Wednesday, 21 December 2016


Isn’t it about time
After a lifetime of paddling,
I went to the river?
Sit by the untroubled water
And just be?
See who’s written there
Upon the clear surface?
Do nothing but look?
Meet me there?

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


No me
No mine
No problem.

Friday, 16 December 2016


Nobody knows
What the kingfisher does for Christmas
Whether, perhaps, holed up in Klosters
With champagne and smoked salmon
Or if, unknown to the tax man,
He has a hideaway in Mustique.
Hibernation seems unlikely.
The bulldog, on the other hand
Ought to be predictable:
A pie and a pint in the local,
The Queen on the telly,
Turkey. Sprouts. Gravy.
But, no.
He’s skiing in Val d’Isere.
Which makes you wonder
If the kingfisher
Is in Barnsley, or Basingstoke.


We'll see.

Thursday, 15 December 2016


"With a mind like yours, you should write," she said,
"You know, books."

"No," I said.
"No. I don't think so."
Excellence enacts devotion.
Devotion enacts excellence.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


We go to Maguelon,
The sky dark with salt,
Black in the south,

And the Middle Sea tearing at the shore.

The pink question marks

That are flamingos

Unfold into exclamatory flight -
Prehistoric dashes in the grey air,

Red certainties punctuating turmoil.

By the canal, boat debris,

And a café for travellers,

Shut for the winter.

We are here when my questions

Do not find answers.

None found in the cold cathedral.

And, in the etang,

The flamingos land,

Becoming question marks again.

Friday, 9 December 2016


Once, I sent a bonsai,
And the man who got it
Brought me to his home
Where the bonsai was on show,
With all its leaves, midwinter.
When I saw it he coughed
And his wife said they all fell off
But knowing you were coming
I made paper ones
And stuck them on.
That, to me, was love.
And I’ve had loves where the leaves fall off,
But no one makes new ones.

Some trees lose leaves.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


Enough ink has been spilled on the election of the Donald for me to hesitate to put more onto a page.

But the experience of seeing all the coverage, along with the reporting and commentary on Brexit, has been very convincing of the arrogance of the political elite on both sides of the Atlantic and the press corps that follow them. Two results have been howls of the masses, rather than  the nuanced argument of the ruling or media classes. They don't like it.

I didn't like Brexit. I'm not sure I like Trump. Though I am equally unsure, especially in foreign policy matters, that I don't dislike disastrous recent American foreign policy (of which Hilary Clinton was a tired continuation advocate) more than some of the possibilities opened by Mr Trump's tenure.

In both cases - Trump and Brexit - what I am sure is that they are circumstances we have to deal with and make the best of them.

Confidence in our government to do this is shaken by two recent incidents, both of which point to a worrying lack of forethought in our Government's actions.

The first was the handling of Mr Nigel Farage's ludicrously opportunistic claim that he could be a special go between for the UK in the USA, what with him being best mates with Mr Trump 'n all. Our government quickly came out with a statement which quashed his ambition. Now, though, Mr Farage has got his new best mate to tweet in his support. Oops. An only slightly more far sighted government would have thought about this differently at the outset. This was an opportunity to rid the UK of a loose cannon in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations and rob him of a voice in the matter. Park him over in America, as far west as practical, and give him some nonsense title and put him under UK Government discipline because he becomes a civil servant with no domestic voice. Ideal, I'd have thought. But no. Blurting was better!

Blurting has also got the government into hot water this week with the CBI. Putting workers on Boards is the issue. I'm all for workers participation, as my career has demonstrated. But workers on Boards is entirely impractical. Apart from anything else, Board Directors have a primacy in their legal duty to shareholders, not to workers. Change that, and what's the point of them? Anyone with a reasonable brain could see that this will lead the government to conflict with the CBI, the Institute of Directors, and, ironically, the TUC, who now have a reason to claim the government is backsliding on its promise.

What the blurting of this policy really shows is, apart from the obvious lack of forethought, the more subtle absence of ideas. Find an idea, launch it. That's a short route to disaster. Have many ideas, select the best. Much wiser.

