Old love


Street light slanted through the half pulled curtain.

She took my hand and put it to her breast.

“It’s you I want..” she smiled, ” As for the rest..”


That she should need me then…to be so certain..


Yes. I have memories which sting me yet

even as they console – the way she purred

against my neck when we were done…no word seems apt..

so long ago…I can’t forget..

The sound of sadness


I was thirteen when I first heard the blues. It was in a rehearsal room – one autumn evening – and we ‘d just finished a run through of the play. I was getting my things together when another cast member started playing “ Basin Street Blues” on the old piano. I was hooked straight away – that slow, bitter-sweet tune coming out of the shadows went straight to my heart.

It stayed there over the years . I got to know them all – Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Muddy Waters – but two of them became my special heroes – John Lee Hooker and BB King. John Lee was very courtly, polite, controlled. He played a blues which was minimalist, oriental and intriguing.

BB, on the other hand, was expansive ( in every sense of the word). He came up the hard way, starting life as a farm hand and tractor driver, got his first guitar when he was 15 and learned to play by playing, and listening to his mentor Bukka White. He worked for local, then national radio, got a band together and played non-stop for the rest of his career. In one year he took only five days off.

His music is rich and smooth- think velvet smoking jacket, log fires, tumbler of whisky – and yet there’s a lot more to him than that. He’s got depth. Just look at tracks like “ The Thrill is Gone”, where he sounds like a soul in torment.

But one track stands above all the others – “ The Blues Come Over Me “ – it tells the whole story. Just look at the lyric :

“My baby gives me love
I just leave her crying”

He’s talking about an overwhelming sadness which comes unsought. There may be no reason for it – it just appears. He is inconsolable. We know this. We’ve been there.

“Some go to sleep and wake up
Tangled in the blues “

Isn’t that a brilliant choice of words ?

You get the blues and it’s as though a cloud is covering the sun, and while it’s there

“All the clocks say midnight
when the blues come over me.”

That’s what it feels like, and the only thing you can do is remember that it has happened before, that it will go away in time, like a cloud across the sun.

Don’t think that BB was a blues Mr Misery. He played some solid, upbeat rockers like “ Ridin‘ with the King “ and “ Hold On” He loved,eye popping waistcoats, and tuna sandwiches. He was fun.

But he was best at giving a sound to sadness, reminding us that every song, however sad,
comes to silence in the end.

Thanks BB.


How to eat cherries

Depressed penguins make recovery



Lost Child

I still think of her, my nearly daughter,

who got things wrong way round

and died before she lived.

Clare Elisabeth. Sometimes I see her

in my dream.Always the same.

A busy street. She’s standing on the kerb
waiting to cross.
In her late thirties now
with thick ,dark hair,her mother’s eyes.

A clever woman, happy in her skin.

The road is full of cars.

She glances left and right

then looks across at me, bemused,

as though she couldn’t quite recall
 my name,
or where we’d met.

I raise my arm to wave, but then

a big black truck comes to a stop

between us. When I can look again

she’s gone.

Train times


I’ve been doing a lot of travelling over the last week or two- once up to Scotland, and another trip down to Oxford- so I’ve spent hours on the train. No matter how many phones, tablets, books I take with me, I always end up just looking out of the window. It’s a privileged position- you get tiny glimpses of the way other people live- a split second of their existence is played out in front of you before the train moves on.

You also get an overview of the country. On the way up the east coast, the railway line follows the shore for miles on end. You look down on beaches, old fishing boats, tiny villages. Going down to Oxford, you move from the gloomy nuclear bunker which is Birmingham New Street to the genteel lanes of Leamington Spa and the dreaming spires ( yes- they do look as though they’re dreaming) of Oxford.

So I wrote a few notes and glued them together into some sort of a poem. It doesn’t particularly have a message, perhaps the tone is rather said, because both journeys had sadness at their core. It’s a bag of impressions, which I may keep…or maybe I’ll recycle them. Here it is. As ever, do tell me what you think.

Train Times


Idling past lock-ups and kebab joints,
corner shops and massage parlours, bright
with neon and graffiti-
“You’re dead Lorenzo”
A passing dog
pauses, lifts his leg to pee
against a post-
I blink-
Bright lego colours on a Twenties terrace-
suburban semis, all with fitted lawns
and baby Volvos
parked in every driveway.


A green river streaming
past the window-
branches, fence posts, hedges, hoardings
caught in the current and carried away.

A sky line waving like a banner,
tugging folds and wrinkles straight,
stretching the fields canvas-tight
for the paint speck sheep.


A bight out of the land, a crescent shore
of splintered shale and rocks
gnawed by the breakers, rank on rank,
and in a scratched out garden by the beach
a blaze of sunflowers.

Late summer


Like a guest
reluctant to depart
the summer lingers.
Trees cling
to their brassy leaves.
Grass, overgrown,
is rank and sour.
Heavy, lethargic, dull.
we wait
for scouring gales
to strip the trees to skeletons,
remember enviously
the smell of burning leaves,
the creak of snow under foot,
the luxury of shivering.