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.

 

 

 

Latest article

Woman’s shocking message brought my tree tumbling down

Family trees are awkward customers: they can lead you badly astray. For many moons, thanks to sloppy detective work and a series of guesses, I was under the impression that my mother’s family – the Browns – came from Cambridge, probably en route from Brighton.

This was based mainly on the fact that my grandfather was a gardener, and maybe he came from a long line of gardeners. I found a gardening Brown in Cambridge, and another in Brighton. Other things seemed to fit.

Brown of course is not a helpful name. It’s right up there with Smith on the unhelpfulness level where family trees are concerned, with the additional complication that you can spell it with an additional e if the fancy takes you.

To say I was confused would be an understatement. I was completely deceived. And I might have gone on with my self-deception for ever, if I had not had a shocking message from a woman called Nicola.

She had been dabbling in DNA and had discovered that she was my second cousin. Her grandmother was my mother’s cousin. Great! New relatives: what’s not to like?

In this case, nothing at all. Both Nicola and her mum, Jill, were delightful, and Jill turned out to be something of a Miss Marple (her daughter’s phrase). She had done some proper detective work, found that her grandfather was my grandfather’s brother, but almost 20 years younger. It was a big family.

What’s more, it was about as solidly Norfolk as you could get. Not a trace of Cambridge or Brighton. More Cringleford, Hethersett, Thurton and Bawburgh – among others. And many of them living in Norwich, just down the road, as it were, from my grandparents’ house on Hall Road, next to the butcher’s and now demolished.

I don’t know why my mother never mentioned them. Maybe she did, and I wasn’t listening. I am now returning to look at the maternal tree with more diligence and intelligence, and hope I can add to Miss Marple’s already impressive investigations. Relatively speaking, that is.

(Incidentally Nicola and Jill are not their real names. We don’t want to make this too easy, do we?)

Latest poem

Bomb map

I saw the bomb map yesterday,
before I was exploded:

paper-bag-brown tags like a deflated concertina
litter the streets
spatter the battered past
like lost letters, sorted but
no longer expected

And ghosts, too –
captured light emerging
from another dimension
displaying the precision of chance –
one house totally destroyed but
still attached 
to its untouched neighbour

Gazing at the tragedy, I know that inside me there is
something in ruins too,
something destroyed,
but next to it – on the outside –
something standing firm,
looking good

No map could track this disaster –
only something miraculous
coming down from heaven
healing the rift in history

I shift from one foot to another
desperate to stand in a safe spot
praying for precision
in my favour