To be fair, the government isn't alone in this. Most Companies that I have worked with either as a consultant or an employee simply spend far too little time originating ideas to give them a fund from which to select. Indeed, the norm is often that if you have any new idea at all, no matter how daft, there's a serious danger it becomes the new front runner, not because of its merit, but because no other ideas have been originated instead.

Both Brexit and the Trump phenomenon seem to me a mass Crie de Coeur for new thinking in old fields. Industry, and the government would be wise indeed, in the face of such change, to build the habits of ideation. It may well be that these two newest and biggest political ideas have sprung forth precisely because of its paucity in the first place.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016



Wednesday, 9 November 2016


It’s a wise man who knows what is enough.

That wise man will know

On tumultuous days,

On days when the world goes wrong

When questionable virtue ascends

And good men wring their hands,

Fortunes fail,

Scum comes to the top

Visible , filthy, corrupt,

That, on a beach, empty of anyone,

Not where watchers go,

But wild and dangerous,

Where the tide rips kill you

And ebbs slide faster than snakes,

And waders ply cautiously the surf,

There is enough,

And will build there a fire

To warm against winter whipping the dunes,

Will start by looking long at the desolate beach

Seeing nothing but hopelessness

Then with a rummaging eye

Spot this small twig, this dry marram, this weathered shard

Till spark and fire are made, fanned, and warm the cold soul.

He will find enough to do this

Knowing what is enough.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016


This is by far the most inspiring thing I have seen recently.


Whenever there is a World Economic Forum at Davos, I look closely at the attendance list. It's a fascinating read. You can see who is great and good. I play a little game. Do I know anyone? Personally, I mean. There are normally between a couple and a dozen. So I have good Davos years, and bad!

But here's the thought which I have every year. Here assembled are the forces of the world economy. There are Heads of State, chiefs of media organizations, top bankers and investors and, of course, Chief Executives, and other C-suite dwellers. But in all my list browsing I have never found anyone with a job title like production worker, machine operative, shift worker, indeed I have never found anyone with the word worker in their title at all!

What does this tell us?

It shows where power is. And it shows where power isn't.

For all our talk of valuing democracy, it's striking how it isn't applied in the workplace - the environment where most people spend most of their working lives.

For all of our talk about staff engagement, it's striking how real power is still held in the hands of a tiny minority, completely ignoring the majority.

My eye is not a socialist one. My eye looks for the mutuality of interest between an organization and its staff. This is not difficult to see if you look for it. It resides in innovation, and a respect for the individual human being, the individual human brain deployed in the community of an organization.

Odd, that the World Economic Forum does not see, or celebrate this.

Thursday, 8 September 2016


We want to see gender balance in Boardrooms. yes?
We stand against sexism, yes?
And we acknowledge the argument (so respected it does not need to be repeated) that gender balanced Boards are in fact good for business, add value. Yes?

So here's a little puzzle with which I've been struggling.

Let's assume there are, say, seven Board members of an organization. And they're all men. Between them they add their value to the organization - a combined total represented as £7 - one pound coin each.

Now, there's a woman can add value too. £1. She's as able as any man.

By rebalancing the gender mix of the Board, greater value can be added. How?

Monday, 29 August 2016


If I fail, say, and work on a supermarket checkout
I can’t think I’d be less happy
Or live with less meaning
Than my prized career, my treasured vocation,
And the proof is in markets and also in curlews.
Markets, like the one in St Hippolyte
Where the cheese man is flirting
And flattering, and laughing,
And ladies take compliments they get nowhere else.
There’s love in those sales
And ladies leave glowing.
And I wake, feeling lucky, to hear calls of the curlews
Which people call liquid
And most beautiful of birds
(And to a scared boy in cities where curlews weren’t singing,
A wide, unexpected chorus of peace).
But I wonder if it’s really deliberate, this beauty,
As practised an art, as anything can be,
Where, with noble intention,
The act doth become so.
Like loving, for a few moments,
Anyone through the checkout,
Which might be their portion of love for today
And you gave it. What a thing to say of your life!
Wherever I was, I gave love to the moment.
Makes me think of the curlews and the nature of their calling
And I wonder if their calling isn’t their calling?

