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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Halloween rhyme time

A Halloween special....

Goths must really hate Halloween
It surely cramps their style
Makes you wonder if it tempts them
To don colour for a while 

No point trying to intellectualise 
Quote Lovecraft, Stoker, Shelley,
When bats and cats and pointy hats
Are all over the telly

Otherwise sane individuals
For a few days decree it fun
To carve up shrivelled pumpkins
That they bought on two for one

And that old mantra stranger danger
For one night gets ignored
Criminal record? Whatever!
They've got sweet treats you could hoard!

Even Dracula would retreat to the grave
When the under ten's attack
Best to lock yourself safe indoors 
With a pint of cider and black

Goths must really hate Halloween
Begrudgingly resigned
To seeing all that they believe in
Be commercially undermined

Painters, poets, posers
Many suffer for their art 
But this saccharine Disney-fied dark side
Strikes terror in the blackest heart

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

One of my weirder writing efforts.....

A while back our Leeds Savages writing group meeting somehow descended into a conversation around Lionel Richie and his (frankly legendary) video for 'Hello'. If you haven't seen it, I implore you to visit you tube straight away to check it out - its a real tour de force, with the clay head being an artistic triumph, and the romantic arc up there with Shakespeare's finest.

Anyhow, following on from that particular session I decided, for reasons largely unknown, that I'd write something inspired by the great man himself. The theme for the next writing group meet was Endurance, and somehow I even managed to make it vaguely own topic. It also served as a leaving 'gift' for Glen, a much loved member of the group who has now left us to pursue a writing degree down in the sunny south. He'd probably have preferred chocolates but hey, it was more original!

Lyrical genius or a sign of madness? You decide.....

Ps - there are a whopping 58 Lionel Richie song titles in this poem - who knew he was so prolific?

Endurance (an ode to Lionel Richie)

At first she was just a Face in the crowd                                                  
An Ordinary Girl, a Wandering Stranger                                                  
And you were barely more than a boy
And happy to be a lone ranger
You were Running With the Night                                                                  
Life one long Outrageous dance                                                                    
All Night Long you'd go Round and Round                                                
If only you'd had the chance

Then that Ballerina Girl twirled into your path                                          
And suddenly, Nothing Else Matters                                                           
She's Amazing, The Only One, The Sun and the moon                          
And with  one Touch, every other dream shatters.                                
All that's gone before feels like Wasted Time                                           
But little do you know
That Love, Oh Love, is the hardest climb                                                    
And you've such a Long Long Way to Go                                                   

You Say I Do, dreaming of Endless Love                                                   
Proclaim, "Truly, Baby, This is Forever                                                     
This girl can Do it to me for Eternity                                                          
And I won't get bored, not ever
I want to Shout it to the world, how I'm Stuck on you                            
You're the Closest thing to heaven I know                                                
I've been Into you deep Forever and a day                                                
From the first moment that you said 'Hello'"                                             

Together you Keep on Dancing                                                                     
Still In Love with five years gone                                                                   
You might no longer be Up All Night                                                             
But your Love Canoe Sail's On                                                                     
It's not all Paradise but you both believe                                                    
That Love Will Conquer All                                                                              
It's a feat of endurance, climbing long and hard                                      
And you're determined not to fall

But Time brings Changes, and each Change makes                             
You begin to think again
Your Angel's halo is looking tarnished these days                                 
Is my destiny a ball and chain?                                                                     
Mid-life crisis, seven year itch, call it what you will                               
Your Lady has been nothing but good to you                                           
But you'd risk it all for one cheap thrill

She had no Reason to Believe                                                                            
That her man was anything but true
But Now You're Gone,  Nothing left to give                                                  
Time to Stand Down, bid Goodbye, shout F*** You!                                 
And now Cinderella goes Running Through the Night                              
Whilst You Are Truly alone - and it Serves You Right.                             


Went to my first writing group meeting in a while tonight - illness and other commitments having kept me away for a while. Heard some fantastic contributions (Doug in particular entertaining the room with a brilliantly funny / unrepeatably rude story on the assigned topic of 'Unacceptable Behaviour'), I know I've said this before but it really is always a pleasure to get the chance to hear a wide range of creative, original pieces. The styles and themes are so diverse but they all have one thing in common - guaranteed entertainment.

