Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Legion Work

Legion Work

She knits. The same scrap of cherry-red wool, over and over, unwinding her rows and click-click, endlessly reworking her masterpiece: keeping her hands busy and her thoughts at bay.

"No thank you." "No thank you." Every time I ask. "Would you like something to eat? Would you like a drink?" So quiet, she draws no attention to herself, she doesn't want it.

This time, I sit beside her. She dresses in a rag-bag of clothes. She carries a rucksack and she wears a scarf. Summer and winter. I should have guessed, but, she's Caucasian you see, Irish in fact, and I didn't think... .

"My name is Mary," I say holding out my hand. Tentatively, she takes it, "Mary-Catherine". She speaks quietly. "Catholic?" I ask. I always ask: sometimes someone will want to rage against the church, or recall fond memories of it, or ask where to hear Mass. I listen. I wait. If there is something to be said, I will hear it.

"Muslim."So softly, I have to lean forward to hear.

Her story unwinds. Her husband, not here, her children in Birmingham. Gloucester is a smaller town, she says, she feels safer here. Her own faith community doesn't know her whereabouts, she has no contact with the Mosque. She's alone. Completely. So she sits in the Day Centre for the disposable and the dispossessed and knits the same cherry-red block over and over again.

"I was a member of the Legion of Mary when I was a child."

I am at a loss. This gentle woman fills me with a deep sense of sorrow. Mary and Jesus are both honoured by Islam, and I do not care to dishonour her faith, so I pause, awaiting inspiration.

"Shall we say a Hail Mary?"

Unhesitatatingly, she joins in.

"Please, light a candle for me." she whispers, as I leave.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Daily Poem #13 Fortune Favours the Cookie Eater


First of May.

Wash your hair in dew and gaze into a mirror

(Careful! Don't break it!)

There he is. A tall dark handsome stranger

En route to Porlock.


Hand the cat (black, naturally)

To a neighbour and escort the

Stranger to Vegas,

Where, touch wood,

Your lucky dime will

Accrue, for you, a

MASSIVE fortune.


If not, head into the sunset with a shovel

And track down a rainbow.

Position yourself at its end,

Throw salt over your left shoulder, and



If Mercury is in the ascendant and

Cassandra on holiday, you

WILL find that pot of gold

Stuffed with enough

Shiny silver sixpences to ensure

You will, if you're lucky,





Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Feeding The Beast

I am enjoying the second half of life privilege of examining the baggage of my life with a critical, if not unsympathetic, eye, and deciding what to tip into the dumpster.


Once I took hold of the fact that you can believe anything and get away with it (and possibly make money from it too: which is the ONLY explanation there is for Scientology) everything became clear. So away with all the stuff in religion that invites me to despise, judge or exploit anyone else. Amazing how much of a drag THAT was! Away too, with any kind of pretence that I am either better or worse than anyone else. I take my seat between heaven and earth and touch the ground in acknowledgement of my divine right to be here, and courteously invite everyone else to do the same.


Religion sorted. Politics, not so easy. I fell into the Twitter trap of throwing out an insult in the heat of the moment with no thought to the consequences. I denounced a politician, on my own side, as a snivelling cheat, and he called me out on it. Oh dear. Caught trolling.


I apologised at once for being rude, though I thought the comment may have had some merit, and immediately put myself in social media purdah for a week and went off to write poetry.


The point of this ramble is better made in the First Nation fable of two wolves at war in the human heart. One embodies all that is good, the other everything evil. Who wins? The one you feed of course.


So, the battle to make sense of this one beautiful life continues. I have no idea which of my wolves will win out today, but I do have a preference ...

Friday, 8 April 2016

Daily Poem #8 Jenny's Rose


Daily Poem#7 Tritina

I didn't know what a Tritina WAS until yesterday! I deconstructed a poem I wrote for my 65th birthday and adapted it to this genre. It required considerable re-writing, which is a discipline I should probably engage more often!


28th October 2015

Have you noticed how the colour of the morning is yellow

Now that the days are shorter and the sun hangs low in the sky?

I mention this because it is Wednesday, and my birthday.


