Sunday, 31 August 2014

Thank you

You may have noticed I have been posting something new here each day during August. I'm grateful to you for reading any or all of it. Thank you.

I hope to post regularly through the autumn months and beyond.

Are you a poet? Look out for a call for submissions - I'm going to be putting together a tiny magazine in the not too distant future. I promise to share details here.

I'm adding labels to posts on this blog, so that is a lot easier to find all the poems, the grandmama stories etc... So far August is labelled and sorted. I'll be working on the rest a chunk at a time. There is also a search box on the blog so you can look for that thing you read and want to re-read, or look for particular words and see what comes up. Thanks.

The Office

(a grandmama story)

They have to hurry for the bus. Today they must all go to Daddy's office, he has called from the office and now there's this awful rush to get coats and shoes. Grandmama uses up all her change on the bus and Hugo cannot sit with everyone else, which is usually fine, but now he has to sit next to a dog-scented woman who wants to talk about the weather. Why always the weather? He tells her a big fib: there will be snow tomorrow, they said it on the radio. She looks alarmed.

Gretel is talking loudly to Mumski: 'I wrote a poem about you writing poems!'

'That's so lovely, save it until later,' Mumski says.

They get off at the right stop, by the Civic Centre, a vast grey building with too many windows to count. 'It's brutal Hugo, this place. They call it Brutalism don't you know. The architecture,' Mumski says looking at the building and waving her hand.

'Yes I do know,' Hugo says, admiring the concrete and glass, 'Daddy told me. He's always going on about -'

'Come along now,' Grandmama says, urging everyone forward, as if they are late for a special party.

They walk into the Civic Centre, through various offices and departments, and soon find they are quite lost. Mumski and Grandmama ignore the signs and push through more doors, walk up concrete steps, children following. Jupp has a handful of yellow pencils, but where he got them from who knows. There are carpeted areas and desks, more desks, strip lights and metal cupboards. Not so many people. It is lunch-time and Hugo looks at a half-eaten apple on a desk and suddenly, for the first time in weeks, feels hunger. He stops to read a sign: Please Do Not Water My Plants I Am The Only Person Who Must Do This. There are no plants in sight.

Hugo has lost everyone. He pushes open a heavier, darker door and there is Daddy standing in a dark, windowless office. There is a thing in the far corner, with a light shining into it, a thing that looks like some kind of cage.

'Where is everyone?' Daddy asks and Hugo shrugs. 'Really Hugo I wish you would stop this shrugging and not saying. Please say: I have lost them Daddy.'

'I have lost them Daddy.'

Then another door opens and in steps everyone, Grandmama looking tired and so very out of place. Gretel runs up to Daddy and gives him a hug. Jupp still has the pencils. Mumski stands to one side and looks at Daddy's dim office as if it is more ghastly than she had ever imagined. It is, Hugo tells her silently, it is.

'Now come and see, you all must see, the eggs are hatching!' Daddy says and walks over to the lit-up cage in the corner.

'Your tortoise eggs, darling?' Mumski asks. 'How exciting for you. But why didn't you say on the phone?'

They all crowd around the lit cage. There appears to be a few tiny, very tiny tortoises strolling about in the rocky enclosure.

'They are quite extra special,' Gretel says breathlessly. 'Can we take them home?'

Daddy explains that the tortoises belong to the office, the Planning Department to be specific, his annexe to be more specific, and really they should not be in the Civic Centre. But no one minds. Just then a bald man wearing a bow tie strolls into the office and hands Daddy a paper folder.

'Goodness me, have they hatched?" the man says, completely ignoring the family and barging ahead to take a look inside the cage.

'Indeed they have!' Daddy says and looks at the folder briefly before handing it to Lucas.

'Your telephone's not plugged in!' Jupp says - Jupp is now more interested in the things on Daddy's desk than looking at the tortoises. 'The telephone won't work if it's not plugged in,' Jupp says, holding the yellow pencils like a bouquet of flowers.

Daddy says, 'It's a detail. I don't get many calls. But a decent point to make and well observed, Jupp. Well done.'

Grandmama sits down on Daddy's chair and opens her handbag, takes out a lipstick and reddens her mouth. She is taking little interest in the tortoises, or the office. Hugo thinks she must be bored when they are not at home, she has nothing to do here.

After a while the bald man leaves the office and Daddy says he may as well finish work for the day. So they all leave, with Daddy leading the way out of the building. A much quicker route this time. They are outside now, out in the grey drizzle of a Wednesday afternoon. Lucas pretends he has a tortoise in his pocket. Hugo refuses to look. Jupp holds the pencils.

Daddy looks up at the office block, strangely. 'I forgot my coat,' he says.

'Never mind, let's all go to the swimming pool,' Mumski says and points across the street.

'But we don't have our swimmers!' Jupp says.

'We can sit in the cafe and look through the glass, and watch the people bobbing up and down,' Mumski says.

'Can we have a fizzy drink and a bun?' Gretel asks.

'Yes, Daddy,' says, 'fizzy drinks and buns all round!'

Saturday, 30 August 2014


The neighbour's       heart-shaped lawn
gives me the chills. I don't know why. 
The only relief is when there is snow, 
then everything changes: I imagine 
how beneath our garden is 
another that will push through, 
vital, better than any 
heart can muster,
 each stem an