Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Monday, 26 November 2018


Here on the island, winters tend to be mild. In Northern Ireland, where I grew up, they can be harsh and unforgiving. 
From December till February in that grey northern province, frost, snow and ice may be expected and I recall, as a child, the thrill of venturing out to slip and slide on frozen lakes.
In older age, of course, it's different. We feel the cold more acutely and are aware of the danger. Nevertheless, there's something magical about the transformation that winter brings to the landscape.


When we awoke the lake had turned to glass.
We ventured out into the crystal glare,
in rubber boots, through luminescent snow,
and were amazed, for nothing could surpass
the magic stillness of December air.
On glinting ice, young lovers skated slow,
their eyes, beneath their tousled hair, aglow.

Our exhaled breaths were visible; we laughed
to see those skaters gliding on the lake
as in warm summer evenings wild geese do, 
austere, white-breasted, splendid sailing craft.
and, as we watched, I felt a sudden ache
as I remembered, long ago we too
were young and fleet, before the wild geese flew.

Sunday, 18 November 2018


As poetry collections go, my book Stone Witness has sold well and continues to do so. 
Who knows, some discerning friend may buy it for you at Christmas, if you don't already have a well-thumbed copy on your bookshelf. 
I'm currently working towards my next collection.
Its working title is The Granite Ship and central to it will be the poem featured below.


Waves crash around the granite ship,
unceasingly, unceasingly,
and though the sturdy structure holds
the vessel is increasingly
at peril from the hungry whip
of breakers while the ocean scolds
as we, poor mariners, steadfast,
stand resolute beneath the mast.

Our shipmates, hardy island men,        
crew of the granite ship, respect
the awesome hunger of the sea,
its rage, were it to go unchecked,
might rise and inundate again
the living land, our sanctuary.
Our ship sails on, we pray that day
may never come, wish it away.

One day, not in our lifetime, no,     
the sea will overcome and spill
across this deck of leafy lanes,
into the hold where secrets still
lie undisturbed: a grim cargo
of wartime crimes, unwholesome gains,
to drown the shining steeples, tall,
and finance houses, one and all.

Beleaguered Guernsey, ship of stone,         
sea-salt encrusts abandoned cars,
coats ancient wells, old walls, those trees
that still remain like jutting spars;
encrusts greenhouses, overgrown,
their old vines riddled with disease,
while, constantly, relentless waves
thrust deeper into coast and caves.

We watch the fierce tide fall and rise. 
Secure on deck, our granite ship
implants its staunchness in our hearts,
embeds in us a coarse-grained chip.
We mariners would be unwise,
however, to rely on charts:
that unrelenting enemy
will sink us yet, the sea, the sea.  

Wednesday, 14 November 2018


After a week of war poems, here's something lighthearted, fanciful and, perhaps, a little surreal from that airy realm where birds, not bullets, fly.


Like starlings in a close-knit flock,
they swoop then gather in the pews
before the vicar in his smock,
a rook-like man of sombre hues.
Then children cluster, sparrow-pert,
up in the front row, noisily.
The boys look bored while young girls flirt
and fluff their feathers quietly.
A magpie-person sits alone:
his elegant, eye-catching suit
draws comment from a starling clone.
From lakeside comes a nervous coot
and, hardly noticed, now a wren
flits in, her costume copper-bright.
She bows and chirps a soft amen,
her small head cocked, her tail upright.
A couple, blackbirds by their look,
respectively in black and brown,
receive a stern nod from the rook
as they arrive and settle down
then one plump robin, always late,
red-cheeked and jaunty, hurries in.
His redness serves to recreate
the blood of Christ that conquers sin.
A choir of larks begins to sing
the old, familiar, Hymnal words
and all join in, their voices ring
for they are full of joy, these birds
that, somehow, find a place to perch
in this strange aviary, the church.

Saturday, 10 November 2018


On Remembrance Sunday we celebrate the fallen in two World Wars and the many conflicts that have followed. 
Whist we remember those who died, spare a thought, too, for those who survived and returned home, gravely injured, to something less than a hero's welcome.



Remember us, the dead that live,
who now resume our former lives.
Disfigured, maimed, in mind and flesh,
we living-dead do not forgive
the lies we marched to, young and fresh;
those orders, lost in dark archives,
that sent us out to die like rats
for what? Pro patria, they said.
Pro patria, my arse, we thought,
half-drowned in trenches, deaf as bats,
half-starved, downhearted, feeling naught
but resignation, fear and dread.
We won no medals, no hurrahs
were raised for us when we returned.
War-ravaged men, afraid to sleep,
our lungs destroyed by German gas,
we envy comrades buried deep
while we, who did not die, are spurned.

Thursday, 8 November 2018


The Battle of the Somme, and particularly the bloody first day with its appalling loss of nearly 60,000 British troops, stands out as one of the most infamous in the history of the British Army.
The 36th (Ulster) Division alone lost more than 2,000 men that day and commemoration of their blood sacrifice has been an intrinsic part of Ulster loyalist tradition ever since. 
The Division's insignia was the Red Hand of Ulster.


