Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Tuesday, 29 August 2017


As I march steadily towards yet another birthday I remind myself that, already, many of the boyhood friends who started out on this same strange journey have failed to make it this far.
Here's a poem, from my Stone Witness collection, that commemorates one such youthful friendship. 


We started out with cocoa tins
attached by string: 
a telephone
of sorts; progressed to proper phones,
old army surplus; wired them up
and strung a line from my bedroom, 
to yours next door. 

We formed a link
that bound us fast through teenage years:
fifth form, sixth form, till, 
on you went to uni, I to unsought work.

Where you were cerebral and gauche,
I was the opposite, and yet
we hit it off: no other friend,
before or since, meant half so much.

In those strange, final months, we seemed
to drift apart: you went away
and I, in turn, 
went elsewhere too.

Estranged at twenty-one, we were.
You didn’t live to twenty-two.

Your picture, pale, in newsprint grim,
beside the stark facts of your death,
remains my image of you now
a half a century away.

My vanished childhood friend, 
you look so innocent, 
so fresh of face:
forever in a state of grace.

By way of a Bonus Track, here's the story of another Lost Boy.



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 we children, grown restive now, called out the boy’s name, our voices like small prayers rising.
In a wood grown suddenly colder, darker, birdsong ceased. We called out again and again but he did not answer.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017


I read this very visual poem, one of my personal favourites, in the second half of Guernsey's Open Mic event last Monday. 
It's taken from my second poetry collection, Strange Journey.


There are no trumpets; it’s all very low-key:
no spectral horsemen or multi-headed beasts.
Men and women simply drift away
like dandelion-seeds on a soft breeze,
one by one at first,
then gradually
the sky fills up with them: a surrealist painting,
multitudes rising through indescribable blue,
pale clouds adrift in the background.

Youths in baseball-caps, men with umbrellas, girls in patterned dresses,
daft old ladies, school-boys, postmen, beggars: 

all are lifted up.
Two nuns, like magpies, joyfully rise.
Machine operators, shopkeepers, farmers, dog-walkers, policemen, joggers,
young women with tired faces, suddenly beatific:
all float upwards.


They rise heroically,
each in an orb of shining light:
the only movement in a world

Traffic becomes gridlocked; 

jet-planes hang suspended
in charged air;
all the birds of the earth fall silent
as the expanding sky
grows brighter, brighter,
brighter yet.

Thessalonians 4:15 - 17

Friday, 18 August 2017


This month's theme for Guernsey's Poetry Open Mic event is CATS and I was therefore relieved to discover a couple of cat-poems gathering dust in the gloomy archive that I tend to refer to as The Bard's Basement.
As a lifelong dog-person, my relationship with cats has always been one of caution. 
Rufus, my Border terrier, was very attracted to cats but not in a friendly way and during his lifetime the bird-life in our neighbourhood flourished and brought us considerable pleasure.
One of the poems I've dusted off to read at the Open Mic (on Monday 21st August) deals with my futile efforts to deter cats from the garden and I recall submitting it, along with a couple of others, to a UK poetry magazine a few years ago. Whilst they accepted and published the other poems, they rejected the cat one and even attached a note to the rejection slip expressing stern disapproval of the poem's content. 
It appears that the editorial committee were all cat owners. 

I have recently become acquainted with a splendid cat called Charles who, were he to be appointed Ambassador for Cats, would win over even the most dyed-in-the-wool cataphobic
He is elegance and charm personified although, as with all felines, very much aware of his higher status and therefore at times is disdainful of humans.
Here is his photograph, along with a poem in his honour which he has permitted me to write.


Like fresh-poured coffee, darkly swirling,
a question mark unfurling, curling
into a sleepy circle then
awake, alert, active again,
he sits immobile in my chair,
immaculate with glossy hair,
ignores the dogs, disdains to frisk,
has an expression, basilisk.

Cautious, I watch him, dare not try
to meet his concentrating eye
(I who am merely flesh and bone)
for fear that I might turn to stone.

He is indeed melodramatic
and never less than enigmatic,
a being of a higher kind
with strangely elevated mind,
whose role in life appears to be
to constantly impress on me
that humans have their place, and that
is somewhat lower than a cat.

This month's Guernsey Open Mic takes place at 8pm on Monday 21st August at La Villette Hotel, St Martin's.

