Wednesday, 25 September 2013


                         by soft sighs from a night sky -

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Friday Philosophy Football

                         Seuls dans l'univers,
                         comme au point de penalty -
                         angoisse existentielle.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Hen Party

draws my gaze

A gaggle of girls
purple dresses
sunshine blonde.
Posing for photographs on a rooftop.

(How did they even get up there?)

Drinking pink wine at eleven a.m.
from a day they will never forget.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Morning Walk

                         Unrisen moon,
                         eerie pearlescent sky -
                         stars, but barely.

                         Before the haar clears -
                         a magnolia blossom

                         the sole morning star.

                         Shafts of light through boughs,
                         shining out from fallen stars -
                         wood anemones.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Une hirondelle a fait le printemps...

                         Red, white, and blue of
                         patriotic homecoming -
                         the first barn swallow.

                         On an azure ground,
                         the flicks of an artist's brush -
                         swallows on the wing.

                         Staring at the sky,
                         spots swimming before my eyes -
                         childhood memories.

Monday, 29 April 2013

On Saturday evening...

...we were having friends over to the house.

As we waited for them to arrive, my wife stood in the sitting room, head tilted slightly to one side, arms folded, watching me as I tidied things she had probably just tidied two minutes previously, as I rearranged things she had no doubt just rearranged herself.

When the doorbell rang, we both headed to the hallway to greet our friends.  She was ahead of me, so, as she got the door, I paused and hastily rearranged the flowers in the vase sitting on the hall table.

As she opened the door, she looked back at me over her shoulder, rolled her eyes, and said: "for your birthday I'm going to get you a Y chromosome".

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Truth is singular. Its versions are mistruths.

The above words are spoken by the character Sonmi-451, played by Bae Doo-na (a.k.a. Doona Bae), in the film Cloud Atlas which I went to see at the Odeon on Lothian Road last night (after another excellent meal at
El Quijote).  I have to say I find those words a challenge to those of us whose hobby it is to write versions of the truth.  What, for example, should I do if I want to use a photograph to illustrate something I write and the scene depicted could be taken as the inspiration for the for the piece, but wasn't?  Am I being dishonest?  At the very least, it will make me try to remember to tag posts "fiction" and "non-fiction" where there might be any doubt.

Cloud Atlas is directed by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, best known for, respectively: Run Lola Run and: The Matrix trilogy, so I suppose I should have been forewarned, but, not having read the book - or much about the film - initially I found the structure puzzling.

All soon became apparent however, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  Okay, it wasn't the greatest thing I've ever seen, but I'm still surprised we didn't see more of it during the awards season.

I didn't think there were any weaknesses amongst the ensemble cast, with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry especially showing why they are paid the big bucks.  The stand-out performance for me though was that of Jim Broadbent; from Percy the Park Keeper, through WS Gilbert, Harold Zidler, and John Bayley, to his multiple roles in Cloud Atlas, he is always such good value!

As well as spotting the Edinburgh locations (such as the Scott Monument - a.k.a. Thunderbird 3 - pictured above), it was amusing to see the Clackmannanshire Bridge featuring as the Swannekke Bridge, and the mean streets of Glasgow standing in for the mean streets of Buenas Yerbas.  It was also interesting to see the Serra de Tramuntana doubling for Big I' and Port de Sóller transformed into 19th century San Francisco.  More versions of the truth: such is the magic of film.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Kiss

I had to go into town this morning, so while I was there I took the opportunity to go into the Scottish National Gallery.

Canova's: The Three Graces has gone to the V&A (it's jointly owned by the two museums) for a year so the Scottish National Gallery has borrowed Rodin's: The Kiss from the Tate to take it's place.  The Kiss is just as beautiful as I remembered from when I saw it in the Tate about twenty-five years ago.

An unexpected art bonus to my trip into the city centre came in the shape of the beautiful photograpy of: Britain from the Air.

The Kiss will be in the Scottish National Gallery until February 2014, and Britian from the Air will be on display at various locations in Edinburgh until 20 May.  If you are in Edinburgh, both are well worth visit.

Monday, 18 March 2013

I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning

I first smelled freedom as I stepped from a Boeing 747 at Grantly Adams International Airport - and freedom smelled like jet fuel.

Standing there at the top of the steps, I was struck by three things: the first, as my clothes instantly stuck to my body, was the humidity, the second was the taste of molasses in the air (which, I would soon learn, seemed to be everywhere on the island), and the third was the fumes of burned aviation kerosene wafting warmly, damply, across the apron.  And in that instant, I realised what that smell meant, what it had always meant, though I hadn't known it until that moment.  That smell meant freedom.  The freedom to escape small towns and small-mindedness.  The freedom to be whoever I wanted to be, and the freedom not to have be what anyone else wanted me to be.  And it tasted like Barbados Sugar.  And it looked like sunshine.  And it sounded like Jonny Nash singing: I can see clearly now, the rain is gone...

