Father And Daughter, Summer

Father And Daughter, Summer

The swallows return, skimming the blue.
Hoist up the flag, fluttering in the breeze.
The summer's here, her heralds settled
upon the greening, burgeoning sea.

Full womanhood, now, she draws the eye,
points to the orchard; her hungry womb.
The sun sinks into his scoured face.
The air is sweet, but tinged with myrrh.

Banish the shadows, the star-filled night,
(the clock still ticks the markers down).
The day now reigns, resplendent robes
clothes them both and stakes a claim.

The poet; the painter; the waking muse,
blinks it all in, and turns the page.
Immortalises all, in frozen time,
airbrushing out the parting waves.

©Andrew James Murray

Adieu to my Viking sister…

I read this post in shock last night. Poppy, whose blog I follow, posted about the death (and alleged murder) of another, lovely blogger that I followed (and she followed me). It was strange how the death of someone so far away affected me. The words we write, the words you write, matter. Technology allows us to make connections with people we would otherwise never meet. It can bring both joy and sorrow. R.I.P Caroline. Thanks for all of your encouraging words and sentiment.

A Viking Saga

We never know…

This world is beautiful, messy and bloody with no way of avoiding what is coming. We have so little time to take it by the horns and live it with dignity, courage and humour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Caroline Van Ewijk, my friend, my viking sister and an example of just how well life can be lived.

My viking sister, Caroline Van Ewijk was one of those who did, before her life was cruelly taken in the Dutch port of Hoorn, two days ago.

Carro, you welcomed me into your life in that freezing cold Amsterdam winter, where I had no refuge on my old boat with her limited heating. With Swedish hospitality ‘Happy Six’ became almost a second home and you taught me about the Baltic and connected me with your uncle Micke at Borka up in the north of Sweden.  How many bitterly cold winter evenings did you ply me with hot tea…

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Claws For The Weekend: Killing

There was shock locally, today, with the news that a pillar of the community had been murdered.

Police said that they were following several leads, but at the moment have nothing concrete to go on.


Have a great weekend. Avoid the guy with the corny jokes.

See you on the flip side.

On This Day:England’s First Historian And The Fleeting Sparrow

In 686, plague broke out at a monastery in Jarrow, north-east England. There were only two survivors, one being a young boy who we now know as the Venerable Bede. He went on to write many books, and the one for which he is most famous, The Ecclesiastical History Of The English People gained him the title of ‘The Father Of English History’.

He died on this day in 735, and a few years ago I visited Durham Cathedral where he is buried, along with St.Cuthbert and the head of King and Saint Oswald.

I’m one for deep and hypothetical conversations, especially in the wee small hours, and whenever the subject of our existence comes up, where we came from and where we are going to either end of this short life, the following passage of Bede’s always comes to mind. It reflects on the Christian faith when it was being presented for the first time to the people of early England:

Another of the king’s chief men signified his agreement with this prudent argument, and went on to say: “Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thegns and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”

Today, in an older and more rooted England, if we call ourselves Christian or not, I love the image of that one, fleeting sparrow, passing through between storms.

Daisy, Daisy, Give Us Your Answer Do

Imagine that you want to be an actress, so you go to a school for performing arts, and on qualifying your first real movie role just happens to be a major blockbuster and the biggest film of the year. When suddenly you can’t even pop into your local superstore to pick up a loaf of bread without being reminded of it.


This is precisely what happened to Daisy Ridley, an unknown suddenly thrust into the limelight after landing a starring role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

How did she cope with this life-changing event? How would you?

I’m not sure, but I wanted to share this with you guys. It is a three minute clip of an interview that she did on The Tonight Show, and it includes something that I both laughed at and loved: it shows Daisy, lay in bed while staying at a B&B, watching the trailer for the movie.

Witness the emotional reaction of a girl seeing for the very first time the fruit of everyone’s hard work in creating something wondrous, looking on a realised dream as she is on the cusp of becoming a star.

I wonder if she has gotten used to it yet? Daisy, please give us your answer, do.

And Not A Drop To Drink

I accompanied my wife Jen this morning to her hospital appointment. It seems she has a blocked saliva gland or something — sometimes when she eats one side of her jaw fills out, coming out in an obvious swelling just below her ear.

The first time it happened she was understandably perturbed, coming upstairs to find me : “Andy, my face feels funny.” She was worried that she was having a stroke. I got straight on the phone to our local surgery for advice, as she sat with a hand pressed to her cheek, hearing one side of the conversation.

“No . . . she isn’t slurring her words… no, her face isn’t drooping.”

The check-list went on. “No, it was just instantaneous. Everything was normal, she was just chewing and it came up like that,” (click of the fingers). ” No, we were indoors . . . no, no insect sting. No allergies.” I repeated the next question put to me: “What does it look like?”

I stole a quick glance at her worried face. “Well, the only way I can describe it is it’s like a whoopee cushion.”

“A bloody whoopee cushion?!!” my wife hissed.

“Or . . . you know, like the inner tube of a football?”

