Thursday, December 20, 2018

Three Christmas Films

We saw Gremlins again last night, one of my all time favourite Christmas films with its anti-consumerist message which was undermined by the merchandising campaign that went with it when it was first released.

I also recently watched the DVD of The Christmas Choir which is a lovely, moving, feel good film with a very strong social message. It was originally a TV movie and is based on a true story.

Plus of course no Christmas would be complete without It's A Wonderful Life which every independent cinema seems to show repeatedly at this time of the year.

What are your favourite Christmas films?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I self-consciously pocketed
the image of cowbells
as a text-book ‘poetic moment’
to add authentic colour.

Now, looking back
I dwell on the disintegration
of our friendship
that began that day.

And the endless melancholy of cowbells.

originally posted on this blog in 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Taking a blog break

One candle burning by itself becomes
a glitter-ball of warm beauty

but festive lights lined up in banks
on every city centre building are a nightmare
of visual overstimulation
when added to the glare
of bright rainbows and extra lights
round every traffic light,
every car headlight
and every street light. 


I'm having cataract surgery tomorrow and will then be taking two and a half weeks off from blogging and social media to rest my eyes. Though my Etsy shops will remain open. 

Meanwhile a cataract inspired haibun I wrote is now up on The Other Bunny, you can read it here

Friday, October 26, 2018

On Foot

Let me write poems on your feet
in clouds of henna,
take you places you’ve never been.

Come with me to distant galaxies,
my words glowing in your wake
to flare across the night sky

and haunt your dreams

(This poem was previously published in Poetry Cornwall. I made the collage in response to the poem)

First posted on this blog in 2007 for 'Images and Poetry' theme for Poetry Thursday

I reposted another poem today over on my Crafty Green Poet blog, you can read it here

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Our Ovaries Ourselves - for World Menopause Day

(A long post, in which I rant a little and share far more personal stuff than I normally would but it's an important medical issue)

If you have ovaries, don't let the doctors take them from you (unless you've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in which case you probably should have them removed as soon as possible).

Your ovaries are vital whether you want to have children or not, even beyond menopause. Even into old age, your ovaries produce small amounts of hormones that help keep you healthy. And removal of both ovaries will send you into a catastrophic, immediate menopause.

If you are diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, in the USA or Canada your gynacologist will likely do their best to preserve both your ovaries, whatever your age. If you're in the UK and you're over 50, your GP and gynacologist are likely to recommend the removal of both ovaries.


Late last year I was diagnosed with a very large ovarian cyst on my left ovary. All the nurses I spoke to and my female GP made reassuring noises that I might not even need surgery as many cysts go away of their own accord. The (female) gynacologist I was referred to however had different ideas. She said that as I was 51 (the average age of menopause) then I no longer needed my ovaries. I was to put it mildly shocked and said little other than 'that seems a bit extreme'. Which it was, particularly as tests showed there was very little chance of cancer.

A male GP from my medical practice then phoned me (why him and not my own female GP I don't know) and he too said that I no longer needed my ovaries. Well by that time I had done my research and I raged at him telling him that women who have both ovaries removed are not only catapulted into a catastrophic medical menopause but have a greatly reduced life expectancy and a greater chance of dying of almost any disease (other than ovarian cancer). I also pointed out that I had not hit menopause myself and in fact was barely perimenopausal so should not be automatically considered to be post menopausal just because of my age.

The male GP and the gynacologist obviously spoke to each other and when I had my next appointment with her she reluctantly agreed that she would allow me to keep my right ovary. I asked if she could let me keep the left one and she said no, the cyst was too big. (And sticky as it turned out, it was the size of a large bread roll and stuck to all my internal organs and took hours to remove, much credit to the surgical team). But even on the morning of my surgery my gynacologist was recommending removing both ovaries and I was still needing to fight to keep my right ovary - an hour or so before surgery! I don't understand her reluctance to let me keep my right ovary, she told me that it was very unlikely I had cancer and if I had had cancer and she had removed the right ovary she would still have needed to go back in to give me a full hysterectomy.

Anyway, it's all months ago now and I've made a full recovery and have still not hit menopause, in fact I'm still barely perimenopausal.

Some women might not have the confidence or the energy to fight to keep their ovaries and I know women who have had terrible experiences of catastrophic surgical menopause in situations where it probably wasn't necessary. So do your research and if you are diagnosed with ovarian cysts then make sure your doctors know you want to keep your ovaries.

For World Menopause Day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Women in the Archives

Yesterday I attended a very interesting panel event at the National Library of Scotland about women in literary archives.

Attention has traditionally focused on the writings of male (usually white) authors, and this event sought to question this focus by considering the relationship between archives and literary reputations. The speakers focussed on individual authors to address how the relative absence of women writers from official archives has contributed to their relative scarcity in the literary canon and to explore the relationship between a writer’s archive and their literary status.

