Advent Blog Day 18: Failure, Or Is It?

Okay, I didn’t manage it. Did not publish 25 Advent blogs between 20th and 25th December, as I suggested I would, but I have three things to say in mitigation. 

Warning: this post is devoid of arithmetic and logic. Its results cannot be relied upon.

Firstly the target was wrong. As discussed around the Christmas Dinner table when I was lucky enough to be with my ‘family bubble’ this Christmas Day, Advent calendars generally have only have 24 days. So, there is should not be and will not be an Advent blog day 25.

Secondly, life got in the way and that’s a good thing. 

Thirdly, I am not defeated yet. I have given this blog the Advent Day Number 18 of the (exceptionally-belated) series. Though I have now run miles past the day we all call Christmas, every day is an advent to something new.

I realise none of this makes sense but just imagine I’m a politician attempting to fool you with lies, not to believe the evidence of your own eyes, and allow me to get away with it, as they invariably do due to our complacency. 

Thank you in advance for agreeing to do that. This political chicanery is easier than I first thought! 

Oh, and given the records of our most recent Prime Ministers to mislead and destroy the country, I leave you with my poetic reminder of one of the most efficient our country has ever known. This poem appears in the December (Thatcher) Issue of The Angry Manifesto, edited by Matt Duggan and Des Mannay.

Irony Lady

 Once upon a time in Britain
 the very idea of a woman doing the job 
 would have drawn derision

 Now I am neither misogynist nor Nostradamus sir
 but all those years ago when the doorstep canvasser 
 presumed - We can surely depend upon your support 
 We are the party for the upwardly mobile you sir -
 I do not know what made me say - 
 Not with That Woman in charge, she’ll lead us to war -
 but I did
 The canvasser shook his head, smiled and said -
 The old enemies have gone, with whom should we pick a fight? -
 but she did

 You can call it a Conflict if you like - a killing by any other name 
 still stinks of blood
 She really made us travel for that battle 
 Bent and broke the rules to make it happen
 Argie-bargie, mano a mano?
 Ask the ghosts of the Belgrano?

 The greatest PM of the century? 
 I think not.
 Performing minor miracles?
 The miners would disagree -
 though she did black-magic all sorts of unexpected 
 from her blue handbag 
 Not just war in time of peace
 Investors caught on bullish horns 
 Disappearing roofs in property booms
 The loss of everything in pursuit of gain 
 Division of brothers on an industrial scale 
 Dominatrix seeks reward for sadomasochistic pain

 No to milk and education 
 should have signalled things to fear
 Weeks after a friend’s assassination 
 mention of that friend felt insincere
 amid a wild-eyed selective rendition 
 of part of Saint Francis’ prayer

 All these before are symptoms of an incurable condition - 
 Maggielomania or the delusion that you are a female God - 
 which made her go further than any male politician 
 to prove she was at least as flawed

Advent Blog Day 4: August Dream

Unbelievably, it has happened again.

In my original notes for 4th December 2020 (intended for my belated Advent Blog) I began by mentioning that it was the birthday of one of my sisters.

Using that as a jumping off point I drafted a poem which started off with a nonsense name for my sister which had arisen in an exchange of text messages just a few days before when she contacted me on what would have been my late wife’s birthday.

The problem (not really a problem) is that I have looked again at that rough draft poem I started almost six weeks ago, and have decided it has the bare bones of something quite different for me which has the potential to become a good poem.

So, as before, I cannot include it here in case I wish in future to submit it for publication somewhere else.

However, by happy coincidence I have rediscovered yet another piece of CNF prose which was published some years ago on a Scottish Book Trust site. Although the month in which the story is based is some distance from the Advent Season, it is a story which has now become a winter meditation for me.

August Dream

One stormy night in August 2015 I awoke from dreaming and felt compelled to write down immediately an account of the vivid nocturnal events I had just experienced; this is a personal record kept secret until now. 

I drove to my best friend’s house at some ungodly hour. I wanted to speak to him but only got the opportunity to speak to his wife, also a dear friend. She was in a bad way, upset even before I opened my mouth, irrational when I tried to converse. Everything I said seemed to annoy her, get her more upset and angry, and the whole thing escalated quite out of control.

