Monday, 12 December 2011

Poem: A gap in the book shelf of my life

A gap in the book shelf of my life

They’ve left your books in my room
A bit of you that can be forever mine

It’s thin pickings with just your initials on some volumes
Though one of them says Durham Xmas 87

The books have a strange and sweet smell
Which puzzles me

I can hang onto these volumes
As long as I like

But you are gone
And there is a gap in the book shelf of my life

Thursday, 8 December 2011

I envy Catholics/Q

I envy Catholics, indeed all kind of Christians, indeed all kind of people of faith, indeed also Freudians, person-centred therapists, socialists and communists. They all have a clearly stated faith and even if they have tensions around it they still belong. Me after 20 years I am bit of a lapsed Quaker (and Quakers struggle with the idea of whether they are Christians anyway!). I’m vaguely humanistic with a spiritual bent, I’ve been a Guardian reading liberal since I was 13 and I am still proud of the Guardian – think phone hacking for a start but I am ashamed by what Liberal Democrats are doing in government – not that I have ever been a party member. And I can’t do class properly even though I am middle class my origins are on class borderlands and my accent is not right and I don’t come from the right part of England. I guess I have inherited being an awkward sod from my dad though that seems a bit bone headed at times. So here I am missing my friend Chris and wondering what life and death are all about and remembering the last time I visited my spiritual director Q.

- Hi Q!
- Hi Boss (Q will insist on calling me this!)
- Q I envy Catholics….They have some clear things to believe in, clear things to hang on to, even though their faith is sometimes thin or challenged like Mary’s is just now
- Hmm
- I have so little to hang onto beyond my experiences and I feel so fragmented at times
- Hmm
- Oh Q your’re Hmmming me!
- Yes
- I just wish I could feel more whole more of the time
- When do you feel this wholeness?
- Sometimes at Quaker Meetings, usually in the silence, some times elsewhere. And sometimes when I feel really connected and close to someone… often it’s quite emotional… I struggle with emotion sometimes I feel too many tears too much of the time. It’s all getting a bit much…. Last time I felt this way back in 1982 I had a neat story to explain, opening up on my 3rd eye….. I don’t have a story this time just the tears.
- Is that really so bad?
- (Big sigh) No I guess, I just sure as hell would like to know here it was all leading to
- You would?
- Yeah as long as it was a good story
- Consider Christmas
- (Big sigh) more tears and same old story perverted by consumption
- But the story?
- I know it’s about hope, new birth, belonging. The other day I had an image of my daughter when I first held her in my arms, she was a few minutes old and her mum was in need of some attention from the midwife so I held her and talked to her (sobbing) and she felt like a bit of heaven to me (more tears)
- When it is like that nothing else matters one bit, not one bit.
- Yes!
- So you want me to hold on to that?
- Is there anything better in all creation?
- No.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Early morning mist over the Meadows

Early Morning mist over the Meadows

Early morning mist over the Meadows
The sun doesn’t shine through
And I’m thinking of you

No longer wondering why
The bright star that was you
Has burnt out
We all think it was too early
But what is, is

I sense you everywhere
At home
At work
In the Meadows

And nowhere
And there is nothing I can do
Time takes us all

And easy talk of resurrection
Melts away
Like ice
As the sun shines through

So what is left?
‘Keep buggering on*’ is not enough

But I’ll put my trust
In the often unspoken love
And the little things we share
And if that doesn’t last - nothing else will

(* Winston Churchill's phrase for how he dealt with what he called the 'black dog' of depression)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Moved by Bach

Last night with my music teacher, Rebecca, she had scored the music we had created together from my singing of one of my poems ‘Where are you?’ Rebecca sang it and accompanied herself on piano. I was amazed and dead impressed it seemed ages since I had written the poem and first sung it. All I need now is to persuade my daughter to sing it and we can record it for Youtube. It is a lament and sounds quite Celtic.

It was time for me to begin to learn a new tune on the piano. Rebecca suggested J. S. Bach prelude No 1 and as ever played it through for me. I was moved to tears. It is like having your own concert. ‘Where did music that come from’ I wondered.

Then it was time for me to begin to learn to play. Oh it was pure magic, it sounded so good. I think Rebecca was adding some petal work but it sounded so good. It is a beautiful piano she has. I just wept and wept. I could not believe such beauty could come through me. ‘I don’t do beauty’ I told her between sobs.

You might think this is soft, soppy, naff but it is me. I could help it but I don’t want to.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Crossing borders - poem

Crossing borders

It’s nineteen sixty nine
And I’m still a teenager
Walking down Deansgate
Excited by my life in the big city
My new girl friend is on my arm
(Just like on the Bob Dylan album cover)
She’s an anarchist and Jewish and pretty
And we are head over heels in love
Like John and Yoko.

Suddenly she flees
Into a shop doorway
And hides away
‘What are you doing?’
‘Friend of the family –
I can’t be seen with you.’
‘Fuck but I’m a good guy.’
‘It doesn’t matter
You are not Jewish.’

