Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


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'. 


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


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.


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


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.


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


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



Midnight: a sickle moon, black trees in silhouette,
tall, jagged tops,
an electrocardiogram
scribbled on night sky.
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.


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,
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
its energy,
its prehistoric, savage joy,
intoxicates them.
They flourish.

3. JOY

past erased, future

their world begins afresh.

Only the extraordinary now,
a collision of senses,

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

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

in the magical moment,

hares dance.


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


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.


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


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.



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


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


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.


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


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.



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,

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


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. 


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.

Thursday, 9 March 2017


"One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain"  Bob Marley.

The first time I heard Reggae music I thought it wonderfully life-enhancing: a joyous, feelgood rhythm that seemed to bring sunshine into even the dullest day.
For a few years, I immersed myself in its warm, pulsating glow.
Tracks by Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, Bob Marley, Burning Spear and the incomparable Gregory Isaacs, played on my portable cassette machine when I went  training in the Craigantlet hills, back in the days when long-distance running was an integral part of my life.
Click here to listen to Bob Marley's One Love then enjoy the short story that follows.   


One love! One heart! Let’s get together and feel all right ...
Shel mimed Bob Marley’s words to the musical ringtone of  her fiancee’s mobile as the distinctive jingle sounded and Dave began jabbering to his mate about arrangements for the away-match that weekend.
One love!  Shel smiled and thought about the boys she’d known before. She’d thought herself in love with some of them but not like this, not like it was with Dave: one love, one love forever.
They’d been together three years: a passionate affair that now had reached the mellow stage. Their lovemaking, wild and reckless in the beginning, had become a familiar, twice-weekly ritual. Shel was content, but sometimes thought wistfully of those raunchy sessions up on Mortlake Hill in the old ruined barn. It was blissful up there, high above the town, their own private Eden, where the air was crisp and invigorating, far from people and prying eyes. God, they’d made the earth move, she and Dave, back then.
Saturday came, she packed his sandwiches, promised to have his favourite supper ready when he got home. He was meeting his mate, Del, at the station.
Three o’clock, Shel turned on the radio: the match was live. She thought of him, just another anonymous face in the crowd, but special to her, so special. One love!
Just thinking about Dave made her tingle. Bored, and on impulse, she decided to hike up Mortlake Hill to get some air: perhaps recapture the magic that seemed somehow missing from their life together nowadays.
The afternoon was warm and Shel, dressed in fleece and jeans, set off up the Hill. Approaching its summit, she felt exhilarated and full of energy. As she passed the ruins of the old barn, she glimpsed movement: a figure, no two figures, half-clothed, darted out of sight behind a stone facade.
Shel smiled. Young lovers in our old love-nest, she thought. Bet I know what they’ve been up to, and who can blame them: it’s the perfect spot for a bit of the old al fresco. I’ll tell Dave: get him hot and sexy for tonight.
Snatching out her smartphone, Shel called Dave’s number.
After a moment’s wait, a familiar ringtone sounded in the ruined barn.
One love! One heart! Let’s get together and feel all right ....

Saturday, 4 March 2017


The story of Icarus is a well-known and intriguing one.
An ambiguous fable open to differing interpretations, it is seen by some as a cautionary tale about the disastrous consequences of vainglorious ambition. 
The poet W H Auden famously used it in his celebrated poem, Musee des Beaux Arts.       

I am falling from high
but they do not notice.

The air, through wings
that promised much,
keens like a mourner.

Creeping ants below
to shepherd,

I fall unseen.

will dream it later.

I have no time
to scream.

The water is
hard as stone.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017


I have an elderly acquaintance whom I bump into occasionally, usually when my social antenna fails me and I’m slow to take avoiding action.
Rather like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, he fixes me with a beady eye and proceeds to talk at, rather than with, me.
He, for He is this gentleman’s sole topic, would seem to have, or have had, a life more vibrant and enthralling than any other, including my own quiet and unremarkable one.
I find his bragging insufferably tedious and tend to flee at the first opportunity.
He bears a remarkable similarity to Napoleon’s Horse. 


Napoleon’s horse is out to grass
and riles his fellow quadrupeds
with endless tales of derring-do ...
at his approach, they turn their heads
and quickly find something elsewhere
to seem to do till he departs.
Such boastful words exasperate
those whose career was pulling carts.

Friday, 24 February 2017


I was abroad last year when an abortive coup took place in Turkey and for a couple of glorious days it looked as though the dastardly Erdogan might be overthrown.
I wrote this poem, not based on the events in Turkey but instead, about the chaos that usually accompanies events of that kind. 


