Saturday 28 December 2019


Grout for those people who have never had to undertake any tiling work is the cement used to fill the spaces between the individual tiles. All will be become clear when you read this poem:

an empty ferry – pre Christmas
endless football on every screen
the eye cannot escape
the moving image

the six men
who compromise
the other drinkers in the bar
have reached that point in the evening
when it is possible to talking tiling
and just how very forgiving grout can be

we lag behind
but stay to close the bar 
and sing on the stage

I honestly have to admit I have never considered the mercy of grouting but life is long and who knows what you'll encounter...

Here is a revision, you can read the last version here.

It took five working days to do for the house,
one implacable machine of cold force did it in,
supplied as it was with an endless chain
of hard lorries to magic away the evidence.
The wallpaper sloughed off
all those exposed inner spaces,
at least the rain kept the dust down
if not the sounds of the building’s death.
After that they scraped the naked earth,
removed half the garden, most of the lawn,
demarcating the dimensions of the car park.

The flats rose quickly after that.

What's changed?
The rubble now is magic-ed away rather than disappeared and there is a space before the final line.
They seem worthwhile changes.
Here's some more of the late, lamented Randy California, and his wondrous Spirit.

Until next time.

Friday 20 December 2019


A poem about being connected, about how every action provokes another.
The poem became clearer as I wrote it. I had the first two lines and then the next two until I had the rough shape of the poem on the page. Sometimes you don't know what the poem wants to say until you've got it all down. It's important to listen and give it time to say all it needs to.

She was a sailor
who had sailed to the moon,
or at least the equivalent distance,
ploughing a path, turbulent or smooth,
between two fixed points
and back again as the globe turned
and the galaxy described a complex figure
around a super massive black hole.

She was more concerned
with the intricacies of internal combustion,
the sequence of timed explosions of pressurised diesel,
that shoved one piston down
and another up to complete the cycle,
excreting, almost as an after thought,
tons of carbon dioxide and particulates
to contribute what they could to melting the icecaps,
altering the climate and promoting
asthma in random people around the globe.

One against the clock morning scramble,
her retirement made the news,
as I searched for my inhaler.

It was not difficult to write but it took time to find the poem's shape. It feels half completed. I need to put it away for a while and come back to it.

A friend sent me a Jamie Stillway cd this week and what a treat it was. 

Until next time.

Friday 13 December 2019


The title of the post could as easily refer to the result of yesterday's General Election. I do feel like Christopher Isherwood at the conclusion of Goodbye to Berlin...
My daughter, a midwife, texted me as the result became clear: there goes the NHS. It is a bleak future. 
Another poem started on my brief weekend in Roscoff. The island in the title is a beautiful, small island just off the coast.

Île de Batz

the sea has removed itself
in the dirty bay the upright boats are patient
the sea wall
built by hand in my grandfather’s day
long and strong
speaks of a winter tide
gestated mid-Atlantic
angry impatient
no laughing matter

they have to close the door a second time
as if surprised it did not shut itself
or that the mere act of pulling it towards them
should be sufficient in itself

the wind ever opportunistic
barges through the space
to remind me I am
thin blood cold

This is the view from the cafe where I wrote the second poem about the door and the wind.
In the first poem I simply tried to describe the bay. I had a different last line:

I look up from the page
the sand is now a mirror

I rejected it partly because I don't think it works and partly because it anchors the poem in the present and the chosen ending heralds an ominous future.

The second poem I wrote in the bar watching people fail to close the door as they left. To be honest part of their difficulty was the ferocity of the wind. 
The photographs are from a beautiful church on the island.
I love stained glass and think it is at its best when the sun shines through it.

I'm choosing to end this post on a note of hope and beauty. This is the Incredible String Band from 1968 reminding us of the eternal.

Until next time.

Friday 6 December 2019


Last weekend I was in France for a brief weekend away. There is something about being in a new place that makes you open to ideas, I kept scribbling notes down the whole time.
This is a reasonable draft but not the finished article.

He sat down at the next table,
began editing papers
written in neat long hand.

We were holiday lax, loquacious,
lippy with the wine.
The freedom of being in another country
had set us talking ten to the dozen.

