Damn You, Time, Damn You!

I ventured into Manchester this morning, ostensibly to show our new Swiss student how to get to the English Language Academy, but I also wanted to pick up a couple of pair of jeans. I had asked my wife if I should get the type that have the fashionable tears in them, to which she pointed out that I am now forty two and have left it too late to jump the fashion train.

Heeding her advice, I walked my retro walk around town instead. It was when I went to try on the jeans that I had selected that I realised just how in denial I am about the passage of time.
In the accusing confines of the fitting room, I was trapped in a cell clad with mirrors on every side. A reflection of me of a reflection of me of a reflection of me ramming home an echoing damnation that I am no longer the young guy that I always claim to be.

Caught in that kaleidoscope of unforgiving mirrors, there was nowhere for me to hide. I could see for the first time how much weight I have put on, but more disconcertingly, I could see just how much my hair is thinning.

Thickening below, thinning above, I am taking the tonsure of terror.

Damn you, merciless time, damn you!

Within this emphasised and enhanced indictment of visual decay, I donned for the first time my badge of middle age. I came out of that fitting room a changed man, in both attire and attitude, finally aware of where I am on life’s path.

But It didn’t last.

Away from those revealing mirrors and waistline labels, I put it all out of mind, flipping the finger at mobility scooters and high fiving the school-skipping kids riding the escalators. I was quite cool in my denial again. I really am adept at constructing my own reality.

But this time, uniquely, my facade would be occasionally pierced. Everywhere I looked, on the journey home, there were reminders.


I shrugged them off as I boarded my bus, put on my iPod, sent texts to my homies, and wondered, not for the first time,  ‘just what the hell is snapchat?’

I made a mental note to ask my daughter.



A Sense of Absence

With many people showing interest in my post If Walls Could Talk, Concrete Confess, I thought I would reblog this post about why I love old photographs, but also why they haunt me. This is the last reblog, I promise. Tomorrow-something fresh.

City Jackdaw

Old photographs. I love old photographs, the older the better.

I love them, but I am haunted by the people in them.

I am not talking about spirits or spectres.

What it is that haunts me is a sense of absence.

The absence of the people in the photographs themselves-the fact that they are no longer here with us, their energy and essence now gone, creating a vacuum where they once took up space.

But it is not just an absence of the people that haunts me.

I am haunted also by the absence of resolution.

In most cases our questions remain unanswered, we will never know who these people were, what was in store for them after these photographs were taken. Did they go on to have good lives? Were their lives a success, or a struggle? Did they escape the squalor? Do their lines continue down to us…

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Why City Jackdaw?

As my next post was to be my 300th post, I thought it appropriate to re-blog my very first post. Go back to beginnings, when an unsteady fledgling Jackdaw first took the leap from its comfortable nest. Three hundred posts, and still trying to figure things out. Thanks for flying with me.

City Jackdaw

Birds. I like birds.

I am not a birdwatcher, and try to refrain from twitching. But when out and about I try to take notice of what is around me, whether I am walking along the coast, through the woods, or down the street. Birds pay no heed to our borders and our boundaries. They are everywhere. I like that sense of freedom.

 Corvidae is the latin name for the family of birds that includes Crows, Ravens, Jays and Magpies.  These are considered to be among the most intelligent of birds. Crows can do all sorts of things, regularly featuring on YouTube. Look them up. Google ‘Crow funerals.’ Crows dance. Use tools. Fly upside down (really!)  Recognise human faces. Upset a crow and its personal. I have been out and about and found a Crow studying me. Figuring me out. (Good luck says my wife.)

Jackdaws are the smallest of…

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Shark Bites. Eyes Water.

I have always felt an attraction for the coast, a pull towards the ocean. But I am aware of my limitations, and how actually being on or actually in the ocean reduces my ability to be in control. It is the untameable power of the ocean that makes me both nervous and conscious of my shortcomings, so I like to enjoy the ocean from the relative safety of the land.

What has created my from-a-distance love of the ocean? Is it purely a question of aesthetics, or something deeper? The Celtic meaning of my surname is ‘sea settlement’ or ‘settlement by the sea.’ Perhaps there is something there, genetically dormant, that occasionally surfaces like a memory without a reference point. Perhaps there is nothing in that whatsoever and I may as well be called Jones.

I have also long felt a fascination towards sharks. What is it that draws me (in a definite non-literal sense!) towards these creatures?

An anachronism more ancient than the dinosaurs, sharks, more than any other species on the planet, appear to be detached, remote, so emotionless that they are impossible to anthromorphise. Sharks really do seem to be something other. Unknowable and unreadable.

Speaking of being unreadable, an early influence for me must have been the film Jaws, even if it did portray sharks in an undeserved, negative light. From my first viewing of it in childhood, it remains my favourite film, which I tend to re-watch around the Fourth of July. Jaws time.

