Bordeaux Bay

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

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

BIKE TO BASICS

There’s something magical about motorcycles: a kind of primitive connection between bike and rider that seems to exist only rarely with cars. Perhaps it’s the stripped-down quality in a motorcycle that brings engine and owner into close conjunction. For many, a second-hand Yamaha or Kawasaki is their first independent mode of transport and, like one’s first love, it retains a special place in the affections.
As a teenager I couldn’t afford a motorbike but my best friend, John Simpson, had an old BSA and we had adventures galore on it. I remember us roaring off to the coast at Helen’s Bay on summer days, hoping to impress girls. We wore leather jackets but not crash helmets and imagined we were part of the biker gang in Stanley Kramer’s 1953 iconic  movie, The Wild One.
In more recent times I owned a 750cc Yamaha and rode it on the island and in northern France. A beautiful motorcycle with swept-back handlebars, customised paintwork and a leather seat, it was a pleasure to ride. The roads in Brittany are ideal for bikers, with little traffic congestion and great scenery. Riding a motorbike there makes you feel young again. Nowadays, however, I wear a crash helmet.
Here’s a short tale (just 250 words) about one man and his motorcycle.


PEPSI



Pepsi Morgan thrilled to the power of the liquid-cooled 12-valve engine of his new motorcycle.
The dealer described it as the purest riding experience money can buy. He was right. Pepsi roared down the dual-carriageway like a bullet.
No stranger to bullets, Pepsi had left Afghanistan a month ago: a hero, they told him.  Plain lucky, he reckoned. He’d seen some hot spots but Helmand was the worst, a killing ground.
Like all soldiers he’d become fatalistic. “If the bullet’s got your name on it,” they’d say and, yes, he’d lost mates that way. No amount of caution could save you. He remembered the patrol when Beezer got hit. A lone sniper. A bullet with his name on it, poor sod.
Pepsi had been lucky.  Got home, got out, blew his savings on a brand-new Triumph Speed Triple, the perfect expression of stripped-down, brute power. Right now it felt like a package of pure energy rocketing him into the future.
He didn’t see the delivery truck that came out of nowhere.  The impact was like a bomb exploding inside his head; more powerful than all the bombs in Helmand put together. He was dead before he hit the ground.
The broken motorcycle spun like a roulette wheel on the tarmac. The truck came to a halt twenty yards away. It was a big vehicle. White. The word “Pepsi” in two foot letters on its side. A bullet with his name on it.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

OPEN INVITATION

This month's Open Mic event will take place at 7.30pm on Monday 26th June at La Villette Hotel, St Martins. 



You're welcome to come along and read your own poems or, if you prefer, the work of a favourite poet. Alternatively, you can simply turn up and enjoy a intriguing mixture of contemporary poetry and music in a warm and welcoming environment.


"Every time you read a poem aloud to yourself in the presence of others, you are reading it into yourself and them. Voice helps to carry words farther and deeper than the eye."
                                   Seamus Heaney.


Thursday, 22 June 2017

SAIL AND RETURN

Do today's children still play with model yachts or is that altogether too 'outdoors' for them?
I recall the heady thrill I experienced when a breeze caught the sail of my very first model yacht and carried it rapidly across the pool adjacent to our family's holiday B & B all those years ago.























VOYAGER
 

A small red sail, triangular,
gathers a small breeze then zig-zags
across rippled water.
A boy darts to the pool’s edge,
steers, with slender bamboo rod,
his bobbing yacht towards the other side.

A small boy in woolen post-war bathing trunks,
I see him clear,
on hunkers, urging his frail craft
as though, by will alone,
the sunlit distant shore
is his to conquer.



Wednesday, 21 June 2017

FULLY BOOKED

Time, once again, to mention my new poetry collection, Stone Witness, available from selected outlets in Guernsey or via my publisher's website below.
 
An eclectic new collection that deals with themes
of love and death, old and new gods, nostalgia for
a vanished age and the challenges of life in the
21st Century.
 

