Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Bilston Voices

Although the fine weather seemed to have had an effect on the numbers attending this month's Bilston Voices it certainly didn't reduce the quality of the event at all. The performances were of the same high standard that we have come to expect and so we were treated to five more excellent sets in our evening's entertainment at the Cafe Metro.
It started with Ddotti Bluebell who gave a confident performance in a fast-paced, rhythmic, almost rapping style. Her opening poem was an odd piece about what Hitler would have been like if he had worn her bright orange boots. Other poems covered various aspects of her experience as a poet - how she became a poet, the stress of writing and so on but by far the oddest was a rapping villanelle about child slavery. Before I heard it I'd have sworn that a rapping villanelle was an impossibility and the subject matter added an extra level of improbability. Nevertheless it was a fine piece of work, both technically and as thoughtful entertainment.
By complete contrast Janet Smith gave a quieter, more structured set  of shorter poems. Her strength lies in the use of imagery from nature both straightforwardly and metaphorically. My favourite from her set was "The Fire In His Eyes"  about a childhood experience of creating a collage of a tiger but all of them were lyrical and delivered with a quiet intensity.
Things turned around again with the appearance of Andy Connor, literally with his appearance, as he strode  slowly and menacingly towards the performance area before delivering the most powerful piece of the evening, a startlingly dark and aggressive poem about being a bully at school and the lifelong aftermath of it. It was wonderfully and mesmerisingly done with intense flashes of anger contrasting sharply with almost prosaic descriptions of violence. He followed it with a brighter poem about an inspirational teacher and an extract from his new novel in which he convincingly described a visit to a rather dodgy car dealer. It was a varied set and all very well done.
The second half kicked off  with Hazel Malcolm. In homage to tomorrow's Royal Wedding, she started with a short poem about being a bridesmaid and followed up with a reprise of the piece that she had read a couple of weeks ago at Wolverhampton about  her mother acting as banker in an informal financial club. A diverse selection of pieces  including poems about a plastic bag, how time changes us and some short reflections about hairdressing rounded out her set.
Theo Theobald never disappoints. His sets are only peripherally about poetry as the introductions are often longer than the poems and both are laugh-out-loud funny. In among the banter we were treated to poems about why he hates the London Marathon, how men drive and Eastenders' script writing, as well as the more serious Harry's Stool which was an unusual and poignant reflection on death. He finished off with his ever popular slam piece riffing on the names of the areas from the Radio Four shipping forecast.
It was an excellent end to an excellent night that was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone there.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

A Thor Point

Look, alright, I know it's a terrible pun but I couldn't resist it, and it is pertinent.

As a long time comic book reader this is definitely my Summer. Coming soon we have films of Green Lantern, X-Men:First Class and Captain America but first out of the traps is Thor which I saw yesterday. It certainly has the look of the comics. As adaptations go it could hardly be faulted. The Asgardian scenes are huge and epic, the Earth scenes are contrastingly small and human and clearly designed to set it all firmly in the Marvel Films Universe. The story is also pretty damned good, merging Norse myths almost seamlessly with the modern world.

So why the terrible pun?

In a word, no, in a letter and a number - 3D.

I watched in in glorious 2D because 3D gives me a headache but 3D is stamped all over the production. And stamped is very close to the right word. Perhaps "3D tramples all over the production" would be a better way to put it. The CGI Asgard is magnificently realised but the constant swooping, diving, tracking, panning, in-your-face motion of the point of view just makes you dizzy and makes it almost impossible to focus on any single element of the shot. The battle scenes are relentlessly cut/thrust/poke/slash towards the viewer. Even a scene where an angry Thor dashes all the food from the banquet table has him upsetting the table towards the viewer with the food bouncing and rolling into the camera.
Every single shot in the movie seems to have composed with dramatic impact playing a distinct second fiddle to the potential for 3D effects and this means that when watching it in 2D the way that this is so much at odds with conventional ideas of dramatic staging is startlingly clear.

I had hoped that this 3D fad would, as it has been in the past, be a passing thing but more and more films seem to be being released in both 2 and 3 dimensional versions so it looks as if it's here to stay. All I can hope for now is that directors stop pandering to the perceived need for everything in 3D being into or out of the screen and return to letting the narrative and the drama determine the framing of the action.

