Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Thursday, 19 January 2017

O LUCKY MAN

In his prime, my paternal grandfather was, by all accounts, a charismatic fellow whose considerable worldly success was undermined by an undue fondness for gambling.
This poem is neither about him nor for him but for all those caught in the same exquisitely cruel snare. 


















REQUIEM FOR A GAMBLER

All that you owned when at your peak,
with business buzzing like a hive,
was squandered on a losing streak
while, hopelessly, hope stayed alive.
No game of chance could you forgo:
you’d kiss the dice for one more throw.

Slow horses, greyhounds half asleep,
the Poker games you always lost,
the endless nights you got in deep
with fools who didn’t count the cost,
the roulette wheel’s capricious spin,
those gambles you could never win,

left you like this: a rented room,
two threadbare suits, grease-stained and creased,
a stack of bills that I assume
no one will pay since you’re deceased.
You always were an optimist.
Where are they now, those dice you kissed?


Sunday, 15 January 2017

SHOOTING STAR

In my early teens, many of my heroes were footballers and one of these was the legendary Tom Finney, star of Preston North End and England.
Finney, a prolific goal-scorer, played more than 500 games for his club and 76 times for England.
His first international appearance was against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast.

In 2004 Tom Finney unveiled the impressive sculpture The Splash, which stands outside The National Football Museum in Preston

The Splash by Peter Hodgkinson

The sculpture was inspired by the 1956 Sports Photograph of the Year which features Finney beating two defenders on a waterlogged pitch.
Tom Finney died aged 91 in 2014.
In the following poem, I imagine him, in his later years, walking through leaves in his local park.





















FINNEY IN AUTUMN

An old gent,
in a park at autumn’s end,
ankle-deep in leaves
that hide a pathway’s ordered edges:
a snail with rounded back,
and checkered cap pulled down.
Another lonely moocher.                       
                                                 

But watch ...
 

he seems to suddenly  
become alert, 
tilt shoulders, left then right,
to heed a shout, inaudible ... Go Tom!

 
then shuffles, zig-zag, through crisp leaves,
a leather ball, invisible, 

his to command,
the trees, bewitched defenders
turned to stone.

 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

GOOD WRITING YEAR

“Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters.”
Neil Gaiman



2016 was a good writing year. Six of my poems were published in magazines, a significant number were published online, I was a runner-up in a major UK poetry competition, posted over one hundred poems on this site and even managed to sell a few books. 
In addition, I was commissioned to write a poem for the BBC and had the opportunity to read it on both local and national radio.
2017 is already off to a good start with a couple of Flash Fiction stories already written and a few other creative ideas bubbling away.

Here's a rerun of a Flash Fiction piece that proved particularly popular in 2016, especially with the ladies.

  
KARMA
 
When he was born, Maurice’s worst fears were realised. Reincarnation wasn’t a myth after all. Maurice had been reincarnated. As a dog.
It wasn’t bad at first. Being a puppy was a heady tumble of warmth, fun and sweet milk. But all that was rudely whipped away. A woman bought him and started imposing RULES.
Maurice had to pee on newspaper. He liked that. It was the Guardian not the Telegraph, which had been Maurice’s newspaper of choice in his former life. When he forgot and peed on rugs and carpets, the woman shrieked like a banshee and chased Maurice, now renamed Bo-Bo, round the kitchen.
Servility was not to Bo-Bo’s liking. When he’d been Maurice, people had cowered at his feet. An alpha-male, he’d been a swaggering bully, intoxicated by power. He’d made enemies: men he’d destroyed; women he’d crushed. From youth until horny old age, Maurice had taken what he wanted and damn the consequences. He’d always had his way with women, whether they'd liked it or not.
He remembered young Jill Fowler, only sixteen yet annoyingly resistant. He’d had to force her but he was sure she’d liked it in the end. Better had, thought Maurice, she was, after all, the very last one. The next morning he’d strolled onto the golf course and Bang! Massive bloody coronary. End of story.
Except it wasn’t. Here he was again: reborn as Bo-Bo and something odd was happening.
His owner was handing him to a stranger in a white coat.
Don’t worry, Miss Fowler, the strange man said. Castration’s quite straightforward.
Bo-Bo will be right as rain in a couple of hours.

 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

SANDS OF TIME

Born in the 1940s, I had a relatively happy childhood, free from the pressures and anxieties of many of today's children.
I daresay those years may not have appeared idyllic to my parents who, at the time of my birth, would have been experiencing the second great war of their lifetime.
During my childhood, Belfast still bore the ugly scars of the 1941 Blitz, when two hundred German bombers attacked the city, largely-undefended due to the complacency and indecision of our Government.
Over 900 lives were lost, 1,500 people were injured, many of them seriously. Fifty-thousand dwellings, more than half the houses in Belfast, were damaged. Eleven churches, two hospitals and two schools were destroyed.
Two hundred and twenty-thousand people fled to the countryside on the outskirts of the city.
By the mid 1950s, however, Belfast had begun to recover and a period of relative prosperity meant that many families now owned motor cars and seaside holidays were a feature of the yearly calendar.
I have many happy memories of growing up during that era but one in particular stands out with amazing clarity, that of a family beach picnic at Portstewart Strand on Ulster’s north-western coast.
I often attempt, either through poetry or prose, to reconstruct that happy day, but never quite succeed.













