Review: Feverfew by Anna Saunders (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2021)

That Feverfew, the sixth and latest poetry collection from Anna Saunders, is laced with quality – at times luxury – is easily evidenced. What is more difficult to explain, though ironically it may be inherent in its stylish packaging, is the exquisite economy and value to be found in this publication. 

In large part this may be attributable to the presence of forty one poems within a physical book-space of proportions which seem incapable of holding such an amount of treasure. Yet there is nothing cramped or cheap about its presentation. I guess the publisher Indigo Dreams must be due credit for the practical side of this, the design and typesetting, as indeed must the poet for composing poems which fit so well to the page.

Of greater importance, however, is the discovery that this collection has a literary and sensory quality which (like the divine accused characterised in one of the collected poems, The Prosecution Builds up a Case Against Jupiter) takes various forms. Some clues may be found in the cold and hot of the striking cover design; the proof is found in the assured crafting of words found within the covers.

Mythical references inhabit a number of the poems. Some of the named characters and creatures from Greek and Roman mythology will be familiar to non-scholarly readers, some not. Where I was unsure about the myths associated with a featured character I found it intriguing to read the poem first of all without research and enjoy it for its sounds and feel and discernible purpose; enjoy it purely as a poem. The nature of the myth would sometimes be revealed in a general way by this exercise, subsequent googling being largely confirmatory. In other cases, discovering the mythological root was an essential key.

In all those referring to myth the poet’s skill and imagination re-works the ancient to make it relevant to the modern reader, and to the contemporary message the poem is meant to convey.

As well as those which reference mythology there are works here which use the characteristics of wild creatures to tell the stories of humans, those which feature the nakedness of humans themselves, and those which feature spirits who have thrown off the flesh which formerly clothed them.

It is important to point out that, while this is a collection with serious intent making full use of grown-up literary techniques and devices, it possesses humanity, occasionally shows vulnerability and employs humour too (often in the guise of satire and/or the entertaining titles of certain poems). 

Whether your mood calls out for reflections of love, lust, loss or consideration of abuse of power and animalistic instincts, there is something here for you. I have found the collection pleasing, rewarding, surprising and affecting to read and re-read.

Given the space I permit myself for Blog reviews there is not room to give examples of the many poems in Feverfew that touch or tickle my intellect, anima or shadow. So, as a discipline I have decided to look briefly at just four, hopefully providing a soupçon of the flavours of the collection.

What I Learnt from the Owl, the first poem in Feverfew, has something of Emily Dickinson in it. Its unflinching true depiction of an owl as bird of prey sets the reader up for some of the cold reality-checking which will emerge in subsequent poems and is also the perfect appetiser for the collection’s second poem – the first one I wish to discuss here – Time after Time the Same Bird is Born from the Flame.

In this piece, the phoenix of Greek mythology is transformed for the modern world. No longer is it the positive motif, eagerly adopted over time to represent renewal and in due course Christian resurrection. Anna Saunders’ phoenix is viewed as an unwelcome regeneration. The opening lines tell us that:-

Here it comes, … /a feathered doppelgänger of the last,/ an identical gold-eyed genesis/scattering a surplus of silver plate from his claws.

He is introduced as a privileged creature, a royal bird which feasts on incense, whereas we pick at seeds and stringy meat.

The ‘we’, presumably the ordinary folk, wonder How did he earn the spokes of sun that ascend from his head…?

We ache for change, yet each creature that rules the court/is a rooster’s brother with jaundiced eyes.

Not even death will bring an end to this.

It quickly becomes clear that this poem, which on its surface references the exotic re-generating bird of myth, in its gut speaks of inequality and the apparent impossibility of bringing about necessary change in the cycle, the system.

How wrong we are to think that fire/can cauterise corruption, it continues. That could hardly be more plainly expressed, especially when followed by the line which gives the poem its title, Time after time the same bird is born from the flame.

A number of Ms Saunders’ poems deal with love and relationships, some tinged with eroticism, others with various difficult aspects and issues; each one is worth the reading and imbibing. For my second arbitrary choice I have selected one of the less obvious depictions of a controlling relationship, I come back as a Horse.

Ostensibly, it features a horse (probably a gentle mare) considering how it is treated by its human master and begins with what appears to be a sad acceptance that true freedom is no longer an option: –

My owner leads me in from the cold. /His heating makes my flanks steam, my breath plume and cloud. He shouts/as my skittering hooves crescent mark his shiny floor.

