Oh Wow. A Whole Decade

I had a little notification in the corner of my page this morning.   ‘That’s odd,’ I thought, as I’m usually told of comments and followers via email and I had just checked my inbox.  I clicked on it and it informed me that it was TEN YEARS AGO TODAY!!! that I started this blog.  I won’t bore you with the details as regular readers have heard it all many times before, suffice it to say that Hanif Kureishi was partly responsible for setting me off on this path.  I suppose I really ought to do something deep and retrospective, like picking out my favourite posts or summarising my journey or selecting the best comments, but the very idea fills me with a reluctance so deep that I can barely move my fingers across the keyboard; so I shall just say Happy Anniversary to lizardyoga’s weblog and a particular shout-out to those readers who have been with me since the beginning.

Thinking about it, the last decade has seen my transition from teacher/part time writer to full-time author and performing poet, which is quite a big deal.  I was updating my CV the other week and it was quite startling how many things I’ve done, from the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square to Leicester Riverside Festival to Left Unity’s national conference and Quaker Yearly Meeting to Sing for Water at Leicester Riverside Festival.  Publications include poems in Mslexia, blogging for the same and short stories in Everyday Fiction.

Maybe soon I’ll get it together and find some retrospective links.  But right now I’m getting ready to go to Wales which includes checking the car tyres (am I the only one who hates doing this?  I think I have a subconscious fear of blowing up one of the tyres.)

So if you’ve been a reader of this blog since May 2008, please drop me a comment and let me know how the last ten years have been for you.

Kirk out

Bumbling Sex

I saw this in my garden this morning:

Bombus lapidarius bumblebees mating

It looked very strange and I wasn’t entirely sure until I looked it up, whether it was in fact two bumblebees mating.  The white-tailed ones are busily bumbling in and out of the space in the roof, and I am now waiting for Holly to get home.  We are waiting dinner for her, and of course her train is delayed.  I’m starving!

Sooo – today I wrote the last verse of a poem I’m working on called ‘Hounslow West’.  It’s about the place where I grew up, and it’s a parody of Betjeman’s famous poem on Slough:

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough

– it isn’t fit for humans now

It always seems to work best if I do poetry in the mornings and prose in the afternoons; so after a spell in the garden planting the seeds and petunia plants I unexpectedly acquired at Riverside and bemoaning the slow progress of the grass seed, I hied me to the shops to enprovision the house in advance of daughter’s arrival and then back to the laptop-face for some prose.  The pattern seems to be short stories followed by a chapter of the novel, following which it is usually time for dinner.

Except today.

Excuse me.  I have to go now to prepare the pizza and salad which we will eventually eat, East Midlands Trains permitting.

Kirk out

Return to Sender?

Most of this post disappeared into the blogosphere yesterday: I’d spent ages writing it and then I hit ‘return’ or something and it took me literally and returned whence it came.  Wherever that was… then I started a new post today and it asked me if I wanted to restore yesterday’s post.  If only I’d known it would do that!  I tried everything to get it back… so now you have yesterday today:

Ouf!  That was a very tiring day, from which I am only just now beginning to surface.  For reasons about which I shall, for the time being, remain mysterious, I have been to Nottingham and back.  This involved a trip around the castle (not into it) and a tour of the back streets before getting thoroughly exasperated with Thing for not a) bringing directions to our venue or b) thinking to bring their phone number.  In the end we found a friendly local bobby (gosh, they really are getting younger, aren’t they?) and he set us on the right road.  I arrived hot, sweaty, tired and thoroughly irritated.  Not the best start.

It got better: after our appointment we found a small friendly cafe which had a nice line in paninis and baked spud as well as a vast range of herbal teas, and we had lunch.  We explored a little more and then got the train back again.  I was exhausted by then as I hadn’t slept well.

I’d also had a busy weekend: the Riverside Festival was heaving with folk from all over the place and as always with these events you bump into people you haven’t seen for years.  Every few yards it seemed there was a long-lost friend to catch up with; not only that, we signed up for a veg box with Riverford and bought coffee from a barge.  After that we were due at Andy’s in Birstall for dinner and wine and possibly a walk through Watermead Park (his hen-filled garden backs onto this wildlife haven).  I arrived too late for the walk but got stuck into the wine and food.

Interestingly they seem to have the same sort of bees as we do nesting in their roof:

White-tailed bumblebee on bramble - Zsuzsanna Bird - Zsuzsanna Bird

These are white-tailed bumblebees.  It’s quite amazing how many different types of bees there are.  We were worried in case ours were masonry bees which, as the name implies, make rather drastic inroads into your brickwork.  But they are in fact harmless.

Sunday at Riverside always features Sing for Water, which this year climaxed with a Bollywood song – terrific fun.  One of my all-time favourite Bollywood songs is Jai Ho, the theme tune for Slumdog Millionaire:


I love this dance sequence at the end of the film: I’d really like to learn Bollywood dance.