PICNIC

The first image
is always a tartan rug,
then, swiftly, other items follow:
Dad’s parked Austin, monochrome,
Mum’s picnic basket, acres of beach,
Atlantic breakers rolling in
and, there, behind my milk-white shape,
huge sand dunes rising. 

Splayed cricket-stumps swim into view,
a ragged bat, beach-ball and thermos flask,
Father in a deckchair, rolled trouser-legs
exposing freckled calves,
my brother with a bucket, spade,
constructing sandcastles and moats,
my sister with her rouge-faced dolls,
our mother counting sandwiches 
while Laddie runs and barks at kites.

This is a poem I write and write,
failing, each time,
to capture those remembered hours.
They glide like feathered ghosts,
gull-shadows on a summer beach.
Mere words, inadequate,
spill through my clutching hands again.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

RECHARGING THE BATTERIES

To celebrate the start of another year, an optimistic poem in defiance of the gloom that daily threatens to overwhelm us.






















DAYBREAK

The day beginning, light creeps in:
a stealthy light expelling dark.
Another day, another chance
to do, but better, what was done
indifferently the day before,
to somehow win the lottery,
to dodge the bullet one more time.
to watch the ball sail through the air
then hang suspended, crisp, defined,
and get another crack at it:
to do all this without a thought
of how there is so little time.


Beneath the duvet, snug as cats,
we whisper in the early hours
while outdoors, rain 

falls on spring flowers.

 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

A BARD'S BAY

The start of 2017 seems a suitable moment to tell you a little about Guernsey, the island I relocated to nearly twenty-five years ago.

Photo Jane Fleming



This photograph is of Bordeaux bay where, at low tide, you'll discover an abundance of bird life and may even spot a beachcombing poet
At low tide you can easily stroll from the spot where this picture was taken, to the far shore and the granite houses opposite, which bookend the entrance to one of the oldest streets in Guernsey, Rue de Havre, near to where we live.
Just out of the picture is the breathtaking view of the other Bailiwick islands, Herm, Jethou, Brechou, Sark and Alderney, that Jane and I rejoice in on a daily basis
Click here to view a short promotional video about the beautiful Bailiwick of Guernsey. 

View from the seafront at St Peter Port, the island's capital.


Fresh Hedge Veg available at a roadside stall.

Blue post boxes, granite walls and rejuvenating sunlight: spring in Guernsey

Thursday, 29 December 2016

TREE OF LIFE

I wrote the original version of The Big Tree almost fifty years ago when I was part of a novice writing group in Northern Ireland.
As with most of my other scribblings from that era, no copy of it has survived, but the idea itself remained with me and I decided to rewrite it in 2013, managing to recapture much of the spirit of the early piece.






















 

















THE BIG TREE

The boy was climbing a tree.
It begins that way: a boy climbing a tree all those years ago in the green-spring wood that was our world, untroubled as Eden: a small figure ascending through leafscape towards sunlight. 
Below, by the tree’s foot, other children gathered and called out encouragement as he climbed through a network of branches and leaves, soft as goose-feather.
We named it The Big Tree, our woody Everest, a mountain of bark and bough, king of the wood, huge among legions of lean, lesser trees, a giant encircled by mortals.
I remember that day: the scent of mulch, woodsmoke, the sound of birdsong. School had broken up for the Easter holidays. We’d gathered at the wood’s centre, as we often did, around The Big Tree: a mixed band of boys and girls cheering our champion on.
A soft breeze shivered the treetops. It seemed to whisper.
Confidently, the boy climbed, finding footholds by instinct, the branches a stair to a hidden room, while below, the others waited, faces upturned like flowers.
Up he went like a squirrel, quick-footed, not looking down, through a jigsaw of branches, soft leaves, fingers beckoning, bark, coarse skin and the tree itself, a beast breathing, aware of his coming.
Light in the treetops, bright as gold. Never grow up. Never grow old. 

Breeze through branches sang like a plucked harp; sunlight fell like a host of arrows on to the woodland floor and all the spider-web, foot-worn tracks converged on that tree at the wide world’s centre and at its foot the children, grown restive now, called out the boy’s name, their voices like small prayers rising.
In a wood grown suddenly colder, darker, birdsong ceased. They called out again and again but he did not answer.