Next, we discover the extent of the horse’s value to the owner: –

He has pictures of the races all over his wall/strained mares taking jumps/ or being brushed down savagely/until their rumps blaze like precious stones. The mares, it seems, are there to win trophies, or be trophies, and the next stanza tells us of further restrictions of liberty –

We have to wear our harnesses all night./It is compulsory and our necks burn.

The narrator horse speaks disparagingly of humans choosing inappropriate names. I am not mine, she says unhappy with her naming, before going on to describe in a similarly sanguine voice the more shocking truth of what happens to horses who do not match expectations: –

A young one never came back. If your legs buckle,/if your back is too weak, there’s a bullet for you.

The implication of controlling threat (and a point where a familiar association may be drawn with hair-pulling abuse and assault) continues in the next two lines –

I love my mane, even when he winds it round his hand/to make a boxing glove.

Finally, following a statement of preference for the freedom of the fresh air, the poem concludes with the subtle but poignant –

Once, a child passed me, said I had kind eyes,/felt pity for me.

The third poem I wish to feature, Floundering, is one of exceptional tenderness, and admirable skill.

In it a poet speaks to her mother, who has recognised the reality that poets do not make money from their art and is offering her poet-daughter money from her purse. But there are other things going on and it is the skill of linking all of these threads and carrying all themes through to the end in a very naturalistic way which shows Ms Saunders’ deftness here.

To explain here the detail of how this is manifest, all its conceits and devices, would in my opinion spoil the pleasure of those I hope will go on to read it hereafter. However, as I must give you something, I’ll give you these two connecting elements as a tease and assure that there is much more taking place in the poet’s mind and in the physical environment surrounding mother and daughter:-

It reminds me of the tulips dad planted/so we’d have colour after he had gone.

This casual observation prompted by the shape of a heron’s head from behind appears early in the poem and is one of the themes echoed in the velvet glove punch of the final stanza, which runs as follows:-

Mum, you have your purse out again,/and that worried frown that dad used to have/when he was looking at the tulip bulbs,/wondering if they would come out in time.

The fourth and final poem I draw to your attention is one which is simultaneous easy and very difficult – So much Blood around my Name. I say easy because it is written in terms which are easy to understand even on first reading, not requiring much interpretation. The subject matter, however – as in many of the collection’s poems – is raw, visceral, uncomfortable, confessional.

There is much blood and guts within Feverfew but what we have here is quite different. This is not the remote blood and guts of mythology or that associated with the regular behaviour of the animal kingdom.

In this poem the first mentions of blood arise in a specific recollection, written in past tense, of a blood commitment symbolised by a fresh tattoo of the narrator’s name on her former lover’s arm (How deeply I’d been etched into your skin,/you bloomed blood.), a commitment which ended (…we needled each other,/until I left). The second reference to blood is in the present tense and comes with consideration of implied guilt which some would wish to place beside her name. It also echoes skilfully the blood which formed around her name at the time of the fresh tattoo :-

Years later I hear about your death.

He couldn’t go on without you. I am told.

I imagine your pale limbs under the earth. Those four letters extinguished by the dark.

So much blood around my name.’


These are the links: to find out more about Anna Saunders and her published work ; and to order a copy of Feverfew (£9.50 + P&P)


Review: HONEY DEW by Darren J Beaney (from Hedgehog Poetry Press, December 2020)

Can love ever be perfect? Can poetry about love be perfect? Can two people living together for a long time be perfect?

In my humble view, those are time-wasting questions because answers to them are virtually impossible.

It would be more useful I suggest to dip into the approach adopted by Darren J Beaney in his debut pamphlet for Hedgehog Poetry Press, HONEY DEW; in a series of twenty one poems he sets out, in a sometimes self-deprecating way, to find ways (some of them very original) to encapsulate in words the various stages of a continuing love relationship without which he feels his life had been, and would be, pointless. That realisation is hinted at elsewhere but disclosed in plain sight in the eighth poem in the book, 32 to the power of 22.

This debut is infused with sincerity as much as it is with originality and vivid Punk-style colour. It is also very relatable.

The opening poem, though it carries the title LET YOUR HEART DANCE, moves with a deliberate lack of steady rhythm, chucks in an occasional internal rhyme – but don’t expect that to happen in a predictable fashion – and employing these devices captures the awkwardness of unexpected love-at-first-sight during a first dance. The designed chaos only reaches an end in the poem’s sublime conclusion:-

As we gasped/ without resting and kissed without breathing and fell without landing.

