Poem: A Commute Diverted

A Commute Diverted

We shoved and shuffled

in this brighter morning,

blue skies and sun

belying warmth,

cloudy breath and

huddled shiver an

overture to our opera

of epithets and sighs:

a tragi-comic Tannhäuser,

on West Ham’s platform stage.

Poem: Old Pictures Prompted By A Morning’s Frost

Old Pictures Prompted By A Morning’s Frost

A sepia dawn reveals

a two-tone world,

surrendering colour to

frost’s brush,

reminding us of

long ago, of men in

hats with scythes

and Threshing Bees.


A cruel cold heralds

a quiet kill,

testifying intent with

frost’s knife,

reminding us of

long ago, of men in

helms with guns

and Yellow Legs.

This is why cats are cool

I’ve always liked cats.

I’m a fan of dogs, of course, but cats just do it for me with that slightly snide cunning, that sense that they really are the sharpest tools in the box. In that spirit, meet Kido – a very cool cat who plays a shell game and wins every time.

That said, I think mine would rip my throat out if I tried to get him to perform on camera…


Poem: The Beggar Girl

I often wonder in more generous moments if the colossal indifference we, as a society, show the homeless – particularly those forced to scavenge an existence from the streets – is because of the fear we experience in recognising that there is the finest line between the life we live and the life we could live if just one or two things changed.

We often fail to see the human being, with hopes, dreams and aspirations that now ekes out an existence on our streets. Somehow he or she is less than human. And sometimes we see the most violent reaction to a person asking for coin to survive. There is an automatic assumption that they are a scrounger or criminal, that they want the money for drink or drugs (and if they do, that in and of itself is a reason not to give them money). We are more comfortable with attaching a label.

I have struggled to reconcile street living with the values of a civilised society.

I still can’t make it fit.

The Beggar Girl

She appals and disgusts,

this beggar girl,

croaking and coughing

down on the pavement,

thin fingers

groping from her

nicotine threads,

a skin-sack of bones,

heaped in her corner,

trolling our evenings for

pity and silver.


She angers and provokes,

this beggar girl,

shaking and stinking

down on the pavement,

sunken eyes

searching from her

spit-stained hood,

like piss holes in snow,

dead in her skull,

jabbing our consciences with

hunger and shivers.


She defies and disturbs,

this beggar girl,

whining and weeping

down on the pavement,

once alive –

dancing with her

sister and friends,

swimming in an ocean,

eating floss in the wind,

imagining her future of

chances and lovers.


She confronts and questions,

this beggar girl,

pleading and praying

down on the pavement,

now dying –

tiring from our

fearful silence,

forgiving embarrassment,

appealing for release,

grasping her moments of

softness and giving.

Poem: A Cold Night

A Cold Night

This night is bitter –

like you.

With your words cracked

like ice.

With your smile sharp

like glass.

Ink and songs

like camphor.



I warm myself –

despite you.

With my tears spilled

like wine.

With my sighs soft

like rain.

Blood and dreams

like apples.

Poem: The Promise

I debated putting this up. I wasn’t going to dip into the back catalogue. However, I wrote this a couple of years ago and was reminded of it by a weather forecast promising snow. It was also written at the turning of the year and so I can still plead New Year.

Snow creates a momentary illusion of a new world, a blank canvas on which to write the day and as a child I always thought that it lay for weeks. In truth, it only lay for days and, as with many things, my recollections benefit from a gloriously over-active imagination.

Still, even now, my heart skips a beat when I wake to blanket of snow and everything looks pristine. Childish, perhaps, but as C. S. Lewis wrote: “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

The Promise

In a curious loneliness of friends,
despite the quiet regard of strangers,
we beg our days – so fast and few – not fade,
but lie, like snow, the virgin fall that sings
audacious promise and begs us step into
a world renewed, where scars are hid and
tired paths are lost to love’s adventure.

In the coldest reckoning of our hours,
as frosts are whispered through our night,
I crave the comfort of your creased smile,
the shudder of your aching limbs,
your weary arms that give up the promise
of your quickening, breaking, bleeding heart:
the safer silence of another year.

Poem: The House Alone

The House Alone

I know a strange aloneness tonight –
Though noise ruled the day,
The house stands quiet now,
An absence of sounds conquering the
Loud and shrill and banging.

There is a whine of blood and air
Where chatter had displaced thinking –
And I think I miss the sound of you,
Restless and laughing, love and
Madness in the stories we shared.

I know a strange aloneness tonight –
Though light ruled the day,
The house stands dark now,
Shadows and glimmers banishing the
Harsh and artificial.

There is a dance of soft colours
Where brightness had blinded seeing –
And I think I miss the sight of you,
Restless and laughing, love and
Mischief in the comfort of friends.

Poem: On recalling a pigeon with a torn wing

We stopped and stared – young and old,
city shark and office cleaner,
the sensitive and the usually oblivious –
each hoping we might fix this small
and broken fearful bundle
hopping madly through the crowds,
its frailty and incompleteness
drawing out our wishes
for a healing or the serendipitous.

