usually in autumn


– usually in autumn, when the sun
appears and disappears. And reappears
between defective clouds, window-level,
lighthousing to the shrill click-track of that
reversing thing behind the trees –

like these are my absolute worst;
reminding me of when I was a child.



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Illustration Friday: Ice

So this picture started life as a story of upstairs and down… “we don’t really know the neighbour downstairs (is dead)”. But overnight it became about a more obvious – and British, perhaps – detachment.


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The Swan, the Shoes

The man who comes to do our trees and hedges, neatly, roughly once a year, is telling me about one of his daughters. Coming up to 48, she’d never been abroad. And so for that birthday (this was just last year) he arranged her first passport, and took her to a big resort on the Black Sea coast. She’d never stayed in such a place; had no experience of hotels to speak of. When it came to her room being serviced, she confessed to her dad that she was worried, embarrassed at the mess she’d so quickly made. He eventually persuaded her to let the staff service her room.
That night he found her in tears. Had something gone wrong – been broken, or stolen?
‘No’, she said, ‘I’m crying because someone made a swan out of a towel and put it on the bed. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.’
Then she cried some more, he said, and added: ‘and someone’s even put all my shoes in a neat line along the wall.’


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In Hong Kong is Celadon

National Poetry Day, it is. I thought I’d give air, finally, to a thing I wrote a quarter of a century ago (me, now tamping tobacco into my pipe). March 1991 to be precise. Enough that the piece has stayed with me, a kind of beneficial earworm, the sort that ferries you back to sleep when you shouldn’t be awake. I wrote it on a boat on the South China Sea (draws again on pipe), giddy at so much that was happening, and had happened; and picking up a mental melody about the colour of a cardigan of a student in my class. Somehow, funnily, it seems to want a soft Scots accent. And it’s more trouble to be written than to speak.

In Hong Kong is Celadon

In Hong Kong is celadon and greens and
blues commune to prove I plot what I’ve got
and what was what about a time and place
and cardigans milestone my way. Leaving

me proud for once of being a sponge, dizzily
aware that somewhere, in a shop, ware is
weighed, blind respect paid to a decision
a girlfriend made about colorism.

This season, Easter, April, petrol and
kingfisher banana the walls of malls
and vanillas of girlskin curves deflect
a billboard quiet, without zeal, gazzumping

an Armani kiss. Pills, windowsills,
buckets and vases and rust and disgust
at our kitchen’s poverty blue, as if
we’d just got rich – all, I don’t pretend,

I do, I understand, what only an idiot
wouldn’t know, here, all life is drawn
and pours
from the wardrobe of a student.

'Bowl of Hot Soup' - I wanted a blue piece, naturally, to accompany.

‘Bowl of Hot Soup’ – I wanted a blue piece, naturally, to accompany.



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Things to See in Paris

Two bicycles,
Two buildings with their skies.
One crack in the wall under Serge Gainsbourg,
One little blue-green car and
One setting sun across the runway when it’s time to go.


paris-2-bikes paris-2-buildings paris-serge


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A Disparate List

1.    When people tag pictures with #nofilter, increasingly my first reaction is, ‘oh, that’s a shame – a carefully chosen filter would’ve made your okay photograph really pretty great.’ It comes across as judgey, and so I judge right back. The camera you’re using is a humungous filter – never mind that you chose to frame the shot, and there’s the application you chose to share it in. So, y’know. Next time, filter some more. Put the leg-work in.

2.    I’m not getting this bike shelter built anytime soon. The design of it is on my mind, but it needs to be – crazily – movable… and that’s what’s slowing the whole process down. That, plus I’m not wholly convinced that the old bitumen coated felt is the way to go. Even though there’s a fat roll of it in the shed, and my project budget is zero.

3.    Last week I met for coffee with a very demonstrative person. That’s to say someone big into acting out the anecdote they’re telling you. I get embarrassed, a little claustrophobic. People look over at the gesturing and the various voices being used. What can I do, I get self-conscious? I’ve known a few people over the years who like to do this. Like, pretending to hold and speak into an invisible phone if the story involves a call. What makes some people take this approach? I’m not aware that it’s something I do when telling a tale – the actions and the expressions; the… pauses. Do you know someone who do this?

4.    Tables are great, aren’t they? I mean, really great. If you’ve got the room for them, I think you should have them everywhere. Indoors, I mean. I love sitting at tables, me. Sometimes when people get up from the table to move elsewhere, I’m like, ‘oh…’

5.    Years ago – and I mean like back in the late 80s – I was super-obsessed with taking photos off the TV. I liked the chance aspect of it. Even with video pausing you never knew how the lines were going to behave. I think about that occasionally now as I’m constantly pausing these Sky Box Sets. And how back in the day it was pretty much Kylie and Julie Christie I was trying to capture in a frame, and now I’m only hitting pause (see below) when I see a characterful kitchen or a really nice old car.

6.    For these past two days out of this window to my left, I have assumed that the sudden glimpses of a vivid pink through the trees has been the fluorescent hi-viz jacket of someone working on the massive old firs over there. Today I realise it’s a last tall rose, heavy, leaning and bobbing on its stem. A solitary huge pink flowerhead creating quiet mayhem in the trees.

Photographs off the TV

Photographs off the TV. Or ‘life after Kylie.’

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A Short Rhyme for Missed Rain

The egg cartons, milk bottles, were dry.
And they were delivered at five.
So the rain must have happened
Sometime before then.
When we were asleep. But alive.


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