Aaand back to today: and it’s the usual scenario, another rejection and sending something off straight away.  That’s my tactic now – every time I get a rejection, I send something else off.  The problem with the previous story, apparently, was that nothing much happens.  That’s one good thing about Everyday Fiction, I guess – you always get feedback, even if it’s painful to read (and it is).  Still, they’ve published a couple of mine, so they can’t be all bad:


Kirk out


Yes, That Was The Weekend!  And what a weekend it was – full of stuff.   In no particular order, it involved: Black Annis, sun, poeting for water, sun, burgers, rain, mud, poeting for Artbeat, Chris Conway, Sing for Water, sun, cycling and tea.

The weekend began on Thursday with Chris Conway’s gig at the Donkey which kicked off (LOL) the Clarendon Park Artbeat festival.  This is a celebration of arts and artists in the C P area and it was officially launched the next day by a resurrected Richard III, a not-yet-dead Peter Soulsby, Leicester’s only all-female Morris Dancing troupe, Black Annis, and other musicians and poets.  Sadly I didn’t get in on the act early enough, having only recently moved to the area, but next year I shall.

After that Saturday featured an extremely wet start, but brightened up in the afternoon by which time I was able to go to an ‘open house’ poetry and music session on Avenue Rd.  Avenue Road is utterly imponderable; no-one can figure out the numbering and I wandered up and down for several minutes before I found no. 42 (it would have to be 42!) where a number of people were standing around being offered a drink.  I did three poems which impressed the gathering: I responded to someone else’s poem with ‘The Flood’; then I did Richard III and finally took the opportunity to practise ‘Find the Way of Water’ for Sunday’s ‘Sing for Water’.

Oh!  I forgot to mention – on Friday the most important event of all took place, which was The Syringing.  I got a proper, old-fashioned nurse who told me to ‘take no notice’ of what the doctors said but just use olive oil for ten days before coming to see her.  Then she flushed my ears out with a deafening thrum of water and showed me the resulting debris.  I am thinking of sending it to Madame Tussaud’s so they can open a new wing…

The joy of hearing was overwhelming.  Everything was so clear and loud! and most importantly I could now do my poem for water.  This went down very well and everyone joined in the chorus.  Here’s the poem and a picture of me doing it:

Find the Way of Water

for Sing for Water 2014

Find the way of water x 4

1. Find the way of water
down between the rocks
find the way of water
in between the locks
when the river’s flowing
when the water’s showing
there’s a way of knowing
water finds a way.


2. If I am a river
if I am a stream
starting with a quiver
starting with a dream
when the river’s flowing
when the water’s showing
there’s a way of knowing
water finds a way.


3. If I am a river
mighty Shenandoah
rolling water-giver
rushing to the shore
when the river’s flowing
when the water’s showing
there’s a way of knowing
water finds a way.


4. If I am a river
shining like the sea
with a silver shiver
running clear and free
when the river’s flowing
when the water’s showing
there’s a way of knowing
water finds a way.


5. When we wade in water
wading in the sea
gonna reach that quarter
river running free
if the river’s flowing
if the water’s showing
there’s a way of knowing
water finds a way.

Chorus ad lib

© Liz Gray, 2014

All proceeds to Water Aid


Kirk out


If it’s Monday it must be…Poetry People

Yes, we are considering, digesting, celebrating and, gosh-darn-it, just totally absorbing all things poetic today.  Below I am posting the video of myself doing the Sing for Water Poem ‘When the Rain Falls’ at last weekend’s Riverside Festival, and I hereby formally invite you to send me your own poems so I can put them on here.

Please let me have anything you’ve done that you’re happy with and would like others to see and comment on.  I’m interested to see what people are writing so don’t hold back – if you don’t want anyone to see it just yet you can email it for my comments or if you definitely want it on the blog, then send it in a comment below and I’ll include it in next Monday’s post.  Poems can be in any style or format but no more than 50 lines please.  Just email them to me at lizardyoga@yahoo.co.uk or include them in a comment below.

And now! let us celebrate what a wonderfully poetic scene Leicester has become in recent years.  Nowadays we not only have Word! where the latest act was John Hegley; we have Pinggk! which nurtures new talent from within as well as bringing in known poets from outside (more of this anon): we have Carol Leeming who has just been made a FRSA* – and we have an ever-expanding roster of venues which are prepared to consider hosting poetry performances.  Just this week I have been entertained by Leicester Calligraphers who have made works of art from some of my poems and many of whom purchased my latest pamphlet, ‘The Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge’.

Life can be utterly serendipitous too: on Saturday night on the bus I bumped into Ruthie, a musician of my acquaintance.  She was sitting at the front nursing a guitar.  ‘Are you off to play somewhere?’ I asked.

