If a plastic bag picks a fight with a tree
there may only be one winner -
but if three billion bags a day
are up against trees as a whole…
Roadworks in rural parts
come with their risks:
what if the signs point nowhere
and the barriers go feral?
We’re bloody in it!
It’s not as if it's big enough
to make us wonder whether we still are…
Hounsdown, Hampshire is a small area within Totton that is sufficiently cut off by major roads to feel like a separate place. It’s unusual in containing Hounsdown Avenue and Hounsdown Close – usually such roads lead to the place referred to rather than being in it, or are named after somewhere else.
The walls have eyes
Or at least this wall has one,
though I assume
monocular walls can’t see too well.
from either end of a well-lit see-through
don’t amount to tunnel vision
so much as matters of perspective.
(tunnel between Ashurst and Totton)
Fancy a koff?
What the fuck, yes,
especially as Fuckoffee
is close enough.
(Bethnal Green, London – the Fuckoffee chain of cafés has branches at 215 and 249 Bethnal Green Road - slogan 'Come happy Leave edgy')
Where phone directories may once have nestled
I plan to patent
the tele-kiosk storage system
for roadwork signs.
(Pall Mall, London)
(Pall Mall, London)
I can imagine
his wife’s frustration:
‘I do wish you wouldn't
bring your work home with you!’
Plenty of police…
If a gang of seven bank raiders
are planning to scatter
they might get a surprise.
(Oxford Circus, London)
(Oxford Circus, London)
We have a pile
in the country, yes –
well, in the New Forest
just inside the National Park.
Under new planning laws
Every shop must rhyme with its neighbour,
with half rhymes allowed every third premise
to make sure of some transitional variety.
(Finchley Road, London)
Look no further
for the winner of the
‘Ignore This Message’
Superfluous Signage Prize 2022.
Has your food faded
into an unsavoury purple-pink?
Time to sell it in bulk
to a specialist 'off grocery'.
The gentlemen ahead of me
can wait their turn, and if they don’t
I’ll barge them out of the way.
is to score lots of goals
so we need lots of goals
and try not to worry that they are our own.
The linesman is important
He waves his flag and everyone stops.
Or he waves his flag and no-one stops:
the linesman is not important.
(Leek Town 2 City of Liverpool 2 - 5 Feb 2022)
The Lord of Round Here
knows where to stand
to confirm his rights
with maximum assurance.
We have the latest
If anyone steals this farm
I'll be surprised.
There were fears that JFK
despite being long dead and reduced to a head
might yet make good his escape.
Those fears are now allayed.
(Great Portland Street, London)
A bronze bust by Jacques Lipchitz was unveiled in this location in May 1965, 17 months after Kennedy was shot. The plinth reads 'The John F. Kennedy Memorial has ben moved for security reasons: please visit the new location inside International House, just around the corner.'
The Art Hotel
offers you a chance to sleep beside Degas.
Not the original, I concede.
Nor do you get a bed.
(Pimlico Underground Station, near Tate Britain)
Just how many letters
and must-be-slim parcels
has this post box had to eat / eaten
to get so fat?
Pick yourself up!
We all have dreams.
When they’re trampled underfoot, move on!
has lost its sparkle
And there doesn't seem much
the police can do.
this horse would never catch up
even were it going
in the right direction.
(Sculptor Kevin Atherton has placed 12 life-size steel horses alongside the railway line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham.)
It's no go
the Ho Ho Ho!
Don't spend Christmas
It's good to see
that the Post Office has gone green:
whether they'll deliver all letters by horse
remains to be seen.
Is it true
that a flash of net
rouses more than a patch of bare leg?
Or are such questions merely gross?
(District Line, London)
How else would you expect
a garage to hold its roof in place?
I know, I know:
that doesn’t explain the trolley.
Unless it isn't OK
to be OK, which makes little sense,
everything must be OK -
which might as well be nothing.
The pink car
for its personalised garage...
Who or what has seized its space?
(Notting Hill, London)
Why do we clean things?
Simply to make them dirty again.
You can see the state to which
pure logic might deliver us…
Is it time
this street came out
into the fully spelled assertion
of its Pride?
(Praed Street, Paddington, London)
'When I said ‘backwards’
what I meant was ‘forwards’.
