Wednesday, December 29, 2004

So That Was Christmas

And so 2004 comes to an end. With an international disaster, the scale of which makes blogging and every day life seem rather insubstantial and meaningless. But we glean whatever meaning we can from our daily preoccupations and trundle along, being thankful, those of us who have plenty, for what we have. Our prayers going to the survivors and to the victims’ families and friends.

For Christmas I gave Jill a 10 track CD of love songs and poems. I intend to make it the basis of a full-length CD and book of poems. No doubt I’ll be testing a few out on this blog. Did lots of family stuff. My grandchildren came to stay which was wonderful. Favourite presents – a 4DVD Marx Brothers set – including my favourite three of their films – the new Bob Dylan book – Family Food, Heston Blumenthal’s book – and some interesting CDs.
How about you?

What did I do in 2004? Not as much as I’d have liked. I must get organised for 2005 and get a few projects finished, move a few things from the back burner to the front.

Over the next couple of days I hope to finish the Molecules’ album. I did a rough mix before Crimble but it sounded terrible and then I ran out of time.

New Year’s Eve at James’s – the Molecules’ guest lead guitarist then a very interesting start to the New Year. A visit to the A1 Wastepaper Company, and Michael, Hazel and Archie. I’ll keep you posted. As, no doubt, will Michael.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Season's Greetings to one and all. Posted by Hello

Roger, Jill and Judy Dog step into a snowy Breughel scene.

Not a lot to report. Jill’s shoulder is still bad, which is not good news. It’s been like it for several weeks now, since she slipped over on some leaves in London. It doesn’t seem to be responding to treatment very well.
Last night James came over and added the lead guitar to the Molecules album. Although we’re off that as a name. How about What Wanda Wants? Any good as a name? Spent today working on it. It’s nearly done. It’s a bit of a mess. I think it might be an anti-climax. Doubts, eh? I expect it was the same with Paul and John.
Other than that just general preparations for Saturday. This could well be the last blog until after Christmas - although hopefully I'll pay a call on my new blog acquaintances and friends in the next couple of days. Have a good one everybody.
Damn Right I Got the Blues Posted by Hello

After the country set we did our usual rocky-blues thing. You can just see me on the left in the rather fetching country-style shirt. The photos didn't come out very well in the dark.
The Country Band. Yeeeehaaa!!! Posted by Hello

As promised absolutely ages ago. Here are the country babes. Left - Jann, the birthday girl, and Marie-Claire who helped make it all possible.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

How Was It For You?

Maybe I should put up a Christmas poem. I’ll do that next. Hey ho... ho ho. Well, the house is all bright and sparkly. I’ve nearly finished the children’s story. It’s going well now that I’ve got a bit more time. The Molecules recording’s going well too. My mother’s gone home. Jill’s been in Nottingham this week but has returned – hooray! She's at home for the next few weeks now. Tomorrow - a friend’s birthday – we’re having a take away. Probably Indian. Talking of which - Jill has to visit the nurse tomorrow for her jabs in preparation for her Indian visit next year. I’m planning to finish the story by Friday. Then get the outline for the graphic novel finished next week. If I can do that and get the albums made by Christmas I’ll be well pleased. Meanwhile - Joe’s girlfriend’s family is coming on Sunday for a pre-Christmas dinner. Watch this space.

I was wondering. Do we, as adults, ever have a Christmas as good as the ones we had as children. Assuming we had a Christmas. Faith and privilege notwithstanding. Or do we just remember it being special? Was it rubbish really?


I am the tumbleweed
That rolls across the Western land
I am the shadow of a driftwood stick
Thrown for dogs
To fetch and chase
Upon command

I am a sea-born stone
Each layer worn away by passing time
I am an old man’s face
His joy and pain is read in each and every line

I am a lover’s letter
That’s always out of reach
That’s blown from eager hands
I am the dazzling strands of silver
Dancing on the rippling tide
That breaks upon the golden sands

I am a seagull’s cry
A crow’s lament
The rush of surf, the crash of that relentless call
The sands rendered in pixels on the virtual photograph
The sunshade and the empty sunscreen jar
That sits unwanted on the wall

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Christmas Comes Apace

Jill’s parents have now left and my mum (80) is now visiting. Sorted out a great part of her Christmas present list yesterday by visiting a bookshop in Hastings. Books for all her grandchildren. A job well done. And found Don Paterson's Book of Shadows – which I’ve heard so much about . Several people listed it as a favourite book of 2004 in the Guardian round-up. I’m reading it right now – very interesting – but have a member of the family in mind who will be getting it as a present. Aphorisms used to be very popular didn’t they? It would be a good blog subject I think.

Last night I put up the string for the cards. The Leigh’s card is in pride of place. (See Flobberlob) Also got the tree out of its box and this morning put the lights on. Our first present is ready to go beneath it. It’s also from the Leighs and is a CD or possibly two. Can’t wait to hear what’s on them. I’ve got a nice pile of tracks accumulating ready for our CD to them. A bit of a tradition this.

Other news. The Molecules project is progressing well. James is coming over next Friday to add the lead guitar. Meanwhile I’ve started adding some applause. Also we now have the Matt Harvey collection available from - Rabbit Press. Four pocket-sized booklets of his poetry. I’m really pleased to be selling it. I saw him in performance a few months back and thought he was brilliant. Really funny. And the great thing is – his poems also work really well on the page. A nice guy, too.

Okay – enough blatant advertising – even if it is Christmas! Time to dress the tree and put up the decorations. Not to mention recording my Mum’s contribution to The Family Album. But more of that anon.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Let’s Write Another Poem

Last school visit done and dusted. A clear run to Christmas.
The children’s book to finish and the Mighty Molecules CD.
Of course, things are bound to crop up. My Mum’s coming to visit for one thing. And we’re in the process of looking for and buying a flat in Brighton. This is for our old age. Although if 106 doesn’t qualify for old age I don’t know what does.

Meanwhile, why don’t we write another poem?
Think of something that you once said goodbye to. (Note – something not someone).
Make a list of that object’s attributes.
Think about the process of losing, leaving, throwing away or even selling that object. How did you feel about it?
Finally, remembering that poetry is more about rhythm than rhyme – lay it out on the page. Tinker with it a while. Then when you’re happy with it – post it below in the comments.


Farewell Ted, no more to sit upon the bed
Grinning at me, giving me the paw with your one good arm…

Farewell hi-fidelity stereo. I didn’t want to buy the i-pod but… farewell scratchy albums, and red-wine-stained covers…

Good luck!

Ringing Them Bells

He gazed at me
Looked down from the pulpit
Carved with God’s trigonometry
And said, My boy, you pulled the rope
You rang the bell
You hung the chime in the dead air
Now you await my blessing or my curse
What do you have to say?
I felt the blistered shapes
Moving outside the corners of my mind
And yet unmoved
I caught the dust motes, shadows and the spites
And wished the old priest well
I quietly closed the chapel door
And stole away
Along the grey-leaved late-November path
That briefly ran around the rim of hell

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Out of Order

For some reason the last three blogs went out of order. I put the two poems up - then I put Country Roads -2 up. But it sat itself underneath the poems. These blogs have minds of their own.

I was planning on visiting a few blogs but the blog universe seems to be on a go-slow again. Think I'll try again later.


We climb the soulful streets
Of Vejer
Cobbles and dust
And pause by the tight-lipped church
Golden-studded gate of bare-necked wood
The dusty walls hold long forgotten tales
The gabble and the chuckle
Of the market in the square
The dark portraits of the corbijata
The women from Vejer with half a veil
And behind the white walls' glare
Glimpses of hidden gardens

Cadiz Cathedral

Create a space
And decorate with rising arches
Sparkling with a holy light

Spin nets of delicate cobwebs
To catch the falling morsels
Of salt-air-damaged stone

Describe a space
Where organ notes ascend
Are flattened, tapered
Whine a little, bend
Blend with the long and wavering
Squeal of children
Skittering like black and red beetles
Crawling over Catholic stone

Sit in the square
With other tourists sipping tea
And chatter
In the old café

Erect a yellow crane
Tall as the cathedral’s yellow dome
Swing it just so
Where the complicated scaffolding
Will soon support
The Virgin’s procession

Country Roads Two

The gig went well – and it was a swell party. I hoped to have a picture to post but my camera let me down. The flash just isn’t strong enough. Hopefully I’ll be getting a few pictures from other party goers so I’ll be able to put a picture up then. No more band rehearsals now until the New Year.

This week some writing. Hurrah! On Thursday my last school visit followed by a trip to Nottingham for Jill’s works party – have to wear a dinner jacket for that – oh my. Then a free run to Christmas.

Which means it’s time to buy Christmas presents.
So – here’s the question. What Christmas present would you really like? What would make your year?

And what present are you really looking forward to giving someone else?

(What do you mean you don’t yet know? It is almost December for goodness sake.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Country Roads

Well, an interesting week so far. Monday - a Damn Right rehearsal. We’re playing at a party on Saturday – and as well as playing our regular rocky-blues set we’re playing a specially-learned country set for the birthday girl who is going to sing. She lives in South Africa and doesn’t arrive in the country until Friday and so Marie Claire, daughter of the bass guitarist, has stood in. Great voice. Great fun - but I wouldn’t want to be in a country band full time.

