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 December 2021

Mind the Gap

The year ended with one last trip to Brighton to drop my post-Covid daughter back home following our Yule festivities. It was another murky day. 

We watched a cormorant dive and surface and then dive again in the Marina, and pottered about on the westernmost end of Ovingdean Beach for a bit. 

I picked up a few tiny bits of sea glass, a couple of the topshells my mother liked, a hagstone and what looks to me like it might be a fossil echinoid of some description, but I'm just guessing really. 

Most of my trips this last year - when I've been able to make them - have been for family reasons, and not always happy ones. I'm hoping there might be jollier visits to Sussex, and that it will be possible to enjoy a few walking and poetry jaunts over the coming twelve months as well.  We'll see. 

Monday, 27 December 2021

Through a fog darkly

Because it's hard to get together, what with geography and Covid and three of us being key workers, we decided we'd travel to Dartmoor to scatter my parents' ashes on the one day we were going to coincide, which was Christmas Day. And in fact, given that almost all of my Christmases have been spent in the company of my parents, it felt fitting to share at least part of the day with them one last time.

I'd imagined a chilly, possibly frosty morning, with shaggy cattle and ponies grazing the scrub and our breath coming out in clouds and hanging on the air. The BBC weather forecast had other ideas, and stubbornly predicted rainy showers and sunny intervals for days in advance, and I decided that would do, being fairly typical of Dartmoor. My main concern was that it would be clear enough to make out the Teign estuary to the east. This was because it was my father who really wanted to be scattered from the main outcrop at Haytor Rocks; my mother had hinted she'd be quite happy in Rose Bed No 2 at Canford Cemetery, but in the absence of a firm decision, the general family feeling was that they should be together. I was hoping I could point her in the direction of Shaldon, where she'd spent long and happy hours knitting in the sun, and tell her to make her way down there, rather than hang about among those grim granite pillars that never really formed part of her inner landscape. 

In the event it was wet, though from 10am it would be sunny and showery, according to the forecast. Taunton came and went in a spray of rain, then Exeter, then Bovey Tracey. Finally, as we climbed past the turning for Parke, it stopped raining, only for fog to descend like a security shutter. You couldn't see as much as a glimpse of the tor, a scant quarter of a mile away, from the top car park. 

We pressed on, keeping to the middle of the wide grass path so we wouldn't go astray. Eventually, the rocks came into view and we made our way towards the easternmost outcrop which, on a clear day, has the best coastal view. 

My father had long expressed a preference to have his ashes scattered from the top; I'd always joked that he shouldn't leave it too long as I wouldn't be capable of climbing it indefinitely. In the event, he lived till he was 95, and the fog dispelled any lingering notion that I might actually attempt to fulfill his wish. Instead we made for a promontory at its foot. 

Someone had tucked a rose into the rocks right where we stopped. I imagine it's a popular place to commit the last of someone close to the elements.

My father went first, per ardua ad astra, as befits an RAF veteran.

For a moment his ashes described a horse hanging on the air, the one we couldn't see for fog.

Then my mother. Unfortunately the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, and she was more likely to end up in Exeter or Crediton than Shaldon. And despite our best efforts not to do a Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski while scattering the ashes of Donny, it was so blustery a dusting of ash did end up on my son's coat. Still, I'm hopeful an atom or two of her will make its way to the seaside. 

And then Son the Younger sprinted up the tor to appease the shade of my father, just in case, while I willed him not to miss his footing in the fog.

On the way back to the car an invisible raven called from an invisible sky. Then it was back through the rain to Bristol and our Christmas dinner and presents and light and warmth and a very happy collie called Cwtch. 

Friday, 24 December 2021

A post-plague mercy dash

 After last Christmas, when most of the family was either self-isolating or unable to travel, I was looking forward to getting together this year in relative safety. Then along came a new variant, and one got sick, two others were informed they'd been in close contact with someone with Covid, and we looked set for a replay. Except the two with Covidy contacts tested negative, and although my daughter in Brighton missed the train she'd booked on 23rd December, she was out of isolation on Christmas Eve, so I drove down to the south coast to pick her up. 

Leaving Bristol at 8am

It's never a hardship to visit Sussex, and because I'd had a long drive and she'd been nowhere for ten days, we had the perfect excuse to spend three-quarters of an hour on the beach before we made the 160-mile trip back. And although it had been cloudy and dull from Chippenham all the way to the outskirts of Brighton, we had blue skies and enough sun to colour the waves and pick out every pebble on the beach. 


Patent leather mermaids' purses are on point this year

Hagstones, a cross-section of flint and a pebble clearly intended for Jennifer 

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Walking into Winter

During the last month the colours of autumn have all but ebbed in the edgelands of North Bristol, and winter's green-greys and silvers are starting to come to the fore. 

In our favourite meadow, we've watched the hollowing oak lose the last of its leaves. 

The rookery is now bare too, of leaves if not birds ... 

... and you can really appreciate the monstrous spikes on the blackthorn bushes islanding the footpath.

We've also started walking out beyond Fishpool Hill, on the fields adjoining the part of the Brabazon development that's under construction. 

There are some fine old trees out there too ...

... oaks, mainly ... 

... but also field maples ...

... and ash trees, including some really quite ancient ones.

There's little to be seen of the development itself so far, apart from a few houses at Catbrain, freshly shifted earth over by Cribbs Causeway, fencing and keep out signs. 

Horrible to think all this will soon be under tarmac.

As if she knows her time on these fields is limited, Cwtch the Collie has been having a great time exploring (and chasing the crows who like to tease her by flying always just out of reach). 

Can't fault the little dog's ambition

A walk with Penka

‘I am the spirit of dark and lonely water: ready to trap the unwary, the show-off, the foolish dog ... '

There have also been more changes up on Golf Course Lane, following the felling of trees last month. As suspected, the lane has been widened, and concrete put down to make a new entrance into the car park. A section of the golf course has also been fenced off, we think to make a new pitch and putt course.

Nevertheless, there've still been some moments that have felt quite wild, even between the cranes and diggers, like these ravens that filled us with delight. And were far too high even for a collie to consider chasing.