I should have thought
that much was obvious.'
How many times have I run past here
and wondered how often the owner gets called out
by people who’ve lost the will to music?
I've never seen the van not there.
If you reckon
blooms are brief
you’ve little experience
(below a flowering tree in Totton)
Is this what you say
when there’s nothing left to say
except ‘there’s nothing left to say’
and even that’s been said?
What does sand do?
Leak or overflow?
Either way, what does it want to be,
(Marble Arch, London)
Was this train on time?
The guard announced it was ‘five minutes early’ -
meaning we'd 'have to wait for a platform’.
We waited ten minutes.
Is it ‘better dead then red’
or ‘better red than dead’
or doesn't it much matter
to a nettle?
(Red dead-nettle - Lamium purpureum)
That's a very yellow
set of greens.
Are the daffodils out,
and the laburnum?
(Green Park Underground, March)
curses his luck.
He only took the job
to get the summers off.
may be limited
but that won't stop us
As a tuber
to the automatic assumption that natural is best.
I have a thing
This one roused me to such a pitch
I struggled to look away…
(Victoria Line, London)
Clouds are made by blossom
floating clear of trees
that rains back down as petals…
I could cope with a sky spa...
Lounging on a cloud,
too high to sense the world’s stresses
while an angel rubs my feet.
David Hume 2022
Covid, inflation, climate crisis,
Brexit fall-out, inequality, war…
And now my shoulder’s feeling stiff again.
‘It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger’ - David Hume, A Treatise upon Human Nature (1739). Not that Hume was endorsing such a view: the statement was a means of dramatising the point that moral obligations arise from the feelings and cannot be derived from a mere awareness of facts.
requires a big bin...
bigger than you'd need
to sleep in.
I hadn't thought
to use a chainsaw
but now I feel the constraint.
How about explosives?
(Roker Beach, Sunderland – in fact, there is a rationale: extensive amounts of driftwood wash up on this beach, making it tempting to bring a chainsaw to enable the removal of manageable amounts)
As you'd imagine
even the shadier reaches
of Sunny Side Road
are hardly in the dark.
that there's a queue
with seven orders in preparation.
(King’s Cross, London)
Suffering from pain or anxiety?
Never mind what lies between:
Is About to Happen to You.
(Selected Spam messages, March 2022)
If you toss and turn at night
this may be the mattress you need:
pre-twisted into the shape of your movements,
always the one shift ahead.
Should trees be allowed
To strip off in public?
Maybe, in the depths of the forest.
But surely not here, so close to a playground.
were the first to crack heart transplants.
Different, yet sympathetic, brick.
If this is not the light of God -
and I guess it isn’t,
as he doesn’t exist -
it does feel as close as an atheist will get.
(Saint John the Apostle Parish Church, Marchwood)
So many generations
have dried their washing
on this group of trees
that the trees have begun to evolve.
What a negative
to be positive!
And not to know
when the positive negative will come…
(at home, unsurprisingly, after confirming I had Covid-19 for a second time...)
Now I see!
I’d always wondered
which way up
the Post Office Tower should go.
Actually it’s now officially called ‘The BT Tower’, following on from an imaginative range of previous names: ‘The GPO Tower’, ‘The Post Office Tower’ and ‘The British Telecom Tower’. At 177 metres, it was London’s tallest building 1964-80, coinciding with the period when it was open to the public – it was closed for security reasons in 1981. The revolving restaurant on the 36th floor remains famous, but was only operative 1966-71.
If you egg-speckle rain
in the lap of the harbour,
you're not taking wetness
(Cowes, Isle of Wight)
This may be That Shop but that isn't this shop.
Sorry about that.
(Cowes, Isle of Wight)
This is an ethical barber's
There are no
unless the hair is guilty.
to travel by train,
especially when they tell me
to mind the gap.
(According to a gull at Bristol Temple Meads Station)
It's all very well
to discourage parking on this plinth
but Neptune’s been here over seventy years
and shows no sign of giving up the space.
(Bristol: according to the inscription the statue was produced by Joseph Rendall Fouonder in 1723, and moved to this – its fifth site, in 1949. It’s close to the empty plinth / parking space from which a statue of Edward Colston was famously pulled off in 2020)
Water flows up
Water flows down
How come we never see
the flowing up?
or salt bin?
