Monday, 21 December 2009

This week: Fat cow, Manky poet and Pethead

I've had an extra ordinary 8 days. Last Sunday I was the understudy fat cow in my Quaker Meeting's production of 'Joseph'. My daughter played Jacob and one of the fat cows and as self declared understudy I got to try on the outfit and it fitted me to a tee!

On the Monday morning I rang up Annie for my usual 6 weekly supervision phone call only to discover she had died a few days previously. I had known for 18 months she was going to die but it was still a shock. On Wednesday evening at my daughter's school carol service they handed out candles and suddenly I was weeping for Annie as I had wanted to light a candle for her and here it was.

Friday I was a Manky poet again for the third time. Because of the snow there were only about 20 people present but that meant those of us performing got to read 2 poems each. I was surprised to be asked to perform first. I was less nervous than previously. I read the first poet in my cycle of poems about my dad's Second World War experiences and my poem about meeting Pam again after 30 years. Both poems below. Then I got a surprise when a man in the second row told me that he was my old friend Mark who I had last seen about 26 years ago! More time travel as I did not recognise him by appearance only by voice

Then last night the Pets were in town so Keith and I braved the snow and it was so worth it. A very similar set to the one I saw in Liverpool but this was ace as ever indeed Keith no Pethead prior to the concert described the show as 'fantastic' that says it all. I was a little disappointed, as at Liverpool, in the somewhat lack of sartorial elegance among the audience - I would have expected More of Petheads. Indeed 3 men were wearing Father Christmas hats - how naff can you get?

Best to all fo you this XCmas and New year




The German plane dived
Over your ship
And the deadly sound of its guns began
"It's you or me mate"
And you followed your training
And fired back
A lifetime of Christianity
of pacifism
Vanished from your soul

The grieving began later.

On meeting Pam again after 30 years

I was ill
Sitting at a table
In the Art Gallery
Awaiting a friendly bowl of soup
"Is it Bill?" a voice said
And I looked up
And saw
a grey haired woman
With a somewhat familiar face
"It's Pam" you said
"Of course, I replied
Time travelling
back and forth
Over 30 years
From the blond haired young woman
Of spirit
- who I loved
To this defeated short grey haired mature woman
Were you time travelling too?
But at least you had the advantage on me
Of seeing me at a distance before coming over
I told you of the recent deaths
Of Mole and Woody
You had not heard
You'd been mad on a psychiatric ward
You told me you were here with your OT
And not to let on I knew you
Oh my God paranoia on your part
Or playing safe self care
You left me
With a whiff of our shared and separate histories
of sadness, of time passing
Of my survival and flourishing
Of your survival by your fingertips

Isn't life strange?

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Boss and Q again

The Boss visits Q his spiritual director once again.
- Hi Q
- Hello Boss, how are you?
- I’m OK really but…
Q waits as patient as ever
- But well there is this colleague of mine, I knew she was ill, but she seems well enough and she’s just died and – the Boss was silent with tears trickling down his face
Q nods
- She was only 54… (sob) and I…I rang her up like I do and she was already dead and buried. No-one had told me… I don’t know what to do.
- No?
- No, I guess I want to write something about her and what she meant to me. She mattered, she truly mattered. (The Boss is openly weeping now) She made a real difference to me and my team… probably to loads of others as well. It needs to be marked, it needs to be celebrated - her life… I need to understand.
- Understand?
- Yes why we live and why we die and why people like Annie die young… And please I don’t want any religious platitudes!
- Oh
- Yes don’t tell me she has gone to a better place, that her suffering is over otherwise I’ll hit you so God help me.
- Boss, Boss you know me better than that?
There was a silence in which the Boss reflected.
- You’re hurting, (the Boss nods) you’re trying to make sense of these mysteries and in times of suffering it is hard to trust-
- Trust what?
- Indeed, but you do know different?
- I do?
- You do
The Boss heaves a deep sigh
- Sometimes life is a bugger, sometimes life or God pushes me a bit far (Q nods his agreement) but you know however far I am not totally destroyed or at least not so far, sometimes rather broken but not yet destroyed… So maybe I should be thankful for small mercies… But Annie was a good soul and I will miss her. (Another deep sigh) You know I felt his curious desire to visit a sacred place and light a candle in thanks for her. I think this Christmas I will be remembering quite a few souls who have moved on. Maybe there is a bundle of candles to light or maybe one big one but I need to do it.
Q nods in reply and a deep silence begins which seems to gather the Boss and Q up in a benevolent and peaceful grasp. The panic and sorrow in the Boss gradually leaves him for the moment and he feels ready to face the world once more

Monday, 14 December 2009

Poem for Annie Murray

I have a phone conversation every 6 weeks or so with an extra ordinary women called Annie Murray. She acts as my organisational supervisor and she has helped me for several years to stay in touch with my own agenda within the mad institution that I work in.

In April 2008 Annie knew she had incurable cancer and told me so. I wrote the following poem for her which I have never put into print nor performed so far:

Poem for Annie

You rang me up
To tell me
About your illness

My heart sank
Angry bile rose in my throat

“God no!”
“It’s not fair!”
“Only the good die young”
Cliches ricochet through my brain

I wanted to cry

So I said
“Do the things that make you feel good”

How feeble!

I wanted to say
“You know you are loved”
And “All things must pass”
And “Creation is friendly”

Annie's response was typical:

hi william

i'm really touched. your poem did what i needed to happen. i've had a sob stuck in my throat all morning and only now that its out i know that i needed to cry.

you are very kind. and you are right about doing things that feel good.
'prioritising' up to now has been a word that meant lists and in-trays.

right now my priority is to draw pictures and eat cake.

thank you for your poem and for your good wishes.

i am putting my faith in the power of prayer, the kindness of others and the right kind of drugs.


She died a few days ago aged 54. I am a better person for knowing her and my work has been that bit better these past years.

Understudy fat cow

So my wife Sheila, daughter Grace and I were all in the production of 'Joseph yesterday at our local Quaker Meeting. Weeks of brief rehearsals and lots of scenery and costume making. Sheila and I were in the choir and Grace was both Jacob and a fat cow.

Grace always gets to wear these great outfits she was once on stage at the Lowry in a bear outfit(!) and try as I could I couldn't fit into it. Anyway I suggsted that she had 2 many parts to play or failing that that I should be her understudy fat cow. And of course this meant I had to try on the fat cow outfit. It fitted me perfect - photo to follow - pandemonium resulted!

It was great poeorforming in a choir again even if it felt a bit under rehearsed and I more less hit the right notes if not always in the right order! :) so searching for a new choir will become a New Year's resolution....


Bill on bike

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It started with an email

[creative writing]

It started with an email:

Dear Martyn Gregson,

I am Claudia MacDonald a relative of your ex wife Samantha. I will be visiting Manchester next week and I would like to meet with you.



This set off all manner of thoughts and feelings within Martyn ‘What a strange email. Who is Claudia and what is she and why one earth does she want to meet with me? I don’t remember meeting anyone called Claudia, or even hearing of her. But it’s been a long time since I was with Sam so who knows and I have thankfully forgotten so much....Well it might be interesting to meet with this Claudia.’

The reply:

Dear Claudia,

What an intriguing email. I hope there is nothing wrong with Sam? I don’t remember a relative of hers called Claudia but I am happy to meet with you for coffee on next Tuesday afternoon.



‘A result!’

Dear Martyn,

Many thanks for agreeing to meet with me. Sam is well. You and I have never met. How about Starbucks or Costa?

Best regards,


Martyn was typically 5 minutes early for his meeting with Claudia dressed as agreed in yellow cords. ‘I’ll be unmistakable’ as he put it in an email feeling slightly like he was going on a blind date and wondering yet again what on earth this meeting was going to be about and who on earth this Claudia was.

Claudia was untypically 10 minutes early for the meeting. This was going to be it. This was going to be her chance to find out. They shook hands. She nearly lost it, she didn’t know beforehand what she was going to feel but a huge sadness was now threatening to engulf her. Martyn pointed to a couple of nearby armchairs arranged around a low table. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak, and he led the way.

- So. (There was a question to answer)
- So… I needed to meet you…
- Yes. (Again an implied question)
- Yes, look there’s no easy way to put this (This was said in a rush as if otherwise the words would never come out) but… but I think.., no, I know… or I think I know…ah. You’re my dad. Erhm hm my biological dad at least.
- Errr (a groan). Oh Fuck (an expletive) but how? (They both laughed and suddenly it felt OK.)
- I mean.
- Yes, I was born March 22nd 1985.
- That means
- That means I was conceived around the end of June 1984….
- Oh Fuck… that’s all but impossible…..But we were kind of still together until the end of June… but I don’t remember… Oh God this is a rather strange conversation with a strange young woman… I mean not that you are strange.
- I know, I know.
- OK just suppose it is possible… (Then Martyn looked at Claudia for what seemed like the first time. Here was a young attractive woman who just could be his daughter. He searched her face for signs, yes she was clearly Sam’s daughter those same deep blue grey eyes that he had found so enticing. But there was something else a quality that had an echo to it, a quality that he could not quiet pin down, no it wasn’t his mum but it just could be the proud way his granny – his mum’s mum – had held her head?)
- Then what?
- Yes… then what?
- More coffee? (He needed to do something, even if only to order a couple of coffees in a very distracted manner. He desperately needed time to think)
- Please. (She was relived that he was not going to runaway from her that the encounter was going to last longer, going to continue.)
He returned with two more cups of coffee.
- Tell me more.
- More about?
- Oh… everything

So there it started the unlikely meeting between apparently biological father and grownup daughter. Of course it begged many questions. Not least whether Martyn actually was Claudia’s biological father and also if he was why had Samantha not let on to him or Claudia previously. There was a lot to sort out. Meanwhile two rather fragile people were cautiously negotiating a relationship.

