Monday, 24 October 2011

Another story, about knitting

Casting on

Sue held up the scarf, eyeing it critically from top to bottom. It was much wider at one end than the other, with several bumpy patches and some loose holes hanging off one edge. Definitely the worst scarf I’ve ever seen, she decided. And smiled.

Just a first attempt after all, and she’d almost certainly improved as she went along. She’d pop down to the shop later and get some more wool – chunkier this time, so it would be faster. The next one would be good enough to wear. Or at least to hang up in the hallway.
Then she’d try something different. Gloves maybe, or a hat, and she’d like to make herself a cardigan – nothing too fancy, just something warm and snuggly. ‘Oh thanks,’ she’d say, ‘Do you like it? I made it myself.’ Then there’d be Christmas presents, birthdays, christenings. Who did she know with small children?
Going into the kitchen, her eye caught on the picture of her mum by the phone. She smiled again, but this time with a frown. For the first time it occurred to her that having the picture there was strangely appropriate – or inappropriate. Mum must have circled round the telephone like I am now, she thought. Trying not to look at it, or think about what news it might bring.
She’d been ten when they got the diagnosis, eleven when Mum died – or ‘lost her battle’ as people said, in magazines at least. So she should have been old enough to understand, really. Old enough to know better, to realize that cancer wasn’t contagious, and that she couldn’t somehow catch it from talking about her mum, or behaving like her. At any rate, her dad had thought she was old enough to have a serious talk about how these things did work, by which he meant the statistical risks of history repeating.
‘I don’t want it to be something we can’t talk about,’ he’d said. ‘All this doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to get breast cancer. But it won’t help to ignore it, or pretend it’s not a possibility.’ For Sue though, ignoring it was exactly what she felt like doing. She hated going to the doctors, hated going bra shopping for her newly developing breasts, and hated herself for the sense of resentment she felt.
Mainly, of course, she just missed her mum. And it was natural, surely, that it was painful to be reminded of her. But alongside the pain was a twinge of fear. Over the years she’d found ways to cope, to remember her mum in happier ways, to enter a lingerie department without feelings of panic. It was only last year, when Dad had suggested she might want to take Mum’s old knitting things, that she’d realized how much she was still holding onto. She’d practically shouted at him, as if he’d said something totally inappropriate, and he’d ended up taking it all to a charity shop.
When she’d found the lump, she hadn’t felt scared. Well, she had, but also something else – relief? After all those years of waiting and worrying, she was ready to face her demons. All the rest of the day, and the next, she felt fine, pleased with herself for staying so calm – until she got back from seeing the doctor.
She’d put the kettle on, and then – what? What was she going to do now? Three days she had to fill (‘We’ll call you on Thursday with the results,’ they’d said) but how? She didn’t have the stomach for cooking, walking seemed too lonely, shopping would feel pointless, and she just knew she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on a book. But then her gaze fell on the chunky hardback Beginners Guide to Knitting that Diane had given her, for a birthday. ‘It’s very trendy these days, knitting,’ she’d laughed, ‘I’ve got a feeling you’ll be good at it.’
Well, she wasn’t exactly good. Not so far, anyway. But it had been the ideal way to fill the time. Calming, meditative, but absorbing enough to stop her going mad. Satisfying too, seeing the rows build up – even if the end result wasn’t exactly perfect. Not yet. She understood now why her mum had spent that last year filling the house with quilts and knitted cushions, inundating everyone with scarves, gloves, hats, jumpers.
Maybe this is what they call closure, she thought, making herself smile again as she imagined herself saying the words in a corny American accent. And she picked up one of the needles, holding it up like a spear. She narrowed her eyes, aiming at the phone, and this time laughed out loud. Maybe I am going mad after all, she thought, but in a good way.

Friday, 30 September 2011

A longer story


They do it on purpose, Howard thinks. Women. They know how these things get stuck in our heads. Unremarkable at the time, we barely even notice, but somehow they turn into cast-iron memories, fencing us in from our own futures.

‘Good moaning,’ Kate would’ve said about this time (for no real reason, they’d never watched ‘Allo ‘Allo together), rolling over to bring her hands up to his chest. At which he would’ve grunted, and then smiled – because he couldn’t not smile when she was looking at him like that.