Friday, 29 July 2016


We went to the oncology ward, and from there Zara and I walked into York. At the gallery, there is an exhibition of World War One art, much of it on loan from the Imperial War Museum. Works by Paul Nash, John Nash, Stanley Spencer, Jacob Epstein, and William Orpen's To the Unknown British Soldier.

Alongside the art there were visitor sketch books provided, children's games and activities and magnetic boards with words, for them to add their feelings.

Using one, this war poem emerged:


No march to drums parading

No glittering command

No dreams of armies shining

No broken liberty.

The cities still remember

As careless fields grow cold

The youth who fell midst violets

For laughing days to come.

Thursday, 28 July 2016


Last night I dined with a friend and discovered something new - that, like me, he is one of what must be a tiny number of westerners to have visited the hermitage at Assekrem, in the Hoggar mountains of southern Algeria.

The monastery was established by Charles de Foucauld.

This former French Army Officer grew to love and respect the desert and the Tuareg who lived in it. He learned their language, and codified it into a dictionary of translation. He built the hermitage at Assekrem and lived there from 1911 to 1916.

With an outlook like this, it is easy to see how a man might make this choice, as a location for a life of solitary and silent contemplation of the divine. It was the Tuareg also who killed him. A bungled kidnap attempt resulted in his murder.

In Geoffrey Moorhouse's The Fearful Void - an adventure book like no other, based on the preposterous notion of an agoraphobic walking the Sahara from East to West - Moorhouse greets the incumbent hermit at Assekrem - a lineage from Charles de Foucauld. The picture of him shaking hands with the old monk somehow inspired me. Deep in a chest somewhere here at home is a picture of me shaking hands with the self same monk, atop the mountain, by the hermitage at Assekrem.

I was 25. I wanted adventure.

I am 55 now. I still want adventure.

Last night's unexpected formation of the Assekrem Club reconnected me with this. It is something easily lost, left dormant. Perhaps I have left this aspect of my being too passive, too long.

Apart from physical expeditions, it is adventure which led me to start my business, adventure which propelled me to make it distinctive, adventure which led me to be as rebellious as I have been in all my dealings, adventure which led me to choose the home and relationships I have, adventure which interests me and excites me every time it offers me opportunity.

I hereby reconnect.

I hereby get active, adventure seeking.

Bring it on.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Thank you, Charlie.
You showed me
What stops me
Is nothing worth stopping for:
A sensibility,
A thought -

This is not worth saying
No one will....
The form isn't....
No, don't embarrass yourself,
Who cares?"

But if no one cares
There's no reason
Not to choose words
And spill them on a page.
Singing to hear one's own song,
Smiling at its echo.

Like the girl singing in the gardens now,
Swinging idly under the ash tree
In a reverie of song
Uninterested in publication
Or audience,
Notes and themes all

Notes, nonetheless,
Reminding self
The self is here
And, reaching for a higher shelf.
Take down unused words, lists -
See what they sound like.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


A friend writes
Here I am
Pumped with stuff
Which makes me wish
They’d just left the cancer
To do its death-thing.
And as I’m reading this
Swallows are having complex clicking chats
As though they’ll never die.
And I recall the mischief of this man
Not knowing whether to laugh or cry
But knowing they have given him four months,
And he ends his message with make the most of every day
Like, maybe, today Ravenna
Tomorrow Pollenca or skydiving.
Or just here, is it? Arundel,
And annual anxiety –
Will swallows come?
For swallows only come to happy homes.
The swift passage of life
Comes anyhow
Whether we distinguish or confuse
Symbols of joy, emblems of doom.
The calls of the mart
Let ordinary things go on in ordinary ways.
Haste’s shrill cadence mocks forth sons,
And its rush of dark past souls
Skim and hair raise,
But do not touch our ground,
Gone in four months,
Not caring if we make the most of every day.

Thursday, 14 July 2016


How can I change
What I deny?

Friday, 17 June 2016


This referendum needs thought. Here's mine.

The argument I want to advance is barely political, though it finds itself in a political context.

All human conflict has at its heart a notion of “us” and “them”.

Without an idea of “us” and of “them”, there would be no conflicts.

We are at our best as humans when we seek to build community, understanding and a shared sense of identity. The more we understand our commonality, the more humanity advances, and the more humane the advance.

