Hello Dad

Hello Dad

11 years ago, Dad slipped away. Approx 1.30 on the 6/9/2008. The death certificate says the ninth, we all knew that was wrong but does it matter? A bit of detective work revealed he had his hair cut that morning so was in his best togs and cheerful according to the hairdresser that popped in that day. He cooked, eaten and washed up; one pan, plate to the side, one knife, one folk, a potato peeler and a serving spoon stood like soldiers next to them on the stainless steel draining board.

It puzzled me for years where was his beer mug? I realised yesterday it would have been on the round table next to him, the one he made for his mum and dad that now sits at my beside. I guess Michael had moved it when he found my dad. It would have been the sort of thing he would have done, pour away the stale beer before the undertaker arrived. I meant to ask him last night but it hardly seemed timely after seeing Romeo then Juliette top themselves.

How did I know the time? There next to him was the Radio Times, in his own peculiar bordering on obsessive way he’d circle the shows he wanted to listen to or see and tick them off. It was open at the TV page, which I have somewhere with the trinkets, coins and some of the sweet little gifts he’d give us. Never at birthdays or Christmas just as and when. Some are out and about. A silvered bottle opener in the shape of a dolphin keeps company with the breadboard scoured with age in my kitchen.

In those last years so lonely and so alone. So unable to speak his grief he softened. One time we were watching the football, a women’s league or perhaps the final. One of the players, lanky with dreads hammered the ball into the back of the neck from way outside the 18 yard box. For a moment I froze. Expecting. Preparing a response to his, “Bloody wogs.” I looked over at him in his silence and he said, “Good goal!” Nodding with genuine approval. That father had died a long time ago. I knew that but old habits die hard.

He endured Lara Croft with me and joked about it. A good bad film. Sometimes I could get him to step into the garden with me as I pulled endless streams of ivy and bind wind that was smothering the evergreens.

He would tell me about the visits from Emma and the twins from next door that he adored, a feeling which was obviously mutual. At ten years old I guess it may have been their first funeral. Emma had dressed them impeccably, I don’t know how she could afford it, and they each carried a red rose to place on the coffin.

At the wake the girls wriggled together in his armchair. One of them said to me, “Look he’s there, he’s watching us,” and giggled and someone put on Charlie Parker, so despite all the shit about a Christian funeral he got the send off he wanted in the end. I looked around the room and say so much colour.

Truth is he never really left I reckon til last year. Not being a believer guess he wouldn’t wondered what the hell was going on. Emma not me that night, when his body woulda still be turning cold, one of the pencils he gave the girls, engraved with their names, flew across the room and landed at her feet.

A year ago in Andalusia, I met him at the foot of the mountain I could see from bedroom window at the writing retreat. Slowly we made our way to the top. He grumbled all the way. It took a very long time believe me. At the summit I said, “Look can’t you see they are all waiting for you?” Mum and his parents stood together reaching out. I’m not sure how, because a could hardly have lifted him, and no angels came down shimmering, but some how in the end he reached up and he was gone.

He comes here sometimes, I can smell him. We don’t exactly talk but if we did would it still be one sided? He used to berate what he called “the talkers” the experts; novelists, Nobel prize winners, appearing on radio 4. “ Never done a proper job like me what do they know.” And I wonder what he thinks when he sees me talk or perform, to audiences or on radio, am I now just another “talker” to him. Something tell me not if he has continued to soften, or let that soft side show. To those who couldn’t or wouldn’t see him. It is your loss. I feel sorry for you. I forgive you.

Writing prompt

Writing prompt

“A plant called Pete has taken a selfie”

Play with this one; use the headline or image as a prompt and freewrite for twenty minutes and see where it takes you. Then consider what you have just made. Is it for just for fun, or does it feel it needs development, does it welcome a form?

Take it further if you like; what does Pete make of the climate emergency?


Reported16th October 2019

More info https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-50056665

Reflections on World Mental Health Day 2019

Reflections on World Mental Health Day 2019

Happy mental health day – I can’t help thinking, how can we be healthy right now? If health is balance it is so hard to achieve in a world that feels so out of balance. The toxic mix of the incredible uncertainty that we are living through in The U.K. right now, across the world, the absurdity and insanity, not just of our economic system – for profit not need, but the farce of what passes for governance, the ever present wars and threat of war are taking there toll.

