On Not Closing Westcotes Library

As we speak I am waiting for my chocolate biscuits to arrive.  Today I nearly decided that there was a worm-hole in this house where lost things went, since this week I have irretrievably lost a packet of paracetamol and a pair of glasses.  I looked everywhere and didn’t find either, so I was really coming around to some supernatural explanations when I moved some paper and found the glasses.  They were camouflaged by some rather complicated scrambled wiring on the desk-top which involves a pair of speakers, an ipod, a battery-charger and several unidentified lengths of black wire which are quite possibly just sitting there and breeding.  So that put paid to the wormhole theory, although I have yet to find the paracetamol.  Anyone taken them?

Cycled over to Tomatoes this morning; thence into town where Mark bought a little black dress (90% off at Internacionale) and we looked at beds for Daniel.  While at Tomatoes I discussed the lyrics of Carmina Burana with Nina who had recently sung in a performance of it: apparently the words are so filthy that if they were in English it would never be performed.  I guess Latin makes everything sound respectable, if not positively ecclesiastical.

And so home, where my afternoon nap was interrupted by Mark ejaculating that a car was at that very moment backing into our drive (yes, we’ve got a drive!)  Jonathan and Nerissa (for it was they) got out and proceeded to positively visit us for three quarters of an hour or so.

On my way into town I met someone I used to know who charged up to me and said breathlessly, ‘The very person!’

‘Tell on,’ I said.  ‘You interest me strangely.’

She proceeded to relate that the local library on Narborough Rd was under threat of closure and that there would be a meeting on Friday afternoon and could I write a poem?  I could, and I will.  they absolutely can’t close that library: it’s too important to the community.  Children’s groups meet there, as do reading groups, schools’ groups, knit and think groups and all sorts of things.  I’ll spare you the rant that is threatening to burst from my agitated fingers about the impact of the cuts: suffice it to say that I will do what I can to keep the place open.  So that’s a poem this week and a meeting on Friday for starters.

Come down and join us:


The meeting is from 1-3 on Friday afternoon.

I may even make it to Yesim’s tomorrow: I’m going down to the Martyrs in the morning and to a Left Unity People’s Arts Collective meeting in the afternoon where I shall most definitely mention the library.  So I might as well stay in town and go to Yesim’s afterwards.

Kirk out



If you are at all internet-savvy you will have no problem discerning the above acronym.  If, on the other hand, you are not, you may at this very moment be running through possibilities.  What could it be?  The Docklands Light Railway?  Hang on, no… To London by Diesel Railway?  Tired Liberals Drink Rose?  The Lib-Dems Rule? (I don’t think so).  Tired, Love?  Drink Responsibly??

No – it is this; a cruelly but appropriately brief brush-off for a piece of internet writing which the reader was unable to finish.  It stands for ‘Too Long, Didn’t Read’.  Not that anyone has ever posted such a comment at the foot of one of MY blog-posts.  Oh, no!  I always keep mine short and pithy – in fact sometimes I think they’re too short.

Sooo, to that end, a brief report: today I am getting together a selection of poems for the Camden Competition (Camden Poets, patron Andrew Motion) and hoping to send off an autobiographical piece about the garden of the vicarage where I grew up, which is here:


OK now go on, put a TLDR comment at the bottom of this post.  I dare you!

And if you do you will, as you have no doubt spotted, have created a paradox.


Kirk out

O My Poetic Soul!

Yesterday was rather tiring: in the morning I made soup and watched Casualty; then we hoofed it to Elms Rd (rather a long hoof) for the CND Garden Party.  Mark was reluctant to go at first because of the possibility of an ‘Ah, Mark!’ scenario * but I convinced him that things had moved on since the ‘Ah, Mark!’ days and so off we trotted.  I was quite tired and grumpy by the time we got there but revived under the influence of squash (no herbal tea!) cake, wine and folk music.  Jan was there, as were all the CND folk and we got a very moving run-down of how Lucy’s funeral had been the day before.  It sounded perfect – insofar as a funeral can ever be perfect…
There are lots of people I only ever seem to see at the CND garden party, so that I have a rather Proustian view of these people who are always a year older than the last time I saw them.  But then, they’re probably thinking the same about me…
And so to Yesim’s, where a large crowd gathered and I played Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ as well as doing this poem about autumn:
September Sun
There’s something sad about September sun
like love that’s missed its high heroic chance
remembering how wet that summer was…
Kirk out
*he always used to get roped in to help, and was usually greeted with the words ‘Ah, Mark!’

Yes! It’s Lizardyoga’s Weblog’s 5-year Anniversary!

I got a funny little icon at the top-right corner of my page when I logged on this morning.  On examination it turned out to be congratulations from WordPress – because!!! today is the fifth anniversary of the start of this blog!!!

