February • Real Angels Never Rust

They just can’t leave green places be, can they? And so it was that 20 years ago they constructed The Angel of the North. I think the jury is still out on that one, but I at least have my verdict, published today in I’m not a silent poet

It’s Art

I will not be including a photo.

It’s a hill I wrote about before, from a nightmare I had, and it’s in my book Three Pounds of Cells: The Rain, which was first published in 2008 in InkSweat&Tears

We are now half way through February. Valentine’s Day is over. Hope you had a little chocolate and wine. Chinese New Year, the year of the Dog, begins this weekend. Time for noodles, I think.

40 years ago this weekend there was a terrific BLIZZARD in South Wales. Sat 18th Feb 1978. I met Noel in Cardiff for a meal and it started to snow. But the snow came in so fast and thick that when we got out, there were no trains! No buses! The taxi rank at Cardiff station had turned into a huge queue of worried people wanting to get home. And a lot of people didn’t make it that night and had to take what accommodation they could get, in gyms, in schools, in hotels and guest houses. This included the many rugby fans who’d just been to the Arms Park for the game.

We were lucky. A taxi driver shouted down the line, Is anybody wanting to go to St Andrew’s Cross? and we and another man, who for some reason had pyjamas on under his clothes, jumped in that taxi. The driver himself was trying to get ‘home’ and it was his last run — he wasn’t risking any more. On the M4 motorway, drivers got stranded and many of them were rescued and put up in Wenvoe school. Cars and buses abandoned for days, littered the roads. Deep drifts covered everything. Schools of course were closed. But The Wenvoe Arms was open 🙂 and that kind of holiday feel crept over the countryside, a sunny, crisp silence, and pleasant camaraderie of people who were stuck. Children made sledges. People shared food. Folk rallied round. Nothing moved for days and the pub nearly ran out of beer!

It’s bad enough moving away from home and having to find somewhere to live, starting a new job and a new life, without coping with unusual weather conditions in a strange environment. It was just another challenge for me in my new life in Wales. Everything seemed like a BLIZZARD! But I was okay and I’m thankful I didn’t have to face it alone. Noel was there with me and he’s been there for me ever since.

Real angels never rust!


February 2018 • of Lurching into the unknown

This is me about 60 years ago — the little chubby one (some things don’t change) with my sister Esme.
And this is me (centre, in my dutch girls dress,) (I tended to have descriptive names for my dresses) with Esme again and my little sister Christine who would hardly ever have her photo taken, and our nephew — yes, nephew — Robert (for whom I wrote the story Picture Book, which will be in my wee collection when I get it together. I think that is my sister Margaret in the doorway. She was 20-ish then. It was a big family!

                                                  Ironic Sun-dress

pig-tailed girl-dolls
in Dutch hats
dance around my gingham skirt
blue and white
neat and fresh
carefree cotton-cool
tied at the shoulder
i wished I could dance
as they did there
out in the sunshine but
my freckled

Between those two photographs being taken, our father had died. It was a sudden event that separated who we were from all our future selves and that is a big deal. But for my mother, 46 at the time, and having lost three little girls in infancy during the war years, (see The Bridge Between pg 6 here) to lose her husband, her support was truly devastating.

It is a hard lesson to learn, so early in life, that the you of today is fundamentally different from the you of all your tomorrows, and in everlasting ways, and it makes for some deep introspection. And I could (but won’t) document what that meant and how it affected the lives of each of us in negative ways. You can see it in my writing anyway. LINK: THE STARE’S NEST

But we were very lucky. My eldest sister was already married to a truly remarkable young man called Hubert, who at the tender age of 25 stepped into the breach and supported us three littlest girls like a father,

all the way through primary school and secondary/ grammar school — a very good schooling for which he paid and to which I owe many of my future selves.  I worked hard and got top grades.

I think Mammy knitted this cardy — or might have been Margaret.




Can you spot me in the choir below?

and university (here at the White Rocks, Portrush.)

