Friday, 28 February 2014

Obsessed With Pipework

Two of my poems, now an astonishing four years old, have been made available on-line at the following link:


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The White Tower - (Post Script)

These memories came back as I drove through the beautiful moonlight. It would be a perfect evening, I thought, to climb the tower again. I had to drive on to the next village where my son worked in the local pub. It's a lovely old inn with white walls and thatch. All the way, I debated the idea with myself. Cars are great places for talking to yourself. I often have some of my most intelligent conversations when there's no-one else around to answer me back. It was a mad idea of course. It was one thing getting into trouble for trespassing in your twenties, but a completely different thing when you're a responsible forty five year old. Not to mention bringing a sixteen year old along with you. A crazy idea.

My son got in. As usual, he smelt of David Beckham aftershave and chip oil in equal measure. I'm not sure which one's worse. As we drove along he bombarded me with his thoughts on tomorrow's football. How Arsenal had dramatically improved since signing Ozil. At first, I misheard him and thought he said Worzel. This conjured up a wonderful image of a scarecrow running into the penalty box and booting the ball into the goal, straw flying this way and that around the Emirates.

The car drew level with the lay-by and the tower.

A crazy idea.

Without thinking, I pulled over. Maybe it was something to do with the moon.

'What are we doing Dad? Are we going to bury a body?'
'Just come with me. And keep quiet.'

We climbed the same gate that my friend and I had clambered over twenty-odd years ago. There was the field rising towards the clump of gorse bushes. No sheep. No tractor. No grandfather clocks. We started walking. My son took the situation very seriously and decided to demonstrate his prowess in flatulence. Instead of the usual guffaws, he was met with a stern reprimand. 'This is private land. I don't want to get caught!'

By the time we'd reached the gorse I was completely exhausted. New fences of treacherous barbed wire criss-crossed the field. More baffling, I couldn't see the tower. But I didn't want to give up. We hurdled the last of the barbed wire and I managed to alter the design of my jeans with a brand new vent. For the first time in decades, I probably looked halfway fashionable. My son had climbed at a spot where a cattle trough was on the other side. 'Careful' I said just as he stepped right into it. He cursed loudly but at least it would help to tone down the smell of David Beckham and chip oil.

I stepped further forward into the moonlit wonderland. Something was badly wrong. I couldn't see the tower. Plastic labels hung down from the barbed wire. Even in the moonlight, I could make out what the lettering on them said: You Are Being Watched and a picture of a pair of binoculars. I scanned the trees half-expecting to see CCTV cameras recording my every move. I climbed another fence. Then I saw it: the tower making a silhouette amongst a wiry clump of trees that I didn't remember seeing before. To reach it we'd have to cross a field of what looked like sweetcorn in a horror film growing before us. Thick, impenetrable stuff that would be exhausting to get through. The car already felt like a very long way behind us. As did the carefree past with its freedom, hair and spontaneity.

A dog began barking. It sounded very close.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The White Tower - Final Episode

My God, had he fallen over the railing?

I walked around the platform, scanning the ground and fearing the worst. If he'd fallen over the edge how was he ever going to go bald, have children and become atrophied by responsibility?

Fortunately his face appeared in the doorway. 'God', he said. 'How can you stand out there? Let's go down quick. I can't stand heights.'

So, somewhere between claustrophobia and a fear of heights, our mission to climb the tower was a great success. Maybe someone should build a monument to us after all. But something a bit shorter with lots of room inside.

And on a public footpath.

Friday, 21 February 2014

The White Tower - Part VII

After the first three steps or so, it turned blacker than the interior of a grandfather clock.

Fortunately, my friend was the proud possessor of a silver Zippo. He thumbed the wheel and we had a naked light. The mellow flame added just the right ambience to our adventure.

The flame was never steady and the yellow flickering cast beautiful shadows about the stone circle. But oh, it was tight in that spiral. We were forever turning around on ourselves and every sniff or scuff was magnified horribly.

I began to panic. It felt like we'd been in there for an eternity. The only cure, like so much else in life, was to concentrate on the moment, take it one slow step at a time, banishing the image of the ogre farmer who might be waiting outside the door for our return.

Or quietly following after.

Forever spiralling, I followed the light of the Zippo. The tower seemed to narrow as we got higher. The walls brushed my shoulders. What if there was no way out?

I was beginning to experience full on claustrophobia. And then a miracle. My friend had stopped. There was a sudden expanse of daylight as he pushed the door at the top of the tower open.

We stepped onto the viewing platform. Trees and forests stretching away forever. I leant over the iron railing and sucked in good clean air. The panic began to evaporate. I turned to say something to my friend but he wasn't there.

The platform was empty.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The White Tower - Part VI

We were back in business. Baldness and children still a long way over the horizon.

Without further mishap, aside from my friend planting his white shoe in a glistening cluster of sheep dung, we made it to the tower.

