November • Writing with a woman’s voice and a subtle palette

It’s an interesting thing — where a poem comes from. It’s a thing only the writer knows. And sometimes the poems that attract the most attention have unexpected beginnings because you can write about just about anything! One of my poems this week in Writing in a Woman’s Voice, is called

October’s End.

That is when It was written — more or less. I was deep in the final stages of the Autumn issue of The Linnet’s Wings: The Sorrow, steeped as it were in death. Our usual walks are getting a bit dead this time of year, which I always find sad but I was looking forward to our break in Copenhagen and to Hallowe’en. I was at my local writing group which is sometimes just tea and a chat and sometimes — writing. Anyway we had a list of words to work with that day: dark house, silver, sunflowers, plums, xylophone, the latter being a bit of a joke in the group because you can’t really put xylophone sensibly into anything! I don’t think anyone else actually wrote it down!

Anyhow this is what happened next:

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As you can see, in the first draft I just worked my way through the words and xylophone became ‘wood notes’. Draft 2 is on pg 3 and draft 3 on pg 2. You can see how I picked out my first line with that encircled 1.

Interesting that my book has Hallowe’en colours. I wonder whether anyone has done a study on how the choice of stationery affects writing?

The final draft was done on the computer later on. This is where I mostly final-draft because you can cut and paste and generally mess about with line lengths and breaks. So this turned into 3 line stanzas really because it had taken on a Hallowe’en feel and 3 is a magic number. It is sometimes useful to experiment with structures. Also it gives a more considered pace to the poem, gives the reader time to pause and hear and see the poem gradually turn from those low, mellow brown notes, to sunset, through purple, to dark; and then the chill (a much softer word than cold — cold is way too stark) and silver of frost, the dead, the silhouettes and silence. It’s a quiet poem that gets quieter and colder — like Autumn to Winter, insidious changes hardly noticed but cumulative. It is a soft poem that speaks of the harsh reality and inevitability of death.

This house, long dead is punctuated for a pause. There are only 2 out of 15  lines in the poem punctuated in the middle, and they are punctuated to pivot on the weight of their sadness. The words in the list have taken on metaphorical meaning.
The house has become not just dark but ‘long dead’ in true Hallow’s Eve style and it has worked its way to the end of the poem so that it can represent, as it does in dreaming, the corporeal.
The plums which are indeed ‘soft and sweet’ have become the tender bruises of a dying summer echoed in the sadness of all those ‘S’s.

October’s End

wood notes
scaling down toward sleep
lengthen in sunset mist

it’s time for plums,
the soft, sweet bruises
of summer

across the lawn neglected
sunflower heads droop
and blacken

and silver birch leaves
overturned curl up
against the chill

this house, long-dead
celebrates past silhouettes
in silence

I think if you didn’t know the title of this poem, you would still get the season right, don’t you? I have some more pieces coming up in Writing in a Woman’s Voice which you can follow online or on FB — one I think on Christmas Eve. Thanks to Beate Siddrigdaughter for publishing this and other of my work.

Copenhagen • Final Tips and thoughts

Copenhagen Card is expensive — make sure you’re going to use it.

It gets you around free on buses, which are frequent. A map of the buses shows that they operate in zones and that looks easy enough to use but I would say unless you are staying for more than 4 days and self catering, you are much more likely to use the Tourist bus. C Card only gets you discount on that so you can end up paying for both…. We did use the bus once however and it swiftly got us back to where we wanted to be. The trouble is knowing where to get off! C Card also gives you train transport and we did use that to get from the airport to the city centre. But then we got a taxi from the central station (because we didn’t have a clue where we were going and it was dark) which set us back £10 extra. A taxi to the airport is the easiest solution and that was a 15 min trip costing £35 and saves a lot of hassle!

Copenhagen Card also gets you into all tourist attractions. It’s worth it if you are intending to visit lots of palaces, museums etc It got us into Tivoli Gdns, Planetarium + film, 1 bus, 1 train, discount on Greyline Mermaid Tour ( NB: there are 2 hop-on/hop-off buses – a 48 and a 72 hr and they don’t let you on the other one!) Did we get our money’s-worth? Don’t think so.