There are those who worry about the EU’s enlargement as swallowing, diminishing “us”. Yet the more we advance together in wider definition of what that “us” is, the more humanely we are likely to go and grow. The bigger the scope of “us” we draw, the more compassion.

In contrast, drawing smaller circles of the set called “us” reduces our empathy and compassion, and, at worst, leads us to inhumane dismissal of “them”.

The EU isn’t perfect. Nor, sadly, is it an “us” without a “them”. It is puzzling there is still so much “us” and “them”.  It is puzzling that we have at present so few institutions which are genuinely universal. The more of these we had, the more we lived as one world, sharing this precious planet of “ours”, the more we would recognise that there is ultimately only one “us”, the whole of humanity.

The EU isn’t this. But maybe it is an important start. Its urges for peaceful community are the same urges which may one day take us to the proper conclusion of that journey. It encourages wide and widening community, and the peaceful solution of differences within it. If its expansion widens “us”, so much the better. If that habit eventually leads “us” to the sane conclusion there is no “them”, how wonderful that would be, and how many of the world’s most fundamental problems would be on their way to being solved? Perhaps it will not, but the habit and practice of finding commonality brings that hope closer to realization than not.

I hope ultimately for a peaceful world, where “we” can share “our” planet as one. Perhaps I won’t see it in my lifetime. Hopelessly idealistic, you may say. But if nobody ever hopes for it, there is no hope of it ever being achieved. So I don’t mind giving my hope to it, even if I’m alone. Perhaps it will help. That hope is tempered by the sure knowledge that there are many in the world today who do not yet want that. But there are also plenty who do.

It is with that hope that I shall vote in the referendum, placing my vote for the habits of community, for the expansion of “us” and for participation in an institution which, however flawed, moves us further on that path of understanding  and cooperation with “our” fellow humans - wider, ever wider.

Friday, 13 May 2016


A proper fried breakfast is a thing of beauty and should reflect the following guidelines:

  • The essential key components are:
      • Smoked bacon (2 varieties can be used, but one is fine)
      • Sausages (more than one type may be used)
      • Chipolatas (optional)
      • Mushrooms, fresh, fried
      • Tomatoes, fresh, fried
      • Tomatoes, tinned (optional)
      • Baked beans (Heinz)
      • Black pudding (Bury)
      • Fried white sliced bread
      • Eggs (3) fried or poached, always presented atop the fried bread
      • Hash browns (optional)
  • Above to be served with toast and butter. Frank Cooper's vintage Oxford marmalade may be added.
  • Acceptable beverages are mugs of tea or coffee.
  • Orange juice may be served.
  • The only condiments acceptable are salt, pepper (but never on eggs), Heinz Tomato Ketchup and HP Sauce. No others. Barbecue sauce, no. Chili sauce, no. Thousand Island Sauce, Mint Sauce or any other sauce? Don't be silly.
  • Mustard? Only for those above the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Even then, sparingly. And English only. And only applied to sausages.
  • Sauces should be in small pools at the edge of the plate. never in scrolls or flamboyant nouveau cuisine style flourishes.
  • The best fried bread result is achieved by cooking in bacon fat (or flitch if it can be obtained)
  • White pudding is for perverts.
  • Chorizo is for latin people.
  • Fried potatoes should never be served. Otherwise it's a lunch, not a breakfast.
  • A level of charring is desirable on fried fresh tomato halves.
  • Less than three eggs is ungenerous.
  • Bubble and Squeak, the cockney's friend, is welcome as an occasional visitor, but only in the manner as one would welcome a troglodyte to one's country house. In order to remind yourself why you don't want to be anything like them.
  • Laverbread doesn't travel, so leave it in Wales.
  • All other things you think "I'll just add that," - don't.
  • The best place to cook everything except the tinned tomatoes, beans and eggs is in an Aga. Yes, even the toast - Aga toast is great. I'm no fan of Agas. Generally they are crap. But they do do the fry up doings better than anything else.
  • Grilling bacon is like showering without soap. Or premature withdrawal. Or something.
  • Both bacon and sausages should be bought at a local butcher's. Seriously, the quality difference between their products and the supermarkets is huge.
  • The Oxford Union has debated whether mushrooms should be peeled before cooking. This House was undecided. They should however be large field mushrooms. Canned mushrooms are completely indigestible and are idiocy when fresh mushrooms are so easily and cheaply available.
  • Eggs should be sourced from local farms. If poaching, a fresh egg does not need vinegar in the water. It will hold together well. If it doesn't, your supply source is wrong. It isn't fresh. Poaching eggs is actually preferable to frying. On a decent fry up it isn't as though you don't have enough fried stuff already on the plate. Yolks should be runny. Whites should be white, not snotty.
  • Only salt should be put on egg. Pepper absolutely ruins the taste.
  • I think that purchased hash browns are actually preferable to home made. They are quite hard things to make properly, and there is something delightfully bland yet satisfying about the frozen variety.
  • These few guidelines seem to me to be perfectly easy to follow, and to result in breakfast happiness each and every time.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