- Just about your life
- Right, mum, I mean Sam moved back to the farm just before I was born… I grew up there with granny and gramps. They raised me cos mum went back to work… after I was born…
- Hmm
- Then… well I went to Oakwood Primary, Lawnstone Grammar, Newcastle Uni to do Art and Design then got a job with a publisher…
- Hmm, married?
- No… got a boyfriend, we kinda live together but nothing too serious.
- Uh hmm (Martyn felt relieved as if he didn’t want Claudia to be married but didn’t know why he was feeling that way.)
There was a pause, a silence in which coffee was sipped and then:
- I know stuff about you
- Yeah
- Yeah about you and mum being married but not much about you since though I have Googled you
- Don’t believe everything you read on Google!
- No I don’t but I wanted to know something about you… something beyond you and mum being married and splitting up.
- Sure

There was another pause this one felt more tense more awkward
- What next?
- Yes what next?
- Well… what did you want?... I mean why did you want to meet with me?
- I wanted to see you, meet with you, make you real to me (Martyn nodded)… Now I dunno… I dunno what this means… I am pretty sure I want to meet with you again.
- OK
- You mean that? (‘Oh god I was going to cry’)
- (‘Oh God she’s going to cry’) (He nodded, not trusting himself to speak either).

There were more emails:

Dear Martyn,

Many many thanks. I didn’t know how it was going to be but you were brill. I am looking forward to seeing you again.

Very best,


Dear Claudia,

Thanks for your email. I much enjoyed meeting you. See you soon.

PS I was right the Pets were number one when you were born!

There were more thoughts.

For Martyn: ‘Can I possibly be her father? I don’t remember having any sex with Sam during our last month together. I am sure of that cos we had stopped sleeping together…But there was one might I went out and got totally plastered – it was Steve’s leaving do and I had little memory the following morning. But…But if I am Claudia’s father then Sam has got a lot to answer for’.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


I saw the play about Gracie Fields on BBC4 last night, Jane Horrocks as Gracie was stunning. It put me in touch with thinking about my mum and dad and their war time experiences and how as a postwar baby I grew up in the legacy of that time. I guess I am a PTSD baby. My dad never recovered from his war time experiences it marked him for life. I can't figure out how much of how he was was down to the war and how much was being a baby born in 1913 to a rather Victorian mum.

My parents delayed having children until the war was over apart from a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage that I don't think my dad ever knew about. Their first baby died in 1947 6 days old and then my sister was born and then me. How could our childhood be normal with that kind of pre birth story?

Since my dad's death I feel close to the Second World War experiences of him and others. It's weird like I am carrying them for him or perhaps they have always been inside me but are now surfacing. I don't know where one thing ends and the other begins. I just weep.

So enough damage how can we live without war?



Music again

This whole business of learning to play the piano is fascinating stuff. For example having to learn the left and right hands separately before putting them together is dead curious. Right now by accident my latest tune is Ding Dong Merrily on High one of my favourite carols. It has a marvelous chorus which I love trying to sing without taking a breathe. The right hand does some real fun stuff, I guess it kinda of represents church bells. If I switch my electric piano seeting to Church organ it is delightful to listen to.

Now when I put the two hands together as I have just begun to do then I can't play it yet at sufficient speed so that it sounds like the carol. Slowed down it rather sounds like a minaret, rather like a 18th Century dance you might hear in a Jane Austen film. A stunning effect.

On another tune the right hand alone sounded very Scottish and plaintive but when put with the left it sounds more North American. It does make you wonder how stuff gets composed and how what might at first seem like very different left and right hand bits but blend well when put togethr. I am sorry but I can't help thinking of the Pets and Neil's melancholic thoughtful lyrics and Chris' high NRG music. You wouldn't think it would work but it does and feeds both sides of me.

And I guess that points to how I can resonate with Jnaanese culture wwhich is both delightful and artistic and stunning and sometimes so low brow - kirsch as well. Well they did invent karoake, Sumo wrestling and caligraphy and artwork to die for.

I guess it is too late for me to acquire taste and I would not want to lose something precious to me in the process. I can't go so single minded as that.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 23 November 2009


When I was a teenager my Godmother Nancy used to knit me these wonderful polar neck wool sweaters that were fantastic in the cold Manchester winters. There was a orange, a white, a purple and a black one, I think, over 4 years reflecting my changing fashion colours. I wore them for years.

Well she got too old to knit but had a friend who used to knit wool socks so for years I got these socks instead for Xmas. They were great for hiking in but virtually indestructible. I didn't have the heart to refuse them. Then she went into a nursing home as I have mentioned on previous blogs, so no more socks.

Well a number of people in my Quaker meeting are involved in work with asylum seekers including a winter night shelter based in the Meeting House and other local churches. There was an appeal for clothes and I thought of these socks. They went down a treat and before the first night was over they were all being put to use.

It is a lovely thought that those hand knitted socks given to me by my Godmother Nancy are being put to real use in this way. She was a Welsh woman from the valleys in which all the men in her family went down the mines. She once said that Margaret Thatcher had not got the milk of human kindness in her. This was perhaps an unusually forthright statement for her to make but it showed where her heart was. I think she would have been right pleased to see these socks being put to such good use.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Many poet again

Last night I was a Manky poet again at the regular monthly gig in Chorlton library. There was about 50 people there - double last month's audience. So I only got to read one of my poems - 'Bleeding bikes' but it went down well as did my warm up joke. I am getting more relaxed about performing in this way, it is very different to a 50 minute Uni lecture!

I can imagine performing other people's poems which I will probably do at my forthcoming birthday do. So maybe I have got the performing bug. There is another monthly poetry spot in the Green Room so I might end up there one of these months. It is great to be heard in this way. It's very affirming, might even be addictive.

I have entered 2 poems ('It's me or you mate' and 'Bleeding bikes') for the new poetry competition run by Poetic Republic - I entered the competition they ran last Spring and was 33rd out of 310, this was with my poem 'On meeting Pam again after 30 years'. 33rd was enough to encourage me further and I hope to finish in the top 10% this time, ideally the final 12.

I have also sent up a six line short story produced at Paper Planes creative writing workshop last weekend, to I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile I think the final version of my latest edited academic book has met with my editor's approval. This only leaves my 5th book past its submission date but I blame my co-authors Terry and Clare :)

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 16 November 2009

Frankie's tail

[creative writing again]

The girls were putting out their Christmas stocking and so were the boys. Me I didn't care about Christmas. All I wanted to do was party party. In those times I was into a wild and weird scene or so it seemed at the time. Lots of es, lots of dancing, weird sex - some of it very weird. It all kinda of got a bit addictive. I wasn't that fussed whether it was men or women as long as they were young and pretty. I almost never remembered their names that well but some of their faces stay with me till this day. But I was off my head so much of the time and so I am not sure how much was real and how much was the movie inside my head. This was all before my first crackup...

[As told to Amanda]

The eggman or something

[creative writing piece]

- I am the eggman, I am the walrus, Goo goo ja goob.
- Shut the fuck up.
Thankfully there was silence.
- I thought the walrus was Paul.
- Oh shut up.
This next silence was bitter.
- Oh thanks a bundle.
- I am not creating this to keep you pleased.
- Well I wish somebody was.
- What?
- Trying to keep me pleased.
- Oh.
A puzzled silence.
-Silences of the world unite you have nothing to lose but your identities.
- Silence is golden.
- Shut the fuck up.

I did.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Wear the sword

William Penn was a man about town in 17th Century London so accordingly he carried a sword for self defence. As a Quaker committed to peace this trouble him so he sought George Fox's advice. George's reply is a classic Quaker quote, "Wear the sword as long as thou canst"

Well I feel the same way about driving a car and flying by plane. I need to stop.

This week in the Guardian there have been whistle blowers who tell us that the estimates of oil reserves have been lied about so that the market does not panic. So it seems highly possible that we might run out of oil before we are ready to live without it. If so it will get rough and I imagine food rationing and digging up our back gardens and common land will have to happen as in World War 2. Thankfully my wife is a farmer's daughter. We already have raspberries, apples and a few pears and lots of compost.

I remain profoundly pessimistic about Copenhagen and whether our politicians have the will and the humanity to take the necessary steps even if we do have the time and whether public opinion is ready. Our lives need to change more profoundly than most of us yet accept.

So maybe the death of our cars will jolt us into a new life that is gentler on the planet. But it is gonna hurt. We need to find better ways of leading rich lives based on the quality of human interactions.


Bill-on-bike thankfully not raining this morning

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


Confession! Last night I took Anglican communion for the first time in ages and last month I even took Catholic Mass (in both cases the ministers were friends of mine) so I will probably get 'disowned' by my fellow Quakers :) and who knows what action might be taken against the priests involved!

It was a great liturgy from New Zealand very inclusive and we sang a hymn written by a Quaker - nice touch. There were only 6 of us so I found myself really singing with gusto pleasure and mostly in tune. My singing lessons with Rebbecca are clearly paying off.

Mostly when Rebbecca first hits a note for me to copy at the start of the lesson my first attempts are wide of the mark. Usually I need to slow down and wait and feel the note and then respond. Then it is usually right. At my primary school I was not even offered one real chance of singing in tune, never offered any teaching just told to mime. What kind of 'teaching' was that?

In my own teaching I have so much patience for my students as they struggle to sound their own academic notes. I love doing it and feel no desire to put them down or humiliate them. I have gained so much over the years from this work of mine. I always try to find the place in me where I can give of my best. So if I find myself being bored in part of my work I try and get out of it. So that mostly my creative energies can flow. When I enjoy my work so do my students and their work gets better.

My music teacher in primary school never got the pleasure of hearing me sing. The Head of my primary school said to my parents, "Never be surprised by anything he does". Well I have surprised myself.

Best to all,


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Thinking on... my birthday

Regular readers of this blog will know of my tortured history in relation to music and the healing that has come through being in a choir with Grace, taking up piano lessons with Rebbecca and more recently doing voice work with Rebbecca.

Some of you will also know that my 60th birthday happens next January 3rd and I am planning a small but happy birthday do on Saturday 2nd - invites will be reaching many of you in due course. If you can't be there raise a glass on the day.

