On Poetry:Inspiration

City Jackdaw

For me, my poems serve as a diary. When I look at them I can remember where I was when I got the idea for each one, and what it was that acted as the initial inspiration. The opening poem in my book, Heading North, is called Midnight, July.

The title indicates the when, but not the where and why.

The words for this one came when I was sat in the back garden with a coffee. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I was looking up at the stars and wondering whether we could be alone or was there life somewhere out there?

We writhe 

with a rage to know 

the unknowable,


blind to great masses

that dance in dark orbits. 

And a soft, summer wind 

on a night beneath stars 

is no balm.

While I was sat there, neck craned in the quiet of the…

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The Swifts Are Screaming

Above the house, the swifts are screaming.

Can you hear them, Clarice?

We are bogged down by time and heat and lethargy.

I’m thinking of an old poem of mine, Dog Days, written under the sledgehammer of a July, noon-day sun:

who can deny /the sapping sun/at its highest point /lording over /our genuflecting /straw gods

We are all genuflecting, lowering our weary, supine brows. It’s been a hell of a long summer, and we’ve not yet reached July. Who could have foreseen this, who prepared? Not we little men, we average Joes and Josephines.

Not tonight, you-know-who.

Tomorrow is more of the same, that has been foreseen, but nothing lasts forever, nothing lasts at all, and storms are due to hit the day after that.

And then we batten down. Straw Gods and rush men.

Children of the corn. Drinking in the rain.

Stuck Indoors; Stuck Not In The Past

Books and music, music and books,

of all the arts these are the two that I’ve lost myself the most in since childhood. And sometimes, of course, I combine the two.

One Train Later is the autobiography of The Police guitarist Andy Summers. I read this book in the last few leisurely days.

I was already familiar with the group’s hits, staple fare of the airwaves since I was growing up, and now this lockdown had afforded me some time to work my way through their albums. Acquainting myself with their less well known tracks, I made my way through their material in chronological order, allowing me to chart their development in a way that their fans at the time would have experienced them.

It further cemented the belief that my musical taste is fixed, mostly, on this side of the millennium.

Of course, there are a few exceptions, (and I don’t think it healthy for anyone to live solely in the past), and nothing can beat stumbling upon a great busker on the streets of Manchester when loaded down with bags in the wake of your wife’s shopping trail.

But that is a luxury currently denied to us, and so in the meanwhile it’s this:

books and music, music and books,

with hopefully good weather and copious amounts of coffee.

R.I.P Astrid Kirchherr

I’ve just heard of the death, at 81, of Astrid Kirchherr, the woman who helped define the early Beatles look when the then unknown Liverpool group were in Hamburg in the early sixties.

She took some of their early photographs, iconic photographs in a style that were ahead of everyone else at the time.

After these she also gave the (then) Fab Five their distinctive Beatle haircuts, the fifth being the talented but doomed artist Stuart Sutcliffe who she fell in love with. Later, reduced to four, and with Best replaced by Starr, they went on to conquer the world, as she proudly and sadly looked on.

Fifty eight years apart, I’d like to think that they’ve found each other again. R.I.P

New Life; New Blog: Family And Football

With the demise, temporary or otherwise, of my son James’ team, Bury FC, I started taking him to watch a local non-league team by the name of Prestwich Heys.

A world away from the Premier League football that we could stay home and watch on the TV, it’s a real community club that values our support and attendance.

With no pretensions or VAR in sight, it’s proper football with proper fans, giving a warm welcome and an inclination to visit again – for the club quickly got under our skin to the extent that it has now become a family affair with both my wife and daughter also attending games.

We were having a great season, and then that damn Covid-19 virus arrived and everything was brought to a premature close.

In the meanwhile, a friend has started up a blog about all thing Heys to keep everyone still connected in these barren months. It isn’t on WordPress, but if you follow the link below you can enter your email address to subscribe to his posts.

So if you have an interest in non-league football; football in general; want to know what is going on in this part of Northern England, or to gain a glimpse of some of the things that I and my family get up to here in Manchester, UK, please follow the link and subscribe.

It’s a new blog and I’m sure the writer will appreciate the support of you lovely people.

His name is Rick, go say hello.

https://rickbarrett753.wixsite.com/website-2

A Twelve Month Canter

It was a year ago today that In Brigantia got its first cover reveal.

Following on from my first collection, Heading North, I’m quite proud of it, and thank those who have already bought it.

For anyone else who’d like a copy, it’s available here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brigantia-Andrew-James-Murray/dp/1731271360/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=In+Brigantia&qid=1588098484&sr=8-1

Echoes Of Tears On King Street

I’ve just finished reading The Last Time I Saw Paris, which is a biography of a Parisian Street, rue de la Huchete, running from the early ’20’s to the time of World War Two. Featuring a wide cast of characters, though it’s non-fiction it reads like a novel, and I can’t remember the last time I read a book where the final words moved me so.

Anyway. There was a passage in it that reminded me of something else:

There were, in those days, certain grey-blue postcards that meant someone had been wounded or missing, and some black-rimmed white ones that spelled dark death. The women at the far end of streets would, if they saw the postman’s pouch contained no black-rimmed messages, wave and sometimes cheer with an edge of fear diminishing in their voices, and up and down the street the watchers would relax. Very often no such reassurance was forthcoming, and everyone had to wait, breath caught, nerves throbbing, until someone let out a shriek, or turned wordlessly away or dropped in her tracks and the postman wiped away a tear from his eye with the back of his hand before continuing.

I was a postman for ten years, and one of my rounds was in Cheapside, one of the oldest parts of Middleton. One of the streets there was King Street. In this photo you can see King Street, viewed from behind the cottage on Idler’s Corner, Rochdale Road, climbing ahead. If that pub on the hill is The Beehive, then this was taken before 1919, when it closed. The cottages were gone by 1925.

(Incidentally, Idler’s Corner was so called because weary travellers would stop to rest against the large York stone slabs, ‘idling’ for a time. It was directly opposite King Street.

Of course, this was well before my Royal Mail days. As was the following photograph, which lists the streets running off King Street.

This next photo, though, shows King Street as I know it.

There were no longer any houses lining the road for me to deliver to, I used it just to reach the flats that await at the top of its crest, just the odd business drop along the way.

When I used to walk up there, occasionally I would recall a story, recorded some years ago by an older resident, about a postman that had long preceded me. He was tasked, unenviably, like that postman in Paris at the beginning of this post, to deliver similar telegrams during the First World War.

Each morning, as he navigated the street, women and children would watch from behind net curtains, fearfully, waiting to see who would be the latest recipient, summoned to answer that fateful knock at the door.

Filled with a combination of dread, is he coming here?

then relief, he’s going to Maisie’s

then sadness, poor, poor Maisie

The witness told how one day the postman, having broken under the strain of this daily burden, was sat on the kerbside, sobbing, a woman from one of these houses sat silently beside him, arm around his shoulders in consolation.

I can no longer recall where it was I read this, but sometimes I would remember the story as I followed in that long-gone postman’s footsteps, climbing the hill and feeling the connection of that man and the place in which we both lived, echoes of people and homes now lost to time.