Wednesday, 26 October 2011


These strange symbols I cannot decipher
They mean nothing to me, nothing to me
From a far-off civilization that cannot speak to me
Cannot speak to me

The richness of their lives does not communicate
Their artifacts and rituals are inanimate
Their myths and their narratives are transparantly opaque
They are no more than squiggles on the page

There are no absolutes, there are no certainties
No phoney supreme being is coming through to me
There are no truths, no fixed moralities
Hieroglyphics are all I see

I had a story to tell
I had something to say
'Write it down' my teacher said
'Add it up' said another
They wouldn't listen to a word I said
It was alive and they killed it dead

These hieroglyphics claim a false authority
These hieroglyphics impose a tyranny
These hieroglyphics create a monopoly
Hieroglyphics are all I see!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


What colour do you choose, my love
From the rainbow in the sky?
Let me know where you stand, my love
Tell me where your heart lies

Will you grasp a strand of red
Stained with blood and death?
Or spin an orange thread
For a fine sunset?

What do you choose, my love
From all the colours in the sky?
Let me know how you feel, my love
Tell me what you decide

Will you pick a yellow ribbon
To tie in your hair?
Will you sew a patch of blue
For a knee threadbare?

What do you choose, my love
From all the colours in the sky?

What colour do you choose, my love
From the rainbow in the sky?
Let me know where you stand, my love
Tell me where your heart lies

Will you weave some indigo cloth
To cut a fine new dress?
Or a violet scarf
To tie around your neck?

I am waiting for your word, my love
As I gaze up at the sky
I've already made a choice, my love
I know where my heart lies

I will pluck a blade of the deepest green
I will cling to life
I will hold it tenderly
Cherish it like a wife

What colour do you choose, my love
From the rainbow in the sky?

Thursday, 6 October 2011


This aeroplane is out of fuel
The instruments are flashing
The pilots, they don't have a clue
How to stop it crashing
The passengers are unaware
The in-flight movie is a distraction
We fall too fast, we'll land too hard
Unless we take some action

The air is cool at this altitude
It is a long way down
Strap on this parachute
And float slowly to the ground

This automobile is out of gas
The engine is complaining
Its battery and tyres are flat
Its systems are all failing
We are so very far from home
I fear we could be stranded
Unless we ditch this pile of chrome
We will be empty-handed

The air is cool at this altitude
It is a long way down
Strap on this parachute
And float slowly to the ground

We have the technologies
We have the tools
But our mythologies
Are blinding us to the truth

Oh, this machine is out of juice
Its screen is slowly fading
Remote control is of no use
Its circuitry is ailing
Does this decline create a space
For our own entertainment
A chance to relocate
Our lost imaginations?

The air is cool at this altitude
It is a long way down
Strap on this parachute
And float slowly to the ground

Sunday, 25 September 2011


it is an autumn evening bathed in sunlight
i am standing in the central reservation
of a busy dual-carriageway
the cars speed by in a blur
i have reached my favourite spot
under a broad horse chestnut
i stoop to conquer
or rather to collect conkers
dropping them into a large bucket
which i have brought along for the purpose
there are so many that i can afford to be choosy
taking only the freshest shiniest largest specimens
many are still encased in their shells
which yield easily under the gentle pressure of my boot
to reveal the ripened treasure hiding within
the browns vary from a warm mahogany to a dark teak
but it seems that the farther i wander
the larger the conkers become
each shell i crunch profers an ever fatter nut
behind me new shells rain down from above with a loud thud
it is as if they cry out
as they are offer themselves to the mad collector
the open-mouthed expressions
of passing motorists and their gawping passengers
seem to reflect my amazement
then suddenly the scene cuts, film-like
and i am watching myself
as if through the eyes of a vicarious motorist
who has pulled in at the roadside
i am spreadeagled across the broad trunk of this fertile horsechestnut
desperately trying to protect her from danger
a group of bedraggled men advances grimly towards me
axes in hands
the tree shudders as an axe rises high in the sky
then all is blackness

Friday, 23 September 2011


Industrialists and environmentalists play the same game
Industrialists lie by pretending there isn't a problem
Environmentalists by pretending the problem can be solved


God does not send us despair in order to kill us
But in order to awaken us to new life


'Where's focking mom?' the nine-year-old boy repeats impatiently
His smooth young face twisted into a nasty snarl
'Stop focking interrupting me!' growls his feckless older brother
Pausing the important conversation he is conducting with a pal
Dressed in a baggy pale grey tracksuit
Leaning back on the saddle of his stunt bike
He is, it seems, oblivious to his sibling's unfortunate profanity

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Stumble forward blindly
Grope in the darkness
Clutch at solid objects
Let go of certainties
Stagger and nearly fall
A sense of disorientation
Noises shotgun and ricochet
False friends call out
Follow instincts
Keep breathing
Dawn will break


Put away the mobile
Power down the laptop
Disconnect the headphones
Switch off the TV

Put aside the Kindle
Disconnect the radio
Interrupt the I-pod
Pause the mp3

Look up at the sky
Find shapes in the clouds
Unravel the mystery

Right here right now
That’s all there is
Right here right now
The magic is

No more barriers and walls
No more obstacles and fences
No more digital dismay
No mechanical malaise

Look up at the stars
And catch the Moon’s gleam
Search for the Milky Way

Right here right now
That’s all there is
Right here right now
The magic is

Breathe a little easier now
Listen to the birds
Taste the briar berry
Tread the solid earth

Right here right now
That’s all there is
Right here right now
The magic is

Right here right now
That's all there ever is

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


To walk among men as a god
To take, to steal and to rob
To wound, to kill or set free
To act with impunity
To deny all responsibility
To don the cloak of invisibility

Monday, 12 September 2011


It is the moment i have been dreading
In fact I've been putting it off for months
The trip to Lifford Lane
The euphemistically named household recycling centre
For the south-western quadrant of the city
What used to be called a rubbish tip
In less pc days of yore
We are here to unburden ourselves
Of two years worth of Tetrapaks
Those dauntingly unrecyclable drinks containers
Cunningly fashioned from paper, plastic and foil
Now we sit in a slow-moving queue of traffic
Which files funereally into this soulless repository
Of human folly and hubris
The cars inch forward one by one to drop off their despised cargo
The funeral director in his high vis jacket
Ushers us solemny into bay three
This is the sad and lonely end of the road
The final resting place
For the intensely-marketed shiny baubles and glittering trinkets
Of the twenty-first century consumer dream
Where death, as always, is the great leveller
Each item equally unwanted and unloved
As we acclimatise our noses wrinkle
At the rancid stench of corpulent black bin bags
Stuffed full of rotting household waste
Now the eyes scan with morbid facination
The rows of bulky TVs and clumsy computer monitors
Abandoned for newer, younger, slimmer models
Next the ears wince then the guts wrench at the sickening crunch
Of crushed metal, shattered plastic and splintered glass
It's all here
The cartons and the cans
The flat batteries and the flourescent tubes
The fat fridges and the flabby freezers
Worst of all, the massive skip behind bay three
Where the dead corpses of electric and electronic appliances
Crush the broken bones of their brothers and sisters
A terrifying hi-tech mountain of PCs and laptops
A tangled mess of cables and plugs
Mangled stereos and hi-fi systems
Brusied video recorders and DVD players
Dented coffee perculators and sandwich makers
Perhaps dead and useless
Or perhaps simply rendered obsolescent by next generation technology
Questions flood the mind
What natural resources were consumed in the manufacture of these goods?
Or should that be bads?
What rare and precious metals do they contain?
What toxins and poisons?
How much pollution was involved in producing them?
Who got ill? What creatures died?
What amount of cash was paid for the stuff?
Where will it go now, this waste mountain?
To a huge hole in the ground
Where it will leach into the groundwater?
To an enormous incinerator
Which will belch more toxins into the atmosphere?
To a giant ghost ship back to China
Where most of it was assembled?
One thing is for sure
It will not just go away
For, as someone once said
There is no 'away'
What was taken in production
Stolen from the Earth
We must ultimately sacrifice
As Gaia takes its revenge
Such is the law of things
Even as the council taxpayer takes the final hit
To foot the bill for the disposal of these disowned discards

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Saturday, 27 August 2011


The myths we really believe in
Are the ones we don’t notice we believe

Thursday, 25 August 2011


Slip road and motorway
Watch the weeds grow
Watch the weeds grow
Hydrofoil and aeroplane
Grind to a halt
Grind to a halt

Ariel and phone mast
Turning to rust
Turning to rust
I-pad and Satnav
Crumble to dust
Crumble to dust

Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly

Facebook and Google
Server gone down
Server gone down
Blackberry and Apple
Juice running out
Juice running out

Bank and pension company
Wither and die
Wither and die
Dow Jones and FTSE
Breathe a deep sigh
Breathe a deep sigh

Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly

Loyalty and credit card
Throw them away
Throw them away
Check-out desk and shopping aisle
Nature invades
Nature invades

Manicure and high heel
Cracked and worn
Cracked and worn
Fashion accessory
Faded and torn
Faded and torn

Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly
Crumble slowly

Campfire burning bright
Keep yourself warm
Keep yourself warm

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


1) Create a society that values material things above all else.
2) Strip it of opportunities for meaningful work.
3) Raise taxes from the poor while exempting the rich and corporations.
4) Prop up failed financial institutions with public money.
5) Ask for more tax while vastly reducing public services.
6) Put adverts everywhere, regardless of people’s ability to afford the products.
7) Allow the cost of food, energy and housing to eclipse the ability to pay for them.
8) Light blue touch paper...