This is followed by the title poem HONEY DEW, a short but vivid expression of the sweetness of new love :-

A smile/ … that tempted with low hanging kisses/ ripe and ecstatic

The reason for the poem’s brevity appears to be summed up in the final two words – ‘tongue tied’.

The theme of combined shyness and disbelief at the suddenness of what is happening reappears in the reference to his belly hosting ‘a soulful band of butterflies‘ in the third poem, PLAYING BANJO ON BRIGHTON BEACH.

By poem five, LETS START SOMETHING WE WON’T WANT TO FINISH, there’s an admirable statement of ambition reflected in text which combines unconventional with conventional, even old-fashioned, and a little tongue-in-cheek without destroying the sincerity of its intention. For example, Beaney writes: –

Let’s learn to dance – foxtrot, tango/… I’ll …collect/ your falling blushes. When I have them all we will paint/our town, leaving our mark, creating a legend/ bigger than Terry & June.

Let’s take tea at the Ritz. I’ll get dressed up/to the nines with odd socks and no shoes…../You can slurp from your saucer/while I protect you from those uptight stares.

Where Shakespeare would write ‘If music be the food of love…’, Beaney writes and concludes the poem ‘We’ll wake each morning to … an eternal love powered by the energy of three chord guitar riffs’.

In a sometimes uptight world it is good to remember that romance can be fun and rebellious, and Darren Beaney’s writing conveys that in abundance in some of his work.

He is also capable of expressing unabashed praise of continuing love in more lyrical terms while maintaining his personal style, as in YOU AND ME, US TWO:-

Our love is driven by neat engines of persistence/shuddering to the twitch of our touch, firing the luscious/laughter and locomotion of a lifespan together.

I’d happily quote every stanza of this poem in full but will confine myself to the following further few lines as a taster:-

Our relationship simple/as a new Puritan. Sustained without effort, lazy,/ as wonderful as bunches of late May daffodils.

Our passion is as exciting as Caxton’s/very first page, printed with a love song for Cupid. Each day/is Valentine’s Day stuffed into our Christmas stocking.

As I now feel I’m in danger of giving too much of the book away for free, I shall curtail my notes and end this review with a brief reference to the last poem in the pamphlet THE MISSING BIT which, amongst other things, touches on the point I made at the start of the review. (A similar point is made by Beaney in the short poem THIS IS A LOVE SONG which appears a little earlier in the pamphlet.) In THE MISSING BIT, he is again concerned that he cannot sufficiently express all elements of the love he feels in order to be convincing. He writes,

And that is the bit/that is missing

And I want our love to mean/as much as Dr King’s dream/with as much passion/as a catalogue of first kisses

because we are so much more/ than love bites and candlelight

If you are looking for an original but relatable, generally schmaltz-free, story of a love relationship in 21 poems, HONEY DEW is available in various formats from Hedgehog Poetry Press http://hedgehog or from Darren’s own site . Prices direct from Darren are: UK £7.00 (inc. postage), Overseas £11.00 (inc. postage) and e-book £3.00.

Belated (but at last the final) Advent Blog, this one named Day 16: the Eve

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Now that I have reached the end of this jumping-around-irrationally-at-the-wrong-time-of-year-Advent-calendar-of-blogposts, the question can fairly be asked.

Apart from the specific pre-Christmas season sense, what does advent mean?

The answers may be expressed in a range of definitions: a coming into place or view or meaning; arrival (e.g. of an important event). It is derived from the Latin adventus which means coming. And what is coming tomorrow?

Today is the eve of St Valentine’s Day. I’ll mention before continuing a curious factoid of which you may not be aware. Glasgow, my nearest city, is as much the City of Love as Paris; some would argue Glasgow’s credentials are even stronger.

Inside the Church of Blessed John Duns Scotus located in Glasgow’s Gorbals there is a small wooden casket containing the bones of Saint Valentine’s forearm. Apparently some folk have take their intendeds there to propose beside the relics and statue of St Valentine.

So this is the Eve, the eve of the celebration of the most important emotion or gift that any of us possess. Love covers a wide spectrum and comes in many forms but in most people’s minds St Valentine’s Day is about romantic love, so I’ll try to keep this piece fairly focussed within that meaning.

