Lighting the fire


Each morning I’d get up and make the fire-
a pocket-money job- and yet
one I enjoyed.

The house was still and cold.
A thin, insipid light seeped through the blinds.
I riddled last night’s embers , watched the ash
float down in feathers to the tray below.
That would go out later.

Time to build.

A cube of firelighter, waxy, white
as compressed snow,then scrumpled newspaper
and kindling twigs to give a solid base.
I’d take some shiney nuts of coal and place
them gingerly on the makeshift pyre.

Then light a match.

Six decades later I can hear the hiss
and bubble of the twigs, the crackling coal,
see flames, like flowers bursting into bloom,
as crocus light spills out into the room.

Blog roll heroes

Do you ever check out other people’s blogroll ? I know you should – it’s an opportunity to find out new writing, make new contacts- but I must admit I don’t do it often enough.
So I thought I would trumpet my own personal blogroll heroes, tucked away at the bottom of the page.

So step forward:

1.Alasdair Stuart at

He is your one-stop-shop for everything to do with popular culture. He’s strongest on film, but he covers graphic novels, music, gaming -anything that’s new and exciting. A word about his film reviews- they’re interesting, gripping, even. He doesn’t tread the well worn path of telling the story, ruining the ending and commenting on the heroine’s hair style. He gives you the background to the piece, dissects each element of the film and then puts it back together. He engages you. It is superb writing and he does it week after week.

He has has a doppelganger. No- honestly, he does- one Al Dente. You might think someone with a name like that was some kind of Chicago mobster, but no- Al cooks things- he is a kind of cook-philosopher.His commentary is laced with wry humour, running gags and punctuated with easy-to-follow photographs. Read him and if you like him, read his book available here:

2.Maggie Mendus at

Maggie is one of those awesome ( awesome as in “provoking awe” not “quite good really”) people who produces lots of poetry, and virtually all of it is brilliant. , Any poem I write takes at least a week to inscribe onto the page, but Maggie bangs out haiku, longer, more reflective pieces, each one technically perfect, each one with some kind of kick at the end to surprise you.Maggie deals with epilepsy; she uses her poetry as a weapon and believe me, epilepsy is taking one hell of a beating at the moment. Read her.

3. V.C Linde at

VC is a British poet enthralled by the relationship between poetry and pictures. She wrote a 400 line poem which could be split up into self-contained sections. Each section was put on a postcard and sent out to anyone interested, on the condition that they sent a photo of themselves + postcard back- a bit like scattering sycamore seeds into the wind. Her site is clever, challenging and beautiful to look at.Look at her lovely site.


This is a mother and daughter collective ( I think) and they deal with day to day life and the difficulty of fitting writing into a busy day. They’re wide ranging, friendly and always interesting. Reading The Brass Rag feels a bit like catching up with friends over a cup of coffee. When you’ve read ” The Brass Rag” you will feel happier. I promise.

There you are. These are the blogs I go to first, and they have never disappointed me yet. Try them for yourselves.

Just suppose that you were servant to……Macbeth…


He will be dead soon
because there is nothing left to live for.
His wife is dead. She hanged herself,
death being preferable to a life
spent facing down his cowardice,
his childish terrors.

He will be dead soon
because of the many friends he killed.
And when the killing slowly shifted
into tedium,I killed for him.

He will be dead soon
because he welcomed in the dark-
those crazy women, that endless line
of ghouls. They hollowed out his soul
as a boy might suck the jelly from an egg
and spit it out.

He will be dead soon
because the castle is surrounded,
because he is alone,
because I have unlocked the west gate,
because I hear them coming up the stairs…

Ophelia–A poem by Susan Daniels and KB

Really clever, thoughtful. A wonderful piece of work.

Susan Daniels Poetry


He sent me to a nunnery, either convent or whorehouse
Did not matter, as long as it was away, the great Elizabethan
F— off for a tormented soul’s manic pixie dream girl.
There was nowhere I could end up but drowned in flowers
And strewing herbs, the taste of rue in my mouth
While men argue over who loved me best, not one
Stopped pursuing ghosts to save me from tree climbing
And rambled hummings of virginity and death.

The problem with Shakespeare’s women is we love men
Who mistake sleep for death, daggers in our chest
For a final cold union, or washing our hands of blood
That will always stain. Or agree the sun
Is the moon in perfect obedience, or puppeteered
Near the solstice by Oberon and Titania. Either way
We are damned, doomed marionettes; none of us daring
To snap the string but me, in…

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Dumped by Romeo


Have you ever wondered what happened to the middle ranking characters in Shakespeare plays ? If it’s a comedy, the principal characters get married- Beatrice and Benedick, for example. And if it’s a tragedy, they die- Hamlet in a duel, Macbeth in a brawl, Lear of shock and old age.

But what about the characters left behind. What kind of a marriage do Sir Toby Belch and Maria have ? What happens to Seyton ( or is it Satan ?) Macbeth’s sinister bodyguard ? Does Horatio just go back to being a university don after the death of his friend ?

I’ve been thinking about Rosaline, the girl Romeo is passionately devoted to- at least until he meets Juliet. What happened to her ? And just suppose Romeo didn’t die of poison after all and….just suppose it all happened in the 21st Century…just suppose….

Have a look at this poem and let me know what you think….


We’re very comfortable- he’s a lawyer,
a specialist in conflict resolution. Senior partner
at Montague and Capulet. The old man died
ten years ago but still he kept the name.
I wish he wasn’t so fastidious.

