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?