In January 1978. The Christmas No 1 had been Mull of Kintyre by Wings, I’d just got my degree and was about to leave Ulster. I didn’t really have much choice because I needed a teaching job and they were scarce. Also I couldn’t, for all manner of practical reasons, live at my mother’s house. So I applied all over Britain, and got a job in Cardiff just before Christmas. In February I was to join the staff at Glyn Derw HS in Ely. So the family threw me a farewell party and the 23 year old me in this photo with my brother-in-law Hubert, was about to step out into the world all on her own. Okay I’d been to Uni and I’d been to France but this was different — this was for good and in a city I didn’t know at all. And I may have been smiling but believe me, I was scared. I left on Fri 3rd Feb, lurching into the unknown, with a trunk Esme bought me, a suitcase, and a stomach full of terror.

(I wrote last year about my eldest brother having always reminded me he left home on my birthday — literally the day I was born. It’s only now I see an irony here. Feb 3rd was also his birthday! Sometimes)                                                        40 years ago

I had temporary accommodation (diggs) with a not very nice lady in Grangetown. I didn’t have much money, and I needed to find a bedsit quickly. I had a fortnight til my job started. So I based myself at Astey’s Cafe in the Bus Station with the local papers, studying the To Lets, and traipsed round Cardiff by bus. Most people at the cafe were friendly and helpful. In fact some of them seemed quite concerned that I was all alone in the big city and three older people, a husband, wife and her brother, to whom I’d spoken a few times, having seen me there day after day, offered me a lift to Wenvoe, just west of the city, to view a half bungalow share that would have been difficult to find on my own. But they turned out to be genuine folk and they took me and brought me back and they even helped me move my stuff from the diggs to the bungalow. I never saw them again. And apart from being haunted, it was a good billet — a very suitable beginning for a small-town girl — alone in the big city! I shared kitchen and bathroom with a speech therapist student called Christine Baber, who was very nice. It gave me time to acclimatise, and to find a good bedsit nearer the centre before the September term.

Now, I only knew one person in Wales. Noel. I’d met him the year before so when I’d got my accommodation sorted, within the week! I decided to pay a visit to Swansea. The next cake I cut was this one — two years later

so it worked out okay — lurching into the unknown.

I think it’s only a fool who isn’t afraid of the future but really, you know, I wouldn’t change much about who I am today. And as for the future — well, it’s always better than the alternative! Here’s to a good deal more lurching — Cheers!

              Me, Esme and Noel somewhere in the future — a good place to be.

January 2018 • Plans

It’s January. I’m trying to ‘chill’ and it seems I am succeeding because last night, for the first time in more months than I can recall, I slept right through the night. No waking, lying awake, nightmares or worries — just a natural restful sleep, which is why I feel able to write a blog post today and at last wish you all New Year. Happy? Well happy would be a world without dim-wit, self-seeking leaders. Happy would be a world where poets and not politicians are rewarded. Happy would be a world where those with everything show more concern for people than pearls or power. Happy would be a world where bees, elephants, trees and Polar Bears are above valued beyond the worth of diamonds.

January’s only redeeming features are the increase in light, and that it leads to February which I have always deemed to be a fabulous little month.

Plans I said…

Well I am going to produce a book of some of my stories, maybe more than one book, some horror and some humour. I have begun to put them together. It’ll probably take all year. I’ll self publish because really all I want is to get the stories read. A couple of real friends Martin Booth and Margaret Kerswell, are going to help me to get the virtual stuff right. (It’ll be cheap enough to buy. Hope you will.)

I have poems coming up in Bewildering Stories. It’s always a good place to be. Most were inspired by Marie Lightman’s prompts from last April. I owe her at least one reading of those at Babblegum in Newcastle — will do!

I plan to lose weight. January is not much good for that but I have begun a bit.

Also some stuff needs cleared out of cupboards etc and I have begun that too.

