Thursday, 12 December 2019

Christmas Dreams and Fears

Do you dream of bright wrapped boxes
Full of expensive gifts?
Or do you fear your kids going without
If you don't get those extra shifts?

Do you dream of that after dinner feeling
Contented and well fed?
Or do you fear for another Christmas
Without a roof over your head?

Do you dream of seeing the family
How your nephews have all grown?
Or do you fear that your help won't come
Elderly and all alone?

Do you dream of falling snow
A blanket cold and white?
Or do you fear for rising seas
A world ready to ignite?

Do you dream of getting Brexit done
A nation strong and free?
Or do you fear for the vulnerable
Cast aside like human debris?

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Save Our NHS

Be thankful for the doctor
Be thankful for the nurse
Be thankful there's no insurance
That you have to reimburse

Be thankful for the check-ups
Be thankful for the pills
Be thankful they don't come
With astromic bills

Be thankful for the ambulance
Be thankful for the care
Be thankful you don't have to prove
That you can pay the fare

Be thankful for the lifeline
Be thankful it's not the U.S.
Be thankful and please look after
The good old NHS

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Garden Haircut

It's been a busy week for me, with my work's conference taking place. I always leave having a haircut and shave to the last minute, as I've never liked getting a haircut, but I feel I have to do it just to show respect for my workplace and my colleagues.

I think this dislike stems from being a child, when I would always come away with snips of hair stuck in the collar of my clothes, which would itch and scratch at my neck. And no matter how many times they got washed, they never seemed to come out. My parents never seemed to take it seriously, and thought that I was just whining. But I knew how uncomfortable it was, and how much it irritated my neck.

In the end my Dad used to cut my hair for a bit, and then we used to have a hairdresser come around to the house. This made it much easier, as I could jump straight into the shower and there wasn't really time for hair to get stuck to my clothes.

After I left home, I grew my hair long at University, but later had to start getting it cut at barbers again. By now I had learned to wear the same top every time I went, usually something a bit old that I never really wore that often, but now I hated going because of the question: "How do you want it?"

Personally, I just wanted it cut. I didn't really care what it looked like, I just wanted it shorter. This was never a good enough answer though, and so once again I would take long periods of time between cuts, only going when I really had no choice not to go.

Now however I have a wife who can cut my hair for me, but between us we always seem to put it off until the last minute still. I think there must still be some residual block in my mind to getting it done, even though it does feel somewhat liberating when we finally get around to it.

This time we did the cutting out in the garden, on a nice warm afternoon, which also had the bonus of us not having to do any hoovering. So here's a little vignette of poetry, since I've not had much time to share my mind with non-work activities.

Wind whips the snips of hair away
Swirling in the air the settle on the grass
Nesting material for birds

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Stopping the Rot

I've been struggling to find something to blog about over the past few days. You could probably call it a creative rut. So it occurred to me that that's exactly what I should blog about.

It hasn't helped that the kids haven't slept all that well lately, and so we haven't slept well either. There's also the spectre of my work's Conference next week, over which I've been pretty anxious on the basis that I have to be in a small space with a few hundred people for two days. (Yes I am an introvert). Needless to say, none of these things help the creative process.

It is also quite common to have creative peaks and troughs, so it is not a concern. I had a much worse period at the beginning of the year when I had so little mental energy that I couldn't even begin. It just gets a bit frustrating after a while, especially since I have very high expectations of myself and what I should be doing.

But you just end up thinking about the blog, or trying to write a poem and nothing inspires you. Not the things your kids say, or the fact that there's no milk in the office again, and I don't even want to think about Donald Trump. But having opened my mind a little and come up with the inspiration to write about a lack of inspiration, it suddenly flows. It's a strange thing this creativity.