I won't hold my breath though.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Changing Times

In one of my "Childish Things" posts, I talked about my old mechanical typewriter. So it was with a little nostalgic sadness that I read the story today that the last manufacturer of typewriters has ceased production.
Yes, typewriters are officially a thing of the past, consigned to the history books along with 78 rpm records (or even just records), quill pens and penny-farthing bicycles. No more will anyone have to dirty their fingers changing a ribbon, go back and paint over a mistake with correcting fluid, unjam the mechanical arms that have locked because two keys were accidentally hit at the same time. No more will anyone hear the click-clack of the keys, the ker-ching of the end-of-line bell, the whirring ratchet as the carrier is pushed back for the next line.

Apparently there are a few hundred typewriters still available in stock and then that's it. No more new ones to be had. It is a little sad, though I have to admit that I haven't used a typewriter for thirty years or more.

One slightly puzzling aspect of the story is that it says they ceased production in 2009. It seems rather a long interval between the event and the news of the event. Nevertheless another small portion of the present has now become the past.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


There's a trailer currently running on Channel 5 for a new TV show called "Impossible" which, as far as I can tell, appears to be a Derren Brown style magic show. In the trailer the magician is heard to say "Can I predict what you will do before you have done it yourself?"

I'll tell you what would be impossible, predicting what they have done after they have done it.

An argument I'm struggling to understand

There's been recent debate about proposals to make it law that all dogs must be microchipped. One argument being levelled against it seems to be that people who breed and own dangerous dogs will ignore the law and that only law-abiding owners will comply. This seems to me to be the most bizarre argument. If you apply the same principle across the board no law will ever be passed because people who break the law will break the law and people who obey the law will obey the law. The suggestion that because some people will break a law then the law shouldn't exist seems ridiculous.

There may well be other arguments both for and against the idea. As someone who has never owned a dog I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other on whether dogs should be chipped. I do think this particular argument is a non-starter though.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Great Travel Experiences: Morning at Machu Picchu

There are two different ways to get to Machu Picchu . The easy way is to take the train to Aguas Calientes and then take a bus up to the ruins. It's a great way to do it, sitting on at rain through some stunning scenery, arriving at the small town, getting a beer and chilli while you wait for the bus, riding up the hill to the most famous ruins in the world.
It's a great way to do it but it isn't the best way. I've visited the site twice, once by rail and once by hiking the Inca Trail and without doubt the Inca Trail is the best way to see it.
Actually, from the Inca Trail the first sight of the lost city is a major disappointment. The hazy light renders the tree covered mountainside into a dull greenish grey against which the walls of the city are a dull brownish grey with no visual impact at all. Worse though is the vicious white zig-zag scar of the road which has been carved through the trees to carry busloads of tourists from the valley to the city. This is such a high visibility feature of the landscape that Machu Pichu would be insignificant by comparison if it were painted day-glo pink. To add insult to this monstrous injury the road has been crowned with a bus station and hotel with no attempt at all to blend them into the background.
That's only first impressions though and as soon as you dip down onto the trail that leads from the Sun Gate into the ruins you lose sight of both the road and the bus station and the closer you get, the better it gets.
We had arrived early, before the first trainload of daytripping tourists and so it was eerily empty. At a point that was still outside the city walls we paused on a grassy plateau looking down at the remains of the buildings. Our guide, Raoul, gave us a potted history and we listened attentively to his words.
As we sat listening to him a bank of cloud rolled in from the left gradually but inexorably eating away the view until we were looking at a white wall. He paused in his descriptions and silence fell. Then, just as gradually it dispersed, this time like a morning mist, first thinning and then vanishing, slowly revealing the city again. As it thinned, changing from a thick shroud of cotton whiteness to a vanishing series of lacy threads it was easy to imagine the city as it must have once been, populated and thriving. I could almost see the sunlight glistening on the gold hanging on the walls, almost hear the noise of the people going about their daily tasks, almost smell the llamas. As the last wisps vanished I realised that I could smell the llamas, a silent herd of them stood just one terrace down.We deceded the steps and entered the city.

