Tags from last 12 months

Ampelmännchen (1)


A holly blue on holly. 

The rose that rambles 

through the apple tree

tries to tug me back 

as I chug over the grass, 

the three-wheel mower

cutting out at random 

moments. Today

the estate agent's

photographer came

to take pictures. 



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Easter Saturday, Benahavis

A gorge of towering cliffs;

the Guadalmina unseen

below the road. We visit

a park to feed rabbits

with carrots, take our turns

with party pieces

at the open-air theatre,

while other families wait

impatiently to photograph

and film first communioners,

one young girl bedecked

like a bride.


I read a poem from my phone

about Simon Armitage,  

Gillian perf...

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A ticket to die

They thought they had

train tickets to safety.

Now they lie scattered

outside Kramatorsk station,


surrounded by luggage.

First you see crammed

shopping trolleys, suitcases,

a turquoise pram. Then 


the bodies in between.

Has Putin poisoned

the water supply

so that ordinary Russians


believe his lies? The missile

that landed among clustered


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Dust to dust

Souvenir from the Sahara.

Terracotta sand washed down

by the rain, collected in gullies

on our bins and stepping stones.

Reminder that, isn’t nature

wonderful? And that it knows  

no boundaries. Shared with

France and Spain. And yet …

what other dust might be

blown in on the wind?

The answer, my friend …  



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The big chill

If I were still in the office

maybe all this would

affect me less.

I would be worrying about

making the headline fit,

or whether someone would

change it further up the line,

cutting the copy to fill


the space, doing it all

within the deadline.

A big political resignation?

My role to make the page work,

the pictures have impact.

Yes, I worked at a leading


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Ukraine is running out of fuel,

food, water, medicines,

humanitarian corridors,

safe havens. It still has

bravery and defiance,

teenage boys scared

but willing to join the fight.


Putin has long run out

of sense and humanity.

He's still pumped up by

his supply of steroids

as he reduces villages,

towns, cities to rubble,

murders fleeing civilians,


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From Reykjavik to Kyiv

Reykjavik, where Reagan

and Gorbachev almost agreed

to ban all nuclear weapons.

Gorbachev, an old man now,

maintains that this dream 

is humanity’s only hope.


The shelling of civilians

is indiscriminate. The situation

has gone far beyond insults,

invective, rhetoric.

Forty years on

I’ll concede that avuncular


rightwinger Ronnie Reagan,

bete noire of...

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The little green man of Berlin

They were glad enough to see

so much thrown in the dustbin

when the Wall came down;

but not the Ampelmännchen

the traffic light’s little green man

with his jaunty, Erich Honecker hat.


At the threat of his deposal

by the west’s staid cousin

there was outcry. Now

Herr Everyman’s cheery gait

sets Berlin’s tone on carrier bags,

coffee mugs, T-shirts.



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Death among the conifers

This was once innocent,

Joan Hunter Dunn country.

Now behind the rhododendrons,

azaleas, conifers lurk foreigners

with something to hide, money,

identities. They try to conceal

themselves in woodland,

behind fairways. Occasionally

there’s a mystery.


There may have been a court case,

or strangers in the neighbourhood.

A rich but shy man

is found dead in circ...

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The news from Ukraine

I’ll show those old ladies

mixing up Molotov cocktails,

bomb a nuclear plant

to a factor of ten Chernobyls.


These steroids pump

you up, help you

to see things

as they really are.  


Never mind that bumbling

old man in the White House.

Never mind that clown we have

in place in Londongrad.


Never mind that our soldiers

don’t know why they’re there.


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The football scores

The early April afternoon was glorious.

The daffs were out, I felt Wordsworthian.

You’d come down from York to look

at houses. We caroused that evening

with old friends in the Railway Tavern –

they used to serve a lovely drop there,

now apartments handy for the station –

talking football as usual,

about our bankrupt team’s past triumphs,

and how we’d probably never fight...

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The morning after

the last hope gone, we find ourselves in sunshine

with family in Marbella beside a fountain sculpture

of beauty and unity, reflecting civic pride,

what might have been, playing with our


Anglo-Spanish grandchild on the swings and slides.

