Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Piano learnings again

Learning to play the piano is increasingly becoming like learning to meditate. Trying too hard, feeling tense about it, not breathing etc. When I tense I hit all of the notes hard, too hard. If I try to do it soft it goes too quiet. I need to find soft but firm/precise and this comes sometimes when I relax and let it happen. So it is not about how many hours I practice per se, its’ about my attitude and state of mind. It is really slow. It’s slow learning and the pleasure has to be in the moment. When I end the final bit of Morning by Grieg with a bit of a thrash, I smile. I know that’s not really it. But I enjoy the thrash And I know that will set me up for a quieter gentler version of Clare de Lune that I usually play next. And when that happens that sets me up for the rest of the day. About 25 or so years ago I read a spiritual book by John Diamond and he said that when you are playing, even just to yourself imagine that someone is listening and play it for them, I like that idea.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I am winner

I know this is not that readable but if you click on the cutting it should come up clear. Thanks to Graham for nudging me about thi!s

Wednesday, 14 November 2012



1) Woke up
Hung over
God what a night!
The singing
The drinking
The vomit
The fighting
Crawling home late very late

2) Taking the pledge
At least for today for tonight
Taking really talking
And listening really listening
What a strange creature she is

3) Out in the sun and rain
Calves aching and thirsty
Blissful sunset
A view to die for
Company OK

4) In my place again
The fire of conflict
The embers of desire
The cold splash of rejection
The bitter taste of sorry
Never again until again.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Boss once more consults Q his spiritual director

- Hi Q.

- Hi Boss.

Q was as ever sitting placidly and comfortably in an old armchair in his warm study which was almost like a like monk’s cell part from the overflowing bookshelves, the statue f Buddha, the Celtic Cross and some Greek icons.

There was as silence, a sense of calm in the air, an unhurriedness that sharply contrasted the jangliness that the Boss was feeling.

- Q, I’ve just fallen out with my church.

- Oh?

- Yes, not over theology or anything like that…. And I still enjoy worship when I go there… But it’s the people.

- Oh.

- Yes the people. I find them hard to be with and I don’t think they like me.

- Tell me more.

- Well I still care about some of them.. most of them… and I would do almost anything if someone was in trouble and I could help them. But I can’t do tasks for my church anymore. I just can’t…. (The Boss buried his head in his hands.)

- That’s OK.

- It is?

- Yes, it’s being truthful and that’s so important.

The Boss nodded unable to speak, unable to trust himself to speak without breaking down into tears.

- You know your favourite bit from Ecclesiastes?

- You mean ‘There’s a time to ever purpose under Heaven’?

- Yes…. Well. Try thinking of this in that way.

- There’s a purpose to my falling out with my church!?

- Yes.

- Oh…. So it’s not just my neurosis.

Q frowned at this phrase. He then said,

- Let’s suck it and see.

The Boss smiled at Q’s use of slang before asking plaintively

- But what do I do? …. It’s difficult being in this place I am now in.

- What else can you do? Where else can you be?

- Oh….hmm…nowhere.

- Then maybe that’s where you need to be, forgive me for saying that’s where God needs you to be.

- Oh….what on earth could God want me to be here for?

- Good question!

Q smiled, the Boss smiled rather weakly and breathed a bit more easily.

- You are always in God’s hands.

- I am.

- Even, or especially when you don’t know it.

The Boss nodded not trusting himself to speak. A deep silence enveloped the Boss and Q.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Music making

In recent weeks I have been learning Clare de Lune on the piano. There's a beauty and a softness to it that sometimes comes out in my playing especially on my piano teacher Rebecca's lovely piano. I can actually hear the difference. I can't yet control this softness or rather I can't just let it happen. I'm too tense some of the time but when it can come through it's wonderful. So piano playing becoese like a mediative spiritual journey. Not suprisingly my best playing is usually first thing in the morning after my early morning yoga practice - 10 minutes a day, every day now for six weeks. Then walk round to the bus stop with my daughter,, then bike ride to work and then its down hill all the way :)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Terry's book

I spoke at a book launch last night in the bookshop at Manchester Cathedral. My good friend Terry Biddington was launching his 'Recipies for good living: the beginner's guide to spirituality'. It is well worth reading. there's a couple of good reveiws on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Recipes-Good-Living-Beginners-Spirituality/dp/1846949025/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349855561&sr=1-1

Monday, 24 September 2012

New mystic (3)