Tuesday - a day of infants. Lots of joining in poems. Jill is away at a conference in London. Tuesday evening - stuck in the traffic that is Wembley. It took me four hours to get home and I was fifteen minutes late for my creative writing class. Talk about being rushed.

Today – some writing planned but spent the day “catching up.” Maybe I’ll get some words down tomorrow. Need to do some serious planning or the next few weeks are going to disappear into nothing.

The Things You Are

The keeper of my heart
The healer of my soul
The hit song in my chart
The glue that makes me whole
The walker by my side
The holder of my hand
My student and my guide
The one who understands
The finisher of thoughts
My spokes, my wheel, my hub
The crosses and the noughts
My reggae and my dub
The laughter for my jokes
My wherefores and my wise
My hub, my wheel, my spokes
The blue that fills my skies
Disperser of my gloom
You blow my clouds away
The painter of my room
You brush away the grey
The seas that lap my shore
The rudder on my keel
The peel, the flesh, the core
My hub, my spokes, my wheel
The maker of my dreams
The slaker of my thirst
The miner of my seams
My second and my first
The raker of the leaves
That fall across my path
The one who still believes
The one who makes me laugh
My racing car of fun
The lock that fits my keys
The icing on my bun
Yes, you are all of these

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Northern Children’s Book Festival

Had a wonderful time in the North East. Three schools, the first two in the library at Crook, near Durham, and the third at a very large secondary school in Redcar where I read The Journal of Danny Chaucer (Poet) to three groups of 12/13 year olds. Three hours more-or-less solid reading with a song and a few questions and answers thrown in. Tiring, but great fun.

Also I met up with several other writers staying at the same hotel including Korky Paul. How fantastic is that?

The hotel was quite interesting. We had to wait for over an hour for a meal on the first night which was gruesome when it finally arrived (soggy risotto) (not helped by watching England’s dismal football performance against Spain on the bar’s big screen). An unusual bathroom, too, with a mirror so high that only a tall person could see his face in it and with the shower controls near the ceiling. One of our party, Sally Crabtree, who is a musician and writes books for young children, and isn't very tall, said she had to stand on a chair to wash! The following night we went for a Thai meal which was totally delicious. I won’t bore you with the details.

Wrote quite a lot on the train. Well, not literally on the train – it was in a book. Some more work on the graphic novel. Some poem bits. And a haiku. Well, of sorts. (See below)

But it’s good to be home.

Funny Haiku

Ha ha ha ha ha

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Ha ha ha haiku

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Another Busy Week

Sunday night. And another busy week coming up. A school in Peacehaven tomorrow. A day and a half of writing – did I mention I’m hoping to finish my children’s story? And the Poetry Zone to update. Then heading north on Wednesday for the Northern Children’s Book Festival.
Travelling by train – so a chance to get some writing done. Maybe work on my graphic novel. I’ve got the first draft sketched out. It’s a Faustian tale. Something a bit different for me at least.
Another busy week next week – and them oh joy, a few weeks at the computer writing.
Writing – I like that.

If you had written a best selling book. Well – any book actually. What would you liked to have written? And if you were going to write a book – what would it be?

International Apologies

Such a fuss.
It was a mistake anyone could have made
When the soccer hooligans
Rampaged through the shopping centre
After losing the International two – one
And we shot every last one dead

A simple clerical error, that’s all
Reading rubber bullets for live ammunition
Easily done, when you think about it
You’ve probably done the same thing yourself.
Bought a chicken
When you meant to buy a mop.
That sort of thing.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

Oh Dear

Got drunk. Met up wuth Ruichard, me ex-brotherv in law and \nigel,m amn old ffrind and went tro pub tomnpkyat darts,. This is our second meeting. We plan to meet up every three months./Had a really good evening reminiscing and taliking bvaput old times and buit got d run k. It was the extra glass of whisky back ay Richards that doid it. Now the room is spinnoing. I shouldn’ybt have had that whisky;. It’s,mpt really very pleasant. And oi have tonwaitv fornit topnpadsss…..

Peter Piper (Easy Version)

Peter Piper chose a large number
Of peppers that had been soaked in vinegar and spices

A large number of peppers
that had been soaked in vinegar and spices
were chosen by Peter Piper

If it is indeed true
That Peter Piper chose a large number
Of peppers that had been soaked in vinegar and spices

Where are they?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Something Fishy

My brother-in-law’s step-daughter had her bat mitzvah yesterday and we were invited along to the synagogue to take part in the ceremony. The ceremony was very different from the Christian Church type of ceremony I’m used to (as, of course, it would be.) It is centred very much on the veneration of ancient scrolls and the continuation of the Jewish line and family. It was very interesting. And an honour.
At the end there was a prayer for peace between Jews and Palestinians which I found quite moving. It’s one thing to be told that “We want peace” – a statement that so many ethnic and religious groups make which is so often propaganda – and another to witness it from the inside, where there’s no hidden agenda. Where it is truly felt.

Today I’m feeling a bit fragile. I drank too much alcoholic beverage at the party in the evening.

And yesterday Liverpool lost 1-0 to Birmingham. That's a downer. Mainly because Baros didn't play. He was at the synagogue, that's why. (Well, there was someone in the front row with a Baros football shirt on. Although he was a bit young - so it probably wasn't him.)

Maybe today will cheer up. More football on telly. A roast chicken. Not too much to do.

Oh, and I forgot to mention – on Friday we bought four goldfish.
Two points if you can guess their names.


I like the fact that
Poems can be deceptive
You think you’re reading
A free-form ramble
Then you discover that it’s
A pair of haikus

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Story So Far

Another spell of school visits. A bit of a mix up yesterday. They were expecting a pirate. I did a couple of pirate poems and I think I got away with it. I'm at home now for three days so I hope to get some writing done. I’m still working on the children’s story mentioned ages ago. It reminds me of that great Doctor Hook line – What album is this anyway? Ben Hur? Still – it’s slowly coming together.

The Mighty Molecules Story So Far. I’ve abandoned the verse novel idea. Instead I’ve adapted what story I had for a graphic novel. It's early days – but hopefully have found an artist friend of Joe’s to do the artwork. And the music? I’m still going to make the CD – now entitled “Live at Staplecrust Village Hall.” Nothing grand - just a first attempt at digital recording. Not that you’d know it’s digital with all the hiss and noise on it. It remains The Mighty Molecules, a fictional band – but not a young one. (Just a sad old one.) I spoke to James today who’s going to add the lead guitar. James was the guitarist with The Killer Rabbits. (Otherwise known as Anthea Ridgepole Rabbit) (I was Roger 'The Nasty Man' Radio Rabbit.)

I put the keyboards on last week. Hope to have it finished by Christmas. More of that anon.

You can still buy the Killer Rabbits album at

Or to find out who the Killer Rabbits were – here’s the website. (Although you might wish you never knew.)
Visit The Killer Rabbits

Botanical Gardens

Who is the peacock trying to impress
As he fans his tail?
His bellowing horn
Stops the traffic
A group of workers nod as if to say
That’s wasted on us, mate
Although it is a damn fine display

Now, in the little pavilion
Amidst the grass and trees
Of the botanical gardens
A workman
Points and grouts
Points and grouts
The lone peacock lets his tail down
And hoots half-heartedly

Dark-suited delegates
At the Botanical Gardens Conference Centre
Mill about with black cases
And under-arm notes
And lap tops
A confused delegate
Stubs out a cigarette
Gazes across the greenery
He knows where he is geographically
He knows why he is here
But the answers to both these questions
Are not satisfactory

Nature sits awkwardly
Well-ordered, catalogued
Documented, arranged
Shined, polished
The birdsong is louder
Than the traffic outside
What more could one ask for?
The fecund and frilly fauna
Is a coffee-table book.

The peacock and two peahens
Wander across the lawn
The peacock bellows again
And waves his tail around
Life is a hoot
I guess the peahen was impressed once
That first time
She must have thought, “WOOWWWW!!!!”
“Wooooo – What a guy!
Give me some of THAT!”
But that was way back then.

A wandering group of school children
Are also mightily unimpressed
The chatter of the children
Is louder than the birdsong

Artists sit and draw
They perch awkwardly on small stools
Sketchbooks balanced on laps
Look up, look down, up, down
Look this way, that
Peck at their pictures

Mothers with toddlers in push chairs
Still bright and breezy
Full of energy
Eat at the café
Feed the scavenging birds
Maybe hoping to meet Mr Right

The children face their teacher
And listen
The peacock hoots again
Will nobody listen to me?

A delegate wanders through
The warm and humid tropical house
(Please keep the door closed to preserve the heat)
She smiles
I smile back
That’s the trouble with smiling
Once you start it’s difficult to stop

Carob seeds
(I read)
Were the original carats
Or jewellers’ weights
The dragon’s blood tree
Varnished Italian violins
In the 18th Century
Its over use caused its near extinction
The Cochineal beetle
Feeds on Opuntia –
The Prickly Pear

Sarracenia Purpurea
The common pitcher plant
Louisiana New Jersey

I am moved to tears
A flashback to my childhood
Growing cacti in the greenhouse
When it was fun
Just a great thing to do
Gaze at the plants
Something I shared with my Father

My Father’s greenhouse
Is partially demolished now
The glass and iron frame
Was dangerous and my Mother
Was worried it would collapse
And it probably would
But she insisted
We keep the stone wall my Father built

My childhood is suddenly
Focussed in that structure
The balance of those stones
The stone slab
That juts out for a seat
The tiny sempervivums set in the wall

And here the warm, sharp, green scents remind me

But my Mother won’t let me
Grace the stone remains with a new top
I don’t know why
Is she afraid that I’ll be tampering with his memory
Or is she just being ornery?