I read out a piece I wrote for the meeting a few weeks ago on the theme of 'Secrets' which I unfortunately missed. Will be missing a few more sessions going forward due to a combination of business and pleasure (holidays are coming!), but will try to get some writing in if I can in between the travels.... Hopefully they might even provide some much wanted inspirational!


Weddings and funerals may represent somewhat different rites of passage but, unless you're one of the major players, the experience of attending them is often pretty similar.
The location, for a start. I know that plenty of couples don't do the whole church thing anymore, but it's still been the setting of choice for most of my acquaintances nuptials.  The cliched script, the air of celebration, sometimes genuine perhaps, but frequently forced. "We are gathered here to celebrate the life of Mr X..." - bit bloody late now that he's shuffled off this mortal coil. It would have surely been better if the assembled group of family, friends and professional mourners had made the effort to visit him and show their appreciation before his ticker gave in. 
Weddings are much the same. Everyone spouting congratulations and best wishes, pretending to be delighted and telling the happy couple that they're going to live happily ever after when half the time they're actually thinking quite the opposite. 

Looking round the room today I can tell its definitely one of those days when it's what goes unsaid which really counts. I don't need to be a mind reader to know that probably pretty much every other mind in the room is whirring just like mine, turning over the same thoughts. "It'll never last"."Can't believe they're actually going to go through with this". "What the hell does she see in him?"

The blushing bride is my niece Kelly. Twenty four years old with a whole life of endless opportunities spread out before her and what does she choose to do? Marry an obese, thrice divorced man of fifty eight who has somehow persuaded, charmed, cajoled, or hypnotised her into becoming his next wife. I wonder how many of the other guests are similarly taking twisted comfort in the fact that with his vast weight and 40 a day habit she's unlikely to have to endure many years with him. In spite of it all, the smile on her face seems genuine. Maybe this really is love. What would I know anyhow, a thirty nine year old spinster? I can see why, given the opportunity, Henry, or any other man in his shoes, would pick a lovely young thing like our Kel above someone like me. Maybe I'm just jealous - actually no, scrap that, I'm definitely not jealous. The thought of seeing all 20+ stone of Henry naked frankly turns my stomach. I'd rather be resigned to a life of a celibacy than stoop quite that low. 

Don't get me wrong, there have been men over the years, not many granted, but more than enough to use the plural. None of them were quite George Clooney, but at the time they were kind to me, and I in return to them, and surely that's more important than looks anyhow. Mutual kindness, and honesty, those are what make the difference between a mere arrangement (there have been a couple of them too, but I concluded long ago that i'm not cut out for such things) and a proper relationship.

Stood at the front of the church alongside the soon to be wed couple, my sister Sian looks outwardly very happy. Who knows, maybe she actually is, or the pride she feels at seeing her little girl stood there all grown up into a truly beautiful woman outweighs any reservations she has at the actual match. Sian is the oldest of us five, with a full fifteen years on me, although you'd struggle to tell given the lines on my face these days. She clearly got the better genes, not just in terms of appearance but in her general ability to succeed in life no matter what life threw at her. Growing up she always did things properly, didn't rock the boat. Decent grades at school led to a good job in the bank, a shiny car, a lovely house. Yes her marriage had failed, but you couldn't meet a better model example of single parenthood. 

As Henry brushes sweat away from his furrowed brow Kel's loving fixation on his ruddy face doesn't waver for so much as a second. Again my mind begins to ponder with fascination what everyone else is making of this scene. Every guest will no doubt be aware that Kel's Dad has been absent throughout her entire life, and the cliched expression 'looking for a father figure' has no doubt been uttered by many of the lips that are now murdering that wedding staple 'Love Divine'.  With Adrian having made it clear from the start that he didn't want kids, Sian had initially resigned herself to the fact that her family would not be expanding. He was everything to her, and if that sacrifice was what it would take to keep him then so be it. They had been married for almost ten years when circumstances forced Sian to reconsider her decision. Faced with the tangible reality of a swelling belly in front of her, she realised that she could not face the thought of spending the rest of her life without becoming a mother. True to his word, Adrian packed his bags,  and other than some brusque correspondence via lawyers she never heard from him again.