- The explosion took everybody by surprise. Luckily no one was that near to Rachel’s canal boat when it blew up with a satisfying whumph sound. No other boats were moored nearby and it being a wet night there were very few people out- - So who did it? - That’s the sixty four thousand dollar question! - And? - And… you want to know who we have in the frame? - Yeah! - No-one… or at least no-one we can arrest. - And? - You’re getting a bit like a speaking clock. (They both laughed.) - Word on the streets is that Jan might be involved. Paul raised a quizzical eyebrow, - How come? - Well, word is (why did Mickey always talk in such clichés wondered Paul) that someone has been smuggling refugees into Manchester and Jan doesn’t like it as that’s part of his business. - Rachel?... Smuggling refugees?.... In her canal boat?… I don’t get it. - It seems unlikely to me, but it is a great way of moving people without anyone really knowing. I mean who watches the canals… and it would be so easy to hide some one in the boat. - Maybe… but I still don’t see Rachel being at all mixed up in this. - Well we are going to be asking her all the same. - Do you mind if I have a work with Jan? He’s more likely to talk to me than he is to you and yours. - No probs Paul. (Paul winced at Mickey’s use of slang.) Mickey left soon after leaving Paul nursing his second cappuccino and wondering whether he really wanted to meet with Jan. No way, but he would do almost anything to help Rachel. The trouble was he was beginning to feel his credit was running out with Jan and he didn’t want to be in his debt. Later at Sandbar Paul met with Jan. Why had Jan suggested Sandbar puzzled Paul. It was a fairly visible place for a notorious gang leader to be seen in. But maybe that was part of Jan’s strategy. Or maybe he just didn’t care? They met in the back room which involved crossing an old cobbled floor that had a very Victorian look to it – it certainly hadn’t been changed much in years. Who knows what wheeling and dealing those cobbles had witnessed. Sandbar itself was an arty, studenty pub off Oxford Road, a bit like Fuel but a whole lot less punky and less female. The cappuccino was as excellent though. Jan was as ever quiet spoken, well dressed and seemingly a gentle soul with sharp blue eyes, blond short hair, average height and the body of a man who worked out regularly at the gym. Curiously Paul trusted Jan or at least trusted him to be as good as his word. Like it or not Jan delivered. If he promised you money or some service that was what you got. He expected the same from you and if you did not deliver more fool you. There were plenty of people who had visited A & E departments having learnt this lesson the hard way. The ones who ended up in the River Mersey would have told the same story in stronger language if they had been alive enough to speak. Which they weren’t! Indeed their bodies were rarely found so even that part of the story rarely got told. But someone the word got around and Jan standing was not lessened by the extra spin put on these stories. - So what do you want Paul? - Well there was an explosion on a canal boat near Altrincham last night. - Yeah I know. - Why? - Why? - Yeah why was it blown up? - You reckon I know? - Do you? - Suppose I did… why do you want to know? - The boat belongs to a friend of mine who is already in deep trouble with the police. - Girl friend? - No, piano teacher… how did you know it was a she? Jan laughed, - It’s my job to know these things. - OK tell me what is going on. - Let’s just say that someone has been messing with my patch… - And blowing up the boat was a warning? Jan shrugged. - Who was it? - Blowing the boat? - No, on your patch? - Well certainly not your piano teacher… but she needs to be careful who she hangs out with. - Yeah? - Yeah… the thing is- one of Jan’s associates poked his head round the door and nodded in reply to Jan’s unspoken question -…got to dash Paul. - Who? - Watch the Yank! With that Jan left flanked by his associate.

Poem if souls could shatter

If souls could shatter/ I’d be in pieces on the floor/ If souls could shatter/ We’d look after them better/ If souls could shatter/ You’d get glue on the NHS/ If souls could shatter/ We’d sing very very carefully/ If souls could shatter/ We’d treat each other with kid gloves/ If souls could shatter/ I’d lead a different life./

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Learning from the Paralympics

I put this on Facebook roday but it is too good nto to share it here I reckon: My learning from watching the Paralympics. Explore things you feel like trying out not necessary just sport. Don't be put off by any barriers you can get round including those inside you. Maybe set yourself some achievable goals if that works for you. Find friends to share your new interests with. Learn from what seems like mistakes. If it makes you feel good it probably is good.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I have been realising recently that my desire for an audience for my poetry and creative writing is at least partially about a need to be loved. And of course this does not truely satisfy as the audience is never enthuasiatic enough or big enough and it all passes too quickly. I am lucky enough to have something of an academic audience which I do value and could value even more, and my books could sell more copies and my audience be bigger but so what?. So I don't really need to have another audience. So there is ego stuff involved. I/you probably need a bit of ego to put ourselves forward in any case. But the important stuff is the quality of what we communciate. Not just the word but how we say them and our presence and contact with our audience. So much of that is not about ego at all. It is about being, about soul. I have dreamed of being a piano player in a tea room. It is probably beyond my grasp. Do I quit playing piano? No it feeds me and it is an expression of me. Also it is a (spiritual) discipline. I only play my best when I deeply relax and let it flow through me. Usually better at 6.30 am than 6.30 pm. Recently I have begun doing early morning yoga and then sometimes, if everyone else is awake, piano. A magic time, a communion. A few days ago at my friends' house there was an old out of tune guitar with only 3 or 4 strings on it. Encouraged by Freddy who is 6 we had a thrash session - me on guitar him on drums. A rhythmic impressive sound and great fun. That was a great performane!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

