Writing me Down

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Dandelions grow wonky in the grass, tripping up the pigeons. Do foxes eat pigeons – or bubblegum? Sitting in the hedge, singing, blowing bubbles. Foxed. Out of their wits. Twit, twoo, the owl watches overhead, looking for mice.

The mice are looking forward to their annual holiday – in Greece. They climb into Agatha’s suitcase when she is not looking, too intent on her slice of battenburg to notice. Pink and yellow, yellow and pink. And jam, best of all, the raspberry jam.

Mouse blows raspberries at Owl, who hoots, making Fox look up. Up and up and over he falls, down and down. Hedge shouts “Oi! You all right down there?” No reply. Hedge shrugs and wanders off across the field.

“Mind where you’re putting your feet!” shouts Mouse, nipping smartly out of the way of a long, scrawny root.

“Sorry,” mumbles Hedge.

“A talking hedge!” Mouse shrieks and runs straight into the claws of Owl, who topples into the waiting jaws of Fox. The pigeons laugh - and then scowl as they try to pull their claws out of the large pats of oozing pink bubblegum.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Pink Moon speaks

All my life I’ve guarded that planet. Hugged it close. Feeling him, stirring and growing in the depths, knowing that one day he would rise and join me, make me complete. Finally, that day came. I felt the waters stirring in the deep and they lifted him up to me, delivered him onto the rocks within my grasp. I started to call him, pulling, tugging, impatient for him. But then the stones started to sing. What words they used I do not know, but I felt him grow stronger, resisting me. All my life I had nurtured him, waited for him and now … he was not going to come to me. He fought me. I could not persuade him, with all my pulling he would not come. I dreamed of him, how he would fight me and then, despite himself, merge into my roundedness. But he stayed away. He did worse than that; he became my nemesis. He brought the poisonous glare of that yellow orb that chased me high into the heavens. But he still dreams of me. He still wonders what would have happened if he had let me pull him into me, keep him safe forever. Safe in the darkness.

Monday, July 18, 2005


Twin thumbs, narrow, long and brown. One is slightly darker than the other. Thin lines run from the corners of the nail beds. The cuticles creep forward, splitting slightly in the corners. The nails are unevenly shaped, about 3mm long, and unvarnished. Very slight ridges travel down them.

These thumbs suggest their owner does not spend time on self-pampering. The dryness suggests that no hand cream has been used recently. There is no trace of varnish. The nails have been cut, but not filed into a smooth shape. The skin suggests their owner is neither young nor old. The smoothness and the clean, unbroken nails suggest that these thumbs don’t see much rough work.

Waiting Room

His thumbs jogged around each other as he watched his toes shuffling across the patterned carpet. It was as if his soles were attempting to read a map there that his eyes had failed to clasp hold of. Reaching up to his dripping face, his nails limped over his nose, which was kneading itself. Below, an uneven line of teeth winked. His mouth tried to creep across them, as if to hide their glare. When he felt his palms starting to walk through his hair, he snatched his hands away and sat on them. His heels were now chewing the carpet, ten toes blinking up at him. Ignoring them, his eyes started to walk across the carpet, as if scratching around for clues.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Er ...

The agency believes very strongly
that the cultural world should have a say.
It also reveals the stubborn streak of parochialism,
but it is very difficult to meet its demands.

Layers of neglect had to be dusted
and chiselled different cities
around this most famous of seas.

for the planet's most unusual
gallery space station
which orbits Earth

400 kilometres into space,
these women solo performers
had been swept into oblivion,
trying to look funky and aloof.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


This is an exercise that Helen suggested from a trAce project.

What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?
Home. Where my bed is. Where I prepare my own food. Where I live with Rick. Home is wherever my family are – but it is not the actual places, none of which are home without the people who live there. Home is somewhere I feel safe to return to, somewhere I know well. Where I can come back to and go ‘ah, I’m home’. Somewhere known, comfortable, with people I love and feel safe with.

Please describe the home of your childhood
Which childhood? Which home? The main one that I can remember, and which seems most formative, I was aged 5-9. It was a bungalow on a new housing estate in Forres, Morayshire. We went to see it when it was being built. I remember the plasterboard lying around the building site. It was fabulous – you could just tear the cardboard layers off the outside and you had as much chalk as you could ever wish for to scratch upon the shiny new black tarmac pavements. These had pristine white concrete curb stones with tiny dot textures in the surface along the top edges.

I used to roam around the estate to the building site at the top end, and help myself to chalk and dried brown dock seeds that became ‘coffee’. The place smelled of new tarmac and creosote, such that these smells on a hot day take me right back. I used to break thorns off next door’s roses, lick the cut side and stick the thorn on my nose like a rhinoceros horn.

