Out Now: Fifty

I’m pleased to announce to you guys that today is publication day for my third poetry collection, ‘Fifty’.

It appears that I’ve clashed with a new release by my fellow Mancunian, Noel Gallagher! Next time I’ll have a word with him so we can come to some arrangement. After all, it worked for the Beatles and the Stones!

Following on from previous collections ‘Heading North’ and ‘In Brigantia’, this one comprises fifty poems to mark my fiftieth year, copies of which can be obtained following the links below:

UK Amazon:


US Amazon:

Fifty https://a.co/d/4LOrVEv

All That You Can Leave Behind

My new poetry collection is out in two days. As I’ve previously mentioned, I have given it the title ‘Fifty’ as it was conceived as fifty poems to mark my fiftieth year. But there’s another life connection on the front cover.

I’ve included a footnote inside the book explaining that those flats, caught on a typical Mancunian evening, were my home for the first eighteen months of my life.

Thinking about it now, though, it must have been a bit shorter than that. We moved out when my Mum was pregnant with my brother, who is eighteen months younger than me (which could be where I got that figure from). So if we moved when she was pregnant, maybe around that significant three-month mark, then I must have lived there until I was around twelve months old.

Would that be right? I’ve confused myself. Let’s call it a year and move on.

Queensbury Court in Miles Platting. We lived up on the ninth floor. Of course my memory of it is non-existent, but I have it on good account that I hated it. When my parents would wheel me into the lift, strapped in my buggy, I’d reach my arms out wide, trying to grip the doors on either side to prevent my entry, screaming my young head off.

Out on the veranda, through a tantalising two inch gap at the bottom of the balcony, I could see other children playing freely outside on the grass below while I was cooped up inside this torturous tower.

From a handful of black and white photographs taken inside the flat, I can today work out which side of the block that we lived, for through the window can be seen the Bradford gas tower in the distance, situated close to where Manchester City’s Etihad stadium now stands. For so long I had had no idea that I once lived within sight of my club.

That would be my personal cell right there, counting nine floors up, above the tree.

I recently (re)discovered this fact when I went to check the place of my origins out.

During the time of the Covid lockdowns, at the point where we were allowed to go outside or travel in the car with people from your own ‘bubble’, we took my Mum to see this landmark of our shared history. She was deep into her illness then, suffering from Alzheimer’s, and I was curious if the sight of our former home would register with her,

You guys know me by now, how I’m big on connections, retracing steps and recreating moments. Here was my earliest beginnings, one of those places that feeds into who I am today. I wondered if it was a two-way thing. Maybe some of me is absorbed in those walls, that if the conditions were right my wailing protestations could once again be released into the confines of that small two bedroomed flat.

I guess nobody wants that.

My wife took some photographs of my Mum and I stood outside the entrance but, having lost so much weight, she doesn’t look well on them and so I won’t share them.

But I will inflict this on you: me looking rough post-Covid, dressed inappropriately for a cold breeze (or maybe it was the tower block’s looming shadow) while chasing ghosts.

To my satisfaction Mum recognised where she was, pointing out the place where the parade of shops used to be and in the general direction of where the pub stood where she would go for a drink with my Dad. She couldn’t remember the pub’s name (The Hat and Feathers) and she couldn’t remember Dad. But it was something.

She could also recall the ground floor flat where the caretaker lived. “Do you remember him?” she asked me a couple of times while pointing to the right of the entrance doors.. “He lived just there.”

“I was just eighteen months old,” I replied, the one without Alzheimer’s and the one getting it wrong.

“Hey caretaker! I’m home!”

She was tiring and getting cold so we decided to cut things short. As we pulled away Mum continued to look in the direction of Queensbury Court through the car window. I wondered how she was seeing it. Did it appear to her as it was back then? Somehow preserved from the point where we all ended up on Langley, via Darnhill and Back O’th Moss. Four miles away. Fifty years away. A lifetime ago.

Announcing A New Collection: Fifty

I’m very pleased to announce that my third poetry collection is soon to be published by Alien Buddha Press. Conceived as fifty poems to mark my fiftieth birthday, I decided to go all out Adele and call it Fifty.

It is out on the 2nd of June. Here’s to a good Summer! 🌞


I happened to be in Manchester this week. Of course, I live in Manchester, what I mean is I was in Manchester city centre. Although it’s a city, when travelling there we always say “We are going into town.”

Local vernacular and all that. Anyway, there I was – in Manchester. Not much had changed since my last visit. One thing I did notice, though, is where you used to be able to buy a can of Pepsi or Fanta, there is now this:

An eyelash dispenser. Whatever next?


Some of the homes on our estate have been without water for a while. There were reports on social media of water tankers scattered around the area. I’m not sure what the problem is, or if these tankers are indeed flushing water through drains as has been suggested, as I’ve not taken that much interest because our home has been unaffected by the problem.

However, yesterday morning, as we were on the school run, we spotted one of the tankers parked up on a neighbouring street. There was nobody with it. We turned onto a main road and saw another two tankers, again unmanned, as though they’d been abandoned.