She careers across the pavement on a little bike,

I struggle to keep up with her, and as I screw

my features into laughter faces, she mim...

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Happiness is being alive is a national saying.

Suitcases sculpture outside the museum.

Estonia declared independence

for the second time in a century


when the old Soviet Union wasn’t looking.

Thirty-thousand taken from their homes,

sent to Siberia in cattle trucks

in 1941 and 1949.


One of the last heathen lands in Europe,

now one of the most secular,

beset b...

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Have we had our chips?

Even if this does prove

to be our last fish and chip supper,

even if it's technically 

just a pub lunch, 

if Vladimir the Poisoner

in a mad rage presses the button  

just because we don't admire

his rippling torso, just because

we laugh at his ugly Botox features,


before I perform in the am-dram

tonight, before we even rehearse

the lines one more time, then


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The carriage in the forest

After three days of arguing the armistice was signed

in the French general’s private train

at a siding in the forest of Compiegne.

The Kaiser left for exile in Holland.

The military, unwilling to admit defeat,

still surrendered guns and planes.


No one told the people how bad things were.

A German corporal, recovering

after being gassed the month before,

a misfit who...

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First day after the cardiac class

I’m walking the canal, taking

my chance between two storms.

The water full and clear and still

after yesterday’s rain. I recall

the tape measure they put

round my waist, told me

that I was in the Red Zone.  


Cyclists that sneak up on you.

Joggers, dog walkers. And then,

an omen, intimation of heaven:

bejewelled flash of blue i...

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The land of total rhubarb

Welcome to the sunlit uplands

of total rhubarb, England's 

fastest growing cash crop.

(Too bad there's no one left to pick it). 


Fertilised by inverted pyramids

of piffle, or should that be 

de Pfeffel? Where Afghan hounds

matter more than Afghans. 


And talking of animals, did even

the Cheshire Cat wear 

such a self-satisfied smirk? 

As tourists flock to ...

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The end of the line

My wife returns from a funeral 

and says: I know now 

what we should play at yours. 

The deceased arrived 

to the strains

of Flanders and Swann's

Slow Train, a lament

that lists so many 

mellofluous-sounding stations

bulldozed by Beeching. 


The service leaflet has 

a tank engine and coaches

on its cover. I find myself 

composing the first line

of my o...

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For Ronnie

Listening to Be My Baby

on a little tranny

in a camping coach

at East Budleigh.


Mods and Rockers

in Brighton was

the Mirror’s

splash that Easter.


A clock was ticking.

Before the song

finished the

doomed ghost train


and its two coaches

rumbled by.

At school I vaguely

noticed some girls


had started wearing bras.

Didn’t know that


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Darkness approaches early. 

Grey blanket envelops the garden.

It doesn't bother the tits 

that flash between the feeders;

not a nothing day to them. 

Bulbs push through mulch. 

Moisture makes lawn glisten,

illuminates the moss. 

Magpie mops up spilt mealie worms.

Recovering fir tree's needles

gleam on the patio,

make light of the afternoon gloom.

Beneath this sh...

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'Go, go, go'!

There's a break in the traffic. 

My almost-two grandson, 

strapped in his car seat,

urges 'Go, go, go!'

in my ear, just like 

Neal Cassady

in On the Road. 

Yes! Yes, yes! 

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The central heating has broken down. 

Covid-ridden British Gas has let us down. 

The unfamiliar temperature in the house

recalls my boyhood winter of 1963.


Ice inside windows, no radiators then. 

Some football teams didn't play

for many weeks. I was just a kid,

had never heard of Sylvia Plath.


The snow and ice remained, day after day, 

eventually shifted by wor...

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There's a dinosaur in the bath

The cat bustles in for breakfast

no longer looking out

for the greyhound that visited. 

All is back to normal. Or is it?

The TV’s no longer permanently

tuned to Baby Shark and Peppa Pig.


But nappies are still found

in odd waste bins.

A child’s fairground sits

on top of the cupboard.

They didn’t have room

for it in their luggage.


A plastic potty gently ...

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