Jenni Calder spoke about Scottish poet, botanist and plant collector Isobel Hutchison and her travels in the 1930s in Alaska. I was particularly interested to hear about Hutchison since I had recently read Andrea Wulf's fascinating book The Brother Gardeners (which I briefly reviewed over on Crafty Green Poet here).

Donna Campbell of Washington State University then spoke about the various cinematic and theatrical adaptations that have been made from the novels of Edith Wharton and how they were received by audiences compared to the novels themselves (audiences of an early adaptation of The House of Mirth for instance were unhappy with the death of Lily Bart at the end of the play, though they apparently had had no problem with that as the ending of the novel, I think that's still the case today to some degree).

After a short break Imaobong Umoren talked about the invisibility of black women in the archives, focussing on the life and work of Una Marson who moved from Jamaica to the United Kingdom to further her literary career but struggled to find work due to racism. She was a poet, playwright and the first black woman employed by the BBC.

Finally A N Deevers introduced her new business, The Second Shelf, a rare book dealership (soon to open up a shop in London) which aims to redress the balance between female and male writers in the rare books trade. She produces a beautiful journal that doubles as a catalogue (but is so much more than a catalogue and looks like a great read!) and is approaching the whole enterprise with an inspiring mix of imagination and determination.

This event was a collaboration between Transatlantic Literary Women and the National Library of Scotland.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Monstrous Regiment - feminist publishing house based in Edinburgh

Monstrous Regiment, an indie press based in Edinburgh, was founded by Lauren and Ellen, two publishing students. Their publications focus on themes of feminism, sexuality, and gender. I recently ordered several of their publications and was very impressed.

She Walked Out to the Desert is a small but perfectly formed poetry zine which was created for the London Radical Book Fair 2018. Its mix of poetry and collage explores mental health and materialism.

The Bi-ble is a collection of essays and personal stories about bisexuality coming from a variety of viewpoints and covering topics including bisexuality and fan fiction, bisexual invisibility and sexuality and religion. The stories are well written and interesting, sometimes amusing and often moving. (In fact I abandoned all other reading material to read this in one go). The editors are looking for submissions for Volume 2 of the Bi-ble, you can find out more here.

Crimson is the first issue of the Monstrous Regiment literary journal inspired by blood, lipstick, blushing and other shades and incarnations of the colour red. The photos, artwork, poetry and short stories cover topics such as shame, bullying, death and gender identity. There's a good variety of styles of writing and art, it looks beautiful and is well worth reading. The next issue will be Emerald and stories, poetry and art inspired by the colour green are invited, a feminist slant is preferred but not mandatory, for details see here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


The colour of the sky and his eyes
Ocean endless to the horizon
Forget me nots and sapphires
The saddest music in the world
Bruises on her upper arm

Regret for all the words
said and unsaid.

Originally published on Sketchbook  and first posted on this blog in 2006. 

I also reposted an old poem today on Crafty Green Poet, you can read it here

If you like my poetry, you can now buy me a virtual coffee on Ko-Fi!

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Major New Artist

This poem originally was a response to a Poetry Thursday challenge back in 2006 to write a poem in someone else's voice. The poem had already been published and I just lazily used it for Poetry Thursday!

Major New ArtistI have spent the last six
years with incense sticks
burning holes in shirts.

Shirts of all types
from Hawaiian to pin stripes
but all have holes burned in.

All the holes are regular
extreme boredom does not deter
me from my art.

Some see meaning in the holes
they are but fools
there is no meaning only art.

previously published at the now defunct Mentress Moon
There's another one too, earlier in this blog here

I posted another poem from the past on Crafty Green Poet today too, you can read it here

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Through her territorial fence
she watches them
and mutters.

‘Bogus people
begging on the Underground,
stealing food
from the mouths of MY children.’

Over the fence, the children
mourn lost friends
to a backing track
of remembered bombs.

Their Mama dusts desert sand
out of their long dark hair
and wonders whether this week
she can afford to buy them sweets.

Previously published on Leaveners Poets Corner

Meanwhile on Crafty Green Poet I've reposted a poem from 2006, you can read it here.  

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Secret of Chocolate

Her first class degree
won her a contract to discover
the scientific perfection of sweetness.

Five years on, her secret formula
heavily advertised, stays
stubbornly on the shelves.

While continents are ravaged
by a disease she could
have found a cure for

and a humble chocolatier
creates daily bliss
for crowds in a small French town.

First published on this blog in 2008 and originally published in Curlew magazine

Chocolate also features in today's poem over on Crafty Green Poet. You can read it here

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Shadowy Shetland

Shadows on the ferry and port, waiting to return from Shetland

I blogged more about our holiday on Shetland over on my Crafty Green Poet blog, you can read my posts here, here, here and here.

For Shadow Shot Sunday

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Beach Hut

Warm wood smell
of the sun-bleached floor
scratched by damp sand
under my purple flip-flops.

