19 December 2010


How peaceful can coexistence be?
Chilling the blush of the rose
Drawing faint heat from its cheeks
The crystalline coldness melts
Unique designs are lost.

This trinity is miracle enough 
Beetle, Bud, Ice.

What god would intervene?
This the majestic cruel purpose?

Snowing again
I trudge across our street
To visit the rosebud
How has its fairness fared through the icy night?

Half hidden now, bowed, bearing its 
     wintry yoke
Yet blushing still –  
And there
A sign of industry – geometry 
A gossamer glint
A single thread
Taut at a logical angle.

And yes the tiny spider, black
Nestles in the jewelled white and waits.


Walking on; dark tyre tracks on the
     further road
Traffic cautious, labouring.

     He Missed The Bus

As usual (or as often as not) turning the corner
I look across the Green – snow white today – to see
Yes, the 328, my bus
Lumbering to the stop
A sprinter might catch it
Or on a good day
A dash and a hop and I would
But this morning …
It’ll do me good, the exercise – cardiovascular
The plane trees, noble, oh spectacular!
Smoky in swirls of snow
Tower, stand, as I go
Crunching, slipping
Smiling at strangers in
Our common plight
Traversing this world of white.
Missing the bus has been a habit.
I’m good at making a virtue of it.

13 December 2010


Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.

     (A. E. Housman's translation of Horace Odes 4.7)


As a boy in Bradford, I lived just 100 yards down the street to the left. I seem to remember the trams kept running in the great snow of 1947. I delighted in walking to school on the top of the piles of snow formed by the road clearance and remember making something like an igloo on the road outside our house and having a ledge for a candle inside it.

Researching the pages of a 1959 copy of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus at the British Library Newspaper Library in Colindale today, I spotted a letter of support for the snow shovelers who had obviously been vilified in the readers’ views column. It ran: ‘Try turning up at 7 a.m. with a cup of tea and a slice of dripping and bread inside you and holes in your socks and shoes that take water … and £1.13.6 (about £1.60 today) at the end of the day for your trouble.’

I suppose a wool warehouseman like my father – the lowest-paid wool workers – would get, at most, £7 a week then. A modern tiled fireplace was being advertised in the same paper for £8.17.6; I suppose the instalment would be at least a pound extra.

These additional ping-pong balls will remind us of what is yet to come!



06 December 2010


    Each a good egg or an empty shell
    What can these portraits silently tell
    Something of culture or civilization
    These wafer-thin waifs sans fertilization?

    Storm in an eggcup – Lear and his clown –
    One's kept his Motley, one's lost his crown.
    There's drama revealed in all faces and shells
    That's what this Breakfast double act tells.


These eggshell self-portraits of Lear and the Fool were inspired by images of the Clown Egg Collection, which a friend recently sent me. The collection, which records every clown's make-up on an eggshell, is owned by Clowns International and is on display in the Clowns Museum at Wookey Hole Caves near Wells in Somerset. These fragile artefacts are portraits in miniature of famous clowns.