July 1, 1916.

What mad, fierce courage, what death-knell
drew them, against all common sense,
into the Pit of No Man’s Land,
the bloody butcher-shop of Hell,
into the waiting German guns?
What chinless imbecile’s command
led them to mount a flawed offense
on the entrenched, awaiting Huns?  

We can but hope adrenaline,
an end to fearful waiting and
the shouts of comrades by their side,   
benumbed them when their frail, pale skin      
was shredded by machine-gun flak
as blood-companions fell and died.   
What chinless imbecile’s command
launched them but could not bring them back?

They fell, those gallant men, that day
in thousands and in thousands, died.
The streets and farms of Ulster wept,
a generation passed away,
and only names engraved in stone
remind us that a pledge was kept.
In war, the lowly must provide
a sacrifice in blood and bone.

A century has passed, the fields
of northern France are lush and green.
Life hurries on. The past is past
yet every year the tilled earth yields
war artifacts and, in a sense,    
awareness of the unsurpassed 
insanity of that obscene 
misjudgment and its consequence.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018


World War One quickly became the most brutal conflict in history and even the most seasoned servicemen were ill-prepared for the scale of carnage that unfolded before them.
When the horror proved too much, some soldiers simply ran away.
Desertion in the face of the enemy was regarded as a crime punishable by death.
The British and Commonwealth military command executed 306 of its own men during World War One. 

Many of those shot were classified as deserters. 



Morphine they gave him, whiskey too,
so when they walked him out to die
he was unsteady. 

                          It was dawn,
the killing-ground was wet with dew,
a six-man firing squad stood by,
a chaplain, pale and woebegone,
spoke words that made no sense to him.
Hands firmly bound him, tightened knots,
a hoarse voice whispered, Coward, cunt!
Masked by a blindfold, upright, trim,
he did not hear the fatal shots.

Thousands were dying at the Front.

Monday, 5 November 2018


After the outbreak of World War One, recruiting offices were besieged by volunteers and public buildings had to be co-opted as additional recruitment points.
Administrative and medical staff were seconded to process the thousands eager to fight for King and Country. 
Some areas experienced overwhelming numbers and many young men were turned away with an appointment to come back another day.
Little did they know the horrors that would greet them on the Western Front.


The child’s eyes are full of fear. He sees
light subtly altered, fields pulsating red.
Be a brave soldier, his mother soothes
and tucks him back in bed.

His father’s eyes are full of fear. He yells:
Get ready Men. Men tremble in the pit
then go over the top, following his shout.
Soldiers in dirty khaki kit.

No time for words or thoughts of home.
Only a moment to glance upwards and spy
something silver falling towards him
out of a turquoise sky.

Sunday, 4 November 2018


It's one hundred years since the end of World War One and, prior to Armistice Day on the 11th November, I'll be featuring five poems with a common theme, World War One.
This one deals with the disillusionment that many serving soldiers felt as the conflict dragged on and on.


A battered Woodbine is a precious thing.  
If you can light the bugger, better still.

Inhale the harsh, uplifting, acrid smoke   
and, for a fleeting moment, you’re a King.

Dear old King George can keep his best cigars
and damn Lloyd George, may that sly bastard choke. 

It’s him and and not the Hun I’d choose to kill
to end this bloody war to end all wars.

Thursday, 1 November 2018


Two inspirational Twentieth Century poets, John Betjeman and Charles Causley, lie buried in Cornwall and whilst visiting the area I made a pilgrimage to their graves.
The poems of former Poet Laureate John Betjeman are well known but Causley’s poetry may be rather less so.
Charles Causley was born in Launceston and spent most of his life there. He died on 4th November 2003, aged 86, and is buried in St Thomas Churchyard.
Although known as an intensely private person, Causley was a friend of fellow poets, Siegfried Sassoon, Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes.
Charles Causley’s poetry deals with issues of faith, friendship and family.
His work is noted for its simplicity and directness and for its associations with folklore, especially when linked to his native Cornwall.

His poems for children also proved very popular. He is quoted as saying that the royalties for his much-loved poem, Timothy Winters, were sufficient to retire on.
Here's my favourite Causley poem, Eden Rock


They are waiting for me somewhere beyond Eden Rock:

My father, twenty-five, in the same suit
Of Genuine Irish Tweed, his terrier Jack
Still two years old and trembling at his feet.

My mother, twenty-three, in a sprigged dress

Drawn at the waist, ribbon in her straw hat,

Has spread the stiff white cloth over the grass.

Her hair, the colour of wheat, takes on the light.

She pours tea from a Thermos, the milk straight
From an old H.P. sauce-bottle, a screw
Of paper for a cork; slowly sets out

The same three plates, the tin cups painted blue.

The sky whitens as if lit by three suns.
My mother shades her eyes and looks my way

Over the drifted stream. My father spins

A stone along the water. Leisurely,

They beckon to me from the other bank.

I hear them call, 'See where the stream-path is!

Crossing is not as hard as you might think.'

I had not thought that it would be like this.

Charles Causley