We never grew pitcher plants
We grew cacti mainly
A few of which
(or their descendants)
I still have
That makes them forty years old

Tears, eh?
A heady mixture of the long ago and now
Or maybe a trip to Kew Gardens
As a child

The peacock and the peahen
Cross their own shadows
And I doubt if I’ll return
To this oasis in Birmingham
This oasis surviving in the middle of a muddle
This oasis in the desert of a modern life

Friday, October 29, 2004

Let’s Write a Poem

That might be fun, mightn’t it? Here’s what you do. There are eight lines.
Line 1 - Write down something that happened this morning. But make it an out and out downright lie.
Line 2 – In the spirit of 1 – write a sentence with a sound in it.
Line 3 – Write a sentence with a colour in it.
Line 4 – Write a sentence with a number in it.
Line 5 – Write a sentence with a character from a book in it
Line 6 – Write a sentence with an animal in it.
Line 7 – Write a sentence with an emotion in it.
Line 8 – Write a sentence to do with the past, present or future.

You might want to go away, write it, cut and paste it. But write it quickly! Go for the first things that come into your head. But by all means do a little work on the finished result. The result may not be great poetry - but hey, it should be fun. Here’s my attempt.

This morning I looked in the mirror and saw a slice of toast peering over my shoulder.
This morning I heard the crack of thunder and the laugh of angels
This morning I picked up my pen and realised, for the first time, it was red
This morning I drank 5 coffees, ate 4 muffins, rang 3 friends, tried to connect to the internet twice and had one regret
This morning dawned yellow. The yellow turned to green. The green to blue. The blue to despair.
This morning a balrog landed on the roof. Got bored. Went away.
This morning Judy, our dog, told me a very good joke.
This morning I woke up with the Blues. That’s right. The whole of Birmingham Football Club were in bed with me.
This morning I saw the future. And there were more laughs in it than I had any right to expect.

Good luck.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The London Eye

I overheard a great conversation on the train today. As we crossed the river at Waterloo two young lads were talking. They were fourteen or fifteen I’d guess.
One said, “The London Eye. Have you been on that?”
“Yeah, well-disappointing. Rubbish.”
“Yeah. It was.”
“If it had gone faster or something...”
“Yeah. Well. It was rubbish.” (Pause) “Good view though.”
“Oh yeah. Great view.”

(In case you don't know - the London Eye is a gigantic Ferris-wheel-like structure erected on the banks of the Thames to Celebrate the Millennium. It goes very, very slowly and you get to see a wonderful panoramic view of London. I've never been on it due to my fear of heights.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


I came across this book the other day. Here are some questions from it. I look forward with interest to your responses.

1. If you had to choose the best song ever composed, which would it be?

2. If you were renamed after someone from history, whose name would you want?

3. If you could change one thing about your city or town, what would you alter?

4. If you could arrange for any two singers to record a duet together which two would you pick, and what song would you have them sing?

5. If you could make a film from any book never produced as a film, what book would you pick?

From If (Questions for the Game of Life)
by Evelyn McFarlane and James Saywell.

Click here to buy the book or for more info

Where You Are

Unexpectedly I find you
In the folds
Of a document
Antique and cold.
In the smell of playing cards.
In a memory.
As I hit the water
Sliding down the slippery enamel of the new bath.
(Who knows what film I was in)
The laughter of your workmates
The scrape of the trowel
Mixing sand and cement on the yard
In the flat cap you wore
Riding your old bicycle
In the winter’s early light
In the laugh and the smile we share
In postmarks and perforations
In the trails of postal history
Thick card boxes and stock books
In the railway lines I followed
Drawn on the beach
Leading me in circles
Sitting in the motorboat of sand
Waiting for the tide to come in

Monday, October 25, 2004


In my lexicon of life
A word was missing
Between lovage and low
I thought I had it printed
On my heart
But no
One small earthquake
And it fluttered free
A bird
I thought it was secure
But it slipped through my ribcage
And escaped

That in my lexicon of life
A word was missing
But then you found it for me
And edited the errant page

Twelve Things To Do With

Posted by Hello

From Yelling Pages
by Michael Leigh and Roger Stevens

Friday, October 22, 2004

Pleasant Sounds

Posted by Hello

by Michael Leigh and Roger Stevens

The rustling of leaves when you walk in the cupboard
Turning the key to be met by a snail
Crows in the conglomeration of pink blobs
The crackling of logs at the picnic by moonlight
The school bell at three thirty
The crash of the ocean
The humming of knees as you stroll through the museum
The thwack of the cricket ball as the crowd starts jeering
The silence of blotting paper
Just beyond Bletchley


The sky is darker by the second
The air thick and threatening
The heat of the last few days
And everybody says
The lawn needs some rain

Room two eleven
Has been prepared for the patient
Four vases of flowers
A fan to push the air around

The room grows darker still
A sorrowful magpie darts past the window
Distant flashes of electric blue
As lilacs and oak trees shiver
Readying themselves for the strike
Strolling nurses in the road glance anxiously up
I eye the scaffolding outside warily
Metal mischief stacked up against the building
And I wonder
As the storm rumbles in from the sea
I wonder
As I wait
As I gaze at the empty bed
I wonder
And I say a prayer
As you lie in the operating theatre
And I wonder
Are birds scared of thunder?

More Railway Fun

That was pretty tiring, I have to say. Ten school visits in three weeks and I have a cold and a sore throat. But a whole week off to write. First priority the children’s story – so close to finished. Then give some more thought to the Mighty Molecules project – which I think I might change significantly. Or even abandon.

A couple of interesting(ish) train stories. First – coming back from Shrewsbury on Virgin Trains (which I have to say are very impressive – especially after the totally crap South Eastern trains) – the announcer gave us very good information about the openings and closings of the Virgin Shop. I particularly liked – We will be closed for the last fifteen minutes of the journey – but this is only for stocktaking.
So – that’s good then. I'm pleased that was the reason.

The second on the way home from London’s Charing Cross. The train is about to depart. Next stop is usually London Bridge. But not this time.

Tannoy: (After announcing all the stops) We do not stop at London Bridge.

(A couple of minutes pass)

Tannoy: This train is fast to Sevenoaks. Passengers please be aware that we do not stop at London Bridge.

(A couple more minutes tick by. The train is very crowded. The train starts.)

Tannoy: We do not stop at London Bridge. This train is fast to Sevenoaks. When we go through London Bridge – do not open the doors.

We all look at one another. Someone says, So, this train doesn’t stop at London Bridge then.
That’s a shame, I say. Maybe I’ll jump out there anyway.

Tannoy: We are approaching London Bridge. The train doesn’t stop here. Do not open the doors.

We all have a little chuckle.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Travelling Poet

Off on my travels again over the next few days including a visit to Shrewsbury. This means no time to blog. Normal service will hopefully be resumed on Thursday, when I'll be able to visit lots of blogs again, say hello and add my two penn'orth.

Next up here - some more of my own poems, I think. Watch this space.

Meanwhile - feel free to add to the Bukowski debate. (See below) I think I might put Roger McGough up as a contender. Can be very funny. Does have a serious side. A big influence of mine.



Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bukowski Blog

Bukowski has cropped up in several blog conversations over the last few weeks.
Having given all my books by him away I treated myself to some new poems. They arrived from amazon last week. Along with a sound effects CD for the Mighty Molecules project – but that’s another story.
For more info click on
The Last Night of the Earth Poems
by Charles Bukowski

the eagle of the heart
Charles Bukowski

what will they be writing about 2,000 years from
if they are

I drink cabernet sauvignon while
listening to
Bach: it’s
most curious: this
continuing death
continuing life

I look at this hand
holding a cigarette
I feel as if
I have been here

troops with bayonets
the town below.
my dog, Tony, smiles at

it is well
to feel good
for no reason;
with a limited
choice to
or with a little love,
not to buckle to
faith, brother, not in the
but in
don’t ask.

I tell you
such fine
in the

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Frog in the Blog Jumps Mainly off the Log

The poem, Silence, I put on Desiderata’s blog a while back. I offer it to you now, Jill being particularly in my thoughts at this moment, as her plane wends its way home, high above the planet.

Three schools done this week – two to go. Tomorrow it’s afternoon only and a performance of Danny Chaucer. Friday a local school. So the three 5.30 starts are done with. Tomorrow I don’t have to get up before dawn. (Hurrah!!!)

(Okay, okay – there probably is a joke there somewhere.)

Today's school was at Morden - which can be found at the end of London Underground's Northern Line. I particularly enjoyed the moment when the train announcer said -
This station is Oval.

It wasn't, of course, it was rectangular, like all the others.

