Monthly Archives: May 2017

Now is the time

Blog 29th May 2017

My Writing Life

One week has passed since the attacks in Manchester and the horror is still sinking in as each day there is more detail. I have been feeling too numb to write and hoping to do something for the writing group on Wednesday.

Here the flag is flying at half mast on our Town Hall. Yesterday I heard there were young people from one of our local high schools present at the concert. They all survived unhurt but are traumatised by what they saw as they made their escape from the arena.

In the days immediately following the bombing there were messages from all over the world offering shared grief and expressions of compassion and solidarity. The most immediate and powerful of these came from our neighbours in Europe, many of whom have experienced recent terror attacks and could voice their understanding of what we are going through as a country.

Of all of these messages the image that stays with me is of the newly elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron. He walked from the Elysee Palace a few hundred yards along the street to the Faubourg St Honore to the British Embassy. The television pictures showed him walking along the pavement with the Prime Minister and two security guards. The image was of a man walking along a street in his own city to visit a friend how had received bad news.  It managed to be at the same time simple, touching and statesmanlike.

Images like this bring us back inevitably to the big question. Why, in our time of trouble are we leaving our closest and best friends, leaving the European Union,  walking away in pursuit of a misguided sense of identity and of independence both of which we have already?

Surely after the catastrophic and tragic events of last Monday we should think again. As a country we could do worse than take a leaf out of Manchester’s book.  All week report after report has been about w Manchester is coming together, standing strong against the backlash of Islamophobia, against our real enemies who seek to destroy our civilisation, our belief in democracy, our way of life.

Our European neighbours, and among them those who come here to be members of our families and to live and work with us, are not our enemies. They share our values and our aspirations for a liberal and free society.

Now is the time when we are up against it, challenged by the evil of extremism and fanaticism. Now is surely then the time for us to come together, and now is not the not the time to walk away.

My Reading Week

I am currently reading Helen Dunmore’s latest novel, Birdcage Walk. I have found the story moves slowly, but I do enjoy the way she writes an historical novel in contemporary idiom. The end is pleasingly surprising and dramatic!

Hare in the Headlights

 Lots coming up

Most importantly I am helping Alan rice to organise Elizabeth Burns: legacies on the 23rd June her in Lancaster at the Gregson Centre. It will be an opportunity to hear some of Elizabeth’s poems, .to see the film of A potter, a Painter and a Poet her collaborative venture with artist Ann Gilchrist and potter Paul Tebble  and was the last work  she undertook before her death on 2015, and to hear tributes form poets and writers here in Lancaster who have been inspired by her and had the privilege of working with her in  workshops and groups.

Also gearing up to give a workshop in Ambleside early in July as well as writing on …



The Untold Story of Yesterday

Poets, and all writers, should always be concerned with what is said and what is left unsaid. So when we watch or listen to the news we are always looking for what is not reported for what is left out of the headlines. It is not so much the fake news as the unreported that gives the bias of the media source away.

With a general election in the offing, and I can’t ignore it, sorry, I am a political creature, I find myself thinking about what I know has happened and has not been told. My duty as a writer and poet is to tell the untold stories, so here is one from yesterday, and I don’t mean long go, I mean yesterday, Saturday 13th April 2017.

The radio the TV and newspapers and the internet were busy reporting the endless and very boring and predictable exchange of personal insults between politicians that now passes for campaigning, (Yes we know you don’t like him Teresa, so what?) and the ransom ware cyber attack and the Eurovision song contest.

While here where I live something much more important, and in some ways more significant, was happening. Having been a teacher for the best part of forty years I remain passionate about education. So I joined a gathering of some 900 people in outside the Town Hall to protest against the education cuts proposed by the current Tory government which will take place if they win the election.

With the proposed cuts to funding per pupil our town stands to lose across its 16 schools an estimated 92 teachers. That’s 92 redundancies of hardworking professional people, 92 families directly affected, 92 mortgages compromised, 92 times 3 to 4 years of training and Heaven knows how many years of experience, dedication and expertise. It means bigger classes and less attention for individual learners. It means hundreds of children suffering from a loss of quality of education. And why? Nowhere on the all-knowing internet can I find an answer, except that it is part of the current government programme of cuts to public services. It is just ‘the cuts.’ Yet nowhere can I find our march reported, although it will probably get a page in the local paper out on Thursday.

The following questions arise; are the squabbles of politicians and success or failure of singing contests of more relevance and importance to our future that the compromising of our future itself and that of our children? There were lots of children at the protest who will be here when I and all the big names in politics are long gone, and what kind of a world will they inhabit if we take away from them the chance of a decent education?

So let’s put personalities and media distortions and lies to one side and look at real policies that will shape our lives and those of our children. Let’s behave like educated and intelligent human beings. Let’s make a sensible and informed choice. Let’s write the story of the future with imagination, compassion and foresight and not with prejudice and gullibility and fear. Let’s stand up and tell the stories that matter loud and clear.

Reading Week

Oh dear! nothing too hefty tome-ish to report. I read detective stories a lot, especially when I have insomnia …nuff said!

Hare in the headlights

Last Wednesday I attended the launch at UCLAN of the catalogue of the exhibition ‘A Potter, a Painter and a Poet.’ There is a long story attached to this which I will tell my next blog. Suffice it to say for now that I am helping to organise  an event here in Lancaster to celebrate the legacy of the poet, Elizabeth Burns, who died in August 2015.

More on this very soon