Small Stones: Extended Remixes #8

The observation for the 8th January was, essentially, the very trivial observation that I had observed nothing to write about. Somehow, I've managed to get a whole poem out of the idea - not perhaps one of my best, but not too bad either.

What The Day Had To Be

Nothing has happened.
The day has been slow.
I’ve had little to do
and nowhere to go,
made no observations,
seen nothing that’s new.
Nothing important
has entered my view.
Here in my armchair
just before bed,
I turn the day over
once again in my head,
seeking significance
to any event,
I examine each moment
to find what it meant.
And then it occurs
that the meaning may be
that the day has just been
what the day had to be.

Ongoing #73

Finally, after prompting in the pub, I'm getting back to some of my neglected projects.
Ongoing, in case you have forgotten is a series of poems inspired by the cartoons in a book that I bought where the idea was that you complete the doodles. I prefer to use them as ideas for poems.
The next doodle shows three little old ladies knitting and talking.

And the poem that now goes with it is this.

Different in their day

There was a gaggle of gossiping grannies
Sat at the back of the bus,
Clucking and tutting and talking -
Eager to fret and to fuss;
Giving each passenger boarding
An overly critical eye;
Seeking to find any reasons
For a shake of the head and a sigh.
Disapproved of the teenagers clothing
And of the schoolchildren's noise,
And a mom with a child in a pushchair
|Had given her too many toys.
A guy with a spiky mohican
Sat quietly reading a book.
They loudly condemned his appearance,
Gave a stern and censorious look.
And a man in a suit with a briefcase
Was playing a game on his phone
Prompting the garrulous grumblers
To whine and to whinge and to moan
About how nowadays things were changing
How different their day had been,
How nothing's as good as it used to be.
They just go on venting their spleen.
A young man with a baby in harness
met with a withering stare
that compared to the vilification
for his wife with her pink and green hair.
At last when their stop was approaching
They stood up and still finding fault
Had a go at the bus driver's braking
As the vehicle came to a halt.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Small Stones: Extended Remixes #7

Out of order from the originals but this poem is an extended version of the small stone observation for 6th January.

Thirteenth Morning

The decorations are gone                   
all returned to their boxes,                             
and returned to the attic.                               
The string of lights is wound
around a piece of wood:
no more rainbow twinkling.
The tree, tinselled and baubled,
wrapped in a plastic bin liner
is waiting to be stored away.
Saddest are the Christmas cards
that lie here on the table,
leaving pin holes in the wall.
Penguins, trees, wreaths, baubles,
snow scenes, reindeer and wise men
all ready for recycling.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Getting Closer

Yesterday I bought my airline ticket to China. This afternoon I have some paperwork to complete and send.
Things are moving on.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Movies so bad they're...well bad actually.

There are, I think everyone would agree, a lot of very bad films. Who could forget Plan 9 From Outer Space or Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, for example?
Well I've just watched a contender for the worst movie ever made accolade, it's certainly in the top few worst ones that I've ever seen. It's part of a triple bill on a DVD I paid a whole pound for last week and it's unbelievably bad. It's Roger Corman's Creature From The Haunted Sea.
What's wrong with it? Just about everything actually. It's probably a bit unfair to criticise the dialogue of what is supposed to be a Horror/Comedy. I have to mention the classic " It was dusk: I could tell because the sun was going down" though.
The best thing is the monster. It looks like a ball of wool with two tennis balls for eyes. Oh, that's more or less what it was.

Can't wait for the other two on the disc - Bela Lugosi in "The Devil Bat" and Lionel Atwill in "Vampire Bat". After that, also for the magnificent sum of one pound I have a triple bill of Bela Lugosi films: Invisible Ghost, Scared To Death and White Zombie. I'm tempted to sit here for the next eight hours or so and watch them all in one go.

Great stuff.