Anyway, there are some of my thoughts on creativity and inspiration, and so here is my poem:

Up and down
Like a rollercoaster ride
I just can't decide
What to write next
I'm not hexed
Just vexed
When my brain is blank
And I can't think
Pushed to the brink
Of the precipice

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Day at the Museum



I recently took my eldest to the Natural History Museum (for the second time). She had an interest in dinosaurs a year ago, but it has grown stronger over the last year. However, the funny thing is that her fascination has rekindled the love of dinosaurs that I had when I was a child. I can't help but wondering if this is something that other parents have noticed when their kids start taking interest in something that they loved as children?


They have a great bit in the museum where you can look at and handle real fossils, bones, animal skins and shells, and the people help out by asking questions. They also don't provide the answers, so they just let the kids think about it, using their natural inquisitiveness to bring out good ways of thinking. Here, my daughter showed off her dinosaur knowledge of Stegosaurus (her favourite) and Spinosaurus.


We also saw a great show about oceans, the creatures that live in them, and how we have to look after our environment to ensure that animals survive. We also saw Sophie the Stegosaurus and had a good look around the dinosaur gallery, where again my daughter showed she had more knowledge about dinosaurs than some of the other kids there.


She was also thrilled to see Andy's clock from Andy's Dinosaur Adventures and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures (both Cbeebies programmes).


Anyway, all this dinosaur stuff has inspired a dinosaur poem:


In the morning I trapped a Velociraptor
While on my way to work
It caught its claws
In the closing doors
And the train driver went beserk

Later my tour bus was a Brachiosaurus
And I sat astride its neck
Standing tall
At the palace wall
We made the Queen a nervous wreck

I practiced judo kicks with Archeopteryx
In the local park
With feathers flapping
And sharp beak snapping
All the dogs began to bark

Then I foiled a con with Iguanadon
We came to an old man’s aid
The thief he paled
At the thumb spike wailed
And fell to the floor and prayed

I planted crops with Triceratops
When the farmer was unwell
He used his horns
To dig out the thorns
But his dung made an awful smell

I taught some phonics with a Baryonyx
At one of the local schools
But parents complained
That it hadn’t been trained
And must be against the rules

I rowed the Isis with some Coelophysis
Though they struggled with the oars
But as a team
They picked up steam
And we won the coxless fours

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

This Mortal Coil, by Emily Suvada

If you can get past an early scene in which the heroine has to eat the raw flesh of a diseased victim in order to gain immunity to the same disease, then you should enjoy this book, but there are several scenes just like it which are not for the squeamish.

The story is set in a future where all the human population have a screen grown into their arms from birth, on which there are various apps which do various things such as help heal or augment sound and vision, as well as allowing you to experience VR.

Genetic research has also moved on to the extent that people can change their physical appearance, not by changing DNA itself but by expressing genes in different ways (at least that’s how I read it – when it gets to the nitty gritty in can be a bit complicated but this doesn’t detract from the story).

Our heroine is Cat Agatta (a clever use of the four nucleotide letter bases to create a character name), whose father is an amazing genetic scientist, but who has been living alone since he was abducted by Cartaxus in order to find a cure for the Hydra virus which is threatening to destroy humanity.

A soldier then appears at her house, who knows her father and breaks the news that he is dead. Between them they find out that her father found a cure, but that she must de-code it in order to release it to the world.

The story continues on at a great pace, with believable characters and believable motives, and contains more twists than a strand of DNA, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction.

The world it inhabits is probably a cross between Michael Crichton and Hunger Games/Divergent, and so if you have read and enjoyed those writers then you will enjoy this.

A great start to the trilogy, and I look forward to reading the next instalment. Click for Emily Suvada's website.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Going Down The Diamond

I'll start by saying that this is kind of a companion piece (although not at all planned) to my wife's recent blogpost - at least in terms of the fact that it relates to school.

My daughter's school has this thing called "The Diamond". If you behave well, or do good work then you go up the diamond. This all sounds great so far. But if you behave badly, or do something against the rules, then you go down the diamond. Suddenly sounding not so good.

But it get's worse. If you finish in the lower parts of the diamond then you can be sent to the headteacher, or even miss playtimes. Yes, they stop children being able to exercise and get fresh air!!