"Oh no," she said, emerging from the campervan. "We've forgotten the salad."

"Give me a bowl," I said.

A few minutes later - salad.

Dandelions are blooming in lawns, meadows and verges, triggering this memory.

Forget rocket and expensive salads. Young dandelion leaves are the business.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


The Missus is locked into a Kafkaesque procedure with one of her clients. She did some work for them four months ago and they haven't paid. Rather than pay her, they send her endless versions of forms which have to be completed in order to satisfy their labyrinthine procurement procedures. Her Company is her. She's done the work. They've had the benefit. The answer is plain for anyone to see.

She, far more emollient than I would be, gets caught up and frustrated by meeting their requirements. I'd simply send 'em a legal letter with seven days for payment.

Once a client withheld payment of a six figure invoice because a small expenses claim was outside their policy. I discovered this as I was about to run a series of change programme events for their senior managers. I rang the procurement person and politely explained that I would be waiting to start the events (including some of her bosses) until I had her assurance of payment. After a few minutes thought she kindly rang me back with that assurance.

This is not a unique problem. Over the last twenty odd years of being in business I've encountered it myself a few times. Sometimes it has been a great amount of money at stake. Always it has been a great amount of frustration. Once, British Airways owed me a quarter of a million pounds for more than six months. I was extremely lucky that my business could ride that. Many could not.

More recently, my tolerance for such shenanigans is lower. Much lower. Clients who don't pay me on time get sent prompt reminders and then a legal process begins. I refuse to get caught in the trap that most small businesses feel when dealing with big Companies - that you can't afford to upset them. My thought is, if you're not going to pay me. you're not worth having as a client. Moreover if our relationship is to be one of mutual trust and respect then it needs to be honoured at the key test point of payment.

There are some clients who one senses will be difficult. Much as one senses, on a road, certain drivers who will do daft things. Once, sensing this of a very large client, I wrote penalty clauses into their contract and ended up with them paying more non and late payment penalties than they did for the original assignment. There was little joy in this for me. In the end, as they were paying penalties on the penalties, I rang one of their top guys and just wrote a line under it. For all I know it might still have been running. So inept were their processes.

I have very rarely had to threaten legal action. Only a couple of times in more than two decades. Neither progressed far. Both were solved by single legal letters. One procurement man I spoke to on the phone was wise enough not to actually say he would not pay, but hinted to that effect. As the call drew to a close I asked him,

"Do you have a wife and kids?"


"Will you see them this evening?"


"When you see your family and you tell them of how you are behaving with me, will you do so with pride?"

There was a silence. "No comment," he said.

"Then I think you know what to do," I said, and put the phone down.

Three days later a cheque arrived.

On the whole procurement people don't want to behave badly. They are as imprisoned in mad systems as the small companies supplying them. Nor do I believe that many big Companies really want to screw the cash flow advantage from tiny suppliers. This would be disastrous for their reputation. The answer really is obvious. Have one procurement system for when you are dealing with Microsoft, General Motors or Halliburton. Have another, radically simpler one for dealing with Joe Bloggs, sole trader, that pays them easily and on time.