A curious choice
Now that the police
so rarely sport tall helmets,
traffic islands score the most points
under the standard rules of 'Cap The Post'.
Perhaps they were dire
or hard or pure -
though more probably dry.
Whatever: they r Cleaners no more.
Surely things are going
To get better.
(St James’ Square, London. I say that at a time of war in Europe, rising inflation and Covid19 against a backdrop of climate crisis…)
Can we assume
that this is the grave of a tree
even while knowing that its soul needs no burial,
already being largely underground?
Would this be the junction at which
the sophistication of drink
into the by-the-gallon crassnesses of booze?
You don’t want a wall or a fence or a crop or cables or posts or other trees
let alone roadworks
to undermine the sweep.
When pavements die
are so substantial, they could pass
There’ll be a whole lot
come Christmas in Southampton.
Perhaps I should consider moving back.
(A tree with an unusual amount of mistletoe in Shirley, Southampton. Of course, I never noticed it - let alone kissed beneath it - when I lived there)
I see the case for the back garden -
space, security, convenience…
But I guess the fence
would sooner they’d parked on the road.
The mystery of the mystery moon
Is not what its phases represent -
circles painted on a railway platform -
but what their purpose might have been.
(West Brompton Station, London. The further these circles are from the platform entrance, the less they are worn away and so the fuller the moons)
‘Surely you can't think it worthwhile
to write about something as trivial
as a transition in leaf colour?’
Of course not, as you say...
I realise a white horse
is known as a gray,
but what does that leave us
to call a true gray?
(Actually it isn't so simple, as there is a difference between a white horse, which will have light skin, and a gray (or grey), which is a darker horse characterised by progressive depigmentation such that white hairs replace the birth colour, but the underlying skin remains dark. My horse-woman wife tells me that my photo is of a young roan, the term for a mixture of dark and light hair over the same darkness-under, but that the only term for a gray horse with no tendency to turn white is… grey / gray. A little confusing. Maybe there's a chance to distinguish 'gray' from 'grey'...
Just when I thought
that Brussels was super-solidly backing Ukraine
that the city shares its colours.
I'll show you my garden
now that you’ve shown me yours.
Then you'll understand
that size is quite a lot.
I was glad
to see this
because I've never had much patience
with things that don't exist.
So much of the city
is being dug up,
they’ve marked out some places
for workers to lie down and rest.
The Brussels windsock
may be crude
but it does its job
with the added virtue of recycling.
we came together
we’d sweep into power.
Then we could clean up for sure.
(Brussels - this two parts of the same broom were 20 metres away from each other)
can only get you so far.
Who, if they’re perfect, is thrown out on the street -
You have to hand it
to glove in glove:
how could a poet
not express their love?
Would you want to be tattooed
by needles so krazie
they can't even spell?
I think it’s closed, you may not be alone...
The sort of people who stand on travellators
will never get anywhere -
well, anywhere fast.
I know because I was one, taking this.
I am concerned
that their business model relies on me
when I could so easily
not have come to Norway.
Norwegian pole dancing
is unspectacularly safety-first -
surprising, when you consider
the national tradition in the ski jump.
They love the sun here
Even the statues
can’t get enough
of the chance to get naked.
look pretty-much like the British variety,
and, of course,
they speak excellent English.
This being Norway
one can assume that shattered glass
is a deliberate effect,
playing on the thrill of that not being so.
How much must she eat
to catch up with a statue
that hasn't eaten anything
(sculpture by Per Horum outside the Nobel Peace Centre, Oslo)
The Historical Museum
And first they need to funnel out
the air of times past.
(Historisk Museum, Oslo)
The car in the blossom spot
does manage to keep still –
but is trembling inside
at the prospect of envelopment in soft pink fall.
Another grey balloon day
for the annual joint conference of
the Society of Actuaries and the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters.
(Oslo - assuming they have such bodies in Norway)
(Oslo - assuming they have such bodies in Norway)
Did you remember to post the shoes?
Of course I did!
Though maybe not 100%
correctly wrapped, and stamped, and placed.
(Earl’s Court, London)
Or should that be
‘in quaking times’ –
and aren’t we quaking now? – ‘be turbulent’ –
for quiet pleading won’t achieve much impact.
