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

Survival is not good enough

Bob Dylan once said: “I accept chaos. I’m not sure whether it accepts me.” He wasn’t speaking about the COVID regulations at the time, but his comment seems particularly appropriate as the virus-plagued summer of 2020 turns to mysterious autumn. 

Unlike Mr Dylan (né Zimmerman), I have never been happy with chaos, except as an artistic tool. In real life, I like to know what’s going on; that’s why I react so strongly against a bunch of anarchists stopping the newspapers being printed – among other things. 

It’s not just anarchists, though. No-one really has any idea what the Government will do next, because the coronavirus is as unpredictable as Boris. And vice versa. In looking for solid ground, one feels tempted to echo author Neil Gaiman’s words in his novel The Kindly Ones: “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.”

Admittedly, gravity is not the issue here. Indeed, scientific laws are not really the issue, because although we are supposed to be following the “science”, what we really see is a number of scientists holding different views. Indeed, that is what science is about. That is why taking what “most scientists” say as gospel is a particularly dangerous thing to do. All those conflicting studies and all that contrasting research. 

What effect is all this chaos having on us? The three major constraints imposed on us at the time of writing are to wear masks in shops, in church and on public transport (plus a number of other places that I don’t remember at the moment); to not meet in groups of more than six – a pretty random figure; and to keep two metres (another pretty random figure) away from people you don’t know.

You can’t hug, you can’t smile (or be seen to smile), and you can’t sing. Is this sensible restraint, or is it taking away from us a large proportion of what it means to be human? To be human means to move towards other people; following COVID regulations is to erect barriers between us, like the Mexican border wall.

You can see your friends or colleagues on Zoom, but you can’t touch them. Is this really what we want? To be in their presence but not in the same place? Not able to read their body language?

I’m not suggesting ignoring the regulations, because that would be chaos. What I do suggest is that whoever is responsible for dreaming them up gives it some serious thought, because making us less than human is as destructive of life as any illness. Simply surviving is just not good enough.

Latest poem

Archangels

Archangels
fall from the sky as autumn tiptoes in:
they defend the faithful
from invisible foes,
holding back the bitter rain
and the onslaught of dragons

All this has happened before,
when the stars changed colour,
shifted to red and back
made a whirlpool out of the sky

And galaxies continue to collide:
one day there will be no more sea
but the archangels remain
and yes, you can see them
if you use the right telescope,
look carefully
and shield your eyes

Back at the start of it all
a song echoed through the cosmos

Tune in and you can hear it still:
I will not say who sings it