"Lost in wonder, love and praise..."

The hymn draws to an end and the actual marriage business commences. I've heard these words plenty of times before but never have they made me feel quite this way. 

"To have and to hold, from this day forward"

I'm not normally on speaking terms with God these days but as Henry repeats the vows back to Kelly I can't help but say a silent prayer hoping that this time Kelly, having grown up under the shadow of abandonment, has found a man who will genuinely be there for her no matter what. An anti-Adrian, you might say.

"For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer."

For all his faults it does seem heartfelt. I wish that I had had the chance to say the same thing, so many years ago. Every day passes with that void remaining unfilled, the consequences of those choices so long ago always weighing heavy.

It wasn't necessarily that I didn't want others to know, more that I was scared of what I would do, how I would feel, if I were to acknowledge the truth to myself. I sometimes worry that secrets are like bad smells, and that eventually they will seep out no matter how much you try to hide them. But today, today I'm just a bit player, the maiden aunt a shadow hanging around the periphery of everyone else's happiness. And as Kelly is officially declared Mrs Henry Griffiths, and receives that first awkward kiss to the forced whoops and hollers of the congregation, I will the daughter who has no idea of her true parentage to know that no matter what, she will always be my everything, and more.

"To love and to cherish, til death do us part." My girl, the girl I gave away, given away again. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

I can't get no sleep...

The wind is howling outside, bin lids banging away, all manner of disconcerting noises filling the night. If like me you struggle to get your forty weeks at the best of times let alone when climate chaos is waging war on your ears, then read this....

(I actually composed most of this whilst babysitting - maybe I should do it more often! Especially if paid in caffeine and Percy pigs)


Twelve sheep, thirteen sheep, fourteen sheep, fifteen sheep, sixteen blasted sheep.
Shouldn't have left that work half done. Should have kept going whilst I was on a roll. Probably take twice as long now. Did I change that formula before I sent the email to accounts? Won't look good if I sent the wrong spreadsheet. Need to make the right impression on that new manager. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression and it would be just typical if I'd sent her the bollocks version.

Roll over, quick scratch. Twenty one sheep, twenty two sheep, twenty three sheep.
I should have just deleted the old file, then there would have been no doubt at all. So much to get done tomorrow, got that deadline coming up, and need to finish that presentation. God I could really do with getting to sleep right now, need to be on form. Baaaaa! So bloody tired yet so wired at the same time. I blame technology. Staring at a blasted screen all day long, computer at work, tv, iPad. Always switched on, always connected, no wonder its hard to switch off. That and the caffeine of course.

Thirty sheep, thirty one sheep, thirty two stinky sheep and a fluffy little lamb.
What to have for tea tomorrow night? Can't remember the date on that chicken, sure hope its jnoout of date already, don't want to be wasting anything but you don't really want to be eating out of date chicken, do you. Think it might have been the eighth, or maybe the ninth? What day is it today?

Sixty sheep, seventy sheep, eighty sheep. Why sheep rather than any other animal? Pigs say, or cows. Llamas even. You never hear of counting llamas, do you. One llama, two llama, three llama four. What is the plural of llama anyway? Is is llamas, llama, llamae even? Must remember to look that up in the morning. Funny creatures, llamas. Dopey faces with big, big teeth. Not scary teeth mind, not like a werewolf or a vampire or anything. Just big dirty gnashers in need of some goodental work. Werewolves, now they're a really funny creature. All that howling at the moon, barking mad I say. Hmmm, wonder who would win in a battle between a zombie and a werewolf? Zombies are lacking in brain power but then again maybe that's what gives them their strength. No valuable time spent thinking about, well, thinking anything. Just pure action, mindless instinct driven action. Must eat, must eat, must eat... NO! Stop it! Must sleep! Must sleep! Must sleep!

A stretch, an itch, roll over again.