Meanwhile – if anyone would like to post any off-topic comments, questions or suggestions – be my guest. Here’s your chance. Just talk amongst yourselves…


I am writing these words
As she sleeps
Beneath the tulip duvet
That we bought in Ikea

There is silence
Troubled only by the quirky whirlpool
Of my stomach
The dog’s raspy breath
The singing in my inner ear
And my pen, making the softest scratching
As its tip lays ink across this page

The distant rumble
of a late-night car
The hoot of an owl
And the bark of a fox

Beneath the tulip duvet
That we bought in Ikea
She grunts
In a dream

In her dream
She is lifting a heavy weight.
A box of ball bearings, maybe
A load-bearing wall
A bag of slights.
A bag of disappointments
Some guilt-edged investments,

But the task is soon accomplished
And the silences resumes
Where it left off
In the room where we sleep
Beneath the tulip duvet
That we bought in Ikea

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Paradise Mislaid

Jill is still in the States. Having a great time. She visited the Texas State Fair yesterday. Yeeehaw! Me? I’m feeling a bit lonely. A whole week of school visits coming up. I’ll be feeling cream-crackered by Friday. Tomorrow I’m at a secondary school. I’ll mainly be reading from my verse-novel for teenagers – The Journal of Danny Chaucer (Poet)

What it is to be a teenager! Here’s a sample poem –

Paradise Mislaid

As humankind destroys the planet
My thoughts turn frequently to Janet

As rainforests are stripped and land laid bare
I think of Janet in her underwear

As acid rain falls from the sky above
I think of me and Janet making love

What chance has humankind of saving this fair planet?
About the same as I have ever making it with Janet

(Actually her name isn't Janet
but Jenny doesn't rhyme with planet)

For more info or to purchase book click here!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Birthday Presents

George Harrison. The Dark Horse Years. 1976 – 1992.
This was a fabulous present. Six albums – including Live in Japan with Eric Clapton and a DVD of videos and interviews. Some excellent tracks that I missed first time around. Here comes the Moon is particularly splendid. And very Beatle-y. And some excellent videos – in particular Crackerbox Palace and This Song.
They underlined something I’d forgotten. George was a deeply spiritual person. But also
a lot of fun. Those two videos in particular really made me smile.

I had a book, too, which I should maybe mention. This is also a lot of fun (honest!) – although in a slightly different way.

The Humor of Kierkegaard

(Click on link for more info!) As the cover says... "The selections, which made me laugh, illustrate sardonically the contradictions of existence."

Try it!!!

Blue Monk

As always we played late into the night
Exploring beats and rhythms
Cadences and silences
Harmonies and melodies
Running with the ball

The punters had long gone
A drunk slept in the corner
We hadn’t the heart to turf him out
Body draped across table
Sticky with drying beer

I’m off for an early night,
Said Del, the proprietor -
If you can call two-thirty early -
Lock up after
Set the alarm

We played on
Did we not have homes to go to?
Immersed in the rhythms of our own lives
Weaving strands of melody
Untangling knots

The exit door banged open
A chill breeze blew through
Scattering cigarette ends and beer mats
Rattling glasses and optics
Easing the heavy fog of stale cigarette smoke to one side

We were playing a slow song
Blue Monk
Idly following the familiar bluesy path
Sliding around the bass run and the drum pulse
Darting between the cluttered chords

She walked in as though it were daylight
As though she owned the place
And walked across to the sleeping drunk
She sat beside him
Like a mother’s shadow

We reprised the theme.
Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah di
A last statement. A resolution.
A fond farewell to the happy minutes
We’d spent in Monk’s company.

Then, on the final drum beat
As the last few wisps of stale smoke dispersed
The man’s empty body slid from the table and hit the floor
And the woman faded
Like the low hanging note of the double bass

Monday, October 04, 2004

Another Train Event

We have new trains in the South East. They are gradually replacing the trains that have been running since the 1950s. So I was sitting in the new train and we stopped at a station but the doors wouldn’t open. (These are new-fangled electric doors). The guard came along and started fiddling in a control box, situated above one of the doors. Eventually the door opened and people got on. The doors closed and we carried on with our journey.
“Does that often happen?” I asked the guard.
“Yes," he said. “This train is controlled by a computer. And the computer says when the doors will open. The worst thing is when we have to add carriages to the train. Then the computer has to be rebooted.”

The mind boggles.

Neither is the Horse

I’m reading a lot of poetry at the moment.
Here’s some very entertaining verse from a book I bought at the National Theatre bookshop.
It’s called Neither is the Horse and other poems
By Rory Motion
(Huddersfield’s legendary poet laureate)


And so I said to the assistant
“Do you sell crucifixes?”
And she said, “Yes…
Do you want a plain one
Or one with a little man on?”

Well, it made me laugh. More info here…
Neither is the Horse

Think globally, act locally
Think cosmically, act stupidly
- Rory Motion

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Saturday Morning Quiz

Here are a few questions from last week's Guardian quiz. See how you get on.

1 Which school was founded by Walter Gropius?

2 What links the following: George W. Bush; Margaret Thatcher; Shakespeare; Cleopatra

3 Why are jockeys so well adjusted?

4 Identify these three characters whose names differ only in the letters shown.

* I N * * * * *

* P * * * * *

* I S E N *****

5 Who is Tenzin Gyatso?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Here Comes Crazy October

Friday, and the weekend approaches. Not to mention the month of October.
October is going to be frenetic. School visits start in earnest. Three next week, five the following week, and three the week after that. And Jill is off to the States on business for a week and a bit.
She leaves early Tuesday morning, which is, at it happens, my birthday. I’m hoping for the George Harrison Dark Horse boxed set. I’ve a couple of the albums on vinyl but none on CD. I do have the George Harrison tribute that Eric Clapton put together on DVD. Magic!
Then there’s band rehearsal on Mondays and the Creative Writing Class I run on Tuesdays.
Plus several writing deadlines. Today I was hoping to finish the children’s story that I’ve been working on all summer. But it’s still not quite there.
And what news of the Mighty Molecules project? My teenage “lead singer” tells me that he likes the songs but doesn’t think it sounds anything like the music that a teenage band would make. Not surprising really, considering my age. How would someone who’s knocking on 103 (104 next Tuesday) know what a teenage band sounds like? So I’m having a bit of a re-think. In fact, I may well start recording it all again. Hey ho.
But – the weekend first. Lots of relaxation is called for. Saturday morning quiz in bed, a stroll (brisk) in the country, Match of the Day in the evening. And Sunday – much the same. Just got back from a stroll now, in fact, on which we found a dead badger and a dead squirrel. Some distance apart I might add. Country life, eh?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Special Abilities (that it would be useful to have)

Being able to determine
the moment when oven chips
are cooked just right.
To know how far there is to fall
from any height.

To always find (first time)
the trip switch
when the lights have fused.
To understand the feelings
of a friend
who stands confused.

In busy restaurants
(as everybody's leaving)
being able to sort out the coats.
Having perfect timing when recounting jokes
or anecdotes.

When planning picnics knowing
If it's going to rain.
The knack of rescuing a bee
trapped on the window pane.

To know which racehorse is going to be a winner
and which will be a flop.
To gauge an audience reaction
when reading out a poem
and knowing when to stop.

(or keep going)

Items in The Edward Lear Museum

A runcible spoon and ticket (first class)
Thirty nine bottles of Ring Bo Ree
A scarlet flannel, a crockery jar
A sieve that has travelled the Western Sea
Some oblong oysters (just their shells) and the hat
Of Mr Quangle Wangle Quee
And in pride of place, in a crumbobblious case,
A branch from the old Bong Tree
Some waterproof clothes, the beard and a nose
And a branch of the old Bong Tree

From The Monster That Ate the Universe
(Macmillan Children's Books)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Sad and Disappointed

When I’m that close to promotion but my best mate’s made the boss
When a sea breeze hits the seaside and steals my candy floss
When the woman I was wooing says she couldn’t give a toss
I get sad and disappointed and just a little cross

When the rice burns on the bottom and the cheddar turns out mild
When the kitchen needs re-wiring and it’s just been newly tiled
When the internet connection’s not the one my PC dialled
I get sad and disappointed
And just a little riled

When the rhythm of my writing’s interrupted or disturbed
By a masked man with a comma and a intransitive verb
Or my passion for a parentheses has been unfairly curbed
I get sad and disappointed
And sometimes quite perturbed

When the elements of our first kiss cannot be recreated
When I wait and no one shows despite the way my breath is baited
When I slide on to the dance floor and my steps are out of dated
I get sad and disappointed
And a tad infuriated

When I’m De Niro’s understudy but never make the stage
When my eloquent soliloquy stays rooted to the page
When I feel I’m getting younger but I’ve nearly reached old age
I get sad and disappointed
And a lesser form of rage

When you wave your magic wand and you lift the witch’s curse
When you say Let’s play at hospitals and you’ll be the night nurse
When you tell me that you love me in a neatly crafted verse
I’m never sad or disappointed
In fact, quite the reverse

Friday, September 24, 2004


Darren’s got a pumpkin
Hollowed out a treat
He put it in the window
It scared half the street

I wish I had a pumpkin
But I’ve not and it’s a shame
I’ve got a scary carrot
But it’s not the same

From The Monster That Ate the Universe
(Macmillan Children's Books)

They Put a Man on the Moon

Not a bad week as weeks go. Friday’s here and the wandering Jill returns. This week she’s been in Nottingham and Oxford. She should be back around lunchtime. Hooray!!!