Then she’d wriggle free, sliding – no, jumping, bounding (how was she always so instantly awake?) – out of her side of the bed. She’d be wearing just a t-shirt and knickers. And some days she’d go straight into the kitchen like that, and he’d hear her padding about and humming as she put the kettle on to make coffee.

And now he can’t wake up without hearing her, can’t stop himself most days from reaching out an arm to feel the space where she used to sleep. Eventually, he’ll drag himself up (definitely no bounding) and slump into the kitchen in t-shirt and boxers – a shabby parody of her, lovely her.

He doesn’t allow himself to put the television on, or sit on the sofa – too much for his still sleep-hungry body to resist. Instead he sits hunched over a bowl of Rice Krispies (snap, crackle, pop!), breathing in the smell of his own stale sweat, waiting for his laptop to warm up.

He’ll check his emails (even though his phone would’ve bleeped if he’d got any), browse a few news sites. At some point he’ll look down to check his watch, realise he hasn’t put it on yet, and notice his coffee’s gone cold, again. Howard can never seem to finish a mug of coffee these days. He read somewhere recently that drinking coffee can prevent depression (on the same day he read that David Croft, creator of ‘Allo ‘Allo and other classics of British sit-com, had died.) Does it work backwards, he wonders – does feeling depressed impair your ability to drink coffee?

Who’s he kidding anyway? That ‘good moaning’ scenario occurred what, three, four times in the whole two years they were together? Most days it wasn’t like that at all. He’s not really sure what most days were like, to be honest. But that’s the way it works – now she’s gone and he’s stuck with this memory that’s taken over and is somehow stopping him from finishing his coffees.

He’s actually not even called Howard. More likely David or Anthony. Or Paul. Something ordinary like that. Howard just seems to suit the kind of character he is at the moment. You know the type. Philip Seymour Hoffman might play him in a film: slightly overweight, pasty, obsessive and a bit creepy, too often seen sitting around in his underwear.

And Kate (meaning: pure maiden) – a nice, ordinary name that suggests what a nice, ordinary kind of girl she is. Not Allegra or Charlene or Belinda (meaning: immortal beauty). Nothing too unusual or exotic, it wouldn’t fit.

The coffee though, a nice detail, definitely keep that in. Maybe it could be a recurrent motif. Or even the central motif: we follow Howard/ David’s story through a series of scenes based around coffee drinking…

‘I asked for a cappuccino,’ Howard (or David?) says.

‘I know,’ says Paul, still hovering over him with two tall glasses of something that isn’t cappuccino. ‘But I got you a frappuccino. Mocha light. They’re really good. Plus, it’ll cool you down.’

Paul’s always doing weird stuff like this, Howard thinks (let’s stick with Howard, we’ve got to know him now). He’s always so eager about things. That’s probably why Howard likes him. He’s not sure about the frappuccino though. Would Kate have liked it? He can’t remember coming to a Starbucks with her, but he thinks she would’ve stuck to a cappuccino most of the time.

New scene: Elizabeth (who also works with Howard) has brought Howard a coffee. She frowns and sucks in her lips a bit as she concentrates on delivering it safely to the coaster on his desk.

‘There you go.’

‘Thanks Elizabeth,’ Howard says, trying to load the words with the right emphasis so that she knows he really means it.

‘We’re onto the UHT stuff I’m afraid.’

‘No worries.’

Howard makes a mental note to pop out and buy a big carton of milk later. And some biscuits, or cake. He feels like making people smile today, like reaching out his arms and shouting ‘Hey, I appreciate you! Even if we hardly ever speak, and you don’t really know who I am, I still want you to know I appreciate what we share just by being together, every day, in this building. Thanks for being around, and smiling at me sometimes in the corridor, and wearing nice perfumes, and not swearing at me or keying my car or making my life more difficult.’

Hopefully at least some of that will come across through an open box and a cheerful note – ‘Help yourselves everyone!’ – with a smiley face drawn underneath. I’ll go to M&S, Howard decides, get something really nice. Kate used to go there, or had at least once, when they had people round.

Next scene: Howard is collecting a new suit (he’s in good shape, he’s lost weight). He’s early – they haven’t quite finished making the adjustments yet – so he goes for a coffee. There’s a mother next to him, with a baby in a pushchair and a little girl, just old enough to toddle round the table on her own. The little girl is called Kate, or Katie (not a big coincidence, not a coincidence at all really, it's a common name).

