Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Friday, 17 May 2019


I read this poem at an open-air venue beside beautiful Lake Orta in Italy several years ago when Jane and I attended the Poetry On The Lake Festival, a prestigious annual event  attended by leading figures from the world of contemporary poetry. It has proved an enduring favourite.


Crouching in attic gloom,
where skylight beams illuminate their pool of silver dust,
old leather suitcases doze like alligators
dreaming their prehistoric dreams.

They sleep soundly having eaten up my father’s life ...

the photographs, the hearing-aid and collar studs,
the safety-razor with its rusted blade,
the letters
and the wallet with the ticket stubs ...

yet I am so afraid
that when I kneel beneath the skylight
to prise apart those sagging, alligator jaws,
the life that I will find compressed within
will be too small
to match my memories of him.

Saturday, 11 May 2019


As May advances and the island's weather warms, I've noticed one or two hardy souls braving the waters at Bordeaux Bay.
I'm not a keen sea-bather myself and tend to confine my aquatic adventures to swimming pools, preferably heated ones, and even then only with great reluctance. The sea itself is far too cold for me.
Early exposure to the much-vaunted pleasures of outdoor pools, notably dear old Pickie in Bangor, County Down, left me with strong reservations about that type of rash outdoor activity.  


Beneath his feet the board seems live,
responsive to his weight, his step,
and looking down, so far beneath,
the water, like a massive eye,
ice-cold, unblinking, ocean-blue,
stares back at him, so small, so high:
a diver, fragile as a bird,
fast-breathing, poised, to fall or fly
into an eagerness of air
that courses through his wayward hair.

He pivots on the high board then
and launches out in salty wind,
through years of childhood flown away
like voices calling from below,
into some strangeness that begins
with laughter but will end in tears.

Pickie Pool, Bangor, County Down.

Saturday, 4 May 2019


Jane and I have spent many hours visiting galleries and museums in Europe over the past few months and, amidst a profusion of great art, I find myself drawn to portraiture in preference to landscape subjects. 
There's something about the human face and its expression, as captured by the artist, that I find beguiling. 
I've used this splendid portrait by John Singer Sargent purely to illustrate the following poem about a mysterious lady and a jobbing portraitist. The picture currently hangs in the Scottish National Gallery and I'd love to see it in the flesh, as it were, so perhaps we'll have to add a visit to Edinburgh to our itinerary.



Such a pensive face, I hear you whisper,
and yes, the lady has a thoughtful look.
We stand together, marvel
at the artist’s skill and brush-technique
while you, with smartphone,
take a picture of her portrait
so that her image travels further yet
in space and time
from Exeter, two centuries ago,
with snow beyond the windows of a room.

There she would sit, while he,
with brush and paint,
would huff and puff to justify his fee.
That pensive look
he captured
defines her now
and we imagine that she dreams
of some lost, wayward love
when maybe she was simply fretting
for a missing glove. 

Monday, 29 April 2019


Back in the days when youngsters played outdoors unsupervised and war-game consoles were the stuff of science fiction, we learned some fundamental lessons about the reality of life and death.
As my late father frequently remarked, "Experience is the best school but the fees are often high."



With catapult, once school was finished,

I went to hunt in woodland, high

above Belfast, in summer light

and heard, among leafed branches spread,

a blackbird, singing like a bell.

I took aim, shot; the missile flew

... unerringly, my aim was true.

With awful suddenness it fell,

all broken. Exultation fled,
to be replaced by sickly fright.
I knelt to watch it slowly die.

Within me somewhere, light diminished.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019


I find Philip Larkin's poem Mr Bleaney a haunting one, particularly as I grow older and become increasingly aware of the isolation and consequent loneliness that so many fall prey to.
My own poem, The Landlady's Tale, taps into the anxiety that many older people feel as time slips steadily away.  


These were the only things he had.
I put them in a cardboard box.
Just what he wore. I thought it sad.
Apart from extra pants and socks.
A good innings at eighty-one.
We never knew he had a son.

He always was a quiet chap:
no trouble, liked his mugs of tea.
He’d come down to my door and tap,
Fancy a cuppa, Mrs P?
Before you go, forgive my cheek,
he didn’t pay his rent last week.

Saturday, 20 April 2019


The unseasonably warm weather, more June-like than April, puts me in mind of summer days in the garden at home in Belfast long ago and the fun we had when father watered the flower-beds. 


We scattered, screaming, laughing too,
not really wanting to escape
the chill, refreshing water spray,
like dazzling rain, the hosepipe threw.
My brother giggled like an ape:
in bathing togs, we danced away,
then, panting, watched the water spew.
With Father, we would laugh and jape
while summer days drifted away
and we, like watered lupins, grew.

Friday, 5 April 2019


Beachcombing, whilst generally pleasurable, sometimes has its sad moments. One such is recorded in this poem.

Photo by Peter Kenny



A gull dead on the old slipway,
its whiteness shabby, neck snapped,
pale eyes expressionless, remote.
A gull stone-dead at Bordeaux bay:
a length of fishing line has trapped
both its legs. Debris from a boat.

Gulls live short lives, brutal and grim.
It’s hard to mourn something like that,
or care; to not be disdainful.

Dying entangled limb with limb,
helpless, starved, is a cruel way.

That its death would have been painful
beyond belief, makes the heart bleed.

A piteous and pathetic end,
here on the slip where I found it,
moves me to, gently, lay seaweed
over it, like a wreath, and bend
to gather stones to place around it.