Oh Fugit!

My, my – how tempus doth fugit and already it’s five days since my last confession – er, blog post.  Well, since we last corresponded spring has most definitely sprung!  I was out in the garden in a green dress doing a spring dance first thing on Saturday morning and then I danced over to De Montfort University where the annual small publishing-fest, States of Independence, was taking place.  It is interesting to talk to small publishers, to find out their output and submission requirements as well as just seeing what’s out there.  They also have a number of talks throughout the day and I went to one on poems for refugees and another on Virginia Woolf and the Hogarth press – both very interesting.  I saw a number of people I knew including Tony and Christine but alas! as always I failed to find OH.  This happens every year – we go separately and we never find each other.  If only there were some kind of – oh, I don’t know – hand-held telephonic device that people could use to find each other in these situations…


I had to leave States of Independence early in order to rendezvous with friends at the Salmon.  This was the first Leicester pub I ever went in, due to its being within striking distance of the bus station; it has recently been renovated and as a bonus there was a beer festival featuring a number of different brews from East Sussex.  How they came to have beers only from that region I never discovered but I enjoyed what I had: a ruby mild, a darker mild and a heady and vertiginous brew called Beachy Head.  I enjoyed the pub itself as well; there was a friendly atmosphere and although the rugby was on in the other bar the sport didn’t dominate the entire pub.

After that it was over to Peter’s for dinner.

Sunday was Quaker meeting as usual, after which I invited a friend for lunch only to discover I was out of soup.  Bread and cheese it is then… and Sunday evening the usual falling asleep over the telly.  And that was the weekend.

This morning I have had a request from an organisation making steel bottles which gives all their profits to water charities.  They want me to record some poems.  Sounds good to me, so I am now dusting off my old Sing for Water poems:

Gosh, I look so much younger then!  And it was only three years ago!

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

First of the Month? Cuts no Ice with Me

Keep taking the tablet

I’ve had a bit of a month of it, as regards breaking things.  First I broke my mobile.  I’ve dropped it loads of times and it just springs apart, scattering its components (back, battery, front) over a wide area.  It’s never suffered any damage at all: but the other day I dropped it again and instead of scattering itself it decided to break.  The screen went a bilious shade of green with stripes all over and it refused to respond to my frantic jabbing of buttons.  And yes, of course I turned it off and on again and even took the battery out.  Nothing.  So that was that, and it was very annoying because it’s a solid, basic sort of phone which would have lasted a few more years.  Thankfully a friend stepped up and donated his, as he wasn’t using it much.

Then yesterday (and I’d only had one glass of wine, honest) I dropped the digitising tablet.  This is a sort of mini-laptop and very useful; it is also similarly resistant to being dropped.  And yet when I dropped it yesterday it developed a green line which was distressingly like the one on my mobile.  Hm.  Yet all was not lost: it appeared broken but today it has recovered.

Yesterday Holly did the ice-bucket challenge.  I’ve got mixed feelings about this really and yet the carping does seem a little unfair.  After all, it’s raising lots of money for a good cause.  On the other hand, seriously thumbs-down to the organisation for trying to copyright the idea, especially when it wasn’t theirs in the first place.   Plus, people say that it’s taking money away from other charities but you could say that about any successful campaign.  Others say it’s wasting water, and yet in the scheme of things it’s not a huge amount of water – and anyway, people could always stand on a lawn or in a flower-bed.  Or in a pond…

I prefer Water Aid really.  Singing and poeting – much better.

In other news, I can’t help thinking that an international man-hunt is a bit of an over-reaction to a couple taking their child out of the country for medical treatment.  Don’t you think?

First of the month today, and Daniel is back at college.  Seems weird Holly not going…

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


My Big Brake

Yesterday was great.  I pottered around in the morning getting things ready, taught Spanish in the afternoon, and then in the evening we walked down to the Y Theatre for the first Word! I have been to in quite a while.  I have a great affection for Word! as it’s where I started off, when Word! was young and I was new to performing poetry.  I didn’t know if I could do it – on the whole I thought I couldn’t – but the people there were so encouraging that I gave it a try and hey! I could do it.  So I did.  And look how we’ve grown – Word! has gone from strength to strength and so have all of us.

I like the way they’ve restructured the performances as well – instead of a long, long open-mic section followed by a main act, they have ten open mic slots followed by a support (me) and another ten followed by the main act.  My ‘set’ went really well; after a minute or two I felt right at home just as I always had, and it seemed to be appreciated by the audience: at any rate, they all joined in with the chorus of ‘When the Rain Falls’.  The main act was Panya Banjoko:


who was great; I had a good chat with her about getting gigs and so on and she told me she’d been doing this for 20 years and hadn’t been published during the first five, so that put my problems into perspective.

And I didn’t sabotage it in any way as I had feared I might (hence the pun in today’s title).

