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.

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.

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Latest article

Hoo dun it? Maybe, and maybe not

To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed by Dippy the Dinosaur, now in his (or her) last month at Norwich Cathedral. The sheer size was certainly impressive, but then I discovered that it wasn’t a real dinosaur. It wasn’t even real dinosaur bones – just plaster casts. And from several different dinosaurs, apparently.

Emerging latish from a Free Church background, I have always had my doubts about church relics, but this was not even close. St Dippy? I don’t think so.

I had a similar revelation when I visited a museum at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk and saw what I thought was breath-taking workmanship on weapons and other artefacts from the 6th and 7th centuries AD, around the time of the jolly King Raedwald and his unnamed queen. My wife then pointed out that they were reconstructions.

You may think I was a bit naive to expect more, especially given my reputation for scepticism. But if I am told that a number of huge mounds in a field contain (or once contained) ships, bodies, gold and silver, what am I supposed to think? Do I just take their word for it?

I’ve always thought that if you want to build up a reputation as a scientist, the two obvious fields to be in are archaeology and geology. Both deal with the distant past (the difference being one of scale), and so no-one is going to be around to say you’re wrong. You can come up with any theory you like, especially if it’s more or less the same as everyone else’s.

This may be a rather sweeping conclusion, but geology at least seems to be entirely based on the theory of uniformitarianism – which states that the same natural laws and processes observable today have always been in operation on Earth and in the universe, and at the same rate. To me this is quite absurd. How do we know? We don’t.

This principle is also the key to dating; so it spills over into archaeology. It probably spills over into other things as well, which would explain statistics. Or maybe that’s a conspiracy theory.

Still, it reminds me of a quote from someone called Barnabas: “I would feel infinitely more comfortable in your presence if you would agree to treat gravity as a law, rather than one of a number of suggested options.”

Maybe some scientific laws survive only because we agree to treat them as laws. Is it time to think of other options?

Latest poem

Riverside path

The river, pushed by the tide,
smudges the edges here, 
pulls back to leave a footpath in the sand
quickly printed, away 
from the electric fence

The magic goes:
swordsmen emerge from the mist
and the church hovers in the distance
always just out of reach

On a tiny island, unmarked on any maps,
a thousand birds
try to leave their nests
but fall back, fading into silence

This is the way back:
our legs ache and
there is nowhere to rest:
no random logs, no majesty
just a shorn green empty field 

on which to collapse
beneath the skeleton trees
unable to rise again
until the third day,

which is too long:
the water is alive
and coming towards us