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, 25 December 2020

Deck the Halls with Border Collie

Like most people, we are experiencing a curtailed Christmas. Of the offspring wanting to  come home, one is now in Tier 4 on the south coast, and another is languishing in self-isolation on the other side of town after his app pinged, even though he only had Covid-19 last month. Which leaves just one for dinner.

Delivering Christmas

The one that didn't get away

And then of course Ted died this year. He was always at the heart of our Christmas, and we're missing him badly too.

Though we do have a little Welsh pup who loves cwtches. Which is as well.

We're not so sure her Die Hard loyalites are as they should be, mind. 

You're supposed to be on Hans Gruber's side ... 

Disappointing, Cwtch.

Owing to the propensity of puppies to chew, we have necessarily done a lot less decorationing this year, and what there is is mostly out of reach.  And involves lights because ...  

... 2020 has been a dark year. I don't think we'll ever take for granted being able to hug our friends, hold our writing groups, go to poetry readings, and take a trip to the sea or Dartmoor, again.

Even if things had been different and better and normal, I think I'd have noticed this morning's suggestively-placed lit window and coloured vapour trail at sunrise. But I might not have been as touched by it. 

Monday, 21 December 2020

A Winter Solstice Blessing

Happy Winter Solstice. May the returning light sit like a fox on the roof of your shed in the coming year. (Unless you have rabbits or chickens.)

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

O brave new world

There's a whole new world for puppies to explore, but it's not as easy as it might be in the middle of winter and the dead of a pandemic. Still, we're doing our best, and now Cwtch has had all her vaccinations, we'll be able to visit the park and encounter other dogs a bit more.  

We were loaned a puppy carrier for the time before she could walk outdoors, which I was really pleased about, but she never managed to settle in it comfortably. 

So it was back to the original plan of carrying her around. 

We've had to avoid dogs till now, but there's been lots of other places to explore and people to meet and experiences to get one's teeth into. 

One of these experiences was a Zoom poetry launch, at which my publishers, Ronnie and Dawn, were launching their fantastic joint collection, 'Forest Moor or Less'. From Cwtch's point of view, however, it wasn't an unqualified success. Our previous collie, Ted, was an old paw at this sort of thing. His protests never extended beyond the occasional theatrical sigh when yet another poet asked 'How much time have I got?' accompanied by a crash as he dropped to the floor, as if someone had cut his strings. 

The newbie didn't last as long. After posing momentarily for a screenshot, she started chewing my jacket and spent the rest of the event maurauding and looking for trouble. She'll learn. 

There have also been very important people to meet, and a lot of learning about support bubbles and the like. 

Busy roads, rain and the perfidy of glass. Not so keen on any of that. 

But a little light shopping in Pets At Home went down well ... 

... and best of all, late night trips up the churchyard. 

I sniff dead people

Saturday, 12 December 2020

On Sneezing and False Teeth

 Getting over my latest bout of gastritis - the fourth in three months. This time I was in sufficient pain to be whisked to our local A&E. These days it's not a place for the faint-hearted. The staff were run off their feet, and as I was waiting for a taxi to get home, a bloke who looked about 40 was ejected, complaining that 'all the fucking foreign people' were being seen before him. He was going to WRITE TO HIS MP. The nurse accompanying an elderly woman who was waiting for her husband to pick her up looked at me and rolled her eyes. I bet they hear that all the time. 

I was pleased to see the new Banksy that's appeared on a house at the bottom of Vale Street in Totterdown. (The steepest residential street in the country, don't you know.) It's of a woman sneezing her false teeth out, and it reminds me of a story my late Uncle Noel tells in his book about my grandmother, Hilda Hill, and her neighbours in Douglas Road, Horfield in the 1920s:

'Then Mrs Amor, further down the street. Kath to her friends. Born to well-to-do parents but somehow ending up in Douglas Road with her second husband. Very smart but with a slight flavour of 'no better than she ought to be' about her. Given to muttered conversations with Mum that suddenly seemed to stop if I entered the room. Don't know what they were about, but suspect that Les Dawson used to have the same subjects under consideration when he did his sketches for the television. My favourite story of Mrs Amor concerned a visit to town with my mother: when walking up Union Street, Kath sneezed suddenly and her dentures flew from her mouth and landed in one of the numerous heaps of horse manure common in the streets in those days. Faced with a choice between such weighty considerations of hygiene and vanity, Kath opted for the vanity and replaced the dentures.' 

Here's a photo of Vale Street back in September. You can just see the house that now bears a Banksy at the end of the road on the right, in the centre of the photo. 