And the trouble starts
Word gets out
And it messes up
Her elder sister’s arrange marriage.

She moves in with me
Into a tiny bedsit
But we are too young
To live alone and unsupported
And she misses home
And our love fades
And she moves on
And I feel like my life’s over.

But time passes
And the trees in Alexander Park
Lift my spirits
And I move on

I last see her in nineteen seventy two
And she’s not right
Living at home
She says ‘It’s OK.’
But I look at her face
And I know it’s not.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bikes and gratitude

I meet the true me, or at least a truer me, in silence maybe in a Quaker Meeting, or in a holy place which might be an old cathedral, or a stone circle, or even a tree in blossom in the park. The important thing apart from a sense of holiness is that I am usually alone or apart in some way. For example in Quaker Meeting with eyes closed and non-one speaking. When I am relating to people I take a social shape, adopt a persona, call it what you will. I would argue that the true me exists in relation to Creation, God/dess if you like but it is only in these holy moments that I am not shaping for others.

The interesting realisation for me is that these holy moments also occur when I am cycling especially on extended bike rides which is why I am happy to cycle alone. I go through similar stages or patterns as I do in Quaker Meetings. I have things on my mind, some of which beg attention and sometimes I find they do resolves for the better or some times things not on my mind come and resolves for the better. So there is a de-stressing, a sorting out going on but then there is an emptiness and sometimes in that emptiness new awareness comes or sometimes a holy moment or two of communion with creation.

What is clear to me is that physical activity helps, so maybe all religious services/worship could usefully be preceded by Yoga or Tai Chi or bike riding etc. On the second day of my recent Coast2Coast ride it was tough going, it rained for the first 2 hours (‘Are you really serious about this William?’ the weather was asking me!). And then late afternoon the heavy cycling, or rather pushing bike up steep hills, was done and I had got confirming directions that I was on the right route from a lovely local man and then the sun came out for the first time in 48 hours. I felt blessed and thankful and said ‘Thanks’ out loud. In that moment it meant so much to me, life was simple, and the sunshine lifted my spirits. When I am on my bike and thirsty a few swigs of water from my water bottle taste like the best wine and in fact seem more use that most food during the actual ride.

So cycling encourages such a gratitude in me, a spiritual quality. And I am thankful that my body works well enough to cycle me around all day. I don’t know about tomorrow but today I am thankful.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Poetry to music

In the early hours of Sunday morning I wrote a poem called ‘Where are you?’ On Monday after putting the poem on this blog I found myself singing the poem and adding a few words. On Tuesday I plucked up the courage to sing it to my music teacher Rebecca in the hope that she could write it out and help me develop the tune. (I have been secretly hoping for a while that she would put some of my poems to music). She told me that’s he was not a composer and her time at the RNCM included no classes in composition. Well she ended co-writing the music. It turns out that the poem needs to be song by a choir boy or a woman backed by a cello.

I only got the guts to do this because the 330 words site had accepted a short story from me ‘The Manchester Riots’ – and this my first ever short story in print or at least on someone else site heartened me so much.

Today at work I found myself signing two other recent poems ‘God your spirit was good’ and ‘He’s far away’ . He’s far away is another choir boy song but ‘God your spirit was good’ I could sign more easily so I think it is to be sung by a man.

So maybe I have got a cycle of songs maybe a requiem, I don’t know. It is exciting and strange.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Coast to Coast

140 miles Coast to Coast (C2C) in 3 days what a mad idea! When I was pushing my bike up yet another steep hill on the 2nd day it occurred to me what was wrong with this idea. It’s the coast to cast bit. This means you start out at sea level climb up a lot and then coast(!) down to sea level again. And the climbing up a lot in this case meant the Pennines. I actually climbed to the highest point on the cycling network in Britain!

So the form is that you start your journey by dipping your back wheel in the sea (don’t ask me why I don’t know but that’s the ritual). It was great fun seeing someone fall off their back into the sea at this point! And this was the promise of more water to come, 4 hours of rain on the Friday, 2 hours on the Saturday and a good hour on the Sunday.

There was some magic scenery which I experience in a more vivid way when I was not too tired to notice it that is. The view of the lake outside Keswick, lots of beautiful Pennine Hills viewed from the bottom, middle, false summit, and top. There’s a wonderful converted railway track that runs across the moors up from Stanhope which is slightly elevated and the view is stunning.

The climb up to summit of Hartrigg was hard work and d-espiriting. At the top was a café full of about 50 cyclists and a few bikers all over 40 and 95% male. Some of them in bare feet which was curious until I noticed the open fire with about 30 pairs of wet cycling shoes drying out in front of it! A strange sporty male vibe – which I am not sure I like, it was a bit like male skiers but not so narcissistic. Everyone, everyone had whippet legs and some with very over developed calve muscles. Lots of home made cakes. After a full English I could only eat cake.