There are some commitments I am thinking of ditching so that I have more time and am less stressed. I haven’t decided yet which ones. It’s all a bit up in the air. But I do feel I need to get some things done. It’s time. I’m not getting younger. The chimes may not be working, but he clock is ticking. Here’s one from last year:

Behind the Chimes





November • In Dispute of Happiness and Christmas Gifts.

This day last year was my launch at The Stanza for Three Pounds of Cells (and I really wish you’d buy one!) Thanks to Harry Gallagher and Mandy MacDonald who hosted. And my friend and editor Kathleen, travelled 3000 miles to be with me on that day and I loved her being here! And she got a great reception at The Stanza which was wonderful to see.  

And if you’d like a taste of that event: Here is a recording of Peter Lagan on lute, accompanying: A SONG OF SEALS

I didn’t enjoy the day itself. But that’s another story. I never enjoy special occasions. I am a bit of a Gilbert to everyone else’s Sullivan. Gilbert never attended performances — too stressful. In fact I wrote about this just last week — remembering.

In dispute of Happiness

Seems I was never built for happiness.
Each special moment causes me distress.
I like autumnal days when I can hide
away, close curtains, and I can’t abide
the party season’s yippee happee crowd
doing the conga, celebrating LOUD.

For every spike in life there is a dip
euphoria and sorrow, joined at hip,
are the twin banes that blight my mind and haunt
my dreams and make me stop before I start
any project that might win prize or praise
or hold me up to Nemesis’s gaze.

I am so paper-thin. I am threadbare.
I fracture easily. I am aware
of all the dangers happiness can bring.
For every love song there’s a dirge to sing.
On every special day a heartbreak stands
exacting any price plaudits demand.

I’ve never smiled a smile without the fear
that next day I will have to shed a tear.
Morbidity has stalked me all my life
as daughter first, as sister, friend, as wife.
Wish me calm passage and an even keel.
I was not made for happiness. I feel.

Oonah Joslin 2017

But yesterday I was at Wallingtom again and the sky was Winter blue and robins were everywhere guarding their little patch and I fely happy — happy because it was no special day. Happy because there was no pressure. Happy because I am having a good run of poems in Bewildering Stories

And The Canzonet is out ( to BUY) FREE POSTAGE IN UK. Or to BROWSE first And my local writer’s group has an anthology out  — The Scribblers’ Pen and Noel was with me and we were happy. In fact, the simpler life is, the happier I am. This is what I’ve found. So next year I am going to simplify life a bit further. Get rid of stuff. Cull some FB ‘friends’. Cut some spending. Destress. Get happy.

Samhain 2017 • Staying Spooky with a story

I tried to send “No Contest” to a competition but there was a problem with paying so I decided it should get read anyway for FREE and I doubt it would have won. So here it is. Enjoy.

No Contest

He turned quickly on hearing a crash and found the pumpkin staring at him. It was still wearing the face he’d just carved, but the expression was altered, and it was not alone. It seemed that every pumpkin in the patch had arrived at his door.
“How in the Devil’s name…” he began then stopped.
In the devil’s name… His words echoed back.
The door of his Last-a-Lifetime Security Shed had been ripped off its hinges. Kit automatically reached for one of his tools from the bench behind him. Instead of the sturdy wooden handle, his hand touched something wet and grainy.
“Ugh!” He shuddered. Looking down he saw the cold innards and seeds, the open womb of a pumpkin, but it smelled like blood. Hastily he wiped his hand on his apron.

In the lurid evening light he saw pumpkin faces. He recognised them, every single one, going back years. Competition after competition won. This shed had for years been his trophy house for countless certificates and rosettes, Best Fiery Face, five Bronze and Silver Pumpkin Medallions, The Golden Grin Pumpkin Award and the prestigious Gold Glow. The hobby had become an obsession, the obsession an addiction and the addiction a curse. He had to win and he’d sacrifice anything. He’d put his very soul into growing the best, and attaining the top prize. He tolerated no rivals.

“Remember me?”
The voice, mellow and dark, somehow familiar, chilled him, transfixed him. He turned, this time slowly. It couldn’t be.
“Hello, Kit. I see you’ve not changed a bit.”
Kit squinted in the diminishing light. It was indeed his former friend and one time arch rival, Jim but his head was a pumpkin head, the very same Kit had stolen from him, the award winning Golden Grin, now crowned with a halo of candlelight.
“Did I make a good mulch, Kit?” The pumpkin eyes scanned the trophies. God knows how many Kit had cheated him out of before the confrontation that final, fateful Hallows’ Eve. “Seems you did fairly well out of your bargain with Beelzebub. Hope it was worth it.”

It was dark except for glinting eyes that flickered all around.
“Pumpkindred,” said Jim in declamatory tone, “Members of the Patch, behold our tormentor! Kit Karver.”
A clamour of voices chorused, high and low, remonstrating, hissing, jeering. And Kit realised, in that moment, where his tools had gone. They were in the hands of those he’d fed, cared for, nurtured, killed and mutilated over decades. Medium saws, fine tooth saws, razor-edged scoops, small, medium and large carving loops for peeling rind, double sided sculpting tools, pokers, wheels and sharp, heavy duty drills, hole and circle punchers. Kit was a professional. He knew their use only too well.
“In the Devil’s name, Kit?”
Kit opened his mouth but found his voice would make no sound but a high squeak.
“Very well, pumpkins, let’s to work!”
His vocal chords were the first thing they cut.

I was very surprised 10 years ago to win a Horror Prize when I’d never written a Horror before, and was new to microfiction. But I love it! And I went on to win three years in a row. Unfortunately that story is no longer extant except in my livingroom.

Microhorror Winner 2007

Have a Happy Hallowe’en everyone. Stay Spooky!

Hubris and Nemesis • recorded at Pink Lane 2012

This was eye-watering yonks ago somewhere about 2012? At Pink Lane when I seemed to have a lot of confidence. I don’t go out much these days. I have only read once this year. So for those of you who want to know what I sound like:


Borrowed Thunder


Offunato’s Yesterday

October • Kissing Cassini Goodbye

Did I ever tell you about the time I was about to kiss Gregory Peck and my husband woke me up? Unforgivable or what? Okay so I dreamt last week that I met Mr Peck again and told him about the truncated dream and he said, ‘Well we’ll just have to rectify that,’ and kissed me. Only it was a kind of theatrical kiss, you know like with Ingrid Bergman, only I am no Ingrid Bergman.  Who is that model/actress who appears in adverts and looks a bit like Ingrid? Anyone know? I disgress!

Anyway this weekend I dreamt I was being kissed by Ryan Gosling — not so dashingly handsome as Gregory Peck but a much better kisser I have to say. So it’s official. I’m now a sad middle-aged woman! It’s like Queen Victoria and Abdul. Do all older women fancy younger men? I feel slightly ashamed of myself –slightly– but on the other hand the day we stop looking….  I liked the film very much, (saw a very handsome young man in the street just before we went in) prescient. Laughed, cried, was a bit surprised at times — it’s a ripping good yarn. We came out with all sorts of questions. Was the mother-in-law the second wife and did he just show Vicky the fatter one so she would be flattered? Did Victoria even know what gonorrhoea was, given that she could be a bit niaive? And what was the Victorian treatment for it? Probably something to do with mercury… Ate too much popcorn. Everyone should have a ‘munshi’ moment or two! I very much suspect Dame Judi Dench is more of a national treasure than Victoria ever was! I met her once in Cardiff — she didn’t kiss me though — just said hello.
For some unfathomable reason not all the famous people I meet kiss me! Their loss.

In September we said goodbye to Cassini and I watched the Horizon programme with a little sadness and a lot of interest. The scientists and engineers who had invested a career in the craft had also invested a lot of emotion. It was tangible. And when it was over I drafted a poem, my way of kissing Cassini Goodbye, Goodbye Cassini which, after a few revisions has taken its place in my long list of Bewildering Stories poems. It was a good fit for a magazine that carries the NASA archive of so many of Cassini’s images. You really need to go there and look. BwS is stunning in terms of scope and quality and it’s FREE online to read!!! Exploring Hemispheres was in last week’s issue. It’s sort of spacey in an underwater way too.The next poem, Kin fits nicely with the other two and so I am very pleased that they follow each other. This was purely accidental but as Editor, Don Webb pointed out to me, writers often explore the same themes in various pieces. I would be interested in how you think they connect.