Part of the birthday do will involve people being invited to do a turn or two - a song a poem a story. So inevitably I have been thinking about my turn. It occurred to me that I might just try and sing a favourite Pets song (Guess which one!) maybe alone and unaccompanied. Well I tried it out with Rebecca's help and she reckons rightly that it is too difficult for me right now. This is hard to accept but I am so pleased that she can say this to me that I can take it on the chin and it also puts her praise of me on other occasions in a clear light i.e. I can believe the praise more readily when I hear such critical feedback. So I might look out an easier song but meanwhile following her suggestion I am trying out the Pets song as a poem and it works remarkably well!

Meanwhile I have just joined the 10:10 campaign that's about reducing emissions by 10% by the end of 2010 - all I now have to do is figure out how!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Manky poet

Yes last night I performed 2 of my poems live to a real audience of about 20 people at the monthly Manky poets gathering at my local library. Each poet and poem is well received and applauded so it is hard to tell how it is received but apart from feeling a bit too nervous and a bit tight I was pleased with my performance and reception and I will go again. Below are the 2 poems I read - previous blogged here and both have appeared in copies of 'Thresholds' magazine the journal of APSCC the spiritual bit of BACP.

Now I must lie down!

Spiritual Suffering

When the President
Of my university
Responded to my query
About increased staff ill health following merger
He replied
He had no evidence for this.
But I
Just looked into your eyes
Even the psychiatrist
Saw a ‘soul in torment’
And then prescribed
Electro Convulsive Therapy
So I guess ECT
Is now an evidence based treatment
For spiritual suffering

Meeting a cow in Bangalore

You weren't troubled by the traffic
But I was
They see you as sacred
But cars are not respectful of my being
You walked on unhurried
I ran for my life
You remind me of my divinity
My inner light
My need to uphold the best in me
And not the beast in me.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

More music

I made a curious discovery in the singing part of my piano lesson with Rebbecca last night. When I try and sign the note she has just played on the piano I usually get it wrong. If I sit and listen to the note in my body and then respond I am more often than not right or very close to it. The rush to get it right gets in wrong. When I am slower and more relaxed and focused on listening and feeling it I can usually sing in a way that resonates with what I have heard. I find this staggering.

When I hit the wrong note on the piano I usually know that I have and I know which hand has made the mistake. Rebbecca says that this is not so for all her pupils and she complements my 'developing musicianship'. Ah!!

My 'aged to perfection' birthday do is taking shape. I find myself wondering whether to attempt a Rufus or a Pets song possibly unaccompanied which is probably a bit too risky even given the audience. In a practice rehearsal I find that Pets come out better than Rufus even though my voice is probably closer in range to Rufus compared with Neil.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Frankie again

Hello friends, Frankie speaking or rather word processing :). The Boss is gearing up for his 60th birthday do and is becoming a bit impossible. I can only cope so much with his renditions of Red Letter Day (though at least it is the Pets or it was before he mangled it) but Al Bowly and Cole Porter is way too far! Still he has invited me and suggested that I do a turn so I am wondering about dressing up as Rufus and doing 'Release the Stars'! What dya think?

Mind you if it was my birthday do I would dancing in the Streets niteclub like I did at my infamous 30th birthday do. I have never really recovered from being 30. I thought my life had ended but as Neil sang on legacy 'You'll get over it my friend' and I kinda did.

The Boss pretends he don't mind becoming 60 but I have heard what he was like when he turned 50 and you don't want to be around that. Still we must give him a good send off. Now what can I buy the Boss. Want Too by Rufus? or a rare limited edition Pets CD or so lurid socks that I will insist he wears for his do...

Love and kisses,

(as told to Bill on Bike)

Monday, 12 October 2009

Future and past poem

(Written and Paper planes workshop last Saturday)


I was convinced you would die on me
And I would be a single step parent
But you left me instead
And all that soul searching
My 'What is life for?' stuff
Was turned on its head.

I went off to Japan on a business trip
And you just went
I came home to a hollow house
And a mortgage of grief.

So it goes
It went
You went
I brought a bike
And leaned into the wind
And didn't fall off.

I couldn't see a future for me
For some time spent following my nose
Keeping my head down
Getting by
You know the kind of shit
I am talking about.

Sometime something new and unexpected
Opened out in me
And I jumped the rails
And hit a future I didn't see
And now that future is coming to an end
And I ask myself 'Was that all a dream?'

But it only feels that way
I can see
The truth of these last 20 years
All around me
It's been good
But what next?
I guess today will be sufficient.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Ask Q

Regular readers of this blog will have read blog entries from me from time to time in which in my character the Boss (and of one occasion Frankie!) I consult a mysterious and imaginary spiritual adviser known as Q. I actually often find Q words very helpful to me.

So if you as a reader wish to consult Q and ask him (I think he is a him) questions of a spiritual nature then Q will respond as soon as he can on this blog. I can accept no responsibility for the consequences of you receiving Q's words. Email your questions to Q - with Ask Q as the subject of the email to


Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Boss meets Q again

The Boss once more visits Q his spiritual director:

- Hi Q
-Hi Boss
There was a comfortable silence.
- Q?
- Yes.
- Last year I visited my friends in Edinburgh. And... and, whilst I was there I went to a dinner party at the home of a Catholic priest who I've met before and quite like. Well I arrived a bit early, as I am want to, and they were having a short Mass in the chapel room. I was invited to join in and found myself taking Holy Communion..
- Hmm.
Q was thoughtful.
- It seemed fine at the time, in fact I found it quite moving, well more than a little. It seemed a natural expression of friendship and spirituality. But the thing is although I occasionally still take Anglican Communion, I am not a Catholic and have only ever attended the occasional Catholic wedding or funeral and never Mass.
- And this troubles you?
- Why Yes.
- And what is it about it that troubles you?
- Well some of my fellow Quakers and some of my Anglican friends would certainly not approve.
- That's never troubled you before for example with regard to your views on same sex marriage.
- True but this seems different.
- How?
- Oh, I feel like I've let the side down but actually I don't really care. It was a loving action that did not hurt anybody on the contrary it had a deep spiritual feel to it. I wont let myself be made to feel bad about it. Indeed I think we should do more of this - attend each other's services and feel the love that's there. I do wonder about whether James the priest would get into hot water but I guess he's a grown up and can make his own decisions. It's rather refreshing to see it happen actually, like if the spirit is right why not?

Q was smiling as the Boss lapsed into silence and a deep air of peace filled the room.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Music: Joseph

Last Sunday was the first rehearsal of the musical Joseph at my Quaker Meeting for our Christmas do. We only had 15 minutes for this first rehearsal and there was no warm up but straight into singing through half a line at a time. I was stood next to Maurice who has a lovely signing voice and I tried not to be put off by this. There was one note I struggled to reach. I asked Sheila afterwards and she said it was D one octave above Middle C.

So with Rebecca last night I explored this. Well this D is about 3 notes off the top of my range currently so no surprise there. When I have trouble singing something my immediate reaction is 'Oh, it is because I am a rubbish singer' rather than 'Well this note is beyond most men.' Sheila said well sing it an octave lower that is what most people would do' True but my problem is that I can't instruct myself to do this and then do it. I might do it by 'accdient' by I can't (yet!) by design. Now if Rachel the choir conductor had sang my line to me I could try and hold it especially if Maurice and other people were singing it. Sheila says it is not like that we are not going to sing in different parts like in Carol's choir. Ye Gods this is a tough one. As Rebecca said 'You have no musical training'.

So I will see about Joseph. Rebecca says if I bring the music she will help me sort it out which is great. I still want to be back in Carol's choir so I must chase that up.

Cold today on the bike, we have moved into Autumn but at least it is dry and the colours in the sky are worth getting up for. I am whacked after a 2 week visit from my Kenyan colleagues in whcih I was doing wall-to-wall teaching. Life is a bit grey without them!

Best to all,

Bill on bike.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Dawn and my dad

Cycling to work with lovely blue skies and pink clouds this morning and a tang of Autumn in the air and I want to cycle on forever! It made me think of my dad who loved to see the sunrise. Towards the end of his life his sleeping habits got a bit erratic. My feeling was that he was reverting to his (Second World) war time sleeping habits. He was in the Navy and was on small ships - converted trawlers (small fishing boats) - and they did 'watches' i.e. 6 hours on 6 hours off. So many times he might have had a bad night - seasick or afraid of a possible or actual attack by German plane or submarine, and so to see the dawn rise was wonderful, full of promise and life. So I think that experience was repeated in his final days. I remember him saying from his hospital bed that he couldn't he could see nature from out of the window!

Besides the dawn he loved the stars and passed on this love to me, and I have passed this onto my daughter. In those long hours of the night with not much to do but to keep watch under a starry night.

I keep finding these threads in my life of my dad and my mum. And I am more at peace now with their imperfections and with my grieve. I am thankful and each dawn is a new day for me and an extra day and I hope it is a good one for you.

Best to all,

PS Jupiter the planet is still very bright and easy to see on a clear night. Creation is just awesome!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009



Great piano lesson last night with Rebbecca. Started off with some singing. It may be obvious to most of you but once I am warmed up I sing better which was why I enjoyed signing on the way home on my bike last week after the lesson. After the singing which included working the transition between my chest singing (Bassish) and head singing (bit falsetto like) I told Rebbecca about my Al Bowly performance on the way home. She didn't recognise the name of the song so recklessly I just sang it to her - a bit nervous but as she said I was in tune. God I am starting to claim that now! Since in my heart of hearts (whatever and wherever that is!) I know when I am in tune or certainly I know when i am not. So my first solo!

Home to another episode of the Choir and Gareth re-visits the Boys school which did have a choir for years until he visited it. So I am weeping again music being a route into a tenderness that boys find hard to own. Earlier in the day one of my students spoke about being told to mime (like I was at Primary School) by the music teacher. So this must have been a teaching(!) fashion at the time. Unfortunately she has not reclaimed her voice - yet. I was very tempted to set up a choir there and then!

