Thursday, 8 October 2009

National Poetry Day

Today is "National Poetry Day" and a theme for today is Heroes and Heroines. A hero of mine is the poet and author Thomas Hardy. I wrote this short poem about him.

Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy
Cider and Ale
Summer Winter
Sunset and Gale

Man of letters
Darkling Thrush
Schoolteacher crush

Shorn of Emma
Seeking her ghost
Trudging homeward
Wafer thin toast

Stone-bred mason
Critics pet hate
Jude then Obscured
Novelist's Fate

Dorset's dreamer
Touching nature's
Urge to frolic

Poet's Corner
Funeral Cart
Wessex Pastures
Grow from his Heart

Sunday, 4 October 2009

"Splice the mainbrace!"

As someone who enjoys a drink, I found this answer to a query in an old Boy's Own Paper of interest and thought I'd share it.

W. A. BOOTHROYD. – To splice the mainbrace is a long job that does not require doing very often and is generally thought worthy of an extra drink – hence the phrase. In a big ship the mainbrace, where it runs through the block and is worn, is generally turned end for end, and used till another bit of it is worn before it is thought worth while to splice it.

Well, now I know!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Friday Night Movie

I've just been reading on facebook a discussion by some friends about favourite Horror Movie stars. Some time ago I wrote a jokey little poem about the old Friday night horrors I would watch as a young teenager on the TV at about half-past-ten at night. I dedicate this poem to Chris and Tonya.

The Friday Night Movie (for Chris and Tonya)

Essssh!! Lee's teeth and the flame in his eyes.
Flesh pastures of breast as an innocent dies
To the bleating of lambs, and the torment of flex
Cutting into the strands of a weakened sex.

Pictures of infamy, horror and shame
In England's sweet gardens of lusty game.
Vampire circuses, the occasional dud,
Arboreal acting and theatres of blood.

Long shot of mansion, then cut to a coach
The lashing of horses, a cliched approach.
Interior showing the lead, photogenic.
A wintry landscape in long shot scenic.

Compendium stories of journeys to hell,
On a train with Roy Castle is that sulphur we smell.
A gaunt Peter Cushing reminds us to be wary,
As the ten-year-old boy finds his Friday nights scary.

Sunday, 27 September 2009 my head...

Just popped in to say whatever is in my head.
Racing my visibility and letting streams of typisment urge down through cascades of thought that fall like soft bubbles upon these keys as slow fingers reluctantly haul there way about the board to my wordless command.

Let the snow fall from our eyes as we set forth on our ego free expedition...taking, changing, bending and placing ourselves at the mercy of our unknown futures . Can let flat work say let flat work go when flat lay the land blow down the walls of our sensitive selves work free the syncopation of our inner beat flee the fallen felling purpose of the none candid remedies of logic.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


oh yes...and if you didn't know, I turned 46 today. 'nuff said!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Darwin, Science and other...

I believe it is approaching the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's Origins of Species. Many people have argued over Mr D.'s findings. Many have quoted him or the bible to justify their points. Here I present a poem that I wrote following an exhibition at my local museum in Plymouth, UK, which displayed pickled marine specimens collected by Victorian natural historians. I'd be interested to know what people think, feel free to comment or contact me.

Reflections On A Collection of Pickled Specimens

Part 1
Men of affairs, scientists, gentlemen collectors,
Researchers, technicians, plankton detectors.
Ladies, when permitted, provided manful help
Wading shorelines intrepidly for variegated kelp.

Knowing their names, seeking their protection.
Categorised, specified, a literal dissection.
Must each specimen elders plucked, and carefully selected,
be hidden forever, politically corrected?

Part 2
Bewhiskered men off charted shores their Science to be applied.
From blindest depths defy stern jaws to reveal a great divide.
Thus predate all faith - shift their cores – expecting the spring tide.
Dead-eyed and soaked, lost in each jar. Pickled in formaldehyde.

Forgotten lives compressed and bizarre
pinned on Time's lantern-slide.
Gentlemen? Killers? The choice is yours,
Think well before you decide.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Happy Birthday Marie 100

I've just been reading thread on twitter called HappyBirthdayIvy. At 104 today, Ivy Bean is reckoned to be the oldest tweeter. I hope she is still active and alert, unlike this unfortunately lost person I read about in a local paper a few years back.

Happy Birthday Marie 100

Happy Birthday Marie, 100,
splashed across the evening news.
Replete with colour photograph
and wearing another girl's shoes.

Happy Birthday Marie, not knowing.
In meltdown, fused in your chair.
Your family, it says, loved the telegram,
and look, there's the Deputy Mayor!

Happy Birthday Marie, not hearing.
The paper describes you, past tense.
You dream of a cat that sits on your lap,
While none of this makes any sense.