Since the coup all roles are reversed:
the high are brought low and complain
that prison conditions are grim;
they are missing their daily Champagne
so their thirst, now their bubble has burst,
stays unslaked and their prospects are slim.

Now the torturers, to their chagrin,
are tortured with pliers and shocks
and the State executioners’ heads,  
one by one, incline on the blocks.
Prison guards, now imprisoned, begin
long sentences. Mutiny spreads

through government offices, grey,
where clerks smash their ledgers and flee
to canteens with laughter and cheers,
where the tea-ladies poison the tea,
while out in the street banners sway
and homeless men crouch over beers.

The populace gathers in knots
on street corners and city squares
but nobody speaks of the past
or the future, for nobody dares.
The sound of occasional shots
rings out. The sky grows overcast

and thudding of rotors above
brings black helicopters with guns
while distant explosions illume
the sky like additional suns.
The city has no place for love,
for love has no place in a tomb.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017


W.H.Auden, poet, author, playwright and leading literary figure of the 20th Century, was born today, 21 February 1907.

Here, in celebration, is one of his better known poems.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message 'He is Dead'.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Click here to hear John Hannah reciting Funeral Blues in the film Four Weddings And A Funeral

Friday, 17 February 2017


Here’s a short vignette from an embryo collection of circus poems, one of which, Contortionist, appeared in a post last month. 
It’s also an opportunity to share a couple of wonderful vintage images of circus characters from long ago.


He chalks his leather palms, pumps biceps up,
admires scenes tattooed on his flexing arms,
scratches his beard, stubs out a small cheroot.
He reeks of liniment, greasepaint and sweat,
maleness, tobacco, a hint of rum,
and calls this dingy caravan his home,
parked beside tightrope act and clowns.
Between shows, Evening and Matinee,
he pays court to Mermaid Woman, Joan,
shyly, with a dish of cherries,
though Joan would rather have had fish.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


I submitted this poem to a UK magazine a few years ago and had it rejected. The email that followed explained that the editorial team were all cat-lovers who were mildly offended by my poem.
I’ve become something of a cat-lover myself in the years since then and am currently besotted with a Burmese called Charlie, an affectionate little bundle of coffee-coloured loveliness.

Nevertheless I remain fiercely protective of our small birds and therefore continue to discourage unwanted feline visitors from our garden.


There’s a cat on the shed roof
and I’m looking for a stone.

I find one, pitch it halfheartedly,
not meaning to hit or hurt.

The cat pirouettes,
spills from the roof like laughter.

It’s been going on for years, this melodrama.
We both know our roles.

Tomorrow it will be back and I
will be reaching for another stone.

Saturday, 11 February 2017


I often mention my wife, Jane, in this blog but seldom her writing, despite my admiration for her undoubted talent in that sphere.
Over the years, she’s written a significant number of excellent poems, as well as prose in the form of articles and stories.
Her work has frequently appeared in magazines and public-art venues and her impact on the local arts scene has been considerable.
Jane’s a frequent guest on BBC radio where her humorous verse, in particular, has proved extremely popular.
When not involved in lace-making, genealogy, research or one of her other, many passions, she writes evocative poems like the one below.  


home three years now.
Patch-worked by hop-fields,
scented by cider-apples,
pink-chipped cathedral,
lady of stone.

Fat boy sunbathing
in his white
Embarrassed by the
pops another button
and sidles back into the house
to caress
his blushes.

From hay-stack
to chimney-stack
the Morandi
still-life midlands.
Bottled cooling-towers,
cemeteries of scrap-metal
no-armed bandits,

Wheels clatter
brick-works and water-works
where no man works ...

White-walled city,
wedding-cake cathedral,
cobbled with memories
of school-girl days.

Brown ale and brass bands,
pigeons and pit-heaps.
A cathedral and childhood
carved from coal.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017


This curious poem turned up during a recent spring-clean: I had thought it lost forever.
I recall that when I wrote it I struggled to find a title and finally settled for Yellow.

The alternative choice was Dorothy, the name of the character played by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy is also the name of the sister of William Wordsworth, with whom the poet lived at Dove Cottage in the Lake District.
In the poem, I imagined the two Dorothys being, briefly, one person.


A great wind ripped the cottage from its moorings,
hurled it, spinning,
upwards and away

then released it
spinning earthwards
to somewhere that wasn’t Kansas.

She stumbled outdoors

acquired a pair of ruby slippers,
skipped down the Yellow-Brick Road
with Scarecrow, 
and the Cowardly Lion,
to find the Emerald City


grown homesick,
Dorothy clicked heels three times.


She found the day turned monochrome,
the beds unmade, no supper ready for her brother.

William burst in: he noticed nothing.

I’ve seen a host of daffodils, he cried. I think I’ll use them in a poem.

