Tags from last 12 months

Write Out Loud Crowndfunder appeal (1)


My biggest disappointment? Seeing

that the Monster Raving Loony party

had come last at Old Bexley & Sidcup.

No longer crazy enough, compared

to all the others. But then

I had a flash of realisation

(It doesn’t happen often). The

Monster Raving Loonies aren’t

bringing up the rear  – they’re

the biggest party in parliament!


Michal Fabricant, Bill Cash, Steve Baker,


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The Bell



My long-lost, older cousin, always smiling, forever young,

came out to the Caribbean late in life, for love.

He drives us through Bridgetown, past celebrity homes

along potholed roads to the northern point

where whales pass and Atlantic and Caribbean meet.

Shows us plantation houses, a historic church with funeral


in full swing, the hymn-singing hypnotic as we ...

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The smallest of boats:

dinghies, inflatables,

sometimes not much

more than floating,

deflating paddling pools.

We need people to pick

supermarket produce,

work in our hospitals,

keep our country afloat,

yet ringfence the drawbridge.


Gangsters exploit hope.

Inflated, red-faced politicians

and pound shop pundits

respond to hate,

puffing and blowing


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Richmond Palace



Maybe it was just too close to the river.

But like a high Thames tide, the swell

of history swept Richmond Palace away.


First it was a shining royal manor, known

as Shene, before receiving star treatment.

Its queens: Isabella, Margaret of Anjou,

Anne of Bohemia. Fire came one Christmas;

Tudor king Henry and his family

had to flee for their lives.



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Bridget Riley at the De La Warr

The south coast had seen

nothing like it.

Thirties idealism

of a socialist earl


and a visionary washed

in on Europe’s breakers

created this pavilion of possibility

on a sedated seafront.


Sun confounds, almost blinds,

floods in, climbs euphoric stairs;

light bounces back

from reflected white.


Bandstand shaped like a wave,

maybe a shell; and insi...

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Made in Surrey

Music with exclamation marks.

Always in a hurry,

punching the words out

as if they could see

what was coming:


a kicking down the tube station

at midnight, rightwing meetings,

hooray Henrys, rumble of boots,

shows of strength, approaching

train in the tunnel, that


fearful light coming ever closer.

Despairing of the public

and what it wanted,

the righ...

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Flora and fauna

Observations from The Burma-Siam Railway: The secret diary of Dr Robert Hardie, 1942-45


The earth became a swamp

of sticky, very slippery black mud

when it rained. But the soil was rich,

with banana plantations and fruit trees.

Beyond the confines of the camp


a riot of vegetation: papayas,

pomegranates, guavas, mangos,

pumpkin plants and cucumbers.  

And specta...

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Friendly fire

The night after Guy Fawkes

the sky still reverberates.

Explosives in the suburbs.

For an hour or two we might

be cowering in Aleppo, 

clearing Isis out of Iraq. 

Our animals don't know the difference. 


A car roars down the street,

followed by another relentless

burst of gunfire. The wind stirs. 

This safety valve. Households

gather in gardens in the chilly dar...

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Sun transforms the front room

most mornings,

provoking the succulent

from Sainsbury’s to erupt

from its pot, a bid for freedom.


Pictures of beloved family

approve, share space

on the walls. Acrylic ink

splashes on the honey-pine floor.

Cosmos and dahlias defy


November frosts, inspire visions.

Occasional sparrow or robin

peers in, to check on progress.


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A way back

Tracing the tracks of our

childhoods along paths

muddy after rain. The woods

where we played now

a ‘nature reserve’, with

a ‘wildlife pond’. The way back?


We haven’t been here for decades.

Follow our familiar brook

to the river, upstream

of the sewage works,

disturb a heron and a coot.

Another label: Elmbridge Meadows.


Seems wilder than we remember.


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Vincent in Spitalfields

Circle Line rambles comfortingly

round the City's historic places

taking its time like a

pre-Beeching branch train.


Grey autumn day in east London.

From out of the darkness

and traffic of Commercial Street

we’re immersed in Van Gogh,

you lured by his sunflowers,

vases, bedroom, starry nights.  


Light illuminates art but

can dazzle, drive you mad.

Shot ...

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The Ritz, Surbiton

I queued round the block to watch

The Young Ones, Summer Holiday,

getting in halfway through

or just before the end,

and sitting tight to watch

the whole film round again.


Then the programming changed.

The movies became X-rated,

and I was barred, reduced

to gazing longingly if sometimes puzzled

at the posters from my bus

on the way home from school.



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The age of wakefulness

I go to bed with weary uncertainty.

Will it be an ok night, or a bad one?

A few trips to the loo, or too many?

I wake at six with the usual sense

of achievement. Think of emails


I should write, the walking companion

and prostate survivor I met

yesterday, now installed in a flat

in the centre of town, near Homebase.