Price £6.99
 

ISBN: 978-0-9928791-5-0
Paperback. 64 pages
Published by Blue Ormer Publishing
 

CLICK TO BUY

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

MENTAL IMPLANTS

T C Lethbridge, the celebrated parapsychologist, dowser and author, had no doubt that everything we come in contact with retains an echo of our presence.
Back in the Nineteen-Seventies, I read a number of his books and was much impressed by his experiments with pendulum and divining rod.








 













IMPRINTS

Is an imprint left by laughter
in the table and the armchair
or the old Axminster carpet,
that was bought from Camden Market,
by her lively, wayward daughter,
with the golden, windblown hair?


Does mirth lodge still, or does sadness,
in these articles, forsaken,
that, in life, she treasured dearly
as dust grows upon them, yearly?
Does a residue of gladness
rest there, waiting to awaken?

Such things surely cannot perish
but instead, like bulbs in winter,
joy lies dormant, ever-patient
in a state of hibernation.
In the artifacts we cherish
passion lingers like a splinter.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

GRAVE MATTERS

Interesting how our viewpoints change throughout our lives. A child will view a house as a castle, towering and overwhelming, while its parent will probably grumble that the place is too small and that they need to start looking for something larger.
We return to some paradise of former days, view it through different eyes and wonder why we ever liked it in the first place. 
So, too, do our social and political views change as we grow older. Youthful idealism gives way to mature pragmatism as the the world's walls close in around us.
We move from infancy to maturity: evolve from being someone's child to become a parent, then, in no time at all it seems, a grandparent faced with the stark knowledge that both of these new generations will see us out.   
That's when it all begins to get a bit scary.   














ST SAMPSON'S CHURCHYARD 2017

When young I’d prowl among headstones,
examine weathered dates and names,
admire old plinths with skulls and bones
or crosses with engraver’s claims.
Death had allure and, thrillingly,
its strange, exotic pageantry
was then unreal, remote to me.

Not now, when age afflicts these bones,
uneven ground portends a trip
and bending down to study stones
can make these damn bifocals slip,
it all seems far too real for me:
death’s bloody grim finality,
its awful anonymity.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

PICTURE THIS

It's been a while since I posted a piece of Flash Fiction so here's a short, short story to put that right.


PORTRAIT 
    

It’s like a large wading-bird, she thinks, studying the easel: see, there’s the long legs and dipping beak; the canvas is its plumage, the colours happening before my eyes.
She stretches, touches brush to painting, asks her sitter to hold the pose. Her subject, an elderly man, sits astride a rock beside a lough. An old Scots lord, he looks the part: tweedy, austere. He grips a book as though absorbed in reading. 

The water, trees, sky, seem massive. She strives to capture them, scale them down, make from them, a backdrop to the portrait.
Far out on the lough, a boy in a rowing boat, oars raised, casts overboard a single line. She adds that image, the line curving like a signature, then concentrates on canvas sky: her paintbrush, a bird in flight.
Engrossed, she hardly notices the morning slip away, the light subtly alter. 

Let’s take a break, she says. We’re nearly there. Would you like to peep?  
The old man stretches, steps around to study the portrait. 
What’s that? he growls, pointing to the shape in the background.  
The fishing-boat, she says, but when she looks for it, the boat has gone.
Impossible, is the gruff response. 

There’s been no fishing on this lough since the wee Burrows laddie drowned a year ago. Yes, come to think of it, a year ago today.


Thursday, 8 June 2017

DOG STAR

Master McGrath (Pronounced McGra) was a greyhound born in Ireland in 1866. 
One of a litter of seven he was an undersized, delicate pup but despite his unpromising beginnings, he went on to become the most celebrated and successful racing dog of his time.
In the beginning McGrath showed none of the outstanding qualities which were later to make him famous. At his first race his performance was so bad that his trainer ordered him to be given away but, fortunately, his handler, having greater faith in him, retained the dog and entered him in several races which he won.
Having established himself, he went on to win the prestigious Waterloo Cup on no less than three occasions: the first greyhound to do so and became something of a celebrity and the subject of numerous tales and ballads.
His owner, Lord Lurgan, was requested to bring him to visit Queen Victoria and the Royal Family.
Master McGrath died early in 1873. An autopsy showed that his heart was twice the size of that of a normal dog. 

