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.

 

 

 

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

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Into and out of Nowhere

We approached Little Gidding across the Fens, through Ramsey and into the middle of nowhere.

This particular Nowhere, in case you should stumble into it, is a stunning piece of countryside away from the bustle of suburbs and motorways, – a distance measured not so much in miles as in degrees of reality.

It is not far south-west of where my great-grandfather – and probably his father – lived and died. That was Norman’s Cross, and it has been pretty much brushed out of the landscape by the A1(M). But it nudges up against Folksworth, which is where those two ancestors are buried, the wording on their tombstones fading visibly in the short time since I had seen them last.

We ate Sunday lunch there, in the Fox – which I can recommend highly.

I had been rather embarrassed about originating from an area I had regarded as “near Peterborough”, which seemed about as boring a bit of Middle England as you could get. Having spent a couple of days at Little Gidding, which my ancestors must have known, I feel rather differently.

Some of this comes from reading the poem of the same name – the last of T S Eliot’s magical Four Quartets, which contains the same quiet beauty as the place itself. We read it right through on the Sunday morning in Ferrar House, a matter of yards from the beautiful little church dedicated to St John, with whom Eliot had much in common. Use of words, most obviously.

From the same house the previous day we had watched a rather haphazard attempt at a hunt, with horses and dogs milling about and another fox racing across the middle distance. Not my choice of Saturday afternoon leisure, but it reinforced the “nowhere” feeling. Or maybe it was “somewhere else”. Maybe it didn’t happen. Who knows?

The following day we took the short, slightly muddy walk up to Steeple Gidding, with its empty, pewless church and wonderful views. And after lunch in the Folksworth Fox we slipped on to that destructive A1(M) and headed south towards Cambridge.

A quicker route, but cruel: sadly, and without warning, Nowhere vanished.

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Before and after

Charcoal mist eats away
the sweet, sweet sky
that warmed our skin

Fierce fire consumes the past
and the future,
leaving ashes and driftwood,
scattered beaches, strange signals

We return to where we were before
guided by touch and free wine,
leaving the bread behind

There is nothing to see here,
as memories fade into
dusty tunnels where we wait
for something to happen

And someone sits in a bedroom
not knowing why he is weeping
or where he is going to

A man with metal legs limps past:
his father destroyed the house
and disappeared

Death and decay loiter in the shadows:
the poet has a broken heart
and forgets
to speak in tongues

But there is joy in the mountains
and a pathway in the wilderness:
women are filmed dancing
in empty rooms

loving the rhythm, hoping
for the doors
to be flung open