Don’t ask me what we discussed during the two minutes that she went from upset to explosive. I honestly can’t remember; nothing of consequence. All I can tell you for sure is how the exchange ended. She was screaming, shaking and in floods of tears as she ordered me out of the house, telling me never to come back. I kept asking what was wrong, if I had done something wrong, but got no answer only screams and tears. Then she handed me a half empty bottle of liquor, Jack Daniels I think, and pushed me outside.

I felt broken. I hadn’t got to speak to my friend. His reliably civilised wife, whom I also treasured, seemed to have given up gentle manners for screaming hate. I was walking away from their house, in the dark and rain, puzzled and desolate, wet and cold, with a half empty liquor bottle in my left hand. I had no idea what had just happened.

I got back to my car. As I checked the rear view mirror I saw a dark silhouette caught against the light of their doorway. An easily recognised silhouette, it was my best friend, a beloved man. I wanted to stay but pride and hurt prevented me. How dare his little wife, supposed to be a friend of mine, eject me unceremoniously from the house he shared with her! Surely he must know something about it. Was he complicit? Getting his wife to do the dirty work? What did he tell her to make her so crazy? As the anger rose in me I put the accelerator to the floor and shot away, the sound of spinning wheels throwing up gravel.

Soon after, aware that I was being followed along the country roads and fairly sure even in the blinding rain by whom, I pulled into the courtyard of a small public house. I got out of the car and rushed to shelter in the canopied doorway of the pub. A familiar vehicle parked behind mine and I was joined under the doorway by my best friend. He did not waste time but got to the apology straight away. No explanation, much slow head shaking and sincere words of regret. I asked why she’d behaved as she did, and he appeared to try to put together some words, but it was just mouthing, mouth motions without any sound, words I could not hear or lip-read.

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I had to be content, and was content with the sincerity of his gaze, the genuine regret expressed not only in his eyes but his whole demeanour. I didn’t know if she was sorry but he was and he seemed to be trying to tell me that she had her reasons, nothing to do with me… 

Then, as I started to wake I experienced again feelings of puzzlement, desolation and growing anger. Next there was a welcome moment of contentment that my friend still cared, still loved me, but this was replaced in an instant by the distressing remembrance and realisation that he and his wife, my two beautiful friends, had both passed away within the last year.

The sadness returned tenfold and I wished I was still asleep.

Advent Blog Day 3: Mark III

And so my disordered and disorderly daily January (including belated Advent Blog) posts continue with what should have been but is not the one I originally drafted for Third December (Advent Day Three). For the same reason that I considered it necessary yesterday to replace the intended Day Two post with Advent Blog Day 2: Caring (something written some time ago) so today I have replaced the intended Day Three post with the following entirely new offering:- 

Mark III

I recently gave a summary of the ups and downs of writing in 2020 and offered thanks to a number of people Advent Blog Day 19: First Annual Thanks (2020) for their practical support of my writing in various ways during 2020. 

Appropriately there was thanks offered therein to The Hedgehog Poetry Press, which happens to be the enterprise of a certain Mark Davidson. Publication of my first Chapbook collection this year will be a significant moment in my development and I shall have Mark to thank for that (Mark I). 

I have also thanked the hard-working and multi-talented Mark McGhee, man of many guises and instigator of many projects including You Call That Radio (which I recommend you catch on YouTube, including past episodes). I am grateful for the exposure I received on this show twice in the last week of December (Mark II).

Now it is my pleasure to thank and introduce you to a third Mark, who assisted me in a couple of very important ways in 2020. Mark Mutch O’Hare is Mark III on my journey to raising profile and hopefully helping my work reach a reasonable number of readers.

Mark is a photographer and I have engaged his skill and artistry to produce headshots and ideas for cover art. If you look elsewhere on this site, particularly the Home and About pages you will see examples of his work duly credited to him. But those pages show just three out of many images he produced for me to choose from and, without boring you with the full details of the processes, I have come to recognise that there is a great deal more to his work than pointing a camera or applying a filter. 

The thought of headshots concerned me and with some justification. I generally feel very uncomfortable being photographed, even in a group. I have produced some odd facial expressions in many photos and don’t like looking directly at the camera.

Mark worked his magic, starting with setting up the shoot at a time when he knew the outdoors light would be just right. He managed to make me feel relatively relaxed and got the shots he wanted fairly quickly. He agreed to come back again the following week to repeat the process following my post-Lockdown 1 haircut, for a bit of contrast. The whole process was surprisingly painless and the results exceeded my expectations.