He was buried in Lurgan, County Armagh, where, today, a magnificent bronze statue of him can be found.
My paternal grandfather, William Fleming Snr, bequeathed me his treasured walking stick, whose handle was sculpted from photographs of the great McGrath, so I'll dedicate this poem to him.


























MASTER McGRATH

Canine perfection, symmetry,
embodied in an agile frame,
sleek body like a comet’s flame
ablaze with pride and majesty.

Those elements that made you fast,
heart, muscle, sinew, blood and bone,
ensured a legend set in stone,
all rivals beaten and outclassed.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

A GRAY AREA

The humorous poem below was one that I entered in a UK poetry competition with the theme "Portraits".
Unsurprisingly, it didn't win but it was published and that's always pleasing.
Most people are familiar with the Oscar Wilde story A Picture of Dorian Gray, where the dissolute Mr Gray commissions a portrait of himself that has magical qualities: the face in the picture ages while Dorian himself, despite a degenerate life, retains his youthful appearance.
E L James's novel Fifty Shades of Grey was enjoying a great deal of attention at the time I wrote this and I thought it amusing to play with the title.


 

















FIFTY SHADES OF DORIAN GRAY

I’ve told him time and time again,
it must be fifty times at least,
that portrait I produced and signed
is meant to age. He’s not resigned,
in fact, he thinks he has been fleeced
and threatens me with legal men.

I tell him: Listen, Mister Gray,
the portrait ages, but not you.
Look at your fine, unwrinkled face
and as for grey hair, not a trace.
 

So he cheers up and doesn’t sue.
He’ll keep it then. Might even pay.



Click here to listen to Grey, composed by Karl Jenkins and featured in his composition, Requiem (2005) 

Friday, 2 June 2017

DON'T FORGET ARTS SUNDAY ...






































  ... and when you're there don't forget to visit the Blue Ormer Publishers stand, beside the Town Church, where you'll find copies of Stone Witness and various other Guernsey-related books.



An eclectic new collection that deals with themes
of love and death, old and new gods, nostalgia for
a vanished age and the challenges of life in the
21st Century.
 

Price £6.99
 

ISBN: 978-0-9928791-5-0
Paperback. 64 pages
Published by Blue Ormer Publishing
 

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

SEA PICTURES

When you live on an island the sea is never far away and I often find myself, in one of the small sandy bays that form a golden necklace around Guernsey, gazing out to the horizon. The unending blueness never fails to work its salty magic to energize and enthrall me.
























HORIZON

Out slowly, slowly rolls the sea
to that far edge beneath the sky
where two competing ultra blues
collide and the outreaching eye
is drawn. There lies the mystery
to which there are no keys or clues.

There, in a trembling inky script,
words run from east to west and yet
are coded, illegible.
Here on the shore, trapped in Time’s net,
I struggle but am ill-equipped
to match the code-creator’s skill

of making us desirous, fond
of vistas that are vagabond.



Saturday, 27 May 2017

READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Click here to read about the Stone Witness book launch by Blue Ormer Publishing. 

Photo by Ciprian Ilie


Back from sunny Rapallo, I'm pleased to discover that Stone Witness is selling fast and my in-box contains plenty of encouraging feedback from those who've bought a copy.  
It's been particularly gratifying to receive support from fellow writers whose work I admire. 



Rapallo is a small city located on Italy’s Ligurian Coast, about 15 miles south east of Genoa.
Whilst exploring, Jane and I discovered the house formerly occupied by the American poet, Ezra Pound, and also an imposing property where Irish poet, W B Yeats, lived for several years.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

BOOK LAUNCH

The launch of my latest poetry collection, Stone Witness, was a truly joyous occasion in the atmospheric surroundings of the Priaulx Library, a beautiful old building adjacent to Candie Gardens in St Peter Port.

The Priaulx is a library of the traditional style, rare nowadays: the kind that I grew up with, where books and quiet contemplation were the order of the day.

For an hour on Saturday afternoon, however, its state of quietude was disrupted when an animated group of friends and well-wishers turned up to hear Blue Ormer's founder, Steve Foote introducing my reading of some of the new poems. 