Where was I? The bungalow had white pebbledash on the walls which often grazed my elbows as I ran or roller skated up and down the side path. There was a smallish garden with a lawn and flower borders at the back, and a rotary washing line with pebbles all around the area below it. We had collected these a few at a time from the beach at Findhorn where a long ridge of pebbles separated the sand dunes from the sandy beach. Getting to the sea with bare feet was a painful process.

Round the side was a vegetable garden. I can’t remember what exactly grew there, but by the door I had my own tiny bit of garden, and I grew anemones. I remember them as being bright colours – reds and purples – with black at the centre. Recently I bought some from Wilkos and was disappointed to find they were nothing like I remembered.

Please describe the scent, taste or feel of home.
A waft of washing drifts from next door, and I realise that is one of the smells that is home – washing that has been dried outdoors and then the fresh-air smell that comes when you iron it. Freshly laundered sheets. Fresh air blowing in through open windows. The smell of onions cooking. The smell of the bathroom after someone has had a shower – lingering smells of soap, toothpaste, deodorant. The taste of coffee – café direct or home made stove top espresso. The taste lingering in my mouth now of salad – tomato, cucumber, olive oil.

From my childhood, it would the smell and taste of home baked brown bread, and flapjack made with molasses. The feel of home – my own pillows, just the right thickness. The softness of the fleece blanket that I curl under on the sofa. The pitted worn mahogany surface of the dining table under my fingers.

Which object most evokes home?
Probably an old chest of drawers. Nothing fancy, just a plain chest of four drawers, painted with several layers of gloss paint. The first I remember was blue, when they used to be in my childhood bedroom. Then I painted them black and white when I was a teenager, and I painted my room white and put black and white Robert Doisneau photo prints on the walls. Now they are painted fawn, which Mum did when I left home. She painted them to match the pine furniture. When I moved here, she gave them back to me. I’ve meant to paint them again – lilac and blue – but never got around to it.

Where do you feel you ‘properly belong’ now?
Yorkshire. I don’t know why. All my family come from the North East, and I used to visit a Great Aunt in Glaisdale. She died earlier this year. The house where she used to live was my favourite place as a child, with a huge tree in the garden. There was a swing hanging from it, made out of rope and a length of tree-branch. From that swing, you could see right across the dale, across the row of terrace cottages at the bottom and then up the hills on the other side. I remember the smells of the woods, and of heather and gorse from the moors, and the pervading smell of sheep. The sounds of the stream tumbling down to join the river rushing along below. The sheep bleating and crows clack-clacking. It has never left me and it is always the place that I want to be. But do I belong there? I don’t know. I just feel my heart belongs there.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Epic of Bollabus - continuing the story

All around, the stones did ring, their voices raised in song
Bollabus heard their music and the words they came out strong:
“Bollabus, great Bollabus. We know you hear her call.
She will have you for the wanting and we don’t want that at all.
You’re our only hope of ever standing still and growing strong
and letting any life grow on this planet ever long.

Bollabus tried to edge away; he didn’t like the sound
He wasn’t sure he belonged here upon the stony ground.
“Bollabus, please don’t leave us, if you do we’ll all be lost,
Forever rolling onwards just to satisfy her lust
for power she has plenty and she thinks of you as hers
you’re her only scent of danger and her unconquered curse.”

Bollabus, crouching low and spread out like a continent
Opened wide a cave-like mouth and issued this lament
“What can I do in this dry place? I should be in the sea
This land is hard and worrisome; the rolling troubles me
I cannot get a hold against the pink moon’s bold desire
But I’ll fight her face to face if I can just reach a bit higher”

But the stones, they held his tentacles in fierce rocky hold
“No, Bollabus, you can’t fight her. She will swallow you up whole.
We will help you pull against her and you must, as much depends
On your making her retreat so that this dreadful pulling ends.”
Bollabus knew inside him that the stones were speaking true
With their solidness supporting him, his felt his strength it grew.

So digging deep his tentacles, he felt the stones take hold
And with a surge of muscles pushed against the pink moon bold
And staying low he slowly surged his bulk across the land
The moon she tugged and swore at him but couldn’t force his hand
The stones they cheered and helped him on, “Bollabus, you’re our King
Go forth and find the Sun for He will light and comfort bring.”

Bollabus didn’t know exactly who the Sun might be
But he ventured onwards anyway, and slowly left the sea
And as the sounds of crashing waves had finally died away
The pebbles seemed to end, and massive rocks stood in his way.
He persevered, and clambered up to find a bouldered plain
Where great cracks ground together and the rock seemed to complain.