Can petals be dead?
Or are they,
in the fullest sense,
never really alive?
(AKA ‘the limits of synecdoche’)
all bets are Off?
appeal to cows?
No way moo way,
noo way at all.
(Totton – buttercups are toxic for all forms of livestock)
My suspicion is
that you'd need to be remarkably patient
to see out the wait
for treatment here....
of the horizontal fence
can be compared quite sensibly
with that of the vertical bed.
If you could be
young and old
wouldn't you want it?
Having been spotted
after just a word
of ‘Piss Off Boris!’
he left us no more than a colour description.
In this town
they take royal security extremely seriously:
even Edward VII
is cordoned off against republicans.
to live in the development
that they’re advertising here,
but I doubt it would harm your chances.
(hoarding outside ‘The Domain’, Reading)
How Your Horse Thinks
Grass! Grass! Grass! Grass!
What the fuck’s that?
Grass! Grass! Grass! Grass!
(It turned out that the headline for this article in my wife’s magazine was a little misleading: it was about how horses blink, which might be a clue to when they are thinking, but threw no light on what they might be thinking about. But it seems from what I’ve seen that eating, flight and occasionally sex are the full range, and that the rations are such that eating fully deserves two lines against one line to cover the other two matters)
I’m pleased to be spared
is that of a claustrophobic
(Hiller’s Arboretum, Braishfield, Hampshire)
Gelly’s favourite fish
is a colour morph not bred until 2009
but now as popular as chips -
though rarely with them.
(Gelly is my aquarium-owning sister-in-law. Irrelevant fact: like all chiclids, the electric blue ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) has an extra set of teeth in its throat.)
This is the tasteful side
of the Platinum Jubilee.
You should see the royal messes
most have preferred.
(Lyndhurst, 2 June 2022)
in construction site hoopla.
Mostly we're just grateful
that it isn't hula hoop.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen
something I would say
is an abnormal labia’.
‘I think you’ll find that is a rose.’
(The first quote is from Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale Medical School)
Not many traffic cones
make it to old age.
Maybe the few should be venerated,
the years of pointless blocking-off forgiven.
(Saint Louis, France)
How can you tell a devil from a saint?
By how their thoughts
rainbow or darken
the surrounding space.
I know the French are partial to horse
but how likely is a foreigner
to persuade the Germans
to consume their cats?
Will six layers suffice?
Flowers - fence - grass –
trees - ivy – wall?
Then make it seven: sky
(Saint Louis, France)
The lion is fierce
but I am brave,
my manliness buoyed
by its lack of legs.
When a lion plays football
Does using the front paws count as handball?
And if it doesn’t,
what more is the keeper allowed to do?
The Love Lion's roar
is said to be worse than his lick.
All the same,
I'd rather steer clear of that mouth.
(lion with pink heart, Oslo)
We all have dreams
Though whether we remember them
let alone achieve them
may be for the sky to know…
Is that a known thing?
And, if it is,
would it be wrong to be one?
(Copy from 1850 of Antonio Canova’s ‘The Three Graces’ on Stuttgart State Gallery’s central terrace)
An hour in Rottweil
Due to a cancelled train.
I saw a tower shorter than a lamppost
but no dogs.
(Rottweil, the oldest town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany gives its name to the Rottweiler breed, originally a butcher’s dog in the region).
but these stilettos have built-in drills,
capable of piercing any pavement
as easily as a body or a heart.
(Guido Nassbaum: from ’20 Variationem eines Gassenhauers, Basler Variation’, 1994 – Basel)
Do I play the piano?
From time to time...
Only I've been out of time
for quite a while now, quite some time...
Are you sitting
I have no nerves.
(SET studios, Woolwich)
What is normal?
This is only abnormal
if it's midnight
and it isn’t in Norway.
(Oslo airport, midnight, 24 June 2022
Elvis has been spotted in Oslo
He's spent 45 years
learning the accordion
and still isn’t all that good.
So I said to the gull
‘shit on my tits if you must,
but please don't shit in my eyes!’
It just screeched.
Isn't it more logical
and closer to the bath’s ideal
to bathe in rain
rather than sun?
That’s the spirit
a plant that gets right on with being
up against the wall.