Bikes

Copenhagen is full of cycle paths (I said CYCLE PATHS!). If you are a confident city cyclist, you can download an app that lets you unlock,  hop on and off them. I never learned to ride but I would have felt nervous among this throng of cyclists. Noel said he wouldn’t have fancied it either.

Walking

It’s a very safe city! We saw people strolling and jogging through the park by the Planetarium after dark, alone. Once you get to know where you are you can take shortcuts because Vesterbrogade and Hans Christian Anderson Blvd form a wedge shape and Farinmagsgade where we were was at the top end of that wedge — but on the map it looked very different. I would advise you to draw that wedge shape on your map because once that’s in your mind, it’s a lot easier. The Planetarium and Restaurant Casseopeia 🙂 was one side, and H Table the other. 😉 I wear flat shoes anyway but I would not advise heels! I would have liked a stroll along Strogen (to see the shops) but we didn’t have time!

Eating

Lots of places serve Segafredo coffee around. Nuff said 🙂

Pubs at Nyhavn are great and some of them have a common price for everything on their lunch menu.

Stay off Vesterbrogade if you can for eating. Find some tucked away places or grab a sandwich from Nettos for lunch.

Best dinner finds:

H Table great Chinese food at reasonable cost and lovely welcome.

Casseopeia is a cordon Bleu experience in beautiful surroundings with good service at a good price for Copenhagen! Do it!

advisable to book on their websites if you are going at peak times especially.

The Danes love to provide heated outdoor spaces for eating and drinking, so never mind the time of year! Oct-November is quiet, it’s mild there, trees still in leaf. I would be inclined to go in Sept/Oct but we had a birthday date.

Self catering is a much cheaper option for Copenhagen, I mean you could still eat out once or twice and get the best of both worlds.

Would we go back? Probably couldn’t afford it — but maybe if we could find a suitable self catering place and a more direct route than Heathrow.

I hope you found my little guide useful.

Bye-bye Copenhagen and thanks for the memories.

 

 

 

 

Copenhagen • Never too old for this • Out of this world

By the last day. were already packed. I can be very organised in these matters. And I shan’t dwell on the horrendous queues and delays getting home, or the fact that our luggage didn’t get home at the same time as we did. All’s well that ends well. Let me just tell you about our final, wonderful day in Copenhagen, instead.

Because we weren’t here for long, I had a to make a choice between two childish pursuits: Planetarium or Aquarium? I know some people would do one in the morning and one in the afternoon (and both are open til 7pm-ish) but not us. When I go into a place I have to take my time and see everything. The Planetarium won.

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It is possibly the best looking building in the city centre. It’s like a big cake or a mad hat or a huge telescope or — a planetarium.  It is lit up at night red/pink/purple,blue/ green/yellow. I love anything that changes colour! Inside it’s full of space and stairs gantries such as astronauts might use but there is also a lift to IMax cinema level. There was a party of schoolchildren there in the morning. They were all on their phones and stocking up with sweets. I was so glad not to be the teacher wondering which of them would be sick on the bus…

You get in free with Copenhagen Card and a free film show too. These are £20 entry each. We went to 2 — one about the universe in general and one about Earth’s geological past. I learned quite a bit from that one — including that geologists are all mad people who abseil waterfalls for fun! Both films were interesting and it was good to feel immersed in space for an hour. or two We couldn’t get our earphones plugged in for the first one (the socket being under the armrest and difficult to access after the lights were out) but we worked it out for the second and to be honest it was interesting to listen to Danish commentary in such predictable circumstances and I made some progress, though I have to confess I made less of Danish than I do of most languages.

The planetarium display is mostly about how stars are created, what they are made of, what we are made of, how it all formed. You stand in front of a screen. There’s a loud explosion. Your infrared outline appears. Hydrogen, oxygen, all the elements are added to you in bursts of light. I had my stick with me. I was flailing it about like a demented Gandalf so, on the image atoms scattered about. It was FUN! There is also an homage to one of the founding fathers of Astronomy, Tycho Brahe after whom the place is named. And there are various other interactive displays for children my age, about space flight. (Luckily there was a lull in the day when all the children had to be back in school — except me.) My favourite game (see photo below) was walking on this big soft gel-type pad, making stars and binary systems appear wherever my feet fell 🙂 The displays around the walls were huge, interactive and informative too — all about supernovae and gravitation, black holes and dark matter. “Fascinating, Captain.” 

I’ve done quite a lot of poetry about space in the past. Here are some space treats for you:

Link
           Link

The restaurant next to the Planetarium (which also has a lift from street level) is called Casseopeia, We went there for lunch and ended up booking for dinner! The reason you will see:

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For lunch I chose the tomato soup. It came with the most delicious homemade bread and was garnished with dill froth, seeds and black oil. It was superb! Noel had some cheese which came with delicate crispy black crackers. The passion fruit cheesecake we had for dessert was just scrumptious! Even the coffee was to die for.

Our Spanish waitress was very friendly and helpful. She thought it was a cold day but we explained that coming from windy Northumberland, we found it quite mild. Turns out the chef is Icelandic and has a sister called Una. We asked to see the dinner menu.

Now this place comes at a reasonable price (compared to The Guru or Il Grappo Blu) I had the grilled chicken with sweet potato puree and the teensiest mushrooms you’ve ever seen, plated so they reflect the structure of the building itself (like little rivets), and when you get tournedos of that quality cooked to perfection, finished with grated truffle, and when you’re eating baby potatoes roasted to burst in the mouth… Add to that a good Cotes du Rhone. Now follow it with icecreams that had thorny crown seaweed, a dark chocolate mousse with coffee icecream, chocolate soil and berries with I think maybe a blackcurrant liqueur, and you sort of get the picture! The waiter told us exactly what was on there when he brought the food. It was like being a guest on Masterchef, except everything was perfection. There were no ‘mistakes’ here! I was in hog heaven!! We finished with a port and a brandy. It would have been churlish not to.

I am not going to tell you the price. You can follow the link to the website, think what you’d like and extrapolate how much your choice would cost you but anyway we thought by this stage that we might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, cost-wise and were pleasantly surprised. In truth this utterly wonderful meal was worth every Danish krone and I will never ever forget that dessert!! Because of the time of year there were few diners — 4 to be precise. We like quiet dining so that didn’t bother us. The ambiance was provided by a soundtrack of easy listening classics. We watched joggers and dog-walkers and people strolling along the already dark lakeside as nonchalantly as it were midday and the Planetarium did its chameleon act, colouring the waters of the lake.
I would say if you wanted to go there any other time of year, book early! because

believe me — you DO want to go to Cassiopeia — it’s out of this world.

What a good place to end.

 

Copenhagen • We’re getting too old for this • Chapt 3

We got straight on the red tourist bus the next day, on a gloriously sunny, mild morning and headed for our chosen district Nyhavn. We were a bit disappointed that the street market we’d seen on the previous day was not there but all we’d really decided on was a wander along the cobbled quaysides and a leisurely lunch. Every building is a restaurant or cafe. They all looked welcoming.

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McJoys roastbeef sandwich, curly fries, beers and coffee cost Dk402.00 (and you divide by 8 roughly to get stirling). With beer running at over £7 a pint, you only drink one but it’s a good pub and I’d eat there anytime. We could have taken a boat trip but Noel doesn’t much like boats and they looked packed. This place struck us as a cross between Chesepeake Bay and the Liffy in Dublin. It was very pleasant.

Now I swear, I didn’t know the Amber Museum was at the end the of the quay!

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of amber. I wanted to go in of course but it was apparent that the museum itself was up some very steep stairs — Amsterdam-type stairs. So I asked my knees about it and having pounded the streets previous day, they said ‘Hey, we’re getting too old for this’. This place has every shade of amber known to man. I thought I knew all the shades of amber. I didn’t! It was honestly Noel’s suggestion that he buy me a piece and we chose a set of green amber beads at a price we could afford. There was plenty there, well beyond our pocket — a carved sailing ship was my favourite — exquisite. I don’t seem to have a photo of that, though I thought I’d taken one… anyway you can follow the link.

On the way back we looked for the Retour Steak House where we’d decided to eat that evening. It’s always best to know where you are going in the dark, even though the streets are safe. We found a whole new route — much shorter, to the Planetarium for the next day. Everything seems to connect back to Vesterbrogade. The Retour’s steak is decent. The chips are nice. They brought two small burgers for me!!! I ended up leaving the buns. It was okay but touristy again. Maybe the 2 bun thing saves on meat? (just a thought). My advice is to avoid the eateries on the main drag. There was a 25% service charge and I would not have left that, about £4 for ‘mineral’ water, one is paying on average £40 per btl of wine in these places (The same btl in a supermarket round the corner costs about £10!). It mounts up!

Self-catering in Copenhagen would seem a better option. I just hate taking the kitchen sink on holiday though 😦 don’t you?

These days we no longer go to late bars. We had dinner at 7:30 each evening (our usual time). We were fast asleep by 11pm. The city continued without us. Maybe we ARE getting a little old for city holidays.

Copenhagen • We’re getting too old for this • Chapt 2

Monday the 5th Nov. My husband’s 65th Birthday. There was a haar/ a fret/ a sea-mist over the city. That is to be expected and very familiar if you live in Northumberland near the coast. We were headed for the Danish Pipe Shop and decided, because our phones didn’t work, to get directions from Tourist Info on Vesterbrogade, just round the corner from our hotel. Noel had the post code and showed it to the young man at the desk who very unhelpfully sent us on a hour long wild goose chase in exactly the opposite direction! Now that should NOT HAPPEN! It made me very angry that someone getting paid to be the official face of Copenhagen should be so careless and off hand with visitors. We walked and walked until it became obvious we were in the wrong area. A very helpful young man (who was in fact doing his job delivering stuff) Kindly looked up the Pipe Shop on his phone and told us a bus to get back. We chatted to a man on the bus about Brexit etc… Now in the right location, The Pipe shop continued to prove very illusive until, several people later, we decided to have lunch before going on. The man in the cafe was most helpful. We were just round the corner really but by now we were damp and tired and a bit dispirited. Copenhagen is a wee bit confusing — or are we just getting too old for this? It’s maybe better if you are young, can hop on and off bikes and are technologically savvy.

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In the Pipe Shop: Choices, choices — so many pipes — so much baccy. The decline of pipe shops in the UK has been startling over the past decade — they are few and far flung now. In Denmark you can still buy tobaccos that are no longer available here in the UK, even if you can get to a pipe shop and buying online from abroad, you risk confiscation. I am not defending smoking as such but pipes are different. A pipe isn’t a smoke so much as a hobby. They take cleaning, reeving, packing, lighting, smoking-in. They take care and a bit of patience. I love them purely as objects as a well turned pipe is a thing of beauty, a work of art, and they have character, but a dedicated smoking space is a good thing too because even though you don’t inhale pipe smoke, it produces lots of secondary smoke. Anyway, I love the fact that my husband smokes a pipe. My grandfather used to smoke a pipe too, (a Peterson). I love the scent of good baccy, the room-note, and they are beautiful objects — this addition to the collection is very nice too. We were thinking of our friend James who would love this shop.

The afternoon was spent sitting down — on a sight-seeing bus. We had a 48 hour tour pass. We saw the harbours, opera house, palaces (not very impressive on the outside…) Churchill Park in spectacular autumn foliage, churches, the old stock exchange/market building. The history was good. For my money though, Dublin, Amsterdam and Baltimore (Maryland) far more beautiful as sea cities go. We didn’t get out to see The Little Mermaid because we were knackered and a bit slow and we’d have had to wait half an hour for the final tour bus to come through. I’ve been told it is unimpressive anyway. The tour bus was worthwhile in that it allowed us to see the whole city and we chose a place to go back and explore the following day.