When I began it I had no clear idea of what I would write about – and now that I’ve been writing a daily post for all that time, I still have no clear idea of what Lizardyoga’s Weblog is about – but it’s that not-knowing which has been, for me, the blog’s greatest strength.  I’m sure that, had I limited myself to one field of interest, one topic, one area of research or activity or belief or philosophy – I would have run out of things to say before the week was up.  Most blogs are about something: Home Education or Writing or Politics or Following Someone’s Diet: they are often very personal and have a limited scope.  There’s nothing whatever wrong with this: such blogs often perform a very useful service for the community they involve,  in disseminating information or providing a forum for debate or supporting others in similar situations: but if I followed that approach I knew I would almost instantly run out of ideas.

This blog for me was an extension of what used to be my diary: I have boxes and boxes full of A4 notebooks upstairs containing these diaries, going back to the 1980’s – and the strength of these was for me the ability to write about whatever I wanted: I could fill them with fragments of poems or philosophical discourses or ideas on the state of the EU or reviews of pubs or fragments of dialogue – or anything!  And so it is with this blog: though I tend to plan posts a little more nowadays, I still have the freedom to write about absolutely Anything: whatever happens to be running through my mind as I sip my morning tea and listen to the Today programme, can become the basis of that day’s post.  Of course I put personal stuff on here as well, but I have been able to write on religion and politics, poetry and prose, philosophy and music, home education and much, much more.  I have reviewed books and discussed TV and films; I have analysed poems and delineated characters in a novel; I have dissected the political issues of the day and resurrected Kings of England by proxy as well as discussing where they should be buried.  And much, much more….

Of course, such strength can also be a weakness – and since Lizardyoga’s Weblog can’t be put into any category it has no natural and immediate audience.  It also generates relatively few comments, though I would like to thank those who have taken the time to comment, either here or on Facebook, on what I have written.  But it’s certainly true that if this were a Home Ed blog I’d have a loyal following of Home Educators; if it were a political blog I would have vociferous supporters and equally vociferous detractors; were it a blog purely about writing I’d have a following composed of writers and readers.  Sticking to one theme means that people know what you’re about and become more engaged with what you’re saying.

But there you are: that’s the way I’ve done it, and looking back I don’t think I could have chosen any other way.  This blog has been great for me, particularly in the dark days when I felt I couldn’t write a single word – because at the end of that day I knew that if I’d done nothing else, I would have at least written a blog post.

So if you’ve been with me since the beginning I’d like to say a huge thanks; likewise if you’ve commented then thanks also.  I think Mike – or Spock – as my most regular commentator, deserves a mention; and it would be nice to have more comments so please drop me a line even if it’s only to say you liked the blog.  Or didn’t.  Or you could call me a fat, bourgeois bohemian as one spammer recently did.  Go on – I could do with a laugh…

Happy five-year anniversary to all,

Kirk out

In the Kwim

Apologies for my postlessness yesterday: I just didn’t feel as if I could inflict my mental vacancy and general blithering on you.  But today I am back on song, if you know what I mean.  Which reminds me of KWIM.

‘And what is KWIM?’ I hear you cry.  Well, you will of course be familiar with DWIM.  No?  Oh, all right then – DWIM is a computer command where you just don’t know how to express exactly what you want, so you just input DWIM.  DWIM stands for ‘Do What I Mean’ and purports to tell the computer to do what you meant to tell it to do if only you had the exact language to tell it how to do it in.  I suspect it sounds more useful than it is; most of these things do, in my experience.  Anyway, arising from that was KWIM, a phrase we used between ourselves when one of us – oh, all right then, me – didn’t understand what the hell the other one – ie Mark – was on about.

It didn’t work at all, sadly.

But!  Never mind, for yesterday I sat in the garden!  It was lovely and as I sat in the sun I wrote a poem about inexplicable garments – you know, things like leg-warmers, shrugs and those bizarre things that look like the neck and shoulders of a jumper which are good if you are a spy and have to pretend to be wearing a jumper for some reason..

And as I sat in the garden I saw our neighbours.  These neighbours, like most Polish people I come across, are inexplicable.  They don’t seem to have even the slightest interest in interacting with the host community: when you see them on the street they don’t make eye-contact, and these neighbours, even though I am clearly visible above the garden wall, just carry on talking as if I’m not there.  I find it rude and I quite resent it, especially as it seems some of them have flicked their fag-ends over into our garden.  Their garden is like a giant ash-tray.  Horrid.  On the plus side they are young men who, unlike the last lot of tenants, don’t play loud music at 5 a m.

That house has an interesting history: there was once a medium who lived there.  I’ve written a story about that.  There was something in the Mercury but I can’t find it now.