Then this morning 7am and Grace, my daughter, puts on the Pets singing Red Letter Day. Its the bilingual CD version with a great drum solo, then the choir, then Chris on Hi NRG music and then Neil. My all time favourite. What can you do? I had to sing on my bike and this time I got it in tune. If you want to hear and see the video try

This song which is about yearning and hope and many other things - I have blogged about it before - is what I want at my funeral but Sheila said, 'Oh no!' and I thought well Yes funerals are for those who live on for a while and it is a bit naff imposing all kinds of daft requests on grieving people. Anyway why wait? Click on the youtube link!

Nice to bike with no rain this morning enough to make any Mancunian sing their hearts out! (What a phrase that is?)



Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Boss meets with Q again

The Boss decides to meet with Q his spiritual director.
- Hi Boss.
- Hi Q.
There was the usual deep silence that the Boss loved to experience with Q. Part of him just wanted too dwell in that silence for ever. But there were concerns that needed to be aired.
- Q? (Q nods) I have this good friend who is dying and I feel so angry, it feels so unfair (Q sighs) and I wonder 'Why? Why does this have to happen, why does God allow it?'
- So death is such a bad thing?
- Oh.. hmm. Well it is inevitable I guess but...
- So is it a bad thing?
- It feels like it is. She is a good woman and has helped many people and has such a rich full life why should it end so abruptly, so unfairly in the prime of her life.
- I don't know.
- Come on Q I want some answers',the Boss was getting irritated.
- Boss, Boss, said Q gently, 'there are some answers but I think you need to recognise how upset you are'
The Boss weeps.

Again the deep silence in the room rapt itself around the Boss in a comforting glow.
- The friend of yours has enriched your life and it sounds like many others?
The Boss nods in reply not trusting himself to speak.
- Give thanks for that.
- I am thankful but I don't want to lose her.
- Can you really lose her when she is here? (Q points to his heart)
- No I guess not.
- These things are a mystery but we have to trust our experience that nothing can truly divide us from those we love and it is my belief that we do re-unite with our loved ones after we die.
The Boss nods and the silence resumes.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Music again

With my piano teacher Rebbecca last night and doing some singing. She was full of praise and I find this hard to take because somewhere inside I still don't believe I can sing. And yet after the lesson I was on my bike doing some of the practice singing that I knew sounded right and then I launched into the Al Bowly song 'Have you ever been lonely?' It felt good to sing I was relaxed and with a passion for the words and I heard myself sing and I was in tune. I could deny the truth of my ears and yes I know we do not hear exactly what we say or sing but it was good. When I sing at work walking up the stairs - it is so natural to me to sing but I always thought I was rubbish at it but now I am not so sure. Sometimes when I am relaxed it sounds good to me.

In my 2+ octaves singing voice I have 2 parts to it, my bass part below middle C is easy to hit and I am comfortable and it is where I used to place myself in Carol Donaldson's Intergenerational Choir. Then there is my 'falsetto' part above middle C which is where I used to mostly sing for pop tunes. This is a bit harder for me but feels good when I get it right. The few notes in between are the hardest as I switch between the two but Rebbecca is helping me work this.

I am stunned by this. I think I am going to have to record my voice just too convince myself further. Rebbecca is no pussy cat but I still can't truly take in all her praise for my signing.

My paternal Grandad Albert sang in a church choir. My maternal great grandfather Thomas was a Welsh Baptist minister so I guess he sang too. Maybe its in my genes. My Quaker Meeting is planning to do 'Joseph' as a Christmas thing so I guess I will join in as part of the chorus and it's time to email Carol again to find out about a choir...

My mum always said to me that if you wanted to do something badly enough you could i.e. go for it. Well a new choir and one of these days Grade One piano will do for me for now. Oh yes and my first live public poetry reading - watch this space.

Best to all,

Bill on bike and loving it

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Jazz, Toad and Reading

Last Thursday I was in London for a meeting and then met up with my old mate Toad (not his real name). Toad and I went to the same primary school, grammar school and eventually we were each other's best man at my first wedding and his only wedding. We arranged to meet at Cambridge Circus and I found him standing below a huge silver high heel. And I mean huge maybe 20 feet or more across. It had to be the backdrop of a photo which I will put here and/or on flickr or facebook soon as I get it.

Sharing a love of jazz (Toad plays a mean Jazz piano) he and his wife Anna took me to a venue in a nearby pub, downstairs maybe 40 people at the most listening to some ace jazz. It was sublime. I didn't get the name of the band but it had piano, trumpet, double bass, drums, and sax. Very mellow. Then I walked home through the lively and warm streets of London at 11.30 to my lodgings at the Penn Club.

The next day off to an exotic conference (BAPCA) at Reading. Made some new friends including Steve from Southampton who sang with me and few others and then at 11.30 knew I needed to sleep since I had a keynote address to give on the Saturday morning. On the way back to my student hall bedroom I was waylaid by a fascinating and delightful woman whose name I never really got but she was from Sheffield and told me a lot about Kip Jones, narrative research, ecology and the like. Great fun but I was ready to sleep.

Best to all,


Monday, 14 September 2009

Tough sainthood and ecstasy

Sometimes just for a few passing moments I want to be a tough saint. However, I can't really do tough and I certainly can't do saint. I try my best to do kind and to look after myself which sometimes means being tough on others.

Sometimes in people's company I get ecstatic. I thought that this was alcohol fuelled which it sometimes is. Then a few years ago at a conference in Norwich I had toothache so I had antibiotics which meant no alcohol. I got ecstatic anyway.

Indeed a few times when I have got very drunk I have lost my ordinary mind (see my 'Pale mourning in Moscow' blog entry) and then said things I regret or even worse don't remember. So I prefer my ecstasy not to be alcohol fuelled.

Of course it does not always happen. I have a few pointers as to what helps me:
1) a few people I know and trust around me
2) people's willingness to have both a laugh and get deeply and humorously serious
3) Shop talk usually brings everyone out of such ecstasy
4) Singing and dancing always helps!

Of course I frequently have moments of (spiritual) ecstasy on my own.



Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Music again

Cycling into work today, clear blue sky, sun in my face some of the way, it's cold in a pleasant sort of a way - kind of tangy, just the day for a long cycle ride but alas work calls...

With my piano teacher Rebbecca last night doing the singing part of the lesson she got me to sing two notes separated by a semi tone. She then got me to sing from one to another and back again and it felt like a figure of 8 and my body moved in that shape. (I quite often get movement to music which I sometimes turn into dance). Listening to myself sing I could not really tell the notes apart but she could. I can always tell if my singing is the same as the piano note she sounds because I hear and feel the resonance between the two. So we went down my almost 2 octaves with singing these pairs. Oh my!

Later I watched the choir on BBC2 in which this mazing guy - Gareth - has decided to try and set up a choir in a working class housing estate South Oxley near Watford. It's rather like he is doing community work and he gets 200people to the first meeting and then last night he got some primary school children from the 6 schools to form a children's choir. He also challenges the prejudice against this estate among more well today people living near by by getting the choir a gig in the highly regarded Colosseum Theatre in Watford.

I wept silently with tears running down my face. Sheila asked me if I was OK and I howled. I don't claim to be working class but until I met with Rebbecca no-one has explored my love of music with me or offered me an instrument to try out. OK I could have done this early although being told to mime at my primary school by my music teacher shut me up and closed me down. I believed I could not sing and could not read music until my daughter showed me how to read music in 5 minutes flat and how to play a couple of notes.

It's hard work playing the piano but the satisfaction is immense as is the times I have song in the family choir at my daughter's school. So I am looking to rejoin that choir or another one.

This passion for what you want to do - I remember blurting out to John McLeod that I wanted to do a PhD 18 years ago. I didn't know until I said it that I did and he welcomed it and my life has never been the same. So I stand by people's hidden passions, by education as drawing out that which we have inside and which needs an outlet. These lack of outlets is real poverty and collectively as a society we have a lot to answer for. We don't get to a good place by making people smaller. Bring on the singers, the musicians, the writers, the poets, the counsellors, the artists, the teachers, the gardeners, the farmers, anything really where people love what they do and just do it. And let's support each of us living out the dream from inside.

To go spiritual God wants me to be full of myself. Sure there is a risk of egotism or narcissism but also there is a risk of what I call 'negative egotism' in which people put themselves down and don't do that which they dream of doing.

Do you know I didn't think that Rebbecca as a trained musician would be bothered to help me sing. I didn't expect to hear her praise when I hit the notes. Or hear her taking the trouble to help me figure what I am doing and what I need to do to develop my voice. Of course she is a professional through and through so why would I expect otherwise? No but I expected her to politely say that we don't do it. Can you see what a mess I was in over this? And what healing i am experiencing!

I am not saying that I will ever be a famous musician or even perform in public. I still hope to play to my friends one day. But when we have these unexplored dreams and we don't explore them it's so sad, its a shrinking of the spirit and its against God. There!

Thanks for reading as ever I welcome your comments and your stories!

Bill on bike

PS. The latest bit for me is inching towards a real poetry performance. OH God why? But I have to. I have a couple of possibilities next month so watch this space!

Monday, 7 September 2009

In Suburbia

When I woke up this morning I could hear the rain the drip drip dripping of the water off the end of the guttering that needs repairing. By the time I was ready to leave home the rain clouds had more or less dispersed and there was even some blue sky and attempted sunshine.

I biked to work through that wonderful after rain smell that is so fresh and cleansing and lifts my spirits. It was a delight to ride. A few words from 'In Suburbia' by the Pets (naturally) came to mind "I only wanted something else to do but hang around" Neil Tenant as ever capturing a truth in a few lines in this case a teenage truth.

There is probably some Pet words for all situations - now there's a challenge - send me a scenario and I will try and find a suitable Pet quote!


Bill on bike.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


Biking to work today wet and windy, something of a struggle but also glorious especially when it's over. It took be back to last week on the Norfolk Broads. The weather was mostly great apart from one evening when it got rather windy. We were anchored on a Broad fairly sheltered but in the night the wind blew us off the anchor and into a reed bed. It was still rather windy when we woke up and we could not free ourselves from the reed bed despite some athletic pushing on a pole by me and full on creative use of the engine by Sheila.

