A Sonnet in my Bonnet

Here´s one that bothered me earlier…

Schooled families are all alike, but each

homeschooled is different in its own way

Some live on boats beyond the river´s reach

others in houses camouflaged in clay:

We merge with you about our daily business

You wouldn’t recognise us in the street

Except that Children Running Wild are witness

and “Not in School today?” is how we greet.

Beware: this is a secret ripe for spilling

that anyone can do this: it’s the law

You don’t need their permission – just be willing

to quote the act of 1944

that dream of school for all to realise

– but for two pregnant words:  Or Otherwise.

Don´t say you don´t…

…get value for money on this blog. Yes, another poem! This one is a poetic version of the short story I posted earlier, Spiral Stair.

Spiral Stair

Pink bedclothes, flowered wallpaper oppress

I long for poverty, turn to the view;

He, showered, says “Cathedral”, goes to dress

Down on the street, the word acts as our cue:

“Dimly lit” – words flicker, and go dark

I search for messages among the dead:

Nothing. My need grows sharper; calling Mark

“I have to climb the tower; clear my head”.

This spiral stair like hell goes on forever

the spine of some rough beast our steps will waken

I, Sisyphus, still hoping to be clever

but finding every thought already taken:

at last, a burst of light: the parapet

I lean and gaze: I’ll cheat this karma yet.

Here´s today´s popem

No, that´s not a typo. Today the Pope enlightened the world and gave comfort to millions by stating that homosexuality is “as great a threat to the planet” as the destruction of the rain forest. (sorry, can´t find a link at the moment but will post one when I do – this was quoted on the “Today” programme on BBC Radio 4)

Clearly he is not talking about planet earth.

Anyway, here’s today’s poem, a response to that.

Fifty not out

“he plays cricket for the other team

– if you know what I mean”

he said with a wink

as he put down my drink

I tried

to hide



The Pope

kills our hope

– keep running, keep moving

while the bowler waits

the fielder chases

and the Umpire gives his blessing

(two fingers across)

run up and down




don’t be caught


Desert Songs

Feeling very low, as befits the time of year. These poems say it all:

Now back from a quarter’s psychosis

I’m seeing a gloomy prognosis

On the year’s shortest day

I nocturnally pray:

Convert in the dark by osmosis


According to a poem by John Donne, the shortest day is called “St Lucy’s Day”.



Appears to be a depth in me

That no-one else can hear or see

I cry and cry, but no reply

The sun beyond the desert sky


Confronting this rift in my soul

Don’t know what it is to be whole

Torn in three directions

I’m patchworked in sections

This coat, multi-coloured, this stole



Engaging the whole of my brain

It’s a wonder the vessels don’t sprain

the viscera quivering

pen in hand shivering

trying to make one human stain

Engagement her is to be thought of on the French sense. The “human stain” is a reference to a novel by Philip Roth


which does not, however, have much to do with the poem.

Going to do a solstice ceremony later.

Here’s today’s poem

(this is not finished yet)

I Don’t Know, I’ve Never Kippled

(to my son)

It’s good to be a man, my son, but better

to realise what it is that you are not

I hope you’ll realise, having read this letter

that genius engenders tons of rot:

Ars longa, vita brevis? Don’t be daft –

It doesn’t hold a candle as a rule;

No genius without penis? How we laughed!

These guys know nothing – send them back to school!

When you can make a shopping list with one hand

and type your magnum opus with the other

Nor think youself embarrassingly unmanned

to imitate the actions of a mother

If you can change a diarrhoeic nappy

and turn to put that nappy in the bin

and turn again to find your baby crappy

and clean it up, and never lose your grin:

If toddler no: 1 is screaming murder

as you get toddler no: 2 to sleep

If you’re not thinking that your life is purdah

If thoughts of drinking beer don’t make you weep:

If you sit down a sec, put on some Dylan

and in that second, lo! the baby wakes

and you can smile and still not prove a villain

You’ll have an inkling of what it takes:

If poems wake you up at 3 am

and, scrabbling blearily for pen and pad

you poke the baby’s eyes instead of them

and still the thought of children makes you glad:

If you can be content to be a man

And say of us, “ma semblable, ma soeur

you’ll come to understand your nature’s span

How small the difference between him and her:

Not to define yourself is very freeing

– and, what is more, you’ll be a human being.

This is of course a parody of the well-known poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling.


There are aspects of Kipling I deplore, and most of them seem to be exhibited in this poem, hence the parody. When writing the poem I became aware of wanting to present my son with a positive way of being a man, and not being quite sure how to do this. Any thoughts?

PS The title is an answer to the question, “do you like Kipling?”

PPS Not 100% sure about the word “diarrhoeic”, though if it exists, I’m sure at least I’ve spelt it correctly.

Chalet today

It was dull and misty and I ran out of gas.  Found it hard to concentrate.  Have to be careful up there in case I slip back into psychosis.

One of the problems I have at the moment is translating life into fiction.  I can write about people I know – or have known – with no problem, but I can’t make them into fictional characters.  There’;s a block there.

Terrible headache this morning at around 3 am.  I think it was the creative juices threatening to take me over and me trying to stop them.  I want it to happen but it’s very scary.