Become sixty-five or pass it, or call it every birthday

Deem it necessary to remember days like this one, warm and yellow

Dare enough to venture out alone beneath an empty sky.


Befriend solitude, a sense not of this century or beneath this sky;

Watch silence gleam on the wind-lapped lake. Whisper, savour, "Birth-Day."

Receive as a gift this quiet wood wrapped in green, and brown and yellow


This yellow day, this quiet sky, this awesome present. My birthday.








Thursday, 7 April 2016

Daily Poem #6 Nathan

On Gloucesrer Cross: Nathan.

Dressed by the Salvation Army, fed

By City Mission, sits


Maybe it's the drugs that make him simple.


I think not. I think he has always been a child.


Once, his sister took him in, but I guess he wore her out.

He claims no family now.

It's no fun, being an addict.


"Where?" I ask, "Are you sleeping, Nathan?"


"Car Park. Off Westgate Street."


Until, I guess, an upright citizen, with a full belly,

Complains. Or drunken party-goers piss on him.


I think about this, often. There are people who

Stop in sympathy with a pound or a sandwich

And there are people who piss on him.


I am guessing, because you have read this far,

That you are not one of those.






Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Daily Poem #5 Blooming Nonsense

Poke a hole in a poet's soul and just LOOK at what tumbles out!






Love In A Mist






Sweet Peas



Fat Hen




Lady's Slipper

Lady's Mantle

Granny's Bonnet


















Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Daily Poem #4 Eliot's An Idiot

Eliot's an idiot
If he thinks April stinks.

I like April.

I get to write poems

Tapping away without a care in the world beyond

Scaring a metaphor out of hiding

Finding a a rhyme

(Which is as easy as tickling a simile

Out of my stream of consciousness )

Lending an ear to assonance and

Holding a meter to ransom.

Oh yes!

It's Good. All good.

Monday, 4 April 2016


"Hidden Brain" is a podcast about everything to do with the brain, which is pretty much everything if you think about it.


I listened to this issue on "Job-Crafting" whilst in the bath just now, and was much taken with it. The Harvard Professor with the brief for employees in the workplace, had interviewed a number of hospital cleaning staff, quizzing them on how their version of the job matched that of the management. I think the kind of cleaners the hospital were glad they employed, were those who had made their job into a life-work. They had taken the dry list of 'things to do' and made it sing. Here's how it goes:

My brain was really taken with this, and returned immediately from it's beach vacation to run away with the idea of 'Life-Crafting'. (Website and tee-shirt to follow... .)


Life-crafting is all about looking at the to-do list and inviting it to contribute something meaningful to the wealth of human happiness. Just hold that thought, and let YOUR brain make it sing.





28th October 2015


Have you noticed how the colour of the morning is yellow

Now that the days are shorter and the sun hangs low in the sky?

I mention this because it is Wednesday, and my birthday. If you have

Become sixty-five, or passed it, you too, will know, that

It is necessary to savour days like this one: hold it,

Not too tightly, and dare enough to venture out alone in

Solitude. There's a commodity not of this century, and conjoined with

Silence, a fitting present. I walk across the ploughed

Field peeping winter wheat, thick with Midland mud.

I rattle through the gate causing hopeful horses to canter up, whiffling for an apple..

I am for the woods. The yellow-light is amber here, and what space there is,

Is tunnelled by low-hanging boughs.

This is a day to remember all my golden days,

And anoint their beauty with an outpouring of thankfulness.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Daily Poem #2 'The New Boys'

My daughter Kate married Darren in July 2014. In January this year, their son, Frank, was born. I took this portrait of father and son a few hours later:

The New Boys

He'll support Coventry City

And play, unabashed, with the girls on the playground.

He'll charm old ladies, and when she's too frail to walk, he'll

Fetch his grandmother her gin at family weddings.

There'll be laughter, a lot of it, and he'll wear sorrow like a mac

To be tossed aside when the sun shines.

His sister, yet unborn, will adore him, and he

Will always be her tormentor and her knight.

But for now, he lies in his father's arms, dreaming,

Not of the way it was

But of what will be.