Sunday, 5 February 2017


Spring has arrived in Guernsey and with it the urge to tidy and reorganise drawers and cupboards.
In doing so, I discovered a cache of lighthearted poems written years ago for a pamphlet entitled Beasts that I sold to raise funds for an animal charity.
Amongst the many odd or exotic creatures that lurked between its covers were lemmings, widely and incorrectly, believed to commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs.


Frantic lemmings, out of breath,
scurry to communal death:
though incapable of flight,
yet from vertiginous height,
hapless creatures, with abandon,
leap, but who knows what they’ll land on!

Tuesday, 31 January 2017


Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: it gives back life to those who no longer exist.   
Guy de Maupassant


My father’s voice and intonation,
his mannerisms, watchful glance,
you tell me in our conversation,
are mine, with subtle adaptation.
That same proud bearing in my stance
was his demeanor, you remark.
Reflecting thus, together we
ignite a bright, defiant spark
to lighten that enfolding dark
where the dead dwell reluctantly.       


Saturday, 28 January 2017


Six million Jews, 2 million Romany people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexuals were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust.
The United Nations has designated 27th January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in 1945.

One who died there was celebrated author, Irene Nemirovsky, who fled the 1917 revolution in Russia to become resident in Paris. 
Tragically, when Germany invaded France in 1940, she was among the many Jews arrested by French collaborators and sent to the death camps.
The manuscript of her final work, the unfinished Suite Francaise, was rescued by her elder daughter, Denise, who kept it for fifty years without reading it, thinking it a journal of her mother's which would be too painful to read. 
In the late 1990s, however, when donating her mother's papers to a French archive, she decided to examine the notebook first. Upon discovering what it contained, she instead had it published in France, where it became a best seller. It has since been translated into 38 languages.


In Memory Of Irene Nemerovsky

Prodded, harried, without hope,
she gathered items in a case,
essentials that might see her through
this ordeal: spectacles, soap,
fresh underwear, a blouse or two,
a photo of a cherished face.

The books she wrote, to great acclaim,
would speak for her. She was resigned:
a helpless rabbit in a snare.
Her children, elsewhere, played a game,
all innocence and unaware.
Her door was left ajar behind.

Then hurriedly and under guard,
she trod in step with others who,
each with a fever-yellow star,
were herded to a station yard
to ride a fetid railway car
to Auschwitz in the morning dew.

Thursday, 26 January 2017


The native people of North America have suffered greatly as a result of the colonisation of that great continent by white settlers and today they find themselves, both socially and politically, almost invisible: a ghost population in their land of origin.
Read, here, one the many accounts, of what surely amounted to genocide during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. It will make you weep.



Once there were men and buffalo
that nourished us, that fed the tribe.
The land and all it could bestow
was ours. The Elders now describe
it as a Paradise on earth,
harmonious, our place of birth,
before the white men came to kill
our buffalo then break our will.

We dwelt in tribes, our rivalry
divided us: such was our plight
when faced with well-armed cavalry
our indecision, like a blight,
unmanned us, so our young men died,
our old men raged, our women cried,
while they, that force none could withstand,
came, massacred, then stole our land.

In retrospect, I see it clear,
we lived in childlike ignorance.
The world had changed but we, I fear,
refused to see the evidence
while, all the time, approaching fast,
the railroad with its piercing blast:
the Future coming, smokey-haired,
to catch us only half prepared.

Monday, 23 January 2017


Circuses have been a source of inspiration for novelists such as Angela Carter and John Irvine, and the number of circus-themed novels currently in print is legion.
Film-makers, too, have discovered plenty of rich material beneath the Big Top.
Images from Tod Browning’s grotesque 1932 horror movie, Freaks, now a cult classic, have remained with me for almost half a century and, in more recent years, the renowned Italian film director, Frederico Fellini, made the circus a recurring theme in many of his films.
The beauty of the circus, from the point of view of a writer, is its cast of strongly-defined, almost stereotypical, characters: Ringmaster, Clown, Aerialist, Lion Tamer, Sword Swallower and so on.
I’ve written a few circus poems, mostly humorous, but here’s a short vignette that’s more of a love story.


Heels below chin,
a human ampersand,
she balances on slender hands
to watch the strongman boasting to three clowns
that he could bend an iron bar
to match the sort of complex knot
she twists her body into every day.

She knows it’s nonsense: she alone
can curl her body, rubber-limbed,
to flabbergast a gawking crowd
and only then
by stretching hourly till the muscles ache.

A bull-necked braggart, she decides,
but handsome in an ugly way.
She locks her right foot
underneath her chin, sets her left free
and whispers:  
Brute, untangle me.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


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. 


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?