Thursday, 11 December 2014

The mercurial Frank O'Hara...

-  this is how I understand the story -  loved his friends, loved to party, loved to eat, drink and smoke, loved to debate and discuss, score points and win the argument.

John Ashbery, his good friend and mentor, was older, more fragile I surmise, more easily hurt...
Wounded by Frank's sharp tongue and mistaking his friend's clever words for a cooling of their relationship, he withdrew a little, in self-protection.

Frank's response? To 'unfriend' or 'block' him (or the 1960s equivalent)? Far from it - O'Hara wrote what is to me one of the loveliest tributes, in his poem  'To John Ashbery':

"I can't believe there's not another world
where we will sit and read
new poems to each other,
high on a mountain in the wind.."

Frank O'Hara died ridiculously early in a freak accident at the beach. John Ashbery survived all the 'school' of poets and lives still with their memories

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Maths for the innumerate - or how I stopped worrying and learned to love my tidetables..

I was given tide-tables when we moved to the coast and, to be honest, at first sight they looked to me exactly like those 'Logarithm Tables' we were handed in a maths lesson at about the tender age of 12...

For those too young to remember - I suspect they have long-since been superseded by technology - 'logs' were an A5 cloth-backed volume with EVERY page filled with columns of numbers. Yes, EVERY  page, and no explanation... eye-watering stuff. Apparently one calculated things with them...
Well I learned to use them - I could work out sines, cosines and tangents with the best (is it just me or did anyone else learn 'SOHCAHTOA'?). I could add, subtract and multiply them and I passed my maths O level... But for me they spelled the end of what little interest I had in numbers. Because no-one ever, EVER explained WHY...

Back to tide-tables, then... it took a while, but I am ready to explain their relevance to one such as me..
My tide-tables are a slight paperback, with a pretty picture of sailing boats on the front and, after 30 odd pages of ads and advice to sailors, fishermen and walkers, alarmed me with 30 pages of columns of numbers...

But they are USEFUL numbers! For any given day of the year I can read how much beach there will be when Evie and I stroll down; I can tell, almost at a glance, whether we'll be able to walk along the beach to the pier or beyond - or indeed around the rocks below the cliff as far as Clarach. Or whether the tide is high and still incoming, and for a decent walk we'd do better to head through the woods to the cliff paths..
Alistair can calculate with ease where and how long is his window of daylight for windsurfing (on a breezy day) or the best bit of beach for a swim - though of course he needs other tables as well...

AND at the back of the book, after the 12 double-pages of high and low water times, I discovered 'Tidal Curves' - which I ignored, 'Imperial Conversions' - which I understand (!)
And then several pages of 'Sunrise and Sunset Tables' , complete with moon-phases...Oh Joy unbounded - I know how long I have before the sun sinks below the horizon and the sky will turn from an incredible watermelon sunset to the softer hues of dusk on a summer evening. I know how quickly I need to get home on a winter afternoon...and what time to head down to see the starlings coming in to roost in their thousands (the 'murmeration') Though I still don't understand why the sun sets over the north of the bay in the summer and over the pier in the south in the winter...

And I knew it was a full-moon last night - a disappointing one as a cloud-cover and high wind meant that we didn't catch a glimpse of her ladyship...

You may be pleased to know that sunset tonight and for the next 11 days is at 16.03 - and then starts to inch its way later again - yay! Roll on 2015 - must buy my tide-tables...

Sunday, 16 November 2014


Woke late and hoped
the ceiling might
have painted itself
- white
Peering round
the corner I
recall the adage
pigs might fly
- sigh

Thursday, 13 November 2014


What is there to say
when this grey november day
meets my mourning mood...

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Autumn Dusk

November -
Heavy the light-leaving late
among the trees
All around the
creaking sound
of dying wood...
you like to meet with me
where the buds of next year's
new beginnings
are crowding to be heard..

Monday, 3 November 2014

5 am Sleepless Storm

Senses out on stalks -
tasting with my fingertips,
listening with my tongue..
Eyes wide I
scent the wildness of the world

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Autumn, Aberystwyth

Fern-cliffs breathing deep -
threatening mackerel-sky -
still the silver sea

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


Run on the wild beach
Sing furiously with the sea
Ah tell me what you know...