I finished the first draft of my children’s novel – The Comic Café. Still a fair bit of work to do on it – but the hard bit’s done. When that’s finished I can get back to my teenage poems that accompany The Mighty Molecules CD. Still not totally sure of the name. I still haven’t figured out how to get the tracks from the computer to the CD either. When I’ve done that James can start work on the lead guitar. Still need to find someone to sing them.

Had good rehearsal Monday with Damn Right. A couple of gigs coming up. All’s damn right with the world.

Bad news this week. Steven Gerrard injured. Catastrophic for Liverpool FC who’ve made a good start under their new manager, and bad news for England, too. He’ll miss the next two European qualifiers.

Read more of The Da Vinci Code. Gripping stuff. I wonder just how much of it is based on fact?
I think the moon landing was definitely a hoax. There was a programme about it on Channel 5 this week. I thought the evidence was pretty overwhelming. No stars in the photos. Flag fluttering in the breeze. No blast crater. What do you think?

From my office window I can see the tractor ploughing the big field opposite. Thirty or more seagulls following it. It reminds me of that hymn we always sang at church and school. You know the one. Lovely tune – but difficult to sing I always thought.

Just had a call from Jill. I thought she'd be on the train by now, heading homewards. But she's still in Oxford, apparantly. Buying a pair of shoes.

Hey ho.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Must keep my mind active
Seven times seven
Forty nine
Convert thirty seven pounds sixty
To Euros
If the exchange rate is 6.78
Think of new ways
To describe the sky
Recall details of the past
Aged nine and three quarters
Not the hot summer
Wandering the brickfields
Under a blue-handkerchief sky
On a mission
Kicking up pebble footballs
Sliding down dusty paths
Following trails… but
What was I wearing?
Where did I keep my clothes?
There was no wardrobe in my room.
Didn’t kids have wardrobes then?
Must keep my mind active
Calculate the exact distance
From the centre of France
To here
From here to Super U
From here to La Châtre
From here to the waning moon
From here to the waxing legs
Of the universe

Must keep my mind active
Eight times nine
Hang my trousers on the line
Active! That’s the thing.
Must keep active

Sunday, September 19, 2004

There’s More to You Than Meets the Eye

There’s more to you than meets the eye
A history of unfinished jigsaw puzzles
An inability to find the corner bits of sky

At first your smile seems friendly, warm, sincere
You like a laugh, diversions, something for the craic
That winning smile is your best friend’s
She thinks she lost it. But you never gave it back.

You walk on stilts, at night, beneath the moon.
A trick you learnt when you were young.
The circus pitched up on the village green.
They wanted you to join.
You didn’t want to leave your mum.

You’re well presented. Well turned out.
You’re neat. You’re smart.
Your clothes are not expensive.
Neither are they cheap.
You wear a sleeve upon your heart.
Sometimes you think your soul is fast asleep.

Once you ran the marathon.
Not in an organised event.
Too many people cheering.
And you have an allergy to polystyrene foam
And other people’s sweaty scent.

The blurb says Always meet in public
Which is why I chose to meet you
In the Woolworth’s queue
My first impressions? Ordinary. Nice.
Perhaps a little shy.
You said hello. I said, I bet
There’s more to you than meets the eye.
You said, No
What you see is what you get.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Up the Poetry Pole

1. Bukowski. Genius or journalist?

2. Billy Collins or Phil Collins?

3. There's too much poetry in the world. Yes or no? Discuss.

4. Haiku or sonnet?

5. Can poetry be sexy?

6. Is the comma important?

7. And your favourite poem is?

8. Haven't you got anything better to do?

With thanks to The Garden of Earthly Delights. I look forward to your answers, comments and hopefully discussions.

Night-time Warning for Motorists




Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Mother and Father
Meet for the first time
He has parked his tank
On the zebra crossing

She is sitting carefully
In a wooden chair
At a slatted wooden table
Sipping weak tea

The sky is an unusual shade
Of grey. Forget-me-nots
In a small, glass tumbler.
Cobalt blue.

Mother and Father
Meet for the first time
Mother sees him on the dance floor
A wind-up gramophone
Plays a Bing Crosby song

Mother and Father
Meet for the first time
At a family gathering
The party erupts
Into a screwed-up paper fight
They hide behind the same sofa

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


It might seem obvious to you humans
But it puzzles me every day
If he wants the stick so badly
Why does he throw it away?

By Judy Dog

From Taking My Human For a Walk

(Macmillan Children's Books)


As the first snow falls
We head south
Skirting the plain
To New Mexico
And Santa Fe
An artist's tube of alizarin crimson
Is squeezed with abandon
Over the rising mountains
And the blossoming sunset
Takes our breath away

Through the dusty blue hills
Riding the whirlwind
We came into Taos
On a sunny and cold morning
Searching for Carol Starr

Adobe galleries and Native American trinkets
Tinkled around the out-of-season square
Your answering machine talked to us
Your friend in the Gallery told us
That of the top-ten dangerous junctions for road accidents -
Five were in Dallas.
But your town spoke with light
From an ancient but forgiving heart

And in the evening
We took the Rio Grande route
Across the gorge
Leaving behind the sunset
Of pure gold
For other prospectors

Excuse me. Don’t I know you?

Last night was band rehearsal night. We practice in a studio near King’s Cross Station. Jill was in Nottingham yesterday but had to travel down to stay in a hotel for meetings in London today. As St Pancreas is next door to King’s Cross we thought we’d meet up for a coffee and a snack.
But her trains were running “up to two hours late” and I didn’t want to leave too early, because Judy would be on her own. So in the end we deemed it impractical.
I left for the city at my usual time but my train was also late. Half an hour waiting on Robertsbridge station eating blackberries and wondering if the train would ever arrive. The guard said that it had to use a different station at Hastings because there was a wheelchair on board (!?) and then they had to sort out some carriages and that took twice as long as planned.
So I arrived in King's Cross ten minutes late for the rehearsal. And as I walked out of the tube station - who should I see walking towards me?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Dream Poem

I made up a poem in a dream last night. It was a long dream, most of which I’ve forgotten. I was appearing at a festival. Most of the dream consisted of trying to find the owner of the festival to sort out where I would be performing. There was also a bit where I was lectured by my old Head Teacher. And a church. And lots of wet fields.
Anyway, we got to the performance which was in a tent. I was standing on a small stage. I’d just started to read my Ikea poem when a woman’s mobile phone started ringing. We all waited patiently for her to answer it.
Then I told the audience I’d just made up a poem. This was it –

Mobile Phone


It’s Rock and Roll, That’s All

One for the money
Two for the show
Three to get ready
And Four to go
Back to the car
To get your glasses
To be able to read
The programme notes…

Wild Mushroom Risotto

This was one mouth-watering mother of a meal, even if I do say so myself. I think I need to cook it again before it’s ready for sharing though. So it might be a while before the recipe turns up in Jolly Roger’s Blog Recipes.
Anyway – I was washing the rice and I kept finding ants amongst the grains. We are often visited by ants, being in the country and all. It took ages to remove them. The water sloshing through the colander and another little black body turning up. I noticed them last time I cooked the rice too.
Jill appeared and I showed her. They’re not ants, she said. They are some other kind of insect. A weevil? She looked at the packet. The rice is crawling with them, she said. And it was. We’ll have to take it back to Sainsbury’s, she said.
She then she checked the cupboard to see if any had escaped.
And… you guessed it. Invasion of the Rice Weevils.
The cupboard where we keep the rice, pasta and flour was crawling with the little blighters. They were everywhere.
So while I cooked the wild mushroom risotto, Jill emptied the cupboard, threw out about half its contents and dealt with the unwelcome guests.
I hope there’s no one from the Rice Weevil Appreciation Society reading this. If there is I can only apologise for having dealt with them in such a definite manner. But if vegetarians come to supper and you serve them with a vegetarian lasagne that turns out to have meat in it. Well!
Although I’m not sure… is an insect meat? Or is it a bit like fish?
Do vegetarians ever say - “We’re vegetarians, although we do eat fish and insects…”


Wait for it…

Friday, September 10, 2004

Cold Spell

When the Gulf Stream stopped
And the endless snows came
We packed our memories in fleece and fur
And headed south.

The rumours say
You can walk across the English Channel
On the ice

We trudged
Down frosty lanes
Littered with plastic cards
And defunct fridges

Heading for Paradise,
Our English cousins'
Secret fortress
In Southern Spain

The Contest Dream

There was a contest involving a whole crowd of people. It was at college, but nowhere I’d ever been before. It involved travel, too – a bit like a treasure hunt – going to other countries. It was a very long and complicated dream but one part was this:
I was given a small brown ticket. On it was written the name of a film that I had to watch. There was a different film on every night and I wasn’t sure of the date. It was a short experimental film called La Bath Dernier – a classic black and white film in which a man sits fully-clothed in an old enamel bath. Under the bath is a gas ring which gradually heats the water.
So I went to the cinema but there was a different film on. The cinema was a corrugated hut, full of people talking in French. I sat back in my seat to watch. It was called Le Express. Another grainy black and white film by Alfred Hitchcock.
I didn’t really watch the film, though, because I was more interested in an exhibition of sets from the film. These consisted of small rooms with shelves full of objects. The doors were narrow and arranged in such a way that when the train passed you caught a very quick glimpse of the inside of the room.