Born in the West Midland I feel that living in Manchester and the North West that I am living with a cousin tribe. This C2C trip took me farther North into Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham and Tyneside. I loved the quiet unegotistic but friendly people who lived in the farms and villages I met en route. They felt like tribal cousins once removed.

The cyclists I met en route looked out for each other. You only had to stop for a breather, or a swig of water, or a bite of a fruit bar for people to say: ‘You OK?’. 90% of the cyclists (and runners and walkers) I passed swapped greetings with me and several of them I met up with again and again, passing and being passed. It’s like being a sailor - you look out for one another as you never know when help might be needed. And one of the people I was cycling with for a while had a glancing encounter with a tree branch in the twilight and crashed with a great groan. He looked a bit twisted up and I thought maybe his leg was broken but once I untangled his bike from him he was OK if somewhat bruised. He didn’t even have to tell me to ‘Put me back on the bloody bike!’

Noticeably when I got to Newcastle people cyclists stopped replying to my ‘Hi’ but these were city people and not on a long distance bike ride. Also noticeably when I got to Newcastle the heavens opened but at least earlier on I had seen a rainbow and occasionally the sun. Indeed the seeing sun at all was so rare that I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving every time I saw it!

So I am looking forward to my next cycling adventure and still California dreaming of the East Coast of North America. Coast sounds good! My next trip will be less steep hilly and probably not on a mountain bike though I did love having suspension.

Best to all, Bill not on bike today but resting his weary body :)

Where are you?

Where are you?

Where are you my sister?
Where are you my brother?
You turn up in my dreams
And you feel like you are very near
I can talk to you
But you don’t answer
At least not in words

I hope to see you again
Some day over the rainbow
But right now it’s raining

Friday, 2 September 2011

He's far away

He’s far away

Awake early
The sun’s not up
But I am
I’m stone
And cold
And sober

And the tea’s drunk
And the milk has run out
And so have you
But you’re still here
In body
If not in spirit

And he’s dead
And wont come back
And I can almost feel him
Just out of reach

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

God your spirit was good

Even though they were running out of medicines to try you on
And the possible transplant was still only on the horizon
God your spirit was good

With a face swollen by steroids
And hair thinned by chemotherapy
And a swollen all but useless right leg
God your spirit was good

I came away in mourning
For the healthy man I remember
And full, not of pride, nor of hope
But of the friendship we still share
And God your spirit was good.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Public Service and me

As you know it has been calling to work in the University sector since 1993. I have two recent reflections to make.

Firstly I have been battling all this last academic year to preserve a key programme in our raft of counselling courses. After 3 attempts in July, Autumn and February we finally appointed a new time limited member of staff. So at that point following the shuffle of tasks within the team I could plan to recruit a new cohort to the programme. I made the 'mistake' of telling a superior I intended to do this so that numbers could be tallied. All hell broke loose and suddenly the minor matter of me recruiting 6 part time students got snarled up into the mega HE changes in my institution. Programme recruitment on hold and promises of of aan early decision were made but deadlines passed other promises got made etc. Just before my recent holiday I got a meeting with the Head he said 'Yes' but on the basis that my course was subsumed into a bigger School wide one and out of my control. With a bit more ranting and raving from various quarters that was it. Well a battle not won, not lost and something salvaged.

What I am not telling you in the strain on me all this politicking took. But there's people for you, imperfect lovable - everyone with their own shadow and interpersonal history. But most of our hearts most of the time are in the right place!

Secondly, as some of you know my delight has been to explore therapy and spirituality and research and culture and healing. I dwell in this stuff and I teach around it and people come and research it with me and we talk about it. So wider society through taxation and student fees has supported me in all these years dwelling in these topics. I am profoundly grateful and have done my very best in all all my imperfectness to honour this calling and this contract.

And yes it all could have been even better if I had been just a bit more healed and savvy but maybe because of my failings and because of my colleagues failings, maybe some of this has been grit that produced the pearl? I dunno people including me are as we are.

And now as I look over the fence at life beyond working full-time here I am excited and scared. One question I regularly ask myself is: If I died today what would my regrets be if anything? There is little I haven't done yet apart from publishing a novel or two and a poetry book. I want more time with my children and grand children and yes to cycle from Vancouver to Santa Barbara! More time with friends, more time alone, more cafes, restaurants and bookshops to visit. The health to enjoy it. But who knows. I am at peace right now :)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011



When I leave
Inaccurate stories
Will be told
About me

And I must confess
I have enjoyed
Some of them

But no
I have never
Lived in a monastery
Spent a night in jail
Or slept with a best friend’s wife

I have
Seen the dawn rise gloriously
Over the motorway
In a hitched car
Slept in a park near Calais
Spent a cold night
Awake in a bus shelter in Ramsgate
Grafittied walls in Manchester and Notting Hill

Visited people
In hospitals for the criminally insane
Scary places but mostly not scary people