Friday, 6 May 2016


A bumble bee, very fat and with a very deep orange stripe, got into the house and was bashing itself against a window trying to escape.
I gently wrapped it in kitchen roll and carried it out.
It was obviously either very scared or very angry, or both. Its buzzing pitch changed entirely.
I was careful not to crush it.
I don't think of bumble bees as fast, but it made off at a surprisingly great speed through the blossom of the orchard.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Monday, 11 April 2016


When I was married we had a plane. Well, a third of one, to be precise. When aircraft hangarage appeared on a statement of essential needs in my divorce case, I remember my lawyer, a well spoken Cantabrigian, using the f word in astonishment.

The plane was kept at a flying club which, like many, was an old WWII RAF airfield, and some of the old boys who flew in that era still used it as their gentleman's club. Blazers, embroidered badges, pale fawn corduroys, or Crimpolene trousers, Viyella shirts - these were their style icons. And their neckwear - tatty maroon and blue ties, signifying their service, or, for the more flamboyant, cravats. The few.

I was chatting with one of my dearest friends (online of course as all chat is these days) and she liked my references to lapwings. As, recently, she has kept me sane, this post is dedicated to her.

But it's about lapwings. The connection with the old boys at the flying club is that I can't see lapwings without thinking of them. There's something about the lapwing on the ground that looks as though it's a stuffed specimen even when it's alive. It has this slightly faded green plumage and a dull eye. It looks like its been packed away in a crate, brought out and had the dust blown off. And it has all of the faded ego of a flying ace. That mad crest! A cravat wearer, for certain. An ex flyer who long ago lost his marbles. An avian gin and tonic drinker. A reminiscence with feathers.

When the birds venture into the air, it's as though they are spitfire pilots who long ago forgot how to fly, or are too pissed to remember. Their pre flight briefing consists of, "remember the glory days? No, of course you don't. Well, just go up and go doolally. That'll do."

So up they go, and blow around in the sky, like fighter pilots flying spitfires made out of wet paper. Kites, out of control. Mad squigglings that turn out, after all, to be birds.

Somehow they survive it, get their undercarriage down, and land like they'd got one wing shot orff. Then into the clubhouse for another G & T, unperturbed.

Lapwings are silliness, in a bird.

But like all of nature, their call is freedom. And so they save us.

In times of turmoil, watch lapwings.

Never mind listening or talking therapy. These birds are of a generation that needed none of that, and, in their continued act of flight, in the face of all evidence of its infeasibility, they represent the unfailing wisdom of just keep carrying on carrying on.

And, just as to those few, those most beloved of friends, never before has so much been owed.

Sunday, 10 April 2016


Suffering schools compassion.


Times change.

Taking eggs from birds' nests is unthinkable now.

But when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's it was commonplace.

Ironically, it was taking birds eggs which lit the fuse for an interest and intimacy with nature, and a concern for living things.

I was never cool when I was a kid, but amongst the boys I mixed with, having an egg collection helped. Mine was a shoebox, lined with cotton wool. I don't suppose it had more than two dozen specimens. But that represented considerable shinning around in hedgerows and up trees to get them, not to mention the acts of reconnaissance involved in spying out where the nests were. This really takes you close to nature, to the habits and subterfuges of birds, to the small details of their homes and hiding places.

I suspect that if you showed different birds eggs to children now, they would have no clue as to what they were, other than eggs. But a recent mention by a friend of The Observer's Book of Birds Eggs brought memories flooding back. The sheeny ovals of pigeon's eggs. The odd spherical shape laid by barn owls, as though to accommodate their own equally odd head shape. The blues and greens of duck and geese species - their eggs very edible, though fearsome protein rushes. The mottled sharp ovals of birds of prey. And, for me, the most beautiful of all, the yellowhammer's. Designed in one of nature's Jackson Pollock moments.

A few of us boys had collections which were of a size where we could talk about them, show them off, create exclusivity around them, even trade specimens with each other. .And, of course, a bit like fishing, there were those which got away - the nests where we were sure we would find a hoard but were unlucky. The nests where there was a single egg - even we had the ethics not to take those, dimly aware that some sort of compassion was needed in this game. The eggs we got which met disaster as we descended a tree or tried to improvise some means of carriage. Those which met with accidental destruction as we tried to blow them. These narratives kept a small group of us in a loose, competitive togetherness. And we enjoyed keeping undesirables out. There was one poor boy - virtually a halfwit - for him we would make up ridiculous bird names, and sell him the commonest hedge sparrow or house sparrow eggs on the pretence that they were from the blue ouzley bird, or some such cruelty. If, as was often the case, he had no money, we would send him to the local shop to steal things for us. Even when his errands were done, we excluded him, just from spite, a horrid wish to persuade ourselves we were superior.