9) Condemn those who rebel.
10) Lock them up in the name of justice.

Monday, 15 August 2011


You stare at the box
You are glued to the screen
As your Internet phone
Burns a hole in your jeans
You’ve got no time to lose
As you burn up the road
You are on a short fuse
You’re about to explode

Your parents don’t care
That you’re out on the street
They curse and they swear
When you get under their feet
So you run with the mob
You riot and you loot
You steal and you rob
Then you put in the boot

But you’re not bad
You’re just getting your own back
You’re a victim
What did they do to you?
You’re a victim
What did they put you through?
You’re a victim

You unleash pandemonium
You are heaped with opprobrium
You have no sense of propriety
You have no place in society

So you self-medicate
To escape from your plight
And the stuff that you take
Gets you high as a kite
You’re untamed and you’re wild
You’re condemned and reviled
You’ve got nothing to lose
And everything to gain

But you’re not to blame
It’s something you can’t explain
You’re a victim
What did they do to you?
You’re a victim
What did they put you through?
You’re a victim
What else can you do?
You’re a victim
They’ve taken everything from you

Friday, 8 July 2011


i am here at the station in kings heath
thursday night is 'simply overmiked' night
my first serious stab at live solo performance
i order a pint of grapefruity moondance ale
and grab a table by the bar
about twenty or so people are scattered
around the back room of the pub
under a big blackboard
a large table of punters chats gregariously
opened birthday cards littering the tables
i've rehearsed four songs before heading out
'mymomatosis' and 'fourth of july'
off the all seeing i
(t-shirt proudly sported)
and two brand new tracks
'god's country' and 'an innocent abroad'
the latter polished off a few days ago
as the words and music flooded out
ben our host for the evening
places a sign-up sheet on the bar
i secure second billing after a threesome called kings of spain
ben kicks off proceedings
he has a decent voice
combined with the kind of technical ability on the acoustic guitar
that i can only envy
an easy way of picking bluesy chords
which like those shimmying football maestros
i could never dream of emulating
ben has some clever machine that slowly builds up a sequence
strummed and thumped guitar,
finger clicks and strange gurgles
over which he improvises a solo
(a kind of digital one-man-band)
it's good but all cover versions of other people's songs
as far as i can fathom
would i rather be a clumsy lennonian/kilbeyesque guitarist
who writes his own material
or a blues picker who never came up with a song in his life?
i know which one i'd choose!
after ben the kings of spain do their thang
a strongly rhythmic combo
complete with mariachi style trumpet player
i tough act to follow
before i know it
my name is being announced
i plug in
test the mike
and launch into 'myxomatosis' with as much gusto as i can summon
i am greeted with general indifference
the groups of friends go on talking
strangely i'm not bothered
i'm up there performing
their loss
happily the song is almost note-perfect
with just a couple of stumbles
at the end
i suddenly find myself departing from the script
jumping up and down
as i manically strum out the closing bars
faster and faster
until i go out in a blaze of glory
this seems to get a reaction
...and a round of applause
the other three songs pass relatively uneventfully
as i come off stage to polite applause
ben the host casually sidles over
'that myxomatosis was crazy, man' he says
i have made an impact...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


the script is all pervasive
the scipt is sometimes codified but mostly unwritten
the script may start out as an external dialogue
but becomes an internal conversation
i shall or i shall not
this is how i must act in this situation
the script tends to reject the here and now - the impulsive
the script discliplines the mind
to the familiar and well-travelled
to the tried and tested
to the safe and sanctioned
to the ritual
but what if the script became a vehicle of improvisation
a loose framework to inspire creativity
a freeform jazz piece in the key of c sharp
i recognise that i am myself a slave to the script
as we all are
i hone my lesson plans like sharpening a billhook
i compose, refine and arrange my pop symphonies to god
multi-tracking the instruments and parts
like a latterday brian wilson or fifth beatle
(look what happened to brian!
never mind departing from the script
how about completely losing the plot?)
things have improved
i recall how i used to rehearse dialogues with friends as a teenager
terrified of what would happen if i had no script
to prompt my shy conversation
now it's "i must tell so-and-so about such-and-such"
which i usually forget to do
in many ways growing up should be about tearing up the script
the script that parents and teachers and friends
and the mass media have written
and rewriting it as one's own
i guess that's what being radical is all about
spotting a dodgy script
and making major revisions
until one is satisfied with the redrafted version
how far can i take this analogy?
i don't know
but i'll be interested to find out...

Monday, 4 July 2011


this would be hilarious if it weren't so sad
the official opposition to the condems?
this flaccid functionary
with all the personality of a turnip?
give me a break!
"hey everybody
at a time when negotiations are wrong
and strikes are still going on
let's put aside the negotiating table
get around the rhetoric
and sort this thing out..."
well put eddie
well put
one for the labour movement
wet fish of the world unite!


Yes - the woodle is definitely a cottontail bunny!


we replay the tape from two years ago
a camping trip to mark my birthday
to the delightful onny valley in shropshire
we pitch tent at wentnor
on the island where the stream curves around
woodle splashes happily about in the water
dipping her net for fish
wagtails and dippers alight on stepping stones
we watch the sheep being sheared
respect to the shearers!
we play football and croquet
i strum my guitar and write little bits of songs
in the kit bag i find the tie-on tent label from 2009:
arrival date july 4
departure date july 5
oh that was a difficult time!
full of woes and dark thoughts about the echocentre
as evening falls
we drive out in the direction of the stiperstones
the lonely ridge of spectacular quartzite tors
in such stark contrast to the rolling moorland of the long mynd
we take the steep narrow road in second gear
meandering up to the carpark below cranberry rock
it is at this point that we depart from the script
the oil light flashes and beeps
in sympathy with the ever-present 'check brakepads' warning
uh-oh...this doesn't look good
the prospect of being stranded
in the lonely wilds of shropshire
a few miles from the welsh border
is not a good one
still there is the script to follow
we park up
and climb the hill to the ridge
corndon hill looms black marking the border with wales
we traverse the ridge as far as the devil's chair
h scrambles to the top of the tor
and demands a photo opportunity
the sun sets on cader idris and the mountains of north wales
sunbeams break through the cumulonimbus
it is an awe-inspiring scene
the enormity of the natural landscape
defiant pyramids of volcanic rock
standing resilient and unchanged
for perhaps millions of years
it puts us tiny humans in our place
even as we watch the hot-air balloons
floating bravely across the horizon...
back to the script again
downwards we stride past grazing cattle
in a last-ditch attempt
to make it to the 16th-century crown inn at wentnor
this time in an oil-challenged jalopy
we make it with five minutes to spare before the kitchen closes
exactly as we did two years ago
but are welcomed in by the friendly barstaff
i recognise the landlord's muscular forearms
as he pulls frothy pints of six bells and three tuns
my vegetable curry is a big improvement on last time though
(they must have changed the recipe and/or the cook!)
while i'm waiting for the meal to arrive
i browse the bookshelves
and stumble upon 'heart of england hill walks'
authored by a certain john nuisance
yes - he of echocentre consulting fame
that wasn't in the script!
we make it back to the campsite in one piece
without the engine exploding
but then i notice something else
the lock on the boot has broken again
what next?
this wasn't in the script either
but it certainly makes for a more entertaining story!

Saturday, 2 July 2011


'Goodbye Ruby Tuesday
Who's gonna hang a name on you?'
There doesn't have to be a script
But we all learn that there is one
It's writ large on our daily routines
Our attitudes and our behaviours
It follows our every move
It brings order and routine to our lives
It provides a framework
It informs what is possible
And what is not possible
But it is deeply constraining
"You must take the stage now
You must act like this
You must speak to him
You mustn't speak to her
You must say this
You mustn't say that
You must talk like this
You must leave the stage now
You must reappear later"
These are the commands of the script
The script cannot be denied
The script delineates the limits of prescribed actions
Now the world would certainly be a messy place without a script
But maybe once in a while
It's good to take it out, dust it off and reread it
Maybe the old script is out of date
Maybe it's time to revise it
Maybe it's time to tear it up completely and start again
Perhaps hunched over a typewriter at a desk
Scrunching the imperfect drafts into a ball
And throwing them into the waste paper basket in the corner
Another question worth asking might be:
Who wrote the script?
Someone I love or respect?
Or someone who doesn't have my best interests at heart?
Maybe it's time I wrote my own script
And got my agent to hawk it around the publishers
Or maybe I should just self-publish it on this here blog!