I have
Failed gloriously
And not so gloriously
With some mad schemes
Like the two headed match

And succeeded
Beyond my wildest dreams
At other things equally mad
Like weirdly academic writing and teaching

When I leave
Inaccurate stories
Will be told about me

Monday, 6 June 2011

Existing for now

Went to visit the family graves on Monday. This poem turned up:

Existing for now

Standing by your graves
In the pouring rain
Having one-sided conversations
And re-feeling the pain

Death does have a dominium
And as it gets more
I am reduced
For I am not an island

But even though the sea
Is washing me away
I have been here before
And I will come again

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Skills four life

So I got his 'Skills 4 Life' leaflet and knew I should do something about it. Hell she would walk out on me if I didn't. But I 'd picked up this book in Oxfam and I fancied sitting down with it and a spliff for a while. There was plenty of time after all.

One spliff led to another and I was gone. I mean real gone. I mean up there in the Milky Way gone. I mean I could almost taste the cosmos if it had a taste gone and why was there a curious smell of vinegar in the air?

I must have passed out. Either that or I was hallucinating but the blow wasn't that good surely?
- Steve?
- (Oh fuck!) Barbie!
- Steve you're out of your fucking head again and don't smile at me like a god damn Tellytubbie!
- (Fuck, fuck, fuck) ...Ah sorry.
- Sorry? No bloody way!I don't suppose... No don't bullshit me, you haven't?
- Haven't what?
- Well if you don't know then of course you bloody haven't
- Oh fuck
- Fuck doesn't come anywhere near it

She stormed out. I slumped back in the armchair. Fuck I was crying. Weird.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

There's theology for you

Inspirational Rush Hour Choir session last night with Carla. We were working on a pop song called ‘Imagine me’ and she joked about the drama in the song at varies points whilst getting us to express it. But I felt the pain involved in my guts and wanted to cry (that’s typical of me!) I remember listening to the Scottish band the Proclaimers singing ‘In my heart Lord, I want to be a Christian’ from the song ‘I want to be a Christian’ and wondering whether they were being ironic as no white English group would sing that way and not sound naff (think Cliff Richard for example!). However, they are Scottish and mean it. Then I think of how Neil of the Pets sings. He writes very poignant lyrics that work on several levels e.g. ‘I get along without you very well’ which is about someone in denial about a broken up love affair but it is also a song about Blair and Mandelson etc. And Neil’s voice has a languid somewhat detached quality – it’s so damn English. He often signs tongue in cheek but also meaning it at the same time so it becomes OK to be ambivalent. But basically Neil loves pop and being clever and postmodern. Me too.

And then there Al Bowlly that wonderful pre Second World War singer. He once said that when he got a new song he would carefully read through the lyrics and try and get the emotions behind the words and then sing with those feelings in mind. There is such an unEnglish tenderness about his singing which is no surprise as he wasn’t English! Try this link

So I guess I am still just a big kid inside and that’s Ok by me but I am also a grown up and horrified by many grown up ways, I sure wish we could live better, I try and fail and end up blaming our Creator – we may aspire to being angels but we are sadly designed all too human. There’s theology for you! (Try saying that phrase with a Welsh accent)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Accentuate the positive

People sometimes think I come from Birmingham as they hear traces of my West Midlands accent from time to time – when I am tired, emotional, drunk or all 3. But I am not Brummie, indeed to suggest I am is a bit of an insult (well a lot actually), even though my maternal grand father was a Brummie. I hail from Kidderminster a small town in Worcestershire. However, when I hear a Brummie accent or hear a Wolverhampton accent or Coventry I feel at home! And I can distinguish between these accents and mine and West Worcestershire too.

At school one of my Latin teachers (yes that was 1960s Grammar School for you!) referred to the local accent we all used as being a ‘linguistic cesspool’. Thankfully my other Latin teacher was fascinated by it and talked composing a book of Kidderminster-ese.

So for example I (along with other denizens from Kidderminster) find I don’t distinguish in my speech between ‘pint’ as in pint of beer and ‘point’ as in Aston Villa just won 3 points for a victory over Man U (in my dreams). I also pronounce ‘bus’ in a strange way rather like ‘buzz’ I think, so my eldest son born on the York/Lancs border did not understand me when i said 'Bus'. I also use ‘borrow’ when I mean ‘lend’ as in ‘borrow me a quid’. What I don’t do that Brummies do do is end sentences with just – as in ‘I’ll see you just’ I love that.