I'm pleased to say that, afterwards, a large number of books were signed and we were able to head home in good spirits.

A huge thank you to those who were able to attend the launch and, of course, to Sue Laker and her colleagues at the Priaulx. For those who didn't make the launch, copies of Stone Witness can be purchased direct from Blue Ormer by clicking here.


And, finally, there are some splendid photos, taken by Ciprian Ilie, available to view when you click here. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A TURN UP FOR THE BOOKS

No need to book to come to my Book Launch on Saturday, just turn up and help me celebrate the publication of Stone Witness.

 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

THE WORLD'S MY ORMER*

Much can happen in a matter of days and a great deal more if you extend the time frame by a few weeks.
In early April, a tentative chat with Steve Foote, founder of Blue Ormer Publishing, led to my gathering together forty poems written over the past couple of years, editing them, arranging them in suitable order and writing short narratives about each selected poem.
All this, in turn, precipitated a flurry of activity from Blue Ormer Publishing that left me breathless but the end result, less than a month later, is the publication of a rather beautiful book of poetry, Stone Witness. 

It’s described by the publishers as "a collection that deals with themes of love and death, old and new gods, nostalgia for a vanished age and the challenge of life in the 21st Century".

Central to the collection is the poem, Stone Witness (La Gran'mere du Chimquiere) which deals with the relationship between Guernsey's iconic granite figure and the islanders themselves. 
 

The book also contains what I consider to be some of the best poems I’ve written and it’s encouraging to know that, whilst everything else diminishes with age, one’s writing doesn’t.
 


You can find out all about it at BLUE ORMER PUBLISHING.
 


* An abalone-type shell-fish delicacy much appreciated by Channel Islanders.

Monday, 1 May 2017

WHAT IS ART?

Here's a little exercise in art appreciation.
Three of the following five pictures were downloaded from the internet whilst browsing. I won't disclose the artists' names. The remaining two pictures are of a different provenance: one which you may find surprising. 
Can you guess which fall into each category? 






Images one, three and four were taken from the internet, having searched for 'abstract art'. Images two and five are photographs taken by my wife, Jane, of fishing-boat hulls at low tide in Bordeaux Bay. 
An interesting comparison.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

The Occupation of the Channel Islands by German forces during the Second World War has left its mark on the landscape and also on the psyche of islanders themselves.
A film of Mary Ann Shaffer's hugely successful novel, The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, is about to be made and I can't help but wonder what memories it will stir in the older generation of Guernseymen and women who lived through those challenging times.
For the definitive Guernsey novel however you need look no further than The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by the late G B Edwards, acclaimed by the New York Review of Books as 'a triumph of the storyteller’s art that conjures up the extraordinary voice of a living man'. 
Get on the Trail of Ebenezer Le Page by clicking here.
 




















 THE HURT

Where lunchtime shoppers congregate
outside the High Street bank’s facade,
grey uniforms of marching men,
in ranks, strode purposefully past.
Historic images confirm
that Occupiers made these streets

parade grounds and our sleepy lanes
verboten after curfew hour.
The enemy has been subdued,
expelled, and yet the hurt remains:
that violation taints us all
despite prosperity and gains. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

SWINGS AND ROUNDABOUTS

My poem, The Swing, has been around for a while. I included it in my 2012 collection Strange Journey and, following a minor rewrite, here it is again, now entitled, SONG OF SPRING.






















SONG OF SPRING 

As we launch out, the air feels clean,
the wooden swing, a pendulum
divining or recording time,
as sunlight stabs, pure platinum,
through woodland chestnut, cedar, lime,
into our playground, softly green.

It takes our joint weight on taut ropes
as we, in tandem, drive it on,
gathering momentum, we rise:
you grip the seat I brace upon
with boots, knees, adolescent thighs
and boundless, adolescent hopes.

The swing is like a storm-tossed boat,
the wood’s a bold kaleidoscope
of light, leaf patterns, soaring dreams.
I shout within the cradle-ropes,
the sound extinguishing your screams.
Free from confining earth, we float.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

KISS AND TELL

It's been a while since I've published a love poem so here's one from years ago that, to my mind, still retains its freshness.