Well the people we hired the boat from would send someone out to rescue us but meanwhile we shouted out 'Help!' to the few passing boats. An Italian family in a small cruiser were first to respond but they nearly got stranded themselves. Then the small local ferry turned up and the captain knew his stuff and got us off in no time. There is a great sense of camaraderie among people on boats especially when sails are involved. The water does seem to equal us and we all need each other.

I managed to walk into things a bit more than usual on this smaller than usual boat and what with the sheer physical effort of hauling on sails in winds I was quite physical tired and bruised by the end of the week but it was good. There is something simplifying about living in such cramped conditions and cooking very simple meals and waking up hearing nature.

But times are changing and my daughter had her 11th birthday and she got rather bored and missed her mates and was keen to capsize our dingy which would have been great fun for her. So future holidays will have a changed pattern.

The Norfolk Broads are beautiful. Apparently they were created by people digging up peat thousands of years ago. You wouldn't know they just seem so natural now. It is stunning to travel by water rather than road or pathway you catch things in a different light in more ways than one. The stars were stunning on many nights so little artificial light and I had a good glimpse of Jupiter and Mars.

It's messing about on boats really you are not going anywhere fast. And there is a 58miles cycle route around the broads now that's something for a future visit to Norfolk.


Bill on bike.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


Regular readers of this blog will know about my challenges with music and my recent taking up of the piano and singing lessons. Last week was my daughter Grace's birthday and in an attempt to wean her off Abba (There is only so many times one can bear to hear 'Dancing queen'!) my wife Sheila brought her a double CD of 60s music. That was more like it.

So on the journey back from the Norfolk Broads (and that's another story or blog entry) I found myself singing along to some of those familiar tunes - Tossing and Turning, I can't let Maggie go, I'm a believer etc. I was signing higher up the scale than usual fairly effortlessly almost falsetto.

Last night with my piano teacher Rebbecca I explored this with her help. I can't remember the exact musical stuff involved but my higher up singing involves resonance in my head and the lower stuff comes from my chest or my belly. The challenge is the crossover between the two BUT I have nearly 2 octaves now. I am stunned. That's almost twice what I had previously!

I am no spring chicken - all singing all dancing 60th birthday coming soon. When I was at primary school my music teacher told me to mime. No one put an instrument in my hand and said, 'Try this' no one said 'Try and sing this'. I have loved music all my life and now have found a teacher helping me explore what music I can make. The sky is not the limit. I am not a brilliant natural musician or singer but I do want to push this one as far as it goes for my own pleasure and who knows...

There is a profound lesson here.

I have been a writer all my life and finally I have a couple of ace writing teachers.

Christ I am thankful.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


Cycling into work today after a 2 week break the Autumnal sun is in my eyes but I don't mind I am so glad to be out on the bike again even if I am on my way to work!

The piano solo from Thunderclap Newman's 'Something in the air' is playing in my mind and I think I could die happy if I could play that. Maybe it is not too difficult. You might think it is trashy pop from 1969(?) but that solo lifts my spirits. So maybe ecstasy is in the soul of the beholder :)

I have just read the latest issue of Literally the fanzine for Petheads and in it there are extracts from Neil Tenant's diary when they were working on and recording the current album. I am staggered by the hard work they but in, the long hours of slog, the music and lyrics that don't get into the final version. It makes me think about writing or any creative process and that point when you look at what you create and you think 'Yes'.

The Pets worked with Xenomania on their current album and you can hear how they have been sparked by working with these hip pop producers. I have had this experience with Tony and Steve of Paper Planes where they have led me into more creativity. Some of this has rubbed off on the academic in me but I need time in the academic studio with a good producer!

Best to all,

Bill on bike.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


[Creative wrting again]

'I used to read my horoscope and still do.'
'Cos..' there was a pause, 'cos...I dunno.'
Her eyes looked to the ceiling in a gesture of ...impatience, or is this guy cracked, or whatever.
'Lt's start again-'
'What's your favourite place?'
'All time favourite place?'
'Robin Hood's Bay.'
'Robin Hood's Bay.'
Christ this was hard work
At last. 'See ya.'
'See ya,' (not bloody likely).

'Hi,' I said brightly.
There was that curious pause then:
'What'/'Well' we both spoke simultanoeusly.
'You first'
'No you.'
'OK, favourite band.'
'Favourite band?' I nodded.
'It's got to be Flaming Lips.'
(Christ where did that come from?)
'So you are still on the medication?'
Oh bugger I thought that would be obvious.
'Anyone who likes Flaming Lips-' Oh Fuck I am digging myself into a hole here-
She laughs, 'Sounds like you are digging yoruself into a hole here.'
Ok fuck.

Poem for Jay

Poem for Jay

It's strange
How I feel you in my body

When I moved out
It felt
Like I'd lost my left arm

I think you live
Deep inside me

It's hard
To fit this you-in-me
With the you
That occasionally answers my letters.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Poems, curries and Frankie

My team went out for a curry after work last night for some reason which escapes me now. In true Capriconian style we went to our usual Indian restaurant on the curry mile in Rusholme. Regular readers of this blog will now that last year at Tina' leaving do, in the same restaurant I wrote an impromptu poem (Poem for Tina) on a serviette and proclaimed to all around me. I had had a drink or two then. I recall a previous occasion in Hull in 1984ish when I recited one of my earliest poems - Dorothy Wordsworth poem, again in an Indian restaurant. Is there a pattern here I wonder? The only other audiences for my poetry so far are my long suffering creative writing class and a couple of conference presentations when I really should have known better. So I guess I am inching my way towards a public performance or two. Watch this space. Now a word or three from Frankie!

Hello sweethearts and others, It was dullsville last night in the Shazam. The Boss didn't get that drunk, I am not sure what worse when he's sober or a drunk. But we all have our crosses or crescents to bear. I could tell he was itching to read some plates but nothing doing, not even some crap poetry. Well he and the other more mature(! - if that's maturity....) members of our team left early leaving me Jake, Isabelle and Raymond to live it up.

Ah, it was a swirling kaleidoscope of an evening. Drinks in the Krobar One and Two, dancing in the Streets Niteclub and more drinks at the Hotel du Lacquer(!). I woke up with a heavy head and an even heavier presence in the bed next to me. But thankfully it was the Dog.

And he agreed to make the coffee and toast so that was OK.

The Boss looks a bit yellow eyed this morning and he has got a face on him like thunder. You know he has never been the same at work since that last cafe girl - Rosetta left. Ah such terrible taste. I better get him a coffee and croissant from Cafe Muse that should cheer him up!

Love and kisses,


Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The creature that I was meant to be

“I never dreamt that I would get to me
The creature that I always meant to be”- Pet Shop Boys, 'Being boring'.

Today I feel like that I am more back to myself. Work has gone quieter and I can hear myself think again for the first time for months or so it seems. It feels as if my own natural shape has returned and I am able to write. I am currently writing a 5-10,000 word essay on the future of Friends for a Quaker competition. Each section of this essay I head with a quote from a Pet Shops Boys song. It is great fun and I also use their word 'pandemonium' which is the title of a track on their new album 'Yes' but also the title of the latest tour.(If any of you want to see and comment on an early version of this essay please email me).

What is interesting to me is that I never really dreamt that I would end up working in HE apart from a childhood dream to be a professor of Astronomy. However, my lifelong dream since adolescence has been to be a writer and sometimes a poet. It is that dream that I am still working on. I am quite a successfully published academic but I have yet to have a similar impact as a writer but I am working on it! This blog is part of this.

This desire to write has gripped me for so long and I guess it does feed into the academic in me but I really want to give it full verse to coin a phrase :).


Bill on bike

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Strange days: Tecky bit for Europe's got space talent

[This is another creative writing bit that goes with my blog entry a few days ago - Europe's got space talent.]

This was going to be the big one to broadcast - a live feed from SPACESAT* to TVs, mobes, black and red berries and humac** devices. This presented many tecky challenges with there only being a window of opportunity of 7 minutes every 24 hours within which they broadcast from SPACESAT could occur and a time lag of 4 minutes for the signal to reach the earth. Any demand for an encore would have to be covered by rescreening parts of the original broadcast necessitating their editing in read time. Such a task was not beyond the skills of IBEEB*** technicians but unfortunately this was a freelance show. However, the audience did not seem to mind the rather abrupt switching between words and music in the encore. In fact it had a certain and was posted on WeeTube****.

* SPAESAT - global space station launched in i2012 with Chinese, Liberian and Euro funding.
** Humac - small digital receptors embedded in human tissues - usually forearms but sometimes thighs
*** IBEEB Iona government sponsored media corporation, launched in i2010 loosely based on the earlier BBC.
**** WeeTube Scots video web site.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Quakers delight me


Well I did not believe Quakers were ready to embrace same sex marriage but last Friday they became the first religious group in Britain to do so. Up till now many Quaker meetings have been informally celebrating same sex civil partnerships but from now on these ceremonies will be the same as Quaker opposite sex marriages which already have a legal status. (i.e. if you marry in a Quaker meeting you don't have to also visit a registry office.

Here is last Saturday's Guardian editorial:

The decision yesterday by the Quakers to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples was welcomed by campaigners such as Peter Tatchell as a trailblazing. But it is not the first time that the Religious Society of Friends has gone out in front. The Quakers not only began the British campaign against the slave trade but they could also lay claim to have invented modern campaigning, with the publication of a diagram showing the cross section of a ship in which slaves lay shoulder to shoulder. So too did they pick up the cudgels of prison reform and the treatment of the mentally ill. Banned by law from politics and the universities, many Quakers went into commerce and industry, where philanthropists such as Joseph Rowntree provided his workers with modern benefits such as free education, medical care and a pension fund. If Quakers make woolly believers (a majority believe in God but all refuse a creed to which they must subscribe), they are crystal clear on behaviour. They value the experience of inspiration and share it in largely silent worship. The Quaker church will now ask the government to change the law to allow its officers to register same-sex partnerships as marriages. But legal recognition is secondary. The exploration of radical concepts is more important, as is the belief that there is good in everyone. As George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement wrote, from prison of course: "Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone."