I have learnt to speak more posh especially with policemen and other authority figures and know the research that says you are less likely to get a job with a Brummie accent and since most people can’t distinguish my accent from Brummie…. But this dropping of my accent was part of getting educated and part of leaving my small home town behind which was warm and smothering. So I love my freer life and I miss that damn community. So you can take this boy out of a small town but you can't take the small town out of this boy! And of course the bit of Msnchetser I live in kind of functions as a small town. Almost.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


Billy was the last person to clamber onto the army lorry and then the tailgate was snapped into place. The tired Women’s Institute volunteers waved the lorry off and the journey began. Billy was excited, if a little frightened and clung to his sister and his mother – his dad had already been ‘volunteered’ to join the WISPERS.
Billy could tell that his mum was worried – he knew her well enough to record her moods instinctively but he didn’t know why which made it even more scary. His sister Sarah – two years older than him – was more excited and saw this ride in the lorry as a bit of a lark.
Soon they reached the tents hastily erected on the outskirts of the city and they then queued for food – a rather watery but sweet tasting soup and some rather hard WI bread.
That evening there was some communal singing, not just some old hymns that many people did not really know the words to, or even the tune of, but also some Beatles songs from the 1960s.

Poem for Eva Cassidy

Poem for Eva Cassidy

When we see
The bright light from a star
It’s already dead.

When it’s dying
It shines more brightly.

You shown like a bright star
And now I can only see you
Half hidden
In the darkness
On Youtube.

Some day I’ll wish upon a star
And find myself over the rainbow.

Monday, 4 April 2011

mystic decision point

Some of my regular readers will hopefully(!) be wondering what is happening with the mystic detective. Well he got to California and eventually met up with Jonathan Walters the head of OM for a showdown that resulted in OM being closed down but its head cut a deal with the US authorities and got off. I want to reflect on these more recent mystic bits before putting them up here. Having reached this conclusion tot eh story I then downloaded all of it into a file (backed up also) and then arranged it into chapters roughly sequenced with when they were first written. I had in a few lines to connect stuff etc. And ironed out some of the lose ends.

I have about 22,000 words which is either a very long short story and a very short novel. So I am wondering what to do next with it. Thankfully I will be at Fuel on Saturday for the monthly creative writing class with Steve and Tony so maybe the muse will speak to me there.

I also wonder if any of you would be mad enough to read through what I have got so far and pass a friendly but critical comment or two. I am not sure exactly what I have got here. The mystic is a private eye figure and a vehicle for some of my own ramblings etc. He’s not a spoof and yet he is not quite the real thing but I have had immense pleasure so far in writing him and in your reactions.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Business or pleasure?

I was at a very dull meeting last week and wrote this poem

Business or pleasure?

We meet again
Familiar phrases are uttered
The half hidden sighs
From the soul
If it exists
And I wonder
Why bother?We meet
And I wonder
Why bother?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Cycling on the Edge

Spent most of today cycling, did 59 miles in about 6.5 hours at an average of about 9miles an hour- this equals my best time. Followed my usual training route except for a bit where I got lost and had to double back on myself.

My knees were grumbling a bit at the start (leftover from recent skiing) and I thought they might start to complain very loudly before I got any distance but No it was OK.

It was a beautiful spring day, cloudy at first and then the sun came out and very little wind. Getting lost I came across a beautiful Mere and it was where I ate my sandwiches. Most of the day I was pretty mindless and empty in a really good and peaceful way. I got insight into a couple of work problems which was helpful.

I am so pleased that I can still cycle these distances in this time without my body complaining, I feel blessed.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Dental poem

Dental poem

I am seeing too much of my dentist
It’s an unnatural relationship
He hurts me
I pay him


This wont hurt
Zzzzzzzzzzzt Zzzzzzzzzt
It bloody does!

Dent-al Hy-Gienist
Den-tat Hy-Gienist
Mental Dental!

Friday, 11 March 2011


[I am still writing mystic entries in my pink notebook but saving them off blog for a while for a further edit. The whole thing is coming to a climax and a kind of ending in this first draft soon. I have just downloaded all the blogged entries and that makes 23K words which I want to sit with and cook up some more. It feels like it could even work on the radio]