They were the first things that came to mind. You should have seen her face. Literally — you should have seen it.

She hasn’t let me forget it.

So, a few doctors consultations later, we attended the local hospital. Jen was no longer worried now that she had a diagnosis of something that wasn’t too serious. We were early, gave Jen’s name in sat down in an empty waiting room. After a few minutes a young woman came in, accompanying another who I presumed to be her mother. The younger one gave a name to the receptionist and then they both took a seat behind us. I started flicking through a newspaper on the chair beside me, just starting to read about how much of a phenomenal achievement Leicester winning the Premiership was, when I heard the older woman speak up:

“I need a drink of water.”

“I’ll get you one when we’ve been in to see the doctor.”

“I need some now. I’m thirsty!”

“Okay, we won’t be here long.”

“I need water!” she said imploringly. ” I could dehydrate and die!”

I was aware of my wife immediately turning her face to the wall to hide her smile.

“You won’t die,” the girl said matter-of-factly, chewing some gum.

“You don’t know that! I’m dehydrating.”

The receptionist made the mistake of making eye contact while watching this spectacle. The woman was up in a flash, advancing on her. “Can I not have some water?” From the safety of her kiosk something was mumbled in reply, as the requests got louder and more urgent. “Don’t you understand? I’m thirsty.”

There must have been an emergency waiting-list override button in there, because immediately a support worker emerged carrying a file, and called out a name.

“That’s us,” said the younger girl who I now realised must have been the woman’s carer, as she gently took her arm and began to lead her towards the staff member.

As she was led to the consultant’s room she paused once, turning to look directly at me. “They told me to stay wet, but I’m dry. I’m totally dry.”

I nodded sympathetically, and she left, shuffling off down the corridor. I wondered if there was a coffee machine.


The Ooze Of Cool

Preparations are being made for tonight. My children have started a family tradition when it comes to this time of year: Eurovision. I know, our house just oozes cool. I can post this because I have no street cred anyway.

My young daughter is busy creating the charts for us all to vote on, after making this picture of 2014 winner Conchita, who confused the hell out of her at the time:



I helpfully suggested that my wife could make food connected with every country participating:

“What are you going to make for Slovenia?”


The Muse In The Dark Arena

I recently finished reading Regeneration by Pat Barker. It is set in a war hospital in 1917, where a psychiatrist is treating shell-shocked soldiers. Including the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfrid Owen. Robert Graves also features.




This passage is from when the two poets first meet, Owen speaking:

‘”It’s not just that, though, is it? Sometimes when you’re alone, in the trenches, I mean, at night you get the sense of something ancient. As if the trenches had always been there. You know one trench we held, it had skulls in the side. You looked back along and . . . Like mushrooms. And do you know, it was actually easier to believe they were men from Marlborough’s army than to think they’d been alive two years ago. It’s as if all other wars had somehow . . . distilled themselves into this war, and that makes it something you . . . almost can’t challenge. It’s like a very deep voice saying, Run along, little man. Be thankful if you survive.”

For a moment the nape of sassoon’s neck crawled as it had the first time Campbell had talked about German spies; but this was not madness. “I had a similar experience. Well, I don’t know whether it is similar. I was going up with the rations one night and I saw the limbers against the skyline, and the flares going up. What you see every night. Only I seemed to be seeing it from the future. A hundred years from now they’ll still be ploughing up skulls. And I seemed to be in that time and looking back. I think I saw our ghosts.”

Silence. They’d gone further than either of them had intended, and for a moment they didn’t know how to get back.’


I can imagine the dialogue being like this, with Sassoon sensing something equally as great within the star-struck Owen.


From that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia:

Sassoon’s periods of duty on the Western Front were marked by exceptionally brave actions, including the single-handed capture of a German trench in the Hindenburg Line. Armed with grenades, he scattered sixty German soldiers:

He went over with bombs in daylight, under covering fire from a couple of rifles, and scared away the occupants. A pointless feat, since instead of signalling for reinforcements, he sat down in the German trench and began reading a book of poems which he had brought with him. When he went back he did not even report. Colonel Stockwell, then in command, raged at him. The attack on Mametz Wood had been delayed for two hours because British patrols were still reported to be out. “British patrols” were Siegfried and his book of poems. “I’d have got you a D.S.O., if you’d only shown more sense,” stormed Stockwell.

Sassoon became a focal point for dissent when he made a lone protest against the continuation of the war in his “Soldier’s Declaration” of 1917, culminating in him being admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Sassoon survived the war.


Wilfrid Owen had a number of traumatic experiences, including when he fell into a shell hole and suffered concussion; he was blown up by a trench mortar and spent several days unconscious on an embankment lying amongst the remains of one of his fellow officers. Soon afterwards, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from neurasthenia or shell shock and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital where he met Sassoon.

Owen was killed exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice which ended the war, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death. There is an added sense of waste to his death when you realise how close he came to making it.


Both men, (like many other of the War Poets), are remembered for the body of work  created in response to their dark muse in that scattered arena of death.