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:


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


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


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


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