Regroup was the word, but how to proceed against OM now that his cover was well and truly blown? What if OM published the pictures of him handcuffed to the bed? Maybe they had already. He would be the laughing stock of Manchester, maybe even an overnight Youtube sensation. Maybe App could help him out, maybe get the photos blocked? Maybe even get them deleted from the OM computers. But in any case how could he proceed against OM?
At that moment he received a text message from App on his I-phone Give my luv to J. This text was a prearranged code that told Paul that App had been able to hack into the OM computer system – undetected – and had downloaded some key information. Paul replied as arranged, Sure M8. This message was code for App to email a link to the downloaded material which he had made available on a secure but remote server. All Paul had to do was to access this email from a recently set up hotmail account using an anonymous venue.
[More details of the Om secrets?]
Paul found an internet café nearby and was soon trawling through the information that App had downloaded and unencrypted. Some of the material was rather bland and some rather obscure. OM’s thoughts of the day were insipid and uninspiring apart from a recent one that quoted Jesus saying: ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.’ This quote had always puzzled Paul given that the whole thrust of Jesus’ life and saying were towards peace. But then he thought ‘I am no theologian’.
His musings were interrupted by a discreet cough. Paul quickly closed down the link and turned round to see a rather plump, middle aged, white man with cropped receding grey hair and a thick neck that struggled to escape from an open necked pale blue shirt, grey light weight suit and dull black shoes.
- Paul Whitley?
- Yes?
- Tom Jackson
- Ah (Tom was Micky Flynn’s Santa Barbara contact)
- Let’s take a walk
Paul shut down the computer and followed Tom out of the café and down a side street towards the beach. Tom did a curious routine involving stopping to look in shop windows, abruptly back tracking on himself and wondering into a restaurant and out of the back door. All actions involved to put off any would-be tails. As he told Paul, ‘It’s better to be safe than sorry’ and by meeting on a beach they were less likely to be overheard or recorded. By facing out to sea they wee less likely to be lip read.
- So what can you tell me Paul?
Paul rather shame faced told Tom of his encounter with Melissa, of the handcuffs and the photographs, of his recent escape from the OM hotel and of the material produced by App’s hacking into the OM computer system.
- Hmm… can I take a look at that material?
- Sure, said Paul and Tom produced a Blackberry and typed in the link supplied by App.
Time passed whilst Tom studied App’s downloads. Her grunted from time to time whilst Paul watched the waves come in and out and was lolled into a semi dream state.
- Looks good to me, said Tom, some of this is new, some of it is familiar to me.
- But is it enough the bastards I wonder?
- What do you reckon?
- Maybe not enough to nail the bastards… I don’t know US law in any case, But… is there enough for us to pretend we can nail the bastards in order to squeeze a few of them to turn what we call in Britain ‘Queen’s evidence’
- Right…. Find a few willing to plea bargain so that we can at least nail some of their colleagues and hopefully discredit OM
- I’d still like to get the top man
- X
- Yes
- Me too but I’ll settle for as many as we can get, providing OM goes down the tube, the court cases could last for a long long time
- So how do we do it?
- I want you to go back there (Tom held his hand up in response to Paul’s protests)… go back there. They wont be expecting it. Go back there wired up. I will be nearby with a back up team and if necessary we will come in in force. But I would like to hear how they respond to some of the things that you through at them both from your experiences of last night and from these downloads
- Right… incidentally, how come you found me so easily?
- Well we knew you were coming from Mickey and we are the FBI!
- You’ve been following me?
- Of course!
- Then why didn’t you protect me from Melissa. Well you seemed to be enjoying yourself. And-
- And?
- And we wanted to see how far they would go
- Oh
- Yes you were never in any real danger
- No?
- No… The man who released you from the handcuffs was one of us
- Ah, so when I go back in, you wont just be outside
- No we have been collecting evidence against OM for some time. But now I think it is time to blow this thing open.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Q again

The Boss once more consults Q his spiritual director. Q was seated in his study come consulting room in front of a warm log fire which was a neat contrast to the cold frost outside. The room was crowded with books and artefacts including a meditation hanging, a fat Buddha statue, a wrought iron Celtic cross and sizeable lumps of amethyst and rose quartz crystals.
- Hi Q
- Hi Boss
- Prayer doesn’t work!
- Oh Yes?
- Yes, I’ve had toothache real bad… have taken pain killers… it took the edge of it but I still couldn’t sleep. So I prayed and nothing happened
- You fell asleep?
- Eventually
- Yes but-
- Nothing happened!
- You got to a dentist?
- Yes but-
- And you are OK now?
- Yes, for the moment
- So was your prayer not answered?
- Well… if you put it like that…. But that’s kind of cheating
- Cheating?
- Cheating! I was so tired it overcame the pain and of course the dentist did her job well
- And all of this is nothing to do with God, nothing to do with prayer?
- Hmm, depends how you see things
- So how do you see things?

Silence and a deep calm enveloped them and there was just a hint of a smile on Q’s face.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Poem: Of boats and bikes

Of boats and bikes

You were always aware of nature
The sun rise
The sun set
The stars
The birds in the garden
And the feel of the wind

There was a sail unfolding
In your memory
So powerful
You never went to sea again

I’ve done my time
On my bike
I’ve felt the wind and the rain
And remember the Big One
Pushing pedals from Cornwall
To North East Scotland

I still feel the wind
And dream of new adventures
The West Coast of North America
Around Ireland
Or alongside the Danube

Al Stewart sang about
The sadness of old admirals
Who feel the wind
But never put to sea

I’m still sailing… for now

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Mystic Detective (26)

Paul had come to hate plane flights. As a kid they were so exciting almost as much as steam engines. The idea of getting somewhere new so quickly and so elegantly had thrilled him. But gradually over the years, all the waiting around, the invasive security checks, the poor quality of the English airplane and airport food, the cramped economy class seating, the boredom he experienced on long flights, all of this soon eclipsed the fear/excitement of take off and pleasure of looking out over the city and countryside and the surprise of passing through clouds and their sublime shapes and architecture.