Similarly, Mark turned around the cover artwork very quickly but provided me with a large number of options and versions. I don’t want to say too much about the old photograph from which he was working. That’s something I may say more about if one of these ideas is approved by the publisher. Similarly, I am only going to feature here the raw image sent to the publisher, as it is the most abstract representation and the one I think best fits the title and nature of the work.

Cover art developed by Mark Mutch O’Hare

Advent Blog Day 1: Christmas 2020 – Preview of a Time to Avoid Getting Excited

Although it is just being published now some six weeks late, this tiny post was written on the first day of December, or to be more accurate, the early hours of Second December, as will be understood from the narrative of the little untitled doggerel poem which concludes it.

Photo by Soumil Kumar on

It was one of those days, which rarely occur, when I felt unusually devoid of the need or wish to write anything at all. When I tried to sleep though, there was something on my mind about this final month of 2020.

Little Untitled Doggerel Piece

Tonight I thought I had emptied my brain

Would never know inspiration again.

Proceeded to bed without writing a word

Convinced that I had no thoughts to be heard.

But as my head the pillow met

My brain would not let me settle yet.

This day, I thought, begins the final month

Which used to crack with sounds of snowflake crunch –

Which now tends to shiver under wetness of showers.

Importantly there’s news now to light these dark hours

As we hear of a vaccine that apparently prevents 

The virus, let’s have patience during family events. 

Let’s do without hugs to counter our chills –

Let this year not herald a Christmas that kills.

I’d love to embrace you but the best I can give

Is Look forward to next year and hope we all live.

It may seem premature – this advent just begun – 

But Christmas will be special in 2021

When there will be hugs and kisses aplenty to be shared

And your skin will sting with rashes from my unkempt lockdown beard.


Advent Blog Day 19: First Annual Thanks (2020)

As this is a very new website and I remain in the category of emerging writer, I have not previously had the opportunity to review what has happened in my year of writing. I hesitate to do so in case I fail to credit anyone who has helped or encouraged me in the last twelve months but I’ll just have to take that risk and now hereby apologise in advance to anyone I unintentionally omit to mention.

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The first news I received in January was that I had a winning entry in Hedgehog Poetry Press’ Nicely Folded Paper – Trois Competition. I look forward to the publication of the resultant Art of Insomnia chapbook in the early part of 2021. Thank you Mark Davidson and Hedgehog. Thanks are also due to two women I won’t mention by name at this stage. The first is my late wife, my muse who was my inspiration for many things, including this work. The second is a poet whose work I very much admire and who very recently provided notes on the latest draft; both will be formally acknowledged for posterity in the published work.

Following this early success, things went rather quiet (three rejections) until March when Cheeky Besoms Productions accepted one of my favourite poems for an anthology which was due to be published in 2020 but has been delayed because of the pandemic. It will be published when there can be an in-person launch in 2021. Thank you Ruby McCann, Maria Marchidanu and all others involved with the anthology.

The only other acceptance in March was for radio airplay of an audio recording of a new version of an older poem the apocalyptic dj. It was played on the 2nd April 2020 episode of Express Yourself on the Radio. Thanks to Sunny G Radio and Carla Woodburn.

In April I submitted two poems both of which were accepted for an Anthology of Radical Scottish Poetry published by Culture Matters. The anthology was titled A Kist of Thistles. Thank you Culture Matters and Editor, Jim Aitken.  

Also in April I was emboldened to submit the audio recording of the apocalyptic dj to an American podcast and they used it in their podcast of 23 April 2020. So, thank you Poetry in the Bar hosted by Eaton Rapids Poetry Club, Michigan.

In April, May and June I had lots of rejections but a total of four of my poems relating to the pandemic were accepted and placed in an online journal about Covid-19. Thank you Pendemic.

In May, a short story I had submitted in March, was accepted for publication by New Voices Press for Surfing, the 2020 anthology of the Federation of Writers (Scotland) which was subsequently published in November.  The short story Taste was the first piece of prose fiction I had ever had accepted for publication. Thank you to Federation of Writers (Scotland).

In May I submitted two poems which were both accepted for the Poets Against Trump anthology. It was initially published online in October; thereafter in paper form in November. Thanks are due to Stephanie Lunn.