‘Katie,’ sings the mother, in a voice that hasn’t had enough sleep. ‘Kaaaa-tie. Do you want some sandwich?’

Katie is picked up and fed part of a sandwich. Her little brother moans and waves his arms around a bit. The mother gives him a piece of bread. Howard is fascinated by the way Katie seems to eat using her whole face. She scrunches up her nose and eyes with each chew – she’s stuffed in far too much. The mother looks across and he remembers his coffee, going cold again.

And now the reader is starting to wonder where all this is going. The story seems to have got stuck on its own motif. How many coffees are we going to watch Howard drink, or not drink?

Possible endings. Howard finally watches an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo, which is, after all, still pretty funny. And now when he wakes up he smiles, because he’s not thinking about Kate but about RenĂ© and Crabtree and the rest. He even considers saying ‘good moaning’ to people at work, but decides against it. He’s not that keen on people who go round quoting TV shows, and anyway, they might not get it.

Kate comes round and asks if she can have the coffee maker, because she bought it, and he doesn’t really like coffee anyway – she was always pouring away barely touched, cold coffee when they were together. Howard is surprised. He thinks about it and after a while says no, he’d rather keep the coffee maker, it comes in handy when people visit and anyway he’s fairly sure he does like coffee.

Howard opens a coffee shop. He calls it ‘Howard’s’ and puts up a poster explaining that coffee can help prevent depression. He smiles a lot and people like going there because he smiles a lot and because he does ‘Allo ‘Allo impressions which they don’t always understand but which make them chuckle anyway. And he chops up the sandwiches really nice and small for the children.

Or, maybe we should leave Howard with little-girl Katie and her scrunched up face. Except he finishes his coffee (too depressing, too dark, that ‘going cold again’), and doesn’t even remember to worry about whether he’s finished it or not.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Very short stories

Michaela and Dan were expecting a baby girl. Dan wanted to name her Holly. Michaela refused flat out to consider this. She was vague about her reasons, but if she’d really thought about it she would have realized she somehow connected the name with one of Dan’s past relationships. Michaela suggested Anna. Dan gently but resolutely resisted (no real reason, but if he couldn’t have his first choice then neither should she: that’s what it came to). They settled on Kate in the end, a few days before she was due. It was a compromise name; neither of them had strong feelings about it either way.

‘Kate! Turn it down a bit please. You know you could always join us down here for a change. We’re watching a film. It’s got Hugh Grant in, and that actress… Well, if you get bored. I don’t like thinking of you up here on your own.’
‘No luck?’
‘Nope. She’s a teenager. Budge up. What did I miss?’

Oh, I could have crossed then. Oh well, I’ll just wait for the green man. Is it changing? I can’t see the other lights from here. Battery’s gone on my iPod again. What’s that man saying? Something about Jesus I think. He needs a better microphone or something, the sound’s all muffled on that one. Not that anyone’s listening anyway.

‘You didn’t kiss me goodbye this morning.’
‘You just left. I was awake.’
‘I did, didn’t I? I kissed you on the forehead.’
‘I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure.’

Vouchers, receipts, about ten different store cards. What’s this? Oh, that ticket to Keats’ house Robin gave me. I never did use it. Valid for a year, and it’s already half a year out of date. Where did all that time go? It’s on Hampstead Heath I think, the house. Not the kind of thing I’d do on my own really. I liked the idea of it at the time. But the Romantics depress me. Put it in the recycling pile.

When Sue was 60 she got a cat. She’d always wanted a dog really, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave it all day, and what with retirement looking less and less likely each year… It’d be nice to have a dog to take walking though. She caught herself enviously eyeing other people’s glossy spaniels and shaggy collies, with a twinge of guilt. Where was that from? It wasn’t as if she was actually planning to steal one or anything. Maybe it was to do with craving something different, a different life. She didn’t do that; she believed in appreciating what she had, and she was good at it. So, in the end, she got the cat.