Despite it being my all-time favourite movie, for some reason I never got around to reading the novel that inspired the film. Maybe because I had seen the film so many times I didn’t think it would hold anything new for me. But then in a recent conversation I learned that the book was different to the movie (I’ve no idea why I never considered this before seeing as though I almost always prefer books to films) and so I decided that I would give it ago.


I loved the book, and it was different, which helped me to read it as a stand alone novel without constantly comparing it to the film. Which wouldn’t be fair.

Although I do have to confess that I did picture the characters according to the actors who played them, and not according to Benchley’s descriptions of them.

In the novel Hooper (the likeable Richard Dreyfuss) has an affair with Chief Brody’s wife (the homely Lorraine Gary) who has a fantasy about being raped.

No. You don’t get that with Steven Spielberg.

One small pet hate was the way the author kept referring to the creature as the fish. Yes, technically it is a fish, of course, but that doesn’t sound anywhere as fearsome as SHARK! But on the whole the book was good, and the ending is very different from the ‘smile you son of a bitch’ film version.

Reading Jaws led to me buying the book that I am currently in the middle of:


This is a great non-fiction book about these creatures and how their existence is imperilled by the gluttonous, greed-driven creature that is now at the apex of every food chain on the planet.

Yes, I’m talking about you. And me.

In considering how everything on earth is connected, in more ways than one, I have just read a passage about how an essential part of our anatomy originated in fish, and how people tend to be comfortable about being described as a primate or a mammal, but not so over the moon about being called a fish. Not even a cold fish, just a fish.

Neil Shubin, in his book Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into The 3.5-Billion-Year History Of The Human Body, talks of the evolutionary debt that we owe sharks, not only on genetic levels, but for things such as the bones of our inner ear and the lever system that we use to bite.

But there is one aspect that I am not particularly enamoured about. Shark gonads are nestled near the heart. In human males they are located in the scrotum to allow our sperm to remain at the right temperature. Creating a weak spot in the body wall, this trade off between our fish ancestry and mammal present accounts for men developing hernias.

But not only that, there were times, many times, believe me, when I used to play football, that I could have done with being a shark. And now that I’ve had a vasectomy, and have no need for regulated sperm control, is there any chance that I could put my gonads back where they have always belonged, please? Before my lad is old enough to take me for a kick about in the park.

Consider it on my bucket list: relocation of gonads.

Now, back to my shark book.



Blackpool And Gomorrah

We have just got back from Blackpool tonight, having taken the kids to see the illuminations. While they had eyes only for the lights, the rides, the toy stalls and the sea, my wife’s throwaway comment about the things that she had observed revealed a different perspective to that of the children:

“I bet here tonight there is nothing but fights happening, babies being conceived, and affairs starting up.”

She really has a rose-tinted take on humanity doesn’t she?

Anyway, in all of their ignorance and innocence, the kids loved it.

There were donkeys, you know.


A Great Scottish Disturbance In The Force

Congratulations to the Scottish people from me and my wee bairns. Not being Scottish, I hadn’t looked too closely at all the different issues involved, but from a purely emotional and romantic perspective I wanted you to stay with us.

The result of the vote, the full, ahem, force, was felt throughout the galaxy, even Darth MacVader and his Imperial Dancers were celebrating this morning.


What do Stormtroopers wear beneath their kilt?

“That’s no moon….”

Our United Kingdom remains a kingdom united.


Do You Write Dark Short Stories Or Poetry?

For all you poets and storytellers out there who feel you could contribute to a collection on Scandinavian Folklore. I’ve been accepted-give it a go!

Celebrating the strange and the shadowy, the damned and unseen

I’ve recently established a publishing company with some good friends of mine in Norway – NordLand Publishing. We are currently putting together the first book in a series of anthologies entitled The Affinity Series. The first book in this series focuses on Scandinavian Folklore, and we are looking for poetry and prose submissions on this theme.

The final deadline for submissions is October 2nd…so if you think you can conjure up a tale in that time and get it sent in, please do!! On a personal note, I would be extremely grateful. As my friends will know, establishing a publishing company has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and I really, really want (and need) to see Nordland succeed.

For more information and links to our website, head on over to the Facebook page and if you are feeling particularly kind, please share…

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On Top Of Ben Nevis

On Top Of Ben Nevis

Vacuous specks in cataract eyes.

Faceless wraiths haunt
low, lunar rocks,
blurring lines, still boundaries,

hungry edges
suddenly thwarted by fractious light
perforating the still sleeve.

These weary phantoms risk all
in a deadly swoon,
cold gnawing
at callused fingers,
laboured breath squeezing out,
in amorphous clouds,
the vaporous cry of the victor.