At the end of June I submitted an entry to a Hedgehog Press pamphlet competition. Though unsuccessful my entry was shortlisted. For that, thank you Hedgehog Press.

In July I submitted a poem for a Black Lives Matter anthology. I was delighted that it was published in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World in November. Thank you Civic Leicester and Ambrose Musiyiwa, Editor.

Also in July four poems were accepted for Words from Battlefield (launched 24 October) and a creative non-fiction piece was accepted for a World War II audio project. Thanks for these successes are due to Dr Linda Jackson, Finn’s Place Publishing and Langside Community Heritage. 

Further, I was asked to provide a reading of one of my poems Carnival, which originally appeared in Poems for Grenfell Tower (The Onslaught Press, 2018), to be included in the Grenfell Soundwalk, a permanent geolocated audio installation. Thanks to Giovanna Iorio, the sound artist commissioned to complete the installation.                

August brought success for an audio-visual reading of the apocalyptic dj for which thanks are due to Lesley Traynor and others at Scottish Writers’ Centre.

In the same month I submitted a poem about Margaret Thatcher which was subsequently accepted for and published in The Angry Manifesto magazine (Thatcher Edition) published December 2020. Thank you, The Angry Manifesto, Matt Duggan and Des Mannay, Editors.

Finally, in the same month, I contributed some words which former Federation Makar Andy Jackson weaved into his patchwork poem for National Poetry Day Theme, ‘Vision’ (video reading released on 1 October 2020). Thanks, Andy Jackson, for your your consistent creative skill in collating disparate poetic voices into these annual works.

Following a complete lack of success in September, in October I submitted, appeared in a shortlist of six, but ultimately was unsuccessful in yet another Hedgehog Poetry Pamphlet competition. Once again, thanks to Hedgehog for shortlisting me with such a talented bunch of poets. 

Undeterred, in November I made a full collection submission to Hedgehog which was also unsuccessful, not even shortlisted.

However, in December I had the great joy of receiving acceptances for a total of eight poems spread over four themed chapbooks with Dreich. Thanks to Jack Caradoc and

I should also say that during this unconventional poetry performance year, in addition to those audio/audio-visual performances previously mentioned I have contributed to a number of Zoom events including Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Dove Tales Scotland and Virtual Dragonflies. Thanks to Anna Saunders, Annie Ellis, Jean Rafferty, Darren J Beaney and Barbara Kirbyshaw, who host and administer these events. 

It’s also been a great encouragement to take part in creative writing classes and workshops. Mentions for Dr Linda Jackson, former FWS Makars Finola Scott and Marjorie Lotfi Gill. And former FWS Scriever Charlie Gracie.

The people I have enjoyed meeting during all events are too many to mention but you all know who you are. 

The year is nearly finished but I still have a submission or two to email. I also have one more live event to look forward to at 5.00pm on Boxing Day. It’s a You Call That Radio event Overheard in the Westend. Thanks to Mark McGhee for inviting me.

I have also been invited to submit audio recordings of some of my poetry to an Eat The Storms podcast to be relayed early in 2021. I’ll be recording those shortly. Thanks Damien B Donnelly for the kind invitation.

Given that this is developing into a longer post than intended, I’ll wind it up now by adding my thanks to anyone who has taken time to read any of my work or the random ramblings which appear in this blog. 

[UPDATE POSTSCRIPT: as this is late publication of a proposed 19th December post I am able to provide this brief update.

As well as having my reading of a poem included as previously indicated in the Poetry in the Bar April podcast, a further two poems read by me were included in the open mic of the 30 December podcast. Thanks again to Poetry in the Bar hosted by Helen and Gav, Eaton Rapids Poetry Club, Michigan.

As well as appearing on the Boxing Day You Call That Radio event when I read five poems, I was invited back to the You Call That Radio Hogmanay Event to read my short story Taste. Thanks again to Mark McGhee – a great way to finish off the year!]

Advent Blog Day 24: Christmas Eve Panic

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Here’s the truth. I have a poor track record in Christmas shopping. 

As far as I can remember the panic of Christmas Eve shopping started when I was an eighteen-years-old student. I never had any money but did have an understanding girlfriend, who later became my even more understanding wife.

During Winter vacation from University I got a job as a Seasonal Postman to earn money to buy gifts, especially for my eternally patient girlfriend. The one snag was that I didn’t get paid until Christmas Eve. When I finished my shift I had to grab a quick snack then start shopping (further details too boring to describe).