“More tankers!” exclaimed my wife. “It’s like they’ve taken over the world. Just appeared overnight.”

It’s normally me that’s given to flights of fancy.

We approached the school and, lo and behold, more tankers were in the small car park outside the gates.

“They’re even here!” she said. “They’re like aliens. Everywhere we go they are hounding us. It’s like the world’s coming to an end and they are our masters.”


Maybe there’s a story in that.


I’ve always believed that it’s the insects that will take over in our absence.

I’ve been sorting through my Mum’s things since she passed away. Donating furniture to charity, giving things to people that we know, to friends of friends, anyone who would be grateful of them. Dismantling bit by bit the things that make up a part of who I am.

While emptying her kitchen drawers I spotted an ant trap on her window ledge. She had been plagued with them off and on over the last few summers. This was her last response – an irresistible cocktail of sugar and boric acid.

Some lines came to mind from a Walter Tevis novel I’ve just read, a novel about ‘another’ alien invader:

Or think of living with the insects, of living with the shiny, busy, mindless ants

which prompted the question: should we co-exist? Or should we exterminate?

This summer it will be someone else’s dilemma.

Looking To Spring

There’s snow on the ground and fog in the air.

Only a little snow, merely a dusting. Only a little fog, let’s call it mist.

I recently hoped aloud that 2023 would be better than 2022. Well, in the last couple of weeks I’ve been to the funeral of an ex-work colleague, lost a lad my wife and I have known since the 80’s, and spent the whole night in hospital at the bedside of my wife’s uncle before he passed away yesterday, his brother and nephew with him while I grabbed a couple of hours sleep.

We are not even out of January yet.

If you look carefully, among all of the chaos, I’m still there, recording.

But City Jackdaw can’t only be a list of unfortunate and tragic events. We’d all need therapy.

We all need balance.

As the year goes on there’s other stuff going on. There’s plans to make. Projects to complete, projects to begin. Children to lead through this patchwork of emotions we call life.

Winter only lasts so long. There’s new light coming.

Hobbit in the Habitat? Not Quite.

I have a few projects at the moment that have been put on hold due to a local oral history project that I volunteered for. This has taken precedence because, sadly, some of the people that I was due to speak with died before I got the opportunity, and I have also been to the funerals of two people whose stories I have managed to preserve.

So the clock is ticking. Talk about a deadline. Literally.

In pursuit of finishing this endeavour, I was due to catch a train to interview a Bishop who lived on my estate in the 1970’s.

“Who are you going to see this time?” my daughter, Millie, asked.

“I’m going to see a Bishop. And guess what my first question is?”


Is it true that you can only move diagonally?”

Long pause. “I don’t get it.”

Things didn’t fare any better with my older daughter, Courtney. She asked me “Where is it you are getting a train to?”


One of those pauses again. Must be a family thing. “What does that even mean?!’

“It’s a place,” I explained, deciding to slip back into English. Historically it was the upperland area between Saxon land and Viking land, and I love that kind of stuff.

But I didn’t go there (metaphorically speaking). I had a train to catch.

Peak as in ‘Peak District’

At Manchester Piccadilly, I made the fatal mistake of looking at books in WH Smith, something that is always liable to distract me. It was only when I saw some bottles of Buxton Spring Water on a shelf that I suddenly remembered why I was there.


That was the destination my train was heading for, with my stop coming two stations before. It was, dare I say it, divine intervention of my dawdling. And off I dashed.

In short: I made my train, on disembarking was met on the platform by the Bishop (“Jack?” “Andy?”) and was charmed over lunch by both him and his wife. Not realising on my arrival just how close to the station that they lived, I declined the offer of a lift back to the station, insisting that I’d like to walk. I am an ex-postie after all.

And who doesn’t love Autumn in Derbyshire?

However, quaint though the local train station was, what I didn’t realise was that trains to Manchester ran only once every hour, and I had forty minutes to wait.

Just as the rain came in with a dampening down of mood.

I’m sittin’ in the railway station . . .

There was a shelter on the opposite side of the tracks, (the Manchester side), so I could sit down and take in the setting. There was nobody else around. Windswept and empty, it was obvious that the locals were all au fait with the timetable.

The type of rain that Peter Kaye made famous.

At first glance, looking to the opposite platform, I thought that this said ‘Home of Frodo’.

Ferodo is a brakes company.

A friend later told me that when she was there she’d thought that the sign said ‘Home of Freddo’.

Hobbits/Chocolate . Maybe chocolate hobnobs?

In the autumn chill I was pretty sure that at least some of the locals were snug and warm.

Snug as a, well, you know.

I couldn’t help but contrast my surroundings with this welcoming depiction of the town. I think a bit of artistic licence had been used, especially with the climate. I could just feel that heat. Almost.

Looks lovely, doesn’t it?

The time soon passed, (with still not a living soul arriving to keep me company), and my train rolled in to puncture this almost picture-portrait of times past. But not before the clouds broke and I was given one more contrast before my departure.

Chapel-en-le-Frith by sunshine.