A programme last night called How Did I Get Mad, revealed higher incidences of psychosis among people that have migrated, whether voluntarily or forced by war, poverty or the threat of persecution. In addition the levels of mental health problems among young people are at there highest levels ever recorded in Britain and the simply is enough services to treat these people near their families and friends.

The dominant economic and political systems of this world are not just unequal and unjust they are making us sick quite literally. We must heal ourselves and this planet. The two are dialectical but if you are really vulnerable at this time, put yourself first, find ways to become more stable and achieve the balance in yourself first before taking on the instability and imbalance and in this world. Reach out for help if you need it, spend time in nature, trust the earth to love you and hold you. Trust the universe to deliver what you need.

It’s all connected. We are all matter and energy. We are all human. Even members of Parliament last night in response to the persecution by the far right were saying, we are human, we are afraid for our own life’s and those of our families. I’ve gone off at a tangent I realise yet if that is not evidence of consciousness changing what is. Marx said conscious would change in struggle, he was right and time and time again we have witnessed this over the centuries, in revolutions. But they did not, as Trotsky urged they must, become permanent.

Now we face the biggest struggle ever, to save the planet and save ourselves. It effects everyone of us. If the 1% only care about their wealth, property and investments fuck them. We don’t need them, we already run things already on a day to day basis while they cream off the profits. I’m not saying class doesn’t matter, or other differences we may have don’t matter, we all have different experiences and they are all valuable. Collectively we can turn things around. It’s already started.

Humans appear to be so destructive, but they can also be astoundingly creative when not tied to a profit motive, when not warring for profit;  warring over oil, fossil fuels and minerals. When we look for solutions. When we used compassion and empathy rather than statistics and financial risk to make decisions. The beginning is nigh, the time is now for action for some, healing for others, a new dawn is on the horizon, our spring will come, love is the way and love begets love. And has no limit.

Poem: How to Break a Curse

Poem: How to Break a Curse

How to Break a Curse

Lemon balm is for forgiveness.
Pull up from the root, steep
in boiling water. Add locusts’ wings,
salt, the dried bones of hummingbirds.
Drink when you feel ready.
Drink even if you do not.
Pepper seeds are for courage.
Sprinkle them on your tongue.
Sprinkle in the doorway and along
the windowsill. Mix pepper and water
to a thick paste. Spackle the cracks
in the concrete, anoint the part
in your hair. You need as much
courage as you can get.
Water is for healing.
Leave a jar open beneath the full moon.
Let it rest. Water your plants.
Wash your face. Drink.
The sharpened blade is for memory.
Metal lives long, never grows weary
of our comings and goings. Wrap this blade
in newspaper. Keep beneath your bed.
Be patient, daughter.
Be patient.
No borders, no crime?

No borders, no crime?

Response to

‘We’re not being given a viable future’: how Brexit will hurt British music by Michael Hann @michaelahann


Who said, “Because I am a woman I have no country?” I forget but I say, Because I am a writer; I have no country. Because I am a refugee; I have no country. Because I have a disability; I have no country. Because I am precarious; I have no country. Because I am an artist; I have no country. Because I am a minority; I have no country unless it pleases them, look out. Because I have special educational needs; I have no country. Because I’m a trade unionist; I have no country. Because I have a mental health problem; I have no country. Because I am a migrant worker; I have no country. Because I am a musician….

Some might say

Because I invest in an offshore tax free account I have no country, and there’s plenty of advice out there how to do it….

“Despite what you may hear, offshore banking is completely legal. It’s not about tax evasion or other illegal activities. It’s simply about legally diversifying your political risk by putting your liquid savings in sound, well-capitalized institutions where they are treated best.”


“Where you normally pay tax

If you’re not resident in the UK for tax purposes you won’t usually be liable to pay tax in the UK on your offshore incomes and gains but it’s important to check your residency status and what’s taxable from offshore income.” HMRC Guidance.


“Offshore investment bonds can be a tax efficient investment wrapper often provided by global life insurance firms with the aim to enable investors to grow capital often without attracting any tax.”


Quote: Spencer Reece

Quote: Spencer Reece

Possibly my favourite four sentences of all time;

“Hours clot. Birds flap like passports. Fields explode with temper tantrums. Here comes trouble.”

From Ghazals for Spring in The Clerk’s Tale, Foreward by Louise Gluck

Houghton Mifflin, Boston, New York 2004

Brexit – the art of distraction.