To Put Away Childish Things: In Memoriam

The purpose of this series of posts is to talk about the things that were important in my childhood that have been forgotten for many years. 
Some of these childish things we put away, others are taken away from us. Very rarely they are given back. I am old enough to have watched Doctor Who right from the start, from the very first appearance of a black and white Tardis standing in a junkyard. I watched it through the good times and the not so good times, from Hartnell to McCoy: and then it was taken away from me because the powers in the BBC no longer wanted to make it.
Of course it came back but that wasn't what I was thinking of when I said that sometimes things are given back. It came back but it wasn't the same. I watch it now but it's bigger and flashier and it isn't the same program. I enjoy it but not for the same reasons that I enjoyed it in the past. In a way it's too adult, too clever and too slick.
But we were given the real Doctor Who, the old Doctor Who back in the form of the Sarah Jane Adventures. All fans of Doctor Who have their own ideas of which of the actors to take the role is best. Usually it's the one they grew up with. For me it wasn't, for me it was Sylvester McCoy who I always felt had some great storylines that wer sometimes let down with weak scripting.
That's by the way though. The interesting thing is that if the question of who was the greatest companion is raised, there's little doubt that it's Sarah Jane Smith. She was different to all the previous companions, more of an equal partner in the adventures, less of a simple foil for the Doctor. She lasted a long time but as is inevitable in the series eventually she wasn't there any more, though she did pop up from time to time with subsequent incarnations of the Doctor.

And then the timelord's own adventures went from our screens. Abandoned by the BBC  apart from one brief attempt to bring it back with a TV movie, it was gone for a long time. The new super-duper all-singing, all-dancing version that we eventually got is pretty good, but somehow it isn't the same.
And then the Sarah Jane Adventures arrived. The Doctor himself was only an infrequent visitor to the series. Sarah Jane was the lead and she, like the Doctor before her, had her companions. It was squarely aimed at children and shown in a children's TV slot. And it was great fun. Much more than the parent program it was the heir to the spirit and style of the original. There were fast-paced episodes with great villains and stories. There were hiding-behind-the-sofa scary bits. There were entertaining companions. It was fun again in a way that Doctor Who hadn't been for a very long time. And there was Sarah Jane Smith.

Elisabeth Sladen walked back into the role as if she had never been away from it. Other actors have cropped uo from time to time reprising their roles - Nicholas Courtney as Brigadeer Lethbridge-Stewart, Katy Manning as Jo Grant for example - but the characters never seem quite the same. Elisabeth Sladen did. The Sarah Jane in the Sarah Jane Adventures was exactly the Sarah Jane we all remembered. We had been given back one of the put-away childish things.

This week Elisabeth Sladen died, aged 65 and with her Sarah Jane Smith died. She was one of the cornerstones of the Doctor Who Universe and she gave us back the old-style Doctor Who. Gave us all back a slice of our childhoods. It won't be the same Universe without her.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

New Book

One thing I have so far neglected to mention is that I have, after giving it a lot of thought, put out a second book of poetry. I realise that this makes a total of three books in as many months but I wanted to get them out before I disappear to China and I wanted to have time to try to sell a few. The new book is called Chaos Theory: A Collection of Poems. Personally I think it's the best collection yet.

As with the other two books - Anyone Can Do It and The Hitting The Road Again Blues it is available from You could go there and search for it or you could just follow this handy link. A few of my friends have bought copies of these books but A LOT OF YOU HAVEN'T!

No names, no pack drill as my Dad always used to say (he had some odd sayings), but you all know who you are. Go and buy them all NOW! Or you could save the postage and come and see me perform at Bilston Voices at the Cafe Metro, Bilston on the 26th May - my farewell performance in the Midlands - where copies of all three books will be on sale, subject to availability.

(And yes David, I'm talking to you!)


This blog recently seems to be dying of neglect recently, and that's odd because I have never had more time on my hands than I do at the moment. It's true that I have jobs coming up from the 7th of July but right now I am unemployed and have nothing but time. You'd think that my blog rate would go up instead of tailing off to almost nothing.
I'm not sure why it is. It isn't as if I am actually doing anything with all this free time. It just seems to disappear.
Anyway. I shall try to rectify the situation.
As soon as I think of something to write about.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Mixed Messages?