The thing is, although I had the same excuse for late Christmas shopping for the next two years, I seem to have continued the bad habit to some extent right up to the present day (many decades later).

At one time, I genuinely believed that Christmas Eve shopping until the stores closed then travelling into the Glasgow Barras for the last few items, was exhilarating. Even this latest Christmas Eve 2020 I had still not learned my lesson and had a few things to buy (details too boring to describe).

It is my intention to make this post my shortest to date on the basis that, if any of you are as disorganised as I am, the last thing you want to be caught doing on Christmas Eve is reading a lengthy document of no consequence.

However, before closing I should take this opportunity to relate that, although I had a most understanding wife who never took me to task about it, my most inexcusable Christmas purchase disorganisation failures were of toys and other gifts for my son when he was young.

As you are all aware there are certain years when very specific toys are the most sought after. And, as I discovered to my cost one year, there is a major disadvantage of being a Christmas Eve shopper. There is a strong prospect that desirable and requested-from-Santa gifts will be sold out.

There is something very dishonest, almost sacrilegious I think, about writing to your child in ornate script a message of apology ‘from Santa’ with an elaborate explanation attempting to soothe disappointment and boost the superiority of the substitute gift. Oh the shame of it!

Having got that confession out of my system, I conclude with my Best Wishes for Christmas.

My next post will attempt to thank those who have helped me make progress in 2020.

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A Last Blast of Politics Before Moving On

It is my intention to move away for a while from my most recent brief dalliance with political poetry, and I shall do so just as soon as I have given oxygen to two relatively recent publications which placed my work, and the two individual poems which fall into that category. 

One poem is certainly political in the narrow sense, dealing as it does with the very divisive former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The other is political in the broader sense of the evil irrationality of racism.

It may be argued quite reasonably that you can’t avoid some element of politics in writing in the sense that everything affecting people, animals and the planet is broadly influenced by personal politics or the politics of nations. However you will readily identify that the two anthologies I am going to speak of here fall more obviously into political categorisation.

In November 2020, one of my poems was published in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World, edited by Ambrose Musiyiwa. It was a poem with a previous life in cyberspace in respect that it had appeared in 2018 in I am not a silent poet, the online magazine of the late and sadly missed Reuben Woolley. In the Introduction to the anthology Ambrose reports that the call for poems, triggered by George Floyd’s murder, resulted in 500 submissions from more than 300 writers from around the world. In those circumstances I feel honoured that my piece is one of the 107 poems (from 95 poets) which found a home in this substantial volume. It contains many poets whose names are familiar to me and whose work I admire.

In December 2020 The Angry Manifesto’s Thatcher Issue, edited by Matt Duggan and Des Mannay, heralded the return of a literary magazine which previously produced seven issues in the years 2017-18. Its stated aim is to ‘focus on politics and issues that count’. My poem in this issue was written many years ago but had never been submitted to any publication due to its very specific topic. I was surprised when The Angry Manifesto made a call for poems about Margaret Thatcher, and delighted they placed my work alongside other poets I admire including Harry Gallagher and DJ Beaney, whose debut pamphlet Honeydew (a collection of twenty-one love poems) was released by The Hedgehog Poetry Press on 14 December 2020. 

I shall reproduce both of my poems as a conclusion to this post, and thereafter look forward to our next meeting, probably somewhere within the quite different politics of life, love and death. 

I’ll mention here that I had composed, or partly written, a number of posts which were intended to appear during the dates 1-24 December as a kind of Advent Blog. A few did appear, most did not (life, eh?). Between now and the end of January I shall post daily and include the Advent Blogposts which did not appear, so do not be surprised by their strange out-of-time titles. What is time after all but a human construct?

Thereafter, from February 2021, I shall confine my randomness to just one Blogpost per week.

Regarding the two poems which follow, the Thatcher piece from The Angry Manifesto’s Thatcher Issue, which ends this post is self-explanatory, certainly for any reader who was alive during her premiership.

But the first poem, published in Black Lives Matter – Poems for a New World, certainly requires reference to the two footnotes in the book, as follows :-

It is recorded that, in 1946, Albert Einstein stood in front of students at Lincoln University, the oldest historically black college in the United States, and during a commencement speech declared, “There is separation of coloured people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of coloured people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.” 

Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, was excavated in 1903 at Gough’s Cave in the Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England. The remains date from the Mesolithic period (circa 7100 BC). DNA analysis indicates that he was a typical member of the Western European population of the time. Although he had light coloured eyes his hair was dark brown or black and his skin was dark or black. 

Species of Reply/Einstein Wasn’t Wrong

To witness the wordspill I could hardly wait. 

Would he accept that Denial’s Not Appropriate?

And for a moment he acknowledges the reality

seeming to experience nanoseconds of clarity

confirming a partial apparent acceptance

of solid scientific evidence that the

first modern Briton was black, black. 

But then makes sure his interpretation 

of the incontrovertible revelation pleases

those affected by jingoistic diseases

(finding these words)

I belong here, this is twenty eighteen 

Nothing to fear from a Mesolithic fossil 

(Nothing against him but nothing in common) 

Struggling a bit with the DNA findings though, 

Cheddar Man sounds more light than dark to me

However, for the sake of discussion let’s say

this minor blip occurred way back, back 

in a time so distant 

that it’s almost irrelevant

Luckily during ten thousand years

of British history this glitch was erased

from our proud ancestry

but if it had not

(he concludes)

a nightmarish tragedy  

which doesn’t bear thinking about    

Imagine me and my people, still proudly 

patriotic but dark of colour, having to yell at 

paler people (nothing against them but nothing

in common) that they should go back, back 

to where they came from, to where they 

belong, not upon this sceptred isle,

this green and pleasant land

Irony Lady

Once upon a time in Britain

the very idea of a woman doing the job 

would have drawn derision

Now I am neither misogynist nor Nostradamus sir

but all those years ago when the doorstep canvasser 

presumed – We can surely depend upon your support 

We are the party for the upwardly mobile you sir –

I do not know what made me say – 

Not with That Woman in charge, she’ll lead us to war –

but I did

The canvasser shook his head, smiled and said –

The old enemies have gone, with whom should we pick a fight? –

but she did

You can call it a Conflict if you like – a killing by any other name 

still stinks of blood

She really made us travel for that battle 

Bent and broke the rules to make it happen

Argie-bargie, mano a mano?

Ask the ghosts of the Belgrano?

The greatest PM of the century? 

I think not.

Performing minor miracles?

The miners would disagree –

though she did black-magic all sorts of unexpected 

from her blue handbag 

Not just war in time of peace

Investors caught on bullish horns 

Disappearing roofs in property booms

The loss of everything in pursuit of gain 

Division of brothers on an industrial scale 

Dominatrix seeks reward for sadomasochistic pain

No to milk and education 

should have signalled things to fear

Weeks after a friend’s assassination 

mention of that friend felt insincere

amid a wild-eyed selective rendition 

of part of Saint Francis’ prayer

All these before are symptoms of an incurable condition – 

Maggielomania or the delusion that you are a female God – 

which made her go further than any male politician 

to prove she was at least as flawed

Donald J. Trump: My Part in his Downfall (update)

I have been inspired to update my previous blog Donald J Trump: My Part in his Downfall by three events.

Firstly, there has been an actual update in relation to the Poets Against Trump anthology which took two of my poems, both of which were reproduced in my previous blog Donald J Trump: My Part in his Downfall.

I previously advised that the anthology was online only and provided you with this link to access it.

Since November, however, it has been available as a rather glossy paper publication. If you are interested in getting your own copy you would have to order it through Amazon (£11.99)

As you can see from the photographs included here it is a colourful and bright coffee table type volume. As there weren’t sufficient funds to provide contributor copies I had to put my hand in my pocket to get my own but I don’t regret it. The illustrations by Billy Nomad, which appear throughout the book, reward the purchase and I’m told any profit made will be donated to an animal charity. 

rear cover

The second inspiration for this update arose from the continuing dispute of the election outcome by the defeated Trump, exemplified by the revelatory recording of an hour-long telephone call he made to the Georgia secretary of state a few days ago, which confirmed the gangster-ish techniques to which he was prepared to stoop in his efforts to hold onto power following his defeat in the most secure election in American history. 

However, before I got round to putting pen to paper, his refusal to accept defeat was on 6th January 2021 taken to another, even more drastic, level. Like me, you will have watched incredulously the coverage on all media of the Storming of the Capitol. This was my third and final inspiration to compose this blog post.