New mystic

Paul was back in his regular favourite café Fuel and being served by a new waitress called Gina, who was thin as a rake with long curly ginger hair, skimpy top, short skirt, and impossibly high heels. Paul felt rough – it was his first visi9t to Fuel, first visit anywhere since he had got himself discharged, perhaps prematurely from hospital. - Rough night, inquired Gina, placing his cappuccino in front of him. Paul nodded, he didn’t really want to speak; it hurt too much. He sat down in his favourite bay window seat and hunched over his cappuccino. - Bloody ’ell Paul…. What on earth….oh it was Ashton wasn’t it? His usually voluble friend Mickey was almost lost for words. Paul nodded. - My lads picked him up? (Mickey was a policeman.) Paul shook his head. - Why not for Christ’s sake? - No evidence, whispered Paul. - No evidence? Paul shook his head again before replying, - No witnesses, faulty surveillance camera…. His word against mine… - So you beat yourself up then! Paul smiled briefly before wincing. - You sure you should be out? Paul took a box of medicine from his coat pocket and shook out a large painkiller in response and swallowed it with the help of his cappuccino. - So what now? Paul shrugged. - Do you want me to sort him out? ...I will. - No…. or at least not yet …. Let him think he is free. - Free to mess up? - Yeah. - OK. - And. - And? - And I’m not sure he is the one. - Oh. - Yeah he’s clearly got it in for Rachel but I can’t see why he would take it out on her in that way. Frame her yes, even attack her but not a poisoned cake, that’s beyond him. - You know I think you’re right. - I am, but the thing is, who then? - I think we need to dig more deeply into Rachel’s background… Find out who might hold a grudge against her. Paul knew that Mickey was right but he did not relish putting Rachel on the spot in this way. However, if it was the only way she was going to be cleared, to be free of prison and free from the courts then so be it. Mickey left soon after, leaving Paul staring into the patterns left in his cappuccino cup. His Aunty Maud used to tell people’s fortunes from tea cups. People would drink her tea and then she would pour out the remains leaving some of the tea leaves behind and describe what she saw. She was long since dead but had been one of Paul’s favourite relatives on his mother’s side. Maud had run a popular B and B in Southport. Paul smiled as the memories flooding through him of long ago family summer holidays at Southport. Playing football with his dad on the beach followed by table football in a local café and then tea at Maud’s. Paul’s eyes blurred with nostalgia. His cappuccino cup went out of focus and he noticed a curious shape emerging in the froth. It was of a boat, long and thin, a canal boat. Rachel owned a canal boat moored near Altrincham. Paul had often cycled along the tow path past it. Maybe it had some place in the mystery, maybe not. Worth following up in any case. App came into Fuel at that moment. App was thinner than ever, if anything more mono syllabic, wearing a ‘You’re a winner’ Pet Shop Boys T shirt. App was a computer geek who often did bits of work for Paul. Paul waved him over. - Nice T shirt. - Latest Pets. - ‘Know (Paul was as ever slipping into Apps’ abbreviated way of speaking.) - App waved to Gina for an Americano and his usual brunch of a bowl of wedges. - - App can you dig out all you can find about Rachel? - App nodded. - Not the latest stuff about her arrest but anything… Anything that might point to her falling out with someone…someone bearing a grudge against her, whatever. - Will do. - Thanks. Time for Paul to go. - See you. - App nodded in reply and opening up his laptop. Paul was at a loose end. He was too sore for a bike ride and too vulnerable to meet with Martha. He’d found her care of him in the hospital and afterwards almost overbearing – even though he had liked it. He felt it might make him too dependent on her, too vulnerable altogether. Paul just could not allow himself to be that way with Martha. The price he felt was just too high. About the only person he could stomach spending time with right now was his old mate Frankie.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Sleepless in Nairobi, poem

Sleepless in Nairobi Sleepless in Nairobi Again Can’t really blame the ancestors Or the food Or the drink Or the lack of sex. Sleepless in Nairobi And I’m thinking of you Those tender moments Hearts on the train Love on a bike/ Prayer in a ruined abbey. Sleepless in Nairobi And the TV is dull So are my books And my texts home. Sleepless in Nairobi I’ve been here before And I want to come home But there’s no plane tomorrow And my work is not done. Sleepless in Nairobi And the pen falls from my hand And I collapse on the bed And meet my oblivion.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Kenyan daze

I am off to Kenya next Tuesday and in that last minute daze of practical things like currency, sun cream, anti malaria tablets, clothes and the more work related stuff of finalising a programme and figuring out what materials to take etc etc. According to the DNA researchers all of our ancestors originally came from Africa and most then followed a variety of routes to bring us where we are now. The earliest human type skeletons were found in the Rift valley in Kenya. So when people say 'Africa has got under my skin' maybe they are experiencing a resonance with their African ancestors! It will be good to get out of England and see my life here from a distance. I don't relish the long flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi and back but it passes. I don't relish the Nairobi traffic either but it is a sign of modern times. I do look forward to meeting my Kenyan students again, well on in their studies and eating lunch out in the warm sunshine and being dazzled by the bright colours and meeting new people.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Living mystically