Monday, 14 August 2017


My recent visit to Northern Ireland was primarily to attend the wedding of my nephew, Simon, to the lovely Kimiko.
The happy couple live in London but for their wedding they chose the magnificent setting of Old Court Chapel on the shores of Strangford Lough.
The glamorous event was attended by a truly international array of guests from countries as diverse as Japan, Russia, Canada and Israel. 

I was asked to write a poem for the newly-weds, to be read at the ceremony, and since the request came from my sister I had no choice but to comply. 
The result can be found below.
It's worth noting that in Japan, the crane is associated with longevity, immortality and prosperity and, because of their permanent pair bonds, cranes are often featured on bridal kimonos. Sweet cakes to be served at Japanese weddings are often baked in the shape of cranes for good luck.

(For Kimiko and Simon)

In nations far apart you grew
in innocent obscurity,
not knowing what awaited you
when you attained maturity.
Perhaps you were destined to meet
to make the incomplete complete.

A crane is flying east to west,
its languid wings like soft brush strokes:
a messenger; may you be blessed
by fortune that this sign invokes.                             
May life be sweet, may time be kind
and your horizons unconfined.

May each hour be suffused with joys,
with laughter ringing through each day
as though, like children with new toys
your world were cloudless, life was play,
that, somehow, hopes and dreams might fly
like swallows there. No rules apply

except these few: to always give,
with loving hearts, more than you take;
never condemn, instead forgive
a lapse of love or small mistake.
Love forms the mortar, love alone,
that binds a marriage, stone to stone.

This love of yours that you hold dear,
this love you share, without disguise,
without evasion, doubt or fear,
is mirrored in each others eyes,
so greet the future, hand in hand,
the world awaits, yours to command.

A crane is flying west to east.
We watch its progress as we pray,
may all your treasures be increased,
may every blessing come your way,
may your twin spirits intertwine
in marriage when two souls combine.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017


On Sunday I shared the stage with popular local soprano, Lee-Ann Hawkes, at an open-air performance in Candie Gardens, St Peter Port.

Lee-Ann captivated an appreciative audience with a selection of classical arias while I read two sets of poems, taken mainly from my Stone Witness collection, and later signed copies in the shop at Candie Museum.
I'm happy to report that Stone Witness continues to sell extremely well, both online and through a number of local outlets.
One of the poems that I read was the ever-popular Requiem for a Gambler, which you can find below. 
Photo by Jane Mosse


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?


Friday, 4 August 2017


My old stamping ground, East Belfast, which I revisited recently, is the birthplace of many well-known individuals.
The writer, C S Lewis, grew up there, not half a mile from the house where I was born, and from the same district came actor and director Kenneth Branagh; actor James  Ellis; musicians James Galway, Van Morrison and Gary Moore; writers, St John Ervine and Forrest Reid; playwrights Stewart Parker, Sam Thompson and Marie Jones, and footballer, George Best.  

The recently-opened C S Lewis Square houses a bright new tourist centre where visitors can access information on the city's attractions from interactive screens, interpretative panels and a wall map, connecting people to East Side's famous faces, places and industries. Nearby, visitors can rediscover Lewis's creation, The Chronicles of Narnia with a walk through a public space featuring seven bronze sculptures from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, including Aslan, The White Witch, Mister Tumnus, The Beavers, The Robin and The Stone Table, in a stunning display of public art. 

Have a peep at the amazing statues in C S Lewis Square by clicking here.

Today's poem is, unsurprisingly, an Ulster one, Padraic's Glen from my Strange Journey collection. 


Beneath a cobalt sky, wind blows the barley heads
as wrens, through ragged hedgerows, drop like tears
and all the voices of ten thousand years
converge in one throat piping in the reeds

for here scenes are unchanging and unmoved
by all the petty vanities and schemes
and here remain the valleys, rocks and streams
our fathers and our forefathers have loved.

Here stand the granite stones that knew the shout
and felt the drum-led feet of marching men
and smelt the bloody fear along the glen
of tribes advancing or being driven out

and here the stunted trees that stamp defiant now
on shoulders of dead armies deep beneath the soil
where roots caress the riven shield, despoil
the eyeless socket, yellowed tooth or noble brow.

Beneath a cobalt sky you gathered meadow flowers,
perhaps to capture pieces of this perfect day,
as all-embracing summertime around us lay
and destiny conspired along with earthly powers

to make our bodies bend and shake like barley heads,
our hopes patrol, like warriors, the windy glen,
our hearts to drop like wrens and yet to rise again,
with one proud shout among the swaying reeds.