Lost Mini

Sprinting across the shingle;
That’s what we did; sprinting
And flirting up a wake of pebbles
Grit too, like a rally car
Power sliding through an unpaved bend
In deepest Wales or Kielder or Galloway
Barely in control
The shingle gave way below our feet
Until we threw ourselves down
Next to the towels, spades and wind-breaks
The beach was the racetrack,
Banked bends, long straights
A Mulsanne and Eau Rouge in one,
With my Mini; unblinking eyes on the front
Throwing out death rays of light
Twin exhausts out back
Two fingers to the Planet
Spewing out the bile of internal combustion;
But it didn’t count on the assault course
Of being thrown from paw to paw
Or accelerated through the sound barrier
Or worse, being buried one foot down
By infants.
That’s where it ended.
I buried the car, like I buried the Scirocco
in later years; buried it deep
Not into the side of a truck
But in a pit; a grave of beach shingle.
I went to dig it up – but the car had vanished
Clawing, I dug a hole four foot wide
Roped my Dad in too; no avail.
Where is it now? That’s the recurring thought
I have whenever I walk on a shingle beach –
From Chesil to Slapton Ley
Where is my Mini?
In flights of fancy and whimsical thought
I imagine it now, somewhere near
The Mid Atlantic Ridge By-pass
Or whizzing through the Grand Banks
Pursued by Whales and Cod
More likely, it’s like that tank they found.
Fell off a boat it did
When practicing for Omaha and Juno
Came up years later; pock marked
Armoured by limpets
And camouflaged by kelp

The rivet

I tramped like a hobo
Across the rock-littered moor
Outcrops of stippled, lined rock
Stacked layer upon layer
The folds of the long-gone puthering lava, still evident
Blancmange blobs of plaster on the builder’s hawk;
By myself, alone on the lonely moor
Except for the litter of life all around,
Heather alive with sound,
Tufted grasses, antennae twitching in the air waves
To catch a water droplet
Or a Russian broadcast;
Glossy gorse needles set to stun,
And Cotton Grass nodding its disapproval
As my careless feet print their way
Through the sucking sphagnum.
A mere glint, a visual tripwire, made me look
A winking jewel, eyeing me suspiciously
A coin of sorts, misshapen by years, curved
Like a claw or talon,
Old? Perhaps a Ducat or Sheqel – priceless?
I briefly dreamed that I had the knack
For spotting Dollars, Dòngs and Dinar
But, no
It turns out I was Talentless;
It was a rivet, misshapen, deformed by age,
The friction between bridle or stirrup maybe
Or the broken connecting-rod
Of some Knight’s plate-mail,
Snapped by the pleasure-less frottage
Of iron upon iron, year upon year.
Like Bilbo’s ring, the rivet has a new home now,
Nestled amongst the broken crumbs
Of low-fat taste-free rice cakes
Old Kleenex, shiny with the dried slug
Smears of weeks old snot
And the rustling chrysalis of unused poo bags;
When the pocket of my old coat
Finally gives up, the rivet will fall
To a new place; amongst the leaf litter
In a lime-lined park; or on the floor of a charity shop
Sold as seen
Or maybe in that strange circularity of life,
On a rock-littered moor, hidden amongst
Outcrops of stippled, lined rock,
The folds of the long-gone puthering lava, still evident.

The last draw

There she stands
Feather footed in her Fit Flops
Auto-exercising on-the-go,
Slim framed and lithe
In a slim-fit pink overcoat, belted
And swaddled tightly round
To ward off the chance
Of a cold, or the ‘flu, or the merest sniff;
Held lightly,
From her eco-friendly brown paper bag
She scoffs a super smoothie for inner strength
And a super salad, seed-packed with chia
The pink teeth of pomegranate
All manner of nature’s wonders;
No excesses here: matt black glasses
Adorn a neutral palette;
Made up not to be made up, so to speak
Self-evidently, a paragon of health
Radiating vigour and well-being
A role model for our modern times.
She waits,
Deeply breathing in the fresh air
Outside, on the office steps
And raspily draws
On a desperate fag
Before arranging
The evening slot
At the gym

The train from the North

My dad still tells of
The great steam trains of his youth
Vast hammer clouds of dirty smoke
Erupting from the chimneys,
Not just ejected from the engine, but up, up,
Up, Into the upper reaches of the stratosphere
Hanging above the cuttings
At the bottom of Oak Street
Or Marsh Green Road;
But the majesty – no other word
Will do to describe, to eulogise
The crowning glories of the Victorian Engineers;
The ingenuity to create movement
From cracked stone, fire and iron-clad inertia
From what is, in truth, whisper it…
A teapot on wheels.
And such is the way in those parts,
Where I grew up, near Railway Town,
There was a fascination, a worship
Of engines, of tracks,
The mobile machinations
Of pumping pistons and spinning gears –
Of water, of rock, of gas, of light.
Maybe then, it’s why, when I jump on
The train from the north midway along
A carriage of Scousers and Mancs
And the posher sort, from Wilmslow or Hale,
There remains all around still
That childlike fascination of travel on train
To distant places,
Through nameless middle lands
But then, on the edges of the Smoke,
The train, now smoke free
Yaws on the tracks and the necks strain
Rotate, pivot, swivel and spin
At dreamed-of panoramas;
The looping arch of Wembley;
The first glimpse of curving Tube tracks,
A peep through buddleia riddled track side
Towards the Post Office Tower or Centre Point,
Before the descent into the gloom –
Stephenson’s vast cutting –
And All Change, All Change
For reality.