That said, it is a strange one this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. As someone whose youthful romanticism was not impeded by a virus , I feel sorry for the young people caught up in this unnatural situation. I wrote a very short poem on this topic several months ago, which found its way onto the Pendemic Irish online website.

CV-19: sexual distancing 

O what a time to be alive!

To appreciate platonic

Resist relations intimate

By order of the government 

Assisted by technology

To do your loving best

Transactions during this time

Confined to contactless

More recently, I was privileged to be included in one of the Dreich Themes 2021 anthologies Things To Do With Love… just published, £6.00 from . Click ‘LATEST BOOKS HERE’.

This anthology carries three of my short poems on a variety of loving themes but, to maintain a lightness of mood here, I’ll include only this one – the first sonnet I’ve written since leaving school. In Smitten, the poet addresses his heart in the following way:-


Though I cannot your steady pounding hear

I must address you now my beating heart.

Your ways are not the steadiest, I fear –

They blind me to the cunning female art.

All the sophistry that I have written

Does not assist me much in this great task. 

That you are quite so rapidly smitten,

That fact must change – is that too much to ask?

Do not misunderstand – your ways excite

And lead me to experiences rare.

Adventure-seeking is your basic right

And love would not appear without you there.

I am thankful to you, organ, please know

But need you to be more select and slow

As midnight approaches and the celebratory day is nearly here, I’ll wind this post up with just a few brief observations.

For many, food is an important part of the celebration and I am glad to see that, even in these strange times, there are alternatives to eating out (though there is no doubt most alternatives are inferior). Couples are having Valentine’s meals delivered at home, some from very good quality restaurants. Others are buying prepared romantic meals from supermarkets, requiring the minimum of work at home.

I was also pleasantly surprised to note that one small business is specialising in preparing Valentine’s meals for one person. Without bringing down the mood in an Eleanor Rigby ‘All the lonely people’ sense, I think it is reasonable to point out that there are lots of people living alone on this day and there is no reason they should not celebrate.

Love may be current, past, lost, unrequited, or still awaited and there is nothing wrong with being good to yourself from time to time with a special meal.

I shall certainly be celebrating memories of love tomorrow and wish all loving people out there a brilliant Valentine’s Day.

(I add this reminder that, as the mad Advent Calendar is finished, I shall rest the Blog for a week to focus on other work, and thereafter will post only weekly). Huzzah!

Belated Advent Blog Day ‘12A’: Just Your Luck, Mate

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I am now nearing the end of this ludicrous task of 24 days of Blogs in the form of an out-of-time Advent Calendar. With this calendar, when you open the box you don’t get a chocolate, but in its place a random thought or two, this time on the subject of luck, good and bad.

Typical of my random approach, the opening of boxes has moved from the outwards in so that, including today’s there remain just four Blog Day Numbers: 16, 15, 14 and, if you’re superstitious, the unmentionable one.

Now I don’t regard myself as superstitious, but you may conclude that I have proved cowardly in the numbering of this Blog. Though genuinely not triskaidekaphobic, I ask myself what is the point of tempting fate? Not only is the dreaded number due to be applied to today’s blog but I am writing it on the eleventh day of the second month (11 + 2 = ??).

So, no chances will be taken

Like a hotel which avoids having room Thirteen

We won’t say which Advent Blog it is today

And instead of using that cursed number

We’re going to call it Blog Day 12A

On a more serious note, the issue of luck is on my mind.

Currently I am working on a longer poem than the ones I usually write. The initial inspiration arose from a tourist attraction visited during the last few days of holiday I enjoyed, in October 2019 on the island of Ireland.

At the quayside in New Ross, County Wexford there are contrasting but related exhibits side by side, the one relating to the ships which carried those forced to escape famine in mid-19th century Ireland, the other celebrating the visit of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States of America, in 1963. JFK’s great grandfather had made the journey from Wexford to Boston and Kennedy was marking that with his visit.

But this starting point has set me on a journey of research which will take me to many destinations before it is over and it will finally come ashore in modern Britain and America. Although it’ll be a human story, it cannot avoid the impact of British and ultimately American Imperialism and Capitalism, and how certain aspects of good fortune are not down to luck at all but depend on wealth, power, property, access to education and belonging to the acceptable family, race or colour.

On a more positive note, the poem will attempt to balance the cruelty of the negative impacts with a contrasting narrative demonstrating the kind of good fortune we all like to witness. Love, happiness, overcoming obstacles and the other kinds of ‘luck’ which come from hard work, community and kindness.