I had flown before of course; stepped onto planes under grey British skies and stepped off them into very un-British light.  I had exchanged the polluted air of damp English cities, for the snow-blind glare of crisp alpine afternoons, and for the perfumes of Mediterranean mornings: tomillares and dust, good coffee and sweet pastry.   I always felt though that there was something more - that damp kerosene smell in the back of my mind, the meaning of which was always just out of reach - until the day I stepped off that plane in Bridgetown.

Looking back, I think that holiday (our dream honeymoon two years too late) was, in many ways, the high-point of my first marriage.  You might think that that is another way saying it was the beginning of the the end, but, for me, that came years later, on the streets of St Tropez.  It was, for me, however the end of the beginning.

It is only now, through the telescope of years, that I see how the middle part of my first marriage, the part that was neither exposition nor resolution, the part where the drama was supposed to unfold but never did, was bracketed by two holidays.  And I can't help but wonder whether my epiphany on the aircraft steps didn't prefigure the slow-dawning over the years, only acknowledged one Côte d'Azur morning, of the realisation that our paths through life had never even been parallel, let alone destined to converge, no matter how much we thought we wanted them to.

Because I had smelled freedom - and it smelled amazing!

I had had a small whiff of freedom some years earlier - when I left home to go to University in another city.  On my first day there, a group of fellow freshers introduced themselves and asked me my name.   I could have told them my real name of course, and I made no secret of it if anyone asked why I signed anything official with another name, but I chose not to, I chose just to say: "Joe".

I chose to be a more confident, more out-going, version of myself.   I chose the nickname that had been bestowed upon me years before with teasing; the nickname that I had claimed as my own to subvert their harassment.  And in so choosing, I let go of home, and school, and insecurity, and small-town small-mindedness - and all the shit that goes with it.

But after a while a started dating a girl from my home town and then I fell in love with her, and I slowly got drawn back into it all.  When I finished University I moved back to my home town and got a job in an office, training to do something completely unrelated to the degree I had dreamed of getting for years.  And on the first day in the office when my fellow trainees asked my name I said: "Matthew".

          Woolfe entitled his
          book: "You Can't Go Home Again" -
          best precis ever

I finally left my home town for good two years after my first wife left me.  I was thirty.  My new job was very similar to my old one, and my new colleagues still called me Matthew, but that's all they knew about me, and my family, and my life - and I felt free.  And freedom felt lonely, but I knew that that was just temporary.

          You only live twice -
          when you leave home, and when you
          choose not to go back.

I'm flying to London tomorrow morning for work.  I hate leaving the house at 05:30 and not getting back until 21:30, all for just seven hours in the office, but, with the economy the way it is, I know I should be grateful to have a job.  Unfortunately, there's more snow forecast overnight which inevitably means digging out my car, then crawling along unploughed side streets while hoping that the snowploughs have been able to keep the major routes clear.  Equally inevitable are delays at the airport while they clear the runways and de-ice the planes.

For some reason the budget airline I'm flying with never seem to use the air bridges (maybe the get a discount on their landing fees if they don't use some of the facilities of the airport) but insist you walk across the tarmac and use steps.  Despite the fact that I'm only going to cold, grey, London to work, despite the early hour, the snow, and the freezing walk to the plane - despite everything - I know that as I climb the aircraft steps I will be smiling, because I love the smell of jet fuel in the morning.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

To love another person is to see the face of God

The Dominion Cinema, Cannan Lane, Edinburgh
No poetry from me again today, just a small appreciation of a movie, the cinema in which I watched it, and a great little restaurant.

My wife had decided that on her birthday she would like to see a movie and go out for a meal.  She is proud to share her birthday with President Lincoln (and Charles Darwin), so Lincoln was the obvious choice.  Even though I had already been to see it with the older of my two sons, I was happy to see it again, but she said "no" we would go to see Les Misérables on our date-night.

Now whilst I had enjoyed Les Misérables on stage, I wasn't overly looking forward to the film.  A few days earlier, I had heard, on the radio, an extract from the film of Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed A Dream, and I have to say I was less than impressed...

But then we went to see the film, and how wrong could I have been?  It was amazing.  What I had failed to take into account when listening to the radio, was that I was not listening to a studio recording, optimised for radio or for CD, nor was I listening to theatre production by someone who was first and foremost a musical theatre star, I was listening to a live, on-set recording of the song, interpreted, by someone best-known as an actress, to compliment the mise-en-scène (Now there is a phrase I thought I would never use!  Pretentious?  Moi?).