A murmur of Crows

My windscreen is a frame
On the fields, farms and pastures
On the billboards, brickwalls and cooling towers
Unfolding around me as I drive
Around this rolling land,
Passing at times as a blur
At others more sedately, an oasis
Of calm, an eddy swirling behind a rock
In the bubbling rapids of traffic.
Once, in the Fens, a pasture of starlings
Startled up all around me
Like flies off a mid Summer beck
Like dust springing off a taut beat drum
Four and twenty hundred at least
At a bend in the road in the village of Twenty;
And this last week, out from a candyfloss of Winter oaks
Arose an entanglement of Crows
Not a flock, nor a family, not a throng nor a mob
But 200, 400 maybe 1000 sooty corvids
Dancing together, bombing harmoniously
Agitating like pinballs yet
With grace, and beauty, with a pure white heart
With silent intent, a noiselessness
So unexpected from their crocking calls
They skittled off one another,
This murmur of Crows,
Until all that was left was a memory
Receding with the miles
In my dirt-smeared mirror.

Black Owl

We walked back that evening
My brother and me
Moonlit, along a thin tarmacked strip
A shadowed road, barely wider than
My outstretched arms
Or two paces in my muddied boots
High walls these; hedges atop walls
A compost of dead flowers atop hedges
A jumbling of flowering brambles
And the jazzy funnels of bindweed
But barely wide enough
To let in the briny air
Funneling through from the distant
Headland’s breach;
Barely wide enough
For the outstretched wings of the owl
That dropped down on us from above
Thinking my hat a leaping vole?
Or my brother’s nose a tasty mouse?
But it dropped in front of us all the same
Then opened up its broad wings wide
Speeding away from us, down the road
An unmarked police car
Pursuing the crook
In a doppler-effect of portent silence
Before returning to the distant shadows
Around a crook in the road


At the edge of this island; it seems
So permanent; a full stop, but no
It is a transition, that is all
Of cliff and sand, of tussock and scree
To sea, to waves and another world.

At the edge of the moor; the stone circle
Napped by flintsmen, it seems so ancient, inexplicable,
It is a transition, that is all
A launching pad to another plane
A liminal zone between here and where?

At the edge of waking, the dreams
Are vivid, intense, so real I can touch them
It is a transition, that is all
To my waking rituals; a stretch, a flex
Facial scrub, ear-wax cleansed.

At the edge of my tether, it seems
As if all I am told is true
It is a transition, that is all
To a new chapter; a future
In my hands, shimmering.


Like spiky pom-poms
The mistletoe starkly hangs
In the old trees now
Gothic, like a morning star
Or flailing mace
Its lancet barbs threaten
While below, its syringe root
Blood-taps the living essence
From the tree, its host
In a deathly dance, yet
Before the festive chocolates
Have been snaffled from the tree
And the decorations, limp and languid
Are cramped away in their dusty closet
Once more
The mistletoe is ready
Visible, revealed, set
For its foray into the world of man
The Druid’s cure for any ill
To calm heart, or head or hand
To settle the cattle or bring on death
Or more likely, for the one excuse
One reason, one chance
To steal a kiss
And steal a heart perhaps

Long lanes

These long lanes bewitch me, reaching out
Stretching like a dog after twitching slumber
Or the fingers of a wizard, grizzled by centuries
On a diet of wine and Philosopher’s Stone
My finger tracks them across the maps
As they in turn track through time
On Penwith, high walls, hedge-topped
Shaped by the salty vicious winds, blinking with
Broome and the bright taillights of gorse
Narrow, their only crown is of grass
Snaking round blind bends of horse muck
Falling Stars and surprised joggers
In the Peaks, the long lanes are cut by man
Pushing across the landscape, they constrict the eye
At the rumble of a cattle grid, all hell lets loose
Broad vistas, precipitous valleys ripped from the plateau
The great slashes of our roman roots are plain to see
Scarred today with tarmac and the furniture of the road
But here, in my humble home, unremarkable
Hills and unremarkable fields
With unremarkable villages
They are at their glorious best
They curl and twist and flow; they follow the land
Like a diaphanous silk dress drifts
And drapes round a tantalising leg
Our lanes, my lanes, are as sinews
Or veins, they give life, move me
Droves and drives, as time alone has dictated
And they move me still