‘I am,’ she said: apparently Steve Cartwright had organised an evening at the Shed, a dark and dingy but well-loved music venue in town.  I know Steve from various poetry and music groups including Yesim’s and Word! so having sold Ruthie one of my poetry pamphlets I thought I’d accompany her for half an hour and a half of beer.  Alas! there was no proper beer at the Shed so I was forced to make do with a rather nasty tin of John Smith’s; however, the company made up for the poor quality of the ale.  And just as I was thinking how great it would be to do a couple of poems there, Steve came up and asked me if I would do a couple of poems!  And I did: I gave them two about local bridges, the Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge and the rather less lament-like Ode to the Upperton Rd Bridge.  The latter is done in the style of William McGonagall and usually raises a laugh or two: they didn’t laugh much and the lights were so bright I couldn’t even tell if they were smiling, but they listened intently and afterwards a couple even asked me to sign their pamphlet and write on the back which venues I regularly perform at.

So that was a great end to Saturday.

As if this weren’t enough, this month’s other news is that, following in the footsteps of Mike Brewer and his partner Graham (the Two Old Rhymers) who headlined at Pinggk! last month, I, too, am down to headline there in the not-too-distant future!  So thanks to Bobba and I’ll let you know when it’s coming up.

In the meantime, here I am, along with the good people of Bede Island Park and the Sing for Water choir, doing the poem ‘When the Rain Falls’:


Hope you like the new format of the blog.  Please comment whether you do or not.  And now, off you go to get those poems ready.  Go on!  That’s it.  Bye now….

Kirk out

*Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

A fresh and crispy brain

That’s what Mark has this morning.  It is rather unfeasibly early – I have been awake since 4 and at 5 I got up and meditated, by which time I thought I might as well make some tea.  Mark is now going on about some bloke whose name ends in -ckx.  I said that sounds made-up.  He said no, it’s probably Finnish, ‘which is more or less the same thing.’  That’s what he said.

Slept late yesterday so probably making up for it today.

Rather disappointed by donations of sponsor money so far; however, this is not about me but about Water Aid, and ‘Sing for Water’ (I originally typed ‘Sign for Water’ – what would that involve?  Rather less effort, I imagine) and this year’s fundraising seems to have done rather well.  Jan and her bucket raised over 100 pounds (curse this American keyboard) just in a couple of hours.  Brilliant!

Still, if any of you wonderful bloglets want to sponsor me please go to:  justgiving.com and look for my page – sorry, the link isn’t working at the moment; I’ll try later.  Alternatively you can send a cheque to Water Aid.

I have written a review of Harry Potter and the Art of Narrative for a writers’ blog based at the University of Chichester – I wait to see if they will publish it.  No-one seems to want to publish a word I write at the moment – I had three stories returned from an online site yesterday.  It is hard to keep going but there is no other option.

Feels warm again today and no rain still.  It will be a hard summer for farmers.

Ratae, we still await your guest blog spot.

Facebook informs me that it’s my wedding anniversary next Sunday.

Today I shall be mostly… deciding what to write.


An Evening with Iain Banks and Iain M Banks

Yes, all in one person like Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLjS3gzHetA) we went to hear Iain Banks launch his new book, and like Arthur ‘Two Sheds’, he was forced to answer a series of questions about the ‘M’ in his sci-fi name: how it came about, whether it was a real middle initial or a fake one (it is real, apparently, and stands for Menzies, pronounced ‘Mingis’, as we know from that Lib Dem bloke); whether he really wanted to use it for his sci fi books or was pushed into it, etc etc – and all he wanted to do was promote his new book, ‘Surface Detail’:


No, to be fair, he answered all questions with good humour and enthusiasm – in fact, he was highly entertaining, full of self-deprecating humour and energetic movement: he reminded me of a friend I used to have, also Scottish, also called Iain.  We used to work together at Leicester Adult Education College and Iain got into trouble from the students for singing and dancing in his Maths classes.  Iain Banks was also physically energetic, full of movement and vigorous gesture (not the rude kind).  I found it very entertaining in spite of most of the questions being about the ‘Culture’ books.  He was refreshingly frank on the subject of the writing process, and utterly devoid of pretension.  Good stuff.

Iain Sinclair, where are you?

One thing that struck me was how poorly-attended these events are: Iain Banks is a nationally – if not internationally – famous writer, highly successful, and yet the Phoenix was only half-full for this event.  Whereas some tenth-rate Hollywood star would probably fill the Curve several times over.

No fair!

Mark asked a question about ‘Consider Phlebas.’  This is, as of course you will know, a reference to ‘The Wasteland’:


Bong!  In other news…

Oh, wait, there is no other news.

Today we are going to Riverside Festival and tomorrow is Sing for Water.

Kirk out