Gyroscope Review is also FREE online but a print edition is well worth having and makes a good poetry present. 2017 Fall Issue is out now. Click the link to browse or buy.

Meanwhile back at The Linnet’s Wings, and talking of presents, we are preparing our Christmas Canzonet. All the poems etc are being set this month and I am hopeful it will be ready for sale for sale in November. I have seen the design stages and it’s just sooooooooooo beautiful! The Song of the Flower is available for sale now. It’s gorgeous too! Treat yourself!

September • Kathleen Ferrier’s Favourite Apple Tart

In my first year at Uni I lodged in a bungalow on Prospect Rd. Portstewart, with an elderly lady called Mary Kane. Now Mrs K was a kindly soul but her driving would put the fear of God into anyone unfortunate enough to accept a lift in her old Morry Thou. Her budgie had been taught to say He knows, He loves, He cares and she made Apple Tart to die for! In fact she had a letter (I saw it with my own eyes) from singer Kathleen Ferrier, who had taken passage (I think to New York) on the merchant vessel captained by Mr Kane, specifically mentioning her Apple Tart as the best she’d ever tasted.

Now the secret of Mrs. K’s Apple Tart lies in the pastry! It is so thin and crispy that it beats all other pastry crusts hands down. But there are several layers of secrets to this tasty tart and I think I am the only person Mrs Kane ever taught to make it and I wouldn’t want this recipe to go silently into that good night so I am going to share it here. It’s not difficut but there are a few TIPS to it and I am including them all. Try it, and if you like the result (and you will), share it with others. It’s not mine — it’s Mrs Kanes and she deserves to be remembered for it and I will never forget her. This time of year especially, I always think of her kindness to a girl just left home.

  1. Keep everything COLD: If you haven’t a processor (she used her finger tips only) then make sure the (mixing bowl is cold, the butter (no margerine please!) is cold, your hands are cold, the flour, the milk, the board (a marble or granite surface is best for rolling pastry) C O L D

2. You will need to make the pastry first. The ratio is what makes this pastry special. Most pastry is half fat. This is greater, The ratio is 5oz plain flour sifted twice!! (even if using a processor, sift the flour) (do not use self raising — it’s supposed to be thin). 3oz cold butter (I use Kerry Gold Irish butter) 1oz caster/fine sugar (make sure there are no lumps in that either).A couple of tablespoons cold milk. I am sorry I can’t be more specific than that. The thing is to add it slowly so that the pastry is JUST moist enough to hold together (not wet).

Method: Cut the butter up and using your finger tips rub into the flour until it ressembles bread crumbs. Do this lightly so as not to overwork the pastry. Then add the sugar and stir. Then add the milk a little at a time, stirring each little in using a knife, until the pastry will form a ball. OR Place the flour, sugar and cubed butter in the food processor and ZIZZ. Then add the milk still a bit at a time as you ZIZZ.

Put the ball of pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

You’re going to need an 8 inch diameter metal pie dish with sloping sides and a rim (SEE PIC). If you chill this too, it helps keep the bottom crust cold while you’re filling it. It’s tempting to think that there’s not enough pastry from 5oz flour but trust me, it rolls out so well you’ll be amazed!

So when the pastry has rested, cut it in half and put one half back in the fridge. Roll the other half to the size of your dish (do it by quarter turns rolling in one direction, truning, rolling, turning, rolling… ) Flop it over the rolling pin to lift it to the dish. It should be slightly bigger than the dish. Now here’s a TIP to prevent a soggy bottom in any pie or quiche. Sprinkle a handful of couscous onto the pie crust!