Now, every year, the RSPB, which incidentally has more members than any or all political parties in the UK, tells us that some species or other is under threat. The death row list seems to change every year, to the extent it has me questioning its credibility. Yellowhammers were on it, I seem to remember. Lapwings too. The researchers behind the list clearly hadn't been round here. Lapwings blow like thrown handkerchiefs on every breeze. The hedges are golden with yellowhammers.

But they are safe from one threat at least. I don't take their eggs any more.
 But I have ordered a copy of the Observer book. Just in case.

Saturday, 9 April 2016


Our two biggest cherry trees have burst into flower, as though into song.
Pigeons and wagtails sit in the pink cloud of blossom, disguised.
It's amazing how much pink there is in a woodpigeon's plumage.
You see it against that setting.
Today, standing under one of the trees, I was aware that it was singing.
Honey bees.
Maybe a hundred or more.
Loving those flowers.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Just do this.

Sunday, 27 March 2016


"History is bunk."


What is true is what is, now.

Thursday, 24 March 2016


Be careful of your diet.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016


A lapse is not a collapse.

Sunday, 20 March 2016


The past has gone.
The future is a maybe.
Now, joy or tears?

Thursday, 17 March 2016


Is pain present?

Are you?

Thursday, 10 March 2016


One breath at a time.

Thursday, 3 March 2016



Thursday, 11 February 2016


and he'll start a rope factory?

and he'll still buy slip on shoes?

and he'll think it's a python?

and he'll try and tie Continents together?

he'll coil it?

and he'll swim after a leaving ship?

he'll tie himself up?

and never the twine shall meet?

and he'll think he's jack in the beanstalk?

and he will try and ring the bells

and he'll still be looking for the candle

he still won't be able to skip

and he'll try and eat it

and he'll attach two cans to make trunk calls

and you'll end up with a very well protected boxing ring

and he'll try and climb Everest

give a fool enough rope and he'll become leader of the opposition

Thursday, 4 February 2016


There are parents who resent the noise of their children. I do not. When the boys were small, their play, and even their bickering, was music to my ears. After I got divorced, when it represented discontinuous bouts of desired normality, all the more so. The Mini Madam's dawn to dusk musical chirpings have been magical to me.

But I'm struggling. The Mini Madam has had braces fitted "to correct a slight overbite".

This abrades me, as follows.

Firstly, I loathe dentists, and haven't myself been to see one in fifteen years. When Big Madam went, with some suspected impairment, she emerged from the process several thousand pounds lighter. She likes dentists. Even when she was "hard up", I uncovered a bill from, no kidding a Harley Street dentist who was a peer of the realm. It had quite a  few noughts on it.

Secondly, instead of singing and chattering with beauty, Mini Madam now addresses me as if she were brain damaged. Hard to bear.

Thirdly, her every conversation is about the accursed braces. This is because, somehow, having the damned things is seen by her classmates as cool, a kind of rite of passage to a pre teenage status point. I know this fascination must eventually fade, but meanwhile I am robbed of the open minded curiosity of a beloved companion.

Finally, what is being "corrected" is so slight and so cosmetic, not to say so temporary, that anyone but the venal dentistry professional, would say leave well alone.

Whilst the bill was private I had some sort of veto. That it is being footed by the NHS robs me of this.

Big Madam has noticed that I am silent and taciturn.

The music's changed. I'm finding it hard to dance.

I came across a view that there are three phases to parenting - protecting, tolerating, and releasing.

I am tolerating. Just.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016


Is that you?

Monday, 1 February 2016


Landrover are running an advertising campaign, which is currently in UK cinemas.

It has as its tagline the epithet - HIBERNOT.

The idea is, have a landrover, free yourself to get out and enjoy the great outdoors in winter.

