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.

Sunday Mornings, Lazy Mornings

Sunday mornings should be lazy mornings, leisurely mornings. There is a feeling of time slowed right down. This morning, at least, the sun is out, its light streaming in through half closed window blinds. Or are they half open? I guess it’s a question of perspective. The dilemma of whiskey drinkers the world over.

The children are asleep. My wife being away with my fourteen year old daughter, I had a late night with my two youngest. First, my son was placated with the latest Doctor Who episode, and then his sister wanted a Marilyn Monroe night. Being a fan of the shining, doomed starlet, she has her favourite movies, but we plumped for Monkey Business, a film in which she has a lesser role. The premise of the film is silly, but that doesn’t matter when you are seeking 90 minutes of escapism.

There were many laugh out loud moments. And, of course, my lad loves monkeys.

Ginger Rogers is brilliant in it. I used to think that she was ‘just’ a dancer, rather than an actress. For someone who professes a love for old films, I can be quite ignorant. But I am au fait with Cary Grant.

So now the kids sleep in, the morning crawls by, languid minute by languid minute, and I observe its pass with a cup of coffee and silent demeanour.

My wife returns tonight: I have a house to clean.

But I have a book to read, too.


Mara, My Love

Mara, My Love

On the forest fringe shadows grow long.
Barred wooden shutters deny the call.
Our fingers clasped together, locked,
an indurate mutuality of flesh, of bone.
Her silent lips refuse to name the hour,
now rising in those conquered eyes.
She kisses my hand, and strokes my cheek,
disrobes and reveals her shapely form.
And still, unbidden, the coils of lust
stir as she walks out into the cold
without one last glance, or feeling flinch.
Yet I do not follow with shawl in hand,
to drape across those shoulders bare.
But bolt the door, slammed hard behind,
with a fistful of iron and eyes tightly closed.
Thoughts of my love, that tender soul,
framed by a sudden, monstrous howl.


This poem was included in the The Northlore Series Volume One:Folklore, 
a collection of work inspired by Scandinavian folklore.
Maras were a female race of werewolves.

When The Winds Gust, The Leaves Turn

Today is the Autumn Equinox. From now on, the days become shorter, the nights grow longer.

But I don’t lament: Winter is my favourite season, and Autumn heralds the beginning of my favourite half of the year. I stock up on my books as we turn inwards, batten down the hatches, light the fire. Begin to revel in the dark and the storms.

This year, please, let there be snow.


Poem Preview

My collection of poetry, being published next month by Nordland Publishing, is called Heading North. The poems in it are arranged in a particular order, reflecting a gradual journey from the summer and childhood of the south to the mortality-facing winter of the north. My recent visit to Sweden, being the furthest north I have ever been, was too good an opportunity not to write a last minute poem for my book. Below is an excerpt:

Anchored mists hold down 
the grey waters 
of Saltsjön.

The mournful baritone
of a foghorn
splinters the hull, 
grinds the bones,
raises us up
from our slumbering 
wooden berth,

to climb high above
the city's fitful dreams.

In Södermalm,
shining in a multicoloured,
chequered dress, 
a girl breezes along with an armful
of sunflowers,
creating a fissure of brightness
in the milky gloom,
ploughing a passage of light
right through to
the warm facades of Gamla Stan.
Blind to all else,
we follow her down.

                   - from Three Poems In Stockholm


In The Halls Of The Heart


“How can the dead be truly dead when they are still walking in my heart?”

– Clock Without Hands, Carson McCullers

(The quote is from the book that I’m reading at the moment.)

(The photograph is of my maternal grandparents on their wedding day. I never met my Grandfather, but have always wondered about him. When they were courting, the usual Catholic v Church of England tension was going on within the families, and my Grandfather said he would never marry while his (disapproving) mother was still alive. After she died, they married, but my Gran wore a grey dress instead of a white one out of respect for her recently deceased mother-in-law. I think this quite a dignified and humble gesture on her part.)

Seven-Shot Stockholm

These photographs were taken on my recent visit to Stockholm. They were actually taken by the friend who accompanied me, but some of the shots were suggested by me. I have the eye, but not the equipment! So, let’s say, we can share a 60-40 credit, yes? In his favour. Begrudgingly.


Night falls fast on Stockholm.


One of the many cobbled streets of Gamla Stan for me to get lost in. I really could do with an in-built Sat Nav. Pigeons seem to have it sussed.


Nobody in sight to ask directions from.


Rainy evening, made me think of home.


Same again, but with a puddle. It had a Christmas feel to it. The town, I mean, not the puddle.


A double rainbow on Gröna Lund. The Abba museum is over there, so it’s obviously a sign that the band are going to reform.


The Swedish night, as the sun sets on our Nordic adventure.

Photographs by DJB

Scenes pointed out by me.