Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Friday, 26 January 2018


As I grow older, a yearning to revisit the past intensifies but the sad truth is that there's no joy to be had from such adventures.
The past really is a foreign country, where history has been subtly changed.
Road-signs have been altered, doors are locked against the stranger.  



Her children
and my children
now have children of their own.
The man I was, and what she was,
that spirited, flamboyant girl,
have vanished, all our passion stilled.

I hardly thought myself grown old
till, in her tearful, wary face
I saw
my own reflected: weary, drawn.
Full forty years of life’s rebuffs
have turned us into shadows.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018


If you're a Guernsey resident, or even a visitor our little island, then haste thee along to Torteval Church Hall this Friday evening to enjoy the inaugural Metivier Night, which promises to be a memorable occasion, not just for poetry lovers, but for those who love to celebrate all things Guernesaise .

The brainchild of the Guernsey Language Commission, Metivier Night promises to become an annual event in Guernsey's cultural calendar and an exciting way to brighten up a dreary January evening.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018


I wrote the original version of The Big Tree more than fifty years ago whilst a member of a novice writing group in Northern Ireland.
That version, along with my home and possessions, was destroyed by an IRA bomb in the 1970s.

Although I was greatly distressed at the time, in retrospect I realise that this was not an unmitigated disaster: most writers' juvenilia should be destroyed to avoid future embarrassment. 
The framework of the story, originally a poem, survived in my notebooks and I decided to rewrite it a few years ago, managing to recapture much of the spirit of the early piece.

Photo by Jane Fleming



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's-web, foot-worn tracks converged on that tree at the wide world’s centre as, 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.


Saturday, 13 January 2018


Like my previous two posts, this rhyming poem is taken from the stock of lost verses that I recently rediscovered.


The unmarked page is like a beach
that a writer walks at first light,
finding no footprints there.

I picture you at sunrise, each
slim page a small bird taking flight,
rising in soundless air.

Waking, I find a path inshore,
at dawn, where nothing man-made mars
clear, endless emptiness,

then, moving forward, set my score
of verses down: poems like soft-maned stars
in lightning harnesses.

In silent endlessness we meet,
wings skimming over fields of words
in a white country, fair,

and, like familiars, greet
each other easily, as do birds,
for it is peaceful there. 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018


In the 1980s I worked as a Census Enumerator and rapidly became aware that the job entailed far more than simply delivering and collecting census forms.
The district I handled, Stranmillis in South Belfast, consisted chiefly of older properties that might best be described as shabbily elegant.
The occupants of the houses were themselves, for the most part, elderly and elegant in a timeworn sort of way, having clearly seen better days.
Where I’d expected to hand over a form and depart, I found myself, more often than not, having to remain to assist the house-holder with the completion of the paperwork.
Many of the people I met during my enumerating stint struggled to complete the document, either because of their unfamiliarity with forms in general or as a result of visual or motor difficulties that rendered them ill-equipped to deal with such a thing unaided.
It became increasingly apparent, however, that there was another reason why so many individuals required me to linger to assist them.
Most were house-bound, living alone, either as widows, widowers or those who'd
simply been left behind by the tide of life. They were desperate for company.
There was a common denominator and it was aching loneliness.



Miss McCarthy by the window,
with a glass of Cork Dry gin,
watching as a band comes marching
making a god-awful din.
Watch the banners, hear the drummer
march on by, this Ulster summer.

Miss McCarthy, sixty-seven,
rounded shoulders, spreading hips,
smudged red lipstick, cupid-bow style
to accentuate her lips,
watches with a smile, sardonic,
drinking neat gin without tonic. 

In the gloomy first-floor bedroom
(in which, once, her parents slept)
on a sun-bright summer morning
she sways gently, hair unkempt,
cursing life that, once abundant,
left her here washed-up, redundant.

Tired old bra beneath her cardie,
saggy breasts hang down like fruit,
wrinkled buttocks heading southwards,
all the rest in hot pursuit.
Miss McCarthy, lonely, boozy:
when it came to love, too choosy.

In the street, beneath her window,
children frolic with a pup.
She’s been here for half a lifetime,
waiting, but Life stood her up.
Watch the banners, hear the drummer
march on by, this Ulster summer.