His new spark. Horses we once saw


racing ea...

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The sands of time

The beach that looks out on the Channel

is uncomfortable, hard to walk on,

mainly shingle with just a hint of sand.

Difficult to sit on. But undeniably British.


Not far from the lifeboat station,

the arcade adjoining the caravan park

boasts of classic slot machines

from the Sixties and Seventies.


The shore is quiet. Only

the sound of waves lapping,

the mourn...

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London September 2021

Streets eerily uncrowded

at evening rush hour.

Traffic glides quietly along

save for the manic cyclists.

Something doesn’t feel right.

Where is everyone?  


New lockdown tower 

that may now be redundant

peeps between old streets.

Soft September afternoon

that seems like a Sunday.

In one sense it’s wonderful


to be back with old comrades

on Clerkenwell...

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Astonishment of sheep grazing

on brown parched land

near the filling station,  

a couple of lambs, plus egrets.

I swim lengths of the pool, tracked

by a dead leaf, a drowned wasp.

One afternoon I step outside

and can’t breathe.


A sudden rush of Levante wind

slams doors. Family argument

next door, screams and tears,

two daughters from Barcelona,

back with th...

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The cereal girl and the sandwich boy:

she conjures stories about the characters

on the side of her cup; he shrieks with

glee, astonishment, and disappointment

in short order, dramatically

making up for his lack of words.


Wonderful land of tomatoes from Juan’s uncle’s

smallholding at Farajan, the pueblo

up in the hills. Suspicions of swallows

at dusk, as the heat ret...

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'Absolutely nothing to do with Brexit'

Shelves were empty in a Lidl yesterday. 

When asked why, a manager said 

it had absolutely nothing to do with Brexit. 

(Repeat this refrain ad nauseam,

or ad infinitum, if you prefer) 


We demand a rewrite! 

We have to sort out the sausages

before the marching season. 

Could this be the end of days?

I'm just asking for a friend ...  

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Last year was vintage.

But this year’s long, cold,

soaking spring left the garden

deserted, something missing.


No caterpillars for blue tits

to feed their young. We’ve

waited all this time, until July’s

heatwave, for them to come.


Even now it’s mostly whites

flittering about, perhaps

a wandering comma; the odd

gatekeeper, speckled wood,


no sign of...

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Jack Kerouac

‘Fuck being a dirty word that comes out clean’

Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums  



Kerouac writes like Hemingway

at the opening of The Dharma Bums,

it’s all there, jumping on a freight train

out of Los Angeles, his relish at sharing

his bread and cheese and wine

with an old hobo in the boxcar.


Reading passages from On The Road on TV

to a gentle jazz accompanim...

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Gust of valerian explodes

from the backyard wall, 

which looks as solid

as Alnwick's Bondgate tower. 


Northumbrians gather 

in the tiny front gardens

of terrace homes

on cool summer evenings. 


Shetlanders holidaying

in the cottage next door 

tell us cheerfully of a drugs

killing, a throat cut 


for just a hundred pounds, 

when we mention

the ...

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The striker's fear of the penalty

'The goalkeeper’s fear of the penalty' – 
but shouldn’t a striker fear it
so much more? The keeper isn’t
expected to save; the forward 
is obliged to score. A penalty 
can help break the duck,
if you’re blazing chances over the bar
that seem more difficult to miss,
going through a spell of bad luck.

And yet, and yet. Spain’s Morata 
spurned a penalty rebound,
then missed his own pen 

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The poisoned garden

Rhubarb, laburnum,

rhododendron, juniper,

pulmonaria, digitalis,

nicotinia, periwinkle,

cannabis, aconitum,

salvia, laurel, hemlock,

rosemary, farage.


With acknowledgements to

The Poison Garden at Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland

and written after England’s recent win against Germany


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Kipper pate in the cafe.

We occupy the beach

in our folding chairs

surveying the sea

like the two old pals 

we have become,

baking in the sun.. 


The tide strolls in

at its own pace.

Swallows skitter

over the sand,

black-headed gulls

quarrel, a lapwing

calls across the river. 


The wind gets up, the crossing

becomes unwise.

We look out for fl...

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The shopping parade

Sent to the Co-op and its cold,

marble counters with a list,

'Divi’ number inscribed in my head,

lolly on way home as reward.

Slumbering summer day

reminds me of errands

many decades past.


Trees still deliver shade.

Dustpan, brush and broom

at the ironmongers.

Nostalgic gaps

on the supermarket shelves.

I remember things that had

to be crossed off the lis...

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Cornfield at evening

Afterglow of a heat-heavy day,

salmon clouds, indigo sky.

The field of cereal ready

to be brought in, still

resonating as the sun declines.


Tall buoyant grass,

cheery daisies and clover

that we crush beneath us

springs back as we leave,

as if we have never been.