Paul was so tired that once he crawled into bed he all but passed out, deep into a dreamless sleep. So much had happened that evening so much that had not really made sense to him. True he was jet lagged and drinking on an empty stomach (after refusing to eat most of the airplane food on offer) was probably not a good thing. And being in the company of a mature and attractive Californian was probably not a good thing. And drinking wine spiked with E-happiness was very much not a good thing. And as the dreamless sleep took on a nightmare quality that was not a good thing. And then waling up naked and hand-cuffed to the bed frame well you get the idea. And neither was the incriminating photos spread on the within eye shot on the carpet by his bed.

There was a knock on the door
- Yes?
- Mister-
- Yes!
- Time for your release
- Oh
Paul faced the humiliation of being released from the handcuffs in silence and was relieved when his visitor had left. He cursed himself for being taken in by the Californian ‘beauty’ who had obviously spiked his drink with E-happiness. The effects of the drug were unmistakable. The almost trance like state it had induced in him, the deep sleep that followed and the dryness in his throat. Why had he fallen for this, one of the oldest tricks in the book? What vulnerability in him did it point to? He was not sexually frustrated or in need of kind and loving company but in truth he was flattered by the interest apparently shown in him by Melissa – if that was her true name, his Californian nemesis.

But a more serious question occurred to him: what exactly had he told her last night? Was his cover blown? Was he is danger? Or was this business with the E-happiness, the handcuffs and the photos standard OM practice. Well he would no doubt soon find out.

As Paul dressed and took a slow shower, gradually his memory of his encounter with Melissa returned. After checking in at the OM hotel he had felt stifled by all the earnest spirituality around him and he had gone for a walk in the local town. It was nearly sundown but still rather warm with a nice cool breeze coming of the sea, half a mile away. Feeling hungry but also thirsty Paul went into the first half decent looking bar he could find. It was called Barcode and was fitted out in unpainted Californian wood. A beer seemed a good thing and he settled into a wooden alcove with a sigh of pleasure, relief and satisfaction.

When Melissa approached his table and asked him if she could join him, he found her a bit forward, but decided it might well be typical Californian behaviour and what the heck ‘When in California…’. He nodded and she took the seat opposite him. Melissa looked like she was in her late 30s but who could tell wit Americans? Certainly not Paul on his second beer. She was slim, blond and casually dressed revealing a bit more cleavage than was usual by English standards but rather typical for a certain kind of Californian. She smiled at Paul
- So traveller, what bring you here?
- Traveller? Am I that obvious?
- Well you sure aint no local
- True
- And that T shirt (Pet Shops Boys Yes T-shirt – white with a tick formed from 13 coloured squares) is so English
- Yes?
- Yeah sure, Pet shop Boys are so last Century, they’re almost hip
- Almost?
- Almost but not quite
- OK I am used tot his abuse
- Well if you must wear….
- I must, I must
Melissa took a long sip from her cocktail glass.
- Anyway traveller what brings you here?
- Oh, you know… the spirituality
- Oh yeah?
- Yeah
- You don’t quite look like your average Limey seeker
Paul laughed.
- Well you never know
- So what is it yoga, Buddhism, OM, Shiatsu, Course in Miracles…
- OM
- OK
Paul was feeling curiously light headed, if a little suspicious and also was enjoying the female company Melissa was providing. She gave him a deep look with just a hint of mischief in her eyes and later Paul remembered thinking ‘Oh my God’. One drink of the local wine led to another 3 and a clam chowder to die for featured somewhere and then what seemed like an endless and entertaining and laughing and kissing taxi ride back to the Om hotel. The pleasures of this journey were briefly interrupted by a powerful need to vomit on Paul’s behalf.

And then collapsing into bed in a stupor and there followed a tantalising and teasing entre to a sexual encounter that Paul found decidedly stimulating but which ended up with him being handcuffed to his bed and a strong and disturbing sense that Melissa had milked his mind for every last bit of information he possessed about OM.

There was another knock at the door – it was clearly time for Paul to make his escape.
- Just a minute, he called out and quickly bolted and chained his hotel room door. He crossed the room to the balcony and flung open the windows and scrambled across into the adjacent balcony and knocked on the closed window frame.
- - Yes?
- Hi, I’m on the run from a jealous husband. Please let me through!
- Whaaat?
- Yeah, he’ll kill me, he’s got a gun, said Paul improvising madly.
- OK, Ok said the man with a laugh.

Paul opened his neighbour’s door and looked out. Fortunately his room was around the corner and the fire escape steps were nearby. Paul had had the foresight to grab his passport, wallet and jacket. He had checked out the layout of the OM hotel and his own room when he first arrived and was soon six floors down bursting through the fire doors into the cool breeze from the Californian Sea. He quickly joined the crowds of mid morning holiday sightseers, breathing a sigh of relief. Half a mile later a nondescript café with surprisingly good cappuccino provided a place to regroup.

And in your reality?