I know this is nothing new but I can't help commenting because it's something that really gets me angry. It seems from today's papers that David Cameron's address to the Conservative party on the subject of immigration includes quite a lot of stuff that is deliberately playing to a mind-set I'd rather hoped we'd seen the last of. I'm hesitant to use the word racist because it's so inflammatory and most certainly isn't how David Cameron would wish his words to be perceived. However, just looking at the text and how it is structured, we have the kind of non-racism that I've heard too often. It usually begins with the phrase, "I'm not a racist, but..."
I don't want to talk about that really.  You can read the text for yourself and make up your own mind about it. The bit that gets to me is this.
But as well as abuse of the system, there are other problems with the family route. We know, for instance, that some marriages take place when the spouse is very young, and has little or no grasp of English. Again we cannot allow cultural sensitivity to stop us from acting. That's why last November we introduced a requirement for all those applying for a marriage visa to demonstrate a minimum standard of English …
The theme is continued with

We're making sure that anyone studying a degree-level course has a proper grasp of the English language.


That's why with us, if you're good at your subject, can speak English and have been offered a place on a course at a trusted institution – you will be able to get a visa to study here.
The idea appears to be that people living in England should speak English. As teaching English to people who can't speak it is my job,I can't argue with that. It's a very sound principle. I'm leaving in a few months to take up a post in China. While I am there I shall make every effort to learn the language of the society I'm in. I'll even try to to get some basics and some basic phrases before I go. It's the right thing to do.
The problem is that, as someone who has worked for a long time in the British Adult Education system, I've seen the provision of courses first expand slowly but then contract catastrophically. The new rules on who can have free English lessons make it almost impossible for most people to learn. In a discussion on TV this morning Ann Diamond has put the ill-informed and frankly preposterous view that if they are here they should be prepared to pay for English courses. The fact that asylum-seekers are forbidden to work and unable to claim benefits beyond the voucher system provided by the Government would seem to prevent that for them. The fact that in many households, as even admitted in the quote from David Cameron above, the wife has no access to her own money and the husband is unwilling or unable to pay for English lessons prevents another large section of society from attending Lessons. Even where someone is working the cost of the courses could well be too high to allow the difficult decision of allocating that much money to what might be perceived as an inessential activity.

The quotes from David Cameron, and the general view of the Government, seem to indicate that they would like everyone to learn to speak English but before they come here. This is borne out by the fact that for years complete beginners have not been funded and that now funding for the lower levels, what we refer to as the entry levels in ESOL, is rather harder to come by. The ladder of learning, in English at least, has no bottom rung. People are expected to already speak English before they start their English courses.

It's all very well to say that people living in the UK should learn to speak the language - who could disagree that it's a good idea - but to couple that with the removal of the only way that many have to do so seems more than just perverse. It's practically sadistic. The idea that people intending, for whatever reason, to move here will even have access to English lessons in their countries of origin is a massive leap of faith. 

If the Government wishes to control immigration, and it's clear that they do, then regardless of my views on the subject they should do it honestly. Setting language conditions that are impossible for most people to meet is a dishonest way of doing it.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

City Voices: four fifths of a review

Well, I finally made it to the top of the bill at City Voices and all I had to do to get there was promise to leave the country. I can't really review myself so I'll restrict this to the other four performers from last night at City Voices.
It started with Susan Fearn who warned us before she started that she liked experimental poetry. Now the term "experimental poetry" means different things to different people. It can encompass experimental techniques of creation, experimental verse forms, experimental use of language, experimental topics. Almost anything. In Susan's case her introduction made it clear that she uses experimental creation techniques - making links between randomly chosen postcards for example - and the poems themselves demonstrated the use of language and verse forms. So, was it any good? Well yes and no. Many years ago I saw a concert by Phil Collins side-project Brand-X. It was all technically well done but at the end of the evening I couldn't say if they had played eight ten minute songs or one eighty minute song. I felt more or less the same way about Susan's performance. She announced the title of each poem and told us little about it. Even so I found that I was listening to the words with very little understanding of their meanings. There were a couple of more traditional pieces but on the whole experimental poetry isn't really to my taste.
Nick Pearson followed with rather more traditional fare which, consequently, I enjoyed more. Whether he is talking about  how towns have changed during his lifetime, television talent shows or memories of his step-mother his poems are sharp and perceptive and often both funny and painful at the same time. Aided by his confident delivery he gave us a very pleasing and entertaining set.
The first half was rounded out by Hazel Malcolm who gave us two long prose pieces rather than poetry. The first was a reminiscence from her childhood  about people visiting her mother who was acting as a banker in an informal financial club. She painted the picture authentically and confidently. The second piece was about hairdressing, not a topic that I am greatly enthused about, but the same comments applied. Her great skill is in drawing the listener into an unfamiliar world in a convincing way.
The second half started with Iris Rhodes whose poems were mostly about strong women, real and mythical: Ariadne, Cleopatra, Boudicca. The poems were assuredly structured and well-delivered and, though I personally prefer descriptive poetry to narrative poetry, well-received. When she moved away from the strong women theme she nevertheless continued in a feminist vein for most of the set which demonstrated her undoubted ability. The only real problem was in the length of her introductions which were often much longer than the poems themselves. Shorter introductions and more poetry would have made the set even better.

