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The day King George died they cancelled Children’s Hour,

and filled the evening with ‘solemn music’.

The day his son-in-law died Gardeners’ World

was cancelled, and the corporate ether filled

with hacks masquerading as historians,

historians as hacks, confidently

exuding contradictory gossip, viz.

his father-in-law ‘feared him’, ‘loathed him’,

‘really respected,’ ‘admired immensely’.


The Duke was one of the few men or women

remaining who might have thought of the Hapsburgs,

the Hohenzollerns and the Romanovs

as family,



At the very top of the pass a crow is perched

on the car park’s dry stone wall. The bird’s

black magnificence is ruffled by the wind.

With two wing beats, as we approach, it lifts off,

above the narrow road down the escarpment,

into the thermals from the valley.

A market town and pastoral farmlands

are hundreds of dizzying feet below.


This range of towering hills stretches north

from moors of gorse and heather to the coast

with caravan parks and carousels.



Since late February it has barely rained.

The river is low. On the far bank

is an oak, scorched, blackened in last year’s storms.

Some way downstream birdsong seems louder,

the wind’s soughing through the leaves more intense.

Suddenly, between the trees, a wide, white path

of broken stones appears. The river has gone!

Somewhere, in this deceiving landscape,

in this bucolic dingle oceans made,

in this valley of lost industry,

dappled, silvery waters hurry,

like lightning, down limestone swallow holes

into the abundant dark.



Over time the ridge of the white pebbled beach

at Trwyn Du, Black Point, has risen –

rough tides edging smooth stones up and up.

From the landward hollow the breaking waves

are merely murmurings, and the easterly

a susurration. We climb to the top,

ever more circumspectly, with cautious knees.


The shimmering channel – narrow, treacherous –

between the mainland and the lighthouse,

reflects the tower’s shifting black on white.

Every half minute its warning bell tolls.



For Alex Cox


Alice was awake long, long after midnight

on the last day of that last summer

the family spent at the house on the shore.

She watched the moon rise above Penmaenmawr,

and silver the Conwy estuary,

all the way to the tumbled castle

and the walled town. The light lit the warren

in the sand dunes.  She imagined, lost somewhere

in the marram grass, a pocket watch glinting.





OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS: ‘The Point of Vanishing Stability’ John Huddart

I set out believing I was a reader, a collector of books. It was marvellous that the children I taught could write engagingly – and it would certainly stand them in good stead when they became readers too. Years into teaching, struggling with the burdens of so many unread books, I was plucked from the classroom and deposited in the National Writing Project, because I had been snared by word processing.

The Project had several key principles – one was that teachers of writing should be writers too. How can you expect them to, if you don’t? So I started to write,