'There's this woman I remember, when I was at university. She was always in the park, every day, sat on the same bench. And she had these huge rolls of paper, that she used to draw on.'
'What was she drawing? People?'
'No, just trees I think. She was pretty old. And I just remember her always wearing green, this big green coat and green wellies and a green hat.'
'Didn't you ever speak to her?'
'No, I just used to run past her. I used to go jogging every day then. I saw her in the town once, walking home I guess. She had all these bags with her, full of the rolls of paper, and she was talking to someone. She seemed like one of those people who knows lots of people. I used to think, that looks like a nice way to spend old age, just drawing trees.'

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Moving out

Last morning

It's not the clouds
That make the shapes,
I think, it's our minds, and

I don't want to leave.
I like living here.
I'll miss this,
Waking to the instant calm of water,
The gentle rustle of trees

(I can't work out what kind),
The one closest to me
A patchwork
In shades of grey,

Bark peeling away and healing
Around old scars.
Three strong arms
Reach far beyond

My third-floor window.
And if I look straight up
The newest leaves
Are waving.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Seat reservations

Seat reservations

I am self-enclosed,
-contained, -sufficient; this is
A somehow pleasing pretence
For an afternoon spent
On a train to London Euston
In the company of strangers.

Unknown faces,
Solitary, mainly, gaze
Headphoned and mobile-phoned
Through windows,
Eye each other vaguely,
Muse on other lives, played out
In other places.

That pair of shoes,
His hairstyle,
Her tone of voice,
My secret smile,
Each reserved space seems momentarily to belong
To an individual, distinct
Self-contained Someone.

Also published at Middlebrow Magazine.

Saturday, 23 July 2011



The feeling of having
Strong legs,
Deep breath
And a reason
To keep going.

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye
Makes part of me inside
Go blind.

All week I knew this was coming:
I've been slowly turning
Away, busy humming
To stop myself looking

At the door I've sealed off
Somewhere in my mind.
On one side, there are feelings.
I'm not dealing
With those; I'm smiling
A false smile, thinking

