Sister Across the Water

So perfectly sad:

My sister across the water must

Sleep with a fist for a pillow.

Victim-electric, she may

Have beautiful features:

If you look upon her,

Please do so

Without prejudice,

Without intention,

Be neither intimidated

Nor intimidating

(There can be no honesty there).

Dust from the past is

Still dust,

Still past.

9th July, 2012

… it is not the critic who counts …


It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Rooseveldt



Wait for Me

Wait for me and I’ll come back,

Wait and I will come;

Wait through Autumn’s yellow rains

And it’ s tedium.

Steel your heart and do not grieve

Wait through winter’s haze

Wait through wind and raging storm;

Wait through summer’s blaze.

Wait when others wait no more.

When my letters stop

Wait with hope that never wanes

Wait and don’t give up.


Wait for me! Let those who don’t –

Once I’m back with you –

Let them say that it was luck

That has seen us through.

You and I alone will know

That I safely came,

Spiting every kind of death,

Through that lethal flame

Just because you learned to wait;

Staunchly, stubbornly,

And, like no one else on earth,

Waited, love, for me.


Konstantin Simonov



Tides and Pebbles.

Double-moon insanity,

Diamond-double intensity:

The reflection and the shadow.

He’s working hard on something,

Feeling the constantly rising

Steam-stream pressure –

Any one can see –

But nobody understands, so

We find it hard

To follow,

To get excited,

To join in.


A hundred and forty makes

Our noses, our ears bleed;

Frustration is free,

So who-are-you free.

We write letters that

Will never be sent,

Drink each other’s tears.

Silver tape and fireworks

Hold us together,

Push us onto the beach:

Love, love and anger

And the tides and pebbles

Of unconditional reconciliation.

29th June, 2012

The Ticking of Clocks.

I hear the ticking

Of all the clocks,

Begin the unpicking

Of all the locks;

There’s a net

Between us, she’s

So fantasy-glamourous –

But so hard-eyed,

Unattainable, yet she’s

Always there for me.

Sometimes I half believe

There’s a face at my window

Looking in, and

I’m looking at me

twenty years down the road:

Wanting to drink

Every book between

Now and Hell.

I was high and free,

Life unutterably smooth

 Then it wasn’t.


De Profundis

The news hit, punctured and exploded inside me, both immediately and then spreading in some slow-motion expansion, like the most efficient of harpoons: needle sharp, then the grenade going off and the cruel barbs blown apart making sure it can’t fall out but can continue to do aggressive damage.
Jon Lord has died. One of my long-time music heroes.
As soon as I hear the news I start to hope it may be wrong. Sure, the websites were saying he had cancer, but I read that he was improving, had been in the studio …
But no, alas, the news is only too true.
It is part of my nature that I am, without having ever met the man, somehow deeply connected to him. From the moment, I suppose, I heard the booming, brave sounds of the keyboards he played on the still-thrilling Made in Japan. I was on my way to drunkenness at a biker’s party, beer was free and leather warriors were drinking Jack Daniels from bottles. Somebody had thrown up on a Norton Commando and tension was high, but in the background was the intro to Lazy: slow and perfect. I sat on the floor and for the next half hour was bewitched by the versatility and daring and was truly hooked.
I would see Deep Purple in many guises, and Lord playing with Paice, Ashton and Lord, Whitesnake and most recently in a concert of his own music at Lichfield Cathedral where he was magnanimous, articulate, full of sparkling humour and happy with life. Once I missed college lectures to see a concert in Leicester, having to deal with the subsequent issues with the principal, but missing the gig was never a choice!
YouTube and the proliferation of web presences perhaps  makes us believe we know people in a very intimate way – and perhaps we do – and this may well have been the case with Lord.
But, how to deal with the grief?  It was too, too real. I like to think that I am a doer: actions not words – give me something to do, I like to think and I can do it, or at least make progress. But in this moment, for the rest of the week – I am not at home… and I can do nothing. And someone has died, his family are trying to deal with it. The people he actually knew too.  I am building friendships with people, trying to see and understand Sicily (and it is beautiful – if hot!).
The churches we visit, fantastically decorated in a rainbow of styles and Catholic excess and Moorish patterning, mosaics of the most intricate craftsmanship and stone and I think, for what it is worth in a fleeting way of the man and his music. Always alongside me, reminding me of where and what I have been, but never stagnant, always developing in the way that I hope I am. But not a chance to light a candle – can you imagine? Yes indeed the opportunity to put money into “electric candle” offertory boxes, which will light the filament for a certain time. But this does not seem appropriate. I am thinking of a living flame (it just now occurs to me, and I smile, the Burn album cover) in memory.
I could, alternatively post something on a social network. How simple an act this is these days, but would it, could it truly represent the depth of feeling? I actually think not and am a little ashamed at how glibly I may have done this in the past, though I sincerely hope not.
There is a musician at the hotel pool that night, but the nearest he will get to Deep Purple is smiling broadly and repeating the name “Ritchie Blackmore” and playing a version of “Will I See You in Heaven?” (kind of ironic eh?)
At home I might just dig out music and play it, but I am not at home, and here there are things to see, smiles to wear, culture and humour to be shared.
Finally we are in a church and I am glancing in the hymn book (lyrics only). It contains the Kyrie Eielson and I am reminded that Lord composed a piece where he set this in an atmospheric “mountain musicscape” – but, for the life of me I cannot recall the title of the piece.
With the help of my friend I am able to get a candle, and set a flame to it and together we stand for a moment, looking.
Two days ago, back home, I searched YouTube and found a piece from a concert in Russia (bootlegged I think); When a Blind Man Cries opened with a classic solo from the man himself. Some crowd pleasing local tune (as he was wont to do), some boogie-woogie piano, riffs interpolated and some distinctive pure-Lord music.
I am not ashamed to say that I sat and simply wept and in doing so felt consoled.