It is truly amazing how, from viewing a tourist attraction, one’s mind can travel thousands of miles and begin to consider the respective situations of the many very different human characters involved.

Perhaps more to the point, I have set myself a difficult task which will require getting the tone and pace of the poem just right. It must not veer towards the overly didactic, must hold attention, yet have historical accuracy as well as drama. It will have to convey emotion at points but not become sentimental.

Though getting it right may be difficult and I may fail, I shall learn much in the process. They say you learn more from analyses of your failures than your successes.

I consider myself lucky to have had the inspiration and to be alive to do some work on it.

That kind of luck is sometimes where you choose to find it.

Out-of-time Advent Blog Day 9: Bridget/Brigid

Should this dogged determination to complete a task continue so far beyond the long-expired days of Advent, I ask?

And straightaway I give myself an answer in the form of the following post, knowing that when it is published, only seven more are required to represent the missing days 10-16, all others having been recorded in their own haphazard order.

As I have said before, everyday is part of an advent to something. Indeed, sometimes a route to adventure. So these will continue to completion, after which I shall post only once per week in this Blog. 

Before February is over I plan to post one or two reviews of other people’s work, which will take things in a different direction once again. To get in the mood for that you may wish to check out two reviews I have already posted here:- Review: Venus in Pink Marble by Gaynor Kane (published by Hedgehog Poetry Press) and

In the meantime this is a post with a personal feel. As usual I shall keep its content brief and easily readable but have an ambition to build its premise into a larger work of greater depth and research, accompanied by poetry inspired by its subject matter.

The photograph which heads this post is of my paternal grandmother, whose first name was Bridget. I started to think of her a lot as February got under way when I found my Facebook Timeline inundated with references to St. Brigid whose feast day is 1st February. This happened partly because I follow a Proud to be Irish Facebook Account but also because I have a few Facebook friends who have their origins or cultural roots in Ireland.

The Facebook links associated with St Brigid/Bridget took me to poetry, old and current, and I was delighted to find that she was regarded as the patron saint of poetry and creativity. I also noticed that one Facebook friend, the poet Raine Geoghegan, referred to her as goddess, which made me think she must have a pagan origin.

Sure enough, a little further research confirmed that 1st February originally marked Imbolc or Imbolg, a pagan festival associated with Brigid, goddess of fire, inspiration, poetry and crafts and that this was subsequently Christianised. Historically it was a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of Spring, lying midway between winter and spring equinoxes. Originally it was celebrated not only in Ireland but also in Scotland and the Isle of Man.

So what’s all this got to do with my Gran?

Well, it has much to do with the way my mind and heart operate. 

By way of background, for her own reasons Granny stopped using the name Bridget at a fairly young age. When she was confirmed she took the name Cecilia and insisted on being addressed by that name. As a child, I was quite pleased with that, knowing that St Cecilia was regarded as the patron of music and musicians. While I have found no personal talent in that area, as a child I had hopes I might develop in that beloved art.

In any case, I was always romantic about Ireland and it was her husband, my grandfather and namesake, who was Irish. I did not associate Granny with Ireland at all. She, like me, was Scottish.

However, getting all this input about Imbolc/St. Brigid’s day got me thinking. 

I now have Irish citizenship, as indeed my Gran would have been entitled to acquire from her marriage to a Wexford man or because of her family’s origins in Newry.

I have in recent years achieved publication as a poet, and though I have not gained musical skills to deserve the saintly patronage of Cecilia (which was not Granny’s birth name anyway), it seems I have some entitlement to the patronage of Bridget, goddess and saint (and my Gran’s real name) for my literary efforts.

Frankly, I’m pretty chuffed with that and, as well as cherishing fond memories of my Gran, the Bridget in my bloodline, I am hoping an early spring in my creative step for the rest of the month.

(Very Belated) Advent Blog Day 7: Unblocked Plus

Photo by Reynaldo #brigworkz Brigantty on

For reasons which, for the most part, I cannot divulge publicly yet I now feel completely unblocked, and more; you may say Unblocked Plus.

And the final part of this great evacuation took place on a Sunday, when one doesn’t necessarily expect any movement.

I should point out, for anyone who has not yet read my blog posts (Advent (delayed) Blog Day 5: Blockage) and (Advent (belated) Blog Day 6: A Slight Unblocking) I do not refer here to constipation. If you want to understand fully, avail yourself of the explanations provided in the previous blogs.