I’m going to finish with a link to one of my follower’s blogs.  I really appreciate people following lizardyoga’s weblog and would like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to everyone who takes the trouble to follow me, not least because I then come into contact with blogs I wouldn’t otherwise have seen.  Today’s blog is about the poet and author Kahlil Gibran, whose poetry was read out at our wedding and at our children’s naming ceremonies:


Kirk out


So This is All Good

It’s been a beautiful day here in blogland and I’ve been as busy as a pollen-gathering insect.  This morning I wrestled with the novel whose first two chapters I intend to send to Cinnamon Press


then I wrangled somewhat less successfully with the Sing for Water poem, before remembering that I needed to fix my bike for tomorrow when I shall be at Westcotes Library to protest its possible closure.  Come down if you can – the Mercury will be there:


Having fixed an awkward puncture and discovered that the inner tube of our wheelbarrow is beyond repair, I started to make soup while listening to the Afternoon Play.  This was based on the TV series ‘Silk’ which I enjoyed and probably mentioned on here.


Then at three o’clock a sadly diminished Spanish group turned up for their first session.  We learned to say ‘hola’ (hallo), ‘soy Liz’ (I’m Liz), ‘quien es?’ (who’s that?) and to count to ten with the help of Sesame Street.  Sadly I can’t find out how to do the upside-down question marks on here, but they practised writing those at the end of the session and seemed to enjoy it.  So that’s all good.

Damn, I must stop saying that!

I then dashed to the Co-op to buy cheese, Gromit,* and managed to squeeze a couple of lemons and some sugar into my shopping basket.**  These are to make my first batch of wine this year, which will be nettle: the blackberries and elderberries will have to wait until I can get some raisins.

Mark did a herb walk on Aylestone Meadows which apparently was successful – and he’s had a couple of people take up his offer of weeding their garden.

So that’s all good.


Oh, and I’m slightly concerned about how the neighbours will react to being invited to tea.  I saw one of them today and she looked a bit embarrassed and didn’t mention it.

So that’s me up to date.  How about you?  How was your day?

Kirk out

*Gromit wanted to come in there so, in the true spirit of Winnie-the-Pooh, I let him.

** not literally



Too Soon For Poetry?

I have been busy of late: yesterday I didn’t even have time to do yoga, such was the rush I was in as I exited the house, sandwiches and thermos in saddle-bags, to cycle over to the Martyrs and experience church followed by the AGM.  In between these two events some quite unfeasibly large and sticky Danish pastries were served.  Then we hied us to Town Hall square where I ate my sandwiches and then we mooched around the shops until it was time for the People’s Arts Collective meeting.

At the PAC meeting we discussed our launch in May, when we will have an event with a number of performances, stalls, installations etc – and another event in September where we will be inviting a Special Guest.  I’m not allowed to say who this is yet, but watch this space…

So after that we took a slow walk up to Narborough Rd and installed ourselves in Yesim’s.  I hadn’t been there since we moved, so it was good to see Hayri and the others and to enjoy a newly-refurbished bar with more space.  A load of people turned up but I left early as I was knackered and had to cycle home; by this time I’d had enough of cycling and walking and arrived home utterly shattered.

So!  Today I have had a disappointment – the Richard Attenborough centre have rejected my proposal to run a poetry course there.  They made an odd response, I thought – saying that it was ‘too soon’ to run a course like mine.  I couldn’t understand why that would be – so I’ve written back to them asking why it’s too soon to run a course which was very successful just a couple of weeks ago at that same venue.  I don’t know what they’re thinking, quite honestly.  Before that, I went over to the University to put some posters up for English tuition and someone told me the English teaching centre might be hiring, so I will check that out.

In the afternoon I worked on some poems for Westcotes Library and Sing for Water – and began to get together a short story collection for Boobooks:


And that’s me up to date.

How about you?

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

Sing, You Lucky People!

Yes, you are really privileged today to be the first to read my new poem ‘How Come?’ which I have written for ‘Sing for Water’


This will take place on June 2nd, Bede Island Park, Leicester and as part of the event I will be performing the poem.  I am raising funds too so if you would like to sponsor me please comment below.

Here’s the poem:

How Come?


How come?

(How come?)

When the rain falls

How come?

(How come?)

When the river flows

How come?

(How come?)

Our earth is dry

How come?

(How come?)

Our hands are empty.

1.  From the Great Central Way

where the trains once ran

to the old canal

where the bridges span

from the new Co-op

to the great big slide

the cry goes up

from every side:


2.  From the African farms

where the crops are dying

to the Indian homes

where the wells are drying

and the child who is sick

from the dirty river

the cry goes out

as our voices quiver:


3.  O the desert runs fast

till it swallows your home

and the rains don’t last

even when they come

our skin is like leather

and our throats are dry

still from every heart

we hear the cry:


4.  Verse in Hindi:

meri achi tarah se sukha hai

aur pani naheen hai

mere phasalo mar cuke hai

mera bacha bimar hai *


5.  Now the farmer weeps

as the crops are dead

and the mother cries

as the children aren’t fed

and the earth is cracked

and our soil is sand

still the cry goes out

from every land:


6.  When you’re down on your knees

no hope in sight

cos the man says that water’s

not a human right

then you’ve only gotta

do one thing

and that’s sing for water

everybody sing!

(Chorus x 2)

So please comment below especially if you would like to sponsor me – and come along on the day!

Kirk out

*  Translation:
my well is dry
there is no water
my crops are dead
my child is sick