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You often see the ambulance round here

(the population’s getting old)

and things happen – usually at night.

You see their headlights swing into our road,

moving slowly till they find the house.

They go in quietly, without a fuss.

Ten minutes later and they’re out.

Wheelchair or stretcher ? You can guess

how serious it is. Doors thump shut.

I close the curtain.

It will come to all of us at last –

the pain that gnaws and can’t be talked away,

the bloodied sheet, the sudden, unexpected

loss of self.

I wonder, when it comes  my turn,

if my neighbour, peeking through his blind,

will find some pity for me

within the selfish joy of his reprieve.


On Reading

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I taught myself to. read when I was five years old. I was in hospital at the time, recovering from an ear operation. In those days- sixty years ago-it was quite a major procedure, which meant that I was in a single room, with no-one to talk to. Even my parents weren’t allowed in the room. They had to stand outside and wave through the window.

After a couple of days the nurse came in with a pile of “Beano” comics.

“That should keep you busy,” she said.

Now I knew the letters of the alphabet, and I knew the sounds most of them made, but I hadn’t yet mastered the skill of putting them into words. But now, in the hospital room, I had the chance. I taught myself to read. By the time I came home I had worked my way through “Dandy” ” Beano” and a couple of Ladybird books. I was hooked.

After I’d ripped through Enid Blyton, I went on to “Biggles”- unlikely tales set in the First World War – I was beginning to get a feeling for structure now – how these simple stories were put together. I loved the way that stories can lift you out of yourself, open up a whole world, which might be real or a creation of the author.

When I was eleven I bought my first grown up book – it was ” The Ides of March” – a modern version of the murder of Julius Caesar, by Thornton Wilder -and that led me to Shakespeare ( my father had a big influence there) and then Dickens and then…and then..and I’m still going strong…

Except things are changing.

The first computer I ever bought was that chunky, solid little thing with a minute screen. I loved it – you could send email ( whatever happened to just mail ?) you could be in contact with everything everywhere. A great door on the world had swung wide open, and that other secret pleasure – adventures in your head- was less attractive than before.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that everyone put their books down as soon as the screen lit up. I’m saying that, although we have the world in our iPads, we have backed away from the magic which happens in that magic space between the page and the eye.

Let me know what you think….there maybe more to this than you might think…

that magic space

A transport of delight

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When I was four I fell in love

with trams.

I loved

          the shape – a double decker cigar

          the  glossy cherry-and-cream  paint job

          the trapeze on top to catch

          electricity from the wires.

I pondered

           how it could have two fronts and two backs

I thrilled. 

           at the way it crashed and swayed

           from side to side

           the bow wave of sparks.

I envied

           the conductor

           with his rack of tickets

           and his rude stories

          the driver like Ahab,

          braced against the roll,

          grasping the brass safety handle

          like the butt of a harpoon.

I loved

          the  screech of grinding steel on steel

           the rumbling electric growl

           and climbing down the iron steps

           back into the world.

A new start ?

I haven’t been  on WordPress for a long time and I’ll tell you why.

To start with, I was ill. Every bone in my body ached and went on aching. And I was tired. I would go to bed  at 6.30pm and wake up (after a bad night) at ten o’clock  the following morning and …yes… I know what you’re thinking… It wasn’t Covid. I have the test result to prove it. I was like that for eight months, and then I started creeping back into the world.

I started to write again and discovered….that I couldn’t write. My mind was a complete blank. I sat there in front of a pad of paper, with a pen in my hand and I could think of ….nothing..zilch.. zero. After a while I managed to squeeze out a couple of possibilities…. And couldn’t start. I didn’t want to write.

I’ve been writing – poetry- stories- even a film script – since I was ten and now I’m 76. This blankness had never happened to me before. It  was quite frightening.

There was something else. When I had a look round  the internet I noticed that things had changed – everything was shouty, superficial and, to be honest, deeply boring. Much of the material I came across  amounted to two bald men fighting over a comb.

I am feeling better now. I have written half a dozen poems – they are are not good poems but at least they are poems. Maybe I will come back some time in the future… I don’t know.

Thank you for reading


Sometimes my longlost girlfriends come to haunt me.
They steal into my dreams but never stay.
They just drop in to see if I’m still happy.
When I say “Yes” they smile and fade away.

Kitty- cheekbones, legs, moved like a racehorse,
county voice, a smouldering, sensual stare,
is now a granny doing an OU course
with dodgy hips and salt and pepper hair.

Maureen was more serious, more pedantic –
never missed a lecture, skimmed a book.
She married Clive whose voice was transatlantic,
brought up four kids and never learned to cook.