False thoughts
That can't stop
Or settle anywhere,
Until I open the door and

You're not there.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

In defence of the spoken word

I love poetry. I really do. I like reading it, writing it, studying it, hearing it. But, in common with most people I know, I’m still more likely to curl up with a novel than a poetry collection.
So I was interested to read an article in the Guardian last month addressing this issue. While fiction has never really had to struggle, says poet John Fuller, poetry has seen its audience drop ‘like plague victims’ in the last century.
So far, so much nodding in agreement from me. But Fuller’s next sentence had me doing a double take – or the modern equivalent. You could almost hear my thumb screech to a halt, before hastily scrolling back up the screen of my phone.
What was the offending phrase? No more than a throw-away comment, actually in parentheses, but it was this very offhandedness that surprised me: ‘There are occasionally revivals that don’t seem to matter very much (stand-up poetry perhaps)…’ With that, Fuller moved swiftly on to outline his idea of focusing on ‘poetry puzzles’, leaving me puzzling over the casualness with which he could dismiss ‘stand-up poetry’ as unimportant.
Fuller doesn’t offer an explanation, and as Niall O’Sullivan (who runs the Poetry Society’s weekly Poetry Unplugged) argues, it’s probably not worth taking his comments too seriously: ‘Fuller has a book to sell and is therefore trying to drum up a response… I’m not even sure what he means by “stand-up poetry”. Live poetry in general? Spoken word? Slam poetry? Comic poetry or poetry by stand-up comedians?’
Nonetheless, this dismissal of ‘stand-up poetry’ got me thinking. What is stand-up poetry? Is it different to written (or sitting-down) poetry? Why does it ‘matter’?
While Fuller doesn’t explain his comment, it seems stand-up poetry simply doesn’t fit in with his own ideas about the proper route to poetic enjoyment. Based on the belief that poetry ‘requires thinking’, he paints a picture of a reader off on an academic adventure, teasing out each allusion and ‘puzzle’ through hours of arduous but ultimately rewarding research.
Again, I’m all for this kind of pleasure. I love sitting in libraries surrounded by books, the thrill of coming up with a new interpretation or theory. But I’m not convinced this is the best way to broaden poetry’s appeal, or indeed the only way to enjoy a poem.
Performance poet Raymond Antrobus is keen to dispel the myth that poetry belongs only in the classroom, or that only Oxford dons have the right to pronounce on what it is or what it should be. He is appalled to find himself approached after shows by university students who say they had no idea poetry could ‘live in the voice of today’.
‘There is a definite demand for more interaction with quality and accessible poetry,’ Antrobus says, ‘and accessible shouldn’t mean simplistic… but it helps if it’s simple and therefore relatable.’ He recalls sitting in a pub with friend Simon Mole after the latter had completed his sell-out spoken word show last year. ‘It was just brilliant… afterwards all these locals, students, regular folk with day jobs were all singing and laughing and talking about the show. Simon tapped me on the shoulder, pointed at them and said “now these are the people I’m trying to reach with my work.” That was a truly inspiring moment for me.’
O’Sullivan takes a similar view: ‘Live poetry is often the first point of contact with the general public. From hip-hop inspired spoken word events to boozy, bawdy Soho literary salons, live poetry meets its audience at the genuine cultural meeting points – pubs, cafes, theatres, galleries, festivals, music venues…’
As well as being an access point for wider audiences, he says, stand-up is also a much more accessible route for budding poets. ‘Poets that come from cultures that seem invisible to the poetical establishment will often converge at spoken word or live poetry gatherings. Booking a venue and putting on a show is a much more immediate outlet than starting your own publisher and seeking mainstream distribution.’
Russell Thompson, London coordinator for Apples and Snakes, agrees that performance can make poetry seem more accessible and relevant: ‘It touches a lot of people, makes them consider things differently – by which I mean it can promote quirky, askance views – not necessarily revolutionising an entire worldview.’ And, he adds, there’s certainly no requirement that all stand-up poems be about iPhones and trainers.
Indeed, in my experience the main feature of ‘stand-up poetry’ is diversity – of subject matter, form and presentation. The website for Bang Said the Gun, one of London’s regular spoken word nights, advertises itself as ‘stand-up poetry for those who don’t like poetry, especially the stuff about thwarted love and daffodils’. This is a snappy way of attracting people who are turned off by poetry’s reputation as a highbrow, airy-fairy, pretentious kind of art form. But in fact, there is room for ‘thwarted love and daffodils’ – as well as for political tirades, rambling narratives, comedy sketches, lyrical refrains, poetry films… There is overlap with drama, stand-up comedy, story-telling, cinema, hip hop and other music genres.
And surely this eclecticism is positive. If poetry is to compete with fiction, or any other art form, it needs to be available in just as many different varieties and packagings. After all, what everyone – including Fuller – seems to agree on is that poetry is essentially entertainment, and can only really ‘matter’ insofar as it achieves this. Pleasure is a matter of personal preference. So where you get your kicks is purely individual choice, whether it’s from the nether regions of an annotated edition of the collected works of T. S. Eliot, or from a YouTube film of Luke Wright rhyming about growing up in Colchester (‘where very little culture-stirs’).
And this page/stage dichotomy is largely tongue-in-cheek. In fact, it’s difficult to make such a neat distinction. To do so, Antrobus says, is ‘unhealthy, unnecessary and egotistical’, generally driven by an attempt to prove one’s own superiority. Thompson suggests that in broad terms, spoken word poetry may include more rhyme and ‘in-your-face rhythm’ while poetry for the page may have more layers of meaning, able to withstand repeated readings but he warns that the distinction is a nebulous one. Meanwhile, O’Sullivan points to the many published poets who started out as performers – including Forward Prize nominees Tim Turnbull and Tim Wells – and those from a more traditionally academic background who are also incredible entertainers, such as Luke KennardDaljit Nagra and Hugo Williams.
So it’s tempting to ignore Fuller’s casual dismissal of stand-up poetry as meaningless, not really referring to a distinct entity separable from poetry in general. On the other hand, it represents the kind of dictatorially restrictive approach that leaves university students shocked to discover poetry living in ‘the voice of today’.
This is particularly important because poetry provides an especially powerful, authoritative voice, surrounded by a tradition that sees it as an elevated, almost revered form of communication. In the words of former US poet laureate Rita Dove, ‘poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful’. According to Salman Rushdie, ‘a poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep,’ while William Hazlitt called poetry ‘all that is worth remembering in life.’
A quick Google search brings up scores of such quotes. Whether or not you agree with them all, it’s clear that exclusion from poetry, as producer or consumer, is hugely disempowering. Or to put it another way, a few hours at a spoken word night such as Jawdance leave no room for doubt about how empowering and powerful participation in poetic expression can be. ‘Stand-up’ equates to opening up this participation. It definitely matters.
You can also read this at Middlebrow Magazine, if you like.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Ouch, sore eyes!