SNOWFLAKES

Kisses can be so diverse.

I never knew before
how each is like a snowflake:
quite unique.

Within your arms, I am
drab terrain made beautiful
by drifting snow.






Thursday, 13 April 2017

SPLITTING HARES

Previously, I've featured my poem, The Murchen Quartet, only in sections. Here it is, complete.





















THE MURCHEN QUARTET

1. RETURN

Midnight: a sickle moon, black trees in silhouette,
tall, jagged tops,
an electrocardiogram
scribbled on night sky.
Nearby,
a sloping meadow,
a derelict croft,
a dry-stone wall winding, like a serpent,
towards somewhere unseen.
Field-mice stir
in the emerald grasses,
a barn-owl hunts, soundlessly,
like a reaper’s blade,
back and forth over dew-moist ground.
All is absolute, glistening stillness
hushed as the world’s final breath.

He comes over the wall, rippling the darkness,
fluidly, spilling like water,
brown-booted, hooded, soft-footed,
moving with purpose and stealth,
crosses the meadow, head down-turned, hurrying,
curtained by camouflage, covert, concealed.

Kneeling, he opens a satchel,
secured by a leather-made leash,
and gently releases,
as though giving birth,
two leverets, supple and sinewy-soft,
that huddle together, immobile as boulders,
to feel the soft night on their shimmering fur,
and inhale the meadow, the moisture, the magic,
the coolness of grass, the moist sweetness of air.

Two young hares in the vastness of England,
two creatures dispatched to make Eden anew,
heed their ancestral summons and,
swallowed by darkness,
slip into the future, on cue.

2. DAWN

Each dawn,
the world, reborn, astounds:
sky, eggshell-blue,
grass greener, yet,
than far-off fields,
and mountains, a kaleidoscope
of purples.
Clear water, over polished rocks,
cascades
as wind unsettles trees.
Beside a zig-zag,
amber stream,  
a dragonfly, with rainbow wings,
flicks like a fencer’s blade.
Each dawn they view
their changed, unchanging world
fresh-made,
its energy,
its prehistoric, savage joy,
intoxicates them.
They flourish.

3. JOY

Awakened,
past erased, future
nonexistent,

their world begins afresh.

Only the extraordinary now,
a collision of senses,
exists.

Music.
Blackbird’s flute,
grasshopper’s fiddle,
drumbeat scuttle of field-mice,
accordion-wind in high meadows.

Silence.
In crystalline pools
trout glide like ghosts.
Owls, tombed in dead trees,
imitate death.

Dreamlike,
in the magical moment,

hares dance.

4. SURVIVAL

Stillness is her best defence.

So she becomes
a russet stone,
a dark tussock,
a clod of earth, upturned,

perhaps merely a shadow,
there, by a dry-stone wall
on hostile, open ground.

No shiver of wind
disturbs her tawny fur.

She sits, unbreathing,
stiff as an idol.

Only her eyes, bead bright
in a fine-boned head, travel
like planets.

With leather-gaitered boots,
mountainous shape,
tobacco reek,
and slow-departing tread,

danger passes.



Murchen is the Gaelic word for hare.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

GRAVE MATTERS

There have been enough tragic stories to emerge from the Ulster “Troubles” to fill a library, but few can be more heartbreaking than that of mother of ten, Jean McConville, who was abducted, tortured, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA, whose leadership steadfastly refused to reveal to her family the whereabouts of her grave. 
Almost thirty years passed before it was discovered by chance and the family were able to give their mother a proper burial. The guilty men are still out there and support for Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, has never been higher.

Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams.

ABDUCTION TALE

When they came for my mother
there were shouts.
They called themselves soldiers.
She called them louts.
There were eight of them there.  
Three local guys, names I knew:
Republicans, hard-men.
They yelled: You kids fuck off.
They were like flies
buzzing round our mother.
My brother, ten,
he clung on to her, tried to interfere:
got a busted face, got a bloody ear.
They dragged Mother outside.
Cut us kids short.
Said she’d been a tout.
Said she had informed.
Mother struggled, cried out:
Lord, I’m not that sort.
Sure, I’d not do that.
You’ve been misinformed.
They dragged her off, those patriotic men,
without goodbyes,
into the bitter rain.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

REGENERATION

What rescues us from oblivion when our lives end? Only the promise of immortality through our children and the small bright torches that pass from one generation to the next.

