Category Archives: Words

A little piece of inspiration

Hollywood blockbusters aside, Prometheus was a Greek god, a Titan of forethought, and helper of mankind – he angered Zeus by stealing fire from Mount Olympus for the use of humans. He suffered a terrible punishment for the theft, and Pandora and her dreaded box were unleashed on the world of mortals to teach us a lesson…

To disobey in order to take action is the byword of all creative spirits. The history of human progress amounts to a series of Promethean acts. But autonomy is also attained in the daily workings of individual lives by means of many small Promethean disobediences, at once clever, well thought out, and patiently pursued, so subtle at times as to avoid punishment entirely. All that remains in such a case is an equivocal, diluted form of guilt. I would say that there is good reason to study the dynamics of disobedience, the spark behind all knowledge.

Gaston Bachelard, Fragments of a Poetics of Fire

What is your Promethean act for today?

I have to say that mine, at least the warm-up, is borrowing this great shot from zippythesimshead, at this Flickr photostream

A quote from Umberto Eco

There are non-material forces, which cannot be measured precisely, but which nonetheless carry weight.

Is the force that material goods exert over us material?

When death materialises, what was it before?

What is a word once you have read it?

Is a thought material?


Capoeira on the Pier

It’s a long sunny afternoon on our Pier
All one mile and a third of it
Although one woman sounds disappointed
On the outward leg
To hear
It’s not further
Into the Thames Delta
Where the bleached boardwalk
Opens out like a piazza
For fishermen
And the Lifeboats
Where there’s enough room to twirl
With your arms outstretched
Until you were dizzy and had to lie
On the silvered planks
Amongst the No Smoking signs
And look at the sky


You don’t
Because your kids
Would hate you

So you walk in bursts of fast
And idle
Stuck between walkers:
Behind the woman
With one, squeaking, shoe
And you just know
That she’s somebody’s mother
Right there, halfway out to
Knob Creek
& The Shivering Sands
because if she were not,
He would
Tell her.

And you don’t
Because your kids
Would hate you

The whirling
Swirling dancers,
Scissor snapping
Legs in the air
Wearing white
Dancing Afro-Brazilian beats
‘Til we clap and sway
Wanting to join


But we don’t
Because our kids
Would hate us

The dreadlock MC
Takes the mike
Singing Reggae-on-Sea
And, we, nearly can’t help ourselves
Joining in
Under our


And now the kids
Really hate you
And want to leave

But now I am all
‘Get up
Stand up
Stand up
For your rights
Get up
Stand up
Don’t give up the fight’
And I don’t.
Until I do
When they complain
They are hungry
or cold
And it’s true
The east wind is whipping
Up the estuary

And now the kids
Really hate you
And want to leave

We pile on the train
As the man with an empty pushchair
Plants his feet astride
The longest pier in the world
And Orthodox Jewish girls,
Who have it all ahead of them,
Arrive at the pierhead
On foot
In sensible skirts

Without any kids
To hate them

Our carriage
Is full of drummers
But we see the guitar playing
In the next,
Wondering where the trumpet’s gone.
And all we know
As the train rumbles away
Is the sound of the drums:
And the beat goes on
The baby smiles.

As yet
Too young
To hate them


Spring is Sprung

That earlier post about pitch put me in a linguistic glitch.

Do drips drip and drops drop? Or drips drop and drops drip?

It all sounds wrong and looks funny on the page after a very short time indeed. Anyway Spring does indeed spring, but today, on the evening dog walk, I found evidence that it has also sprung. I am not convinced the sunny days and freezing nights are particularly conducive to tree blossom, but nature is giving it a good old go like the old broad she is, with blowsy, fuzzy leaf buds busting out all over.

This my eldest daughter’s favourite tree in the park. It’s quite nice that she has one.

The dog had the wind up his tail on the walk, spring has got him sprung too, although he did mention it was a bit parky to go naked (I had forgotten to put his coat on). A little girl in her pushchair asked her mum as we wended homeward, ‘Why has that doggie got so much legs?’ I am too deaf to have heard the answer, but had some mild amusement to think of the eight-legged beast on the end of my lead.