At the top of the plinth there was an arched door.

It was slightly ajar and propped shut by a house brick. We surveyed the landscape once more. The coast was clear. I picked up the brick. I have always been something of an expert when it comes to bypassing high-tech security systems.

Inside, we were met with a beautiful sight: white steps cleanly cut and rising in a spiral.

Bravely, I stepped back and allowed my friend to lead the way.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The White Tower - Part V

The farmer sat at the wheel. Behind his glassy cab some trick of the light gave him a greenish tinge. He wore a green cap – unless it was another trick of the light, and looked like he'd just bitten into a lemon. His nose twitched like an animal that smells something bad. Then he opened the door of his cab. When he stepped onto the grass I realised it was nothing to do with the light: his skin definitely had a greenish ogre-like tinge.

I was paralysed with fear. I lay in the gorse and nettles and tried asking the ground, fairly politely, I think, to open up and swallow me for a while. My body was so tense; it was as if I was made of wood. My heart swung on a pendulum. It's beating was very loud. If this carried on any longer I would turn into a grandfather clock. That would give the green farmer something to talk about. 'I found this here grandfather clock worrying my sheep...'

Time ticked on. I think that twenty years must have passed before the farmer grunted and clambered back into his cab. Oh what blessed music it was to hear the Massey Ferguson as it drove away and disappeared from view. From that moment on, the Massey Ferguson Concerto would always figure pretty highly in my list of Desert Island Discs.

We stood up. Leaves and grass in our hair. It was a Walt Whitman kind of experience. My body stopped impersonating a grandfather clock. The nearest sheep stopped regarding me as if it was Socrates and started doing sheep-like things again.

The tower still stood on the hill.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The White Tower - Part IV

We strode the fields.

The sheep stared, turned and bolted.

The tractor was getting louder. It was no longer just a puttering sound. The tractor was now a physical object. A blood red Massey Ferguson. We froze.

Started to stare, turned and bolted.

This particular signifier signified big trouble.

Fortunately there was a bank of prickly gorse bushes and viscous nettles to dive into. We embraced the razor prickles and accepted the stinging caresses of the friendly nettles as if they were long lost friends.

The tractor stopped dead.

We stopped dead.

Only the sheep continued to show any signs of sentience, initiative and intelligence. They bleated and wandered philosophically while we lay timidly trembling and wondering what to do next.

We were faced with a problem of agricultural proportions. Several acres, I'd say, of trouble.

As the crow flies.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The White Tower - Part III

The tower was a monument to some old General who had fought in the Egyptian war.

His wife had commissioned the tower which was a nice thing to do but I don't think mine will do the same for me.

Despite all of the associations with Empire, this tower was a beautiful thing.

A slender white round tower set on a plinth. A ball of stone set on its crown like a grey planet. A viewing platform surrounded by a wrought-iron rail.

The only complication being that the tower was on private land. To get to it meant trespassing. Lots of open land: precious few places to hide if a tractor should come into view. The other problem was that you had to leave your vehicle in the lane. After a while, someone was likely to guess what you were up to.

Naturally, we were very sensible about it and completely ignored these considerations.

We parked up and set about our mission.

Sheep were bleating in the fields. The sun shone. There was, it has to be said, the disquieting sound of a tractor puttering around somewhere nearby. But we couldn't see it. There was also the odd ricochet from a shot gun echoing from the woods interspersed with what sounded like a wolf barking.

Nothing, really, to get worried about.

Being young, we were still in possession of Led Zeppelin hair.

The grand ambition of having children and going bald with worry hadn't yet occurred to either of us.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The White Tower - Part II

I would have been somewhere around twenty five years old. Was I ever really that young?

Anyway. This friend, my oldest and closest friend, a guy I went to school with, came to stay.

We took it into our silly young heads to climb a tower.

The tower, as you shall soon see, is a village or two away.

As the crooked crow flies.

Let's follow its trajectory...

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The White Tower - Part I

Years of being a responsible adult, the constraints that all of that entails, have taken their toll.

Being respectable has become a very bad habit.

Spontaneity. Trips across uncharted territory.

Old dogs, new tricks and all of that...

Last night I drove through moonlight. And I got to thinking, remembering...

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Apple Planet

Gothic door creaking eerily ajar
leading into the turret, rain falling
on the blue carpet and an owl guarding
the winding stairs - spirit of chivalry,
I let her lead the dark, echoing way
into a high-ceilinged hall of welcome
illumined only by the one candle.
Red-robed figure seated before the fire
and all shadowy heads turning our way.
Red apple from the pocket of the robe
the flashing of silver and then two halves.
The planet of each apple holds a star.


Morlock Oil

Morlock Oil
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The Quest Of Great Celtic Mystery

The Quest Of Great Celtic Mystery
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Bunchgrass Press

Essential guides for the journey...