Reason's for going down the diamond can be for talking or hitting (kind of OK, but some children just don't conform well the the strict rules of keeping still and quiet for long periods of time at school, and they shouldn't be punished for this).

Apparently you can also go down the diamond if you don't get changed fast enough after PE!

There are better ways of encouraging children, without completely throwing their mental health out the window. But it's symptomatic of the way's we deal with people generally who are slightly outside the narrow field of what it conservatively "normal".

People with alternative lifestyles, people who identify as LGBT, or even ethnic minorities within a fairly heterogeneous population are often selected against through various cultural processes or expectations.

Obviously as parents there is not much we can do to change school practices, only try to explain to our daughter that we love her for who she is and the school diamond isn't going to have any effect on that. But it will take time.

Here is my poem for this post:


The

Fear in

My daughter’s

Eyes at the thought

Of dropping down the

Diamond; A system to penalise

Those less able to conform to the rigidity

Of the classroom; In the way we take money from

Those less able to fill in a Universal Benefit claim form; Or

Ostracise those who do not identify with binary

Gender; Or think less of those whose

Skills lie with their hands instead

Of their brains; We should be

Inclusive and encourage;

But like diamonds

We all have

Flaws


Monday, 20 May 2019

Abortion Rights

As a man I really struggle knowing what it is I can say, or be allowed to say, when it comes to abortion rights for women, since it is not something that my body will ever have to worry about.
However, I know that denying women and girls the chance of abortion, on the basis that once an embryo has begun it deserves more rights than the person carrying it, is wrong.

There are so many reasons why safe, legal abortions are good. From controlling population growth, to the physical and mental health of women, to reducing the burden that is unwanted children, both on families and on a society.

And it simply comes from elements of the population wanting to have complete control over others, to have power over them for the simple reason that it scares them to be without it.

Men and patriarchies have controlled the world for so long, that now they are beginning to see a hint of a swing against them (for let’s be honest, for all the emancipation, women’s lib and #metoo, barely anything has changed), they are acting to reverse even the most minor changes.

I read that we all have bodily autonomy over whether we would want to provide a blood transfusion to someone, in order to save their life. Our dead bodies have bodily autonomy, when it comes to organ transplants, again in order to save another life. However, women will not have that bodily autonomy when they are pregnant, just in order to save a small bunch of cells.

This perfectly describes the double standards at work, without even going into the ability to own a gun and how many lives are destroyed by that weapon on a daily basis.

My hope is that these recent episodes of curtailing abortion rights become nothing more than an outlier, when we look back upon the history of equality. However, my fear is that it is the embryo of something far more sinister.

As such I have been inspired to two poems for this post:

Poem #1
Barely a foetus
Unknowing; unaware 
Potential in a bunch of cells

Thousands of women
Desperate; in fear
Living their own personal hell

Twenty five men
In full control
Keeping control for themselves

Poem #2

Beginning to grow
But not yet formed
Still in an embryo
Nourished and warmed

By right wing powers
And the patricarchy
Gaining new life
By mother's misery

For those who will suffer
And that reason alone
It should be aborted
And never condoned

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Disturbed Nights

I am certain that it is something that affects most parents with children of all ages, especially those with younger children.
However, one of my daughters has been waking up more than once a night for about two months in a row now, and she, and we are not quite sure why. The chances are it is nothing more than needing some sort of closeness at night, maybe reassurance.
She usually comes in at some time around midnight, and again at sometime between two and three, often snuggling herself up close to me.
Most times I don't even notice, and even when I do, she cuddles up and falls asleep so quickly that I am quite content for her to be there. On occasion I get slapped (accidentally) or kicked but for the most part I am happy to give her that reassurance or that closeness.
If anyone out there reading this has experienced something similar, then I would love to hear from you, and whether you got to the bottom of the behaviour?
I am certain that it will pass at some point and she will remain in bed again all night. We have experienced this in the past with her for various reasons, and it is likely that this is nothing more than developmental.
The main reason that got me writing this particular post today was that this morning saw a slight change in routine. I was woken with a couple of slaps to the head and was told by her that she wanted to be carried back to her own bed. This has inspired this post's poem:

I wake to a slap on the head
A demand to be carried
With imploring arms stretched high

I stagger with blurry eyes
In the small hours darkness
And lift her back into her bed

I wanted to sleep alone
She says snuggling amongst toys
And purrs back into snores

I am for her a strong bridge
And sinking into my own bed
Drop into sleep like a stepping stone

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Laureate

It's been announced that Simon Armitage is to be the new poet laureate in the UK. I've not really read much of his poetry, however I did read a book of his where he was walking part of the South West Coast path, and conducting poetry readings along the way.
He came across as fairly (for want of a better word) "normal" person for a poet. But then I guess when we, or I, think of poets we think of Byron & Keats, people who seemed somewhat self-destructive, and mired in that Romantic era.
Or perhaps Dylan Thomas, drinker and chaser of women, and again somewhat self-destructive. People who lived, and died, for their art. Passionate and unable to deal with their passions.
Somehow, this is how we expect poets to be. Penniless and living on credit, drinking away their demons, and dying in dark corners, unknown and obscure.
But all that is outdated, and a mythical stereotype. There are plenty of people who are good poets without having to live a wild life, or die a short one.
Armitage himself used to be a probation officer, and although he gave up a steady job to become a poet full time, it is a very ordinary sounding starting point, and in some ways shows there is a chance for all of us who have that creative urge, that if we practice and have patience, work hard and take a chance, then we can become recognised.
It also makes me think that I should be reading much more modern poetry (even if I rarely understand it), and at least try to soak up the rhythms and the essences that are entwined within it.
Anyway, here's a poem to celebrate the new laureate:

Ten years for a poet
Without early release
No chance of probation
When rhyming for Royals
In sentence coils

Those sherry bottles
To be drunk with disorderly words
In infinitives split
Over world events
Trying to make sense

Our leader in verses
Versus fake news
Storyteller of truth
In a post-truth age
Taking the stage

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Waiting

Being a parent is difficult. Being a parent can be frustrating. One of the biggest lessons you can learn is to pick your battles, as sometimes you are always going to be onto a loser. Especially if you are tired, or the kids are tired, or you're both tired.
There are often times when the kids are sitting on the potty, maybe just before you're about to go out, or you are going to do something in particular. And they are there for a looooonnnnng time! They might read a book (or lots of books), or fiddle about with a particular toy.
For them sometimes, it's not just about having a pee or a poo, it's some sort of exercise in calming down or centring themselves. And if you try standing there with a wipe in your hand, thinking it's just going to be a thirty second pee, then somehow you end up making it worse.
On other occasions, usually when it's time for bed, they suddenly have a burst of wanting to play. Be it doing some sticking, or drawing or playing with a particular toy. Again, it ends up being pointless demanding that they stop and begin letting you get them ready for bed as you both end up getting angry or frustrated, the night time routine draws out, there are tears and they take longer to settle.
That's not to say that you let them do what they want, but sometimes it's best just to take a bit of a back seat, do something for yourself in the way they are doing something for themselves, and in end you find you are all a bit more calm and in more of a listening mode.
It's taken me six years to work this out, and here is a poem I composed this acrostic the other day while musing on this subject, while watching my almost six year old fiddle about with some colouring pens:

Wilfully ignoring instructions
Acting up at bedtime
Ideas about what she wants to do
Trump what she needs to do
I'm waiting her out
No point getting angry or frustrated
Getting my 'me time' now

