Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Thursday, 31 January 2019


Photo by Peter Kenny
I moved to the Channel Islands twenty-five years ago this spring and since then have been involved, directly or indirectly, with the local arts scene.
It soon became apparent to this ‘incomer’ that no meaningful conversation on the subject of the arts in Guernsey could take place without the name Joan Ozanne cropping up.
My wife, Jane, and I had the good fortune to become friends with Joan, our common bond being poetry, and I recall with warm affection the times we shared tea and biscuits in her cosy front room, the walls adorned with pictures and the mantlepiece with photographs of her beloved family. I was also present, from time to time, when Joan hosted lively meetings of the PIMs poetry group.
One of Joan’s daughters, Marguerite, recently gave me a small booklet containing some of her mother's best known poems but the gift of poetry was merely one of the many talents she exhibited: Joan also wrote a number of excellent short stories and plays.
Sadly, Joan Ozanne passed away last year, at the grand old age of 92, and, as one would expect, there have been numerous tributes to her, written by those who knew her longer and far better than I did.
I count myself fortunate to have met her. One of my favourite poems appears below and this coming Monday I will feature a coupe of verses I wrote following the service in celebration of Joan's life that took place at the Parish Church of Ste. Marguerite de la Foret last September.

EVACUATION  by Joan Ozanne

My childhood was left inside
when I closed my bedroom door.
In the hall, distraught, father waits, mother weeps.
The dog, unaware, wags his tail
and licks the tears from my face.

Reluctantly we speed to the harbour.
The smell of tobacco smoke on
father’s jacket will remain with me.
On the ship we say goodbye, perhaps forever.
I feel empty like a shell.

On the 19 June 1940 as German forces were advancing on Cherbourg, Joan, aged 14, and her mother left Guernsey for Southampton on board the ‘Isle of Sark’.

Joan Marion Ozanne BEM
Died 30 August 2018
Aged 92 years.

Saturday, 26 January 2019


Browsing in a second-hand bookshop recently I came upon a charming volume entitled Evangile Mis En Pratique
My eye was attracted to it by its simple beauty and obvious antiquity.
Although it was written in French and was clearly of a religious nature, I resolved to purchase it. 
On examining it more closely, I discovered an inscription that indicated that the book had been awarded to one John W. Le Huray in March 1894 as a Sunday School prize or Prix De Merite.
My pleasure at finding this lovely old book quickly turned to amazement when I studied it more carefully and discovered that the Sunday School young John had attended was none other than the Ecole Wesleyenne du Dimanche in the Parish of St Pierre-du-Bois.
This particular Wesleyan Sunday School was affiliated to the Methodist Chapel, Old Sion, also situated in St Pierre-du-Bois. 
The latter building was de-consecrated some years ago and later became luxury apartments, one of which was my home for over a decade.
During my residence there I wrote this poem.


Old Sion Chapel wall is high:
the ladder feels precarious.
Up here, I combat vertigo,
fix nesting boxes to hard stone
with fingers, winter-wounded-cold,
claw hammer, last year’s rusty nails.
Below, the bird-table is strung
with nuts in cages, fat-balls, seeds.
The Parish beech trees all seem dead,
my garden tools are stained with rust.
Wood-smoke, soft dew, birdsong, light,
this mellow January day,
awake my hibernating heart
as, high above, jet-trails on blue
chalk out simple geometry.
The hours hang in the chill air.
Damp earth within the Chapel yard
smells like dank cemetery soil
that sucks away without return.

Today I knelt to plant small bulbs,
each squat shape pressed into the loam
like buttons on a telephone:
their planting, one long number dialled.
Down wires of weeks, green life will hum,
till springtime, when these mended hands
may pluck, from softly yielding ground,
bright blooms like syllables of sound.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019


In the spring 2014 my wife and I spent three months living in a small rented house in Italy. 
Situated in an unprepossessing village that had somehow managed to escape the notice of the multitudes of tourists that annually flock to Tuscany, the house was basic, clean and comfortable.
The long lazy days provided us with an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a way of life which was totally different from that of Guernsey.    
We were the only English speakers in the area but were made to feel welcome and soon slipped into the languid rhythm of life in a hot southern climate.
At night the garden was lit by fireflies and an open door would attract moths. One such moth is the subject of this poem.



A moth came in at the screen door
attracted by light as moths are.
It flickered like a small dark fan,
here and there: I could not ignore
its plight and trapped it in a jar,
released it outside. Foolish man:
moths will return, against the odds,
seeking out light as we do gods.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019


Staying with the ‘bird’ theme, here’s a short poem about the vagaries of love.


Tonight low lights romanticise
this drab unprepossessing room
where glasses raised
entrap a dancing candle flame.
Our hands across the table top
form two swan-shadows on the wall
as you pass me
the papers your solicitor
assures you I dare not ignore.

swan song (noun)
1 : a song of great sweetness said to be sung by a dying swan
2 : a farewell appearance or final act or pronouncement

Thursday, 10 January 2019


I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
                              T S Eliot from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

Regular readers will know that birds, real or imagined, feature frequently in this blog as does dismay at the prospect of growing old. 


Like eagles perched high on a crag,
the young men scan a passing crowd,
see girls they’d blank, spot girls they’d shag,
the ugly ones, the well-endowed ...
Loud in their prime, these lads can’t fail:
their confidence is off the scale.

Then fifty years happens just like that ...  

and suddenly it’s all gone flat.
No longer young or confident,
well past their prime and run to fat,
all life’s rich chances underspent ...
Youth seems a million years ago.
No eagle ever flew so low.

Sunday, 6 January 2019


The challenge was to write a short story, featuring a well-known fictional character, in less than 100 words. This was my response.


Crusoe lay in a crumpled heap. Man-Friday stood astride him, musket smoking.  Blood from his axe made small carnations on the sand. Crusoe’s eyes opened, locked on Friday, his fingers scrabbled for a weapon. From beneath Friday’s breastbone an arrow protruded, blood trailing from it like a ribbon.
As Friday collapsed, Crusoe spotted figures along the beach. Three men struggled to launch their war-canoe in raging surf. Crusoe shouldered his flintlock, took aim. The camera panned in on his fury. “Cut” the Director yelled and suddenly the deserted beach was alive with people.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019


Start the year with something lighthearted from my poet's-ark poster collection.


Penguins look like small fat men
in dinner-suits awaiting lunch.
They shuffle to and fro on ice,
their webbed feet going

They could be gangsters, penguin-style,
but which fat penguin is the Don?
The landscape may be white as snow
but something fishy’s going on.