Birmingham (Part 3)

Senior citizens
Wander in a daze
Wondering how they found
Themselves on a film set
Whilst trying to buy a cup of tea
Business people
Huddle round laptops
Isn’t it great?
Now you can work in your lunch hour, too.
But what am I doing?
Writing poetry in my lunch hour.
That doesn’t count
In Birmingham.

A young couple gaze into
A holiday flight shop window
Somewhere the sun bursts through
The shop slowly rises from the ground
And heads South
Departing Birmingham

I thank you
Oh Street cleaners
I thank you
Young women
With tight jeans and cleavage
I thank you
Sock sellers
With TVs on your stalls
Showing the Italy-Korea game
I thank you
Natives of Birmingham

Twisting through the layers of building
What treasures can be found?
A builders hard hat
Circa 1977
(cue music – probably the Jam)
I sit and sip espresso
Beneath a brick-paved archway
Beneath two giant arching tents
It’s an eating and snack area
Croissant House
Café Giardino
Singapore Sam
Quizno’s Subs
Pizza Hut

Cram your duvets of flesh
Into those tight stretch pants
Birmingham heavies
You don’t care

Starbuck 1
Starbuck 2
Starbuck 3
Starbuck 4
Starbuck 5
How many Starbucks does it take
To make a Birmingham City Centre?

Answer Five
But the council have to want
To sell their souls.

Thank you Florence Wilkinson
For the wooden bench
Upon which I sit to sip
My Sprite in its cheery
Coca Cola cup

Have you a minute?
The girl asks
Will you commit
A monthly donation
To our new hospice?
Her eyes are piercing
Did they train you to do that?
I asked her later
And imagined her saying, Yes
And I told her
Best not overdo it

I haven’t been here for thirty years
I tell her
I hardly recognise the place
I’ve been away three years, she tells me
See that street? Those shops? All new.
See that office tower?
That wasn’t there ten minutes ago.
The speed of change
And I am different too
That’s the watchword
Here in Birmingham

Thursday, September 09, 2004

For Mighty Microbes Fans...

Have now finished the drums, bass and rhythm guitar. Thought you'd like to know.

Roger McGough on the Telly

Did anyone see it? The Liverpool poets on Channel 5.
Roger McGough and Brian Patten. Poor old Adrian Henri's no longer with us of course.
There's an interview with Brian Patten on the Poetry Zone. Haven't managed to get Roger McGough yet, though. He's too famous probably.
It was a great programme. He has to be my favourite living poet.

Water in the Well – a Villanelle

A chance encounter with a Texan Belle
Leads you to lunch - the café at the zoo.
You wonder if there’s water in the well.

Do crocodiles get tired? How does one tell?
You wonder what the meat is as you chew.
Most poets write at least one villanelle.

She takes you to the desert. And it’s hell.
Your dry cough’s captured by a camera crew.
You wonder if there’s water in the well.

Back home your life’s a cracked, unpolished shell.
Your Texan babe has left. What does one do?
Most poets write at least one villanelle.

Betrayal. Loss. And loneliness. That sells.
An empty sheet of paper. Start anew.
You wonder if there’s water in the well.
Most poets write at least one villanelle.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


When you were a child
Were there secret pathways that you followed?
Through the scrub and hawthorn, past the rotting dump
To the railway sidings?
Did you climb into the brambles
Always careful not to choose
The glistening purple fruits
Of deadly nightshade
Masquerading as blackberries?
Did you poke a stick
Into the wasp’s nest
In the orange clay bank?
Did you watch the awesome steam trains
Thunder past –
Breath in the sharp smell
Of burning coal and steam?
Did you avoid the vipers
Sunning themselves by the rusty track?
Did you keep an eye out
For snipers
Hiding in the bushes along the ridge
And dodge the humming slug
Of air rifle?
Did you follow the high pathway
Across the abandoned brickfields
Along the turf-topped walls
That cornered the pits of dug-out clay?
Did you stare at the rusty carcass
Of the unexploded bomb
No doubt jettisoned
By a returning German bomber
And did you nudge it with your toe
To see if it ticked?

In My Old Bedroom Dream

In the room where I slept as a child, I looked out the window. Below the window is a slate roof, the roof of the bathroom. On the roof were small birds, all looking at me expectantly, waiting for food. So I scattered birdseed over the roof and on to the yard below.

Some people dream of violence, bloodshed, death and fear.
I dream about feeding the birds.
That surely must be a good thing.


I returned home
In the early hours
You were waiting for me
Sitting on the pine bench
On the lawn
You were wearing your dressing gown
There was a warm wind
Scattered clouds
A glimpse of stars
You said the darkness
In our country garden
Was so unthreatening

Later we couldn’t sleep
Listening to the wind
Gathering the oak trees
A buzzing fly, lost in time
Between branch and beam
Lying in a different darkness

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Don't Phone Me

Well, not on my mobile phone, anyway. I left for the rehearsal last night in a bit of a rush - with the phone balanced on the bonnet of the car. I went to the post office and was just about to set off on the journey proper when I realised it wasn't safely sitting in its little holster. I drove home - and there it was, on the road - in two pieces.
I was amazed at how far I'd driven before it fell off.
It might have been okay - but from the state of it - it looked like another car had run over it.
Just down the road a bit from where a fox got hit a few weeks ago.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Wanted. Your Favourite Dylan Tracks.

I'm putting together a compilation of Bob Dylan tracks for a friend of mine. And I wondered...
what would be your top five choices? And what would be your favourite more obscure Dylan song?

Let There Be Drums

I set the drums up in the garden
Our neighbours were
A sympathetic lot
And found it amusing
On the whole
I imagine
People were more easy going then

Biscuit tins were the right shape, obviously
But a bit clangy
I didn’t use them
Likewise dustbin lids
Which looked like giant cymbals
But didn’t deliver
The body of an old red toy pram
Was at the kit’s heart
But most importantly
The discarded sticks
From the drummer
At the wedding
In the Co-op hall
Take these broken sticks
And learn to play
He might have said
But this was before the Beatles
When Lonnie Donegan was the rage
I like to think I had rhythm
I certainly made a lot of noise

Summer's Over

That was a very pleasant weekend. Visited James and family, ex-Killer Rabbits’ guitarist, currently exploring jazz-guitar. He’s going to put the lead guitar on the Mighty’s CD. And yesterday a visit from Joe’s girlfriend’s sister and her father, daughter and husband and his child. I cooked my nearly-famous nut roast.
Have now recorded the bass and drums for the Mighty Molecules CD. How about Mighty Microbes? Does that sound a better name? Have done a couple of rhythm guitar tracks but I'm having trouble getting a good sound.
Tonight rehearsals start up again for Damn Right I Got the Blues – so I’ll be loading up the car and driving up to London. Summer must be really over now. The children’s book still moving forward but at an astonishingly slow pace – school visits don’t start up again until the end of the month so hopefully I’ll have time to finish it by then. October’s nearly fully booked. It’s because of National Poetry Day in the UK. What will you be doing on that day?

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Birmingham (Part 2)

A bomb scare
Hundreds of people
Men, women and children
Mill around
Watching the police cordon
No doubt hoping
To catch a shard of falling

Catch some falling glass
And put it in your pocket
Keep it for a ruined day

At last I find
A piece of Birmingham
I recognise
The road in front of New Street Station
Appears to still be there
A patch of wall
Shyly hides behind the signs
A new arcade swanks
Leads the traveller on
And through and all around the maze
Give thanks and praise
For Birmingham

I sit in Starbucks
Gulp my latte
Where forever there will always be
A tiny corner of a foreign land
That is the USA
The waiter says,
You’re not wrong. Yes, they’re paper cups
Real cups go missing at the rate of ten a day
Why oh why?
I do not understand

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


The inappropriateness of long stockings
When a short sharp sock will do


It was possibly moths
Thrown into confusion
By my speed
And the halogen lights

Maybe it was drifting seeds

Perhaps tiny soft aliens
Landing on Beachy Head
Securing the high ground

Two in the morning
(and I hope you are sleeping by now
having conquered the nausea
caused by the antibiotics)

As we drive home
The car seems somehow reckless
And I have to hold it back.

The dog will be waiting
Anxious for news
And our bed will seem lifeless
As though composed
Only of pillows, a sheet and a duvet
Which, of course, it is.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Back To Work Tomorrow

Finished six of the bass tracks tonight. I think they're sounding good... all things being equal. Which, of course, they're not. Need a name for the bass player now. The thing about names is - it's not really meant to be a funny book as such. Not the sort of book where the drummer is called Basher Skins and the singer is called Larry Inks. Britpop Dylan? Well, the songs are a bit wordy and a couple of them do have a Dylanish feel I think. Well... we'll see.
Back to work tomorrow. I was hoping to have the children's book finished by the end of August and I'm only half way through. Hey ho.
Noticed today that the bit where I write this posting has two little headings top right. One says Edit HTML and the other says Compose. I was wondering where my font and sizes bar had gone. Then I notoiced it was set the wrong one. I clicked Compose and the bar returned. Is this of use to Michael I wonder?

Good night... sweet dreams.

Travels of a Poet (7)

Number Three

I sat with a poet
In an old fashioned café

She had a baked potato
And a cup of tea

I had a number three*

*one sausage, one bacon, beans, tomatoes and chips.