Monday, 20 October 2014


Forest's fern-deep breath,
My body fills with its song,
Thrills with its singing

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Little Things

Musing on 'little things' I complete the morning's more mundane tasks and we set off for a walk in glorious autumnal sunshine. Along the way I pick rosemary from one obliging hedge and a lovely lichen-covered twig of sloes for tonight's table from another.
Coming down the cliff-path I achieve a photo of a Red Admiral, as it poses on my sleeve, share a text-message moment with my son and clear a large bagful of beer-cans, kindly pushed as far as possible into a gorse-bush by revelers. Clanking along the prom like an alcoholic's shopping trolley, I deposit this in the recycling-bin (Evie pretends she is NOT with me).
Heading down to the beach, we collect a couple of bagfuls of seaweed for the garden and return home to rinse them and add to the compost bin.
Had a busy morning? No, not really... Is there a God of Small Things? I certainly hope so...

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Yellow Boots

We are
on your settee
I lift first one foot
then the other,
admiring my new yellow boots..

The veil shivers, shifts..

A small boy in a buggy
lifts first one foot,
then the other,
admiring his new first shoes..

"Soos, Mummy, soos!"

We turn and smile conspiratorially,
sharing the same
insanely pleased grin..

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


A strange thing happened to me today - I ventured into Waterstones looking for inspiration. Or something. My eye lit upon 'The Wild Places' by Robert Macfarlane, whose name keeps cropping-up recently:

Chapter 1 - 'Beechwood';  first line - 'The wind was rising so I went out to the woods....' I chuckled, remembering how, a few years ago, a high wind would pull me out to the beechwood above the town , with a note on the gate - 'Do not walk in these woods in a high wind...' The dog and I would revel in the sound of the gale in the treetops and the creaking of old unstable branches... we would meet few others.

I read on  - the view Macfarlane described from his favourite tree in the unnamed beechwood above his town was utterly familiar and I soon realised that he does in fact live not a mile from where we were and was describing the same countryside, drawn by the same need to experience the wind in his hair as I had experienced in the flat East Anglian town. I probably knew him by sight, particularly if our dogs had met...

£9.99? No I didn't buy The Wild Places, but will look out for it on my friends' shelves and inquire in the 2nd-hand bookshop. And, when I do get to read it, I will slip easily into its skin from the first line..

Saturday, 23 August 2014


White feather pennant
snagged in the green-grass breeze, I
quiver at your touch

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

In the corner of my subconscious

hi - the other night when you were talking with Dad, his side of the conversation went along the lines of:  'well you need some sticky paper tape; I don't know if it exists anymore...'

At the time something moved at the edge of my subconscious and has been lapping there until today - brown paper tape with a label with a butterfly; I knew I had seen some somewhere, but without noticing... out of the corner of my eye, if you know what I mean...

Today I delved into my 'stash' of fabrics under the bed for some muslin for 'cheese' (I had given the other piece away) and a reel of 'butterfly'-brand brown gummed tape smiled at me from the side of a clear plastic box of art supplies... shall I put it in the post? And what DID you want it for?


Thursday, 14 August 2014


Jet-black jewels spill
from the dew-damp morning hedgerows -
'Earth's crammed with Heaven'

Sunday, 3 August 2014


Blue hydranga sky
contentious storm clouds threaten
spoil our laughing day

Friday, 1 August 2014

Walking With Jess

Honey August rains
blessings on the universe -
slaked our thirsty souls

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

July rain

Sudden summer storm,
honey-scented buddleia
sweeten the wet road

Sunday, 29 June 2014


Silver blue sunshine
sailboats bobbing on the bay -
and silence complete

Sunday, 22 June 2014


The ferns were scented-warm
on the footpath-worn cliff today
forgetting middle-age,
laughed and ran
bare-legged as the child
all those fleeting August days..

Flotilla on white - for Ben

Had a lovely time at Jll Teague's workshop on 'Ekphrasic Writing'  - the response in one art form to another - yesterday morning.  Here is my 'responsive' poem to the exhibition:

Flotilla on white - for Ben

Driftwood and wire
draws the eye to bathe,
invites the hands to touch..

Flotsam and jetsam of my life
saved and savoured,
precious, yet unremarkable
to the unseeing eye..

Floating, light, resilient -
what fragile barque to offer you
to set your life's sail?

Sunday, 15 June 2014


This morning on the fence the fledgling sparrows twittering away - 'oh oh it's too high; can't get there...'; above them the grownup birds smile indulgently and, collecting seeds in their beaks, fly down to feed them..

