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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.