I had a whiff recently of what my recent working life had been about. This is difficult for me as I was brought up not to be full of myself. To have pride was seen as a sin and to be dangerous – ‘too big for your own boots’, ‘don’t get above yourself’. I am after all a grammar school small town kid made good whose parents decided I needed elocution lessons before going to Uni. That was so shameful and embarrassing. But, I need to understand as clearly as possible what I am doing and what affect I have on people for their own sake as well as mine. I recently saw the proofs of Brian Thorne’s new book and he unasked said some lovely things about me. Since I respect him and his opinion I have to listen to these words of his: “Among those present at the 2004 conference was Dr William West from the University of Manchester and it is appropriate at this point to pay tribute to Dr West for his part in the struggle to endow the spiritual dimension in therapy with the importance that it merits. Dr West is currently Reader in Counselling Studies at Manchester and for nearly 20 years he has researched, practised and written extensively on spirituality and therapy. At the same time, he has been a source of inspiration for numerous doctoral students who have been pioneers in this fascinating and often demanding terrain. A humanistic practitioner himself who has been much influenced by the person-centred approach, Dr West has ploughed an often lonely furrow but his books Psychotherapy and Spirituality and Spiritual Issues in Therapy (West, 2000, 2000) have done much to bring about the situation today where what was until recently regarded as an esoteric and eccentric area for scholarly enquiry is now seen as at the cutting edge for therapists and spiritual explorers alike. His most recent edited book Exploring Therapy, Spirituality and Healing (West, 2011), which contains many papers contributed by former or current research students, provides ample and persuasive evidence of the major influence Dr West has exercised and the single-minded determination with which he has committed himself to a field of endeavour which was assuredly not guaranteed to enhance his professional advancement. (184-185) From Thorne, B., (2012, at press) Counselling and Spiritual Accompaniment. Wiley-Blackwell. So what comes to me now is that I have made a difference and it has come out of my living as a spiritual being and finding ways of loving the people I work with and encouraging them to follow their truth. This has been very strange within a university setting! On the other hand this following of inner truth is what universities can be about. I think I have stretched the patience of some of my colleagues no end and I sometimes lack a sense of proportion. But my heart is usually in the right place. Part of this whiff is that my work is not over. Some of the future is becoming clearer (watch this space!) some is not. The not is that I feel there is work for me spiritually beyond academia and I don’t understand this yet. I was given this morning the phrase Living Mystically. Am not sure if it is a book, a course or a way of being!

Monday, 11 June 2012


Journeying When you are in it you can’t see it Looking back you sometimes seem To catch a pattern. When I die You’ll tell stories about me For a while Probably not my story But who cares or controls? I can’t But I feel At times The arc of my days Death is coming towards me Not moving fast But steadily and purposefully. I used to fear death Wanted to bargain with God I now know I have no power No control Only a life to lead A life that matters More precious than ever.

Friday, 11 May 2012

New Mystic(3)

Meeting Dave Ashton at Ashton’s local – the Black Dog in Levenshulme had seemed like a good idea at the time. Paul had felt reluctant to engage with Ashton but knew he had to if he was ever going to help Ruth get out of prison and clear her name. Ashton was playing pool by himself when Paul arrived, so Paul put down a fifty pence piece on the cushion of the pool table to indicate his desire to play the next match. - So it’s Mister Whitely isn’t it? - Yeah that’s me. - And you want to talk to me about -? Paul glanced around the pool room which was virtually empty apart from a couple of young men deep in conversation in the corner near the door. - Scram you too, snarled Ashton. They looked up in surprise but quickly headed off. - You’ve been asking questions about me and I don’t like it. - I’m trying to get to the bottom of why Ruth Stern has been arrested. - Oh that Jewish scrubber. Paul tensed up and hearing Ruth so described, - Don’t speak of her like that, he said in a quiet voice. - Don’t you tell me what to do, sneered Ashton, making a move towards Paul. Paul stood his ground but a noise to his left distracted him momentarily and Ashton wacked him with his pool cue. That was a poor start to an eve poorer and one sided fight that ended with Paul lying on the floor bleeding. He had sustained quite a beating. His nose was broken and bleeding, a tooth felt loose and by his difficulty in breathing he must have several cracked ribs. The carpet he was lying on was grubby and if he could have smelt it none too fresh. A boot thudded into his guts. ‘Here we go again’. His body assumed a foetal position with his arms wrapped around himself protectively. - We’ve called the police, called out the landlord who had been very absent up until now. Ashton grunted and barged past the landlord out into the street. - You OK mister? Dumb question, Paul groaned. - Call an ambulance! Ten minutes later Paul was been examined in A and E by a familiar nurse. - Not you again Mister Whitely…. This time we are going to have to keep you in. That nose will need surgery…. You are lucky it’s not worse. Coming around from the anaesthetics was not a good experience even though Martha was at his bedside. - Oh Paul…poor you….whatever happened? - Gob be’ up. - Got beat up, Paul nodded, by whom? - Athton - Ashton? My god…. Anybody see it? - Na….na one willin’ to say. - He can’t get away with this. - He wonk. Martha stroked his face tenderly or rather the unbandaged part of it, - You rest now sweetheart. I’ll come by later. Paul tried to nod his head but groaned at the pain involved. There was a real camaraderie among the four men in the recovery ward. They were all much relived to have come through their surgery, seemingly OK and they were bound together by their mutual suffering. This was expressed in a certain amount of banter and an openness to one another that is rare among English men, pretty made easier by the fact that they would soon go their separate ways to other wards or home. Paul enjoyed their presence as he was unable to listen to the music brought in by Martha, nor was he able to concentrate on his Guardian newspaper. It took a few days for Paul to finds his mind was working well enough to grapple with questions around the murders connected with Ruth. He was not good company to be with in this time during which he stayed at Martha’s flat and pushed her tolerance of him to the limit. After a week he knew he had to get back to his own place and get back to work. His nose was still sore, as were his strapped up ribs, he was still on painkillers but it was time to move again. First stop Fuel café for a meeting with Micky Flynn and the Fuel regulars.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Life's a story

Life’s a story

It’s always the story so far
It can only be that
You never know what’s in the next chapter

Heroic death scene in a hospital
Birth of a child
Windfalls of money or people
Emerging from history or the present

Sublime moments on a number 86
Or freewheeling downhill into Scarborough
The high tidemarks leaving flotsam and jetsam

That tiramisu in Venice
Or the early morning brandy in Rome
Or waking up to nature on the Norfolk Broads

In the end it’s just a story
A poem or a TV show
Available on Creation’s website

Monday, 16 April 2012

I'll be fine

I wrote this a month ago at Paperplanes and then left it for a while and returning to it now I quite like i:

I’ll be fine

I would love to see you again
If only I knew that it would feel OK
For both of us

But of course
There are no certainties
And it is a bit difficult
As you are dead

But I guess if you deal with your side of it
And I with mine
I’ll be fine.