Similarly, when I refer now to Unblocked Plus, I do not wish you to have in mind the crude and off-putting suggestion of diarrhoea, a nasty and generally unwelcome affliction. On the contrary I refer to an unexpected bonus which I am sure would not have occurred but for the final unblocking.

You may have gathered quite accurately from the previous posts that, with some recent measure of success but still some frustration, I have continued my attempts to deal with apparently inexplicable breakdowns in communication. In particular, I have struggled with the sense of discouragement that such blockages raise in me.

I recognise that this is occasionally quite irrational and often obstructive to creativity. Although, thankfully, I have never (yet) experienced writer’s block, I do become particularly distracted when awaiting outstanding replies, details of outcomes, and responses generally. So distracted in fact that I sometimes cannot get on with new work, wasting time instead checking and re-checking email etc. in an obsessive manner.

I have spoken of the ways I have attempted to retrain my mind to overcome this sort of time-waste, and in my previous post on this topic reported some limited but encouraging success.

Though I cannot go into the details of the significant unblocking which took place on Sunday I want to say something of the ‘plus’ or bonus unexpected happening.

On the creative side, I received an email which explained, in a way that made me ashamed, the very serious reason that one matter had not moved forward as expected. In a separate email hope was offered about how this might be resolved. That got me off to a start that was a mix of reflective and positive. 

Following attention to another matter of personal importance to me, I then took the bull by the horns in relation to a non-creative matter which I knew was going to be time-consuming. It became more time-consuming when telephonic communications were lost for technical reasons, and face-to-face became the only option. I went ahead with some trepidation, double-masked in the current circumstances of pandemic, and did achieve the outcome I desired though it took a large part of the day and early evening to resolve and get home.

Once home, I was hungry and tired, so went ahead to prepare dinner with the intention of settling down in front of the telly for the rest of the night. Though I had wine with dinner, which can make me drowsy when I dine alone, at 10.00pm I made a decision to attempt something I thought would be impossible.

There were a number of deadlines for poetry and other submissions on Sunday 31st and I had submitted nothing whatsoever during January. Contrary to common sense, I chose to put together a submission that involved finding and compiling multiple poems rather than going for a single poem, or a couple of single poem entries which would have been much more do-able.

Having decided it was likely impossible to complete, I approached the task with a mix of urgency and relaxation. If, as seemed likely, I did not compile and send the themed submission by 23.59, that would simply mean I had not done the impossible (as expected).

However, with a minute or two to spare, the submission was delivered electronically. And that is my plus, the unexpected. Even if the submission is not ultimately found acceptable, I can take that rejection knowing that I completed a kind of Mission Impossible, something I did not have the wherewithal to do the previous day.

Having consumed three measures of Malbec

The work may not be up to scratch 

On the other hand one’s best often comes

When one is completely relaxed 

Whatever transpires, and I won’t know for a while, today was a good day!

Advent (delayed) Blog Day 5: Blockage

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Do you ever have one of those days?

It’s when you’re waiting for news, not just about one thing but about a number of things.

You’ve done your job. You sent whatever you had to send. You’ve made an enquiry about something else. You’ve sent a reminder in relation to something where a reply is overdue. 

And if you’re a writer, you’ve probably got outstanding submissions and the day for notifying successful parties, or short-listed writers has arrived. No matter how often you check your inbox there’s nothing there. You become hypnotised by the mantra from email checks every few minutes:

Checking for Mail….

Updated just now

Nothing. Nothing new there, or if there is something new it’s spam or a scam or notification of a regular bill; anything other than what you want to read.

There is nothing you can do about it, other than sending useless reminders or follow-ups which are more likely to have a negative than positive impact upon the health of communication. You might actually draw yourself further away from a successful outcome by aggravating the situation.

What you must do, and I speak from experience here, is do something else. Move forward with something you have the power to move forward. Accept that some days are non-communication or misunderstanding days not just in your little world but in the universe.

On such days, I am convinced, nothing moves forward. Anything exchanged on these days is likely to be misunderstood. I suspect wars or minor skirmishes break out on days like these, perhaps unintentionally on occasion! 

From the point of view of people like me, in my little micro world bubble, there is true irony to be found. By nature I am a procrastinator, always putting decisions off, setting work back, generally sending out ripples of delay all around me. Yet, I am capable of getting very impatient with people I deal with who do not act or respond quickly. Perhaps there is a hint of karma in these days when things I want to happen, simply do not. 