And of course the final performer was me. For obvious reasons I can't review it but, for the record, I read two extracts from my book about travels in North And South America and two poems: Bangkok Hustle and Sunset On The African Plains.

As a short postscript, I will be at the May City Voices where Scribblers are launching a new anthology and I should be able to attend, though not perform at the June one but after that City Voices and I will be, at least for the time being, parting company as I go to work away for a couple of years. As it usually clashes with Scribblers I probably won't be able to find a substitute guest reviewer but if anyone wants to provide guest reviews for this blog, please contact me.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Small Stones: Extended Remixes #6

This isn't really just an extended version of the small stone poem from 7th January, it's more of a reworking of the concept.

There was a future.

There was a future.

It was written
and road-mapped
and plotted
and planned,
and placid
and bland.
With a stroke
of the pen
in ink black
as the void
the road map
was lost
and the plan
was  destroyed.
As I wrote
my name
at the foot
of the page.
I unwrote
my future
and walked
from the cage.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

I'm probably just noticing it more

This stuff does seem to keep cropping up.
As I'm working (though playing is probably a better word) at my computer today, as is my now-normal, out-of-work habit, I have the TV tuned to The Wright Stuff. They have been discussing depression but some of the remarks from guest panellist Kriss Akabusi have a rather wider relevance. He has been suggesting that all of our lives are about preparing for and accepting necessary losses. That in order to move on, in order to change, we are forced to understand that things have to be left behind. And that learning those lessons ultimately prepares us for the acceptance of death, the final necessary loss. He added that part of the process is learning what we can take with us and what must be left behind as we move through our lives.
The show is often trivial and lightweight and the host has a penchant for unwarranted sarcasm but every now and then someone says something that seems quite intelligent and this seems to be one of those times. 
It seems very relevant to me at the moment.
Apparently, since retiring from his sports career, he has worked as a motivational speaker. I haven't seen him in that roll but I think he's probably rather good at it.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Small Stones: Extended Remixes #5

A longer version of the small stone poem originally posted on 9th January.

I quite liked the original of this but I also like this slightly longer version.

When the snow was here I walked this way,
followed the winding path across these fields,
felt the chill of the air on my hands and face,
and thought how beautiful it was.

But the snow had covered the fields like powder on a face,
hidden the traces of all that was unsightly,
and, now that it has melted and been absorbed,
the fields are once more pox-scarred with litter.

Making the right decision

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.
    Anatole France

I ran across this quote today and it seemed to be remarkably apposite. Since I finished work at the end of February, taking the redundancy money and walking out of the college for ever, I have been gradually dismantling the whole apparatus of my life.
I have given away most of the contents of my home, barring a few things that I couldn't bear to part with that have gone into storage. Only today I have put my house on the market. Sometime this afternoon a charity shop is coming to take most of my furniture.
And of course the changes are about to become even more profound. I have my regular summer job in Harrow to look forward to but, unlike every other year , this time I won't be returning. Barely a week later I shall be on an aeroplane on my way to China where I have accepted a teaching post. It's a strange feeling.

Of course I have travelled in the past - travelled for long periods, when each new day was in a new place and  home was a tent or a hotel room. This is different though because all of those travels had left behind me somewhere that had been home and would, sooner or later, be home again. This time that won't be true. When I return from China I will have no home to return to, no comfortable, familiar surroundings, no base. Instead I shall have to change everything again, have to retrieve the tiny portion of my life from storage and create a whole new life around it.