He wedged himself into the cracks, and listened to the groans
That echoed in the stillness and he felt he was alone.
The moon sank down and hid from him, her pull it seemed to wane
But darkness came upon him and he shivered all the same
The clammy rock froze under him. The sea seemed far away
But still he fell into a sleep and dreamed of the waves sway.

Before he’d been asleep too long, the moon she rose to say
“Bollabus, I will have you. Just give in and come this way.”
“I shan’t,” he cried and waking up, he tensed his frozen limbs
And crawled across the shifting rocks, his bulbous face set grim.
Then suddenly in front of him a cavern opened wide
Bollabus knew that somehow he must cross the other side

But stop, he thought, perhaps this is the place I’ll find the Sun
And he took a massive breath and from his mouth came forth this song
“Oh, Sun, whoever you may be, I’ve come to seek your aid
Will you come out and help us for we’re very much afraid.
The moon is going to pull us all into her greedy hold
And no life grow to follow us when we have become old.”

The cavern rang with echoes of Bollabus’ desperate song
But from those ringing echoes different voices seemed to form
“The Sun cannot be reached here, you must cross the other side
And the great-sea-in-the-rocks is the place that you must find.”
Bollabus gazed across the darkness of that great divide
And wondered how he’d ever cross to reach the other side.

He heard a fearful howling and one great eye turned around
To see that right behind him were the moon’s faithful hounds
With jagged teeth and slobbering jowls they went to grab his flesh
And it seemed they would consume him and at once end his quest.
But suddenly the rocks around exploded with a crack!
Bollabus grabbed eight pieces and he hurled them at the pack.

With yelps they fled the painful blows, retreated from the flack
“Bollabus don’t just stand there, get a move on, they’ll be back!”
A mighty groan of rock rang out and slowly there did slide
A set of mighty stepping stones across the great divide.
Bollabus slipped and slid across, ignoring blackness deep
That easily could swallow him and its belly keep.

For days Bollabus surged across the barren shifting rock
And always hoping that he’d find the great-sea-in-the-rock.
Then one day he became aware of sounds above the grind
A splattering and splashing and he raced towards the sound.
A mighty spout of water shot towards the pinking sky
Pulled in a curving arc obedient to the great moon’s cry.

Bollabus felt the cool drops and he wallowed in the fresh
Of the water on his tentacles and aching bruised flesh.
His stomach felt much lighter, he’d not eaten for so long
Much of his bulk had disappeared; the Moon’s pull was less strong.
He drank and drank to slake his thirst and lay beneath the shower
And he dreamed about the sea and of the creatures in its power.

And in his dream the sea it called, “Bollabus, come and eat!
And he saw delicious jelly fish and seaweed round his feet
Just waiting to be scooped into his salivating jaws
“Come on!” the sea was gurgling, “give it up, this can be yours!”
When he woke the gurgle carried on and from his guts it came
For a moment he was tempted to give up this weary game.

But the rocks they ground and growled “Bollabus! Do not let us down”
And Bollabus rubbed his stomach and he cursed the barren ground
“But tell me where I go then, where I find this hiding Sun?”
Then he heard that in the water’s gush a song had just begun.
“Bollabus, that great yellow orb you’re seeking is below
And as far as the moon is wide, that deep you now must go.”

Below his feet another chasm opened with a crash
He couldn’t see across its width, just blackness in his path
But leading from its edge he saw a series of eight steps
Diagonally crossing the rock face of the abyss
So feeling with the tips of each long tentacle he went
Down and down, around each step his tentacles bent.

The weightlessness grew ever more with each descending step
The moon she could not reach that far into the rocky depth
The darkness loomed upon him as the water sounds receded
And as he edged still deeper, poor Bollabus comfort needed.
All he felt was the vibration of the ever moving rock
Which started to get warmer and his tentacles got hot.

Poor Bollabus, tired and thirsty, couldn’t hold on for much more
And with a slip of tentacle, he crashed down to the floor.
It was later he was woken by a dazzling golden light
Of a colour he’d not seen before, a colour that shone bright.
Before him there were passages that stretched out all around
And all were filled with light. And all were filled with sound.

And then a voice boomed out as warm and rich as freshly made honey
“Who’s there? Who comes to wake me?” And Bollabus croaked “It’s me!
I’ve been sent here to find you and to ask you to come out
To help us stop the moon from pulling everything about.”
The voice rang out, “Bollabus, do you know what that would mean?
I would take up all the waters, and I’d fill the land with green.”