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

In praise of paper Planes again

As regular readers of this blog will know I have been attending the monthly creative writing workshops run by Tony Slides and Steve Whaling under the name of Paper Planes ( These sessions are run in a room above Fuel Cafe (that's a place to visit in its own right!) in Withington in South Manchester. The next workshop is on August 8th starting 12 midday.

Each time we met we all write several pieces and I am usually happy enough with 1 or often 2 of them to put them, with some extra polishing, onto this blog. So immediately being at the workshop stimulates my creative writing - indeed I am often writing whilst having a pre workshop coffee downstairs in Fuel. That in itself would be enough. However the triggers that Steve and Andy use are mostly easy enough to take away and use and I have done this quite a bit recently and my Strange Days writings on this blog have been much helped by this.

But it goes further than this. We are always invited to read out what we have written and most of us do. I find it very empowering to reed my stuff out loud, I usually get a few laughs which feels good as the humour is usually there in the writing. But I genuinely like performing my work although I have yet to try out a poetic or writing audience beyond these workshops. We all make comments on each other's writing always positive not hatchet jobs. The encouragement and feedback is helpful and of course the things not said matter too.

It goes further than this we get advice about performing and publishing and we get to try out writing in ways we would never have thought about.

So over the months my creative writing has blossomed witness this blog. I have begun once again to submit the odd poem and short story for publication - scary but I am glad to be doing it again after 35 years. It has also had a big impact on my academic writing which I think has improved as a result although I have less tolerance for dry academic writing whether by myself or students. It has also helped me in turn to encourage my students to write with a more authentic voice.

The final bit of it is that I enjoy hanging out with Tony and Steve and the class members. Creative writing has led me to voice all kinds of strange aspects of my human condition some of which I wouldn't wish to meet on a dark night:) but I am as a result a fuller, richer person so going to these workshops means engaging with a fuller richer me. That is priceless.

Best to all,


Sunday, 26 July 2009

Capsizing or not

Two hours on a dingy on Sale Water park yesterday with some light wind, sun and clouds. My delight at being back on the water was punctured and punctuated by frequent cries from my bored daughter of 'let's capsize!'

Apparently the highlight of her recent sailing course at Sale was regular experiences of being capsized. My suggestion that I throw her overboard instead were not that well received!

Having capsized the dingy when I first stepped onto it on the Norfolk Broads last summer and in the process losing my non waterproof wrist watch, my Pet Shops Boys Fundamental Tour baseball hat and my dignity I felt no joy at the thought of deliberately seeking the water. My daughter's reckless throwing her body weight around to aid possible capsizing didn't help either...

Next time she can have her own one girl dingy and capsize it to her heart's content!

There is another issue here: the business of parents and (almost) teenage children. Although we love each other deeply we have different needs and it takes a lot of creativity, tact and a certain amount of withheld annoyance on all sides to get by reasonably well. But it is well well worth it.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Strange days: Europe's got space talent

(Creative writing)

Central government in Iona (countries formerly known as Britain, Northern Ireland and Eire) was now operating on a hand to mouth basis. People employed in public service were rarely paid and many took to moonlighting and even more were open to at least passive if not active fraud. For example tax inspectors would turn a blind eye to unrealistic accounts and lawyers were ever ready to vary a will in favour of a client.

Collection of income tax had all but collapsed following a government decision to treat all public employees as self employed as a way to avoid the crippling costs of providing public service pensions leaving only the occasionally paid out and means tested state pension.

The government had tried to plug the short fall in in its income stream of public finances by issuing Bonds at seemingly ever increasing rates of interest (ever increasing because they were tied to the Bank rate which itself continued to rise year on year). No-one now believed that these Bonds would ever be repaid and even the interest payments were soon beyond the reach of the Treasury despite repeated devaluations of the iEuro.

So it was no surprise that reality VidTV became a form of voluntary taxation with the money from voting via mobes, twwitts, emails, back and redberries being used to fund essential projects and services. At first ti was merely things like specialist hospital services often in competition with one another and of course breast cancer and children's services always won. So when the iEuro Space Station asked to appear on 'Europes got talent' no-one expected them to win or to attract over one million iEuros. And this was to feed them and keep them generally supplied for the next year otherwise the station would have fallen out of the sky!

Their appeal to the viewers, listeners and feelers (those with the very latest tactile servers) was so poignant and the quality of their space videos and graphics was nothing short of stunning. And of course the sheer hum- and tact-ability of their retro disco song 'I'm a spacebeing yes I am' loosely based on the 1970s Monty Python Song 'I';m a lumberjack and I'm OK' won the day for them.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Poem for Wayne

Poem for Wayne

You were my canary
In the toxic atmosphere of modern racist Britain

Listening to you
I heard your rage
And underneath felt a deep sorrow

You reminded me
Of my struggle to belong
In a world unable
To accept me as I was

I forever shaped myself
Around people’s expectations
Or rather
What I took these to be

Inside the real me
Hid away
So deep
I began to forget who I really was
If it wasn’t for spirituality
I would have lost myself


I met with a woman yesterday from a mixed race family and she spoke briefly about some of the challenges she faced including abuse from both communities. I felt a powerful sadness listening to her maybe in response to things unsaid.

That set off a chain of thoughts and feelings in me. That challenge of where do I belong which resonates so powerfully with me. Feeling like I didn't belong in my birth family and, as a child, fantasising that I was adopted. My sister seemed so much more at home than me. Learning to hide what I felt and what I was so having a secret inner world which I gradually lost touch with until the spiritual experiences started to happen when I was 21.

Never being able to comfortably locate myself as working or middle class, still not able to comfortably see myself as a Christian or not one, wondering if I am still a counsellor since when I do practice I don't feel it is kosher. I have accepted the label as 'academic' since I feel I do belong to that old tradition of eccentricity and bloody mindedness and I have been too successful to pretend to be not. Although my work remains edgy and my writing is getting less academic and hopefully more poetic!

I do feel that I learnt at an early age to shape around people's expectations of me or rather what I read those expectations to be. This shaping made it harder and harder to know what my shape is which is why spiritual experiences are so blissful for me. I feel I don't have to shape in the presence of the numinous. 'God' knows my shape there's no point in hiding. What a relief that is.

I have met people especially women who have shaped so much that they don't know who they are and what they want since they have had no practice at that.

Meanwhile I dodged the showers this morning and bits of a poem came to me on the bike which might 'shape up' later.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Poem: In praise of Charlie Chaplin

My own Church - Quakers is currently considering whether to extend its offering of civil partnerships for Gays and Lesbians to marriage. I am firmly committed to this form of equality which may rove to big a step for Quakers in Britain this month. Watch this space.

In praise of Charlie Chaplin*

How can I deny that I am Gay
When homophobic bullying is increasing in British schools
When the Anglican Communion world wide
Can’t accept Bishop Gene Robinson
As a holy man of God?

How can I deny that I am Gay
When Gays and Lesbians are still persecuted
And sometimes killed world wide
And can legally marry is so few states
God Bless Canada!

How can I deny that I am Gay
When I love so many Gay and Lesbian people?
And when many of the musicians and artists that inspire me
Are out - like Neil, Rufus, Stephen, Elton and Noel?

How can I deny that I am Gay
When I wept all the way through
The religious ceremony that celebrated
The civil partnership of Sean and Alistair

How can I deny that I am Gay
When misguided souls
In religion
And medicine
Still try and cure Gay people

How can I deny that I am Gay
When many of my close friends came out at university
And I couldn’t stop loving them

How can I deny that I am Gay
When my own church
Famous for its civil rights record
Still can’t yet offer
True equality to gays and Lesbians

I can’t deny that I am Gay
Until we stop treating people on the basis of their sexuality, race or colour
And instead treat them on the basis of their character.

* The comedian Charlie Chaplin was accused of being Jewish by the Nazis in the 1930s. His response was not to confirm or deny that he was Jewish so as not to ‘play directly into the hands of anti-Semites’

Friday, 17 July 2009

Biking again

Yesterday I yet again did my 54 mile training bike ride. I felt a bit sluggish or maybe the bike did but I still did the trip in 6.75 hours so only a few minutes more than my most recent trip. At 4pm it began to rain so my last 45 minutes we rather wet otherwise there was lots of cloud a bit of sun and little wind perfect conditions for me.

This exercise is great for me. These last 3 years of more biking has really changed me physically mentally and spiritually for the better. I have missed having my training runs for most of the last 6 months and vow never again, I will fit them in regularly from now on.

It empties my mind and clears my spirit. I turn all manner of stuff over in my mind (rather like turning soil over in the garden!) reach some useful insights and then things vanish from my mind. I become empty rather like being in a Quaker Meeting or doing meditation or relaxing after yoga. I cycle in beautiful and changing countryside that I know well and I can notice the changes due to the seasons and the growth and decay of nature.

I feel so well if a little bit tired today. Who knows what the future will bring so I am just so grateful for now.

Today was the final day for my daughter Grace at her primary school. Unexpectedly she won a prize from her form teacher for being the best in the class. This was prize not for academic achievement but for character. I was made up. And the prize itself was the Osbourne book of British history! Well, spot on given my daughter's love of history. It's in the genes after all on both sides!

Lots of tears among the parents there not just the children. And a prize for one of the parents which was really neat. A guy who had given so much helping train and develop the football teams in the school. A local postman too, ordinary people making a difference.

I have had a pride in what I have achieved at work but really it is the human stuff that has always mattered to me. You can select really bright people and they can achieve much academically but it is the relationships that matter to me, the human kindnesses that happen. I always say 'Hello' to Jackie and Shelley each morning and Jackie sometimes says 'Eh William, I dunno..' It's the way she says it. My old Geordie friend Steve Holland used to use the same phrase. It captures something about the human condition. It is a breathing out, a sigh, a sign of someone coping even though at times it is tough, hard work and tiring.

It is tough at times, I have been through my own struggles from time to time and still will in the future. Right now I am just thankful for what is and what I have right now. The best is a warm house, good food, good company and currently good health and music!

