Monday, 31 October 2011


Cornish poet Roselle Angwin writes beautifully and knowledgeably about Samhain and the Celtic New Year. Tonight I will make my own ritual.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Saturday, 29 October 2011


Today the clocks go back, the season turns - officially. Everything shifts. Already for me, with the decision just made, the ground had given way and set things spinning.

A day of light slanting and flickering on flushed and fragile trees and crunchy, carpeted lawns: Dulwich at its most lovely and gratitude for being here where you can walk from park to woods to park, for the precious open spaces overcrowded London still preserves.

It's all intensified: the earth, the air, their colour and their texture. Even if nothing turns out as I would wish, there will have been these nervous, sated hours.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

In the rain

Whatever the internal weather, the external weather continues to surprise every day, in best British fashion: such a truism, such a cliche, but oh it matters, it does - these splashes of colour on the damp ground, these unexpected curves and patterns...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Seasonal affective disturbance

If all goes to plan, I’ll be leaving my full-time job at the university, where I've worked for ten years, next March. It's a lunge towards a different kind of life, and there's also an undoubted risk that I'll end up destitute and deeply regretful. Whilst I’m sure this was the best decision, it’s been a very hard one to take and continues to feel terrifying.

I could kind-of wish this hadn’t happened in Autumn - not the best time for inner turmoil, perhaps, because there’s always a dimension of anxiety and upheaval in this beautiful, melancholy, doom-laden and inevitable season. I’m reminded of a poet friend, Fatih, who said to me many years ago: “I always feel sad at sunset – it’s because I’m a poet” (yes, incredibly pretentious – we were very young – and also no doubt true; he did feel scared and sad at dusk). And Autumn is one long sunset, the dusk of the year (ahem, did I say pretentious?).

So, now suddenly there is perspective, in the sense that a firm date sits there in my future – less than five months away. And there is much perspective still lacking in the sense of seeing this in a calm and organised context and getting down to the next few months of transition, preparation and planning. This is hard.

It’s hard because navigating change is always stressful, even when it’s change for the better, and additionally stressful this time for me because it’s positive, but risky. I’ve not been good at taking risks – and my achievements in life have been commensurately small. So it’s time, well past time, to take a risk. And I am unpractised, ridiculously so for someone of my advanced years.

So I do, alas, what I am practised at: cut off from my true feelings, which are jubilant-scared-hopeful-scared-liberated-scared-proud of myself-scared-humming with creativity at the mere thought of it-scared… can’t take being scared, so cut them all off at the roots and opt for numb anxiety! Yup, that’s where I am: numb, distracted, floating anxiety. Autumn, then Winter; decision, then change - inevitable, but not thereby any easier to flow with. Yikes.

I wrote this yesterday, wanted to let it sit before posting it, and then today I read Beth’s thoughtful and heart-searching piece about Libya, revolution, minorities, emigration, watching and responding to cataclysmic events from afar, and I read Dave’s generous response, so full of care and flair, to a class of schoolkids who’d read and responded to one of his poems. I felt uncomfortable writing here about myself, as if my own life and feelings were everything. The balance is hard, isn’t it? For each of us as individuals, there are times to go into ourselves and times to put our personal concerns aside. We’re all in this together, self and others aren’t really separate. My exhaustion from work and the struggle of commuting in and out of central London is all about me and my feelings, my own questionable sense of entitlement to something more fulfilling. But it’s also what drains me of energy I might, if my circumstances were different – and maybe will, if I succeed in changing my circumstances – be able to give to creating my own small quotient of beauty and to engaging with the causes I find important.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Patterning the sky

click on photos for best view on black background

Monday, 24 October 2011


For so long, I realise, there has been no perspective, just dealing with now and preparing somehow or other to get up and perform again tomorrow. This is not much of a life, and it's also deeply addictive to the insecure creatures that we are. Needing the familiar, needing to feel held, enclosed: can there be these, and also - even in such scary, brutal times - a view forward? Abstractions are not helpful. Light, stones and stories sometimes are. This is why old and beautiful things, old and beautiful places, aren't a luxury, but necessary to survival.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Tomas Transtromer

"often the shadow feels more real than the body"  
from After a Death
by Tomas Tranströmer

The link above is to a lovely film about the new Nobel laureate from UK publishers Bloodaxe Books - via Dave Bonta's Moving PoemsSuch a beautiful and well-judged film, saved from overwhelmingly emotionality by the poet's words, which are often sad, but always intricate, engaging and attentive.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Thursday, 20 October 2011