I am shocked, yet in another way not shocked, by this escalation and consider it appropriate to do three things in response.

Firstly, to remind you that the Poets Against Trump anthology can be referenced or downloaded as a PDF at no cost using the link in the third paragraph of this post.

Secondly, to publicise the paper version of the anthology, and how to get it (paragraph 4 above).

Thirdly, and finally, to go one step beyond that and publish below the poem I withdrew from publication in the anthology. By all means take a look at the two poems which I allowed to be included which might be regarded as somewhat subtler, especially in comparison to those by the other poets who contributed.

Then, if so inclined, feast your eyes on the somewhat rougher and more controversial piece below which was originally accepted for publication in Poets Against Trump but withdrawn by me, partly because it was slightly crude in its content, partly because I included within it a serious allegation made in other publications that P45 (should that be Pee 45?) was compromised by his behaviour on a visit to Russia some years ago. 

And, if it isn’t obvious already, the reason for my change of heart is this. Whether or not he was compromised as alleged, whether or not he acted at the behest of Putin, he most certainly has assaulted democracy and caused division and chaos in the most powerful country in the western world.

He has certainly done everything he could to render the transition of power to President-elect Biden as problematic as possible, and Putin is sure to be delighted in any case to see the nation so divided.

Accordingly, in my opinion he deserves this low-quality poem from my pen as well as all the other ‘tributes’ to him which appear in Poets Against Trump.

Vladimir’s Latest Purchase (Allegedly)
 I bought a present for myself today
 - the President of the US of A
 He isn’t perfect but he’s lots of fun
 and useful for some things that I need done
 He’ll say whatever I want him to say
 I taught him to call Europe his foe
 and threaten withdrawal from NATO
 He called Kim little rocket man
 and I’ve got him in my pocket. Man,
 he’ll go wherever I want him to go
 How much did he cost? ’you having a laugh!
 Just a compromising photograph,
 an HD video of special sorts
 featuring non-Olympic water sports
 and an item bearing his autograph 

Advent Blog Day 23: Writing – as opposed to writing

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A few years ago I was fortunate enough to stop working for ‘the man’ (a local authority actually) and, amongst other things, was able to renew my on-off affair with writing. I won’t give you too much detail about that affair, which at times was pretty sordid.

Hoping this will be useful to someone reading this I want to select just one negative and one positive from my experience of office work and management, in relation to transitioning to the world of writing, or creativity in general.

So that I can end on a positive, I’ll start with the negative example.

For many years I worked in an office environment and got plenty of practice of formal writing. Written court pleadings, contracts, conveyancing and ultimately ‘house style’ management and Council reports. Pages full of ‘management speak’, persuasive words to articulate and support the wishes of politicians, to explain staff reductions, cost savings, how we may learn with fewer staff to work ‘smarter’ etc., sometimes demonstrating the ability to justify one side or another, depending what employers or clients required. I’m sure you get the picture without me boring you with further explanation.

Having spent so many years doing this, having only gone to a writers’ group for a few months back in the 90s, my brain had got into a non-intuitive mode where ‘telling’ invariably overtook ‘showing’. As a result, when I did become free to write whatever I wanted, I found it difficult to do so in an attractive creative way. I reckon it took me three to four years to re-train my brain and start writing anything that was worthy of submitting for publication.

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Now the good news!

While the creative area of the brain had to be muscle-trained to write more attractively, the complex problem-solving part was well-developed over the years. I learned that there was such an area of the brain through my experience at work. As I got more responsibility the technical problems I faced increased exponentially. I sometimes found myself spending many hours on an issue, exploring it from every angle, but failing to find a solution until I put the file away for a few days and focused on something else. Then, unexpectedly, a resolution of the insoluble problem would start to form in my mind. 

Although unexpected, this was not in any sense ‘out of the blue’. The three necessary elements were: (1) the work that I had done analysing the problem in detail; (2) the area of the brain which I now know to be called the prefrontal cortex which works even when we are not consciously thinking about our problem; and (3) the anterior cingulate cortex which assesses potential solutions and determines whether they are successful.

And guess what! I have found this works for me with creative writing. Some of you may not associate creative writing, especially poetry which is my main interest, with solving complex problems but others of you will understand immediately. For example, having an idea of what you want to say but having to find an effective and original approach which will land a punch or touch gently or please intellectually or artistically – or ideally do more than one of these things – is a challenge if you wish to remain true to your art. 

