Shortest day of the year

The shortest day of the year – grey, damp and forgettable. Digby the dog and I are standing, looking out across the lake. It’s shaped like a kidney bean, half a mile or so round, and fringed with trees and bushes, with a stretch of rough woodland along one side. And it is entirely artificial, created as an open space when all the surrounding houses were built in the seventies and eighties. Except today the lake has gone. Usually you can look out and see the geese and the magpies and the line of trees across the far end. But this morning there is nothing – just a blanket of soft mist covering the water. We set off on our usual circuit, the world on our left and the gently shifting emptiness on our right. The mist is moving, coiling, reaching out towards the bank, then curling away, like water starting to boil. For a moment it draws back and I see a fleet of Canada geese, silent, still, like a fleet of Nelsonian men o’war at anchor.

The mist is gathering together – a muffled drumbeat getting louder and faster as I listen. A swan bursts. out of the mist, white wings wiffling through the air, webs plashing the water, lifting into the swirling mist and out of sight.

Thanks. and Christmas wishes  to all those who have followed me over the last year.

If you’re looking for a New Year Present for someone…or even yourself…look no further…”Quantum Theory for cats is available ” here:



Is the pen mightier than the Internet ?

I saw a worrying piece of news last week. It said that fewer and fewer children are being taught to write. I’m not talking about novels or student theses at the age of five . I mean the ability to write your own name. With a pen.

I suppose it’s inevitable. Keyboard skills have taken over from learning how to write an attractive cursive. And how often do you write more than your name ? We no longer sign cheques- because no-one has a cheque book any more. We don’t write letters to each other now that we have email and Twitter and all the other facilitating gizmos. Communication has never been so easy. Or so facile. Writing – I mean real sentences and paragraphs – is being overtaken by abbreviations, and – God Help Us All and Oscar Wilde – with emojis ( am I spelling that properly ? And if I’m not, does it matter ? )

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not an old Luddite, complaining about The Good Old Days. I have lived through the entire digital revolution. When I was six I learned to write with a fountain pen ( A little blue Conway Stuart) I hand wrote all my schoolwork until I was fourteen, when my dad bought me a portable Olivetti typewriter. My wife bought me an electric typewriter and then I bought an Amstrad Word Processor ( notice the change of name. A typewriter WRITES words with TYPE. A WORD PROCESSOR turns words into an electronic soup and spits them out onto the paper.) It had a memory of 72k. A budgerigar has more brain power than that.

And then I was seduced by the magic that is Apple. I bought a Mac Classic. It had (for the time) an elephantine memory.) You could include artwork. It was a miracle. In the end I bought the first of the mid-range Macs – and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I kept the Classic for years. It made a wonderful doorstop

. I’m not complaining. I accept that the world is spinning faster every moment. I am dazzled by the speed and colour of a digital world – what. other world can there be now ?

And yet… and yet… I like writing with a pen. A fountain pen. Or rather far more fountain pens than I should decently have. I know it sounds silly, but I love watching the ink line stream from the nib across the paper. Thought turned directly into action. And what about love letters ? How many people keep them, I wonder, tied with a piece of faded ribbon. They are a reminder, a piece of the past which has survived to the present. Do people write love emails? Or love Short Messages ? Or Love emojis ? And is they do, where do they keep them ? Hidden somewhere in The Cloud, wrapped up in a bunch of passwords ?

Quantum Theory for Cats1; Launch

” Quantum Theory for Cats” was launched at York Waterstones on Friday. I was a bit apprehensive, not having been launched before, but it was great fun. I did a turn ( an intro  and then half a dozen poems,) then Jamie and I did a general chat, followed by questions. The audience. were lovely, we had a great time – and there were BISCUITS too. My son Alasdair kindly provided us with promotional biscuits – see below

If you want to buy the book – sorry, we can’t include the bickies- all eaten

You can do so here

If you really really want the bickies- you can do do here by clicking here:


Thanks to Alasdair and Marguerite, Mutherfudger, Waterstones staff, and Valley Press