Can hear noises from next door, a creaking floorboard, hushed voices, squeaking bedsprings. They're very private people, the family next door. Don't know much about them, don't even know the names of them other than Mr Kovak, and I'm not even sure if that's his first name or surname. It sounds as if someone is tapping rhythmically on the wall, slow at first then progressively faster. Bury head under pillow, try not to think about how long it’s been since this here bed has entertained any visitors. I wonder where he is now, what he's doing, who he's with. Wonder if he's thinking of me. Wonder if he knows how much I think of him.

Things next door seem to have gone quiet now. Probably fast asleep already, the jammy things. It's alright for some. Some just slip straight under the covers then, bang, out like a light for the next seven, eight, nine hours. None of this trying to visualise farm animals jumping over stiles or prancing through fields. No exes swimming round their heads, ex boyfriend's in sheep's clothing, incessantly bleating. No excel formulas dancing behind eyes screwed shut; VLOOKUP, SUMIF, IFISERROR. If mind less thoughts equals sleep and sleep equals greater than the product of all thoughts, then, well, what the hell am I doing? The sheep might not have been achieving much but surely milling over possibly impossible algebra is even worse. Deep breaths, turn, flip the pillow and rest head on the cool side.

Start again with the sheep, one, two, three, four. One hundred, one hundred and one, one hundred and two. There are sheep everywhere now, white sheep, black sheep, some even the colour of candyfloss. I'm a shepherdess, in a field, barefoot for some reason, bit weird given how much I love my shoes, but never mind. I'm tending to the flock, not entirely sure what this entails other than floating around in a long dress holding one of those long walking stick things with a curved handle, a crook, that's the word. All is good in my pastoral paradise, the sun is shining, little lambs are playing around my ankles. I could almost curl up under the shade of this lovely big tree and have a sleep, a little rest, well deserved I'm sure. Ah, at long last, bliss.

I'm just beginning to drift off when all of a sudden there's chaos in the flock. What the?! We're surrounded by large dogs with coal black eyes; but wait, these aren't ordinary dogs or foxes or anything I've ever seen before, they're - oh shit! Werewolves! I hit them with the big stick thing and as they start retreating I feel a real sense of achievement until I realise that it's not me that scared them away, but the army of crazed zombies heading towards us. I try to bat them away but it's no good, the sheep have all fled and its just me now, the tasty pig in the middle. My questionable stick handling skills keep them back for a while but then, inevitably, I'm overpowered. The zombie that leans towards me, teeth bared, looks strangely familiar, although I can't at first figure out why. Then I realise that behind the blood and glazed expression lie the distorted but just about recognisable features of the new finance manager, Toni. She clobbers me around the head with her calculator whilst licking her lips hungrily. Never realised she was that way inclined.

As darkness descends the last thing I recall is thinking how this all serves me right for not checking my work more thoroughly. If only.....

Beep beep, beep beep, beep beep

6.30am already? But I've not even...


My rest may not have been peaceful, but, hey, could it be worse. At least it didn't REALLY end in pieces.....

Monday, 5 November 2012


A poem written tonight whilst waiting to go to the bramley firework display...


Bursts of colour dancing across night sky,
Flicks of paint
A smoky canvas, studded with lights
That burn defiantly through the years.
Young and old they gaze with joy
At the gunpowder kaleidoscope web
Seared in the mind
Long after it fades.
Some look up and question
What lies beyond
This world we know
Of tangible things, and intangible dreams
Home and fears and spinning hoops
Bitter lemons, candy floss
Joy and pain, love and loss
The endless ticking of the clock.
My eyes look only forward
Seeing not the sparks and whirls
But your pale face, illuminated,
Frozen with wonder,
Your warm breath traced
On the autumn air.
Mittens and hat and that
Old ragged bear
Clasped securely under your arm
And I wish I could live this night
through your eyes
To look and see beyond
the stars, past today
For certain, and for sure
Through a less battle scarred lens
To know, to feel
The possibility of something more.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Love Hurts (especially at Halloween)

As I write this the randomly creeping floorboards in my house are making my chest pound more than usual, no doubt because my mind has been contemplating all things spooky tonight in anticipation of tomorrow. What better theme for a writing meet on 31st October than Halloween? Well that would be far too straight forward for the Leeds Savages, so instead we went for the potentially related, but also far broader, 'Love Hurts'.

My main effort has definitely jumped on the seasonal wagon; hope you enjoy it....