Suddenly it occurs to me
he could be writing down our every word,
for he’s turned the paper over
and is scribbling hell for leather.
Then I wonder if we’re worth such an effort.

As we stand to go for the bus,
he packs up and shoulders past,
into the rain and the twilight.

As I have said before, it is good practice to write what you see around you. 
It is easier in new surroundings.
Here's Bill Withers, a man who makes it all look so easy.

Until next time.

Friday 29 November 2019


The photographs don't match the poem. Here is one of the cats I share a house with taking an unhealthy interest in the television.
In a way it compliments the poem. Theseus, who is remembered best for slaying the Minotaur, wasn't by our present day standards a particularly pleasant person. He is described on Wikipedia as: Theseus, a great abductor of women, as if that was something to be proud of. 


He likes that we remember him for that first hit,
the one he whacked for his seat in eternity.
He sleeps inside your memory until
someone mentions labyrinth or Minotaur
and asks what was the name of that bloke?
The one with the thread and sword,
though we tend to forget how keen was the edge
and that it became his primary problem solving strategy.

I wonder if he’d not been better off staying in that cave,
at least he’d have missed out on the mixed reviews
following on from when he abandoned the woman
who’d given him the string and sword,
she was the brains of the outfit,
but he left her, high tailed it back to Athens,
those black sails prompting his father’s suicide
and his swift ascension to the top.

Yes, he’d rather we forgot the messy details
and just remember him for that one wet job.

The mention of the black sails refers to the fact that when sailing from Athens to Crete the ship had black sails. Theseus told his father, the king, he would unfurl white sails on his return, as a message of his success but left in a hurry after deserting Ariadne as she slept. The king seeing black sails jumped from the cliffs to his death. 
It was rather a mess all round. 
Here's a 1967 take on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth by The Herd. Psychedelia at its best.

Until next time.

Friday 22 November 2019


I have been trying different layouts for this poem. It essentially is a monologue and I had been thinking of a prose poem but on the page it did not look right. Several attempts later I settled on the present form.

I watch the care staff smoke
they stand in all weathers
what I assume is
the required distance from the front door
as their exhaust whips around them

until this week
each morning
as I make a pot of tea
I used to see
a man in a wheelchair
smoking as if his life depended on it
now I wonder if it did

Again, this poem is just an observation. As I have said many times on this blog, poems are all around us, the knack is to see them and give them space on the page.
The care staff tend to stand near the bus stop rather than the front door of the care home which led me to assume there was a set distance from the premises in which they could not smoke. I think the same must be true for the service users as the man who was a wheelchair user also was usually to be found by the bus stop.

Here's John Martyn in 1978. I think this captures both the chaos and the beauty of his art.

Until next time.

Friday 15 November 2019


A poem inspired by the workshop I ran at Tropical Pressure. The workshop focused on finding treasure in the house of a person who hoarded everything and this poem is another riff on the whole hoarding urge.

She was dozing, half hearing
the man on the television
explain solar system formation.
How eddies in the gravity
started the slow accumulation,
made molecules bind
and in that second she knew
this was the fate of her house,
all the unemptied shopping bags,
the clothes strewn floors,
every piece of everything that
she could never part with,
was due to a wrinkle in space/time
and not to her own actions.
The mound of plastic bags
would become a mountain
then a planet ripping the earth asunder.

She woke on her friends sofa,
soap and replaced science,
she flicked it over to the shopping channel,
there was work to be done.

I like the idea of planet building and to the best of my knowledge the solar system formed around a small wrinkle in gravity. 
I am not sure that this is the finished draft but I think it is nearly there.

Here's Chip Taylor. 

Until next time.

Tuesday 12 November 2019


The Uninvited is Chrissy Banks’ second collection and was recently published by Indigo Dreams. I have to say it is excellent and I have been returning to it again and again, over the past month. There is a quiet beauty to Chrissy's work and I have long been a fan.

The theme of The Uninvited is “what lives in shadow is always seeking a gap.” Chrissy is the cartographer of those liminal spaces that flicker on the edge of vision, a chronicler of the abandoned and ignored:

A house that’s forgotten
bellowing air, the pulse
of music and dance -
too long without children.