Now preheat the oven to 170C

3 large or 4 medium BRAMLEY APPLES. The type of apple does matter because bramleys are tart and they cook down well and keep a slight acidity even with the sugar. If you can’t get Bramleys at least use a cooking variety and not eating apples because they retain their texture too well.

One at a time, peel the apples and slice them thinly discarding the cores (or you can use these to in jam to make pectin). Place the slices in a spiral overlapping pattern on the pastry base. After each layer, sprinkle 1 tbs fine sugar and a little ground cloves or cinnamon. (Mrs K always used cloves but this is a matter of taste.) Continue until all the appples are layered nicely with sugar and spice. Roll out the other half of the pastry, dampen the edges of the bottom with a little water or milk, place the top on and press the edges down. Lift the pie and trim the excess pastry with the blunt end if a knife. You can use the trimmings to make a decoration for the top like I did here.

Place the pie in the oven on a baking tray (in case of juice). The pie needs 55 mins to cook. It should look quite brown round the edges. When ready, sprinkle with a little more sugar and serve hot or cold with fresh cream or clotted cream. It serves 8 portions or 6 large portions or four extra large greedy portions — or you can try hiding it and eating it all yourself! But I think someone will sniff it out because it’s delicious!!!

I never said this was a health food!

Can you make it with sweetner? I’ve never tried. Maybe, if you really need to do that, you can let us know!

Enjoy and please SHARE.



September • A love of Autumn

I AM NOT A SILENT POET is a great site run by Reuben Woolley for those of you who like the political side of poetry. I have been known to get a wee bit angry sometimes and so if you’d care to go and see this different side of me, feel free. Versatility is my second name you know. (No, it’s not really my second name…)

But I do really love Autumn and there’s a lot to be said for maturity too. Like this for instance:

In Praise of Maturity

My poems are like Gorgonzola
strong, and sometimes they sting,
sometimes they stink, sometimes they wink,
sometimes they sing.
Political or lyrical I like to ring the changes
you’d be surprised if you read them all
how very wide my range is.
I can bring deep thoughts to laughter,
I can do tantrums and tears
because I have been writing poems for years and years and years….
My poems are like Gorgonzola
they go well with grapes and wine
and the taste may be acquired
but they’re mine, all mine, all mine.

                                                   Oonah V Joslin 2017

Our Autumn Issue of The Linnet’s Wings is shaping nicely.  Marie is working on it now. In fact our Christmas Canzonet is shaping nicely too. I have just been reading for that this afternoon. It’s always a colourful treat and it makes a great Christmas present for the book lover! So look out for that. Our latest issue is available to peruse and BUY HERE

I haven’t been much in society since I came back from Dublin. A little Dublin goes a long way for my reclusive little self. Also I have been missing deadlines and am very behind with my own planned submissions,. I was supposed to be getting a book together! So I will keep the blog brief and try to get some more work (of my own) out there. In the meantime, enjoy early fall.

August • with a flourish

August is one of those months when wild things flourish and are fruitful. Yesterday on our walk we saw a pheasant, a bat (yes in daylight but probably a learner 🙂 and in a dark spot at Belsay quarry garden), a stoat, flitting across a road, his dark tail straight out behind, a wood wasp with its double wings and elongated stripey body (okay so I could have probably done without the woodwasp since it was huge) and we heard, rather than saw, at least one, possibly two, swarms between the quarry and the woodland and they sounded industrial in size! We didn’t go looking for them!! In the main it was a very pleasant Sunday and as ever at Belsay there was colour to be had.

But do you remember back in March the Monkey Puzzle by the castle bloomed? Well now it has borne fruit! The fruits were not, as I expected, at the bottom where the flowers had been — oh no! — a Monkey Puzzle likes to live up to it’s puzzling reputation and so the fruits are way high up in the branches. And far from being delicate, as the flowers were, they are the size of coconuts and hairy with it. It’s not a subtle statement of fertility.

Our friend Alwyn was with us this weekend. She is small but exceedingly fierce.