Friday, 6 April 2012


Martha sang in an amateur choir and Paul went as he often did to hear her sing Rossini’s Little Mass at the Royal Northern College of Music. It was little because the only instruments used were a piano and harmonium. It was a very different experience to attending a Pet Shop Boys concert – even if the song ‘Go West’ nicked some chords from Pachabel’s ‘Canon’. Nonetheless Paul was engaged. Rossini had himself wondered whether his ‘poor little mass’ was sacred or sacrilegious and Paul was entertained by some of the unexpected and powerful, almost strident, piano playing.

The music provided a backdrop allowing Paul to think or rather dwell in the inner spaces opened up by the music. He found that his mind come roam almost as freely as when he was cycling. As he listened to the music he thought about how he would share his reactions to the concert with Ruth at his next music lesson only to realise with a start ‘No she’s in Wolverton’. That was a key to an intense reflection on Ruth and her imprisonment. How could the police seriously think that such a sweet woman as Ruth be guilty of murder? Was there an ex pupil bearing a grudge against her? An ex lover? A fellow musician? And where did Ashton fit into the picture if at all?

The music was coming to an end and soon it would be time to meet with Martha and go fro a late supper at the Lead Station – where else? - that would mean they would probably end up at Martha’s new flat again. Paul was uneasy about this, they had not really sorted anything out at her flat and frankly Paul preferred it that way.

Unfortunately for him Martha seemed to have different ideas. Their meal at the Lead Station was at first uneventful. They discussed the concert over delicious platefuls of Goulash Stew and red wine.
- And of course Sylvia was warbling slightly off key and rather too loud just behind me.
- Hmm.
- Jonathan (their new choir master) should re-audition her!
Paul razed a quizzical eyebrow in reply to Martha’s rather truculent tone.
- Yes!
- OK, he raised his hands in a gesture of surrender.
- I know we are only an amateur choir but we do need to have standards!
- Sure.
- So how is it going with Ruth?
Paul shrugged his shoulders in reply,
- A bit slow… I hated to see her all forlorn and so alone in prison.
- Hmm… I can’t believe it… How can they be so stupid?
- Well-
- Don’t defend them!
- I wont but I do understand the pressure they are under to make an arrest especially in a high profile murder case like this one.
They both became silent lost in their own thoughts.
- Fancy a coffee or have one back at my place?
- I can wait.
- Me too but not for long.
It was always like this after a concert but Paul knew he could not put off for long the as yet unspoken challenge that thought the saw in Martha’s eyes.

The coffee came rather later after their passion was spent and Paul was feeling sleepy but Martha for once was wide awake.
- Paul?
- Hmm.
- We can’t go on like this.
- Why not?
- Well I can’t
- Oh!
- Yeah, I know moving here was my response to us not going anywhere but (‘Oh Fuck’ murmured Paul)
- But, continued Martha, I still want more of you, more of a commitment!
- Hell!
- Is it? Am I really so bad?
- No…it’s me.
- That’s too damn easy to say!
- But it’s true!
- A very convenient truth, said Martha in a quiet and plaintive voice.
- But you know I am damaged goods. You knew that when we first got together.
- But I thought you were healing.
- Maybe… up to a point … but I’m not ready…maybe never will be… and there’s Catherine.
Martha sighed for she knew that when Catherine was mentioned that was it.
- You could let me meet her?
- Maybe one day.
- Maybe one day, oh Paul!
- I’m sorry Martha
- Not so sorry as I am… I think you better go. (She turned away from him so that he could not see the tears running down her cheeks.)
- OK
Martha did really want Paul to go but she didn’t really want him to go in such a submissive dejected way. But what the fuck could she do?

War Horse and the madness of men

Went to London for a couple of days. Went to see Scott of the Antarctic exhibition at the Natural History museum. He was mad but doing what some men seem to have to do - to go off and leave their women and maybe children and do risky scary things. Then I visited the War Horse exhibition at the Army museum. I then saw the War Horse on stage. It was stunning, they use large scale puppets. I just broke down at the end of the first half and cried and cried and I cried again at the end. My dad survived World War Two. Many of his mates did not. It was arbitrary. No true God would save my dad and let others die.

The First World War was another kind of male madness going off and doing scary risky things and sometimes killing other men. And for what? Sometimes men aimed away from other men or shot themselves instead. The women handed out the white feathers and shamed the men into fighting. I know the Second World War was a bit different and Hitler and his madness needed stopping.

And it goes on. Tell me why we are still in Afghanistan. It's not helping anyone as far as I can see. We are told the usual recycled lies. We all now that when we pull out there will be a Taliban government. You can't impose democracy!