In the dying light of a cold, sunny day: in Cambridge yesterday, it was good to be somewhere else - a mental shift as much as physical.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Images from Sunday that suggest a hole in time, another place: reminding myself that there is only here and now and yet in some way also not only this time, this place, the fear and desolation of this chill, flickering Autumn day, this empty ringing in my ears, this flinching and turning away, this mind that wants to be, to be, but not to be this, or thus, or something. Ah, something. Something could, I guess, be a tent pitched next to St Paul's in the City of London financial district. For now, I guess, this elderly person is watching, trying to open my heart and stretch it across the gap between the personal and the collective. Open-heartedness is difficult in a society where sheer survival often feels like it depends on quite the opposite. Action is difficult in a life requiring long hours of physical immobility and extremely restricted thought.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The right light

The austere beauty of Dulwich Picture Gallery is hard to capture in photographs. This past weekend the light was right - the miracle of Soane's design picked out in gold and shadow.

Friday, 14 October 2011


Even the greyest of days...


One of my very few really satisfying attempts to date (and that very few are is fine, of course; what I love is writing them - the moment of presence and observation) at the haiku/micro-poem genre has appeared on tinywords. I'm incredibly pleased and proud of this, as I love the tinywords concept, they attract a lot of submissions and publish some really wonderful stuff.  Dave Bonta did an excellent podcast interview a while back with founder-editor Dylan Tweney, who's been publishing micro-poetry online since 2000: an excitingly appropriate and successful use of the medium.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

And still the watchers on the wall

The sombre resonance of these figures that still look down on the stop where I change buses every week-day morning and evening rarely fails to move me. Without a doubt, James Russell Cant's giant prints are the most powerful public artwork I've come across. Taking photographs of photographs is an odd thing to do, I know. They're irresistible. In times of particularly relentless self-obsession, I guess I appreciate even more than usual the things that regularly pull my attention outwards. I note that when these first appeared nearly eighteen months ago I presumed their welcome presence at the grim Elephant and Castle road junction would be very temporary. How wonderful that this has proved not to be the case. The longer they stay, the more powerful their presence and the more powerfully they embody the opposite of boring, ephemeral or trivialised, the opposite of what is embodied by too much of the London streetscape.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Monday, 10 October 2011

Friday, 7 October 2011

Memories of

In the mid 1980s I went to work for the small, under-resourced, but occasionally extravagant London secretariat of a global political network and my working life began to fill with exotic new people, objects and experiences that were to make the following decade and more both wonderful and nightmarish. One of those exotic new objects, a few months into the job, was an Apple Mac computer. We were early adopters. It was my first computer: a serial love affair that continued for the whole time I worked there, and I miss them still, my morphing parade of appley better halves. I’m long since reconciled to life with a PC, but it’s never been the same – like leaving a land of sweet little purebred stallions for one of shambling but serviceable donkeys. Long before laptops were conceived of, those early Macs –  smooth and chunky and lovable and quickly grubby grey-beige boxes about 9 x 9 x 12 inches – flew with us to conferences in Africa, Latin America and Australia. Many’s the overnight flight I’ve spent with one parked under my feet (cramped uncomfortably in an Economy-class seat, I still find myself thinking: well, at least…). So many feelings and memories: not unmixed, but far from the grateful-but-alienated emotions inspired by the current PC and other techno-tools. I feel rather old, remembering 1985 and my first Mac - a few months older than Steve Jobs, who was too young to die, wasn't he?

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Waiting to hear about something (not life or death, well only metaphorically). There’s nothing more I can do to influence the outcome, and I’ve no idea, really, what the probabilities are. So I need, of course, to just put it out of my mind. Keep active. Stay in the moment. Thought I’d been doing this fairly successfully - I’m not consciously thinking about it much. But clearly my sub(not very sub)conscious is at it the whole time, because I note wearily that I'm eating voraciously (without chewing - another characteristic of rumination), sleeping very little and having nightmares when I do, and I can’t concentrate for shit - not on work (which is less busy, but not much less), but also not on music or fiction or art or escapism of any kind. Oh dear. Well, I can watch my mind, I suppose, and be amazed at its self-defeating capers. And try not to take it out on other people. And be glad that I’ll only have to wait a few weeks.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Ground and form

August and September: where did they go? Juddered past in a miasma of work and worry, and it's hard now to find the edge of it. Instead of groping forward, better to sit still and feel down into the ground, sit still and paint pictures in the foggy air. Form is only contrivance, only stories, but it's everything.

Monday, 3 October 2011