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.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Arnos Vale Cemetery and Paying Homage to Robin Tanner

It was off to Arnos Vale Cemetery on Saturday, with the friend formerly known as 'Er-Over-The-Road, for a talk by Jane Duffus on The Women who Built Bristol. 

This gave us the chance to walk around the cemetery a bit, which was looking particularly photogenic.

With so many of the graves seeming to founder and sink under the weight of vegetation, it could have provided a handy metaphor for the state of this nation ... 

... although we tried to focus on resurgent nature as an act of reclamation.

'Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove'

An old friend

The eyes have it

The modest, tucked-away grave of George Müller, founder of the Ashley Down orphanage

My first bluebell (and chiff-chaff) of the year

Laocoön and his sons (detail)

Before we returned to the far north of the city, we popped over to Ryde Road, round the side of the local shopping centre, to pay homage to my favourite Arts and Crafts etcher, Robin Tanner. Although he spent most of his life in North Wiltshire, Tanner was born in this house (no 5). 

This Quaker, pacifist, advocate for the education and creativity of children, supporter of refugees and supreme artist-craftsman died aged 84 in 1988, despairing over the policies of Margaret Thatcher. 

I could cry to think how he would feel now, as we reap her bitter harvest.   

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Equinox on Kings Weston Down

Son the Younger and I had been for a walk on the day of the last equinox, when the light was funnelling into darkness. Six months later, I needed to mark the return of summer and to cling to that prospect, even as the country goes to hell in a handcart.

We started our walk at Blaise Castle car park and walked up to the hill fort on Kings Weston Down. 

Ted was one happy dog.

The ravens overhead were happy too, cheerfully driving off interloping crows who were presumably encroaching on their nesting site.

The 220 year old, Grade 2 listed, iron pedestrian bridge over busy Kings Weston Road is still fenced off, having been hit by a lorry three years ago.

We negotiated our way over the road and walked along the side of Home Park on the estate of Kings Weston House, with views of the River Avon in the distance. 

There were lots of Signs of Spring.

Then on to Penpole Point, where the ancient (at least 400 years old) compass dial still stands, although no longer used by shipping to find safe passage into the mouth of the River Avon.

It's now a nifty seat for tired walkers. 

View down to Avonmouth, with the new Severn bridge just visible

And then it was time to return. 

Back at the hill fort

And here endeth our brief respite from idiocy.

River Severn

Thursday, 21 March 2019

A Poem for World Poetry Day 2019

Every day is World Poetry Day in our house. I love the fact that poetry is such a big, comforting, startling thing in our lives. But today is the official World Poetry Day that only comes once a year ...

... and to mark it, I'm posting my poem 'Oystercatchers', which recently won the 2018 Plough Prize Short Poem Competition. (Still haven't quite integrated that information into my life.)

And also some photos of Uphill Slipway in Somerset, which is the landscape I had in my head when I wrote it. 

Uphill is where, according to local folklore, the boy Jesus landed with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, en route for Glastonbury. For me it has a deeply creative, rather more pagan resonance that feels just as divine.  


‘Aujourd’hui, maman est morte’
                           ‘L’étranger’, Albert Camus                                                                

One day
the day she’s been waiting for will come

and she’ll take these words with her to the sea
unzip her coat, pull open her ribcage

let them fly as purposely
as oystercatchers

pulling the strings of the sky
and tide

lifting the weight from each blood cell
giving her permission      

©Deborah Harvey 2019 

'Oystercatchers' is from my forthcoming collection, The Shadow Factory, which will be published by Indigo Dreams Publishing later this summer.  

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Trooping up Troopers Hill

The tail end of Storm Gareth was still marching about, but we are nothing if not intrepid, me, Ted and the lad, so we set off for The Dark Side (of Bristol).

We were heading for a place we'd never visited, namely Troopers Hill, which looms high over the River Avon in the east of the city. 
It's now a nature reserve, but in the past it's been mined and quarried, and housed a copper smelting works.

From the top of the hill there are extensive views over the centre and south of the city ...

... although the wild weather wasn't conducive to seeing them. 

This is looking south-west, over St Annes in the immediate foreground, and (eventually) Dundry.

This is looking west towards the centre of the city. You can see the course of the River Avon by the shape of the tree-covered hill. Right in the centre is a misty spire belonging to St Mary Redcliffe. (You'll have to take my word for it.)
Looking east along the Avon valley

Since it was so bitter on top of the hill, and raining too, we decided to wander down through the workings, where it might be a little more sheltered.

Troopers Hill has had a number of names over the years. It was known as Harris Hill, Ghosthills and Trubody's Hill on 17th century maps.

'Ghosthills' is believed possibly to have been a local pronunciation for Gorsehills. Likewise,  Troopers Hill could be a corruption of Trubody's Hill ... 

... or a folk memory of its alleged role during the Civil Wars, when the Parliamentary Army, under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax, camped there prior to the siege of Bristol in 1645. (It's less than a three mile ride from Wickham Court.)

The hill's pennant sandstone was quarried and used to build many local buildings; also, less predictably, St Peter's Church in Stow Bardolph, Norfolk.

It was also mined for fire clay and coal, being home to at least six mines out of the 400+ that formed the Kingswood coal field.

There was also a lot of industry down by the Avon (in the centre of this photo) at Crews Hole

In the 18th century copper was brought in from Devon and Cornwall and smelted with zinc ore from the Mendips to make brass. Many of the brass products were exported to Africa to be bartered for slaves as part of the 'triangular trade' in which Bristol played such a pivotal role. 

I'm glad the hill is a nature reserve now. It's good to see scrub, including gorse, growing in what is an inner city area. And to know that rare mining bees are continuing the tradition of digging into this hill. 

We were enjoying exploring, although we did decide that that the path down to Crews Hole was altogether too muddy and slithery for me to risk going down with my track record.

I haven't found out what this stone - a marker? - is for yet.

We intend to come back again for a more extensive exploration when the weather is more clement.