About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Misty Mountain Hop And The Mousehole Dog

Maybe it was a mistake to read 'Into Thin Air', Jon Krakauer's terrifying account of the 1996 disaster on Mount Everest, whilst down in Devon on the weekend the clocks went back and plummeted the country into winter.  In my febrile imagination, the biscuit tin by the sea immediately became a bivouac at 26,000 ft.  Keep my head under the duvet and I would be gasping for oxygen; stick my nose outside and it would turn black with frostbite and drop off.  Except that it was really very mild for the time of year.  It was just so very gloomy.
This is Marazion mid-morning ...

... and frankly, if Krakauer had had to deal with this much cloud at sea-level, his might have been a different story.  

The Cornish name for St Michael's Mount is Karrek Loos yn Koos - the hoar rock in the wood - which could hark back to a folk memory of a time when the coastline lay beyond it.  Now it lies 400  yards from the front and is accessible via a raised causeway at mid to low tide.   The legend of Lyonesse persists.  

Some of the granite setts of the causeway were washed away in the storms earlier this year, but were retrieved.  

Here's a digger fixing the damage before the next lot of storms come along.  

The Mount, as run by the National Trust, is not a particularly dog-friendly place - we weren't allowed to walk Ted up through the wood even on a lead - so we decided not to visit the Church in single file but stuck instead to promenading on the stone jetties, which reminded me very much of the Cobb at Lyme Regis

Then we retired to the beach so Ted could have a good run.  There didn't seem to be any colour in the day at all.   
Well, maybe just a little in the detail.  

Then it was off around the bay to Mousehole, somewhere I'd wanted to visit for years, ever since seeing Nicola Bayley's  stunning illustrations for Antonia Barber's 'The Mousehole Cat' when my kids were small.  Well, wouldn't you?

And even on a dreeky day, it has its moments.  

We went to the pub for lunch but unfortunately it wasn't much of a place to be a vegetarian.  'I could do you a ham salad without the ham,' 0ffered the barman, for all the world as if Margaret Thatcher were still best known for depriving school children of their daily milk and Mark Chapman had yet to squeeze that trigger.

It's no place for cyclists, skateboarders or roller-bladers either.

I can't help thinking that the Mousehole Cat had a paw in these ubiquitous signs.  Even the grotty little neighbouring beach had a big notice to the effect that DOGS ARE BANNED.  

So we had a wander on the mighty harbour wall instead.  

Then we saw this.  

And this.

And just in case you were left in the slightest doubt, this.

I gazed at the deserted beach, fingering the wodge of dog poo bags in my pocket.  What a shame, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, to pitch up at the village where the glorious Dylan Thomas honeymooned with Caitlin only to find it haunted by the ghost of Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard.  

'Mousehole? More like Arsehole!' muttered my own companion in poetry. 

Finally we found a shop that wasn't called a pantry or a dairy - the positively working-class Hole Foods Deli - and bought some homity pie to eat in the welcoming fug of the car.  And very tasty it was too ...  

... though I don't think we'll be back anytime soon.  

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Three Hares Pilgrimage Part II

On the way to South Devon for a few days' sojourning, we detour to Iddesleigh, just north of Dartmoor, where St James Church has a three hares roof boss.  I was looking forward to letting myself in with the massive church key, but for once the door was open. 

Here's a photo of the roof boss - not mine because I've no chance of getting a clear photo in a late-October-dark church.  This is Chris Chapman's from the Three Hares Project

I also love the church for its fantastic outlook over Dartmoor.  Sort of Tomb with a View.

This headstone belongs to James Ravilious, son of artist, designer and illustrator Eric Ravilious and a fantastic photographer in his own right. It is good to pay your respects to your heroes.  

And of course I deposited some of Dru Marland's beautiful three hares maps as a free gift - the purpose of this second pilgrimage to the three hares churches.  

Also in Iddesleigh there just happens to be a fine pub, the Duke of York.

If you recognise it, it might be because an encounter in the pub over 30 years ago gave Michael Morpurgo the inspiration to write 'War Horse'.  Since I was last there, there's a new landlord and a poster of the film has joined the collage of James Ravilious photos.

Still selling Winkleigh cider, though ...


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Black Death : A Trailer!

This is so good, I'm going to think of it as a trailer for my historical novel, Dart, which is set on Dartmoor in 1348, the year the Black Death came to our islands ... 

