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Once Parliament was in recess – both Houses

of Hypocrisy on their long summer hols –

in the basement of an office block near

King’s Cross (where you catch the Hogwarts Express)

one Saturday morning in July,

three journalists, watched by two technicians

from GCHQ, spent three hours to save

the Government’s face, and The Guardian’s,

by destroying hard drives with drills and grinders,

circuit boards whose data – from the exiled

whistleblower Edward Snowden – was

replicated throughout the Americas.



The summer LA hosted the Olympics –

the year the UK miner’s strike began,

and comrades became enemies, and things sure

fell irredeemably apart – we went

on a four day tour of mostly ancient Greece:

Corinth Canal; the amphitheatre

at Epidaurus; Nafplio’s converted

mosque; the Lion Gate at Mycenae;

Olympia’s temples; Delphi’s omphalos.


Swallows had made their mud nests in the eaves

of the three concrete hotels we stayed at,

the birds’ tender flights twittering omens

for travellers who were,



From the west front of this Restoration house –

built a century before the demand

for coal brought, in hearing of the brocaded

drawing room, the daily clank and hiss

of the pit head winding gear and the pumps

keeping the seams dry, and, in direct

line of sight of the spacious steps, the slagheap’s

incremental growth on land previously

considered worthless so not purchased –

was a view, across the shallow valley

and extensive pasture land, of benign hills.



for Ashen Venema


Walking back to the house from the composter

one late afternoon in early autumn

I looked up, and stopped. There was a roseate,

mackerel sky moving from North East Wales

over the Cheshire Plain towards the Pennines,

and drifting above me. Whatever weather

it presaged, it was ordinarily

lovely, a mundane epiphany.


At the kitchen door I turned and there

was a raven on the paving where I had been,



The front page of Brexit Day’s Forgers’ Gazette

was a photo of the White Cliffs of Dover

with ‘A NEW DAWN FOR BRITAIN’ superimposed

on the blue sky above  – and the sun, by chance,

highlighting the erosion of the chalk,

ephemeral and flaky as metaphor.




After the war, when things were in short supply,

and we had drawing, occasionally,

I drew a layered landscape with wax crayons:

blue sky with bird and cloud,



On one of the corners of St Stephen’s square

is a café, the California

Coffee Company, with cheery slogans,

in English, extolling the benefits

of the bean. A window seat gives a view,

across the square, of the west entrance

to the basilica of Szent Istvan,

its portico embossed in gold with

‘Ego Sum Veritas et Vita’.


Our backs to the basilica we walk

down Zyrini Street towards the Danube,

Buda rising high on its western slopes.



There is a young woman with a wooden hoop

almost as big as herself – and a small dog

not much bigger than her head – who performs

circus tricks, where Terez Boulevard meets

Andrassy Avenue – named for an Empress

and a Count before old Europe fell apart.

As the three lanes idle at red and the dog

waits on the kerb the girl and the hoop

become an astrolabe, a gyroscope

within the interstices of traffic lights.

When she stills and bows to the varied windscreens

the dog leaps to her shoulder and together –



With her new camera, a  Christmas present,

and with the intuitive surety,

at not quite nine, of how to make a picture,

she makes a sunlit panorama of Pest

from the Fisherman’s Bastion in Buda –

a Magyar edifice of walls and towers

built in the nineteen hundreds to celebrate

the permanence of the Habsburg Empire.

In a wall’s shadow she shows me the screen,

and what she has angled by chance. I note

the parliament building, the Great Synagogue,



Formerly Buda’s town hall, courthouse, prison

and school, newly refurbished throughout

and re-named The House of Wisdom, it is now

bookshop, café, bistro, conference centre

and an esoteric museum –

in an eclectic city of museums

ranging from Marzipan through to Murder.

The refurbishment finally repaired

all the damage done by stray Red Army

artillery shells, and uncovered stonework –

exhibited behind glass now – not seen

since the Ottoman Empire ruled Hungary.


Eschewing the conundrum of hailing a cab –



On a snowy January Saturday

we were delayed for six hours or so

at Ferenc Liszt airport, Budapest.

Except for the purchase of a Pick sausage

and a small box of Gerbeaud chocolates

in Heinemann Travel Value/Duty Free

we spent our time in the Leroy Bistro

with its international fast food cuisine

from nigiri sushi to Wiener Schnitzel.


From my seat in the bistro I could see

continually an advert, a fifteen

by forty feet video with,