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.