Though I was impressed by the cast in general, and, in context, thoroughly enjoyed Ann Hathaway's singing, of those cast members not known as singers, the one that most impressed me was Russell Crowe.  Given some of the comments I had read about Mr Crowe's singing elsewhere on the Interweb, I guess that was a salutary reminder to experience things for yourself, make up your own mind about things, and not worry about what everyone else (or the odd pundit with access to the media) thinks.

It is interesting to note some of the other people who might have appeared in the film: Scarlett Johansson, Hayden Panettiere, Evan Rachel Wood, Lea Michele, and Taylor Swift are all alleged to have auditioned for the role of Eponine alone.  I cannot begin to imagine Taylor Swift taking on the role of Eponine, but I am immensely curious as to what Lea Michele would have done with it had she been selected.  She has after all sung the role before (in Les Misérables in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl) and her first Broadway role was as Young Cosette.  That however takes nothing away from my appreciation of Samantha Barks performance which was excellent.

In fact, my only disquiet with any aspect of the film was with the lengths to which Ann Hathaway appeared to have gone to immerse herself in the role.  I was reminded of Sir Laurence Olivier's comment to Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man: "Dear boy, you look absolutely awfulWhy don't you try acting?  It's so much easier."  (Hoffman has always maintained he was out partying at Studio 54 to take his mind off the failure of his first marriage, rather than just staying awake for days on end to get into character, but it's a good story anyway).

Suffice to say I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and at the end, though it may seem an odd reaction for a pair of dyed-in-the-wool atheists, I have to admit I squeezed her hand a little tighter when Hugh Jackman, as Jean Valjeansings the beautiful words of Victor Hugo that entitle this posting.

Some research (okay, five minutes in Google) actually shows Hugo to be an incredibly quotable writer: change the pronouns and "He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two." could easily have been written about my wife and "The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved - loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves." neatly encapsulates how she makes me feel about myself.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The world will little note, nor long remember...

No poetry from me today, just a quick post prompted by a visit to the cinema this afternoon with the older of my two sons to see Lincoln.  As you will know if you have read some of my previous posts I am a huge West Wing fan (still, I think, the best TV drama ever written) and anyone else who likes the West Wing should also enjoy this brilliant political procedural.  Very well done Mr Spielberg - it's gearing up to be an interesting awards season.


Saturday, 2 February 2013

At The Coffee Shop
(Saturday 2 February 2008, 10am)

Women mostly.  Serious shoppers: arms full of bags already.  Mothers and daughters, both young and old.

A girl catches my eye.  She half-smiles and her eyes hold my gaze for a second as her face turns back to the conversation.

A couple of young guys reading the sports pages.  Nursing hangovers perhaps, while they wait for their partners to finish their shopping?

A tired-looking young couple fondly, jealously, watching their baby as she sleeps serenely in her buggy.

A barista clearing tables.  As he bends over, the curious toddler at the next table reaches from his booster seat and gently touches the proffered buttocks...

                         One coffee shop,
                         one americano -
                         so many stories.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

A Lipstick Feminist Addresses Newton

                         To see further who
                         needs the shoulders of giants?
                         I wear stilettos.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Ghost Of My Father

I'm haunted by the ghost of my father.
He stalks a parallel universe that
I glimpse occasionally in shop windows.
I say occasionally, but, honestly,
It's becoming more and more frequent now.
And I’m slowly having to come to terms

With peripheral images that once shocked.

Dad was there when my new passport arrived,
Staring at me from pages two and three.
And in all the latest holiday snaps
He is standing, smiling, there at the back.
Worst of all though, every morning when I
Look in the mirror, it’s him there, not me.
I am simile become metaphor.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Three Oncologists

Three figures though the blur of tears;
Peering at you over their shoulders.
An X-ray.
Indistinct mass:
Soft edged but tumour-dense.
The streaks of blood vessels feeding growth. Carrying off cells to      metastasize elsewhere?

Three oncologists conferring quietly,
Regardingly, confidently.
An X-ray.
Indistinct mass,
Visibly shrinking at the margins.
The streaks of blood vessels carrying drugs to their target.

Three scientists fading into the background,
Their work done.
An X-ray.
Indistinct mass,
Fading fast.
The streaks of tears on joyful cheeks.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Richard Blanco chosen to read Inaugural Poem

I was interested to read today that Richard Blanco (a poet of whom I had never previously heard) will read a poem (presumably an original composition of his own) at President Obama’s second inauguration.

Richard Blanco will become only the fifth inaugural poet (after Robert Frost in 1961, Maya Angelou in 1993, Miller ­Williams in 1997, and Elizabeth Alexander in 2009).

What's wrong with the Republicans?  Do they think poetry is only for Democrats?

Oh, and Beyonce will sing the national anthem!