So war just keeps happening. When will enough of us ever learn? War is over if you want it? Well not enough the killing goes on. It must be in all of us.

Friday, 30 March 2012

New mystic(2)

Ruth was being held on remand in Wolverton’s women’s prison just South of Manchester. It was a sad, miserable and dejected place to visit. Paul went to see
her having first obtained a visiting order. He had to take his passport with him to prove who he was, since his name had already been submitted a week in advance of his visit. He was searched and had to empty his pockets of everything including his hanky(!) which were put into a locker. He had his hand stamped with indelible ink and was given a numbered orange wrist band to wear. He was told that hugs and kisses on the cheeks were allowed but not on the lips. When he finally reached the visiting room he was struck by how working class the women prisoners were, apart from Ruth. Actually the prisoners were not working class they were probably long term unemployed or would be outside of prison. Some were persistent shop lifters, a few were or had been on heroin, and a few were inside for acts of violence including murder. All were white apart from one young South-Asian woman. Most were under 40.

Ruth looked dreadful, had lost a lot of weight and there were marks beneath her yes showing how badly she was sleeping. Her hair usually so well presented looked lank and in need of treatment. Her prison clothing did not suit her or fit her that well. But it was not just her physical looks, she was not her usual bubbly self, her voice was quiet and he was dejected and probably clinically depressed.
- You don’t belong here!
- That’s what several prisoners and prison staff have said to me.
- Oh Ruth what are we going to do?
- Get me out of here! (said with some of the old Ruth spark!)
- OK tell me again about the cake.
- It was in an ordinary cake box with a label attached. It said, ‘A sweet cake for a sweetheart (Yeuch!) from a secret admirer’ And it was chocolate and I hate chocolate!
- Me too!
- Oh Paul, I killed them! (Ruth began to sob.)
- No you didn’t! Your secret admirer killed them! In fact he meant to kill you!
- Oh Paul! .... I could have killed you!
- Not you the cake!
- Whaaat?
- Nothing… Did you give the box and the label to the police?
- No, I threw it away. I just thought the cake would be nice to offer to my pupils and that someone would own up to having baked it.
- Home made then?
- Yes for sure.
- Any left. One slice that the police took away.
- They wont be able to prove you did it.
- Maybe not, but they wont let me out until they are sure that I am safe.
- That’s ridiculous.
- So my solicitor says…but all the publicity in the local rag has made it hard. (Ruth sighed and looked about to break down again.)
- Chin up. (Where did that phrase come from? It produced a weak smile from Ruth.)

Paul was glad to be let out of the prison. He cycled back home with his thoughts on Ruth and her predicament. The trouble was he cared a lot about her and this could get in the way of the kind of cool thinking he knew was necessary. It was time for a long bikeabout maybe with his Australian friend.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

New Mystic Detective story

Paul’s piano teacher Ruth had been arrested on three counts of murder and Paul felt responsible. If only he had not blurted out his suspicions to Micky Flynn then none of this would have happened or probably not or probably not now and in this manner. It had all seemed so innocuous at first. Paul often passed Francine on the stairs outside Ruth’s flat. Francine was thin, intense, average height, expensive bottle blond hair, well bred, casually dressed in upmarket clothing. She was bright but had a perpetual frown on her face as if life worried her and if only she could properly figure it out everything would be OK. But it never was and now it was too late. She’s died of natural causes or so it seemed.

Ruth was, not surprisingly, upset at Francine’s death, and for someone usually so well turned out she was rather dishevelled, hair all over the place, showing signs of being well raked by her fingers.
- She was only 39!
Paul nodded, resisting an impulse to question Francine’s age.
- And already a professor of nursing.
- Hmm.
- She had so much to live for …. And already Grade 3 after just 18 months!
(Paul in contrast was an enthusiastic if haphazard beginner who never practised sufficiently regularly and who Ruth had not yet entered for a music exam.)
- What did she die of?
- Natural causes they reckon.
Ruth, paused thoughtfully, and crossed to the window and looked out across the moors,
- There’s too much death around. First Jeremy and now Francine.
- Jeremy?
- Jeremy, my beloved red setter.
- Oh.
- Yeah, too much cake.
- Cake?
- Cake. He scoffed some of my leftover Christmas cake and died later on.
- Death by cake.
- That’s not funny, protested Ruth.
They both laughed although Ruth’s laugh was a bit hysterical and turned shrill and she started sobbing. ‘Oh Fuck’ said Paul under his breath feeling awkward as he usually did around female or indeed male tears. Ruth sniffed and pulled herself together.
- - Let’s hear you do ‘Over the rainbow’. How are you getting on with it?
- OKish.
- Well (sniff) you play it through and I’ll make us some tea – you want tea?
- Yeah, thanks.