Happy Birthday Marie - demented -
alone with your family 'round.
Long suffering daughter with crucifixed grin,
aware that you're already drowned.

I'm sorry this is so bitter, but I felt angry at a newspaper article.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

...which way does the wind blow?

Got a mixture of things tonight. Done a library rhymetime today, very good, cute babies I guess. Went to Home Park and listened to a fantastic storyteller called Pat Ryan. Worked this evening with teenagers at Library. A busy day like today should make me feel really good and positive. I somehow don't, I feel a bit empty and directionless tonight. Very down.

A Self-Reflecting: Anglo-Saxon Church

pale hearts deny the sound
of the living underground
can view not the dead
as morsels of new bread

Gravestones lean
With age.
Derelict church.

Cragged ragged slate,
Windows broken,
Is nature breaking in,
Or a relinquished God
Breaking out?

A stubborn piece of stone
Worn letters resisting the lichen,
To the Memory of
My Beloved Wife, Mary.
At the head of her grave, perhaps.

Great parentheses of stone
Proud lines now overgrown
Sacred to the memory...The memory?
The tired steps, the dead,
Returning to the earth.

Monday, 7 September 2009


Today was my 7-year old's first day in Juniors at his Primary School. It was very strange this morning seeing his classmates looking nervous about a new start. The Junior playground is full of big kids at playtime! I'm sure he'll do okay though. When I went to school, it was a Catholic School and as well as lessons we would prepare for things such as First Confession, First Communion and Confirmation (you only got one of those!). Our teachers were a mixed bag of sadists, nuns, sadistic nuns and one or two nice folk that slipped through the net.

I remember training to confess my sins for the first time and being encouraged by the nuns to make up a few extra sins to fill out the confession. In the maytime we always practised the May Processions. These memories came together in my poem Green Blades of Springtime.

Green Blades of Springtime

I saw the green blades of springtime and wore the red sash,
As I held Laura's hand near the church 'neath the ash.
We were sworn in communion, blessed by some priest,
And we sang songs to Mary at the May Flower Feast.
They said I ate his body, they said I drank his blood
I'd confessed my past sins and they said that made me good

I'd trained for confession after Easter had gone
And the Sins I'd told father I'd lied all but one
For in preparation my mind blank it had run,
The fib about Billy's window was given me by a nun.

So if you're short of faith and losing the plot,
Just call on some Padre and give it a shot.
You could make a new confession after 30 odd years
And talk through a shutter about urges and fears.
I saw the green blades of springtime poke out from the soil,
Gave glory to worm and woodlouse and their wondrous toil.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Indy! and The Last Bullet

This weekend we have bought an Indiana Jones Trilogy on DVD and are enjoying a couple of days of adventures. We decided to get these films because Evan loved Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when we watched it last week. Speaking of which, this fourth film was much better than I anticipated, it having had some mixed reviews...still I hope they leave it now and don't make another with the badly cast Shia Le Boeuf (more like Shia Le Ham). Its great being able to share movies with your kids and see them get kicks out of the same things that you did. I've written poems about movies and movie stars. Here's one I wrote about Richard Widmark when he died last year.

The Last Bullet
No actor did grit like Richard Widmark
With a canine curl to his lip.
Tearing at Poitier,* this underfed shark,
While faint hearts felt every rip.

Richard, lean and athletic, eyes cold steel.
Widmark took nobody's B.S.
Defiant, once he was tied to a wheel,*
Still pulled the folks out of a mess!

Monochrome noir, Texas fort infernal,
Cold War chills, hot Montana sun.
Dickie Wid* was Everyman's kernel,
Sleek bullet, the point to the gun.

Poitier*: Sidney Poitier, co-starred (or co-sparred) with Widmark in The Bedford Incident, a cold war nuclear thriller.
tied to a wheel*: in a Western called The Last Wagon.
Dickie Wid* - what my Dad used to call Mr Widmark.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Vodka comrade?

Last night I went to a Russian evening at a friends house. Basically we were four families attempting to look a bit Russian as an excuse to drink lots of vodka (not the kids, of course). I think Evan, my little'un looked great as a member of the politburo even at age 7 he had that look. As I have a was easy for me...with my longish hair I could be Rasputin. Large woolly mustaches and furry hats aside the evening went well...although conversations got a bit serious when they turned to school education. It was a pro-anti debate on teaching religion in schools...whatever!

I enjoyed blackcurrant cheesecake and more vodka. Feel we all should have done more singing and dancing or at least put forward a new 5 year plan. I don't have a poem that relates to this, so you are free to leave now if you wish.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


Feeling down tonight. Don't know why, just am. Sometimes its the other way and I can't stop smiling. When I'm like this its like the tide's gone out and no one will promise its return...