[Thanks to JH]

Friday, 1 July 2011


As to what attracts young people to violent extremism, consider this:
What makes a million young Americans
willing to travel to places like Afghanistan and Iraq
to risk their life and limbs
to kill other young people
who have never done them any harm
and to commit unspeakable atrocities and tortures?


Frances Fitzgerald observes
in her study of American history textbooks:
"According to these books,
the United States had been
a kind of Salvation Army
to the rest of the world:
throughout history
it had done little but dispense benefits
to poor, ignorant, and diseased countries
the United States always acted in a disinterested fashion
always from the highest of motives
it gave
it never took"


To an innocent abroad
I feel ashamed
As the bombs rain on your head
To an innocent abroad
I feel your pain
As the funerals bury your dead

To an innocent abroad
I’m powerless
To stop the violence & destruction
To an innocent abroad
I must confess
I not sure how to best take action

I wrote a letter to my government
I received a swift reply
A cordial missive straight from Number 10
The PM seeks a peaceful resolution

To an innocent abroad
You’re not alone
I have written to the papers
Please take courage
Please don’t give up hope
I said their coverage was a disgrace

My ‘Stop the War’ poster was defaced
A stone thrown through my window
My neighbours aren’t aware of what’s taken place
And our leaders don’t want them to know

To an innocent abroad
Do not despair
For good will triumph in the end
So let me sign off now
‘Yours faithfully’
From a distant unknown friend

Wednesday, 29 June 2011



the costs go on rising
they are absolutely mind-boggling
the economists estimate $4 trillion
that's 4,000,000,000,000 dollars
oh what a terrible terrible waste!
but that doesn't recognise the human costs
the dead children
the orphans
the quadriplegic veterans
the ruined lives
the enormity of the suffering
it is immeasurable
it is unconscionable
it is unbearable
we must shout louder to make it end!


tomorrow the teachers go on strike
kids across the country rejoice at their freedom
but wait...there is something afoot
a strange high-pitched voice cries havoc!
michael glove says parents should pop into school
to teach the lessons themselves!
literacy with mrs storey the lollipop lady
maths with mr fraction the car salesman
cookery class with dick the milk
learning journey with young miss trip
just returned from her gap year
actually mike this could turn out to be a bloody good idea
we might find that our kids don't actually miss
their 'professional' teachers at all
and that mums and dads and people in the community
are actually the children's best teachers
we could save the treasury billions
and expose the education industry
as the money-grubbing business corporation it is!
but i'm afraid i don't go along with mike
when he says that missing a day's school
will scar kids for life
hang on mr grove
were they scarred by missing school for the royal wedding?
are they damaged by all those bank holidays?
or when they have a couple of days off with the measles?
will their lives become a wasteland of drug abuse
just because teachers strike tomorrow?
come off it mike
if i were a kid these days
i'd be more worried about the massive debt i'd racked up
just to get a university education!

Monday, 27 June 2011


The photo links to the film


the kind lady at the swimming baths
is looking a bit down in the mouth
last week she lent me her token for the lockers
(i never remember to bring a pound for the lockers)
i ask her what's up
as if i couldn't have guessed
snip! snip! snip!
i sense a case of government cuts coming on
the council is demanding that all its employees sign a new contract
they must agree to waive their rights to a weekend allowance
for working anti-social hours
in other words
these low-paid workers stand to lose 2600 squid a year
they must also be willing to work at any pool across the city
(in the largest local authority in europe)
while agreeing to a pension cut...
or they lose their jobs
this lady has been working at the baths for thirty years
sacrificing her family life at weekends to support her kids
and now she's wondering if it's all worth it
wouldn't it be better to get out now and sign on?
her grand-daughter has worked hard
to get through her a-levels
but has balked at higher education debts
and has instead found herself a 'job'
an eight hours a week contract on minimum wage
(four pounds something an hour)
no sick pay
no security
no pension contributions
so the grand-daughter has come to a decision
she is going to become cannon fodder
in someone else's war
she has decided to join the military
in heaven's name why, i ask?
because she gets a free education
and a chance to 'see the world'
so there we have it
how incentives work
for working class kids in modern britain

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Some truly jaw-dropping comments in today's Observer editorial:

'It is vital that Nato is more proactive both in the air and on the ground to break this current impasse...more support on the ground and much more than the current few air sorties a day.'

How can the Observer's editors suggest this action as civilian casulaties steadily mount? Are they really urging NATO to kill more children?

This 'requires Nato to abandon its limited, cautious, low-risk approach and flex far more of its muscle', claim the editors. This must surely be black comedy, or am I living in some kind of parallel universe?

The Observer unashamedly greases the wheels of state-corporate propaganda once again.


Disciplined minds hold sway
Disciplined minds hold the reins
They pick up their salaries
They count up their calories

Disciplined minds are all the rage
Disciplined minds are what it takes
To get the work done
To get the web spun

Professionals – they are the heart and soul
Professionals – they take the parts and make a whole

Disciplined minds crack the whip
Disciplined minds won’t let standards slip
They root out the troublemakers
They shoot up the instigators

Professionals – they are soul and heart
Professionals – they make a whole from all the parts

And when the day is done
They all go home
To their wives and their children
Who do not know
What it takes to be a professional

Disciplined minds grease the wheels
Disciplined minds secure the deals
They smother compassionate feelings
They banish any grave misgivings
They don’t challenge the systems
Inject more steam in the pistons

Professionals – they are the heart and soul
Professionals – they take the parts and make a whole
Professionals – they are soul and heart
Professionals – they make a whole from all the parts


Your eyes penetrate my soul
Your smile swallows me whole
Your face draws me like a flame
Your gaze makes me look away

Your voice is music to my ears
Your laughter reduces me to tears
When you breathe the air refills my lungs
When you leave it hits me in the guts

Your breath is warm upon my skin
It’s like death the moment you walk in
Your indifference cuts me like a knife
When you’re distant I am mortified

Your heartbeat is like a distant drum
When we meet your appearance strikes me dumb
Your name echoes softly round my head
My brain juggles everything you said

I watch you tremble like a tiny child
I dissemble as my thoughts run wild
Your lips are waiting to be kissed
Your hips convert me to a Creationist

When you go it is an awful ache
I think I know what is keeping me awake
I can’t bear this situation any more
I declare this to be the final straw

I’m hanging there on a row of tenterhooks
Let me swear upon the holy books
The Lord has mercy on me, I devoutly pray
For my obsession will not go away

By now I think the evidence is clear
That this obsession could cost me dear
I wish I could be more dutiful
But after all you are so beautiful

Friday, 24 June 2011



Tell me Oracle what do you see?
How will the future be?
I ask you Oracle urgently
Bestow your wisdom kindly on me

I’m hungry for knowledge
I’m dying of thirst
I drink at your fountain
I am immersed
I’m desperate for answers
I’m yearning for truth
I’m down on my knees
I’m not ashamed of my youth

I must be honest, my earnest son
Crumbs of comfort have I none
I see a species with its head in the sand
Its reins controlled by an idle hand
I see a people paralysed with fear
I see catastrophe coming near
No spiritual conversion
No end to the greed
As the temperatures rise
And the floodplains recede

Oh tell me Oracle what should I do?
I’m at a loss and I’m depending on you
I ask you once, I ask you twice
Three times I plead for your advice

I tell my friends but they think I am mad
I ask my teachers but they say that I’m bad
I write, I draw, I play and I sing
But no one seems to be listening

I cannot lie, my earnest boy
Your task is great and your time is short
You must devote your life and work
To proselytising your view of the world
However small your audience
However great their indifference
You must keep up the conversation
You mustn’t give in to intimidation

I thank you Oracle gratefully
Your words of wisdom hearten me
You will not be disappointed with me
I’ll do your bidding, you will see


Dear Mary Dejevsky

I write to take issue with your article of 24 June: Obama is right. Britain, too, must seize the chance to leave Afghanistan.

You claim: “It is not only military victory that remains elusive, but many of the higher purposes that have studded this near decade-long campaign – women's rights among them. Obama, to his credit, had progressively returned to the mission's original justification – rooting out the al-Qa'ida bases held to harbour the instigators of 9/11.”

It is quite frankly a myth to suggest that such higher purposes as protecting women’s rights - or even capturing Bin Laden - was ever the major intention of the US in pummelling the world’s poorest country into the dust. There are far more plausible reasons for the terrifying obliteration of Afghanistan, not least its role as a giant act of retaliation in order to demonstrate US power, the purpose of the war against al-Q'aida in Afghanistan being to remove the threat the organisation posed to the ‘stability’ of the Saudi regime and to ensure that oil remained in the correct hands.

Please don’t let yourself be fooled by blatant US propaganda and try to get your facts right.

Yours sincerely


Thursday, 23 June 2011


Dear Sirs

I was staggered to read the following in today's Indie Pendant editorial:

'Libya...may turn out to be where idealism...meets reality, the recognition that there is neither the money nor the mandate to achieve much more.'

Are you seriously suggesting that NATO's good intentions to bring peace and harmony to North Africa are being undermined by a lack of military resources?