Brexit – the art of distraction.

I’m coming to the conclusion that Brexit with its almost 50/50 split is the best distraction the ruling class and their political representatives have ever accidentally fallen upon. I don’t think it was the conscious will to be such but now stands as a real threat to progressive or working class unity and any meaningful and absolutely necessary action needed right now on climate, housing, fair pay, the nhs, social care, welfare, education and the rise of the right.

That is why proroguing for me is such a crime and so dangerous. I know I’ve contributed to that noise in my satirical series of breaking down the Brexit lexicon but suddenly I realised every time we buy in to their agenda, or even mention the issue we are getting lost in the absurdity and risk losing the little that remains of hard fought rights. We need nothing less than a paradigm shift in the narrative; a new agenda with people first, in priorities, debate, action and above all as decision makers.

That might sound contradictory given the outcome of the last referendum has arguably led to the insane chaotic mess we find ourself in. But has it? Is the referendum to blame? I say no. The referendum was advisory. That fact has been ignored not only by Cameron, May, Johnson and Gove but the Labour Party leadership and the Libdems.

All these issues being currently ignored are linked; the climate emergency, racism, inequality in all its forms, precarity and austerity. Brexit is just a distraction one lot of UK neoliberals against the EU neoliberals. Corbyn and McDonald do set out a different path but are yet to be tested.

Where do we begin, right here right now with a divided resistance. I suggest in our workplaces and communities. Humans are almost limitless in the power we have, the skills, the experiences, talents and knowledge. But most people just don’t know there own power. How do we change that? Get people involved in action, any action that builds and grows.

On Cressingham today we have a party, a bbq picnic with an orchestra. We have done our best to spread the word and people have come forward with help, sometimes for the first time. It’s a small thing when the globe is encircled by fire and sea levels are rising. Yet an important thing. On Cressingham we have won the right to manage and the right to transfer; subject to a ballot. Hence we come out of local authority control once the process of the latter is complete. These are not small things.

In our communities I believe we need to connect, get to know each other, get to know each other’s skills, experience and talents. In my experience of 20 odd years of creative writing workshops, 15 in mental health settings, people can and do change and grow. Not because I tell them your great, that’s great, but because in the practice of doing, doing anything, people learn to see and experience their own greatness.

In the last flew days I’ve seen calls for a an election, that is not in our power, a general strike called by a Labour MP, that is not likely even if called by the TUC. I, at an unguarded moment, called occupy parliament. That’s not gonna happen. We need to start at the grassroots imo and welcome new perspectives, new ideas, new ways. The old ways have not served us well. Britain went to the IMF in 1975, resulting in a wage cap during galloping inflation that led to the winter of discontent and despite the courage and tenacity of the 84/85 Miners strike, its been pretty much downhill since then.

I raise an old slogan from my uni days – think global and act local. Empower ourselves and others. Though humanity needs to take a great leap, perhaps we can begin with baby steps. Consciousness is I believe shifting. One could say we are in the storm before the calm. Action is urgently needed but we have to keep a clear head, the noise of Brexit debate does not help. I have more questions than answers because we are in an unprecedented time, globally and nationally.

I still believe ultimately in unity, solidarity, that we should plaster dignity and equality on our banners, but slogans are just that. Here’s another Deeds not words. And from or often attributed to Goethe,

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

The Times Are A-changin’ (indeed.)

The Times Are A-changin’ (indeed.)

Yesterday the Evening Standard reported on its front page that an Ipsos MORI poll shows “85% of adults are concerned about global warming.” And “Three-quarters believe the country is already feeling the effects of climate change.” Good.

But don’t be afraid, be a warrior, be part of the army of love. Call me a hippy if you like but fear ain’t gonna get us no where, hate only burns. Be the river, be the stream, be part of a mighty ocean wave, every drop is a part of the ocean.

They’re ain’t gonna be no Fire Next Time, it will be the flood, be part of the flood that will wash away all violence, all oppression, all inequality and  injustice and restore dignity,  respect, compassion, peace and freedom.

We need an upgrade for the world and now is the time. The time is now to put away old things, old ways, old ideas;  to become ( after Marx) fully human. As we create a new world we recreate ourselves. The dialectic still stands.