Got some coal today so we can have a real fire!


Here´s today´s poem – a Herculean task!


How do I moan about thee? Count the ways:

I moan about the dishes in the sink

The turmeric that sticks around for days

Tainting with jaundice everything I think

About the tide of clutter I complain

It rises to my gorge like global warming

The landfill of our house like endless rain

congeals, then freezes, like an ice-age forming:

Recycle? Yes – but that’s the iceberg’s tip,

It’s that which is below it makes me shiver;

It’s inconcievable to get a grip;

This Herculean task requires a river –

I give it up; I turn to you in bed –

Embrace me; let me moan with thee instead.

This is of course about the Herculean task of clearing the Augean stables (pronounced “Orgy-an”, hence there is an implied pun in the sexual reference at the end. It is also a moan about the endless problem of clutter in our house, which is just about the only real bone of contention between Mark and me. Oh, except for margarine. But that’s another story. Read the full account here (of Hercules, not Mark!) Although….

www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/stables.html – 6k –


You might also like to know that the line “About the tide of clutter I complain” is a reference to Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” (theme: F**k me now, time’s running out) and to the lines:

Thou by the Indian Ganges side

Should’st rubies find: I by the tide

of Humber should complain

Read it here:


Today, and today, and today…

Yestrday started to mind-map some ideas for a novel based in Hounslow, where I grew up, Thinking about characters and how they interact; setting (church, outer London, dominated by the airport from where we never took a plane). In fact, I think I’ve only ever once flown from Heathrow, so that makes it a little bit, though only a little, like Helen Forrester’s “Twopence to Cross the Mersey”.

www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/f/helenforrester/twopence-to-cross-mersey.htm – 26k –

I quite like her books – though intellectually unchallenging, her writing has a clarity and lack of pretension that many others in a similar genre lack – probably because she knows whereof she speaks. I am a little dubious about the idea of doing research on a subject (unless it’s really historical) and then writing a novel about it. I feel completely brain-dead at the thought of doing research.

Anyway, I was thinking this morning as I usually do, about what kind of writer I am and deciding that all I can do is follow my voice. I can’t pretend to be what I am not, even if I am unsuccessful as a result. Still I think my time will come. It seems to me like that moment in “Minority Report” where he is being pursued by police; and the precog (who as the name suggests, sees the future) tells him to stand still and wait, while every fibre of his being is straining to run. She holds him and repeats with increasing urgency: “Wait. Wait. Wait: wait: wait! Wait”. At the moment the police arrive on the balustrade a choreography of umbrellas hides them completely, something only she could have known.

If you haven’t seen “Minority Report”, do so immediately. It is an excellent film.

Here’s today’s poem, a reworking of a previous one.


My twins fight

like dog and cat

I cannot write

this ship of state

What this state meant

we aren’t agreed


our Special Need:

demented, I

am torn apart

twin tub, this boat

washes my heart.

Fourth Law of Thermodynamics…

Mrk said this:

– What I don’t understand is, when you get up in the night, it doesnt’ feel so cold, but in the morning, it’s much colder.

– Mm, I said, maybe it’s the fourth law of thermodynamics.

CP Snow said this: that many scientists may indeed be ignorant of literature, but ask any artist to give you the first law of thermodynamics; they can’t – and this, he says, is the scientific equivalent of asking “have you read a book?”

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._P._Snow – 37k

He’s right. Until I lived with Mark, I had no idea what the laws of thermodynamics were. I have only a vague idea now. I think the first one says something like:

“whatever temperature a thing is at, that’s how hot it is.”

and the second one:

“Heat will always go from a hot thing to a cooler thing”

– but I can’t remember the third one. I never remember the third one.

There’s a good explanation here.

http://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae280.cfm – 25k

Incidentally, we all know that Heat Rises, but do we know why? Let’s ask Mark. Too late – he’s huddled back under the covers and can’t be reached until later, when the temperature rises. Say, around noon.

In Madrid.

Incidentally, the last winter I ever spent in Madrid was exceptionally mild. The temperature rose to 16 degrees centigrade every day.

What does thermodynamics have to say about that, eh?

Here’s today’s poem


I write, yet what I write, none reads or scans

My daily blogs fall lifeless to the floor:

My motto is ironic: triumpans

in gold upon a locked and bolted door;

Like Sisyphus I heave my heart upstairs

but keep my mouth shut tight against the wind

After long hours’ dictation lie like prayers

or birds, the pages waiting to be binned:

Ars longa, vita what? How does this rule

measure me up? What do I make of me?

By living longer must I seem a fool?

Where is the blueprint that I’m supposed to be?

Look there: against the West the sun is rising

We will run backwards yet – and end surprising.

A bit self-consciously literary, I thought – yet it started me off today, when I couldn’t think of a word to write. It is an homage to John Clare’s poem


I wrote a parody of this, which began

I write, yet what I write, none reads or scours

For my friends’ sake I suffer memory loss…

A bit contrived, but fun all the same.

Pip Pip!

(If you’re looking for the “letters to Leonard”, I’ve taken them off. Far too embarrassing, now that I’ve come back down to earth.)