I find your analysis frankly absurd. It is blindingly obvious from the flood of Wikileaks exposés regarding Libyan oil that NATO has not an iota of interest in humanitarian issues and is determined to remove Gaddafi in order to install a regime more reliably subserviant to Western oil interests.

You do yourselves no favours by making such absurd claims. I urge you to please refrain from treating your readers with contempt.

Yours sincerely



Wednesday, 22 June 2011


I turned on the radio
To hear the latest trouble
I heard some voices echoing
From inside a bubble

Plausible discussion
Of the day's events
Articulate analysis
Well spoken common sense

Consumer confidence
Bank accounts offshore
The Justification for violence
And perpetual war

But the cognitive dissonance
Struck me in the face
Ninety-nine percent of us
Had vanished without a trace

The poor ones and the marginalised
Did not appear at all
Their voices filtered and silenced
By a firewall

A narrative of human nature
Fuelled by venality
A chronicle of misadventure
A tale of acrimony

Tempered by the benevolence
Of the USuk
The very 'special relationship'
That makes it all okay

Yet outside this tiny bubble
Another world does exist
'Real' people across the planet
Fighting to resist

Sharing common interests
Of family and love
Of honest labour, home and friendship
Of laughter, tears and fun

I turned off the radio
To miss the latest trouble
I'd heard enough of the empty talk
From inside the bubble

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


Dear PM

I am writing to express my deep concern over yesterday’s coverage of the NATO bombing campaign in Libya. In particular, I was dismayed by the programme’s lack of focus on serious efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution to the current conflict.

Your editors chose to limit the spectrum of possible action to the narrow range of views expressed by Malcolm Charmers and Abdul Barry At War. The options explored were restricted to continuing aerial bombing for the foreseeable future versus sending in ground forces, in other words warmongering versus warmongering. These commentators, unchallenged by your interviewer, dismissed the fact that US, Britain and NATO are clearly not adequately testing offers for a truce and supervised elections. Balanced coverage would surely embrace a wider range of viewpoints, including those expressing a genuine commitment to diplomatic and political solutions.

This blinkered coverage condemns the BBC to a mere propaganda role. The tragedy is that a government mired in recession and debt, intent on savage cuts to public services, can continue to attempt to police the world with interventions of this nature while the BBC simply looks the other way.

Yours sincerely


PS: Please don’t refer me to the BBC’s Complaints Department. If I want antiseptic, I will go to the chemist. BBC editors are paid from the public purse and should be accountable to the public.


It floats above Afghanistan
Patrols the skies of Pakistan
It cruises over Yemen
Libya is in its sights
Its human operators
Watch from across the ocean
An airforce base in Virginia
Remote control from Nevada

It pours down its destruction
With no fear of casualties
Nobody to shoot at
No sight of an enemy

But this is not war
It's just a military operation
No, this is not war
It's only active participation
And if they tell you that we're fighting
It is just misinformation
Because this is not war
It's a humanitarian obligation

Monday, 20 June 2011


In God's country
The hills tumble down from the sky
In God's country
The land is easy on the eye
In God's country
The buzzard scours the fields
In God's country
The swallow cavorts and reels

In God's country
The ancients tilled the land
In God's country
The barbarians fought their last stand
In God's country
The plough is mightier than the sword
In God's country
There is harmony and accord

In God's country
The old traditions die hard
In God's country
A metre is less than a yard
In God's country
Grow the seeds of discontent
In God's country
The nightingale sings her lament

In God's country
The sorrows can't be drowned
In God's country
Solace can’t be found
In God's country
It's enough to make you cry
In God's country
There's no space for you and I

Sunday, 19 June 2011


Dear Billy

I am writing to urge you to end the bombing campaign on Libya and to pursue a peaceful resolution to the current conflict.

Colonel Gadhafi's dictatorship is a brutal one and civilians are dying and suffering, but nothing will come of further bloodshed. Violence simply begets more violence. The US, Britain and NATO are clearly not adequately testing offers for a truce and supervised elections.

Rather than descending to the use of brute force, a humanitarian intervention requires a permanent, well-equipped UN peace-keeping force and effective international courts to prevent massacres and mass brutalities. Surely this should be high on the agenda of all civilized nations.

I seriously wonder how a government mired in recession and debt, intent on savage cuts to public services, can continue to attempt to police the world with interventions of this nature.

Yours sincerely



healthy body healthy mind
body stiff and sore from friday football
mind numb from five days of teaching and marking
while the woodle has her weekly lesson
i take the plunge
goggles in position
body braced for the chill of the water
nostrils braced for the chlorine rush
up and down the pool i labour
alternate lengths of calm breaststroke
unsighted backstroke and breathless front crawl
in half an hour
i rack up fourteen lengths
a quarter of a mile
this is great anaerobic exercise
no stresses or shocks to the joints
no tackles from behind
two birds killed with one stone
afterwards we play 'timmy in turtle land'
and sea conservationists
i pose as a nautilus called naughty
while woodle captures me in her net
a specimen for the sealife centre
well it's better than being harpooned!

Saturday, 18 June 2011


Malfaisance, I can't resist your charms
Malfaisance, take me in your arms
Malfaisance, you are so fair of face
Malfaisance, I'm lost in your embrace

You are the arch seductress
You enticed me, lured me in
You led me into temptation
Then forced me to give in

Now my entrapment is complete
And there's no turning back
You have swept me off my feet
I jump when your whip you crack

Malfaisance, your beauty disarms
Malfaisance, touch me with your palms
Malfaisance, kiss me on the lips
Malfaisance, you've launched a thousand battleships

Now I'm in your pay
I cannot prise myself away
I am powerless to resist
My little disillusionist

You call the tune and I come running
You call my name, you flick my switch
I cannot help but do your bidding
I'm always willing to scratch your itch

Oh the unpeople are people too
But to admit it just wouldn't do
We've got to stay on message
We've got to see this through

Malfaisance, you're my satisfaction
Malfaisance, you drive me to distraction
Malfaisance, let me take you for a wife
Malfaisance, stab me with your knife


a sad torn-up cookie box littering our front lawn
calls me defiantly to action
i hold the bin bag
while woodle brandishes the litter picker
our progress along the road is slow
garden lawns and gutter are strewn with
empty cigarette boxes
packing tape
spastic drinks bottles
crushed cans
candy rappers
carrier bags
baby wipes
pizza boxes
turning the corner
we amble through a bizarre world of angular legoland houses
then turn into millenium wood
i tell woodle how it was planted when she was minus three
this makes her giggle
we descend the steep log steps
and emerge into the long meadow
here the litter dries up
replaced by copious piles of dogshit
miraculously not a single building spoils this vista
legoland or otherwise
woodle gets a couple of minutes in the kiddies' playground
before a noisy band of older kids turn up
and she asks to leave
as we turn back into our road
we complete our litter haul
with a broken umbrella
and a deflated football
well done woodle!

Thursday, 16 June 2011


i am pottering around the garden with a watering can
in the cool dusk of the summer evening
i inspect my compost-filled tyres under the shady lilac tree
where my little cucumber plants nestle
i give them a light dousing and turn to move on
out of the corner of my eye
i gauge a movement
peering warily around the privet bush
i make out a stealthy form making its way under h's playslide
a long orangey-brown snout
long pointed ears
a white throat
eyes bright and alert
a large fox!
for a moment we're strangers
face to face a few yards apart
sizing each other up
adrenaline pumping
fight or flight?
then as suddenly as it appeared
the animal turns and bolts over the fence
disappearing into the shadows of the neighbour's bushes

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


bound by a thousand tiny transparent threads
censored by unstated norms
hemmed in by undrawn boundaries
fenced in by invisible walls
contained by a haha ditch at the edge of the lawn
grounded by unperceived forces
we do not notice these constraints
until we try to break free
it is only then that we see through the lie
that comment is free

Monday, 13 June 2011


Days of restlessness
Nights of regret
Failing to banish thoughts
That he can't forget

He can't differentiate
Between night and day
Dream and reality - it's all the same

What he would give for a couple of hours
Deep in somnia
But he must endure the wee small hours
In insomnia

Days of frustration
Nights without release
Visions of dismembered corpses
May they rest in peace

He can't tell the difference
Between dusk and dawn
Caffeine puts him to sleep
The uppers can't stifle a yawn

What he would give for a couple of hours
Deep in somnia
But he must endure the wee small hours
In insomnia

He tosses and turns
He paces around his room
While the footage burns
Dogging his every move

What he would give for a couple of hours
Deep in somnia
But he must endure the wee small hours
In insomnia