Best to all,

Bill on bike (well I would be if I wasn't so sore today!)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Seeing the Pets last night

Yes! I was at the Pet Shop Boys concert last night. My daughter Grace who hoped to come ran out of puff - well it is her last week at primary school and she has had several late nights already. Maybe a very late night and car journey to and from Liverpool despite her being quite a Pet fan if not quite a Pethead she decided not to accompany your intrepid blogger on a further dive into the mysteries of a live PSB show or as they called it the Pandemonium tour. In this case set in the Echo Arena in the strange Albert Docks.

Now we Petheads are curious beasts. My music teacher Rebbecca refers to the 'dark secret' of being a PSB fan. As a hardcore PSB fan I embrace the epithet Pethead. Where was I? Yes you can't spot PSB fans/Petheads by what they wear, how old they are, their conversation. The audience could have been anyone quite a few old like me but plenty younger too and some family groups etc

We are everywhere! We are the people our children warn one another about - as in 'Dad that dancing is so embarrassing'. Mortified of Manchester!

So when I get there I have to wait while my seat is changed. I have a fantasy that Neil and Chris have recognised my true Pethead nature and that I am about to be taken into the VIP lounge and... well no actually they need the extra space for the show but I am given a much better seat.

Sartorially this audience is rather disappointing. Now I admit that I am not in my full Frankie outfit but I do sport a pale purple shirt (not just as any old shirt but an M and S shirt!), my linen/cotton mix light brown Blue Harbour casual suit and my orange-brown or is it brown-orange 'brothel creeper' suede shoes. My hair is also about at its best for these days which I am afraid is not saying much. (I dreamt last night that I lost even more hair from the front of my head and so I adopted Neil's very short trim!)

The show was stunning visually, musically and of course lyrically. There are plenty of PSB gigs to come in Manchester, London and elsewhere in the States etc. As ever you get an amazingly good sound system for a medium sized arena you also get a re-working reinterpretation of their classic songs - often a change in their drawn out intros but also one song can suddenly change into another. Then there are their usual but amazing dancers - their routine on Jealousy was stunning! Then there was the set which include a pile of large blocks. At times this was in a wall of 25 of them which video clips were projected onto. At one point the dancers burst out of some of the blocks after they had been knocked down after Neil sang about 'building a wall' and then straight after into 'Go West'. This had all of us who were seated (if only I had booked in time to be standing) on our feet for the first time. We were up again a couple more times before we just stayed on our feet. I had enough room to dance in my usual Saintancer way. Chris beat a metal sheet with a large hammer in various of the songs it had an amazing sound and it was a beat I danced to.

The songs had all the elements of the Pets - often poignant lyrics about the human condition - Neil is a true poet, great tunes and great dance music. Much of it uplifting, some of it rather sad in a wistful way. Suits me and has done for 20 years.

Best to all,

Bill on bike.

Strange Days: morning

[More creative writing stuff. I have decided to label it Strange Days - this might just be the title of my novel if I ever finish it and persuade a publisher to take it. So when the title is Strange Days it is creative writing so that you can avoid or embrace it as you see fit.]

In the morning before I get up the pain starts. It's like a clenching feeling in my guts and then my teeth start to ache - 'Oh fuck.'
'Fuck what?'
'Fuck I'm turning into an old fart!'
'Hold that thought loverboy.'
I smile, lifted out of my morning misery if only for a while.

Next I am downstairs with the kettle and my thoughts. The pain is easing for now. As long as I lose myself in the now the past and the future are gone. It's maybe not much but it will do, it will have to for now.

I am travelling lighter, the car's gone, so have the foreign holidays but she is with me and it's OK for now.

The best thing that happened to me was that I found a niche in the market, my niche. I never made my fortune out of it but for a while I had an audience and my words spoke to their condition and the royalties and the speaking gigs flowed in.

That all seems past now, I do get the odd nostalgic request to appear on a retrospective radio programme but the royalties have all but dried up. I've had my moment.

And now it's a pain in the guts that's worse first thing in the morning.

She sings and I weep just moved by the sound and how it sends a shiver through me.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


Quite a few people I speak to have this fantasy that they should not really be doing the job that they are currently doing and that they will be found out and booted out. I used to think this, then a few years ago I finally accepted that yes I belong here I am doing a good enough job getting the right kind of results otherwise why would they keep promoting me? OK I had to ask them each time which did take the shine off as I want people to know I am doing good work and respond(!) and twice have been knocked back when I asked to be promoted but clearly I was, and am, hitting enough targets.

But no the latest feeling this last month is of re arranging the decks chairs whilst the Titanic hits the iceberg. That whilst I am still going through the motions at work something bigger is going on just outside of my awareness - my death, the credit crunch, forced redundancy whatever that makes all that I do currently under the label 'work' irrelevant (Not its not an elephant! - old Marx Brothers joke).

Hey ho as Kurt Vonniegut would say.


Bill on bike enjoying the milder weather.

On writing

So whenever I think about the novel(s) I come up with what I think are great plots e.g. the man who disappears on his bike - you will have seen some drafts chapters and the odd poem about it posted on this blog previously. But when I do creative writings classes and exercises then a different novel(s) is writing itself through me and the plot comes out of the writing rather than vice versa. So recently I seem to be writing some kind of post modern apocalyptic piece involving disparate groups. It is great fun and much more darker than anything I would consciously choose to write.

But then when I reflect on the weird stuff I have written of late - which also comes out of a rather stressed end of term state I am currently in - it feels as if these fragments which I write are all parts of me. It is just that I have not consciously chosen to reside in that part and write rather that part has written itself through me. So for example some of the cruelty that comes through is not something I would wish consciously to express. When I get overly drunk I can be cruel, I don't like that me that emerges so I (mostly) restrict my drinking, I 'walk the line'. But to express that cruelty in print and give it a another name and character feels useful.

I still would like to write something heroic about a really good guy (probably a Pethead also!) who maybe is the best of me. Maybe it would be too boring or too Boys Own stuff.

When I write academically it is either a paper or book chapter where I have a few things I want to say and elaborate those statements with rhetoric and references or I persuade a canny publisher that I have a book to write and I offer a skeleton of ideas and they say yes but and I say OK but and then I write and it is not quite what I or they first thought about and so they say yes but and I write Yes but and they say nearly but and I write some more and finally we are all exhausted and say OK that'll do. It is a very weird process the first draft is mostly enjoyable or rather the first words captured on paper is the best and then it gets more and more tedious. In my latest and edited book I am having to go round this loop for the final and 4th time.

But its good to be in print and have my stuff read. I don't get mega academic sales, 2,000 is my best - first book 9 years on! I get the odd email from readers who have really benefited or so they say and that's a treat. I get the odd £50 cheque for royalties which is taxed! But I am still pulled towards novels and poems!

May the sun meet you on the road.

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

More death stuff

Reflecting on the Boss and Q's dialogue from the last post(!) causes me to think about notions of the after life. I don't really hold the Christian Heaven and Hell notion i.e. that at death we go to Heaven or Hell according to our behaviour on earth and our reaction to it in terms of remorse, repentance etc. I am all for us recognising our mistakes - 'sins' if you like and doing something about it (That's a whole other post) but I feel very drawn to Carl Jung idea expressed in his autobiography 'Memories Dreams Reflections' that if there is an after life it is probably rather like this one. And if there isn't there is little we can do about it!

So I don't want to wait for a better life in the after life and I am not convinced that the quality of my afterlife if I have one will be enhanced by how I behave now. How I behave now affects me immediately. So the task becomes how to achieve something closer to heaven on earth right now and not wait for 'Pie in the sky' or the final stage of Communism or for everybody to complete their therapy :)!

I made a connection between this and ethics on the bike but I can't quite recall the link but lets pretend for now the link has been made! (Goodness that's very unphilosophical but still this is a blog not a treatise) I think it was about that it is not about the after life it's about now about living today as good as I can. So my ethical actions are not to store brownie points for the future after life but are for now. I aim to act good because that makes me feel good. Rather like Bertrand Russell talking about the value of 'enlightened self interest' which I guess could equate to pragmatism? (For example if we selfishly wreck the planet we all lose out, if we have huge inequalities then we end up with a broken society, with a high crime rate and none of us feeling safe etc.)

It is more than that for me. I like the US Constitution saying that all men are created equal and that this is a self evident truth. To me that is true even if I and we don't act on it sufficiently. To me it is a spiritual truth also a humanistic truth. So equality for all races, genders, sexual orientation. It's obvious and the better people in our world know this and act on it. So how can any truly spiritually or religiously developed people not agree? Why are not Christians Muslims, Buddhists supporting Gay rights, women and gay bishops etc? More importantly in some ways why isn't the religious leaderships showing such support?


Bill on bike

Friday, 3 July 2009

This death business

The Boss meets with Q his spiritual adviser:

'But Q I am still thinking about this death business.'
'I know Boss and I can see you are hurting.'
'You can?'
There was a pause in which the Boss looked at Q and Q looked at the Boss.
'When people die on me I miss them so much...(with a quieter voice) will I ever see them again?'
'Where are they now?'
'Good question Q... I don't know.'
'Can you feel them near you?'
'I can, sometimes.'
'So they are alive to you?'
'Of course.'
'So what is death?'
'I still don't know but in a way it does not matter as my dead family and friends are still with me.'
'And where they are you will join them one day.'
'Ans where they are I will join them one day.'

Q nodded his work with the Boss done for now.

Thursday, 2 July 2009


[More creative stuff]

I dunno when I first noticed it. Perhaps it was when I began attending the all nite rEtro raves and didn't take any drugs and found that I either got dog tired after half an hour of high NRG dancing or I just carried on and on (no not like Margaret Thatcher*) and felt like I could go on for ever - certainly I often did all nite.

Gradually I discovered that there were a few others like me - you could tell us by how rapt up we were in our own inner rhythms. These rhythms was some kind of weird counter point to the actual music - maybe simply twice as fast as the beat or more often half as fast or perhaps we emphasised the backbeat, the off beat or some complicated rhythm that four or fived the melody or bass line.

When we danced we danced from the inside out and at first it seemed uptight and almost spastic but gradually as we danced out our tensions it became more graceful, even ethereal, fluid and endless and effortless.