'Love Hurts'

Last night I met a vampire,
He said his name was Fred,
He declared that I made his heart race,
I said 'how does that work when you're dead?'
He asked me if I'd join him
And bed down in his lair,
I replied 'But you live in a grave, mate!'
He cried 'But the last one didn't care!'
'Well let me take you out somewhere nice to eat,
Just nowhere with garlic or stakes;
Otherwise time and venue are of your choosing my dear,
As long as we're home before the day breaks.'
Other girls may have fallen for his charm,
But I'm really not that kind,
I'm not wooed by such textbook seductions
And I don't believe that love is blind.
Whilst he failed in his effort to commit a crime of passion,
His cape was so 1880 it was a crime against fashion
I rolled my eyes at the cliched old charmer's show
And replied 'Fangs for the offer, but I'm afraid it's a no.
Then I turned on my heels and said 'Your place or mine?'
To the far edgier offspring of Frankenstein

Although the piece above is the most fun and enjoyable thing that I've written this fortnight, I did also attempt another poem on the same theme with an effort to steer away from the standard rhyming conventions that I enjoy but which aren't always everyone's cup of tea.... This is the result as it currently stands; not 100% happy with this but here goes...

Friday Night

Strike once, strike twice, strike flame springs to life
Light bursts, flickers, dances
Across magnolia walls
One by one the candles lit
Paint romance by numbers, picture perfect
Proud magazine spread seduction
Turn on the soft music, arrange the gas station roses
Already beginning to wilt
A spritz of scent
Pillows plumped, chalices filled
I sit back and wait for you
On best crystal glass, fingers tap
Mark each second's passing
Minutes slowly tick by til the cup runs dry
Another hour, slower still; and the second heads the same way
I embrace familiar numbness, wax drips a scar on the floor
As they begin to burn out one by one
And when the music stops and
The last dance has clearly passed
I blow the night away; nothing left but smoke
And the darkness to which I retire
Who knows how long passes before I feel your warmth
Finally pressed, familiar but cold, to my side
And as your arm wraps round me, I am cut by the words I hear
'You could have made more effort my dear'

Monday, 22 October 2012


The most recent Leeds Savages writing session had the rather improbable topic of 'Chichester Fortescue'...!  Wikipedia informed me that the Right Honorable Mr Fortescue was actually a 19th century politician, but this didn't exact inspire me, so I instead wrote a short poem which is arguably 50% on topic given that it's based on growing up in Chichester.

Unfortunately tonsil troubles meant that I didn't get to hear any of my fellow Savages efforts to tackle the topic, but am hoping that some might have found their way onto the forum at  as it never fails to amaze me how such a broad range of works springs out of each topic. There are some truly talented people in the group (definitely not including myself in this category - would instead define myself as 'rusty!') so it's definitely worth checking out the website. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll add it to your favourites....

Now, on to the rhyming.....!



We often felt this was no place to be young

A haven for the blue rinsed but no hotbed of fun

We didn’t care for the long dead Romans

Their renowned walls and their feted gates

All we longed for was a bit of excitement

To travel on roads which were far less straight.


Not a second glance as we danced past the Arundel tomb

Upon which Larkin mused about love

To the choir stalls where we’d gossip and scheme

With little thought for the big man above.


Outside we’d congregate around the Cross

Where for 500 years our forebears had been meeting

Little did we appreciate the yet unrevealed truth

That the freedom of youth would be fleeting.


We’d bemoan the fact that there was nowhere to go

Unless tearooms and charity shops were your style

The nearest nightclub was a tipsy bus ride away

The nearest multiplex many a mile.


Most of us never grew into the ill-fitting

blazers bought to serve 5 years of school

Hitched our skirts bum-cheek high in an attempt to project

The slightest semblance of cool.


And most of our days were idyllic

Though at the time we hadn’t a clue

How precious were happiness, health, the freedom to build

The very foundations of You.


Until dark times taught us that the cards we are dealt

Are not always the ones we’d choose

Reality sets in and childhood is cast

Away like yesterday’s news;

In that time, in that place, in the history we made

We learned that life is built from light and shade.

Being not at all cool at least a decade ago....