Birmingham (Part 1)

Feel like I’ve landed
On another planet
Called Birmingham

When Lucas was suffering his lapse
In Star Wars Episode 2
Attack of the Defunct Imagination
Maybe his designers
Honed their skills
On Birmingham

As I wander around
I am trapped in a huge
Steel and concrete executive toy
Picking my way
Through the rubble and stubble
The building site moves in slow motion
Through the city and back
As it did thirty years ago
When I was half past boy
The building site’s a wandering sore
A crazy man-created monster plant
Cloned from the carcass of its past
Scattering its of vines and tines
Its seeds and spears
Willy-nilly across the park
The hard and dark
Bewitching and bemusing the inhabitants
Of Birmingham

Monday, August 30, 2004

As Today Was a Holiday...

We had our holiday at home this year
Dad bought two tons of sand
And dumped it in the garden
He hired a huge spotlight
And tied it to the guttering
So it looked like the sun was blazing down
Like in Spain

Then we put on our cossies
And sat in deck chairs
Listening to a tape of ocean waves
It was dead realistic

Dad painted a washing-up powder box
With pound signs
And stuck a handle on it.
Then we kept pushing our money through the slot
Until it had all gone.

Dad said the ice-creams were a fiver
And mum said we couldn’t afford it.
It was dead realistic.

We paddled in a tin bath
Full of dirty water.
We played beach tennis
And had the beach to ourselves.
I cut my foot on a piece of glass
And had to go to hospital
For a jab.
We pretended we couldn’t speak the language.
It was dead realistic.

Next year dad says
We might have an Italian holiday
In Mrs Pasolini’s garden.
She lives next door.

(from The Monster That Ate the Universe)

Sunday, August 29, 2004

And There Were Drums

Well, I finished the drum tracks today. There are now twelve sparkling songs consisting of nothing but slightly dodgy drumming. I need a name for the drummer. Any suggestions? Working on Dan Dee at the moment but all suggestions greatly received.
Next up the bass lines!
Meanwhile Jilly has sorted out the rubber stamps in her corner of the office and actually completed a couple of mail art pieces. One passed on from Mr Leigh.
Next Michael's Floss project.
It's a holiday in the UK. You can tell that from the atrocious weather.
My daughter and her family are camping in Hastings at the moment. I hope their tent doesn't blow away.

Let There Be Drums

Started recording the drum tracks today. Five done and seven to go. Hope to do them tomorrow. I'm not a brilliant drummer and so I'm pretty confident that they'll sound pretty much like the not-very-good-drummer in the Molecules. The drums are on the landing and my PC is in my office so the mike leads have to stretch a long way. I've therefore enlisted the aid of Jilly to do the mixing business. Quite pleased with the results so far.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Giving Up a Blog

I’m going to give up my other blog. Just don’t have the time. It’s pretty boring anyway. The Rabbit Press website is nearly ready and up and running.
More on that to come, don’t worry. And the first Rabbit Press book. More on that, too.
Meanwhile – still searching for a name for the fictional band. So far – The Mighty Molecules is favourite.

Donkey Haiku

Was that a donkey?
Or did some monster lung just
Swallow a trumpet?

Love Is Deep (Shrine to Dylan) (Song)

I am walking through the trees along a path I seldom take
Down to the shrine to Dylan on the island in the lake
When I see your figure standing in the shadow of the firs
And the silence is completed and nothing more occurs

But I swear I left you crying in your house down by the sea
A thousand miles away in a town called Galilee
When you broke my heart I knew that I would always be alone
Now I wander through the woodlands on the mountain I call home

When he called to fix your swimming pool you wore your briefest gown
And he gazed into your future as you lay upon the ground
And you knew that he was shallow and your love he would not keep
And you begged me for forgiveness ‘cos you knew my love was deep

So he climbed out of the water as you floated half asleep
I was knocking on your front door as he climbed into his jeep
The roaring of his engine was enough to wake the dead
When he drove into a paint shop and he painted the town red

Wake up, wake up, I cried aloud, say those rumours are untrue
You said that he meant nothing just an underwater screw
Well, you just sunk your boat babe, and you may think me mean
But from now on my torpedoes are for some other submarine

So I hauled up my anchor and I headed for the shore
‘Cos I felt that I’d exhausted this particular metaphor
So I bought myself a jeep, a nice red one, and second hand
And I headed for the North country and started up a band
Well, I made myself a million and I put it in the bank
Then bought myself a trailer park, and I’ve only you to thank

I am walking through the trees along a path I seldom take
Down to the shrine to Dylan on the island in the lake
When I see your figure standing in the shadows unforsaken
But my memory plays me false, it isn’t you, I am mistaken

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Bang, Bang, Bang
I wake up and wonder
What scary monster
Rattles the darkness.
My bare feet

Slap the wooden floor
I peer down the stairs
Screw up my eyes
In the bright light
Mum and Dad kiss

A policeman
Smiles at me
Mum says, Back to bed.
It’s only a dream.
Her tears taste of the sea.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

52 Ways of Looking At a Poem by Ruth Padel

One of my summer reads. This is both an entertaining and hugely informative book. Worth looking out for. As George Steiner says, on the back cover -

Ruth Padel combines two major gifts: she is both a distinguished poet and a quite exceptional reader of the poetry of others... The result is a book which opens doors and offers a wealth of insight.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

How I Failed To Win Her Back

(she said)
those big
on your letter,
it's good
that boys
can cry

(I said)
they're not tears

(she said)
I see...


The stars in the sky
Blink out, one by one
Like the lights in a house
At midnight
As the old woman goes to prayer
And summons darkness

I am standing
On the last grassy hill
One billion years in the future
Gazing at the faint stars
I sigh and follow the path to the tavern
For directions

Friday, August 06, 2004


I am writing these words
As she sleeps
Beneath the tulip duvet
That we bought in Ikea

There is silence
Troubled only by the quirky whirlpool
Of my stomach
The dog’s raspy breath
The singing in my inner ear
And my pen, making the softest scratching
As its tip lays ink across this page

The distant rumble
of a late-night car
The hoot of an owl
And the bark of a fox

Beneath the tulip duvet
That we bought in Ikea
She grunts
In a dream

In her dream
She is lifting a heavy weight.
A box of ball bearings, maybe
A load-bearing wall
A bag of slights.
A bag of disappointments
Some guilt-edged investments.

But the task is soon accomplished
And the silences resumes
Where it left off
In the room where we sleep
Beneath the tulip duvet
That we bought in Ikea

Monday, August 02, 2004


I’ve had a stack.
Too many to mention, really.
Girls in the main.
They say that it’s a knack
I never was a flirt
I mastered that too late.
A shame.
I could have taken centre stage
Won them over with a well-worked speech, I’m sure
Or hammed it up
Or dazzled with a fancy line of dialogue
Or pratfall (actually I tried that – just got hurt)
My mind was dancing
My head was thinking of the craic
For that’s what being young is for
In truth I was too self-absorbed
Assembling the programme
I didn’t see the exit sign
Above the door

A Long Distance at Midnight.

Book title or non-runner. Opinions sought.

Blood Dream

Why, in my dream, did I cut my hand, spilling blood on the wooden, polished table? And how did you know to run the bath before I left? Left where? I’ve forgotten already. Where was I going? I’m sure I knew at the time.
What is the significance of the blood?
It’s not the usual stuff of my dreams.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Tense Haiku

Rats play on the lawn.
A bird of prey swoops. Takes one.
Rat plays on the lawn.

The Boar Dream

In my dream we bought a big boar. It was wearing a rough, grey greatcoat.
We set it loose in a muddy field that soaked up the meagre light.
It seemed friendly enough despite its reputation.
Until it head butted a cow.
Then it had to go.

Ripples Do Their Thing

This blog thing. Throw a blog into the cybersea and the ripples dislodge all sorts of artistic barnacles from the bottom of life's boats. As old mailart acquaintances begin to show up I can see I'm going to have to either start a second art and music oriented blog or widen this one to include my other lives. But do I really have time for yet another displacement activity? I've got this children's book to write by the end of August. Oh dear. Oh dear.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Leap Second

 The Earth is slowing down. One second here. Another there. To keep our watches and computers and calendars on the button, every few years we add a second at New Year’s Eve. I guess we add it there because most people are too drunk to notice. Soon, as the Earth continues to slow, we will be adding the second every year.
Why is the Earth is slowing down?
The rise and fall of tides. The drag of winds blowing on mountains. The reluctance of the human heart.

Train Poem (5)

Empty Platform
As the train pulls in
To the empty platform
It seems to underscore
Life's loneliness

Then I see
An old couple
On a bench

In a single new
Bright -blue scarf

More About Foxes

Thanks to foxhunting there are very few foxes left in the British countryside, save one or two masquerading as badgers. Most foxes have moved to the town. And so the Hunt is having to adapt. Their plan is to abandon horses and instead ride Lambrettas. Soon it could become a common site to hear the beep beep of the hunting hooter and see twenty or so hunters on shiny red and black motor scooters whizzing over your lawn.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


It’s a wonder how you squeezed
Into this haiku

Travels of a Poet (5)

I’m talking to a teacher. A child runs up, breathless.

“I’ve got a message. I… it’s… well, you know… um…”

Who sent you? The teacher asks.

“Miss… er… Miss… you know… she’s got the big wart.”

