'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 in an indigo sky.

The field of cereal ready

to be brought in, still

resonating as the sun declines.


The tall buoyant grass,

cheery daisies and clover

that we crush beneath us.

It 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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