The Playthings Of Man

Those of you who have read my book will have come across a namecheck in the foreword of a certain Kenneth White. White introduced the term Geopoetics, the meaning of which has informed both my writing and the way that I see the world for a long time-long before I had even heard of Geopoetics or knew what it meant.

Being an admirer of White’s poetry and his waybooks, this afternoon I was sat outside in what is perhaps the final ebb of summer, reading House Of Tides. This quote, of an old Japanese saying, stood out:

In youth a man plays with women, in middle age with the arts, and in old age with a garden.

I put it in context for myself.

Here I am: happily married; playing at being a poet; thinking about peas.



June, Early Evening

I saw this photograph on a local Facebook page. The photographer Carlo Fontanarosa gave me permission to share it.


It is taken from the old cemetery in my home town of Middleton, and the church is that of St.Leonard’s. Standing on the highest part of the town, it dominates the view both spiritually and geographically.

Part of the building dates back to Norman times, and it is built on the site of a wooden Saxon church. There is even speculation that there was a pagan religious site before this.

All those layers, but its greatest historic significance is that it is where I got married!

I love this shot, it has everything: history; place; wilderness; memories. And to cap it all, it is taken at dusk, my favourite part of the day.

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

Poem, Early Draft

I haven’t featured any new poetry for a while. This is an early draft of a work in progress, in effect just its beginning. I expect the poem to be considerably longer when completed.


She is painted blue and proud,
shining bright
in night fires;
igniting dawns.

Sitting by the river,
rounded aesthetics
down a verdigris valley,

herons rising
in glacial drifts
over wooden hives.


At The Hop

In my online meandering, I came across this great photograph of hop pickers in Kent, sometime in the early 1900’s. All those kids in the great outdoors, grass in their hair, dirty faces, dirty hands. Just like when I was a kid. Except I didn’t know I was born, as the saying goes.


You know how much I love old photographs? I went looking for more.

I reckon the two adults on the left of this photograph are sisters. What do you think? Maybe all three? Look at the little Shirley Temple in the centre.


When the time was right, farmers down in the South of England would advertise for people to head over and stay for six weeks, picking hops. Invariably those responding would be women and children who didn’t have other jobs to do. They would respond, swapping the polluted air of the cities for the clean, fresh air of the rural land. A working holiday, if you like. The two girls at the very front are speaking conspiratorially about the photographer. Listen hard, you may hear them.


I like the way the girl third from the left is looking at the girl to her side, laughing eyes, secretive thoughts. I reckon the other girl has had a ticking off from her Mum here, looking down sulkily. That’s the thing: we will never know. We can make up anything we want. At the other end of the shot: nice wellies.


I had problems making this photograph larger, but I still want to include it. The ancestors insisted: us too. I’m sure you can make it bigger on your tablets with a bit of index finger-thumb stretching magic.


How confident (and truculent) does the lad in the centre look? I’ve seen a similar photograph of a young John Lennon with that very same expression. And how feisty does that terrier look? Put him down and you just know he’s gonna scamper right after the photographer.


I know they are working, but most of the people in these shots look a lot happier (and healthier) than the folk we see in contemporary portraits, working in the mills and factories. Perhaps it is just the outdoor setting causing me to read this into them. Always the subjective optimist.

These fading photographs of Southern England have got me all of a sudden sensing the approaching summer.Can you smell the meadow flowers? Taste that scrumpy cider?



If any of you are wondering why I love old photographs so much, see the highlighted post below: A Sense Of Absence.