MaryLou, who failed her German Oral
now lives in Dusseldorf with pudgy Heinz.
Meg the singer joined the Vicars Choral
and Sue, who never drank, is pulling points.

I left romantic failure far behind me-
a broken hearted man with ego shrunk.
Refusing to allow lust to define me
I gave up sex, and then became a monk.

“Smuggler hides iguanas in wooden leg”

I would have got away with it
but for the noise –
claws scratching at the wood
those gentle, coughing sounds
iguanas make.

“One moment, sir!”
I knew that I was done for.
” If you could come this way…”

In my skivvies, standing on one leg,
I watched him spring the secret trapdoor-
out the tumbled, all my little darlings,
skittering across the polished floor.
Tiny dinosaurs in Terminal Two.

It’s said they escaped into the drains
and flourished there.

One day they will return, Godzilla like,
crunching jets to junk
between their claws, reeking of jet juice
and a thousand airline meals


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Adieu ! Farewell Earth’s bliss
This world uncertain is.

Carona’s come, the Queen of Death
who halts a nation. with her breath.
The fearful sick must hope and wait
alone, they must self-isolate.

I am sick. I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us.

The media tells us what to do
in hopes that it will see us through.
Put on a mask and wash your hands.
Say your prayers, avoid your friends

Matt Hancock swears he will not fail,
but Covid moves at pace and scale.
In hospitals they gasp for breath
and nothing find but pain and death.

The streets are still, we hold our nerve –
Don’t touch, don’t kiss, don’t smile, don’t sing
but sanitise each single thing.

They call it flattening the curve.

This life uncertain is.
I am sick. I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us


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No-one saw them sky in –
twelve swans fresh
from nowhere.

They sail in convoy,
bow waves curl
along their flanks,
wings catch the wind,
curved necks signalling


Later, in the afternoon
some rest so still
you see each feather
in their reflections.
Others snake below the surface
looking for small fish, frogs and weed.

They were still there at dusk –
twelve jack o’lanterns glowing among the shadows.

No-one saw them leave.

Next day the lake was still, silent,
waiting, perhaps.

But they never returned.


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 Plump as plums
 they hang in a green shade.
 Pick one. Peel back the husk and find
 a shell there, pocked and wrinkled
 like some distant world.

 You’ll need a knife. Just press 
 your blade against the lateral line
 then prise the halves apart
 and there, in a nutshell
 is a brain.

 Packed tight into an inch wide skull
 two waxy hemispheres
 each ridged and swollen
 into lobes and clefts
 and each the image of the other.

 Remove the nut and place it on your tongue.
 Dark and resinous, the taste
 stirs shadows in your own brain shell
 of something long forgotten – 
 garnered sunlight
 the slow insistent pulse of growth.

The Shepherd’s Hut

You always find surprises in a second hand bookshop. I found this the other day – and it’s a poetry anthology with a difference. “The Shepherd”s Hut” is a collection designed especially for slow, contemplative reading.

“Take time for each word

Give room to white space,

Listen for the beat,

Tune to the weather,

Rekindle memory,

Life-scape and heart-leap”

He’s talking about the kind of poetry which makes you pause for a moment.

” It is in the worth/of the words to you.”

You will find it very simple, pared down to the minimum .It is poetry where the pauses, hints, shadows or perceptions are as important as the printed page.

I don’t know if it’s still in print, but if your interested, you can track it down with ABE books

Born again

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Born again

A man botched up from sticks and bones  –

all angles, elbows pointing out,

and one leg twisted round its mate

like ivy round a tree.

As we come abreast of him, I see

the sleeveless denim jacket, skinny arms,

pale and freckle -spotted, his white face

wet with effort, clenched like a closed fist.

“You’ll walk with me,” a child’s voice

slurred around the edges,

a statement, not an invitation.

We stand still.

He finds a solid anchor for his crutch

then drags his tangled limbs to follow it.

We move forward just an inch or two.

His name is Tim and he was born again

ducked in the winter river last December.

Three crucifixes hang round his neck

like winners’ medals.

The square is transient space , where every hour

a thousand different purposes collide

and split away. A place to walk across

or cycle through, which only takes a moment.

It takes us half an hour to get across.

We pause.

“ Born again” he mutters , “I’m born again”

over and over.

A child cries out – a yelp of pain –

head-high above the flinching crowd

a flock of pigeons whirr like shrapnel.

I watch them swing a circuit round the sun.

“Born again”

When I turn back to look at Tim

he’s gone