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January is like navigating

ice floes – then eventually heading east

for aromatic landfalls, or west

following the setting sun, or south

for the long haul like some latter day Cook,

journeying without guides into foreign parts.


The first port of call is in February.

Love fills the sails, the swell lifts the bow.

We met one July, married one August.

In May our daughter will be fifty one.

The bow lifts in the swell, the canvas fills with love.



We had finished the baked camembert

and begun to talk of the future

when we heard a dog fox bark up on the Downs

and went quickly into the garden.

The moon was full, large and low. The imagined,

fabricated constellations glimmered

in the polluted air. The fox was silent

or gone softly over the flints and the chalk

and all we had was the memory

of that wild sound across the long years

of settlement – like the echo of a star.



It was an iron hard January Sunday

before dawn when I left Bala – that one street,

Bible town – for the first time and forever,

a white fiver in the lining of my coat.

I shut up the rented, furnished cottage,

putting the key through the letter box.

I heard it rattle on the slate floor,

and walked down the dark track to the high street

with its single gas lamp. I had my father’s

cardboard suitcase for my clothes, my mother’s

worn music satchel for my poems.



…not Chopin’s Polonaise in A Major

that played on Radio Warsaw as

the Polish Cavalry fought the Panzers

nor the sculpture park in New York State

but a tree-lined business park for IBM

on the edge of Warwick, medieval stronghold

of Earl Richard Neville, the King Maker,

next to the town cemetery discrete

behind a hedgerow of hawthorn and yew,

with the Grand Union Canal nearby

and its Hatton Flight of locks, twenty one in

two miles, opened in 1799

when Chopin was not even a twinkle

and the six nations of the Iroquois –



The ruined, twelfth century limestone chapel

is Grade II Listed and the land owned

by the Welsh Assembly otherwise

it would have been converted into

somebody’s desirable holiday home

with views south through the empty windows

to woods and north down the moor’s sheep-cropped slope

across the sweeping, wind-surfing bay.


Who built the original chapel –

and the small side chapel with a vault

in the sixteenth century – or for what

specific purpose no one now knows.



At once a voice arose among

      The bleak twigs overhead

In a full-hearted evensong

      Of joy illimited…

The Darkling Thrush, Thomas Hardy


I was standing at our front gate at twilight

with the people I love the most – wife,

daughter, granddaughter, each of them by turns

gossiping and bantering the way

some families do – beneath low, stormy clouds

still blush tinged from the westering sun

when we heard goose cries as if from all

compass points,



In the old stone house above the harbour,

however well sealed the windows are

against the rain and the wind, squalls invade

the chimneys and blow in the empty hearths.

The lamp at the end of the quay still shines

despite the waves spilling over the wall

and agitating the tethered lobster creels.


A surge douses the light – but wild clouds part

and a full moon shines on a sea running high.

Abruptly the turbulent clouds close –



From one of the high rise budget hotels

in Portimao we picked up a group

of six challenged men and their two minders.

(Portugal, our tour guide told us later,

was enabling those – institutionalised

since childhood for learning difficulties –

to take vacations, with supervision,

from the drab, echoing, noisome halls).

Two were remarkable: a gaunt fellow

bent permanently double, always moving,

keeping close to the other, a joker

with moustached Arabic looks and frightened eyes.




The owl we heard last night hoots near the road

and a fox barks deep among the oak trees.

Though it is moonless and the sea a sliver

of a different dark, light pollution

from the small resort to the east

means we must find the westernmost wall

to lean against and view the stars tonight.

We see them trembling and marvel, wordless,

so many more than we ever remember.

We forget they are always above us.


‘What is the sky for?’



“Do you know, Grandpa, this book has seventeen

chapters, and I’m on chapter fifteen,

‘The Forbidden Forest’?” “I didn’t,” I say,

“That’s excellent!” and this seven year old,

who has mastered the use of apostrophes,

curls up, like the proverbial worm

on the sofa, and continues to read

‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’.

I am re-reading, in English,  ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’.


In the garden, using extended loppers,

Grandma is cutting choice blooms from a rose

we have had some thirty years,