Miss Temper?

“I think so. Anyway could you… er… it’s um…”

Could you go and ask your teacher to write it down?

“Yes, no, well… okay but it’s Mark and he’s… so she said… er… I think it was… anyway Miss says it’s urgent.”

Monday, July 26, 2004


Death by level crossing
Not hit by a train
But crushed beneath the gate

Death by poisoning
Not rat killer or agent orange
Read the sell-by date too late

Death by chocolate
Not the cocoa content or overeating
Slipped on a choc-ice at the match
And landed badly on some metal seating

Death by drowning
Not in waves a hundred meters high
But in the hundred tears I wept
When you said,
Bugger off.

Don’t come back.
Don’t phone.

You’re just a pathetic loser.

Diary on a Cold Un-summer's Day

Summer’s here and no school visits for a few weeks. Time to get down to the children’s novel that I’m writing. It’s based on an idea I had several years ago. Only now is it becoming a real story. It’s slow going, though.
One reason is discovering this blog malarkey. A tailor-made displacement activity if ever there was one.
Had a look at some other blogs this morning. Found one good poetry based one. At some point I’ll try and work out how the link system works.
And how do you advertise blogs – to find other like-minded bloggers?
Must get on. Get some writing done. I’m trying to write one chapter a day, to get it finished before the school holidays are over. We're off for a week in France soon. Hopefully get some writing done there as well.
Had an e-mail from someone who used to contribute to my children's site - The Poetry Zone. His new (grown-up) site is very good. Some good writing, stories, reviews. Looks very promising. I'll add it to my links when I've worked out how to set them up. Meanwhile it's at

Travels of a Poet (5)

It was the simplest thing. Crossing the Menai Strait to the island. You hardly knew you were on the bridge. Turn right. Stop to read the map. It’s dark. Make my way into the small town and soon I’m in what looks like an industrial area. Find myself on a winding road. Menacing shapes loom in corners. Above and to my left a steep hill. The sky is full of black. An archway. The bottom of a winding path leading up winding steps to the back door of the Victoria Hotel.
Try again, more twisty roads, the high street, aha – there it is. Grand and imposing. Built overlooking the strait.
Shabby Victorian.
I’m greeted suspiciously, like the hotel's not used to poets. Which is odd in Wales. But the receptionist warms up as we chat.
I imagine the pride of the hotel’s first manager, looking out over the Menai Strait, the sun on the water, a glass of champagne in his hand.

Travels of the Poet (4)

The difference between a 2 star and a 3 star hotel is measured in the quality of the food.
A melancholy bowl of rice and duck in plum sauce scores over a sad fillet of over-cooked nameless fish and tasteless fries.

Travels of a Poet (3)

Specs (after John Hegley)

I forgot my specs at breakfast.
I couldn’t see the toast.
I ate by touch and taste alone.
I enjoyed the tablemats the most.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Train Poem (4)

The phenomenon of apparent movement

There are three parallel lines of trees
The front line appears to move to the left
The back line appears to move to the right
And the middle line stays more or less stationary

Chimneys with aerials do it too

International Apologies

Such a fuss.
It was a mistake anyone could have made
When the soccer hooligans
Rampaged through the shopping centre
After losing the International two – one
And we shot every last one dead

A simple clerical error, that’s all
Reading rubber bullets for live ammunition
Easily done, when you think about it
You’ve probably done the same thing yourself.Bought a chicken
When you meant to buy a mop.
That sort of thing.


A Delivery of Bones

 Could work as the title of a book?

Dead Fox Incident

Coming back from the station. A dead fox in a pool of blood. I stop the car and move the fox into the hedge. The double bend and then our cottage, signal, turn. Stop.
But you are so far away. Speeding to London.
I park the car, walk past the newly planted lavender, unlock the door. I wash my hands, pick up the phone to call you.
I’m thinking of the fox.
One moment living, breathing, running - there.
The next dead, lying in a pool of blood.
The next a poem in my head.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Grassy Nell

Who was she? Any ideas?

Travels of a Poet (2)

I wonder if the tiny black seeds covering my bread roll would grow if I planted them on a wet flannel?

Train Poem (3)

Do not touch
The live rail



I saw the raven
Through the bathroom window
Just after dawn
Blacker than dark thought
As large as a cat
On the lawn

At first
He was shy
Unlike hedge sparrows and chaffinches
Who are anybody’s
The slightest movement
And the raven would be gone

But we slowly became acquainted
And I asked him about his image
The grim associations with death
The fall of the tower
And all that quothing

It can be tiresome, he said.
When all you ask for is a quiet life.
A nest below a granite brow
A mountain view
That’s all I need.
Or a newly raked garden
And some seed

Friday, July 23, 2004

Travels of a Poet (1)

Driving through the wet dark February evening looking for Hadrian’s Lodge Hotel.
Roll through the damp Tyne Toll Tunnel and out along the shipyards.
The room in the one star hotel is tiny with an awkward edge at head height, designed to make a trip to the loo in the middle of the night more interesting.
The room is more used to a half-corpsed hen night or stag night than an anxious poet.
Or does it all boil down to the same thing? That which a poet might dwell upon. The detrius of an inebriated evening. Bedclothes scattered like recriminations?
The left-over words that only make the bin.
And on the tiny TV there’s no football. Only the story of a disaster waiting to happen.

Blood Jazz and the Havoc Kid

Might work as a title. What do you think? Poem? Story?

Train Poem (2)


We pass a village called Newington
where I misspelt my youf.
There we formed our first band.
There I met Marilyn, my first girlfriend
My best friend Paul lived there, too
Later, when we were older
but not very much wiser,
Paul died in a moped accident.
His mum died there a few years later
of a broken heart

Overheard Poem

It’s the sort of jazz
Where they play a melody
And then each take turns
To make a mess of it.

The Deserted Village Dream

In my dream the village was built in the centre of a large circular green which was, in turn, surrounded by a wood. From outside there was no way you could tell that there was a village in the wood. But from the village it was possible to see passers by through the trees.
But then I realised that the village was deserted and so I left it.

Bit of an unresolved ending I know. But dreams are a bit like that. Could be the setting for a story maybe. What do you think?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Mask Event

January 2004  Venice
Wear a mask whilst shopping fashioned from the vegetables you hope to buy
Wear a mask fashioned in your own likeness
Wear a cat mask and intimidate the owners of small dogs
Wear a dog mask and chase anyone wearing a cat mask
Wear a crab mask and talk out of the corner of your mouth
Imagine wearing a mask and then imagine what people who would not associate you with wearing a mask would think when they saw you in your imaginary mask for the first time
Wear a paper mask of an historical figure who is associated with water. Set fire to it.
Wear a mask in an inappropriate location.
Fall asleep behind a mask of studied alertness
Wear a mask that barely conceals your rage
Wear a mask of glass.
Wear a mask that raises questions about the nature of shopping
Wear a mask of uncertainty
Wear a mask of integrity
Wear a mask to instigate terror in the minds of confused pedestrians
Wear a mask in error
Wear a mask of concrete as though it were a mask of feathers
Wear a mask of tea leaves
Wear a mask of moon-rock by the light of the moon
Wear a mask that has been frozen with fear
Wear a mask of marzipan
Wear a mask studded with cloves
Wear a mask over your mask
Wear a mask that bemuses
Wear a mask that confuses
Wear a mask of excuses
Wear a mask like Tom Cruise’s
Wear the mask of the Plague Doctor’s nephew
Wear a mask of contrivances
Wear a mask decorated with a scene of your father’s
Wear a mechanical mask whose tiny figures dance to the carnival
Wear a mask that doubles as a mobile phone
Wear a body mask
Wear a mask that covers your aches and bruises and hurts and grazes
Wear your mask with pride
Wear a sorrowful mask joyfully
Wear a simple mask that smells of herbs, tarragon, sage and rosemary
Wear a mask in the bath
Wear a mirrored mask
Wear a mask made from shadows and suggestions
Wear a mask that is too tight in the shadow of an specially constructed apparatus to throw same
Wear a mask in the style of the Lone Ranger and fire a silver bullet
Wear a mask in the style of Zorro and challenge a stranger to a duel
Lend your mask to a telephone engineer
Wear a mask whenever the Nikkei index goes up
Wear a mask and interview another masked person for a job in a mask shop
Wear a bra for a mask and give your partner the slip
Wear a mask made from the cover of a Russian novel
Wear a mask made from a spider’s web gathered early in the morning
Wear a mask made from crazy string
Wear a mask made from long sentences spoken with an Italian accent
Wear a mask at breakfast and eat only soup
Wear a mask of toast decorated with marmalade
Wear a croissant and pretend it’s a mask
Wear a mask of vulnerability
Wear a trout mask replica
Cover your face with masking tape (Remember to leave small breathing holes)
Wear a mask of total invisibility
Wear a mask of ultimate responsibility
Wear a mask constructed of sound waves
Wear a mask that is a map of your heart and betrays your intentions
Wear a mask that’s a map of Venice showing the secret ways of the gondolier
Wear a mask that is water absorbent
Wear a mask that reacts to laughter by taking flight
When someone next asks you the time, put on a mask and talk gobbledegook
Wear a mask made of sausages and sell dud time shares
Remove a mask in the company of wolves
Make a bonfire of masks