Across The Cold Ocean

Farewell Cassini, sleep well.

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Come On, Aileen

The first storm of the season, named Aileen, is due to hit tonight. For perspective, Aileen is no Irma, but still. I’ve taken down the hanging baskets and an outside lantern which is as much as I can do with no hatches to batten down.

The afternoon I spent working on a second poetry collection I’m trying to put together, while listening to a group from my favourite music period.

I have a friend who loves the eighties, and would instantly recognise the nod given by the title of this post. My own go-to listening preference stretches from the mid-sixties to early seventies. The Beatles; The Doors; The Kinks; The Rolling Stones; Tim Buckley; Cream; Cohen;  Dylan, I love all of these and more.

Being born in 1971 means that in my youth I’ve never been in vogue, musically. And don’t even mention my dress sense!

Listening to music helps when I’m writing. The group I was listening to today was Jefferson Airplane. Why do I like these?

Go and ask Alice. When she’s ten feet tall.

School’s Out

I love this old photograph, showing children in their ageless cliques. Looking at the girls’ bonnets and the sign on the side of the building I think they are fresh out of Sunday School

Fast forward a hundred years and those lads would be getting thrown out of McDonald’s.

Shamanic September

September already. How soon the seasons pass.
Harvest time, fruits of the earth. Our spirits warm with the russet colours outside. I took the dog for a run over the fields this morning. Wind-frenzied trees could not dislodge raucous crows, shy jays, and their more cocksure magpie cousins. Though these are the early days, there is definitely a sense of being on the cusp of autumn.
Soon we will see the squirrels working overtime among the toadstools and wild flowers, the martins, swallows and other migrants gathering to make the long journey back to African shores.
Much to my wife’s distress, daddy long legs seem to be everywhere. One got in as I went out with the dog (again) last night, as my better half was busy preparing a meal for the next day. I said “Don’t harm it, I will catch it when I get back in”. 
On my return she said, apologetically, “I’m sorry I had to kill it-it was ferocious”.
Lions. Tigers. Sharks. Daddy long legs. Ferocious.
I’ve always been an outdoor person. I’ve always been moved by nature, the landscape, and the elements. Maybe that is what gave me a poetic voice, and an early sense of spirituality. I guess I am just one small step away from being a pagan. The appeal of Celtic and Native American spirituality. Perhaps this is where they can find common ground with Christianity-the idea of the goodness of creation, shot through with spirit. The whole of nature ablaze and alive and sacred.
My favourite place is Orkney. The sky there is vast and all encompassing, the sea wild and hungry and raging on all sides. There is something different there about the light, changing as it does above the ancient ancestors, long entombed in chambered darkness. When I haven’t visited for a while, I begin to get my Orkney Itch.
Some of my earliest memories involve my reaction to the elements and the outdoors. I can recall being very young, in a park in Heywood. My grandfather pushing me in a swing, and around 100 metres away there was a huge tree, swaying from side to creaking side in a gale. I loved it.Today I still love to get outside on windy days. As a postman I once did my round in 100 mph winds. It was fantastic.
Another memory is of my Dad walking me to school as a four year old Reception pupil. Dressed in a fur-lined parka coat and a leather satchel over my shoulder, I was fascinated by the dew that clung to every blade of morning grass as we cut across the fields. The sheen of diamonds and the cut of the fresh air.
Not long into my school life I caught chicken pox, and had to stay off school. As morning phased into afternoon, I remember being knelt on the couch, watching the heavy rain beat against the window, trickles racing each other down to the sill. Soon we moved house, and a new primary school beckoned. Being new, and initially friendless, in the inner mirror of my mind I can still see myself stood on the edge of the playground at playtime, watching a gull glide effortlessly above on a current of air, drifting over our fields of triumph. These are the fields that I now walk with my dog, the school having been demolished, the site now given to wilderness.
Being reclaimed.
I stood recently on that very same spot, thirty years later. Guess what? There was a gull-drifting above me. I watched it for a while. Joining up the dots.
It was as a pupil of this school that I first walked in woodland. The teacher that took us was called Miss Ambler-Ambler the Rambler. Being in deep woods, far from any concrete path or road, in that complete stillness,had an inner effect on me. I felt it in a juvenile, inarticulated way. From that day I have walked coasts and forests and mountains and river ways. I experience it still in an almost shamanic way, without the trance bit. Pretentious though that sounds.
Of all the seasons-and I love them all, my favourite is winter, in all its transformative beauty. The iron earth and starry nights.
And my favourite half of the year begins with autumn.
And autumn begins with September.
The first inward-turning month. As the nights grow longer, and rain hammers against the doors in an attempt to seek entry, it is the perfect time for reading, writing, and pampering our interior selves.
It is the time to quietly withdraw and conserve our energy by lamplight and fireside.
Oh and did I mention-it is also the time that the kids go back to school 🙂

Remembering Sophie Lancaster

I’ve just spent a short time sat in the garden, reading this book:


I read it, quite coincidentally, a week after the ten year anniversary of Sophie Lancaster’s death.

 Armitage created this drama-documentary for BBC4, trying to give voice to the girl with the help of meetings with Sophie’s mother and access to her diaries. It was performed live at the Royal Exchange.

 Living not too far from Lancaster’s hometown of Bacup, where she was killed, I remember the murder well. Reading this just re-emphasises how senseless and sad her death was. She and her boyfriend were attacked by a group of local teenagers when they took a shortcut through a park. Initially friendly, with Sophie passing cigarettes around, they suddenly turned on her boyfriend Robert Maltby. As she tried to protect him, lying unconscious, by cradling his head in her lap, they then turned on her.

Armitage: Oh God he comes back and turns on me/a plague of fists or a swarm of feet/the boot going in again and again/How he hates my demeanour/hates my braids/how he hates my manner/hates my ways/doesn’t know me from Adam/not even my name/but detests every atom /of what I am.

In the media it was speculated that they were attacked because they looked ‘different’, because they were goths. Though Maltby recently said this was an “oversimplification.” 

Both victims were in a coma, but Sophie never emerged from hers. Her killer’s boot print on her swollen face, her life support was switched off thirteen days after the attack.

Her mother Sylvia Lancaster set up The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. (See link below.) Her campaigning has helped violence against what are termed ‘subcultures’ to be classed as hate crimes. 

For her work she was given an OBE in 2014.
Rest in Peace Sophie Lancaster. I also hope that Robert Maltby has managed to find some measure of peace. 

http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com

My New Blog: Coronets For Ghosts

I’ve decided to create a new blog which will contain nothing but poetry.

 Fear not, City Jackdaw will go on as normal, featuring the usual mix of various subjects. (And there will still be poetry featured on Jackdaw, too, from time to time.)

But the new blog will be solely for my poems. New ones; old ones; complete ones and works in progress.

The title of the blog is Coronets For Ghosts, taken from a line in one of my poems. For those of you who want to check out my newborn babe, you will find her here:

https://coronetsforghosts.wordpress.com

I hope you will continue to fly with City Jackdaw, too.