Preamble, preamble, preamble... Essential Background Context for this poem: The Weather.

Sunny intervals 

Sunny intervals,
Said the BBC weather forecast,
Without giving a clue 
To how long these would last,
Or what in between.

I suspected the weatherman
Not of lying, per se,
But of optimistic euphemism;
What he didn't want to say

Was, that kind of grey day
When the sky looks worn out
And it seems quite cold,
But it's not (nor hot either),

The rain will probably hold off
But the sun, truth told,
Can't really be bothered,
Though it may just pop out
In the intervals

(So schedule your loo breaks
For during the acts)
Though today, in fact,
'Sunny intervals' turned out

To be strong wind, intent
On filling my eyes
With sharp bits of nature
While the sky changed colour,


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

HAHAHAHA (moan moan moan)

It's Shrove Tuesday. I've eaten lots of pancakes and frivolously decided to 'give up moaning for Lent'. So, in the spirit of getting it out of my system, here are some hitherto-repressed-from-the-public-eye Moany Depression Poems. (HAHAHAHA they shriek, we've been released.....)

The light evening sky

The light evening sky
Said it was time for change.
It lied.
The trees were still bare,
The air
Was still cold,

I still

The prematurely lit
Street lamp
Glared at me
Across the railway lines,
Like an unfriendly
(But honest) eye.

I wrote that about this time of year, two years ago, at Teddington station.

Burnt out

Friday night,
Ten to nine
And high time
To be home.

Second wind tonight;
Feel my soul clenched tight
Against anyone who comes between

And a deep, long sleep.



About a quarter past four
She got around
To removing the mascara
From the night before.

Now, she thought,
I must get out,
Get some daylight, and-
It's already dark.

Sundays, she thought,
Are hard work.


Now that wasn't actually so bad was it? (I am still sitting on the worst offenders...)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Bank Holiday Monday and A Family Debate

Also at Middlebrow magazine.

Bank Holiday Monday
I have cleared away
The Christmas decorations.
I have made soup
And written letters,
Filed my nails
And some bills,
Deleted old emails.
I have been to the shops
And the post box.
I have hoovered and swept
(With little effect).
I have been jogging and stretched.
I have read a novel, in bed,
Watched almost to the end
Of Brideshead Revisited
And I still
Miss you.
A family debate
For Christmas,
Grampy told us,
He’d like a metal detector.
No one was quite sure why.
Pushing ninety,
He didn’t go far,
Just down
To the shops
For the paper
And a coffee at Costa,
Sometimes to the doctor
Or the M&S in town.
‘Where will you use it?’
Asked Mum.
He seemed stumped.
‘Round the garden’,
I suggested,
To which he agreed
And Granny chipped in,
They’d once found
(Or someone down the road
Had), an old coin
And (whispering) a finger bone.
Mum was unconvinced.
‘I think,’ she said,
‘I’d rather get you a new TV.
You’ll get a better picture
And more space
With a flat-screen.’
Grampy wasn’t beaten yet.
‘It won’t detect metal though,
Will it?’
Mum had to admit
It wouldn’t
(But she bought it anyway)

Saturday, 26 February 2011

PANIC! PANIC! and dread.

Just back from  travelling up and down England visiting family. I wrote this at the start of the week....


I hate packing.
It should be,
If not relaxing,
At least quite exciting,
The preliminary activity
To going away.

But instead
My head
Fills with panic
And dread.

Which shoes,
I muse,
And what coat?
Have I got
Enough socks?
The right tops?

Will I be too hot
Or too cold?
Should I take new things
Or old?
How many pairs
Of trousers will I wear?

And I stare,
Near despair,
At my suitcase,
Knowing that I'll choose
The wrong things

And that it won't
Really matter, anyway.


Monday, 14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here's one I wrote last year and have been saving...


I picture romance
As an invisible
(But shimmering) cord
That encircles, protects
And connects me 
To some other
(Vague) figure,

Arming me
Against mundane daily anxieties
(Mostly monetary, or social, or both),
Empowering me
To smile suddenly
And say,
'What do I care, anyway?'