Budget Airlines and Broadsheets

At the end of a fantastic adventure, sun-filled road-bending week of mixed emotion and sunshine it was necessary to be up at 6.30 a.m. (after a second successive head-to-the-pillow after midnight) to pack and be ready for transfer to the airport. The inevitable waiting around. In air-conditioned, merchandising atmosphere cool.

Then the steady procession/progression through controls and gates, corridors and stairs and into that last little tube and concertina that squeezes you through the hatch and into the plane.

Budget, no-frills. People will soon be unwrapping and eating food they bought onto the plane in plastic bags and stored under the squashed together seats, crumbs and limp salad dropping onto laps, seat and floor.

Me? I have a little more footroom this time; inadvertently I have broken an unwritten rule and I’m sitting between the wings (over where I believe most of the fuel is stored) and in the aisle to the emergency over-wing emergency escape doors.  The young Sicilian woman sitting in the window seat mimes opening the damned thing for the cabin attendant, who smiles back reassuringly before we take off. As always I check that there actually is a life jacket below my seat. I am always more nervous than I appear – of that I am certain.

But once airborne, the sales begin. Drinks, breakfasts – including most surprisingly a “full English” (“Be careful sir,” the attendant warns someone behind me who has ordered one, “it may be hot…”).

Lottery cards, toys, gadgets, magazines – and newspapers.

We are all jammed together, with very little elbow room; most of us collapsing and properly exhausted after a good break (how tiring that can be if you do it correctly). There’s debris left from the flight before and we are offered the biggest damned newspaper available. It’s Sunday. The day when editors decided the English public have time to read extensive news, entertainment, financial, holiday, culture, sports and what-all else – in colour supplements. Unpackaged it is fair to say that the paper in two of these would equal the wing area of the Airbus in which we are cruising (at thirty eight thousand feet).

The Sunday Times comes sealed in its own plastic bag, a waste disposal issue in its own right and passengers wrestle balletically with the ceremonial opening, avoiding the ears, children and coffees of adjacent travellers by a staples width. Then the unfolding, discarding, rearranging; the possibility of sharing pieces with a partner (“you always look at the sports section first, don’t you dear?”) … and the arm-stretching re-folding. Easy enough in a double bed, when you can pin the giant thing down on the spacious bed and, if necessary, because nobody can see you, use a strategically placed knee to get the fold in just the right place. But in the universal economy class space of an Easyjet cabin ?

We are, mostly, English. We seem to need the news. Before we get home. The weather forecast (though Heaven only knows why!). Something about the Olympic Games – now less than a week away.

I don’t buy a paper (I can remember when you were offered a free paper on boarding – one of the tabloid ones that fitted the space allowed), but I stretch and crane to look at those in front or just across the aisle, making me as bad as, if not worse, than my compatriots.

The Rolling Stones are in talks about a tour. G4S the company given responsibility for staffing the security of the Olympic games has failed to find enough staff, so the army and police are being drafted in (the police authorities cannot seem to believe that they were not considered in the first place.). Farmers are protesting about the prices they are being paid for milk (incidentally sparkling water now costs more than milk in English supermarkets).

And Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, with fine efforts from Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish.

Must brush the dust off my bike when I get back.

Between Deceptions.

Between the pit and the gallery,

The light and the shadow,

The wire and the wake-up

And the wire again.

Great looming brick and threat presence

Of prison and rails –

Necessary, but not welcome here –

Old bones and sharp knives

In teenage hands,


For the fence,

For the flash:

Angels out of their


20th June, 2012