Sunday, 12 June 2011


where has this country's wealth all gone?
our nation is blighted by economic misery and social exclusion
2.5 million people unemployed
1.5 million working part-time but would like a full-time job
youth unemployment heading towards one million
graduate unemployment around 20 per cent
13.2 million people living in poverty
including 2.8 million children and 1.8 million pensioners
the state pension the lowest in western europe
15 per cent of high street shops empty
and the government’s austerity measures set to deepen the misery
the stark reality of the world’s sixth largest economy
so where does all the wealth go?
gdp has grown from £621 billion in 1976 to £1,318 billion now
but has not been accompanied by equitable share for workers
in 1976 workers' salaries and wages accounted for 65 per cent of gdp
in the wake of mass privatisations,
the demise of skilled jobs in the manufacturing sector
and the weakening of trade unions
this share fell to 53% of GDP in 1996
after the introduction of the minimum wage
and expansion of the public sector
workers’ share rose
now it's falling again and stands at 55%
wage freezes and loss of pension rights are imminent
the government is reviewing employment laws
which will further shrink workers’ share
of the 200,000 new jobs created in the last year
only 3% are full-time
and many do not give employees rights to pension, sick pay or holidays
all this tells only part of the story
because corporate execs have taken the largest slice of the shrinking pie
between 1997 and 2008 under tory blair
income for the top 0.1 per cent of the population grew by 64%
while that of an average earner increased by just 7%
a typical FTSE 100 exec is on a pay package of £3.7 million
nearly 145 times more than the average worker
these trends have resulted in 50 per cent of the population
owning less than 1 per cent of the national wealth!
with a wealth of £4.2 billion sir fill-up green is the 13th richest person
many of his employees still receive the minimum wage
the state has not collected a higher share of the gdp in taxes
to allow it to redistribute wealth
in 1976-77, taxation took 43% of gdp
now it is 37%
this is one of the reasons behind the brutal public expenditure cuts
and loss of welfare rights
the public share of taxes has declined even though more people are in work,
there are more billionaires than ever before
and the corporate sector enjoyed record profits before the recession
corporations have been the biggest beneficiaries of government policies
as successive governments have shifted taxes away from capital
to labour, consumption and savings
hikes in VAT and NI contributions are a reminder of this major policy shift
income tax personal allowances have not kept up with inflation
successive governments have been engaged in a race to the bottom
and have appeased the corporate lobby by reducing corporate taxes
in 1982 the rate was 52% of taxable profits
by 2007 it fell to 30%
it is set to be reduced again to 23% by 2014
and corporations are demanding even lower taxes!
what abou the amounts they should be paying?
corporations & wealthy elites have become very adept at shifting incomes and profits by using opaque structures and schemes to avoid taxes
boots the chemist now has its headquarters in switzerland
to enable it to avoid british taxes
google dominates the internet and its revenues have soared to £6.35 billion
but the company is estimated to have paid only £8 million in corporate tax
the uk is home to a destructive global tax avoidance industry
headed by major accountancy firms kpmg, pricewaterhousecoopers et al
economic models suggest tax avoidance may be losing us £100 billion a year in tax
this has reduced the tax take, increased the national debt
and threatened hard-won welfare rights
this distribution of income and wealth will not help a sustainable economic recovery
ordinary people spend money on everyday things such as food, transport and clothing and generate a greater effect
compared to the concentration of wealth in relatively fewer hands
yet the uk trend has been in the wrong direction
there is no evidence that feeding fat cats percolates wealth downwards
the obsession with reducing corporate taxes has not been matched by any boom
in private sector investment and jobs
too many already make ends meet by borrowing
one of the factors behind the banking crisis
yet the government has learned nothing
rather than redistributing wealth or pursuing progressive taxation policies
it expects ordinary people to take on even more borrowing to stimulate demand
personal household debt is already £1.6 trillion
bigger than gdp and the largest per capita in europe
the government expects it to reach £2.1 trillion by 2015
there is so sign of a sustained attack on organised tax avoidance
or broadening of the tax base by considering financial transactions tax,
mansion tax, wealth tax, monopolies or land value tax
these are the economics of a madhouse
and the lunatics are running amok!


You ask me why I don't get printed
In respectable publications
You ask me why I don't get published
In the mainstream magazines
What have I done to burn my bridges
With the editing committees?
How did I manage to crush so many toes?

It's 'cos I'm radioactive
Oh I'm untouchable
It's 'cos I'm too hot to handle
And I'm unmentionable
They won't touch me with a bargepole
They avoid me like the plague
Because I'm radioactive
That is why

You ask me why I get rejected
By the paragons of Fleet Street
You ask me why I don't impinge
On our prestigious Fourth Estate
Could I have been a touch more clever
Than to ruffle all their feathers?
How did I put their noses out of joint?

It's 'cos I'm radioactive
Oh I'm untouchable
It's 'cos I'm too hot to handle
And I'm unmentionable
They won't whisper my initials
They won't codify my name
Because I'm radioactive as plutonium

The answer is simple
I tried to tell it like it is
But my honesty was treated with disdain
Now my face doesn't fit
I've landed in the shit
And none of them will speak to me again!

It's 'cos I'm radioactive
Oh I'm untouchable
It's 'cos I'm too hot to handle
And I'm unmentionable
I am persona no grata
I'm the devil incarnate
And I'll be radioactive till I die
And I'll be radioactive for a thousand years!


'who's this creepy dude on the bike?'
i glance up at the impudent mug
of a spiky-haired kid of no more than 11 or 12
'who are you lookin' at?'
impudent spiky-haired kid intones rudely
as i cycle by
loud enough for his mates to hear
as they lark about in the background
among a scattering of discarded steel and aluminium
as i head for the park exit
ISPK has now worked himself up into a lather of hate
'i'll f***ing something or other! he yells
to anyone who might be listening
accompanied by a scampering of feet
for a moment i think he might be intending to jump me from behind
but thankfully i am pedalling alone
through the sanctuary of sedate eymore close
my immediate worry is for other passers-by
who may be subjected to a similar onslaught or worse
perhaps someone who can't take care of themselves
a schoolkid or elderly person
i am also indignant
what gives these kids the right
to make my local park a no-go area?
(some of h's korean schoolpals were threatened
a few weeks ago at her birthday party
when they tried to play football)
once home i quickly google the local police switchboard
the operator tells me she'll inform the local 'asbo patrol car'
she takes my name, address and number but no one calls back
when i go back yesterday armed with a binbag and litterpicker
the area is spotless
some other friend of the park got there before me
perhaps cameraman's big society is not a total dead duck!...

my thoughts return to asbo kid
what kind of childhood has he had?
what kind of encouragement or opportunities?
what makes him rail against complete strangers twice his size?
how could this kid turn out so different from my own?
what are his life chances?
what are the chances he'll be in youth custody in a few years time?
what kind of fabulously wealthy society
produces this kind of casualty?


Dear Mr Soya

Thanks again for your reply. I appreciate your attempts to engage with a listener.

I chose to highlight the 'populist demagogue' phrase as an example of the editorialising you seem so anxious to avoid when it comes to our leaders. Can you seriously imagine such a description being applied to Obama or Cameron in our media? Of course not.

You have failed to address the main thrust of my concerns about your Obama coverage voiced in my second paragraph. I fear that is because you are unable to, which is a great pity.

Don't worry - I will not be troubling the antiseptic BBC complaints department.

Yours sincerely


Subject: RE: Unbalanced coverage of President Obama's address
Date: Fri 10 Jun 2011]

Dear Fireseed

Interesting - ironic even - that, while accusing us of selective partiality, you choose to highlight 'To his detractors he is a populist demagogue with a patchwork quilt of political beliefs' while ignoring the subsequent phrase 'To his supporters he is the leader that Venezuela needs to sweep away a corrupt and outdated establishment'.

Your extrapolations regarding motive are fanciful.

We are not going to agree on this, obviously. If you use the link I've twice sent you, your concerns will be reviewed by the complaints unit, which is completely separate from and independent of programme teams.

All the best

Roger Soya

Thursday, 9 June 2011


Dear Roger Soya

I'm fascinated by the concept of 'editorialising' you introduce in your response to my email. Would this be in the same vein as reporting 'maverick' MP George Galloway (1) or 'leftwing Venezuelan firebrand' Hugo Chavez (2), who 'to his a populist demagogue with a patchwork quilt of political beliefs.' (3) However, I'm also interested in your presumption that journalism can be totally objective, an idea that I would like to take issue with.

The fanfare and applause happened. You were reporting what happened. The point is that you chose not only to report it but to relay this segment in all its pomp and circumstance. Not only that but you decided to devote around 10 minutes of the programme to coverage of the speech. As you are well aware, there is no shortage of newsworthy events happening around the world. Yet close to a fifth of an hour-long programme was dedicated to Obama and his speech. Thus BBC News made an 'editorial' decision to give extended coverage to this particular story at the expense of other news. Why? I would suggest the answer is because Obama is a spokesman for the power and privilege of the few over the many. The lengthy inclusion of Brooks Newmark, clearly an awed, star-struck admirer of the president, was also an editorial decision. It would have been straightforward to find a more sceptical member of the audience to give some sense of balance - a Caroline Lucas or a George Galloway, for instance. However, no such editorial decision was taken, a case of 'editorialising' by omission. Bolted on to the onslaught of rhetoric exercepted from the speech, there was barely any need for the kind of 'editorialising' you suggest that I am proposing.

You're absolutely right to characterise me as a partisan critic of the chief spokesman for a military-industrial combine that kills, maims and blights the lives of millions of innocents across the world, actions which are frequently either under-reported or not reported at all by your organisation. However, my personal views are obviously not what are at issue here. As a public-funded, public service broadcaster, you have an obligation to provide coverage that gives the public a fighting chance of making up its own mind on world affairs. What I am objecting to is your programme's propaganda role in shoving the benevolence of Obama down listener's throats until they choke on his virtue, and by extension that of his bellicose administration and its warmongering little brother on this side of the Atlantic.

Yours sincerely



Subject: RE: Unbalanced BBC coverage of President Obama's address
Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2011

Hello Fireseed

The fanfare and the applause happened. We were reporting what happened. To have failed to include that would have been to create a false impression. It would have ben editorialising.

I completely disagree with your assertions as to Norman's tone. He was reporting in a normal voice, the same as he does with all his reports. The excerpts were chose to reflect what Obama said, not to create a false impression. Which excerpts would you have had us use to 'create' a negative impression, as that is what you seem to want?

Norman was reporting the speech. He was not there to analyse it, but to report what President Obama had said through clips and reported speech. If there had been points of fact that he knew were wrong, he would have mentioned that, but he is not there to pass comment. You seem to take a lot of what is merely reported speech as eulogising.

We reported the speech in the same way that we report any major speech. We report what is said and the reaction to it. So, for example, if a minister is jeered or applauded during a speech to a union conference, we say: "Mr Blogs said blah blah blah, which was loudly applauded/booed by the delegates". What we do NOT say is: "Mr Blogs said blah blah blah, which is clearly nonsense (by the way it was applauded by conference, but we won't play you that bit of applause because it might counter MY partisan analysis of the speech)".

So yes, I completely stand by my comment that this was simply reporting what was said. What you appear to have wanted us to do was to adopt a partisan and negative attitude to a speech so that Norman's/PM's reportage mirrored and reflected your personal view of it.

That's not what we are here to do. If Obama had been booed, shouted down, jeered, we would have reported it.

The link for taking your complaint further is:

Your sincerely,

Roger Soya

To: Roger Soya
Subject: RE: Unbalanced BBC coverage of President Obama's address

Dear Roger Soya

Many thanks for your swift response to the email I sent to PM yesterday. However, I find it absolutely astonishing that you can describe the coverage of President Obama’s speech as ‘simply reporting what was said’ – as if there was any semblance of objectivity or balance.

The item opened with a trumpet fanfare and the breathless introduction of the Westminster MC, followed by a passage of enthusiastic applause for the entrance of the president. The excerpts from Obama’s speech, interspersed with Norman Smith’s commentary, delivered in a thinly-disguised admiring tone, were carefully selected to present an overwhelmingly positive impression. “Mr Obama began with a generous tribute to Britain’s role in fostering freedom and democracy,” Smith began approvingly, “and he noted that what was central to both Britain and America was our tolerance, our willingness to accept argument and diversity...”

“Mr Obama’s central theme this afternoon was leadership at a time of change – it was, he said, a new era after a decade of war and recession,” Smith declared in a similarly upbeat vein.

The overwhelmingly positive impression given made it clear the inference listeners were to draw – that here was a world statesman bestriding the narrow confines of Westminster like a colossus. Smith appeared simply to take the rhetoric at face value with no analysis of Obama’s high-flown pronouncements. Would the same approach be applied, I wonder, to the rhetoric of the ‘bad guys’ – the Gaddafis, Kim Jong Ils and Ahmedinejads of this world? Smith showed himself completely unable to distinguish between ‘Brand Obama’ (high on soaring rhetoric) and President Obama, who has just approved the largest military budget in world history.

“Alongside their economic leadership, Britain and America will be at the forefront of encouraging the spread of free enterprise and free markets, ensuring international security and the spread of democracy – with no let-up in confronting terrorism,” Smith cooed, seemingly blissfully unaware of the implausibility of his words given the disastrous recent record of ‘the essential relationship’ in bringing mayhem to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the following excerpt, Obama promised his adoring throng: “As Osama Bin Laden and his followers have learnt, as we fight an enemy that respects no law of war, we will continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard - by living up to the values, rule of law and due process that we so ardently defend.” That this could statement could pass without comment, let alone ridicule, in the aftermath of Bin Laden extra-judicial killing was telling indeed.

Smith finally lingered on the personal chemistry between Obama and Cameron in the “sun-drenched garden” of Lancaster House - where both men appeared “decidedly relaxed”. After a jokey Cameron aside about grillings at the BBQ, Obama “sketched out his vision for the challenges facing the West”, like an artist poised deftly with his palette at the canvas of history.

To hear Brooks Newmark gush sycophantically about Brand Obama - “a breath of fresh air when he took office” – and his ‘inspirational’ speech was utterly cringe-making. ‘A superstar in action’; ‘a master act’; Blair, Brown, Major and Cameron all “rapt with attention”. Newmark simply dismissed fellow-MP Mark Pritchard’s comments on the reluctance of Obama to fully commit to the bombing of Libya, a campaign presumably self-evidently assumed to be benevolent.

Are you really suggesting that this sequence of uncontested platitudes represents ‘simply reporting what was said’? If so, this is a depressing state of affairs indeed.

Yours sincerely



later this month
the peace flotilla sails again
a huminatarian effort to break the brutal blockade
on the innocent civilians of gaza
these brave souls risk being on the receiving end
of more disproportionate violence
from the elite israeli defence force
violence which left nine activists dead last spring
their bodies punctured and violated by thirty bullets
these brave activists
these compassionate freedom fighters
deserve the support of us all

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


where is the green tin of paint?
does nobody care about this?
will no one stand up and be counted?

Tuesday, 31 May 2011


This ugly little kingdom
This rotten little empire
Is on its way down
Is on its way out

This squalid little nation
With its horrid little leaders
Is on its way out for sure

Monday, 30 May 2011


Rewrite the history books
Revise the official record
Airbrush the photographs
Erase the names

Smear the troublemakers
Deny them oxygen
Ridicule their protestations
Sabotage their plans

Because no one will dissent
In this hobbled parliament
And soon they will forget
What they thought they knew

Let's make this thing total
Absolute and unequivocal
It must be seamless and sophisticated
Let's make this complete

We won't tolerate
Those who procrastinate
You're either with us
Or against us

Block the messages
Ignore the phone calls
Tear up and burn the letters
Delete the mails

And no one will dissent
In this rotten parliament
And soon they will forget
They held another view

Let's make this thing total
Absolute and unequivocal
It must be seamless and sophisticated
Let's make this complete


Always sirens after thunder
Always silence after hailstones
The tide of violence drags me under
The petty tyrants and their patrons

Always sirens after thunder
The Predators and their deadly payloads
The lives of children torn asunder
The names recorded on the gravestones

Sunday, 29 May 2011


Re: Sunday, Radio 4, 29 May

Dear Ed

I wonder why you would wish to interview Tony Blair, a discredited figure who inflicted huge suffering on the nations of Iraq & Afghanistan to name but two.

Some bizarre views, quite at odds with a spiritual perspective on life, went unchallenged. Blair's rhetoric about ‘faith and globalization’ was a case in point – it is difficult to reconcile Christ's message with the systematic prising open of developing countries to boost the profits of rapacious TNCs.

Blair's lack of qualms over the extra-judicial killing of Bin Laden was unsurprising given the former's record on respecting international law, but it was remarkable that a spiritual programme could leave his comments unchallenged.

The astonishing claim that the problems of the Middle East have not been caused by outsiders would be utterly hilarious were the consequences not so dire for millions of ruined lives - this is a man complicit in the deaths of a million Iraqis.

Please, if you must interview Blair, challenge him to substantiate his delusional views. Otherwise, you simply condone his perverse worldview.

Yours sincerely



we don't need no thought control
actually roger waters was quite wrong about the first point
we do need education
what we don't need is school
a place where we lock up our kids
and isolate them from people of all other age groups and walks of life
england's got millions of young people
emerging from these prisons at the age of sixteen
after twelve years of compulsory schooling
with practically no useful skills whatsoever
and a dreadful fear and loathing of education
society wrings its hands
and wonders why these youngsters are so feckless
and unsuited to work
governments blunder around producing league tables
as if education were like football
more like apartheid, i'd say
schools for the wealthy
schools for the middle classes
and schools for the rest
so that children quickly learn to know their place in the pecking order
with the accession of every new government
more blundering fools attempt to rejig the system
like applying a sticking plaster to a gaping wound
untold billions of public revenue are wasted on this futile exercise
but the thing these goons don't understand is
an education is not something that can be imposed
a real education is something that needs to be actively acquired
by each individual in their own way and in their own time
i should know
i spent thirteen years at school
and three years at university
learning almost nothing except how not to learn
i got myself through my exams
by knuckling down on my own with some revision study guides
i was terribly unprepared for adulthood or the real world
it was only when i left the world of institutions
that i started to teach myself
so it goes
what young people need is not blind obedience
but the chance to learn for themselves
from their families and friends
their grandparents and their neighbours
from skilled and knowledgable role models in their own context
what can a class of thirty 7-year-olds learn
from one 24-year-old straight out of teaching college?
of course by locking up our young people for thirty-five hours a week
it frees their parents and carers to be full-time wage slaves
fuelling the public purse in order to nationalise private debt
and subsidise transnational corporations and arms manufacturers
someone must be benefiting from this dismal situation
or am i just being cynical?

Thursday, 26 May 2011


i just heard something terribly terribly sad
the chap who ran our organic box farm in herefordshire just passed away
he was the same age as me
cancer stole him away from his farm and his family
from his wife and three kids
from his friends and colleagues
from his apple orchards and his vegetable gardens
from his purple broccoli and his lollo rosso lettuces
from his brassicas and curly kale
i met mike hamilton
he gave us a tour of his orchards
gave us an insight into the perils and rewards of organic husbandry
he showed us a wasp that had bored its way into one of his baby apples
his solar-powered electronic field sensors
that warn his staff when fruit flies will soon be on the wing
and it's time to protect the apples with soapy water
it was mike who showed us the chickens that keep the grass down
who introduced us to the farm's organic bee-keeper
who poured us delicious cups of cloudy apple juice
and served us tasty sarnies on crusty bread
a day out in the may sunshine two years ago
and now a lifetime passes
it is an achingly sad day
i feel for mike's family, friends and colleagues
i regret the suffering he must have endured
this strong vital man diminished
as his life ebbed away
although his memory lives on
every hour god sends us wings

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Complaint type: BBC News
Location: England
What is your complaint about: Radio News
Programme title: PM
Transmission date: 25/05/2011
Complaint category: Bias
Complaint summary: Failure to question, test or analyse the grossly hypocritical pronouncements of President Obama to members of Parliament
Full complaint: I am shocked and appalled by today’s coverage on PM of President Obama’s address to the Houses of Parliament. In a sane world, Obama’s hypocritical pronouncements to abide by the rule of law in the aftermath of the extra-judicial killing of Bin Laden and illegal invasion of Iraq would be greeted with scorn and derision. Instead listeners were subjected to the unquestioning platitudes of your reporter, and worse, the obsequious fawning of Brooks Newmark MP. Where is the balanced reporting? Where are the dissenting voices? Absolutely nowhere to be heard!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011


i read the news today oh boy...
pass me the sick bucket
it's enough to make you weep
on the guardians of power online
on the toady programme
the sycophants fawn and fuss over brand obama
swooning as he removes his jacket to pick up a table-tennis bat
for a press knock-up with nasty posh git cameraman
applauding obsequiously as he sips a pint of guinness in an irish boozer
oohing and aahing at michelle's latest extravagant frock
what kind of fantasy world do these people inhabit?
a parallel universe where the us president really is a good guy
instead of a fraudulent hypocrite hiding behind a brand
condemning untold millions to lives of utter misery
i wanna take out a super injunction
to protect the public from the antics of this rogue
and his loathesome outlaw state
all donations gratefully accepted...


Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'...

How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they are forever banned?

How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

Happy birthday, Bob!

Yes, the poets, the artists and the singer-songwriters have it!

Saturday, 21 May 2011


under the eye of the clock
far from the maddening crowd
and the rush hour traffic hell
the early evening is bathed in sunlight and possibility
the spring flowers exhale an inebriating fragrance
out on the all-weather pitch
the players dodge, swerve and pant around the field
raucous cries of protest and encouragement
pretty young things in ankle socks parade by
clutching books demurely to their chests
perhaps one of them will linger to take in the game
or idle in conversation
all is romance, youth and vigour
here and now
so long away and so far ago

Saturday, 14 May 2011


pardon the lengthy absence
i have been slaving away at the microphone and mixing desk
i have been picking and plucking
crooning and comping
ooing and aahing
to get this thing finished
and now ive just burned the first master of menagerie
twelve tracks tended lovingly to fruition
a single-handed forty-five-minute audio symphony
courtesy of fireseed studios
album number six
the second in eight months
i guess that makes me prolific!
but is it any good?
a new record always feels like a personal best
fresh, clean and vulnerable
at least as fresh as the result of hundreds of man-hours can be
tweaking and rerecording and correcting flat vocals and dodgy timings
listening to it all the way through on a proper hifi
it's like birthing and nursing a new-born babe
there are a few innovations that i'm quite pleased with
there are a lot of piano ballads on this one
plus a few more upbeat piano songs
certainly not so many jangly guitars
although they crop up here and there to add colour and warmth
an aura of ethereal mystery or a touch of hard-edged angularity
writing on piano has definitely freshened things up a bit
moving further away from the old formula of guitar, bass and drums
the vocals continue to improve
i've learned to relax and croon instead of straining for more volume
of course there's a bit of a concept going on
i guess i don't need to tell you that
i like 'as wide as the sky' for its wide-eyed innocent beauty
'shopping aisle' for its tongue-in-cheek humour and observation
'renunciation' for its melty middle 8 and vocal performance
'meniscus' for each spirituality and emotion
an eleventh-hour coup de grace
a nice a range meant
there's some very pretty guitar flourishes on that one
i think there are some pretty good lyrics too
though i say it myself
i put that down to divine inspiration
being just a conduit (nitwit?) and all that
anyway i hope you'll like it
even if you don't buy it
i'll put some tracks up on mice pace for your free peru sal
happy listening!

Sunday, 17 April 2011


what every man needs is his own plot of land
big enough to provide shelter and raise a family
enough soil to grow food
enough wilderness and greenery to nourish the soul
and for the kids to run around in
a place a man can explore and nurture
get to know inch by inch
the way the wind blows
the way the shadows fall
the plants that like to grow here
the flowers that refuse to grow there
all this without having to pay rent to some absentee landlord
a plot of land is part of the commons, right?
instead one percent of the population of this country
has appropriated fifty percent of the land
making it a scarce resource
according to my research
there are just under 400 people per square kilometre in england
if this was distributed fairly
each person would receive a square of land
measuring over fifty metres by fifty metres
that's 100m by 50m for a couple
or 100m by 100m for a family of four
if we take off 25% to allow for less habitable land
which could remain as pristeen wilderness
and another 25% used for communal areas like markets, hospitals and byways
that still leaves fifty metres by fifty metres for each couple
without land we are destined to remain
rootless restless placeless nomads

Thursday, 10 March 2011


watching the wheels go round
and the world turning
feeding my brain
looking outwards
and inwards
keeping a sense of perspective
keeping my composure
laughing at life
eating healthily
looking after my trusty two-wheeler
fitting new brake blocks and cleaning the chain
getting volky the troublesome passat through his mot
wincing at throwing good money after bad
keeping the wolf from the door
checking the bank balance
helping my university pre-sessioners to master academic writing
correcting their endless faux pas
restringing my old bass guitar
recording tracks for 'propaganda', the opening salvo of 'menagerie'
programming drums
sprinkling arpeggios of chorused electric guitar
picking hannah up from school
giving her wild horse rides
keeping on top of the weeds and the unruly shrubs
getting enough sleep
not neglecting my poor blog

Monday, 7 March 2011


sunshine on my face
like healing hands
the garden is alive and bursting forth
i brandish my secateurs and chop chop chop
cutting back the dead heads
revealing the tiny baby buds and shoots
scooping up handfulls of brown fallen leaves
what a delight it is to commune with nature again
to hear the birds and the buzzing insects
i feel like talking to the plants
the nay-bores will think i'm a right charlie!
the woodle appears
chalking the pavement with hopscotch numbers
we go and call on emma at number 23
and suddenly the street is alive with the laughter of happy little girls
passing dog-walkers look up and say hello
it's as if a great cloud has lifted from humanity
little darling it's been a long and lonely winter...

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Show me a land where the children never grow up
Show me a place where enough is never enough
Show me what it's like
To while away your life
Oh show me England!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


it's eight o'clock and just starting to drizzle
i offer woodle a choice
'bike or car?'
'bike, daddy, bike!'
i head for the garage to track down all the waterproofs
i give woodle's bike a quick once over
the tyres are a bit flabby but they will do
the handlebars are oddly loose
and require a few turns of a wrench
i finally realise my plan back in december
to raise the saddle three or four inches
to accommodate those long spindly legs
and get more mileage out of each peddle
my own wafer-thin brake blocks will have to wait until later
despite the cold steady drizzle
it feels good to be heading out together
for the first time in months
as we cross the bridge by the lake and start uphill
we spot something yellow catapulting up from the riverbank
'did you see that?'
a green woodpecker flashes across our field of view
to alight on the trunk of a small tree
woodle and i are both thrilled
as the woodpecker clings to the trunk
we can make out the green body and cheeky red face
later on near the boating lake
we see a flock of canada geese with one lonely white goose among them
how has this white sheep come to join the flock?
the suburban gardens of bournville offer up small clumps of snowdrops
for our pleasure
'you wouldn't see all these interesting things from a car' i crow
for once i'm not losing the argument and woodle happily agrees
the carillon is ringing in nine o'clock
we are late
and i watch as hannah climbs the steps
under the disapproving eye of the headmistress
but what better learning experience can a young child have
than getting themselves to school while woodpecker spotting?