I was interested, as I feel the hibernation tendency greatly at present.

But guess what? The ad featured lots of glorious scenes of winter activities all beautifully shot in marvellous outdoor settings featuring hoar coated trees, snowy mountain sides, evocative rivers and forests in golden light. Not a single frame of grey sky.

But for what seems like months now that's what we've had. Endless days and weeks of grey or half dark days, followed by darkness, followed by more flat half light.

It's that from which us SAD sufferers recoil.

Put me up a mountain, with glorious blue skies and snow everywhere, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with winter.

Wrap me in cloud and fog and hide me from the sun. Think I'll hibernate.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


To score a day:

Add up all the people you touched.
Add all the people who touched you.


In 1981 I met a young Officer in Cyprus.

He died yesterday.

Here are the circumstances.

Here, very poignantly, is his last message to the world:

Sunday, 24 January 2016


I have called him Father ever since we met, though the truth is I was separated from my real Father, and my real Mother when I was very young.

I can truthfully say that there has not been a day since that separation when the cries of my Mother have not rung in my ears, as a waking thought, at the close of a day, or in troubled sleep, when the twitching of my limbs is the external sign of my silent recall of that event. Not always exactly silent. Sometimes I whimper in my sleep.

But my adopted Father has been wonderful.

Seeing him, being with him, dispels that infant pain. It is no exaggeration to say that I delight in his company. If, occasionally, he goes away, I await his return with an eagerness which takes over my whole body. When he returns I run to him in joy. His attention is pure joy to me - a joy which fills my whole attention.

He has cuddled and coddled me, and at the same time, seen me grow hard and lean, keen eyed and vigilant. He has put food before me every day. He has washed me, played with me, taken me on adventures with him, taught me the ways of the world around me, cleared up after me when I have made a mess, brought me little presents, forgiven me my failings, trained me, nurtured me, walked with me, loved me. He has given me a fantastic start in life. I could not have asked for more.

He has been unfailingly kind.

Even now, he has set before me a meal at this unusual time. He must be pleased with me indeed. This is  a real treat.

I am relishing it.

I lift my head from my food and turn my loving eyes towards him in thanks. Then, appreciative, I continue eating.

This meal is

Tuesday, 19 January 2016



Son:  I've got a gig, in London's West End

Dad: Oh, good.
Son: There'll be lots of important people in the audience at this one.

Dad: Like whom? can anyone really be more important than anyone else?

Son: Oh, shhh.
Dad: I thought you socialists believed in egalitarianism.
Son: You know what I mean, Dad.

Dad: No, son, I don't.

Saturday, 16 January 2016


I once had a lesson from a journalist. It was about "what is news?".

The journalists showed us two headlines. One said DOG BITES MAN. That is not news, said the journalist. The other said MAN BITES DOG. That is news, said the journalist.

Yesterday I found myself debating this. The motion was the more successful you are, the duller you are.

It ought to be true, and from personal observation, seems to be.

Success has as its lodestone the mainstream. But oddity is the commodity which makes something interesting, newsworthy.

Success also tends you towards self satisfaction, away from the creativity of re-examination.

The two are poor bed fellows.


The above makes me feel pleased to have had so many failures!

Thursday, 14 January 2016


A boy used to come to my place. He loved the orchard, the freedom of the countryside. He liked messing about in our wood and meadow. He liked driving my old Landrover, and the rather knackered tractor we had at the time. He liked lighting fires and cooking outdoors. He became a friend.

When he turned adult I wrote to him a letter, having, by a kind of mutual agreement between us, become appointed as his "moral guardian". This letter contained a very private form of wisdom (not very deep), dressed in the considerable affection I had and still have for him. Unbeknown to me, the letter became a treasure of his.

Later, contemplating his career options, he came to see me for advice. Naturally he got very little. But what did emerge was that his absolute love was film making. In the face of more sensible options, I advised him to follow his heart and passion.

Today, that young man had his latest film nominated for an Oscar, an achievement neither of us could have dreamt of as we talked back then in the grounds of my house.

I bathe in admiration for him and his success.

I hope to see him on the Red Carpet. I hope to see him grasp the golden statuette.