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Whether the same crow as last year has returned

or this is a different crow with the same habits

is as much a metaphysical issue

as a zoological one – whichever

is the case the sequence of events

in the Great Lockdown is being repeated.

Early morning the crow flies in, and places

a piece of bread in the bird bath – where blackbirds

have bathed, and robins sipped; flies off; returns

in hours, and snacks on the marinated bread;

flies off;



A long section of the grassy bank beside

the ornamental lake is roped-off –

a pair of Canada Geese is nesting,

the first in the history of the Park

with its long-serving Coots and Mallards.

We sit on a bench and contemplate the geese –

almost as big as Mute Swans; adept

colonisers, considered still, after

three hundred years, non-native; this chance pair

perhaps blown off course between raucous lagoons.


We are distracted by raised voices

from the opposite bank –


OTHER PEOPLE’S FLOWERS: Three Poems by Alan Horne

I read once – perhaps it was a quotation from José Saramago – that the writer’s life is the detritus left behind by the work. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it sounds better than any autobiographical introduction I can think up. I worked years ago in a steelworks, have a very longstanding interest in psychoanalysis and – perhaps it’s a reaction to all those clinics – now spend a lot of time outside. Here are three short poems which bear on these matters. Thanks to David for the chance to put them before you. At age 14 I found that we had a new English teacher called Mr Selzer,



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.