We walked on by – rich and poor,
business sort and volunteer,
the parent and the usually compassionate –
each hoping to forget the tall
but broken fearful bundle
huddled in the doorway,
his frailty and incompleteness
authored by a sad misfortune
or, uncomfortably, by chance and us.

The games we played – childhood’s adventures

BBC History magazine had an article in its Christmas edition on the dangerous games played by children in Tudor England. With fond recollections of my own childhood games I was curious to see what mischief our ancestors got up.

True enough, some of the stories were very sad, recounting how children had met their unfortunate demise whilst playing, but the games themselves were nothing special or dangerous. Rather, youngsters then, as now, met tragedy in a pond or lake or with an item falling on top of them.

Somehow, on reflection, my own childhood games seem rather more hazardous. Weekends were an adventure playground.

There was “Stick Wars”, where four of us would split into two teams of two and roam the local woods, Coombe Wood, with its “Creepy Copse” or the “Sandy Hills” tucked away in a bushy enclave on Westley Heights and the product of centuries of toil by local badgers. (It was years before it was I realised it was “Creepy Copse” and not “Creepy Cops”, the tall pines giving me small-child nightmare images of evil tree-police ready to snatch us out of the evening gloom). There we would give ourselves a “time out” to gather suitably-sized and suitably-shaped sticks and twigs that could be flung at each other. These turned into mammoth reconnaissance efforts, donning second-hand army fatigues and wellies, buying walkie-talkies, and making clear to families and walkers up from the town and trying to enjoy a little countryside that these were our woods.

What little horrors we were.

My regular partners in games were my brother and two eldest cousins, Matt and Sarah, and we spent virtually every weekend together between the ages of six and sixteen. As the years went by, we added my sister Ellie and odd friends (odd as in random, not odd, though some were certainly quirky – eh, Bob?). It was either Matt and me or Sarah and me, never siblings together, and we could spend a goodly while deciding what mischief to get up to. Back then, 2pm to 5pm was a significant portion of a life-time and seemed to last forever.

We were lucky in that both families had extensive gardens with an adjacent field, very differently shaped, but both sporting a tremendous variety of sheds, trees, nooks, crannies, and hidey-holes.

Sticks were reserved for public spaces. For our own gardens, and depending on the season, we opted for acorns and apples, knowing that one of those catching you on the leg would sting like hell or leave a splendid, thumping bruise. We’d skulk about gathering windfalls and stashing caches of ammunition under bushes and in old coal scuttles. And then we would unleash the pain, always bemused when a glancing blow to the head reduced one of us to tears and drew down the wrath of one or other set of parents.

On one memorable occasion we were joined by Horst, a rather severe and strong German who was the brother of a friend’s friend, who rather missed the point of these games with their stealth and dexterously-flung missiles. Instead, he appeared on the brow of a hill carrying a tree trunk and yelling who-knows-what in German at the top of his voice as he charged us down. Thank goodness for Matthew and his Herculean strength, who managed to flatten him in spectacular style.

Elastic bands – the thicker variety that are rarely seen today – were strung together in threes, fours and even fives to make lethal catapults for firing gravel from the drive or grit from a felt roof. We perfected weapons with ranges of a solid two or three hundred feet, if the trajectory was suitably angled and the bands powerful enough. A careful watch was kept for parents who might not appreciate the stones peppering the lawn and dulling the blades of the Mountfield mower.

Field cricket was a potentially lethal affair. Many lazy days were spent playing cricket in “the field” under sweltering Summer suns, on a full length wicket with a makeshift backing net of fruit bush netting or chicken wire. We played with leather and willow, no fear – and no pads and gloves (except when Brian, my friend and neighbour, invested in them, tired of his bruises and in receipt of more pocket money than the rest of us). But the pitch was uneven and I liked to bowl. Having reached six foot early and being an adept strike bowler, I spent hours learning where the ball bounced best for maximum impact and avoiding the ditch on the run-up. When dusk became twilight and the light impossible for finding balls in bushes or under blackthorn we would retire scratched, exhausted and happy, ready to resume the next day.

Then, finally, there was “That Game”, so infamous we still recall it today with a wistful, evil glint in the eye, which is still spoken of in hushed terms, and which we wonder if even at our age we could perhaps play one last time. Were there any rules? Probably. I recall a violent combination of British Bulldog, the tag variants of off-ground touch and run-outs, and wrestling. It was best played in the dark, outside, torches both a boon and curse. How no-one ended up cracking open a skull on the stone wood bunker which served as a base at Matt and Sarah’s place I have no idea.

So. Sod the Tudors. Langdon Hills in twentieth century Essex is where the dangerous games were at.

We’re just lucky we survived.

Poem: An Old Committee Room Clock

An Old Committee Room Clock

Its burnished face, worn by breath and dust,

gazing on the flare and flicker of lives

casually levelled by the years.


Its tight-wound heart, clogged by grit and rust,

grinding through the flap and chatter of words

caustically traded on the days.


Its iron-hard hands, watched with hope and trust,

goading fools and wise and fat and thin so

carefully counting out the hours.