Be the Phoenix if you like, burn down the darkness within, we all have it and the best of us only have hate for ourselves but that helps no one, know your own light. Shine. Let the light shine. Love is the light. Love is the way. Love is an action. Love is solidarity. Love is unity.

It looks dark outside, it sure does, but the darkest hour is just before dawn, before the peace of the new morning. A new dawn.


Love times love equals infinity (commissioned by Gabbi Lopez, Release/Sustain for Love Squared) 


We are in a time when people keep the banks afloat, when beauty can be bought, when talking about the weatherhas become political. The time of hope and change,of permanent war, when even monks have taken up arms,And in parts of arabia the cross and crescent merge as one…


The echo of now sounds in the future

This time is the melody of opening,

This time is the harmony of sharing,

These beats,           a break

The rhythm, for our times

Between being and becoming


Reaching for a new operating system

for the world, with no limits

and upgrading our love

Love begets love

Love is an action,

love is motive

We will occupy your minds,

occupy your heart

And give you love squared


Anything is possible, if you get your ducks in a row

Anything is possible, if you get your ducks in a row

Excuse me for resorting to cliche but that seems to be the level of what passes as rhetorical argument in what passes for governance right about now. That and  optimism as policy, slogans as debate.

I’ll examine one of the features of the BoJo methodology: optimism. There is an optimism and confidence born of a “heightened state”, a feature of a bipolar disorder, known as hypermania, its one step down from an (often delusion) full blown mania. In this state of mind it can feel like anything is possible.

Those that have experienced this will know what I’m talking about. And sometimes one can move mountains for a while. Say it’s a book launch, well in this example a limited edition pamphlet launch, due to take place in two days time; the room is booked, as are the Dj’s and acts and you’ve been up best part of three nights straight setting up the copy when the fan falls off the pc at about 4am. Meanwhile somewhere else an insomniac musician you just met, after an after party, on the way home, is hand painting 100 individual covers. This aspect you have little control over.

Yet by sheer force of will you push thru, with the help of an on call IT tech friend, get to the printers, the covers arrive an hour before the launch, we are stapling them as folk arrive. The only impediment was lack of faith and dwindling sanity, ( mine). Everyone was on my side. We made it happen. The crash after was almighty. My time management has improved somewhat since 2000.

The impediment here today in the BoJo world view seems to be the representatives of 27 states who have consistently stated they will not reopen the withdrawal agreement, which has been passed by Parliament in any case. I don’t see how any amount of positive thinking, bluff and bluster, will change the minds of people in the EU parliament who – even if they colloquially give a flying fuck about the blind uberconviction of the prime minister elect – he doesn’t even seem prepared to meet them, he’s pulled out our representatives in Europe and instead makes an announcement in Truro of all places. Well that will do it. Get them on side!

Is there a historical precedent for this I wonder? That seems to be the fashion of the age. It’s like the war! Up and at em! Not sine Suez and the like. And now I hear that song we learnt as a child – The Grand old Duke of York/ he had 10 000 men/ he marched them up/ to the top of the hill/ and he marched them down again.

Candidates for the origin of the rhyme according to wiki, which I just checked, not the greatest of  sources, include:

Richard, Duke of York (1411–1460), who was defeated at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460. By the Lancastrians.

James II (1633–1701), formerly Duke of York, who in 1688 marched his troops to Salisbury Plain to resist the invasion from his son-in-law William of Orange, only to retreat and disperse them as his support began to evaporate.

Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827), Commander-in-Chief of the British Army during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. His one field command of significance was the Flanders Campaign of 1793–4, which resulted in the heavy defeat at the Battle of Tourcoing (1794), followed by his recall to England.

The rhyme is mean to imply futility but the histories appear to show bad tactics, over optimism and defeat. Where are the bards and songsters that can aptly describe the absurdity of our times? Bring out the horns and strings, play us a song of hope. Who was it that fiddled as room burned? Ah yes Nero. Which brings full circle back to one of Boris Johnson’s much cited quotes:

“They voted for Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to serve as their leader. They were at no stage invited to vote on whether Gordon Brown should be PM… They voted for Tony, and yet they now get Gordon, and a transition about as democratically proper as the transition from Claudius to Nero. It is a scandal. Why are we all conniving in this stitch-up? This is nothing less than a palace coup… with North Korean servility, the Labour Party has handed power over to the brooding Scottish power-maniac.”