There is joy and a quiet humanity in its pages:

Sometimes all you need do
is ask, walk through the door
to the next room. Even now,
they are setting a place for you.

A thread of autobiography runs through The Uninvited, there are tales of Chrissy’s childhood and the strong women of her family.

the leggy girls from Liverpool, long-lashed, lush-lipped
hairtossers, hipswingers, quickwitted teasers and twisters,
minis under maxis, some slant eye boy on their mezzled minds

Even these autobiographical poems echo the temporary, seasonal workers on the Isle of Man were known as comeovers, the mystery of who exactly Uncle Lawrence was, and a New Year’s Eve’s ferry caught in all it’s diverse beauty. Her humanity and compassion are present on every page, this is a wondrous collection.

I urge you to check out this book. It is the work of a true poet. 

Friday 8 November 2019


A poem that just appeared in my head one morning. It was about a week after the clocks had gone back and the idea for the poem arrived fully formed. 

Eventually he found the timepiece,
after ransacking his living space.
A small quartz unit, battery powered,
and as accurate as scientific method,
just the sort of item he’d never choose to own.

It was in the left hand pocket of his woollen overcoat,
the one he had not worn since the cold snap in late spring,
their planning had been long in the making,
so the stakes must be appropriately steep.

He held the cheap thing,
as light in his palm as thoughtless sin,
changed the position of the hands,
felt the rightness that had eluded him
for the seven disturbed days return.

Ever since the clocks went back
that secret wrist watch had rippled his time,
ensured he was out of step.
Other questions now clamoured to be answered.

I think there should be a follow up, who exactly placed the watch that disturbed the narrator? Honestly I have not idea. Though as a story it has legs. Let us wait and see if anything develops.

Here's a treat, Anna Ternheim live with the Kaiser Quartet. Only another twelve days and I shall be seeing her live myself.

Until next time.

Friday 1 November 2019



This post a poem about urban renewal. It is based on an old, large house being demolished to make way for flats near where I live.

 It took five working days to do for the house,
one implacable machine of cold force did it in,
supplied as it was with an endless chain
of hard lorries to disappear the evidence.
The wallpaper sloughed off
all those exposed inner spaces,
at least the rain kept the dust down
if not the sounds of the building’s death.
After that they scraped the naked earth,
removed half the garden, most of the lawn,
demarcating the dimensions of the car park.
The flats rose quickly after that.

For me it was sad to pass by a grand old house being demolished. Perhaps this is the fate that awaits all our endeavours? 
In Torquay there is a move to build on the brownfield sites which must be welcomed. It is just a pity that the big old houses cannot be refurbished.

Here's Jay Farrar with Barstow. 

Until next time.

Friday 25 October 2019


The farce continues. The crime minister and his puppet master are still trying to convince us that they have the best interests of the country at heart while proposing a reduction in employment rights and offering the NHS on the alter of an American trade deal. This is how desperate and bankrupt their neoliberal philosophy is.
In the midst of this posturing I attended the anti-Brexit march last Saturday. It was heart warming to see so many people protesting against the elite.

I was stood in Marjons quad the other day watching a magpie when this came into my head.

The radiation hurtled out of the sun,
flew fast across space, but still took
seven whole minutes
to touch the atmosphere,
bounce off the magpie in the quad
and into the centre of my eye.

I was stood stock still,
thinking of the flood of light
that rains down on us every day.
Meanwhile the magpie,
having made her point, flew away.

Sometimes physics is just cosmic. I was stood there just thinking of the great spaces between the planets - let alone the stars. God is all around us, beauty is everywhere.
Here's a revision. The previous version was newly minted and I when I looked at it again I saw how it could be improved.

I dreamt you last night
placed us both in fragments
of time and songs
then woke in the darkness
and strove to recall
the poem I was writing
sat on the hillside
in the rain
not getting wet

On Wednesday I saw Boo Hewerdine in Ashburton. He was excellent as always.
Boo has a new album out and it's well worth a listen.
Here he is singing Muddy Water.

Until next time.