Milky coffee from a thermos flask.

The sea glimmered
beyond the beach.

My eyes shaded
by the brim
of an oversized sun-hat,

I paddled in the sea
but never learned to swim.

Previously published on Everyday Poets and Verse Wrights.  

Meanwhile my poem Drift appears over on Crafty Green Poet - you can read it here

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Polish for Beginners

I always thought you were Polish
with your exotic blonde beauty
so I polished my few phrases of that language.
You never know when it might be useful.

The day after I overheard you had gone

home to a country that is not Poland
I was in a bar speaking Polish
with some old drunk who said
he thought I was an angel.

originally published in Poetry Scotland and first posted on this blog ten years ago.

Meanwhile over on Crafty Green Poet, you have a 2nd chance to read my poem Windmills

Friday, April 06, 2018


you drop your keys
into silence

someone else holds hands
with your dream

your head whirls with words
your lips hold silent


Previously published in Sketchbook.  

Meanwhile I posted another poem on Crafty Green Poet, you can read it here

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


I experiment with texture, shape,
play with shades of colour,
explore the theory of art.

Never meant for show
outside the college studio
these pictures hid in storage.

While work for exhibition
never sold, too mundane
so many critics said.

But then some dealer fell in love
with my series ‘Shades of Grey’
and I am now the ‘New Sensation’.

Previously published on the Camel Saloon. The Camel Saloon no longer exists but its editor Russell Streur now edits the Plum Tree Tavern which focuses on poetry and nature and the environment and which today published my poem Watching the Skies which you can read here.

Today I also posted a selection of haiku on Crafty Green Poet. You can read them here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Out of Time

Out of Time

We spend our lives
trying to make time fly -
high octance adventures,
reality tv,
shopping for the perfect
clock for the mantelpiece.
Scared to sit and enjoy
moments out of time.

Later we worry
time is running out -
hold onto fleeting youth,
get cosmetic surgery,
can't face the clock
on the crumbling mantelpiece.
Scared of where we'll be
when we find ourselves out of time.

Originally posted in 2006 for the now defunct Poetry Thursday

Meanwhile over on Crafty Green Poet I've reposted another poem from 2006, you can read it here

Friday, February 23, 2018

Focus Italian magazine

I first discovered the Italian language version of Focus magazine many years ago when I was looking for a way of keeping up with Italian. I rejected other magazines -  one was full of gossip stories about Italian celebrities I'd never heard of, another was full of very serious articles about Italian politics and so on. Focus appealed to me because it is full of articles about science, the environment and current affairs all written in Italian at just the right level (for me) of accessible yet slightly challenging. So I'm learning new things all the time!

I take out three or four month subscriptions (cheaper than buying individual issues but without the likelihood of ending up with piles of unread magazines) then I renew the subscription once I've finished the last article in the last issue.

As a bonus for me, Focus is full of great photos that I can then use as creative writing prompts with the classes I teach!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Cello in the Dark

In the belated adolescence of my student years,
living by the words of the music
that blared my ears while I revised,
I spent restless nights alone
in exam stress and unacknowledged lust
while in the room above, your bedsprings creaked
as you made love to a woman
who shared my sister’s name.

Your daytime fingers making music,
the deep low thrill of bow on string
sent shivers down my spine
as I sat serious at my desk,
gazing through the window at the garden
where a black cat crossed the lawn.

Previously published on Bigger Stones

Meanwhile I've posted another poem on Crafty Green Poet, you can read it here

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Strange how deep under her skin he is.
She only knows him through his distant admiration
across darkened dance-floors and concert halls.

His desire waterfalls down her spine,
unnerves her, his heart’s poetry
troubles her through his hungry eyes.

She finds herself looking out for him,
wonders how much she likes to be admired,
how much she’s learning to admire?

previously published on Verse Wrights  

meanwhile for those of a less romantic disposition, I've posted a tanka on Crafty Green Poet, you can read it here

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


At night our minds meet over maps
of strange towns, mazes of streets
we stumbled through in daylight.

I am lost
in your sense of place,
find myself in your parallel universe.

Then time unfurls to chase us
through shadows
into endless dreams.

Previously published on Pygmy Giant

I've also just posted a poem with similarities to this one over on my Crafty Green Poet blog, you can read it here

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Malawian Cafe

It's a mud-built cafe
on the dusty corner
of a village alley.

Dark inside and cool
despite the day's hot sun,
lively with laughter
and warm conversation.

The menu is simple:
bean stew and nsima*;
chicken with rice;
Coca Cola, Fanta
and Carlsberg greens.

The walls are covered
with postcards
of its namesake
The Ritz.

Previously published on the Camel Saloon.

* nsima is a thick maize porridge. 

Yesterday I posted Papayas and Lemons, another poem about Malawi, on my Crafty Green Poet blog. You can read it here