Monday, 23 November 2020

Having a little Cwtch

A home that's lost its dog - well, it's still a home but there's an emptiness two people can't fill on their own. 

After our Ted died at the beginning of September, it became clear that although we'd be grieving for a long time, we'd feel better if we found another dog sooner rather than later. Not to replace him - a dead dog is like a family member or friend in that respect - but to provide a new focus.

We decided a long time ago that we'd like a rescue collie next time round, and we applied for a few, but dogs are much in demand during this time of Covid-19 and we didn't get anywhere. (We're also too old and too urban for some collie-specific rescues, who like their charges to be rehomed with childless 30-year-olds in possession of several hundred acres at least 25 miles from the nearest A road, and who are happiest belting around fields of a weekend in a competitive sort of way.) (I'm afraid we just do walks in the landscapes of poetry. 😊)  

We also noticed that lots of dogs acquired during the first clockdown are being offered for sale by owners whose jobs have changed or who didn't realise how much work they'd be when they bought them, but they are also being snapped up really quickly. 

Then the Northerner decided he'd rather like A Puppy as although he'd had dogs, he'd never Had A Puppy before. And since neither of us had had a bitch, we started to look for a female border collie puppy, and bloody hell, they're expensive. I paid £140 for Ted twelve years ago,  and now they're between £1,000 and £3,000, frequently with a surcharge for a girl. Even what we used to call mutts but are now Labracockadoodlepoos cost a small fortune.

I'm not sure about those tennis balls ...

We started to resign ourselves to Winter Darkness, Covid-19, Brexit, and No Dog. Then, one Saturday evening, I was scrolling down one of those pets for sale websites, and saw a litter of black and white guinea pigs for sale in Wales. Except on closer inspection they weren't guinea pigs, they were border collie puppies - five bitches and two dogs - and they were only £400 each. Never did I move so quickly. 

A Zoom meeting later, and we had ourselves a little bitch; we just had to wait for her to be old enough to leave her mum. We filled the time by poring over our weekly pupdates and choosing a name for her. Ideally we wanted something to do with poetry, and as she was born in Dylan Thomas country, I thought Polly the Collie Garter would be a good name. But the Northerner then countered with Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, which wouldn't do at all, and in the end we compromised and settled for Cwtch, that beautiful Welsh word that is both noun and verb, a request and a command; and means a cuddle and a snuggle, a little cupboard or nook, and best of all, a safe place in your arms. We also like that there's no exact equivalent in English.

2 weeks old

There was some anxiety during this time. A puppy we could afford, and not too far away (even though the lockdown meant she had to be delivered to us, rather than us going to pick her up).  It did feel too good to be true. Could it be a scam? But no, it turns out the breeder, Scott, is just a decent bloke who loves his dogs. We're so lucky we found him and Cwtch.

Six weeks old

So here she is, galloping around on the longest legs you ever did see, half border collie, half hare. I still feel a bit ashamed we didn't have the fortitude to hold out for a rescue dog - in another, non-Covid year with unlimited travel we might have done - but when she's older, we'll look again for one that's in need of a home, this time with a steady female in the mix. For now, though, that seems some way off ... 

Sunday, 15 November 2020

A local autumn in lockdown

We haven't been out much lately. It's been damp and dreary and dark, and there's no dog chewing our metaphorical ears off about going for a walk. Which is a shame because with the extra lockdown restrictions, there are no golfers hitting small balls at dangerous speed on the golf course, and it's easier to get across on the footpath to the meadow, not to mention wandering around the edges of the course itself - or Fairyland, as we took to calling it during the first lockdown.

Anyway, here's a few recent photos taken during the last six weeks, on the days when we have felt like getting out locally. 

Sunset moving further north all the time, and about to disappear from view in the meadow

Sun reflected in the glass of the Mall at Cribbs Causeway

Charlton Common in October sun

Through the 'tumnal woods

On sunlit uplands. Well, maybe literally, if not metaphorically.

More vapour trails than I've seen in a long time

Autumnal oak

November colour - spindle, wild carrot, clover, hogweed, selfheal, yarrow, blackberries, vetch


The winterbourne living up to its name

The now empty rookery

Looking up the meadow

Another sunset

Re-encountering some of the magnificent ashes and oaks in Fairyland that we first made friends with during the spring lockdown

The smaller pond, much loved by Ted

Sunset now only fully visible from Fairyland ...

... but glimpsed, just, from the meadow ... 

... where suddenly the rooks and jackdaws are back.