Sunday, 13 February 2011


deus ex machina
i like that phrase
in all its austere latin gravitas
'god out of the machine'
a god that we make
a plot device which suddenly and abruptly solves
a seemingly inextricable problem
through the intervention
of a new character or ability or object
but what if that intervention was there all along
lurking unnoticed on the peripherary or in the subconscious?
or what if that problem was not really a problem at all
but a call to action?
what if god what a part of the machine
and we just weren't looking closely enough?
deus in machina?

Saturday, 12 February 2011


i plunge down the steep curve of st denis road
on the final furlong of my journey home
savouring the gravity-assisted momentum
accrued and released from the long steady climb up swarthmore
i lean into the bend to maintain my equlibium
carefully avoiding the scattering of potholes
borrowed from blackburn lancashire
which threaten to send me flying over the handlebars
when suddenly to my left i spy a death machine chugging along a side road
to the junction with my road
i am travelling at quite a rate of knots
surely the driver has spotted my high-vis vest and intends to give way?
she executes a right turn into my path
forcing me to perform an emergency test on my well worn break pads
blimey - that was close!
however there is no apology
no polite acknowledgement of poor road sense or momentary distraction
just an unpleasant scowl that successfully communicates the message:
'get off my road!'



Richard Burden MP
Birmingham, Northfield

Dear Richard

I was appalled to read George Monbiot's comment piece in this week's Guardian revealing the coalition's proposed corporate tax cuts.

The current sustained attack on the British public by the political representatives of elite interests is truly frightening and an affront to democracy.

I urge you to do all you can to oppose these self-serving proposals.

Yours sincerely



There is no future
And there is no past
No winner or loser
No first and no last
There is nothing to fear
And nothing to dread
It is only the voices
Whispering in your head

There is no beauty
There is no ugliness
There is nothing solid
There is no emptiness
There is nothing to long for
And nothing to crave
Nothing to lose
And nothing to save

There is only awareness
Shining pure and bright
Only awareness
A ray of golden light

Friday, 11 February 2011


on wednesday evening
as i scaled the stairs
i suddenly registered a terrible weariness in my legs
moments later i sensed a horrible loose feeling in my guts
and retired quickly to the bathroom with my novel
my body was showing signs of distress
my mind enveloped by a stifling fog
ameliorated by sleep deprivation
a mild case of influenza?
unfortunately no rest for the wicked
those who toil by the hour for their daily bread without sick pay
i'm not complaining
although doing a day's work yesterday felt like wading through treacle
i couldn't miss saying a farewell to the refugees
it was quite a humbling experience
despite their meagre resources
the students had clubbed together to present me
with a veritable aladdin's cave of cards and gifts
a large bottle of vodka
another bottle of champagne
some eau de toilette called something like 'strength'
a fashion shirt, a couple of polyester ties, 3 pairs of branded socks
a box of luxury biscuits
another box of coffee-centred chocolates
a huge 'thank you' card
wildly unsuitable presents for yours truly in the main
('i never know what to buy you' says my mother)
but touching all the same
there were a few tears
pride in their achievements
mixed with a little shame at perceived lack of progress
but they were all full of gratitude
which communicated itself to the course organiser
who offered me a decent payrise if i go back in may
and even the effeminate scottish receptionist
who congratulated me on the feedback
'how do you know about that? i ask, surprise
'i work on reception - i know everything' he grins
you can never rely on it
but it's always nice to be acknowledged
to feel that your efforts have made a difference
particularly when dealing with people towards the bottom of the pile
with the cards stacked unremittingly against them
good to be an influencer
to think that just maybe
you could be the one to ignite the spark

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


forgive me if i profane
but once upon a time
this was a business of some respectability
it provided an important service to society
that of lending to individuals and businesses
and helping others to save for the future
so what has gone wrong?
somewhere along the line there has been a profound shift
from banking as a service industry
to banking as a self-serving domain ungoverned by regulations
and the norms of decent honest behaviour expected of the rest of us
free from all restraint
the bankers have unsurprisingly wreaked havoc
this is bandit country
and these our outlaws
not of the robin hood type
but the venal autistic self-obsessed type of individual
without moral compass
who feels he has no responsibility whatsoever to his fellow man
the bank leaders throw up their hands in dismay
at a request for an extra 800 million in tax from the chancer-law
but this is a mere drop in the murky ocean of dodgy dervatives
...and still we let them get away with it!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


why is it that nothing much ever really changes?
why is it that whatever government gets elected
it all amounts to the same?
conservative? socialist? liberal?
thatcher? blair? cameraman-clog?
republican? democrat?
clinton? bush? obama?
it all makes no difference
it all adds up to busyness as usual
everything sacrificed
to the holy cow of grossly (un)democratic product
adults on the 9 to 5 treadmill
children on the school treadmill
old people and the unemployed on the tv treadmill
overstuffed porkies on the gym treadmill
as ever 'our boys' are out there in some distant foreign clime
waging a noble war against rebel insurgents
to bring democracy and human rights to heathen territories
the same old song plays
the who singing 'won't get fooled again'
and all the time an invisible government makes it seem so inevitable
protest is minimal
the odd student riot here
the odd fuel protest there
a few english defence leaguers clashing with a few more anti-nazis
meanwhile the pr machine rachets up another gear
the mass media bewilder the herd
cajoling them from pen to pen like a well trained sheepdog
making sure that they keep missing the point
spending and self-medicating to kill the pain
anything to keep those profits swilling into the fat piggies' troughs
what kind of person would question all this?
who might question the dumb ignorance
of the children who never grew up?

Monday, 7 February 2011


vicious circle
immune system falls away
sore throat
losing voice
splitting headache
sick stomach
mind in a fog
craving sleep
what am i doing here?

Saturday, 5 February 2011


what matters is not a man's race
nor his gender
nor his class
but the class he serves


what was it that old american indian chief said?
the quote that has since graced a thousand branded t-shirts?
only when the last tree has died
the last river has been poisoned
the last fish has been caught
will the white man realize he cannot eat money
copyright nike-gap-adidas
they also say you only notice money when you don't have it
on monday i was supposed to be paid
for the first fruits of my new labours
but the claim got held up
languishing in some in-tray of an overworked and understaffed office
and that day our bank account slipped nonchalantly into the red
come wednesday we were receiving a warning letter
from our 'ethical' bank
it gives us a week to rectify the situation
before hitting us with a twenty squid fine
(at least we got a warning letter)
the concept of debt is an interesting one
intimately linked to an arbitrary value
allocated by the legendary invisible hand of the market
with supply in a titanic clash with demand
where time is money and money is time
where quality is frequently irrelevant
where certain work is deemed virtually worthless
such as looking after others
and other work virtually priceless
for example speculating on investments
those who owe are separated from those who are owed
the result of a grand tallying up of nebulous contributions
a process which calculates the number of zeroes that fall
in the right or wrong column of the balance sheet
those of us lured by the dream of easy credit
rack up enormous cumulative debts
those of us prudent or lucky enough to save for a rainy day
see our savings shrink in value
as bank interest rates plummet below the rate of inflation
a grand corrective that massages the debts of the creditors
money is like roads
the more of it there is the more it gets used
have cash will spend
build a new motorway lane
watch it fill up with cars
the more we earn, the more we consume
the more we consume, the more we need to earn
an endless cycle
until we end up earning
simply to medicate our stress and depression
the shopping binge
the drinking binge
the food binge
the anti-depressants
why do we go on doing it to ourselves
when our survival depends on us doing the precise opposite?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


amphibian is the mind
with gills and lungs
where there is love there is also hate
where there is kindness there is also cruelty
where there is charity there is also theft
there is a tension
between altruism and selfishness
between the saint and the sinner
between the witness and the analyst
the centre shifts to the periphery
the watcher forgets to watch and becomes involved
the observer forgets his role and pitches in
there is no solution but to notice the slip
and to return to the centre

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


as the woodle toddles down the steep stone steps
into the bright sunlight of a february afternoon
her teacher miss m glides over unexpectedly
with furrowed brow she relays a massage from the violin teacher
i think i know what's coming
woodle has not done her practice
woodle does not show interest in her lesson
in short woodle is not a willing pupil
as for woodle she has not a word to say for herself
she has clearly concluded
that the best policy in the circumstances is to play dumb
as miss m launches into a lecture about wasting parents' hard-earned cash
(a lecture i heartily subscribe to
although i fear it falls on deaf ears)
i mutter vaguely about bones of contention
miss m can guess little of the smouldering domestic content
in the red corner mummy guns blazing
desperate for her only child
to take her rightful place in the school orchestra
in the blue corner woodle defiant in her resistance
in the centre of the ring yours truly
unsuccessfully trying to referee
while finding it almost impossible not to take woodle's side
but losing out to the fire-breathing wrath of mummy
i fear this battle will end on a discordant note!

Monday, 31 January 2011


maybe one day in the not-too-distant future
our descendents will look back
and recount a weird and wonderful story
of how we were persuaded to spend money we didn't have
on things we didn't need
to create impressions that wouldn't last
on people we didn't care about
or worse didn't care about us
while trashing the planet in the process