I went out with Daniel yesterday and took some photos.  He hasn’t put them on the computer yet so I can’t show you.  Here’s a graphic image he did though:

Holly is working today, just filling in for a few hours in the bar.  She’s very pleased to be earning some dosh.

Today I shall be mostly… going to church AGM and taking the pizza I made yesterday.

Kirk out

What the Who?

Some good news yesterday – my poem and short-short piece have finally appeared in What the Dickens? magazine.  I’ve had a leaf through and it looks quite good – some interesting articles, short stories and poems, though of course the highlight comes on pp 35 -36 (look for Sarada Gray, not Liz).  It’s free to read on-line though the print version will cost you.  And here it is:


And that was the high point in an otherwise rather dull day.  I made it down to Yesim’s for about an hour and then came home again: there were icicles hanging off the shop-fronts and the puddles were all frozen.

Yesterday Daniel tidied his room without being nagged (a minor miracle) while I watched ‘Coronation Street goes to Ancient Egypt’.  I think you can go a bit far with this ‘viewer-friendly stuff: I’m all for things being accessible but for this documentary on ordinary Egyptians they found a presenter who would not have been out of place in the Rover’s Return.  She really played up the accent and was rather bizarre-looking to boot.  Where do they find these people?  Or do they have a lab somewhere?

Take a look.  It’s quite an interesting programme once you get past the presenting style:


We now have 4 OD downstairs because Daniel’s reward for room-tidying was to bring his x-box down for a week.  So prepare for comments on channel 4 stuff.

Today will be busy-ish: a friendship group followed by Sainsbury’s order coming and then Drink and Think tonight.  Join us at the Ale Wagon for 8 pm where we will be discussing Political Correctness.

Has it gone mad?

Have I?

Kirk out

The Penguins Are Talking About Me Again

Now, as you guys all know, I’m not against atheism.  I think it’s a perfectly respectable – even logical – point of view in many ways: I also like many aspects of the secularist tradition.  What I don’t like is dogmatic – and what I might call sneering – atheism: the kind of atheism that not only mocks belief, but suggests you have to be an idiot to believe in God.  Viz someone on Facebook the other day who posted a link to Richard Dawkins.  I commented that I don’t like Dawkins because I find him dogmatic and intolerant: she responded that it’s better than believing in ‘invisible sky-wizards’.

So that’s me told… I commented that the phrase ‘invisible sky-wizards’ is kind of loaded and that I would wish for a more tolerant approach to the debate.  Still waiting on a reply…

Penguins are strangely anthropomorphic – I can’t help wondering if they believe in God.  The current BBC series on penguins is quite startlingly brilliant, even by the high standards of BBC nature programmes; they’ve developed some robot cameras which mimic penguins and eggs! so that for the first time we can see what happens inside when they all go into a huddle and talk about me.  (Oh, wait – that’s in rugby.)  They don’t make as much use of these cameras as I’d hoped, but the programmes are utterly fascinating. Go watch.


Some good news yesterday – I’ve had an acceptance from a magazine I sent stuff to a while ago.  When I looked up what it was, I saw I’d sent them a poem and a short story.  I emailed to ask which they were publishing: they said ‘both – they were very good.’  That gave me a boost…

And here’s the magazine – though not the relevant issue yet:


I shall post a longer diatribe on atheism when I’m feeling a bit more together.

Kirk out

Waiting for Tomorrow because there’s no Today…

Actually I’m far from feeling like singing in my heart this morning: a grinding sense of ongoing failure is pinning my soul to the figurative floor.  However, you don’t want to read all about that, so I’ll move on and tell you about yesterday.  It was a fairly busy day for a Sunday: church first, as usual, then home to make soup and watch Casualty (as is tradition).  After lunch we went up to the New Walk Museum to see Daniel’s photo.  I can’t find the photo but here’s a link to the Open 24 exhibition:


It was great seeing his photo in there.  There’s a lot of good work in the exhibition – photos, graphic art, painting and drawing as well as sculpture so it’s well worth seeing.  You can take in the excellent DNA expo as well:


Then home for a quick rest and after dinner I finally made it to Yesim’s where a huge crowd packed in to the tiny cafe to hear music and poetry ably mixed by Jan.  It was good to catch up with people again and I did two poems; The Good Morrow which I put on here the other day as being part of our wedding ceremony, and one of mine on the cult of celebrity, called ‘Seleb’.  Here it is:


Enjoy your five minutes

you haven’t got long

your thighs are so thin it’s

a ration-camp wrong

Your femur’s fragility

sentenced to starve

then sent to facility

carbing to carve;

they sell you lite biscuits

the fat of the free;

the plan of the whizz-kids

just down from the tree:

you lunch on a leaf

and a headful of air

and dine with a thief

who came round for a dare

you’re passing on purdah;

you’re upwardly billed

your high heels are murder

as kittens are killed:

but where do you go to

o loveliest one,

ingesting your O2

and ration of sun?