In the evening we’d chosen to have an Indian meal at The Guru. Now I have to say the food was good but not any better than in our local restaurant and at about three times the price, not great value. The music was of that intrusive bump-bump type not really conducive to my digestion. The seating is quite close together — this may be a British complaint but our fellow diners unfortunately included two men who were being over-familiar with the waitress, hogging her time, generally loud and by turns contemptuous and apologetic (calling her over just to apologise for offending her) so that they got away with behaviour which, in our opinion, was well out of line and maybe the management (I believe she did complain to one of her male colleagues) shouldn’t have allowed. They were however spending, by the look of what they had, a huge sum of money. It rather spoiled what might have been a quiet evening. I wouldn’t really go back. I think in general, though we did it for convenience, I would try to find more secluded restaurants off the tourist trail. It’s hard to know when you’re searching, what you will get.

And so ended a rather tiring but ultimately successful, 65th Birthday bash.

 

Copenhagen • We’re getting too old for this • Chapt 1

I’ve always found the best bit about travel is being home again. I hate travelling and it never disappoints. This time we flew to Copenhagen via Heathrow. Why we have to fly via Heathrow when you could almost jump off Church Point, Newbiggin by the Sea on a windy day (which is most days), I don’t know. I suppose Newcastle Airport just wouldn’t get enough people to fill a plane to Denmark… Anyway having been forced a couple of hundred miles south to travel back north, we were then processed and pummelled, kettled and caged, ready for transport at both airports. At Copenhagen a confusion arose over how to find information so we could get our Copenhagen Cards, and how to get the train to the city centre. We spent 20 minutes in a queue only to find the people in it were Swedes whose train had been cancelled and who were going to going to Malmo.
Ha! What fun, — we didn’t think.
We found our way and our hotel, The Richmond, eventually — it took 10 hours door to door!

Thankfully the restaurant I had chosen for that first night was literally next door to the hotel. So we ate at Il Grappo Blu — and very nice it was too! I had the chicken dish and tiramisu. Noel had steak. Excellent food. Excellent wine. Excellent service! Lovely ambiance. A fine Sicilian drink (Passito Tenuta Orestiadi for which the nearest equivalent I have ever tasted was Pineau des Charantes) to complete the meal. HOW MUCH?! I’ll just say that it cost twice as much as a similar meal here.

The Richmond is a basic tourist class hotel and it was very central, clean, comfortable, quiet (was November mind). The staff are pleasant. 

The window opened to a balcony. No view but the air was appreciated. Storage is minimal but okay. Phone in the room. Long mirror.

The wet-room was very small but adequate shower facilities housed behind a kind of plastic bubble-wall. The floor was heated. The lights also gave warmth. My only complaint was the tear-shaped wash basin which was too shallow to be of any use at all!

Breakfast was from 7 – 10 (10:30 weekends). Standard buffet. I didn’t think much of the bacon or sausage but the muesli, fruit platter and yogurt were just great and there was a good selection of breads/meats/cheeses/boiled eggs/ tea,coffee,juice.

Thus fortified, maps in hand we strolled out to find the Tivoli Gdns which was a lot closer than we thought (10 min walk) and on 4th Nov was still set up for Hallowe’en for one last night. We spent all afternoon soaking up the happy screams. I have to say some of these rides look terrifying but we had a very relaxing afternoon, ate pizza and ravioli at La Vecchia within the gardens. Even that, with wine, coffee etc came to £70. It is possible to eat cheaper if you want to eat outside or go for hot-dogs or burgers and I noticed people had brought picnics (there were outdoor heaters everywhere) but we wanted a sit down.

 

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That evening we went to a Chinese Restaurant called H Table. It has only been open a few months. The place is below street level on Gyldenlovesgade which was just round the corner on Hans Christian Anderson. It’s not suitable for disabled. The decor is white, simple and tasteful. The sticky dumplings are gorgeous, the crispy shredded beef is really to die for! We enjoyed our meal and it was quiet and about the same price as our lunch that day — but better value for money! They have only one dessert — toffee bananas. We were too full anyway but that is something they could rectify. However if you are in Copenhagen — go there! I’d definitely eat there again.