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Wild roses

The air is fresh and sweet today.

Nature is happy about something.


Our one tree promises a glut of apples.

Holly berries in the front garden.

Wild roses in our hedges,

the most I’ve ever seen.


Sun pauses at the door

of the summerhouse,

asks to come in. I open the door.

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Small earthquake in Chesham and Amersham

The end of the line

for John Betjeman,

where Metroland

petered out

in leafy Bucks.

Amersham Common became

Amersham-on-the Hill

after the coming of

the Metropolitan

railway in 1892.


Now locals face

another railway,

viaduct, tunnelling,


A tremor in the Chilterns,

old allegiances cast aside  

as true-blue Chesham

and Amersham


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'Subterranean Homesick Blues' on Juke Box Jury

BBC trying to get with the Sixties.

After it was played

compere David Jacobs

repeated the title in his

suave Light Programme voice

and only just the hint of a sneer.


The panel – people like

Eartha Kitt and Pete Murray –

looked at each other, trying

not to laugh. The last thing

they wanted was to seem square.

They had got the Beatles


and those other lon...

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Happy birthday, Bob Dylan

The only time I saw you; distant

view on a home counties airfield,

singing I Want You as a slow ballad.  


My dear friend Dave, whose best of hearts

still let him down, introduced you

to me, lent me LPs. My faith


wavered when you found religion.

Caught up with your later albums

eventually, but that old hobo voice –


the same voice mocked by others

from th...

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Andy Capp

Don’t blame Andy for Labour

losing Hartlepool. He never

voted in his life. Or worked.


More to the point, whatever

they try to tell you, he died

last year from Covid. Florrie

never got to say goodbye.

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People in the pub garden;

a warmth you’d almost forgotten.

Narrow boats on the cut,


the odd twee little cabin cruiser,

canoes, paddle boards.

People out and about,


ike a nineteenth-century

French painting. Seems like

a bank holiday, even if it isn’t.


Friends and acquaintances

emerge, blinking,

rubbing their eyes. 

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Dreich day late April, wind

keening from the Thames,

outside drinkers huddling

under frail, flapping,

dripping awnings.


Vauxhall interchange, maybe

one of the most inhospitable

places on God’s earth, now

intimidated by gathering gangs

of threatening towers


that look almost exactly the same.

Is this the way a capital ends,

not with the bangs of bombers,


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Keats in Rome

Travelled for his health to the half-buried

city of ruins, halfway between

the living and the dead.

Fragments of columns,

toppled arches, broken aqueducts.

Took rooms in a second-floor apartment

at the Piazza di Spagna,

close by the sound of Bernini’s fountain.

Locks of hair exchanged

with Fanny Brawne

before he left for Italy.

Save it for me, sweet love!



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The jab

Signs tied to lampposts point

the way from the free car park,

past ambulance waiting discreetly,

help you to find the place easily.

Legions of people in hi-vis jackets

with nice, kind smiles bustle

about, wipe tables and chairs,

give you a number, tell you

where to sit. You discover

you’re getting the ‘right’ one,

much to your relief. And at some


moment when y...

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Chagrin Falls

A town in Ohio, suburb of Cleveland,

takes its name from the river

that runs through its heart.


The town and its waterfalls

are referenced in a song

by Canadian rock band

The Tragically Hip.


I’ve never been there,

and I guess I never will.

Which is a matter of some regret. 


Give half a chance

I’m sure I would have loitered

in the Fireside Book Sho...

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Death of a Snowman

I began to be sorry when his carrot nose

seemed more like a last cigarette.

That jolly smile held a hint of concern,

his scarf far too big for his neck


Tomato eyes glowed in the shrinking face.

The fur hat was suddenly de trop.

He started to lean over, apologetically,

as if someone had struck him a blow


As the pale sun shone he looked quizzical,

more diminished...

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… in its attempt to raise funds to secure its future. Our current appeal https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/wolpoetry has five days to run – until 31 January – and so far we have raised just over £2,000 of the £10,000 total – to be matched by another £10,000 - that we originally set our heart on. This money is needed to develop the site, to pay new people to take us forward into a sustainable future. O...

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Write Out Loud Crowndfunder appeal


Let it glow a little longer; don’t take

the tree out to the garden just yet.

This year is different. The winter

is darker, has an extra chill.

Forget newer sayings, return

to the old ways. Stay in bed late.

Leave the lights on till Candlemas.



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The spears of spring

I daren’t mention them by name.

A word proscribed by those

that see themselves

as arbiters of poetic taste. 

A sight to cure all ills?

No, a cliché to be shunned. 


Darkness arrives a little later

on these January afternoons.

Just noticing that

can lift the heart.


And here they are. I see them

peeping from the undergrowth

and hasten to cut it back,


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