The next morning in Fuel Café Paul was joined by Micky Flynn. Micky was dressed in his usual off duty clothes – denim jeans, mod shirt and a leather jacket. His attempt at a hip look was spoilt by his thinning hair and thickening beer belly. But he could still handle himself pretty well and most people got the message not to mess with him. He used to work with Paul when they were both policemen patrolling the streets of Manchester, though often by car rather than by foot which spoils the image somehow. Paul had left the force some 5 years ago after a big falling out with his Chief and had set himself up as a self employed private detective, mostly doing missing persons – spouses usually – but also an occasional more taxing, sometimes more scary case. Paul and Micky met up from time to time out of friendship and to swap notes and information for their current cases. All strictly off the record and if the Chief ever found out well that would be it for Micky, and Paul would face some charge or other – ‘whatever the Chief could dream up that would put you away’ or so Micky reckoned and Paul wasn’t about to challenge him on it.
- This music teacher of yours Ruth isn’t it?
- Yeah?
- Yeah, is she on the level?
- Sure, a bit highly strung but then most musicians are.
- Most women if you ask me!
- Yeah?
Micky took a swig from his latte and pulled a face and then said,
- It’s just we’ve picked up a guy – Dave Ashton – who used to be one of her pupils and he said some strange things about her.
- Strange things?
- Well between you, me and this wall (Micky had a curious and old fashioned way of expressing himself) he reckons she’s a call girl.
- What!
- Yeah, call girl.
- No way!
- We wondered, it would be a good cover.
- No! Maybe he made a pass at her and got knocked back.
- He also said she is dealing drugs.
- This is getting daft. She is just a retired musician earning a modest living as a piano and violin teacher. And her flat is very sparse and small and Levenshulme, a cheap part of town.
- OK if you insist.
- I do, trust me.
Micky nodded and left soon after.

Paul looked over to the counter where Chloe, a newcomer to Fuel, was serving, or rather waiting to serve whilst moving roughly in time to the Fleet Foxes track playing on the café laptop. When Chloe looked over his way Paul held up his coffee cup and point to it.
- Cappuccino?
- Please.
- With chocolate?
- Please.
Paul was between cases which made a change but he knew that such quiet times did not last long. At that moment his good mate Frankie came into Fuel. This was unusual. Frankie, being half Italian was very fussy about where he drank his coffee (Café Muse yes, Costa no, Café Nero yes) and Fuel did not really come up to his high standards. However, since Paul was not in his office in the city centre Fuel was a good second guess. Frankie was by far the best looking and best dressed of all Paul’s friends male or female. (‘Bloody typical’ as Martha, his secretary and paramour of Paul’s, had said, ‘good looking well dressed guy, there has to be a catch, oh yes he’s gay’). Frankie had that delightful olive coloured Mediterranean skin and the verbal charms of both his Welsh and Italian ancestors. He was almost invariably snazzily dressed, - today being no exemption – lime green cord trousers, orange short and mid brown suede shoes.
- Hey Frankie.
- Hey Mystic. (Mystic was Frankie’s pet name for Paul. They shared a male hug, more relaxed and demonstrative on Frankie’s side, as Paul was still a bit unrelaxed about male physical contact, even with his good friend Frankie.
- What brings you here? Asked Paul after Frankie had ordered an Americano.
- One of our porters has been arrested.
- Hmm.
- Guy called Dave Ashton.
- Oh!
- Oh?
- Yeah Micky Flynn has just been talking about him.
- Glad I missed him! (Frankie and Micky did not get on. Frankie was gay and pretty out and Micky, who found him rather flamboyant, was rather unreconstructed to say the least and his casual sexism winded Frankie up no end. A less caring person than Paul might well have enjoyed some sport at his two friends’ expense.)
- Yeah, he didn’t say why but they have arrested Ashton. And he has been slagging off Ruth my piano teacher.
- Yeah?
- Yeah, some nonsense about her being a call girl.
- Whaat?
- And a drug dealer.
- No way and I should know.
- Get you! (Paul laughed at his own joke.)
- Do you think he is slagging her off to take attention away from him?
- Sounds like it. What’s he like?
- Nasty bit of stuff really. A bit of a bully… I wouldn’t put it past him to be doing a bit of dealing himself. He has the look and attitude of someone who can handle himself.
- And he plays piano?
- Apparently. He is a bit of a charmer and has a good signing voice apparently.
- Uh huh… so any way did you want to see me about him?
- Well, Frankie paused a bit embarrassed, he claims Claudia owes him some money for drugs.
(Claudia was Frankie’s recently discovered daughter, unexpected offspring of his disastrous one and only heterosexual marriage who had become addicted to heroin. She had gone into apparently successful rehab triggered by Frankie’s suicide attempt (see the first ‘Mystic Detective’ book).
- Oh.
- Yes and he has produced some IOUs that she signed was she was desperate and half out of her mind to get some heroin.
- Are they legal?
- Probably not but they could be used to embarrass me. He has already threatened to contact the Daily News. And you know how they love to run stories slagging of the Uni. And she’s not got the money herself. It’s driving her mental.
- Do you want me to see him?
- Please!

Frankie left soon after leaving his friend with plenty to think about.

A distraught Ruth rang Paul up just before his next piano lesson,
- Sorry Paul I am going to have to cancel your lesson
- Oh?
- Yes (starts sobbing) I’m sorry…. but there’s…. there’s been another death.
- Yeah?
- Jonathan.
- Jonathan?
- Jonathan Burley.
- Oh yeah, the artist.
- That’s tight, natural causes again and he was only 52!
- Jesus Ruth what are doing to them?
- Paul! Paul! (more sobbing). Don’t joke this is serious!
- Sorry Ruth, I realise it.
- Is…just is… just a bad coincidence.