I'm coming over all random shades of blue
shadow's catching on a light that's passing through
time's gone and done and nothing else to do
tying me down with random shades of blue

Teatime Holocaust

Following on from the last blog. I have to admit that I was a child once. I would play with very small plastic soldiers (approx 2cm tall). I wrote this poem about a shattering experience I had.

Teatime Holocaust

lined five deep
bolstered by artillery
the Highlanders and the Arabs
made strange allies
many uniforms blending in one purpose

Defeat Evil

The terrain was kind
not too uneven
only the lighter, more fragile combatant
occasionally lost his footing

their commander was prepared
one could say excited
by the forthcoming engagement
he made final calculations and prepared to...

a blinding light
a wind from nowhere
All units were f l a t t e n e d in an instant
a size 10 shoe added to the decimation

"Dad, you weren't supposed to be home yet!
I'll have to set them all up again now!"

Kids can do your head in!

My 7 year old son has been playing with his cars this morning F1 Grand Prix style. His interests take on a mix of pragmatism and a stern adherence to rules. Recognising that timed practice would take too long, and that qualifying was tricky as bathtime would interrupt Q2 (besides, his bedroom floor does not allow for fast times...combination of cold surface and extraneous toys) he decided to draw lots for grid position. The clever little fella proceeded to write names of all drivers out only asking me how to spell Algursuari, Grosjean and Fisichella (I have no idea if my spellings are right) and drew the names from his Spiderman cap. Button's luck held and he polled 2nd behind Raikkonen (Trulli 3rd). As to cars, Red Bull got the short straw with red double decker buses, Vettel favouring the open-top variety. Alonso is driving a petrol tanker, most unfortunate is Grosjean who is revving a tube train (Jubilee line). Button, despite being favoured with the yellow lamborghini looks set to disappoint once more.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


Saw a nice harvest moon last night as I walked home from work. Gave me a warm feeling, it was still quite light (8pm) and a floodlit football match was visible in the distance at the bottom of the hill. I could hear grasshoppers scratching out there songs. All felt good. I reflected on my day, half spent with my 7 year old boy and half working with teenagers. Just hope all of us get to feel those moments now and again.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Quiet Plymouth

Went out last night to the pub to watch Newcastle Utd against Leicester City. Bank Holiday Monday, and the pubs were practically empty. Originally coming from Newcastle I find this weird...pubs are always full on the Bank Holidays, aren't they? My team (sure you've worked it out) won. Went home happy. Returned to find son (age 7) still awake at 10pm. He claimed he was scared and proceeded to question me on the whole of the match before resuming the "scared" mantra.

A rough night's interrupted sleep followed. My precious child returned to me at 6.45 am for one final time saying "sorry Daddy, I think I may have slept in!"

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Who am I?

I've got no idea really. I know I live in Plymouth, England. I am very forgetful with things like keys, milk bottles, bags, hats...gee I've lost a lot of hats in my time. I'm originally from Newcastle in the north-east of England and come from a working class family. I still feel working class although I'm not in tough economic circumstances. Some things you just feel in your guts.

I was born in the early 1960's and baptised a Catholic, sent to a Catholic school, taught by a mixture of teachers including some nuns. School days were strict and life at home could be both fraught and happy. Kind of an up and down, in and out sort of childhood. I guess life was hard for my parents too and they would often get into severe domestic rows. Some time ago I wrote a song with these lyrics about that time. In one line marked by * I have watered down the abusive language for a family (what's that mean?) audience. The song is called...

Playing Out At Teatime

I let the door go bang behind me,
weaved swiftly up the street,
took a 40 yard dash from me beans and mash
with the ball still at my feet

It's cold, it's wet, but I'm playing out
in the lane, back of Jackie's shop.
With a black and white ball and a 20 foot wall
I've got the team to beat the drop.

"There's too much tomato on me burger,
you stupid bint, you lousy slut!"*
It stuck, it's true, to the wall, like glue,
then did a back-flip to the mat.

It's like being at the pictures
for they never hear me scream,
and I'm not tall enough when I stand up
to leave a shadow on the screen.

I'm sure it's quiet in the house now
but I think I'll wait and see,
I've got Johnstone, Cruyff and Charlie George,
the ball, the wall and me.

Now you know where the title to my site comes from. To any young people looking in, the names in the penultimate line refer to footballers of the late-sixties, early 1970's. This is a teeny glimpse at life in Byker, Newcastle at that time...and a little boy's means of coping. Anyhow my next blog will be, whenever that arrives. it goes

I make no apology for quoting the magnificent Kurt Vonnegut with the title of my first blog. Life to me seems a succession of crazy moments that we rationalise into reality, then get a headache, or worse, or better. These writings of mine will include observations, poetry, songs and other things I can't think of yet. Sometimes you'll look in and yawn, others you may have a laugh or stop and think.. it goes