[This is a piece written at Tony and Steve's creative writing class at Fuel last Saturday somewhat inspired by watching 'A single man' the night before. An ace film.]

I heard you singing 'Somewhere over the rainbow' and I welled up inside. You weren't there of course but I heard your voice, honest. It was so you - right down to how you dropped an octave when you couldn't reach the top notes in the chorus.

Now Jonathon tells me that this is all dosh, that I am making it up or hearing voices, that you are dead, dead, dead and that I should bloody well accept it and move effing on.

I can't ... and I wont.

It's not the end of the story for me, just a new phase, a whole new chapter, a new book - the 4th in the trilogy if you like.

Look we create our own reality right? We each live in our own reality right? And if your reality and mine coincide that could be good, - or not. So in my reality you are singing.

And in your reality?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


The sun shone brightly through the rather thin bedroom curtains. Paul fetched 2 cups of tea form his kitchen for himself and Martha. She asked him why he spent so much time in Fuel and surely the food wasn’t good for him.
- It’s mostly vegan and all veggie
- But-
- But nothing… I…er .. am more truly myself in cafes than almost anywhere else apart from places of worship. And certainly not in my office
- In bed?
- Hmm
Paul cuddled up to her. She playfully pushed him away. And said,
- Are you yourself with me.
- Ish
- Ish?
- Yes, ish. I always shape a bit around people. It’s only with God, whoever she is, and creation as a whole that I am truly who I am.
- Oh
- Well you started it.
- Martha hit him with a pillow. Paul’s response was cut short by the phone ringing. It was App with an update on OM.
Later Paul was at the dentist yet again, for emergency treatment yet again. ‘People are beginning to talk’ he quipped to the blank state of the receptionist – ‘never mind’. His teeth had never been the same since he had been beaten up by the North Enders (see ‘The mystic detective rides again’). He had had two teeth taken out already and lots of courses of antibiotics but eh was still in pain. Pain was like an evil constant companion to him, at least the antibiotics kept him off the booze for a while.
He hated dentists with a vengeance and they were always so upbeat, so cheerful in the face of all the suffering, some of which they inflicted, in the face of all the bad breathe. How on earth did they manage it and why? It wasn’t as if there was any other place to go after all NHS dentists were in such short supply. And why were dentists’ waiting rooms even more gloomy that doctors? It was the pain thought Paul. Then why was it customary tot hank your dentist for inflicting pain on you? Was this some superstitious practice – that if you aren’t sufficiently grateful then the pain will return?

Paul was now at a lose end. It was the day before his flight to California and Martha was at work. He always felt restless before a long trip. So after an uneventful(!) breakfast at Fuel he went for a bike ride in Chorlton Meadows. He began to really push the pace and could really feel the muscles working in his legs as he biked through the remaining morning mist which was damp on his face and obscured the view. He had that familiar feeling on misty days that he might just find himself in another world, another reality.
Next stop time to visit at his favourite hairdressers, the Black Sheep Barbershop, before his flight so that he would look vaguely like his passport photograph. The Black Sheep was seemingly staffed mostly by travellers who had fetch up for a while in Manchester. Paul enjoyed talking with them. There was something absolutely magical about learning about a cheap hotel in Bali or the best veggie restaurant in Bangalore. It was like secondary travelling with some of the fun and none of the hassle. And it was a fitting place to visit just before take off.
- Going anywhere yourself? asked his favourite stylist Sam after Paul had had his hair washed – a surprisingly sensuous experience. Sam was probably the wrong side of 40 with a rather lined face from perhaps too much exposure to equatorial sunshine and life
- Santa Barbara!
- Hey that sounds good. Business or pleasure?
- Business really-
- Business but with a bit of pleasure thrown in
- You go it! (How come, thought Paul, that eh was slipping into travel jargon already? Must be being in the Black Sheep.)
- Well, you need to visit the Shoreline Restaurant for the bestest and freshest fish ever
- You’ve been there too?
- Yep, I’m well travelled me
- Any other recommendations?
- Well if you are there for more than a week, buy a bike and sell it back at the end of your visit. It’s the best and cheapest way to get about. It’s the only way to see Santa Barbara and it fits the slower pace of life there.
- Sounds good
- But get a blooming good lock1
- Will do
- And
- And?
- Catch the Lonesome Cowboys in action if you can. They are a great Country and Western band. And
- And?
- Don’t mess with OM
- OM? Queried Paul feinting surprise.
- OM, it’s why most people visit Santa Barbara. Unless you are celebratory stalking!
- No
- Take care.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Haunted in Africa

I was in Nairobi in Kenya last week and I had great trouble sleeping, dreaming about members of my family now dead and feeling haunted, so I wrote this poem:

Haunted in Africa

There were ghosts in the room
Some were mine
Old lovers
Dead ancestors

But there were others
Broken victims of the Mau Mau uprising
Abandoned babies of men taken into slavery
Tribal victims of post colonial violence

How on earth could I sleep in peace?