Friday, 5 January 2018


I recently uncovered a stash of old poems written around 2008/2009 then buried in a drawer. 
The reason they had been buried became obvious when I began to read through them but, happily, there were one or two worthy of resurrection.  
TV Blues is one of them. 


Ice mountains split apart and weep
while deserts stifle fertile hopes.
We know: we watch it on the Box
along with genocide and soaps,
and all the while the chiming clocks
fail to awake us from our sleep

and as we slumber, all around
the stench of death, the buzz of flies,
competes with chainsaw snarl, with bombs,
to fill our children’s ears with lies,
while the cold silence of the tombs
has an accusatory sound.

The faithful tide, the moon, sunrise,
our steady passage round the sun,
are touchstones for our fragile hearts
as we, our fearful journey, run
between the cradle and the cart
that wheels us to our last surprise.

But switching channels does not save
a single life, one damaged soul.
Each screen reflects our image, clear:
that hungry mouth, as cameras roll,
devouring what we should hold dear
while stumbling, brutish, to the grave.

What fools we were, so deaf, so blind,
to think that things would never end:
that grapes would cluster on the vine,
that broken things would always mend,
that we would never cross the line,
that Nature cares for humankind.

Ice mountains split apart and weep
while deserts stifle fertile hopes.
We watch it nightly on the Box
along with genocide and soaps
but now our ship is on the rocks:

the sea is black and very deep.

Monday, 1 January 2018


As our hand-held electronic devices increasingly hold us in thrall, I wonder whether they are the advance guard of an unstoppable enemy bent on enslaving us all.


My Robot brings me breakfast on a tray: fruit juice, toast, black coffee, also my supplements and pills, then later, a mobile screen with news and shopping options. She stands stiffly, recites her tasks in order, purrs softly like an electronic cat.
The letters on her chest read A.I.D.A. which stands for Artificial Intelligence Domestic Assistant. I call her Aida and think of her as female.
Aida is an indoor robot. There are outdoor types that patrol the streets, direct driverless cars and coaches, sweep pavements, collect garbage. These are municipal robots, MOBOs, noisy hulking brutes with no finesse.
Aida cleans and washes, manages household accounts, selects suitable mood music to aid my relaxation.
She is assisted by two inferior house-robots. I call them Bill and Ben.
Bill is barrel-shaped and slow. Ben moves quickly and is more maneuverable. They are programmed to obey Aida’s commands.
Aida enters with a tray of biscuits for my mid morning snack.  She says: “There is no need for you to fret. There is nothing I cannot find. I am programmed to fetch...”.
Her voice is calm, well-modulated, almost human, and indeed it is true, there is no household task Aida does not perform with excellence. She is efficient, speedy and adept. The very model of a modern Domestic Assistant. She adjusts my reclining chair.
I slouch in my chair but cannot sleep. I find myself spending more and more time this way, sleepless, staring distractedly at flickering images on the view-screen.
I take a call from the person whom I called Son back in the days before the end of families. Now we speak formally to one another and address each other as Citizen.
He tells me a disturbing thing.
He has witnessed a group of MOBOs surround and kill a feral dog. They beat and trampled it till it was dead.
We understood that robots are programmed to never kill but clearly we were wrong. The video call is brief. Pleasantries are not encouraged nowadays.
The hours pass slowly. Too much repose has left me weary of a life in which I am merely an onlooker.
Increasingly, Aida fills the roles that once were mine. I should not complain. All households have Assistants now. This new world of ours is one of rest and leisure.
I rise from my recliner and go to the window. How beautiful the street looks. The trees and shrubs appear unnaturally green.
A large group of MOBOs have gathered on the corner. There is an object on the ground amongst them. I cannot see it properly. It appears to be moving.
Something bumps my shin and I spin round to find Bill directly behind me. Ben, too, has entered the room. They have approached stealthily and invaded my personal space. They should not be here and are not permitted in the Recreation Zone. I must summon Aida.
The door slides open and Aida comes, gliding smoothly as she does, bringing me a pot of coffee.
As I turn to address her. Bill bumps me violently again and I stumble to my knees. Ben moves swiftly to stand over me and suddenly appears much more imposing than I thought him. Kneeling, I turn towards Aida, extend my hands to plead for help. She pours the scalding coffee on my head.