At first we thought of moving from Verona
but we were brought up here-
childhood sweet hearts you might almost say.

I find that I still hate her, which is strange
for thirty years have gone and I’m not prone to hate.
A leggy girl with eyes like bright jade chips
and hair- I envied her the hair- a cloud
of red gold sparks where mine was merely black.

She grabbed love from him like a greedy child
while I held back, not daring to believe
that everything he said, he meant.

That business at the tomb- the poison bottle-
I shudder when I think of it.
That first night in the hospital. His skin
corpse cold. And later the long months
of therapy at that clinic in the Alps.

Then he was good as new- almost.
We married- it was a kind of reflex action.
No talk of love-it was an understanding-
something altogether more reliable.

He’s gentle and considerate-. Separate bedrooms.
That side of things was always a formality.
He sees his Roman mistress once a month
and I pretend a placid ignorance.

In thirty years we’ve only argued once-
in the clinic after I’d given birth
to our only child- a daughter.
Weeping, he begged to call her Juliet
but I refused. She has my mother’s name.

He drives into the office every morning
the house is left to me- it’s my domain.
A cook and gardener see to all my needs.
We have a small apartment in Geneva
and fly off to the Maldives every summer.

By the way, Susan Daniels has written a cracking Ophelia poem. Punchy, economical, it brings Ophelia into the present day. You can find it here:

Strange how potent cheap music is

Sometimes I think there’s too much music about. It’s too accessible, too cheap. Before recording, music was something special, a treat. You only had music at church, or on high days and holidays. Music was rare and live.

Nowadays people walk the streets, each one plugged into his/her own soundtrack- a bit dangerous if you’re on a bike, I would have thought. Nowadays music is cheap and canned. You can buy it at 69p a tune from iTunes, or £4.99 if you want to buy a cheap album. And that way you can keep the silence away. You don’t have to deal with the quiet. It’s not music you’re listening to on your headphones, it’s grey noise.

No. I’m talking about real music. It doesn’t have to be classical- but sometimes it is. It’s the music which reaches down into your very soul and twists your guts around and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. And sometimes you don’t even know why.It’s so private, so precious, that you don’t listen to it very often in case it loses its magic.

This music ( there’s not much of it- maybe half a dozen tracks- ten at the most) marks out your life up to this point. It’s a line of milestones reaching back to your childhood.

I’ll tell you about some of mine. Does that sound brash ? Loud mouthed ? Insensitive ? I don’t think so. You see, I can sit here at the computer and write about it, but if I were to actually play some of these, then I wouldn’t be able to type a word.

Here we go.


Vaughan Williams -Variations on a theme by Thomas Tallis

It is England. Simple as that. Broad cello lines that speak of a hills and drystone walls But more than that- it has immense strength and sadness- both at the same time. Something has gone, certainly, but is still there, hidden. And somehow the music brings all this to the fore.


Satisfaction- the Stones

I watched Glastonbury the other week, and the highpoint was seeing Keef ( wrinkled, pot bellied) one foot on a step, firing off the DumDum dudumdum dedumdum riff that brought me back to the sixties. It’s visceral- it grabs you by the throat. I was at college at the time and it became a kind of anthem for us. We even wrote an ironic lyric to it “ We’re the latest big sensation/ Get our share of adulation/ but the words are a bore/ they’ve been done, done before/ we get too much (Dudumdum dedumdum ) adulation…” and so on.


Here, there and everywhere- the Beatles

You’d think that, as a child of that time, that my life would be full of Beatle tunes. I listened to them a lot at the time. But only one remains. It’s a very clear memory. It’s a summer fair at the university, and I’m standing on some steps, looking down at the crowd below. I hear the line “ Changinging my life with a wave of her hand”- and at that moment an incredibly beautiful girl walks by and waves. It’s just that. As a matter of fact, she was far too beautiful for me to ask out, but she’s still a friend, fifty years later.


Waterloo Sunset- The Kinks

It’s an odd little song, and I’m surprised it’s so important to me because it’s about London, and I’m a northern boy. It has a quirky, almost folky tune and it brings up an idyllic picture of a London evening, golden light spilling across the river. There’s a kind of sadness about it too.


The Statues – Jake Thackwray

You won’t have heard of this guy. He was a brilliant guitarist and lyricist with a kind of Noel Coward cleverness. He was very funny indeed. He wrote about how his dog ruined his romance, about the burglar who found asylum in a nunnery ( “ Big Bad Norman, fifteen years on the run) but this one is about two statues- one of a beautiful naked lady, standing in the middle of a lake, and the other of Sir Robert Peel ( “ He was big and gritty and he fought like one obsessed” and it is very, very funny. Every time I listen to it I laugh aloud. But at the end, something wells up inside me and I get all teary…silly isn’t it.

Look out for Jake. He may be dead but his stuff is still available.

There you are then. Five tracks that stir my soul. What are yours ? I’d be interested to find out.

Is anyone there ?


Is anyone there ? I’ve gone dark. Nothing for a week. Zilch. Zero. Nix. Is it something I said ? I put some stuff on StumbleUpon and got six hits. Then nothing.

Is it something to do with the death of Googlereader ?

If you are there- and you are, really. aren’t you ? Tap the table twice.

No better yet….just type ” here” in the comment box of this post.

I miss you….