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!