About

I am a writer who spent most of my working life as a journalist. I used to write offbeat commentary pages for the Eastern Daily Press, based in Norwich, England, and earlier a weekly piece called Square One for the Church of England Newspaper – hence the title of this site. I am also a poet, a walker, a chess player, a driver, a husband, a father, a grandparent, a guitar player, a reader, a TV watcher, a pensioner and a Christian, among other things. I love Norfolk, Scotland, the coast, deserts, rivers, mountains and almost everywhere I find myself, though not necessarily in that order. I like to look at things sideways, wherever possible. I have published six poetry books: Mist and Fire (2003), Off the Map (2007), Running with Scissors (2011), Stillness lies Deep (with Joy McCall, 2014), Iona: The Road Ends (2015) and Waving from a Distance (2017). I am a member of the poetry group Chronicle and edited a recent book on the Pastons in Norwich, which contains directions for a walk, a bit of history and some poems by myself and others. It’s called In the Footprints of the Pastons. Click here for more information on that.

  • Iona: The Road Ends, with accompanying photographs, is available from me by hand for £5, or £6 if I have to post it to you. Contact me at the e-mail address at the bottom of this page. It is also available from Amazon, as is Waving from a Distance, which is a collection of poems written during Lent 2016. The earlier books are also still available from me.

 

I also enjoy photography, without being in any way an expert. Some of my pictures can be found on Flickr, and some are included in Stillness Lies Deep and Iona: The Road Ends.

 

 

 

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde

Latest article

What do you mean by love? Christians facing deportation

The following article was published by Barnabas Fund on its website. It merits wider circulation. Admittedly publishing it here doesn’t help much, but feel free to share it.

 

Sweden is about to deport back to Iran a well-known Iranian actress who has left Islam to become a Christian, despite the fact that the deportation  would violate the UN Refugee Convention. Aideen Strandsson came to faith in Christ after watching a video in Iran of a woman being stoned to death.

She explained how, shortly after this, “I had a dream about Jesus. He was sitting near me and he took my hand.”

She kept her faith a secret, but when she came to Sweden on a work visa in 2014 she asked for a public baptism, saying, “I want to have a baptism in public because I want to say I am not afraid any more. I am free, I am Christian, I want everyone to know about that.”

However, Swedish officials have told Aideen that becoming a Christian was “her decision”, and now it’s “her problem” and not theirs. At her asylum hearing, a Swedish migration official even told her it would not be as bad for her in Iran as she is expecting because it would only be six months in prison.

In fact, Iranian prisons are a particularly dangerous environment for any woman. Rape has been widely used against female prisoners since the 1979 Islamic revolution on the pretext that women offenders must not be allowed to remain virgins, as this could result in them being admitted to paradise. Added to this, as both an apostate from Islam and a nationally known actress who has appeared in films and on TV, Miss Strandsson is likely to be viewed as a significant embarrassment to the Iranian government. As such, her life will be in serious danger. As Barnabas Fund recently reported, there is increasing evidence that Iranian agents are active, even in the West, in monitoring Iranian Christians and Aideen has already received threats on social media.

The Swedish government’s actions are a clear violation of the UN Refugee Convention, which states that its “core principle”, which has the status of International law, is, “a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.”

Sweden has recently let in large numbers of migrants from Muslim-majority nations. However, a public backlash has led the government to crackdown on asylum-seekers and now Christians such as Aideen may be deported back to countries where they face prison, abuse and even death. In a worrying new trend, which may affect Christians in other European countries which have recently allowed in large numbers of migrants, decisions on asylum appear to be influenced not just by human rights but also by government targets, with little or no recognition of the specific persecution faced by Christian minorities in countries such as Iran.

We have seen this problem in the selection of refugees for resettlement in the West from countries such as Syria. Despite the USA and other countries saying that they accept that Christians and other religious minorities such as Yazidis have faced genocide there, the UN High Commission for Refugees still does not include this in their “vulnerability criteria” and Western governments perversely claim they cannot do so because they “must treat members of all religions equally.” This attitude that refuses to recognise the specific persecution faced by non-Muslims is costing Christian lives. Tragically, it now appears to have spread to European countries such as Sweden.

Miss Strandsson’s attorney, Gabriel Donner, who has assisted around a thousand Christian asylum seekers, was asked if the Swedish authorities thought she was lying or simply do not care. He replied, “Primarily they don’t care – it’s numbers. They have promised the public in Sweden that they will deport more people than before and so they have to fill the quota.”

He also says that part of the problem is that Sweden is now so irreligious that officials have no understanding of religious conversion and simply assume it is a lifestyle choice, rather than an experience of who God is that affects their eternal destiny.

“A convert says, ‘I converted because of the love I received from Jesus Christ,’ and they almost mockingly ask the convert, ‘What do you mean by love?’ They don’t understand the message in the Bible. It’s just completely alien to them.”

Mr Donner estimated that approximately 8,000 Christian asylum-seekers are now hiding in Sweden to avoid deportation.

Latest poem

Trees

No respite for the trees:
like soldiers they stand, attending
to every kind of weather

It rushes roughly against their innocent bark
or touches their limbs seductively
in the deceptive dark

No hiding under tiles or blankets:
arms out, they are open to everything, even
the surprising blackness of the stars
and the winters of discontent

Down by the graveyard
the sky-cold water murmurs
against such injustice

but the sentry trees have no complaint:
they do not retreat
from the slashing heat of sudden summer
or the introspective moon

They do not jump for joy
or scream with pain, or
faint at the anger of lightning

Faithful in love, they continue to stand
hand in hand,
naked before the beggar, the killer and
Christ the King

This poem was written after observing the trees on Thetford Heath and a canal at Warwick.