Our latterday Cleo

and spouse of Big Bro

conceived under Leo,

o where do you go?

When camera’s sleeping

and internet’s down

tell me you are weeping

for every lost frown;

tell me you are weeping

the tears of a clown.

(Liz Gray, 2012)

This morning felt very weird without the Today programme.  They’re on strike so we got the Pope instead… the Pope is no substitute for John Humphrys.

Kirk out

How to Set a Mind

This works best when the mind is fresh.  Open the mind (this is a temporary procedure and nothing to worry about!) and pour in a couple of strong thoughts.  Close mind and leave for a few months.  Do not stir – the mind will set on its own.  Once hardened the mind will stay set until it reaches the end of its useful life.

Should you wish to re-set the mind you can use a good solvent such as Brain Wash (TM) – however this is not recommended as it can cause permanent damage.  An alternative method is to insert pertinent questions at intervals – this takes longer but has been found to be more effective on most subjects.  It also has far fewer side-effects.


Once the mind is set it may still be affected by its environment.  It should therefore be stored in a sympathetic society among Like Minds, otherwise over time the set of the mind may be eroded.

Care must be taken at all times to preserve the balance of the Mind Set.  Whilst resistant to many kinds of change, sets are nevertheless vulnerable to pests and should be kept in a clean, dry place away from dust, Free Thoughts and Rising Liberation.  Recommended containers are available, colour-coded according to the Set (make sure you get the right colour for your Mind otherwise seepage will occur.)  Popular containers include Religion, Politics and of course the perennial favourite, Education.

Though Mind Sets are popular it is important to choose the right one for your subject.  Fortunately this is all-but inevitable because of your own Mind Set.

What do you mean, you don’t have one?  Of course you do!  Everybody has one!

So… moving on: don’t ask me whose particular mind-set provoked that little dissertation…

Yesterday as most of you will know, I was on Radio Leicester.  I arrived early which was a mixed blessing as I was able to chat and relax, but then at the same time I got more nervous as the clock crept towards 3 pm.  The news and weather had never seemed so long.  ‘Now for it,’ I thought – but no!  there was traffic news! – and then he played one of my chosen records, My Sweet Lord, before I got to speak.  It was fine, I felt relatively relaxed though still a little tense and plagued by the frog that lurks perennially in my throat (I’ve got a poem about that).  I did two from the Ripe Tomatoes collection – the Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge and the Ode to the Upperton Rd Bridge – and he also played a rather drastically slow live version of Suzanne.  The programme is still here on iplayer until next Sunday (start at one hour in)



See you next year everyone!

Kirk out

A Shadow through the Heart

That’s going to be the title of my memoir, I think: I’m doing a piece for Mslexia magazine and although I have a couple of short stories written in the first person, I think they read too much like fiction to be submitted for a memoir edition.  Since I don’t want to alter them I may start from scratch.  Or rather, not from scratch, since I’ve written most of these early memories down in some form or other: the vicarage garden, the planes going overhead, the air-raid shelter at the bottom and the iconic image of the spire’s shadow sweeping across the lawn like the finger of doom.

‘Its finger pointing at our hearts, we move

our deckchairs and decamp

into the light.  Out of the sun

jets scream of foreign fields, brown bodies

on the beaches.

All clear now.  Flats planted.’

That’s from my poem, ‘Vicarage Garden,’ which will appear in the collection I am about to send off: however, I now think it has too many sonnets in it so I shall replace them with a couple of others.  It’s being judged by Simon Armitage and I have no idea what sort of thing he likes.  You can’t always assume that the stuff judges will like is similar to their ownwork: in any case I always have a dilemma about how far to go in pleasing a judge or a publisher.  Obviously it makes no sense not to try to do something they’ll like – you want them to publish you, after all – but then again, if you go too far down that road, you can end up being derivative and losing your own voice.  So it’s always a balancing act – like most things in my life.

Is that because I’m a Gemini?

My star sign has probably little to do with how I shall vote today in the police elections.  I shall be voting for  Sarah Russell, a dedicated local councillor with a good record and someone who Gets Things Done.  All candidates have expressed qualified opposition to further privatisation of the police force (sorry, ‘service’) – in my view, the last outrage of a mad ‘Mc-State’ agenda and should be resisted to the hilt.  ‘I arrest  you in the name of Group 4?’  Over my dead body.  Wait – perhaps I should rephrase that…


Kirk out

PS I was looking for a picture of the Vicarage Garden as it is now: can’t find one but did find this video about people who are now reopening the church: