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 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.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Lyrically Justified: About the Urban Word Collective

In its own words, the Urban Word Collective was born out of a dream of a shared space where urban poets could promote, celebrate and inspire eachother for the benefit of their communities and ultimately the country - a tree with roots, that propagates, that seeds for the present and the future.

To date, they've produced three anthologies of poems, and I'm really proud to have two poems in the third, which features West Country writers, not least because in terms of its cultural and artistic diversity and its ambition, this project is different from anything I've been involved with before. I don't think my writing has ever been in such interesting, dynamic company. 

Here is the book. Please find out more about this initiative and support it.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

A Walk around Deerhurst, Apperley and the River Severn

An unseasonably warm September day. And so to Deerhurst in north Gloucestershire, just south of Tewkesbury and very close to the River Severn.

I visited both Saxon churches here about three years ago but Son the Younger in particular expressed an interest so we visited both.

Odda's Chapel first. 

TED!! Don't you dare!

And then St Mary's.

The last time I visited, it was a Sunday and the Church was being prepared for Harvest Festival, so it was good to have a little more time there.

Rooks and jackdaws above the ruined apse

Then we were off, with Odda's Chapel watching us go ...

... over the first few of very many stiles, off one of which I fell and got nettle-stung and thorn-prickled and covered with those tiny round seed pods (though not this stile, obviously) ... 

... past some beautiful horses ... 

... and on to the Farmers Arms at Apperley, where we stopped for a pub lunch. 

In a field behind the pub we encountered these Tamworth beauties. So glad I don't eat meat and can look them in the eye.

They reminded me of the carved heads back in St Mary's.

View to the Cotswolds

I'm coming to get you!

After completing a zig-zag route past Apperley, we arrived at the westernmost section of the disused Coombe Hill Canal, which was largely screened from view by trees. 

The last stretch of our walk took us back up to Deerhurst via the Severn Way. 

Ted and I have done a lot of walking by the Severn this year, but this was the first non-tidal section. 

Here we had to do some cow-shooing ... 

... and sheep-staring (if you are a herder by nature).  

In my usually trustworthy Pathfinder guide, the overall length of the walk is given as seven miles. Son the Younger's fitbit was already reading nine when we staggered into the garden of the other pub en route, only to be told that it was CLOSED. Gah. 

A few hens next door came over to commiserate. 

But even if I was on my last legs, we were on the last leg.
A glimpse of the Malvern Hills in the distance

Then Odda's Chapel came back into view.

One last glance over the Severn and we left for home.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Heritage Open and Not So Open Days

I love Heritage Open Days, but often fail to nosy around places that are usually out of bounds by getting myself booked up to do other stuff the same weekend. Not so this year. I noted the dates in my diary in May, and came up with a packed schedule of Places To Visit that made even seasoned jaunter, the Friend-Formerly-Known-As-'Er-Over-The-Road, baulk.

But then I was asked to be poet-in-residence at the Methodist District Synod in Bath on the Saturday. And I said yes, which necessitated a rethink. Several of the places I'd put on my list were only open on the Saturday. The main thing was to get to the graveyard of St John on the Wall in the centre of Bristol, which hadn't been opened to the public since 1968. The other place I really wanted to visit was St Saviour's in Coalpit Heath, which I'd failed to get inside on two previous attempts. So that's where the F-F-K-A-E-O-T-R and I decided to visit on Friday.

Except when we arrived there was no one about. No signs. No tell-tale bunting. And the door was locked. We walked around the church. No one there. I fished out my phone and googled. THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED. Gah. 

Saturday's events at the Methodist Synod weren't that photogenic, but very enjoyable all the same, and included lots of connections made with people through poetry, which was brilliant. 

Sunday morning found me and the Northerner in town, ready to visit the secret, perpetually shut churchyard of St John on the Wall, between the railings of which I've pressed my face for years. 

I could see the gates were open as we wandered down Tailors' Court and felt quite emotional walking through them at last. 

Once inside, there's a feeling that you're treading on the bones of the dead. An average of 13 burials a week were taking place by the mid-18th century, when it was declared full and closed.  And since the church was built in the 14th century, that's a lot of corpses. 
The juxtaposition of the very old and the modern was striking ... 
... and I was fascinated by the views of the familiar lanes from a new perspective. 

Best of all, though, the ruinous, the decayed, the overgrown. 

Memorial of the merchant Edmund Browne, who died in 1635

The mausoleum of  merchant-venturer Hugh Brown (died 1653) and his wife

Detail of mausoleum ceiling

Disappointingly, the church itself was shut and the crypt, though open, was full of modern stained glass that was displayed for sale on cloths spread over the tombs so you couldn't see them.

I consoled myself with the knowledge that I'd seen it all before anyway and we went for a drink in one of our favourite pubs, the Seven Stars, instead.