As I secretly tug,
To check
It's still there.


Saturday, 5 February 2011


Just devoured half a cantaloupe in about 2 minutes flat.

92% water

Don't look for integrity
In a melon;
They're tricky.

Slice them, dice them,
Scoop them out with a spoon.
Chop them into neat long strips
To hang dripping
From grinning

Dissolve yourself
In brightly coloured chunks;
All emptinesses.

You shouldn't eat the seeds,
(And, having bitten
Too ardently,
I can also say,
Don't eat the skin.)


Monday, 24 January 2011

Pre-birthday breakdown/ silly haiku poem

Yesterday I became 25! Which was nice. Had a lovely day out in Oxford - fresh food, yummy friends, bit of old air.

Luckily I'd managed to get my annual birthday meltdown out of the way the day before ...

Turning 25

Saying goodbye
Felt stranger
Than I'd thought it would.

Nothing on my ipod
Matched my mood,
And I flicked through

Tune after tune,
Sitting on the rail replacement
Bus service,

Not sure where
I was going
Or how to call Phil,

Since my phone battery
Was dead
And I didn't have change

For the phone booth
At Liverpool Street.
Late to meet

Phil's sister for the first time,
Claustrophobic on the central line,
Panicky on the northern,

And tomorrow
I'll be 25
And I don't know what to do.

That was FAR TOO GLOOMY and should have been REPRESSED. Quick quick, here is a silly poem featuring a bird and a worm:


'Haiku', mused the bird.
'Bless you',
Replied a passing worm,
Who assumed
That the bird had sinus problems.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Those pointy bits are not decorative


I'm not very good
With plants,
Which they seem to know
In advance.

As soon as I own them
They start to wilt
And die,
Except for the cacti

On my sill,
Which, try as I will,
Won't give in.
Resilient, they reach

For the sky, occasionally
Surprising me,
With a sharp, sudden


Thursday, 13 January 2011

A retrospective weather report

The sunrise on Monday

The sunrise
On Monday
Was stunning.

Pinks and reds, spread
Across the sky,
To surprise
Me when I left
For work.

I lingered,
Trying to soak it in,
And I wondered
If everyone else did too.
Did those
People at the bus stop know?
Or care?

Did bus drivers stare
At the horizon?
(Probably best
If not, since admiring views,
In my experience,
Tends to compromise
Road safety.)

In the staff room,
To brighten the mood,
I mentioned
The beautiful dawn.

'Ah', said Mr Byham,
'Red sky in the morning,
Shepherd's warning.
That means there's a storm

Rather more doom
In that response
Than I expected.
(But then again,
It has rained
Quite a bit


Sunday, 9 January 2011

A chocolate story

A good weekend! Which involved making chocolate brownies. Yum yum yum. But here is a story about chocolate with a much less happy ending....

When hot chocolate goes bad

She found it
In the corner
Of a cupboard
And she used it
Once or twice.

Then one night
Before bedtime,
She poured out a mug-full.

This tastes,
She thought,
A bit odd,
A bit off.
But she didn't investigate
The best before date,
Until it was too late.

The past-its-best powder
Was already inside her,
Disrupting her physical
And moral

Next morning she felt
Out of sorts, disgruntled,
Almost - yes - curdled.

All day long
She frowned
And put down
Her friends
And she even forgot
To recycle.
(The end.)


Sunday, 2 January 2011

Greenwich (pigeons)


The pigeons are nicer
In Greenwich.
By which
I mean healthier,
More delicious (probably).

They live mainly, I'd say
On M&S sandwiches
And bits of quiches
Left behind
By middle-class picnickers.

The pickings,
I admit,
Must be slimmer
In winter
But they still look a lot better
Than the ones in the car park
Of Tesco Xtra.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Bean burgers and sock puppets

New Year 2010

On New Year's Eve
We stayed in
With sloe gin
And whisky
To make bean burgers
For dinner
And sock puppets
For fun.

By 11.30
We were weary,
More sleepy
Than merry
But we went, anyway
To the park,

Where, along dark(ish)
Paths people wound
Their way to 'the mound'
With its view
Across to the London Eye
And around.

The night was nicer
Than the day had been.
Greyness doesn't matter so much
When it's dark.


Happy New Year!