We were beginning to find our way round (on foot), learning to dodge the bikes and traffic. It’s a very safe city to walk around. And next day… Well I’ll get to next day in Chapt 2.

The Dead • Hallowe’en to Remembrance


My menu is (as ever) Liver au Poivre:

Ox liver (can use other liver if you like) encrusted with 2tsps crushed black peppercorns, flour and salt, quickly sealed in a hot pan, added to (up to) half a pint of preheated red wine (decent wine mind!) with a bay leaf, Fry an onion and some garlic in the same pan and add. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve with crusty bread or soft buttery mash.

followed by (Kathleen Ferrier’s favourite) Apple tart.

For your reading enjoyment from Editor Kate Garrett:
Three Drops from a Cauldron

followed by

In between is Bonfire Night, celebrated in England, Scotland and Wales — but not in Ireland, North or South so it never was a celebration in my childhood, which may be why I love Hallowe’en.

Guido Fawkes was a Spanish mercenary and explosives expert who, had he succeeded, would have been responsible for the biggest man made explosion of his time. He didn’t hatch the Gunpowder Plot. England was full of “nobles” who wanted the King dead (the Northumberland Percys among them) and they hired him to do the job. But Guido became the fall ‘guy’ and was mercilessly tortured and eventually put to death, having revealed nothing and betrayed no one.

And whilst one would like to think that spies and plots and torture are part of history, the evidence is clear that power is still a big game and brutality is still part of it and some people will do anything for money. I wonder sometimes if we will ever move on?

I regard Guy Fawkes as a spurious and somewhat dangerous celebration. This year I hope no child or animal will be injured or maimed as a result. Know where they are. Keep them safe.

Well it’s also my husband’s birthday and so we are going celebrate that.

 

The Sorrow

This is a very special issue of The Linnet’s Wings which we hope you will like so much online that you’ll want a print copy for yourself or a friend. It’s a real souvenir issue with poems from so many WW1 poets some of whom you will not have heard of before and many contemporary poets and Friends of The Linnets Wings.

We will remember them!


The War Graves St Mary’s Morpeth

October • Darkness descends and other bright thoughts

Darkness descends and I don’t mind. It’s true I dislike the depths of Winter but I love the cosy-cuddlesomeness of Autumn evenings and stews and casseroles and deep red wine, and deep red trees, the misty, hearty porridge mornings, the slanting gold of it all.

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I have so enjoyed choosing the contemporary poems for our special LINNET’S WINGS — The Sorrow. This is a memorial issue and it’s a thing of beauty. Please BUY one.

Treat yourself or a loved one to a print copy this time. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Marie Fitzpatrick really is a bit of a genius when it comes to design and the quality of the writing in this issue is outstanding. There are WW1 poets in there too for your enjoyment — some you will know well and some you’ll never have heard of (perhaps because they fought on the other side). Bill West has written a piece about Wilfred Owen and I, one about Siegfried Sassoon.

I am reading for Christmas.

I have been in Writing for a Woman’s Voice a lot recently

Your Debit Card with Contactless and To Tommy Thompson are close together on the site. Also:

Water Sculptor

Owl Tales Never Told 

No Stone Unturned 

Of Equinoxes 

Beyond the Rim

Liberation

and there are a few more to come

In Bewildering Stories there’s The Box and God is not ‘God’

I do trust you will enjoy reading all the work. We need poetry to brighten the dark recesses of life and penetrate the sometimes relentless despair of the modern world — at least I do. And we need art and music and laughter and not to give in. As long as the creative spirit is alive, and as long as there are trees, there is hope.

September • Meeting James Graham

Those who know me well will know that I don’t like being away from home and therefore when I go somewhere it is usually for a reason. This week we went to Knaresborough in Yorkshire for a very good reason — to meet a very special person.