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Friday 13 June, late

Full moon glimmering
pale on this cloudy night,cat,
dark stalks the lone street

Friday, 6 June 2014

'Ekphrasic' response -

 "Thinking outside the Box"

Warm breezes on my skin and
palmtrees on the horizon of my mind
dabbling our souls in the ocean of time
cat and I are dreaming..

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

From my window

Rain streaming
from the June-wet hills
and sparrows squabbling
like children
there is enough to share

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Afternoon stroll

Anxious to avoid the crowds,we strike out
against the flow
of waterproofed children
and umbrellaed parents

up the road
through the dripping trees
and on to the rain-wet
gorse-wet, scented path
around the cliff

into the woods
which are indeed
lovely, dark and deep,
(but I - still -
have promises to keep)

And in the woods I come across
a dozen or so young people,
hemelted, tabarded and weaponed,
playing Lord of the Rings
in the tree-wet green -

Utterly bemused,
the dog reminds them
whose woods these are..
the clash of arms is lost
as we retreat
back around the cliff
with the bird-song sky
to the noise
and bustle of the real world

Friday, 23 May 2014

'..a little space of time..'

In the famous summer of '76 - 'way back when' as they say - I was living in a white L-shaped room at the top of a house on the edge of Cambridge.
I bought a cassette-player - remember them? They were about the size of your copy of Lord of the Rings, weighed more and played 'tapes', of which I had one... I played Art Garfunkel's 'Breakaway' to death all that long, hot, complicated summer. ..
That tape never wore out and was a favourite over many years, through many changes - through children and children growing-up, and quite a few house-moves; it was eventually replaced by the cd..
Now I am lying in a sunny spot in - strangely enough - another white L-shaped room at the top of another house.  'Breakaway' is playing through my mobile phone and a small speaker-system - ''s the same old me.. but I'm alright, yes I'm alright..'

Friday, 16 May 2014


Blessings come singly, I've noticed,
these slow-down days.

Each one drops
into my astonished heart
and hangs glimmering
silver and pearl
in the air and angel light -
to be looked at,
from all sides,
turned around, danced,
and treasured

And I am counting them all

Friday, 2 May 2014

Parked red car

Through my trellis fence,
to my startled morning sight -
scarlet tulip field

Sunday, 27 April 2014

morning haiku

In the silent wood
fronds of secret ferns unfurl
unrepentant hope

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


April today
and our first foolish hearts
wing their wild way
across the sun-blue
optimistic sky

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Attic sunset

The rain lashes against the window
and the wind is whistling around the chimneys;
on the horizon,
a defiant sun sinks into the sea
in a blaze of glory

Friday, 14 March 2014


An unusually low tide this morning meant we were able to venture across the rocks around the end of the last stone jetty. The sea mist enshrouded everything and we were alone in an elemental  world of rock and iron, stone and water...

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sunday seaside snapshot

... was on the beach this misty morning
when the sun burnt through,
the sea and sky turned bluest blue
and suddenly...
the storm-battered diner
was alive with the scents of tea and coffee,
the bikers roared into town
with the noise and bustle
of summer,
and the seafront smiled
its broadest welcome..

we drifted back beyond the bar
where the scruffy tide smiles its secret smiles for me


White liminality of walls
becoming the blue waves of breath

Advance and retreat
Give and receive
Coil and uncoil like
liquid honey
on the yellow sunshine floor

Friday, 7 March 2014

A Shrine

'Malus Sylvestris' - an endangered species -  grows from the hedge up the hill from my house. I know this because it has a hand-painted plaque, asking me to respect it. And little candles. And ribbons. And white stones... Croeso i Gymru!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

after the storms

Beyond the fearful crashing waves -
deep and unexpected blue

Friday, 31 January 2014

I knew I...

...should have left
while the sea and sky
were still pink and blue
and the world
was young and clean...

Friday, 24 January 2014

Writer's Blocks

Lost for words, I pick three word-bricks at random. Hmm - 'late', 'valiant', and 'trace'..

I mosey, Friday-afternoon-ish, up to the attic to change the bedlinen, and glance out at the wet dusk - a last, late starling traces its valiant way down to the pier to roost...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


The beach is open
beyond the bar today -
we pick our way,
through the driftwood,
searching for treasure
among the debris.

At the edge of my senses
the incoming tide