I did not complete a poem about this but, as has become my wont, I wrote down a few lines, while still in bed, which may form the basis for a poem at some time in the future. I’d normally keep such early workings secret but, just to give a hint of the way my mind works, I’ll reproduce my scribblings, with the working title Blockage.

Actually, this will also illustrate a point I meant to make at the outset. Although I regularly experience these days of communication blockage with which I do not deal well, I tend not to suffer writer’s block. Even this type of minor frustration may set in train a thought process with the possibility of a creative product at some later point.

Remember, there is hardly anything which cannot be given a creative outlet.


Can become an obsession, the need for welcome news and progress. 

This morning I stayed two hours extra in bed

much more than my required rest, 

simply because I was so obsessed. 

To rise from pillow I decided to refuse 

until my phone brought me good news. 

However in spite of regular checks, 

nothing extraordinary by email or text 

No call to brighten my childish mind. 

Then I rose and drew the curtains to find 

sunshine streaming through every pane,

good news twinkling on every beam

(Please don’t judge. It’s a bit clunky but just an idea in first draft.)

Post Script: This blog was originally written representing frustration in the period 24/25 January but overnight 25/26 January the communication blockage took an unusual turn, which I cannot go into in detail.

But I’ll reveal this. In a dream I was visited by a person who has passed, who chose to communicate, a message freely given but not initially understood by me. It led me to get in touch with someone I had not contacted for some time, and have reason to believe that some good will come of this.

That’s all I can say for now. Look after yourselves and each other, and try to communicate.

Advent Blog Day 17: Memories of Rabbie Burns

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Don’t know about you, but I’m all set.

I got all the traditional stuff in and have enjoyed a stay-at-home on my own, pandemic-infused Burns Supper, accompanied by Scottish Whisky.

Recollections from my childhood flow.

I haven’t written poetry every day of my life, though it’s an almost daily event these days. At ten years old I only ever wrote poetry in my head, though I loved writing essays at school. I knew very little of Robert Burns at that age but can’t help feeling that the only very short poem I remember writing (in my head) was influenced in some way by him. It’s not Ayrshire Doric but it’s in a Scots vernacular which I certainly didn’t use in my everyday speech.

A wilnae gae oot in the powrin rain
No e’en fur a king’s ransom should ony wee wean
A ken it’s guid fur the floo’ers an’ a shouldnae complain
But a wilnae gae oot in the powrin’ rain

When I was fourteen, I was one of a group of child actors from Glasgow who performed on TV as part of an improvised acting competition, which we won and got the chance to perform another play (live on tv) a couple of months later. One of the other actors, Joe Macdonald, visited me some time later and gave me a tiny book of Burns Poems as a present.

After all these years, it is still intact but very much the worse for wear. It used to have a metal medallion representation of Burns on the cover but that has become detached.

There was always an ambivalent attitude towards Burns as I grew up. People were generally proud to have a National Bard but concerned about promoting to their young people a man with such a lascivious reputation. 

In my childhood days I was certainly transported by the representation of the bard by the fabulous actor, John Cairney.

Many years ago, I wrote a very rough-and-ready tongue-in-cheek poem which at that time attempted to sum up my relationship with the man.

To a Mouse 

 Twa watter-cairtin bairnies we were,
 Baith poet an’ me dark and curly. 
 When ah wis wee ah loved his verses,
 ma faither shocked and pale wi’ worry.

 Wid his son be an Excise mannie,
 Wi’ gypsy soul and long dark lashes?
 Wid his wee laddie chase the lasses 
 An’ bed them in the swirlin’ rashes?

 Or poetry be his son’s undoin’?
 He didnae ken the wiles o’women, 
 The more accepted ways o’wooin’;
 Wid poets’ sangs send women rinnin’?

 Sic lengthy lives await the canny
 Ye first pay dues and then stay restful
 Faither thought o’ what he shid be
 But wis never that successful.

 Each year he prayed on Rabbie’s birthday,
 ‘A poet’s life can be fulfilling,
 Sae fu’ o’ incident and intrigue,
 My son be saved frae that, God willing!’

Before signing off, I’ll make a recommendation that you go to Soundcloud and listen to a fresh rendition of Robert Burns’ love song Red Red Rose by Linda Jaxson. That would be a lovely way to round off tonight’s celebration of Burns!

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 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.