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.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

About Black Beauty and Boxer

I got my car twelve years ago, the week my then husband departed for pastures blonder. I'd passed my driving test 20-odd years earlier, just after we'd got married, but I hadn't driven since and in the intervening years, I lost all confidence that I was any good at anything. I couldn't even look at it parked outside my house for the first few weeks. 

Then I got my dog, Ted, and used him as an excuse to go out driving to new places for long walks. I learnt how to be single and a dog owner and a driver all at the same time. I soon realised I was quite a novelty in the poetry community ... a poet who doesn't need a lift. It meant I could make up for all the lifts I'd been given by kind-hearted drivers over the years, even if they weren't the same people. What goes round comes round. 

We all aged ... Ted, the car and me, but they did it at a faster rate than I did. Ted died last September, and now it's time for me to get a newer car.  

I was at work when they came to take my silver Astra away. I'm glad I wasn't there to see it loaded onto the tow truck. If anyone had told me twelve years ago that I'd grow to love driving, I'd have thought them mad, but as long as I don't have to reverse, I do enjoy it. And I loved my old car, one of the last links with my old dog (being full of his dog hair and sand from his paws), and would have kept it longer if I didn't have to make long journeys to see my mother and my daughter. 

It's with a guilty pang that I realise I didn't take many photos of it on my journeys. It wasn't picturesque, unlike Dru's Moggy which is often in the background or even a focal point of compositions. This photo was taken in Deerhurst on the banks of the River Severn solely because the Morris Traveller next to it wasn't Dru's. (And is even more not Dru's now she's driving a red Micra.)

I also feel guilty that when I was prompted to take a photo of it, it was usually because something ignominious was happening. This was at South Mimms services back in 2015. Son the Elder and I never did get to Suffolk for our long weekend. 

This is one of the last photos: in the background of a picture taken at Mud Dock car park when Cwtch took us for a walk down there a couple of weeks back. Easy to see because it was so empty. 

My new car was registered in Bangor and seems to have spent time in Wilmslow, Cheshire and Westbury, Wilts, until I spotted it for sale in a dealership in Newport. For some reason I have a habit of likening the life stories of inanimate objects to the plot of 'Black Beauty' and in the case of this car, Bangor was Farmer Grey's farm where Beauty was born,Wilmslow was probably Squire Gordon's Birtwick Park, where Black Beauty was so happy, and Westbury stands in for Earlshall Park, where Beauty is a carriage horse until a drunken Reuben Smith causes him to fall and scar his knees, whereupon he is sold on. Although my new car doesn't have scarred knees, I can't help feeling it's come down in the world a bit. I'm probably kindly Jerry Barker, the cab driver. 

As for my old car, I'm trying not to think of poor Boxer at the end of 'Animal Farm', but it's hard not to. A better way is to think of it being recycled, as we all are in the end, I suppose. 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

The Moon and Larks Ascending

We needed a change of scene - in as much as that's allowed - so popped across town to Ashton Court this afternoon, and actually managed to get stuck in traffic for ten minutes on Redland Hill. Just like the good old days. 

It was so lovely to hear several larks - my first of 2021 - as soon as we exited the car in the top car park. They probably weren't quite as pleased to see Cwtch cavorting over their nesting site, but it can't be helped, dogs will be dogs. 

The light was stormy and sunny and spectacular, as has so often been the case this month, and it was lovely to encounter William Blake in one of the copses.

The moon was rising with the larks, the sun was just starting to sink ... 

... and I loved revisiting some of the old oaks and ash trees, which are just beginning to show signs of leafing ...

... apart from this one. Though there was the faintest of rainbows on the horizon. 

Cwtch was so pleased to be there she danced a gavotte, and soon we can take her a little further afield. Can't wait. 

Friday, 19 March 2021

Stormy skies and sunsets and tadpoles

Only a week till the golfers return, so we've been walking mostly over the golf course, making the most of the magnificent old trees, whose company we'll miss when they're out of bounds again. 

Oh noooo, don't go! 

We did, however, go for a walk elsewhere, namely Splatts Abbey Wood, which is over the back of the local Asda and handy when you're doing a shop (though probably best not to buy ice cream if you're going there afterwards). Splatts Abbey Wood is a Place of My Childhood - more about that here

First, though, incredibly fiery shoots from the pollarded trees on the far side of the A4174 ... 

...which remind me of Sylvia Plath's poem, 'Elm': 

'I have suffered the strocity of sunsets.
Scorched to the root
My redfilaments burn and stand, a hand of wires.'

And who lives in a house like this? 

Even Splatts Abbey Wood, tiny and tucked away between the MOD complex and the Hewlett Packard campus, appears to have been visited rather more heavily than usual during lockdown, as the ground was pretty trampled. It will come into its own in a few weeks, when the bluebells come out, but for now there are the surprisingly tall trees to admire and a feeling of space that belies its dimensions. 

Up on the golf course, the weather's been mostly springlike, with lots of signs that winter is nearly over.

Willow coming into leaf

Pussy willow

Hawthorn coming into leaf



White dog violets

Early flowering cherry

The weather often plays a part in the enjoyment we get from our walks. The skies are endlessly changing, and one day we were up there with the sun breaking through heavy cloud. I don't think I've ever seen such curious, gorgeous light.

Other days it's been stormy and sunny at the same time ... 

... and there's also been a few days of mackerel cloud, which is one of my favourite sorts. 

The award for the birds most in evidence (visually) are the green woodpeckers, which have made several (fleeting) appearances, not that I've managed to take a single photo of them, the buggers. The award for the birds most in evidence (aurally) goes to the rooks and jackdaws, who are most vociferous on the subject of nests and where in the rookery to build them - although rather than interspecies punch-ups, they seem to fall out between themselves. 

Also, goldfinches. A charm of goldfinches in the lane. 

Also, a noticing of trees ... 

Poplar bark, embroidered and draped like fabric


Catching a patch of blue sky

... and the views from various parts of the ridge. Every time we look, I see more and more that is familiar but that I didn't spot sooner. 

Two former family homes and a photobombing ... jay? 

The new Severn bridge

The old Severn bridge

And sunsets! Even though currently we have to miss Pointless to see them.

And sunsets in the hollowing oak in the meadow. With a following wind, a whole spring-, summer- and autumn-ful to come.