Friday, 24 October 2014

A Letter From My Grandmother

My previous blog was about discovering a suitcase in the attic with rusted locks and finding old school exercise books inside.  There was also an envelope, addressed to my mother, in handwriting I didn't recognise.  

It turned out to be a note from my father's mother, written not long before her death to the young woman she would not live to see marry her son.  

Dear Sylvia

Just a line to wish you all a very Happy Xmas. Thank you very much for the lovely present. You should not have done it. I am enclosing a 10s note.  Would you get yourself something with much love from Mr and Mrs Harvey

Discovering this banal little note was quite a thrill as there are precious few relics of my grandmother, Ida Harvey (née Pain), who was born illegitimate and at the age of three, is recorded in the 1891 census as living in lodgings in Timsbury, North Somerset.  I have seen only a couple of photographs, though I did persuade my cousin Diane, who is older and who remembers her, to write an account of her memories of her.  

This is a poem I wrote for my lost grandmother.  It is in my latest poetry collection, Map Reading For Beginners.

                       Stoney Littleton

                       Granny, I came to your village to find you
                       but the cottage in which you were lodging is long gone. 
                       Though I don’t know what I could have done,
                       the mother in me wanting to take you home and feed you,
                       wrap you in stories, wipe from your roundy face
                       the stain of your shameful birth.  You were three
                       when you were living here with strangers.

                       But by this grassy tump that slumbers
                       in fields of blue-leaved beans, we can spend
                       an afternoon outside of time, in our own small house
                       with the snake-stone at its door, built from the bones
                       of this land for the bones of our fathers. 

                       I know no more of you than of the tribe that raised this tomb,
                       mourning their dead in a dawn of red ochre.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Treasure In The Attic

Finally, when the accumulated detritus of 20 years must go ...

... the rusted locks of my mother's old suitcase have to be bust open.

And inside, treasure!  

At least if you're a writer. Because which of us wouldn't give our eye-teeth to re-glimpse the world as we knew it at six years of age?

Between the uniform grey covers of Gloucestershire Education Committee's school exercise books, there are stories and news!

So what was little Deborah's world like, 47 years ago?  Well, funnily enough, not that different.  

Tuesday 20th June

I went to a party and I was not invited.  

We are going to Devon and while were dawn there Mummy and daddy our buying me a budgerigar. Thay gave me a cage for by briday but they did not give me a budgerigar yet and I know way because he may die and we would not like that.  If he does not die we are going to teach him to talk.

Yesterday it was remembrance day and we had to minutes silence and my threepenny bit dropped ... Aunty Betty's brother died in the war and the man said Ken reed and that is Auntie Betty's brother

I have one Nanny and no Grammy my Grammy died my other Nanny died and my other Grammy died too. my Nanny may die if she does I will have no Nanny or Grammy then what shall we do 

It's not all death and anxiety ...

Thursday 28th September

At Shaldon there is an ness.  which is called the mouth of the river tame you can walk. We go up into a field and we have a rest. and then we go down by the duck pond.

... but the child is clearly the mother of the woman.

Wednesday 15th November

Yesterday I fell off my scooter. I hurt my nose, my leg and my lep.  My lep bled and mummy held her handkerchief to it and then she gave the handkerchief to me and I held it to my lip. Mummy felt so sorry for me. Mrs Fowlls [my teacher] saw me but she did not say anything. This morning she said did you do that yesterday and I said yes I did. After I fell off my mummy said that I could have some sweets but she said have something that costs 3d but I could not and I had to have some thing 6d. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Well I Never, Did You Ebbor?

The trouble with tidying up is that I tend to lose things, one of which was the lead to transfer photos from my camera to my laptop.  (In the end I bought new one.)  And so here, belatedly, are some photos of a walk we did ten days ago with Ellie and Vicky.

It was raining when we left the sanctuary of the Queen Victoria in Priddy but were we downcast?

No, because we were playing ball in the shelter of the Ebbor Woods ... 

... though at times it could have been the jungles of Borneo.  

It was a sloshy scramble up through the gorge to the top of the cliffs ... 

... but the view of rain elsewhere was pleasing.

Here's a suitably dramatic aspect over to Glastonbury Tor.    

Of course, we were accompanied by a very well behaved Dougal and two Teds ... 

 ... and a very fierce bear.

Oh no, this is the bear ... 

... that's Ellie!  

And the sun came out and lit the tower of St Cuthbert's, Wells, in the distance ... 

... and turned my hair the colour of a pumpkin.  

And then it was home time.