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.

Sunday, 21 November 2021

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

It's beginning to feel a lot like end times

We didn't take a lot of photos in the field and the wood and the common last autumn, because for most of it we were dogless, and therefore had less reason to go there, and even when we did get Cwtch, almost a year ago, she had no intention of going outside, thank you very much, unless it was dry and positively balmy, which it wasn't often. 

Happily she's a bit less fussy these days, and it's good, finally, to see how the hollowing oak looks in its autumn glad rags. 

The rookery is looking magnificent too. Empty at midday, it fills with the squeaking of jackdaws in late afternoon, before the rooks get home.

bramble leaf

hoary ash

through the Small Dark Wood of the Mind

still-life with maple leaf

There's also a few flowers, berries and fungi providing dabs of colour here and there. 

haws on the witchy hawthorn of the fairway

pleated inkcap

Robin's pincushion



some ragged ragwort

wild carrot


blackberry blossom

bindweed berries

golden waxcap

magpie tail feather

Even the poo's colourful. Not sure what this fox has been eating - rose hips, perhaps?

Several trees have been felled on the lane leading to the golf course. We heard a rumour that the top end of the golf course is going to be used for landfill. Maybe the trees have been sacrificed to the need to get bigger vehicles up it than the usual BMWs and Jags. Meanwhile we're wondering what the bats will make of the loss of their shady summer tunnel and whether they'll come back.

Beyond the field and the wood, earth is being moved, and buildings are beginning to rise on the old airfield. 


There's been work going on down in the railway cutting too, maybe getting Charlton Halt ready to receive building materials.

One day we saw a high-vis on the piece of farmland we walk on. A sign of things to come, perhaps. 

Our walks out on the land earmarked for development have started to feel a bit ritualistic, like beating the bounds before they disappear. I hope some of the big old trees and hedgerows survive the upheaval, even if they have to adjust to completely different surroundings.

The farm is Elm Farm on Fishpool Hill. I've been squinting at an online map of the new suburb, and it looks like the house will remain. Not so the barn. 

The road comes to an abrupt halt at the boundary of what was the airfield, now the construction site. It's a reminder of how this area has seen brutal change before, in 1948, when the village of Charlton was razed to extend the runway. I suppose I could try to frame this in a way that it feels comforting, but it would be entirely specious. 

The original part of Charlton Common won't be built on, but rather than remain in its impenetrable state, it will be opened up with grass pathways, which will be nice for walkers like us, though I can't help wondering what the cost will be to its wildlife that up until now has been completely undisturbed. 

As befits the melancholy season, in the field there was a sighting of another ghost bird, thanks to the vagaries of my camera ...

... and signs of a rabbit come to a sorry end. 

The last time we were there Cwtch sat down in one of the fields beyond the Common and refused to budge. She had a bit of a worried expression on her face, so we went over to where she was and found the skeleton of a roe deer. 

We love our occasional sightings of deer, so it felt very sad, though there was comfort in seeing that it had provided sustenance for some of the other animals that call these edgelands home. 

To end on a more cheerful note, there have been happier encounters for Cwtch too, like the one with Ronnie, whose mother was a runaway miniature poodle/West Highland white terrier and whose father was ... clearly much larger. A German Shepherd? An Irish Wolfhound? We'll never know.

Then there's the local foxes. Or rather their musk. Poor Cwtch, she never learns. 

Friday, 5 November 2021

All Hallows and the stories we tell ourselves

There's always a few jobs to do after a funeral. On Tuesday I went to the cemetery and crematorium to move my mother's funeral flowers to my grandmother's grave. 

Can't say I'm fond of formal flower arrangements myself, but the cross was right for my mother, and I liked the colours and the personal significance of the Michaelmas daisies. 

My grandmother's grave had some Herb Robert growing on it, which I'm fond of and would have left growing, but I know my aunts aren't and wouldn't have, so I did a spot of weeding and put my hand on something spiky. It turned out to be a tiny holly bush that had probably self-seeded from a Christmas wreath, so I took it home and planted it up. It felt like a gift from my grandmother, thirty years after her death, and I hope it will eventually grow big enough to produce berries - if it's female - and attract blackbirds and thrushes.

I also had to catch up on other jobs that had gone undone over the previous month, like an oil change for my car. On the way back from the garage, I walked over Horfield Common, which was looking beautiful in November sun. 


I always look to the skyline for the familiar landmarks, and there they are: to the left of the pair of trees, Freezing Hill (which I still haven't visited); to the right, Kelston Roundhill (which I have).

I spent a little time wandering through the churchyard of Holy Trinity with St Edmund (Horfield Parish Church), and I realised that it must have been years since I'd walked right around it, as there was a beautiful monument I hadn't acquainted myself with before, even though it's been there long enough to have acquired a smattering of lichen and moss. 

Jenny Nicholson was murdered on 7th July 2005 in the London bombings. She was 24. The inscriptions are a quotation from Sonnet 116, and another from Charlotte Bronte: 'I am no bird and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will'. 

In between these jobs, I drove my daughter back to her home on the south coast. As it happened, St Wulfran's Church at nearby Ovingdean had popped up in my social media feed that morning, so we diverted for a quick picnic in the sunshine. 

The village was the birthplace of Charles Eamer Kempe, the Victorian designer and friend of William Morris, who was closely involved in its 'restoration' in the 1860s. It was at this time that he designed the painted ceiling.

The reredos was also designed in the late 19th century.

Most of my photos of Kempe's windows, which were donated to the Church before his death in 1907, didn't come out too well; here's a few that were OK. 

We wandered around outside for a bit looking for the Kempe family vault but failed to spot it. I found a very early primrose growing on an unmarked grave, however ... 

... and an instruction to badgers with opposable thumbs.

In an extension of the churchyard there was a view of the sea ...

... and another memorial to a life that ended abruptly amid much publicity. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about the stories we tell ourselves to give shape to our lives and those of the people closest to us, but how hard must it be to find that shape if someone you love dies when their lives were just starting?