Coincidence or not the next morning Micky Flynn joined Paul for breakfast in Fuel.
- Hi Paul.
- Sorry Paul I am going to have t cancel your lesson
- Hi Micky, how goes?
- OK Paul. You know your piano teacher Ruth? (Paul nodded) Well we have been keeping an eye on her and she is squeaky clean.
- Well I did tell you so.
- So you did but there’s an end of it.
- Unless you think she is a murderer!
- Whaaat?
- Well two of her pupils and her dog have all died recently apparently of natural causes, or in the case of the dog of cake.
- Cake?
- Cake.
- Sounds like a nasty case of coincidence to me.
- Me too.

But a thirds death occurred and yet again it was to a pupil of Ruth’s. And as Micky was already ‘on the case’ he saw to it that Ruth was taken into custody. A careful search of her flat led to the discovery of a half eaten chocolate cake that was subsequently found to be laced with a deadly poison. Ruth was remanded in custody whilst awaiting trial despite he very best effort of her lawyer James Burlington. Few believed Ruth’s claim that the cake was a present from a grateful by anonymous pupil and/or admirer. Paul was hired by Ruth’s lawyer to work on the case that was regarded by Micky Flynn as ‘open and shut’ despite Paul’s protests.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Visiting Styal women's prison

I went to Styal women’s prison yesterday to visit a friend of mine who is serving a 12 week sentence. I had to prove who I was, my name had already been submitted well in advance of my visit. I was searched and had to empty my pockets of everything including my hanky which were put into a locker. I had my hand stamped with indelible ink and was given a numbered orange wrist band to wear. Hugs and kisses on the cheeks were allowed but not on the lips. I was struck by how working class the women prisoners were, apart from my friend. I said to her, ‘You don’t belong here’ and she replied that several prisoners and prison staff had said the same to her. Actually the prisoners were not working class they were probably long term unemployed or would be outside of prison. Some were persistent shop lifters, a few were or had been on heroin, and a few were inside for acts of violence including murder. All were white apart from one South-Asian woman. Most were under 40. My friend had read a letter sent to her cell mate and had offered to write her a reply since she could not read or write. It was a sad miserable place to be. Everything takes ages to happen there, everything has to be controlled and accounted for. I guess if you have had a very chaotic life the structure there might have some use. I’ve been to Broadmoor and Park Lane - men’s hospitals for the criminally insane, but there was something troubling about visiting Styal. I would like to think we could do it all much better. If so it would take money which I guess is politically unrealistic. My friend should be out in a couple of weeks.

Monday, 5 March 2012

What shall we eat?

What shall we eat?

Waiting for you again
I’m early as ever
And yes you’re late
Why break a habit of a lifetime
Now and for me

Ah but when you arrive
Your smile melts me
And I hardly even hear
Your mumbled apology

But this can’t be good
And certainly isn’t for me
Now what shall we eat?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Poem for Alun Turing

Poem for Alan Turing

I stood near you
Well, it wasn’t really you
It was just a statue of you
But that worked for me
And I felt gratitude for
All your gifts - to all of us
Cracking the code
And thinking the computer
And I felt sadness
At never being able to meet you
God, you could have been my teacher
But I was fourteen years too late

And I felt anger too
At how you – a hero- was treated
How can a loving act
Between two adults in private
Be called gross indecency?
Gross indecency?
Now that describes how you were treated.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012


[With special thanks to Graham North who asked about Steve who first featured in Martha]

‘I first met Martha at a dance in the Coliseum off Deansgate. I fell for her right away, head-over-heels. She was my first real girl friend - even though I was twenty at the time and everyone thought I was a bit of a lad, I wasn’t. She was a right smasher, even though she was a bit quiet. But once you got her on the dance floor, boy, could she move something. I didn’t realise until it was too late that she had a bloke already – Stan – I think his name was. Mind you if only that Johnny* had not burst.’ Steve took a deep swallow of his beer. ‘Of course I was in the Navy by then. I’d joined the Merchant Navy when I left school at thirteen in nineteen thirty three. And I was visiting Manchester with my shipmate Rob whose parents lived in Ancoats… But I was horrified when she died and her being pregnant too – my baby – was it a boy or a girl? – I never knewed. I would have married her – gladly - but she said No… No-one else took her place. I did get married to Jane after the war ended, ‘er was a good lass, and I did my best to be a good husband to ‘er but my heart was not really in it. We never had no kids though and she died last year, heart attack. Me? I get by, but I still think of Martha. There are some people you never forget, they just get inside you somehow.’

*Old slang for a condom

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

330 words

I have recently sent up some of my short creative writing pieces to the blog 330 words and they have published all 4 pieces which has delighted me no end! Regular readers of this blog will maybe have already read these pieces from about 18 months -2 years ago and those of you linked to me on Facebook will have had these links before.

On 330words site:
1) The Manchester Riots http://330words.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/william-west-the-manchester-riots/ posted September 15th 2011;
2) Xavier http://330words.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/xavier-written-by-william-west/ posted December 15th 2011;
3) The glass shatters http://330words.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/the-glass-shatters-written-by-william-west/ posted January 19th 2011;
4) Martha, http://330words.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/martha-written-by-william-west/ posted 16th February 2012

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Neil Tennant poem

Neil Tennant poem

What have I done to deserve this?
What have I done to deserve this?
What have I done to deserve this?
What have I done to deserve this?
What have I done to deserve this?

You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind
Nowhere else though