Friday 18 October 2019


Sadly this week we are not the only country washing our dirty political linen in the street. As I write there is a general strike in Catalunya. This is a result of the harsh prison sentences handed out to the legally elected government of Catalunya by the arrogant, heavy handed central government in Madrid, who in their wsidom decided that the Catalan government deserved prison sentences of up to thirteen years. My thoughts are with the striking Catalans.
Honestly I do not support Catalunyan independence. I am living amid the chaos of our own ruling party's cack handed attempt to keep itself together, that has caused us to become the joke of Europe. I am in no doubt that Catalunya faces similar chaos but locking people up is not an effective strategy. Nor is loosing the thugs of the Guardia Civil on peacefully demonstrating citizens. 
I was prompted to write this poem after seeing the people being beaten by the police in Barcelona on Tuesday and Thursday. As Isaac Asimov once said: violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

they’ve just gone and dug up Franco
released his miserable spirit
from that cold mausoleum
so now his ghost strides the land

you could tell that yesterday
as the guardia [un]civil
wrapped their batons
around Catalan heads
and the prisoners won’t be let out
not until 2032

I know it's not very good, but it is from the heart. The voice of the people is ignored, while a small groups of opportunists play Three card Monte with democracy. 
Here is a poem whose first line comes from a podcast on dinosaurs. I thought it had potential...

We are drawn to this lump of rock
by its particular shape that speaks to us all.
Once it was a human heart.
We see many such stones these days,
they fall from chest cavities
to litter the corridors of power.
They are a marker for our future,
a sure sign of the coming extinction.

I think the line corridors of power is a little hackneyed. It's a work in progress.
Here are Electrica Dharma with Catalluna.

Until next time.

Friday 11 October 2019


 I think I must be going through a little boom at the moment the Muse is being very generous.
This first poem happened as it says. I did wake up trying to remember the poem I'd written just in a dream.

I dreamt you last night
placed us both in fragments
from meetings and songs
and woke in the darkness
attempting to recall
the poem I had written
sat on that hillside
in the rain
not getting wet

Here's one that arrived in a rush and still needs revision. 

I know that eventually
time will catch up with me
pin me to the bloody floor
in some way I will not like
let alone have foreseen
pay me back in kind
for each night
I crept in with the milk

leave me marooned on a chair
my tongue stuck on repeat

Again it is what it is. There are no hidden layers of meaning.
Sometimes that's ok. 
Oh, creeping in with the milk is something my father used to say when I came home in the small hours. You need to be old enough to remember when milk men delivered milk in bottles very early in the morning. 

Here's me being very vain. Kathryn Williams was amazing. She's on tour at the moment and if you get the chance go and see her. Last Friday was so good. I'm off to see her again on Sunday in Exeter

Until next time.

Friday 4 October 2019


I am going to see Kathryn Williams this evening in Bristol and frankly I can't wait. Given the state of the country at the moment any respite from the posturing of the privileged Jackanapes masquerading as the crime minister is welcome. Whatever happened to honourable politicians?
Two poems this post with a religious slant. The first is a true story. I was walking to Stanza Extravaganza at the Artisan Gallery here in Torquay the other evening when I was stopped by two missionaries. I suspect they were new to the game as it was raining heavily at the time and there was little chance people would wish to discuss theology in such conditions. 

When the rain arrived in heavy soaking curtains
he was stopped by a pair of bright young faces
who burned with the missionary's certainty.
Solemnly they enquired if he believed in God,
if he had received the grace of religion.

He thanked them and said he had.
As a pantheist he could see God’s beauty everywhere
even in the raindrops funnelling around them in the night.
Then they asked about Jesus Christ
and were told he needed no middleman.

This second poem has no clear cause and effect.

all that cynicism slowly chipped away
and him older scarred and weary

the infinity of different versions
meant that one would be a good fit

it was inevitable his disbelief
would transmute into faith

but behind his back
they smiled as he surrendered

The poem arrived pretty much as it is. All I had to do was swap some of the stanzas about and clean up the lines.

I have Rob Chapman to thank for this week's music. His excellent account of psychedelic music Psychedelia and Other Colours introduced me to the Geranium Pond. Only in the 60s!

Until next time.