Before that I have create a new life as a teacher in a country where I will be in  a position similar to many of the students I have taught in the last ten years. Living in a country where I don't understand the customs, where I am effectively both illiterate and innumerate, where the most mundane aspects of daily life take on a new difficulty. It's an exciting and a rather frightening prospect.

At the moment I have a lot of time on my hands and perhaps that is adding to the almost overwhelming melancholy I feel. I was six years old when we moved into this house, almost half a century ago. Over the years its been decorated and redecorated; we have had half a dozen changes of furniture. The windows and doors have been replaced. The layout of the garden has changed as often as my father's whims about how it should look. None of that matters. The house - the home - has been part of, more or less, my whole life. Even when I was at University for three years this was still here, an ever-present refuge looming in the background.

And soon it won't be.

When I trained to teach, my original plan was to teach in China but plans change and somehow I never made it out of England. Well what can change, can change back and my plans have changed back. As the quote above implies though it does feel a bit like dieing. The whole life that has led me to where I am now will be gone and something new will have taken its place. I feel less as if I am leaving part of me behind and more as if I am surgically removing it and discarding it in a container marked "Incinerate: Human Waste".

A week or so ago, a friend asked me if I though he had made the right decision about something - who and what don't matter. My reply was that there are no wrong decisions; that whatever decision you make is always the right one. The important things are to make some kind of decision and to accept that everything you do has consequences. You can never know what the consequences of the decision you didn't take might have been and it doesn't matter.

So now my decision is to discard one life and start another. And that's the right decision, melancholy feelings or no.

Forthcoming Attractions

I guess you could call it my farewell tour.
Now that I am leaving the country I have been trying to organise a few final readings. I finally got to the Poetry Train last week though I didn't find it entirely to my taste as a performance venue. Still at least I read a few of my more rarely heard pieces there.

Next week, on 12th April, I am at City Voices at the City Bar in Wolverhampton, where I will be reading from my book "Anyone Can Do It".

I am considering going to an open mic performance in Burton on 20th April.

Scribblers, my writing group, are launching our magazine at the next City Voices which should be on 10th May, and I may read a couple of short poems from the anthology there.

And I will be doing an exclusive set of autobiographical poems at Bilston Voices at the Cafe Metro in Bilston on 26th May.

I've never been so busy.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Monday, 4 April 2011

Small Stones: Extended Remixes #4

A longer version of the small stone poem originally posted on 5th January.

I extended this one mainly to include something about why the SS Great Britain was such an iconic vessel.

The SS Great Britain

She sailed a million miles –
thirty two times around the globe –
but came to rest
abandoned and forgotten,
then rediscovered
with rust maps on her hull
charting her voyages
and holes that let through
patterned light
like stars to guide her home.

Or maybe not...

As you can see from the test post below I can repost to this blog by using posterous and as that is updated via email which, at least at the moment, isn't blocked in China then this blog, and its mirror on posterous should be updatable. Of course I won't actually be able to see what I've posted but at least I should be able to post.

I'll just have to keep careful records.

Posterous Re-Post Test

Test post to posterous and via repost to blogger

This Blog May Die

As you may know I am leaving the country to work in China in August. It seems that the Chinese authorities no longer allow access to Blogger so I won't be able to maintain this blog past my departure. (Still have a few months to go of course.)
At first I thought this would present no special problem as I could simply create a new blog on a server that is allowed. Unfortunately I can't find one in English. There are blog servers available but they are all in Chinese which is clearly no use to me as I can't understand the set up instructions and even if I could I wouldn't be able to write posts in Chinese.

Therefore this blog, and my other blogs which are also on blogger, may die when I leave the country. My blogging may, in fact, cease altogether unless I can find an English language blog host that works in China.

If anybody knows of one please tell me.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Small Stones: Extended Remixes #3

A longer version of the small stone originally posted on 4th January.

I sit beyond the darkest edge
of the dance floor;
beyond the coloured confusion
of the lights;
beyond the possibility of notice
and watch them.
Within the room the dancers
move to the beat;
the lights paint them in shifting
random patterns;
their clothes, their hands, their faces
in spectral spectrums.
The darkened ballroom windows
reflect the lights
but do not reflect the dancers
solid forms.
They become spirits in the night
as I become a ghost.