We sooner or later got noticed, invited back, given a free entrance, free drinks even offered free drugs. Finally we all got invited to join the Liverpool Pandemonia that was established after the legendary Rufus concert in i2019. What a scene that was 500 of us dancing on and on and on and on.

Us dancers soon got a nickname - Saintancers named after the Saint Vitus dancers in the Middle Ages which according to a smart arsed i-guardian journo friend of mine was the name for a Medieval plague cum mass hypnotic group linked to Saint Vitus the patron Saint of the dance.

* believed to be a reference to a pre post modern 'politician' who ruled England (now subsumed of course into Iona) in the pre i 1980s. To find out more about 'politicians' consult Cosmipedia.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Back in the saddle

Last Friday for the first time this year I cycled on my old training route of some 54miles in the South Cheshire countryside - rolling hills around Alderley Edge, Goostrey ('Goostrey remember me') and Wilmslow.

It got quiet hot and I drank 2 bottles of water - not quite up to my 6 bottles in the August heat of my LEJOG ride nearly 2 years ago. I completed the trip in 6.5 hours making a good 8 miles per hour. This was almost as fast as I got before starting my LEJOG so I am well pleased to be still so fit and not that sore the next day, if a little tired.

I have been suffering what I think is a stress related tense stomach intermittently for some weeks now. It disappeared during the cycle ride and only reappeared some 48 hours later. I can't obviously stay permanently on the bike but it does say something.

On the ride itself the time past quickly. I dwelled inside and quietly turned a few things over in my mind, nothing startling emerged but I have missed this time just to reflect and be me during the busy-ness of my life in recent weeks. And the countryside was glorious to travel through.

Best to all Bill very much back on bike

Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Manchester riots

[more creative writing stuff]

Although the Manchester riots were clearly a consequence of the brutal i-snatch squad attacks on the pandemonia or Pet-in established following the Pet Shop Boys concert at the iRena in December i2020 no-one could really blame the riots on the pandemonia or heaven forbid blame the Pets although some attempts were made by gov-e-media outlets. Neil and Chris of the Pets and their manager went into hiding as result which was unfortunate as their concert was their first public outing in 5 years.

No the riots were a dis-aster waiting to happen, indeed according to the Synchronisers they were caused by the phenomena of mass dis-aster, namely that some much of the population was in a disconnect with energies of the cosmos. But they would say that wouldn't they?

Also the fact that the Gay, Pol*, Chinese and Italian quarters of the city were all involved in the riots suggests that a simple 'this was gay or pol bashing' view of the riots was just that: simplistic. This is not to deny the the brutality shown by the snatch squads when operating in the Gay or Pol quarter of the city. Indeed in any overly 'civilised' society a public inquiry of some sort would have happened.

The Manchester riots lasted 5 days and over 1,000 Snatchies were deployed. 100 people were alleged to have died in the riots although due to extensive fire damage the true figure will never be known. Certainly 60 bodies were recovered and 451 people were hospitalised with fire, gunshot and tazer injuries. Things were so bad at one point that the city and surrounding region was declared a Grade P disaster zone. This needs to be set in the context that the hunger riots in Glasburgh only resulted in a Grade M disaster declaration.

*Pol(s) slang term for for polyamorists who openly have more than one loving intimate relationship at any one time. As a group they seemed to have emerged around 1972 ( in the old PPM calendar)

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Next meeting with Xavier

[More creative writing stuff]

My next meeting with Xavier was different. He seemed to have lost something, some of his edge, some of his vitality. It was as if he was truly becoming the down and out that I didn't believe he really was. Was this change in him a consequence of his contact with the Naylorites - a contact I had facilitated? Or was it something different?

I soon found out. We met in the back terrace garden of a local i-cafe-bar Tring. Xavier was more or less hidden behind a pillar and as he told me 'the owner is an old Buddhist friend of mine'. Xavier had a haunted look to him.
'How goes?' I asked conversationally.
'Not well Biblbo' I was startled once again by his use of my old nickname. I looked inquiringly at him.
'They are after me' Paranoia or what?
'I'm not sure. Could be your lot, the Dark Cyclists-'
'No,' I shook my head, 'not my lot and don't spread such rumours'
'OK'' he replied in a skeptical voice.
'Not my lot!' I said more emphatically.
'OK. OK but someone is... I got beaten up yesterday.'
'Oh.... sorry to hear that but isn't that an occupational hazard?'
'Yes but they were professionals, I could feel the difference.'
'But why?'
'To warn me off.'
'Off what?'
'Off... the Naylorites I think.... Unless they did it'
'Not likely they are ex Quakers and so are pacifists.'
'Oh yeah, there's a tale or two I could tell you about them.'
'Another time' the last thing I wanted to hear was Xavier slagging off the Naylorites.
'Is there somewhere you can go?'
'I rather hoped you would know a place.'

It happened so suddenly. A shadow loomed over our table and a hand seized Xavier and another hand firmly pressed me in the chest back into my seat. It was an i-snatch squad*, no use resisting them otherwise we would both be 'tazed, dazed and fazed'.

They took Xavier away but left me - why? - luck on my part or were they already watching me and waiting? Almost certainly but what use was I to them - obviously more than I realised. Surely the groups of 19 were not that strong, not that much of a threat? After all we were only trying like a number of groups in our own confused chaotic way to co-ordinate the administration of things including the supply of food and other services rather than the government of people which was now way beyond a joke.

*I-snatch squad - semi autonomous squads but government resourced at a distance, independent of the police and the armed forces. Set up in i2018 or thereabouts. Formed largely from ex service men and women. Famous for not even bothering to wear any identification but always dressed in dark blue designer shell suits well tooled up with the latest tazers and communication equipment including i-blockers. Infamous for their break up of the Pets Pandemonia live-in in Manchester which resulted in the Manchester riots of i2020.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Challenging dragons

Cool cloudy day with very little breeze but if feels like it will soon get warmer. Feels like a great potential cycling day but I have meetings most of the day but I am promising myself a bike day on Friday, if the weather holds good. I haven't had a bike day for ages, not this year indeed so I am probably a bit rusty even if my bike isn't. There's a bike route that goes the length of Wales (challenging the dragon!)and I want to do it soon but it may have to be next year.

I feel I have been rather caught up in work matters. It's felt full on since September and the block put on developing my Kenyan work and the turning down of my application for promotion has rather knocked the stuffing out of me. But there is more to it. I feel this urge to offer something a bit different, something from my maturity and I don't seem to be able to have a sensible conversation with anyone in my institution about this.

So who knows how this will play out? Meanwhile to paraphrase Cromwell I will trust in the Lord but keep my powder dry. And also meanwhile I have some speaking gigs coming up (no academic ones not poetic ones yet!) Cirencester next week then Bristol in mid July and then Reading in mid September. Such exotic places! But actually a chance to connect with differing audiences around my passion of spirituality. So maybe this an expression of offering something else!

As ever watch this space, send me an email!

best to all,


PS Sheila and Grace are at Wimbledon for the tennis having queued up overnight for tickets on the Sunday. Very British do with tents and toilets. They were number 850 in the queue! Yesterday they were sat behind the umpire and so I got a fleeting glimpse of Grace last night on channel 301.

Sunday, 21 June 2009


When I met Xavier again he had fallen on hard times. In fact he looked what he had become - a down-and-out as we used to call them. That was a less pejorative term than 'dosser' 'alcky' or 'bum' or the More post modern term of abuse 'wireless' IE unable to link up up to the net - unplugged and unpluggable.

I don't know if Xavier was his real name. I just knew him as that from our software days at i-in the publicprivate puter company big in the i1990s. In those days he was a neo Buddhist and wore those Eastern influenced print clothes that were briefly fashionable in the late i1980s.

Xavier used to have that strange shaved head look as a Buddhist long before it became a fashionable (old)company man statement and a rather straggly moustache. But the Xavier who blocked my way that morning had long greasy grey hair and a beard to match. He was thinner than I remember him - no trace of the buddhabelly we used to tease him about. Unfortunately he was so close to me that I was are that he stank.
'Billbo, ' he said.
'Er', I was puzzled to be so addressed. Billbo was a nickname that no one had used in over 20 years.
'It's me Xavier.'
'Whaaat... no, no' I couldn't process the idea that this wreck of a person was my old friend Xavier.
'Yes, yes it's me.'
'Bloody hell'
He just looked at me with a sad smile. I held out my hand. He shook it slowly and firmly and said,'now any chance you could buy me a breakfast?'
'Of course... veggie I suppose?'
'And GM free if possible, I've still got some standards.'
'We found a nearby Cyber-Cafe-Bar with some outside tables and chairs. He ordered a full veggie with a cappuccino and I had my usual - Teckie special with an e-power drink.

'There's More of us 'on the road' these days.'
'I hadn't really noticed.'
'Well you wouldn't, would you. You never were that aware of the outside world.'
'Perhaps not... but what happened to you?'
'It doesn't matter.'
'No. What matters is what happens next.'
'We are one of the 19.'
'Oh,' I was gobsmacked.
'Close your mouth, it's unbecoming and your breathe smells.'
'But what?'
'You're on the streets.'
'Yes, so?'
'It's the best place to be right now. N o one takes any notice of us. We are able to listen in, plug into the networks on the quiet and then move on.'
'Close your mouth again. The thing is we need your help in contacting the Naylorites.'
'Er, why?'
'None of your business why. The less you know'
'The safer I will be. I know everyone keeps telling me that.'
'Well its true'...'Thank you sire, thank you so much' Xavier said and awkwardly stood up.
Frankie and Stacey was approaching our table. Xavier winked at me and melted away.
'Who was that? demanded Stacey?
'Oh just some wireless.'
'I hope you didn't give him any money or e-credit?'
'So what are you guys up to?'

Stacey and Frankie needed little excuse or invitation to tell me in great detail about the e-party they went to the night before, who was there ('Anybody who was anybody, but where were you?' demanded Frankie)who said what or rather who texted what to whom and so on. After a while I made my excuses and left.