 


SONS

On a yellowed flyleaf,
half a century ago,
my mother wrote to say
Birthday Wishes
and Mum, that name
that buries self away.

I was her firstborn,
headstrong, loving,
exuberant, willfully astray.

My childhood fears,
unbidden tears, the small, lost
battles of the day,
she dissipated in her arms.

My daughter
holds her sons that way.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

THE CRUELLEST MONTH?

Last month, whilst in Venice, I read news of the deaths of two giants of modern literature.



The Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who came to prominence in the 1960s, died in the USA, aged 84. Best-known for his epic work, Babi Yar, which commemorates one of the worst Nazi atrocities of World War Two when tens of thousands of Jews were murdered in the Ukraine, Yevushenko was one of the first foreign poets whose work I encountered. 

We also said farewell to Derek Walcott, the legendary Caribbean poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, whose work embraced almost every poetic form. He died at his home in St. Lucia, aged 87.
In T S Eliot's poem, The Waste Land, dedicated to former Venice resident, Ezra Pound, he referred to April as the cruellest month. For poetry lovers, this year, it was surely March. 



Thursday, 16 March 2017

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

Some years ago, before moving to the coast at Bordeaux Bay, I lived in the Parish of St Peters, one of the few remaining rural parishes.
I had, then, two young and energetic terriers that were always eager to be out and about, and many evenings, after dark, we'd set off together to explore the fields and green lanes of the area.
There is a heady sense of freedom and exhilaration to be had in being out with dogs by moonlight, rejoicing in the rich night scents and reveling in the sense of space and solitude that darkness affords. 
One evening we saw the magnificent owl that prompted this poem.




OWL

In a green lane in St Peter’s
near midnight, under a full moon,
a pale owl
flies across my path, silently,
then low
over dark fields to the tree-line, hunting.

I turn
to watch his tireless sweep
over dumb ground, mist spreading like a shroud,
till I lose sight of him,
and coldness, creeping,
turns my leaden footsteps home.

In bed, near daybreak,
I jerk awake, heart pounding,
mindful of accelerating time, moments eaten up,
of golden, soundless wings,
a questing eye;
sharp talons reaching for my heart.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

WHIPPING UP EXCITEMENT

Everybody loves a circus but the modern variety lack many of the primitive thrills of the so-called "good old days" when animals were often cruelly exploited for the public's amusement.

 


LION-TAMER

He steps the cage, measuring and remeasuring,
pisses in each corner to establish ownership.
Later, when the lions enter
it will be to his lair and he will be Master.
Tonight, an audience, enthralled, will watch
lions and a mortal man
perform their strange ballet
and, breathless,
marvel.

Imperious, he cracks his whip, strides to and fro.
His calm assurance dominates the beasts.
The lions crouch on bales of hay
or leap through painted hoops
at his command.
He searches their tawny eyes
for hints of danger.
They are his subjects. The cage, tonight,
his realm.
 


Sunday, 12 March 2017

STOLEN KISSES

There's something incurably romantic about stolen moments that make films like Brief Encounter such unforgettable classics.
Indeed, throughout history the lure of a clandestine love affair has led many an otherwise reliable spouse astray. 
The Soul classic, The Dark End of the Street, written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman, is an unforgettable song based on just such an illicit situation.
Click here to listen to the incomparable James Carr's 1967 recording. 
 





















THE KISS


A waitress brings ice-cold white wine.
at cafe tables people stare
at other people, but I see
nobody else. I am aware
only of your proximity.
The wine, your eyes, your voice combine
to charge, with fearful hope, this hour   
that flies away from us too soon,
its lightness close to perfect joy.
For us, this stolen honeymoon
that our commitments must destroy,
fades like a transitory flower.