Anyway, here’s the evidence that spring has finally sprung from it’s winter irons:
an evening magnolia


magnolia close

Brain as deranged sausage machine (or Chick Corea)

Warning: this post may carry traces of incoherence. Wash your hands when you leave.

When I am under pressure to do one thing, my brain starts doing a million other things.

‘Let’s not focus on that,’ it says. ‘Let’s do this instead. Far more interesting, doncha think?’

I used to call it procrastination, but it’s not really. Or if it is, it is procrastination in a jazz improvisation style. Which means you still produce something, but whether it is good or bad is entirely debatable…

This means I’ve been busy. I’ve been busy doing the things I didn’t mean to do, but which just took me over. It feels like my brain, when it is told to go off and make a nice quiet pork pie (no jelly), suddenly starts throwing out a wild and misshapen string of noisy sausages instead. Jazz? sausages? I did warn you.

So now, instead of a nice neat chapter I’m surrounded by poems, a load of photographs, a big load of catching up with Immanuel Kant (who I barely understand a sentence of, but thanks to Professor Sandel at Harvard, I adore) and the beginnings of a short story.

I quite like the short story. This is the opening passage. I might finish it.

A text.

She’s dying. At the hospital. Switching the m/c off.

We couldn’t understand it at first. It was Sunday. The radio was on, playing something hip-hoppy. Easy Like Sunday Morning? We might all love it (secretly), but you can’t live your life in some throwback cliché, can you? Especially when middle-age shakes you awake in the mirror each morning.

‘Those wrinkles. Grey hairs. Already? But I’m not ready.’

We might be able to keep Lionel’s chin and the Commodores at bay in our house, but texts about death? They will come whether we like it or not. We don’t. It used to be in the post: death, like taxes, or at least a polite knock on the door, or a phone call. Now it’s via text, announcing itself with a dissonant bleep. Or, worse still, Facebook.

Here’s one I made earlier

I always wanted to be a journalist. Recent events have shown me that perhaps I am not entirely cut out for the job anyway: I seem to lack something in the doorstepping department of life.

Still, I was recently happy to help out with this piece on a local music festival for a local arts and culture magazine, Level 4, although my amateurish ways meant I initially submitted an old draft version of the piece and when I went to look on my hard drive my shiny new updated one had not been backed up… cut to teeth gnashing and a tight-lipped rewrite at the last minute.

I’ve clearly got a lot to learn. #1 Back up, back up, back up.

Which reminds me…


Writer’s Block

I don’t think I’ve ever had it, unless you count the years and years and years where I never wrote a thing… Then one night, most unexpectedly, there it was on a notepad in Battersea. Long since lost, thank goodness.

I am aware though, since returning home, of a weight pressing on me; one that numbs the fingers and makes the words shuffle past, all flat-footed and ungainly. I think there are a number of problems. One is, despite it being long enough already, it is too soon. Another is that it is not soon enough. I am caught somewhere in the middle of that tension between extremes. Other reasons: I have been tired, I have not found a voice, I feel uncertain of how to proceed, I am not up to the job.

Still, I have said to myself, none of that can be helped and however you feel about it, or yourself, there is a story demanding to be told and to that end I have begun the slow tap, tap, tap… It feels like I am doing this whilst lying in a sealed lead box with ever-decreasing oxygen supply, but so be it.

That is what this blog post is. The tap, tap, tap from inside the lead box. There is no story, no picture, no insight or uplifting point to be made. There just is. And so on and so on. One hopes.

Stand Back


What to say about this? If I’d spent my whole life standing by this sign, maybe things would have worked out quite differently. On a different note, the word lightning always looks like it’s spelled wrong to me. (Incidentally, I am never sure whether I should say spelt, or spelled, but the former is a type of grain that makes flour, right?).

Lightning strikes and lightening? Well that’s different. Hopefully it’s something like – lightening the load. Does that happen ever, really. How do you keep a lightness of spirit, the thing you take for granted in your early youth, when lightning proves that, yes, it really does strike the same place, at least twice.

Then there’s lightening the palette. Lightening the pastry.

