Poem: Indian Summer

As today is National Poetry Day, I offer this (unfinished) effort from a fortnight ago. Like the flowers that feature in it, the poem may grow or wither in time. We shall see.

Indian Summer

Indian summer,
golden and implausibly charred.
Only one pot holds flowers
to reach for the sun,
all of the others contain
withered wraiths 
of long spent blooms,
their calendar clock 
denying the possibility
of these late September days.


On This Day: Ghosts; Witches; Skeletons; Lions. Who’d Live In A Place Like This?

In a diary that chronicled events and personages connected with the days of the year, I spotted that today was linked with the Christian saint Osyth, who was a minor Saxon Princess who died around the year 700.

She married a sub-King of East Anglia, (who seemed unworthy of being named, at least in the account that I was reading), and founded a nunnery at what is now St. Osyth (funnily enough) in Essex. According to an unreliable biography she was killed by robbers, but if you are of the type who needs substantiated facts, I’m afraid that the famous-as-well-as-venerable Bede does not give her a mention.

Osyth’s nunnery died out, but was re-founded as an Augustine monastery, containing her shrine, in the early 12th century.

I love the old legends that permeate these islands, especially those that concern (perhaps) historical figures partly obscured by the myths and mists of time.

There are various fantastical events surrounding St. Osyth, and some of them are just perfect for this time of year, as the nights draw in and Halloween approaches:

**when she was young she drowned in a stream, but revived after nuns from a local convent prayed for her for three days. (If this was a time-travel story, they would be from the nunnery that Osyth founded in the future. Did Osyth found the nunnery in gratitude to those nuns who resurrected her as a child? Or did the nuns travel back to save the child in gratitude to the adult who established their nunnery? Then again, if she died as a child she wouldn’t have created their nunnery. I’m confusing myself, let’s leave science fiction out of it.)

**she was executed by beheading; where she fell a spring issued forth from the ground. She picked up her severed head and walked to the door of the nunnery where she knocked three times before collapsing. (Knock knock knock. “Who’s there?” “Osyth.” “Osyth who?” “Oh syth down, I’m dead anyway.”)

**her ghost walks along the priory walls, carrying her head, one night each year. (I would guess that would be tonight, then? Anyone up for a vigil?)

The place name of St.Osyth rang some bells for me, so I looked it up.

The village was a focus for witch persecutions in the 16th and 17th centuries, ten local women being hanged. In 1921 the skeletons of two women were unearthed in a garden, one of them claimed to be the first of the women that was tried for witchcraft. I hadn’t heard this story before.

Then I found the source of my familiarity:

In 2012 there were reports of a lion being sighted near the village. After twenty four hours, an armed search was called off.

Is it safe to come out yet?

Is it safe to come out yet?

Beheadings; ghosts; witches; skeletons; lions: I’m packing my bags now. It sounds like a great place to live!

Part of its beach being used for nudist bathing doesn’t come into it.

Must go now, someone has just knocked on my door three times. I’ve looked through the spy hole but cannot see anybody there. At least no-one at head height.

After The Slap

I don’t know where exactly this photograph was taken, but it is of a strawberry seller, in 1877.

By the look that the woman is giving the guy, and the way that he holds his hand to his hang-dog face, I reckon that she has just given him an almighty slap for taking a strawberry without paying.

What do you guys think?


Claws For The Weekend: Mum Was Made Up

My eight year old daughter asked my wife “Mummy, am I pretty?” 

My wife replied “Of course you are. You look like me!”

“Yes,” our girl replied, “but yours is make-up!”

Take no notice, darling, you are a natural beauty.


Have a great weekend. Go easy on the lipstick.

See you on the flip side.

Hello October, Pull Up A Chair

October is here already: Autumn’s crowning glory.

Although the leaves are beginning to turn, we are having something of an Indian Summer.

It won’t last.

In anticipation of gloomy afternoons and long, stormy nights, my reading material has been altered accordingly. Beside my reading chair awaits Le Fanu, James, and books about ‘grim Manchester’ and Celtic ancestors.

Who am I kidding? I don’t have a reading chair.

I should get one.


City Escapes, In Starbucks

Today was a good day.

I spent much of it in Starbucks, in Manchester, drinking spiced pumpkin latte and reading accounts of adventures in such far off places as Tangier; Haiti; Ischia; New Orleans.

Sitting directly opposite me, oblivious to my mental escapes, was a young woman, wearing a blouse of long, black-laced sleeves, locked in an insular world with her bespectacled beau. She looked comfortable enough in their interactions, but had enough self-conscious affectations to suggest that their love story was still in its infancy.

Whoever they were, they weren’t local, and their story had brought them here.

Perhaps they were from Tangier, Haiti, Ischia or New Orleans. You know how sometimes coincidence plays itself out.

Sometimes I find myself people watching, wondering, creating, until I realise I am in danger of becoming the Shopping Centre Creep and shake myself back out of my reverie.

I plunged myself back into my book, next wondering if Hollywood is still a childless city. And how empty and lifeless such a city would be.

My travels went on, and on, then, in the evening, as the coffee ran dry, Manchester itself began to wind down:


28/09/15: 3.20am

28/09/15: 3.20am

The moon is blood-red tonight.
Astronomers and soothsayers
add to their bedpost notches,
while the celestial agnostics sleep on,
settled into tidal rhythms,
scored by an undercurrent hum.

I remember seeing one such moon
in the eighties,
more rounded and pock-marked
-I, not the moon,
when the shadow devoured
at a more suitable hour,
my father still here
to share the spectacle,
ruminating and rummaging
through the ides of time.


This is a rough, first draft of a poem written in the wee small hours 
of this morning.