Sometimes you may feel exhausted to the point of giving up on what you are writing (or indeed completing whatever type of artistic work is yours). If you have worked hard, tried and re-tried, but still apparently failed, it may be that you do have to give up, but only for a little while. 

If the work does have a potential successful outcome there is a very good chance it will come to you when you are doing something else. I base that view partly on my own experience (in creative writing, as well as formal writing) but also on the functionality of these areas of the human brain, as described above.

All I can say is – try it for yourself and I wish you great success!

Advent Day 22: Obstacles

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Broken Washing Machine, Late Receipt of Christmas Card Order, An Unexpected Visit, Winter Warmer. 

These are not new poem titles but four actual happenings which I could claim prevented me from writing a blog today. Obstacles. Excuses, if you will.

Over time I have learned that apparent obstacles are often about whether your attitude or inclination is positive or negative. Are they something you stare at with despair accepting them as signals you should turn back? Or are these things over which you find a way to climb, things you try to overcome, with the possibility of bringing a smile of achievement to your face?

On a short post such as this there is no time nor any desire on my part to make a detailed analysis of how to deal with obstacles, so I’ll just use these four issues of an everyday nature to illustrate the point in a straightforward way. 

Each of these situations by itself would operate as a distraction which I could blame for a failure to post my blog. The fact that four did in fact occur on the same day would, in some views, absolve me entirely and give me a free pass.

To convince you of the time-consuming potential of the four setbacks, I’ll provide a bit more detail.

Situation 1. On the last two occasions I washed a load of laundry, the spin cycle did not work and I was left with a wet load for the tumble dryer. I do have a maintenance agreement but, before booking a repair, you must follow certain troubleshooting steps to check whether the washing machine can be fixed by the owner before calling out an engineer. This is particularly important because there is a strain on technician resources at present and a repair booking may not be available at an early date. I started to foresee the Festive Season as a probable laundry pile-up period

Situation 2. This year I decided to order 40 Christmas cards directly from a charity I support, and sent an order and cheque to the Freepost address of the supplier on 21 November. The cards finally arrived yesterday afternoon, a full calendar month later, just as I was going out shopping.

Situation 3. In the early part of today I had many other routine things to attend to and when I got those out of the way, I had decided to have a shower before tackling Situations 1 and 2. Just then the door bell sounded. Thinking it was just a parcel delivery, I went to the front door in my Covid leisure wear (Pullover and PJ bottoms). To my embarrassment it was an unexpected visitor with a Christmas gift. She asked if she’d got me out of bed. I had to ask her to wait for a moment outside of the house because Covid rules meant I could not ask her in. I quickly got changed, tidied myself up a little then joined her outside for a chat. Given her generosity it was incumbent on me to give her my time which I was more than happy to do.

Situation 4. I had booked a Zoom ticket for a special Cheltenham Poetry Festival Zoom Event called Winter Warmer with a number of poetry and musical contributions, and John Hegley as the Featured Poet.

Situation 3, as you will have noted, sorted itself out at the expense of a bit of embarrassment and some time. Having a proper chat and catch-up was the right thing to do and we both enjoyed it, but it did eat into the time available to accomplish the other matters.

You’re probably thinking I should have given the Zoom Event a miss to take the pressure off but I decided that would only happen as a last resort.

Instead I just focused and took the proverbial bulls by the horns, telling myself to relax and everything would work out fine.

Situation 1 resolved itself fairly quickly. It did not take long to find that the necessary repair to my washing machine could not be done except by a trained engineer. I went through the booking system and arranged the repair for Christmas Eve.

Situation 2 was more time-consuming. I just had to knuckle down and write out the Christmas Cards as efficiently as I could, take some to the Post Office and deliver a few locally, getting back home just five minutes before the Zoom Event was due to start. 

Situation 4. I joined the Zoom Poetry Event on time but with the video off so that I could complete a few other tasks and get changed into an Elf costume (don’t ask!) before being seen.

So all the situations were dealt with, the perceived obstacles were overcome. I felt happy and satisfied at the end of it all. 

I offered myself no excuses, and ended up enjoying all of the experiences which had felt like obstacles.

That is also why I’m writing this post very late!