Bollabus felt his rumbling guts and desperate raking thirst
“Do you think I would I be able, though, to have a meal first?”
“I cannot guarantee this,” boomed the warning of the Sun.
“I don’t know that the seas will stay in place once I have come.”
Bollabus thought about his life, how lonely it had been
And of the life that wouldn’t be if he gave up this dream.

“Please come,” he said, yet trembling. “There’s always hope there’ll be
Enough left of the waters that it just might sustain me.”
“Bollabus, you are brave. So I will do just as you wish
And we will hope that there will still be plenty food to fish.”
And with a mighty whoosh the light shot up and filled the caves
Bollabus hurtled upwards, whirled like helicopter blades.

Whoof! He landed breathless on the rocky ground outside
And saw the sky explode before once more his vision died.
He was woken by the water softly splashing on his skin,
The grinding noise had gone and no more cracks lay beneath him.
Up in the sky a yellow orb was gleaming warm and bright
And best of all the pink moon vanished with the endless night.

The great-sea-in-the-rock it had become a gushing stream
Then a river and it scooped Bollabus up and bore him clean
Off the rock, it took him gently on until he reached the shore
Where the pebbles chuckled happily, when they Bollabus saw.
Once he got back to the waters, he felt so much more at home
But he still heeded the warning of the mighty golden Sun.

And he went to tell the creatures that dwelled there within the deep
That they must swim up to find the land and new food they must reap
From the greening shores. He led the way, and showed them how to find
The freshly running waters and the weeds that grew on land.
And over time the sea creatures swam up the river roads
And clambered out and breathed the air and some turned into toads.

Bollabus he had lost his greed, and so small he remained
That thinking of the Sun’s last words, he was no more afraid.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Across the barren purpled landscape, the rounded pebbles and rocks clatter continuously as they tumble about the surface, drawn by the pull of the full pink moon. The stones are warm to the touch, and vibrate against each other. There is no plant life, as nothing can root in the constantly shifting rock. However, the warm soupy waters are thick with life. Waving seaweed, gelatinous creatures of all sizes, their dried carcases thrown to the rocks by the tidal waves that routinely sweep the surface.

Underwater, the creatures hear bubbling and surging, sucking and ringing of stone on stone. The gloopy thick water tastes sulphurous, metallic, warm. Colours deepen from magenta to deepest violet-blue.

In the depths lurks a writhing shadow. Octopus-like, its tentacles stretch across a circumference of at least 8 miles. A size that, to the sea creatures, rivals the pink moon that throws its light onto the water’s surface. Moving freely and fast through the waters, Bollabus (as the creature is known) feeds hungrily from the rich waters. And Bollabus continues to grow.

One day, the moon sucks in her cheeks and a wave starts to form deep beneath the surface of the purple planet. The rocks shiver in anticipation. Gaining speed, the wave hurtles through the sea. Bollabus hears the warning rumble, sinks as low as he can – but not low enough, not this time. The wave gathers the huge form effortlessly in its grasp and with a final gasp, hurls Bollabus several miles onto the rocks.

Bollabus gazes up at his rival, that huge pink sphere that dominates the surface of his watery domain. The moon gazes back, dispassionate. But then he feels it, becomes aware of the pull of her presence. The stones roll underneath him, massaging his tentacles, pulling his gigantic form across their surface. He starts to roll out of control, tentacles waving. Digging in the tips, he manages to arrest his progress but still feels the pull in his heart. The sea sounds retreat, and all he can hear is the steady rolling, rumbling, rattling of that mobile rocky surface.

Monday, July 04, 2005

A terza rima

This is a draft, but an interesting experiment with quite a closed form.

Look up!

A path begins beneath the bracken’s grasp
Where clutching bramble fingers lurk unseen
And catch our clothing in their prickling clasp.

The path is cracked and overhung with green:
Sweet chamomile that soothes the humid air
And proud young stalks of corn together lean.

Although we cannot see them under there
Our feet rest firm upon the sun baked clay.
Heads down, we place our steps with focused care.

While by our side, vermilion poppies dance
Where sprays of buzzing biplanes couldn’t reach
Reminding us that all things have a chance.

A sea of dancing corn sweeps from its beach
And stretches to the gnarled oaks beyond
Who, in their timeless standing, patience teach.

Look up! A church spire points towards the sun
Around its feet the village hugs the hill
Half hidden by that sea of whispering corn

That rustles, whispers, beckons us, “Be still!
Lift up your eyes, enjoy the passing view
And trust that path will lead you from the hill.”

Look up! And trust the path will lead you true.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Haiku walk

Proud young stalks of corn
March into a waving sea
At the wind’s mercy.

Waist hugging bracken
Hides lurking bramble fingers
Clawing at clothing.