Lightning lightening lightening. It’s a bit like that linguistic tongue twister Buffalo buffalo Buffalo etc. But that’s another story, for which I can’t take a photo.

‘How deep is the dust?’

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon is far better known for the historic words he said when taking his first steps on the lunar landscape.

That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.

Actually, a dispute still rages about whether those words were pre-planned, or off the cuff and whether he said …’one small step for a man..’ or ‘one small step for man…’

To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me. I was born in 1969, a few months after Apollo 11’s moon landing. Once I asked my father, who had hoped for a boy in the way fathers do, what I would have been named if I had been a boy. He said, ‘Neil,’ and then, perhaps seeing my grimace added, ‘or Oscar.’

I had not really made the connection between the proposed name of Neil and the moon landing until seeing a BBC documentary about Neil Armstrong earlier this year. I wonder how many little boys were born in 1969 or 1970 and were named Neil? Plenty, I imagine. It’s a good name and the BBC documentary really gave a flavour of how big the moon landing was. How it gripped the psyche of a nation, of the world. Born, post moon landing the whole thing becomes like, yeah, whatever, man on the moon. Or even, man on the moon? No way, big conspiracy, I mean, what cast those shadows man? Back then in 1969 it was taken for an amazing feat of space exploration.

The quote from the title of this post is taken from a conversation Neil Armstrong had with his younger brother before the Apollo 11 moon mission. ‘How deep is the dust?’ was Neil Armstrong’s primary concern. As it turns out, I am not named Neil and I will never go to the moon, but every time I start working with a new group of people, exploring what goes on in people’s brains I get anxious. It’s because its entering the orbit of another’s thoughts, it’s the unknown and yes, I wonder, how deep is the dust…

Not too deep as it turned out

There is no ‘them’ – just an us

I have observed a worrying rising trend lately, which is people giving voice to opinions they might have previously kept to themselves. And, along with the opinion, comes the finger: the pointing finger. It is making my work, which includes not only promoting equality and diversity, but challenging those that discriminate, feel quite hardcore. On the other hand if people talk, we can create an understanding. This post is me talking.

A lot of the discrimination I come across is unthinking. Some of it is learned. Some of it comes from a well-meaning but frustrated place if you dig deep enough, but the ready and unabashed voicing of the harsh views is new. It is as if some half-formed opinions, fears even, have come bubbling up in the current climate. I know why too. It’s not just because it is harder out there. For many people it has never been easy. It is because the government have created a climate of them ‘the scroungers’ and us ‘the strivers’. Or perhaps it is them ‘the strivers’ and us ‘the scroungers’. It really is that arbitrary.

Whichever category you might put yourself in, the words themselves are ones that classify society and cause divisiveness. They become self-fulfilling prophecies. Remember Margaret Thatcher’s, ‘There is no such thing as Society’ statement. With that sentence she removed the handbrake on the rampant desire of the consumerist self. Forget, ‘Love thy neighbour’ it became all about keeping up with them instead. Now in their new incarnation of Not the Nasty Party Conservatives the Chancellor, Gideon Osborne, who coined the term ‘scrounger’ is a ‘striver’ presumably in his head anyway. Compare his life of money and privilege to be being born into a home where there is no money, no hope, no aspiration. Who is he to judge another so harshly, I wonder, even if he does have a deficit to balance.

In this language of them and us the Nastier than Ever party have created a climate where everyone finds someone to look down on, point the finger and blame. It is a dangerous route for humanity to go down. It is a hop, skip and a jump from blame to hate I am afraid. And hate gets us nowhere. Us. Whatever constructs and obstacles humanity may put in its own path to disprove the fact, there is only an us. Yes we are a diverse bunch, with different languages and cultures but however we try to classify and label one another, whether it is through race, or religion, or class, or if don’t open our curtains and watch daytime television, the fact remains that we are still one.

If you don’t believe me. Watch this. It is a profound and thought-provoking labour of love. It starts the conversation. It mixes up the labels and doesn’t so much open the conversation as blast it into your cosmic consciousness. You do have one – right?

From the Radio Times, Storyville: The House I Live In