Dr James Graham has been poetry expert on Writewords since it began, and I do not use the term ‘expert’ lightly. James has commented on literally thousands of poems over the years. He always comments several times on each poem.  He sticks with it. He helps all who come to learn at Writewords to become the best poet they can be and he does it with patience, care, compassion, erudition and enthusiasm, and many, many of us owe him a debt of love and gratitude that can never be paid. He has been first (and sometimes the only person) to see almost everything I have written in the past 12 years.

So when James suggested we meet up with him on his way down to Yorkshire from Ayrshire, Noel and I decided to drive down and join him in Knaresborough. Conversation drifted through a lovely dinner, then great breakfast at The Dower House — good hotel by the way), on to lunch at The Mitre, steak and ale pie!!!

wandering through thewonderful RHS Garden, Harlow Carr

Of course we had to stop in at Betty’s where they have their own tea and coffee blends, a cookery school, and cakes to die for!

And back for dinner again at the hotel. What didn’t we talk about? And yes we had breakfast with James before we left and could have gone on talking. In fact I hope we will! It was just — au revoir for now.

When we left him, James was off to another garden. He told me he hadn’t had enough trees yet.

James is author of “Clairvoyance” and “Becoming a Tree”. Brilliant poems. You should buy these!

There you see… It’s always worth leaving home to spend time a great friend you’ve never met! Thanks James. See you soon we hope x

 

 

August • Feeling a bit Vintage


I (teacher on right) remember way back in 1978 (it was my first job) getting a lift back from Ely to Canton (Cardiff) in one of these Robin Reliant cars (below). The body is fiberglass so doesn’t rust. It has one wheel at the front and Lilian (teacher on left) who was one of the older members of staff (though a lot younger than I am now) only needed a motorbike license to drive it. It was a perfect little city get-around, the Robin. We saw this one in Wallington (1st August) and it was taking everyone’s eye. What a gem! Made me feel a bit vintage myself…

We celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary at home this weekend. Moussaka, champagne, nothing too racy, more Robin Reliant than Ferrari — but that’s us. It’s quite a thing to be together all those years — and still be speaking.

In August the entire vibe of life changes. Children are off school. There tends to be renovations going on. Out in the countryside you’re liable to meet combine harvesters, tractors and balers or hay loads on the narrow Nothumberland roads, and that certainly gives you pause. It’s working countryside. The earth begins to get that peppery scent. This year the recent rain is very welcome and the cool air, and I am looking forward to things chilling a bit. I love the maturity of this time of year and the other day on our walk, I could smell everything (sadly, I have polyps) but that day I smelt every single smell in the whole of Wallington west wood. In fact I was a total embarrassment. I kept saying… Oh do you smell that?! I didn’t even mind if it was an unpleasant scent. I felt more alive than I have for a long time. Wrote a poem… Not finished it yet…but I will.

I am also excited because I am going to get two of Walter Jack Savage’s paintings that I wrote for and had published in Postcard Poems and Prose. I love Jack’s work and so, although I was sad to hear he wasn’t painting any more, I’m delighted I’ll have these to keep. I chose: Time in Mexico and Western Town both of which you can check out HERE

Speaking of which a couple of things you can buy now:

The Linnet’s Wings Summer Issue ‘Blackbird Dock’ is available now on Amazon or to read online but I promise it’s worth buying! Click the title.

Be Not Afraid An Anthology for Seamus Heaney is also now available from Lapwing Press and there are lots of great poems in there, all in honour of a wonderful poet.

And I have a poem coming up this week in Bewildering Stories which has taken me years to write! It is called The Best Bird and anyone who has read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance will appreciate what I’m saying there. Also anyone who has seen The Birdcage will appreciate the joke in the first stanza. Hope you enjoy it.

I am going to be busy in the next few weeks choosing poems for TLWs WW1 centenary issue and writing a suitable editorial. We already have some good ones but if you want to submit something stunning, go ahead. I am ready to be impressed. The window is closing though so get a jig-along.

Right, so I am off to drink some bubbly and demolish some homemade nosh. Cheers.