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 five poetry books: Mist and Fire (2003), Off the Map (2007), Running with Scissors (2011), Stillness lies Deep (with Joy McCall, 2014) and Iona: The Road Ends (2015). The last two also contain my photographs. I am a member of the poetry group Chronicle.

  • 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. 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.

 

 

 

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.

— Tolstoy

Latest article

Craft fairs – an attempt at beauty

During a short stay in North Norfolk recently, I suffered an attack of craft fairs. I tried everything, but they wouldn’t go away.

Funny things, craft fairs. A craft fair is really a crowd of mainly nice people with certain skills, often in a village hall, trying to persuade you to buy stuff you don’t really need, but which looks quite nice.

For this to work, you need people to have a reasonable amount of spare cash, because for them it’s a bit like giving money to charity.

But wait, I hear you say, isn’t there really a high degree of skill involved, which ought to be rewarded?

You could look at it like that. Unfortunately, however, our society is not set up to reward skill, except in certain areas, like surgery. This is why to be an artist or a craftist in 21st century Britain is unlikely to make you rich, unless you are also skilful at PR or intimidation, or are just very lucky.

There are too many people who are good at producing works of art, be they intricate bracelets or extraordinary etchings. Such work can take a lot of time, and if the creator charged his or her time at the same sort of rate as a lawyer, for example, no-one would ever sell anything.

So what are craft fairs for? They are similar to art exhibitions, in that they put work on show. And if people are persuaded to buy, maybe it’s possible to eke out a living, or supplement a pension. But the first reason for creating is the creation itself, not what happens later.

So the craft fair is a kind of indulgence. Rather like children asking their mother and father to come and see what they’ve done. And the mother and father will hand out a reward. Not a big reward: a small one. By way of encouragement.

That is why we are afflicted by craft fairs. So should we forget them and get on with the serious business of life?

I think this would be our loss. We are all in our way creators, and if we are not allowed to demonstrate this, it deprives us of part of our humanity – and it deprives everyone else of an opportunity to step outside of the daily routine and enjoy a bit of beauty. Or at least an attempt at it.

That’s my theory, anyway. Craft fairs are an attempt at beauty. And if we don’t make an attempt at beauty – inside or outside of craft fairs – what are we living for?

 

Latest poem

Saltmarsh after the war

The track to the edge of the saltmarsh
is rough enough:
beyond that, the sky dips

I opened my eyes when the war ended, and
to me it was normal:
the broken buildings, the emptiness,
the echoes

There was no blood to tell the story,
as there is none here: just a map
in three dimensions –
an ordinary survey with graves not marked

But there is mud, sucking away flesh,
given the chance,
blind to ambition, even the smallest dream

Here is the unexpected future,
drawn with a dreadful beauty:
a man with the Second Coming in his hat
tells stories of healing
and the true nature of time

Out there the sea spreads its fingers silently,
paints new patterns on this naked body,
challenging the traveller to guess
which path leads home