that litter the university.
The new broom has swept so clean
that the students don't know what they have lost.

I am going through something of a Katherine Williams phase at the moment. here is Monday Morning.
Until next time.

Monday 7 May 2018


Adrian Henri was one of those rare individuals who are gifted as a poet, painter and a visionary. He is forever entwined with Liverpool. Alongside Brian Patten and Roger McGough, he was featured in the best selling anthology The Mersey Sound. A collection that influenced me greatly when first published.
Here is Henri's group The Liverpool Scene with Winter Poem.
The good news is that the sublimely talented Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norheim have joined forces with Martin Smith and Martin Heslop to produce a diamond of a production Horny Handed Tons of Soil
Combining poetry, live music and story telling with film by Tony Brunsden, Horny Handed Tons of Soil is inspired by Henri's poetic response to the urban geography of Liverpool. It explores themes of destruction, construction and memory within stories of what has been lost and found, in the re-sculpting of the Liverpool landscape over the past fifty years.
If you are able to get to the Theatre Royal on the 7th June then go for it! This promises to be a wondrous evening.
Lizzie and Vidar are no strangers to this blog. I have seen most of their shows over the past ten years and they are always thought provoking, offering an intensely humanistic perspective that celebrates the everyday and some cracking songs!
What are you waiting for?
Here is Lizzie singing Ellan Vannin.
Until next time.

Friday 4 May 2018


Vigilant readers of this blog will know that I recently moved house. This first poem is a found poem. When we were house hunting I made notes on my phone about each of the properties we looked at. I was trawling through the rough drafts of poems I occasionally scrawl on my phone, when I found the notes. Looked at in the cold light, many days later, I could see the outline of a poem.

Stone Parrot Close

a ten minute brisk walk from the shops.

combined kitchen and living area

two compact bedrooms.

on street parking

and the cars on the A-road sound like surf 

I have a habit of looking through the vinyl in charity [thrift/oppo] shops. The gleanings these days are not what they were. The growth in the popularity of vinyl, while welcomed, has reduced the number of finds and generally raised the prices to silly levels.
I always encounter at least one Johnny Mathis lp and usually another by the band leader James Last. There are always copies of Andrew Lloyd Webber's efforts, which speaks for itself...

Soundtrack for a Charity Shop

Johnny Mathis of course,
James Last is second,
as capitalism masquerading as culture manifests
in endless rows of cheap popular classics,
and more copies than you would want to imagine
of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem,
that I assume were only played the once.
Next an invitation somewhere I never want to go,
Fifty Top Tune Banjo Party!
It is raining outside,
I have no coat
but sodden clothing seems
somehow strangely appealing.

I can only shift through old vinyl for a short time these days, I think I must be getting old.
On the new vinyl front Anna Ternheim has a live recording out, The Winter Tapes that is splendid. It is beautifully recorded.
But as we brought in the May on Tuesday morning I shall end with the Watersons singing Hal-An-Tow.
Music doesn't get much better than this.
Until next time.