Friday, 3 May 2019

Starting Again

I'm back on the blog!
I've been away for a while, mostly because I felt pretty burned out mentally and had nothing really in the tank for writing words or poems - or anything much to be honest.
But I've had a chance to spend some time not thinking, and then a little more thinking, and am ready to start again.
This has also coincided with beginning to write a diary, since May 1st. It seemed an apt date since it is connected to Spring and new beginnings.
I have always been able to keep up with writing a diary while on my travels, and yet at home and doing normal things, it has always been a struggle. I'm not completely sure why. Perhaps it's because similar things happen every day, whereas when you travel you are always coming across something new, or a new experience.
Perhaps it's to do with not being able to set aside time, whereas when you travel there is always down time when you can have a coffee and think about what is going on. Perhaps it's just some sort of mental block.
Either way, I'm trying hard to keep at it and have even thought about some times in the day when I know I will be able to jot down a few words.
In a similar way, I've been thinking about this blog more. For a long time it has simply been poems, with the odd thought and a few more photo's thrown in, but I want to bring it back to something closer to a diary, but with some poems accompanying what I write.
Hence the new tag line "Thoughts of life and family; reformed into poetry".
So, keeping on the subject of how I want this blog to pan out, and mixing it into new beginnings, here is a Haiku to start:

A Spring beginning;
For rhythms of life laid out;
In weekly verses

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Brexitland


Brexitland is a faraway place
And yet it’s there, just on the horizon
But nobody knows how we get there
Whether one walks, or drives, or flies in

And what is there is shrouded in myth
An Atlantis or a Never never land
Has it unicorns, or ogres, no one knows
But we won’t be led by the hand

MP’s stand back, and usher us on
Like pawns in a game of chess
Not caring which way the pieces fall
No desire to clean up the mess

So let’s choose again before it’s too late
The drawbridge still straddles the moat
Decide if we really want to be at siege
By giving us a second vote

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Meeting

Their talk spins in circles
Spiralling down
Half are confused
And wearing a frown

They begin once again
But still no more clear
There's no way I can see
An end being near

They don't seem to realise
That they broadly agree
If they listened harder
We all might be free

Is this an agreement?
No, a false dawn
I'm beginning to struggle
To stifle a yawn

I can see a way forward
But I don't really feel
That I have a say
Or the confidence to steal

The floor from my colleagues
But I have a hunch
That if I spoke up
We could all go to lunch

Monday, 14 January 2019

Magic

She think's that I'm magic
That it's in my fingertips
When I make a pom-pom disappear
There is wonder on her lips

She thinks I have the answers
To each question that comes to mind
That I know just where to turn to
That there's nothing I can't find

She thinks I have the strength
When I spin her high in the air
That I can shoulder burdens
When confiding in me her cares

She knows that I'm her Daddy
That I'm always there for her
Protecting; Loving; Supporting
In whatever should occur

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Rivalry

If one of them is getting a hug
The other wants one too
If one says they need a pee
The other suddenly needs a poo

If one brings chocolate home from school
They have to have half each
Or else to avoid an argument
You put it where neither can reach

If one is forced to stay at home
They begin to howl and shout
To them the other is better treated
Of that they have no doubt

Even though you try your best
To be fair, and act without bias
You can never keep them both happy
With each day they really try us

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Making it Back

Going back to work again
How I wish a different life
Making a living with a pen
Staying home alongside my wife

Not that it's a fantasy
Unlikely is truer name
And I don't think I could be happy
If I had to deal with fame

But first of all I'll have to sit
And write a word or two
Climb up out of a mental pit
Not think, but actually do

For now there is no real choice
Bills to pay and kids to raise
Practice finding my true voice
With what I have, and enjoy the days.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Goodbye Snow


Goodbye to the snow, and the minus degrees
Goodbye to the dark, and the cold winter freeze
Goodbye to the air, and the wide open space
Goodbye to the quiet, and the much slower pace
But hello to our home, and a brand new year
Now aiming to start in creative top gear!

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Sleepy Start

Early morning and so little sleep
But no new year vigil did we keep
Fidgeting kids that are staying awake
Non-sleeping starts are hard to take
There could not be a much worse sign
That I'm tempted by a glass of wine
Before the sun's begun to rise
I find it it hard to keep this disguise
Of mind and spirit held in harmony
And resilient to all adversity