A couple of days ago I liked an article in The Guardian and shared it on my FB page, which basically argues that the internet far from broadening our horizons, that instead we actually choose to limit them. This is great news for the advertisers who want us to fit very specific remits. It made me think about what I look at and yes, I have to admit how most of my use is within at best 10-15 sites each day, probably less, broadening mainly when I am doing research for my writing.

My regime is look at FB and e-mails, I don’t bother with Twitter only use it for notifications, I usually have a look at the Port Vale site and Onevalefan to see what is happening at my favourite football team. I have a few blogs I read most days and wander round in Pinterest a bit. Messy Nessy’s blog is a favourite as it always brings up some interesting photos. Most days I read a few articles in The Guardian. All of which just back up what I already think. During a week I’d look at various music sites and often a couple of poetry sites. I probably get more from listening to the radio.

There is so much available that we cannot take in what is available. I don’t know if it is true but Leonardo DaVinci was supposed to have read every book available at the time of his life, a good myth, now he would be unable to read everything written in just one day. Do we write too much rather than read and understand? Look at me now writing to what could be a total void!

When I was working for the FWWCP a report on them had been written by The Arts Council a year or so before I was employed by them. One of the things which really annoyed some of the members was a point made that people should stop writing and read more, they may then understand what they write and write better. I mainly agree with that, though it is important for people to write, it is probably more important for people to read and think more about what they write. Poetry is written by millions and read by hundreds. Few people read poetry, especially contemporary writers. It is something most people think they can ‘do’, perhaps because it was part of school writing. I find it sad that so many write and could express their feelings and viewpoints better if they just studied others, and learned about critically editing their work.

Is mine so great? Well not really, but, especially in poetry, I work hard on how each word fits, the meaning of words and phrases, the double or hidden meanings, the irony.

How do we broaden what we look at? Opening the mind is hard, early in our lives we build walls of prejudice that limit us. A friend of mine buys The Daily Star, a paper I cannot even be bothered to scan when she leaves it at my flat, hence I know nothing about the promiscuations of Big Brother contestants or the eating habits of people in reality TV. I don’t bother looking at right wing papers or websites. I am prejudiced against anything the current Government puts forward and am pleased to see their ideas fail.   

When I used to go to the Library many years ago, I’d look through The Daily Telegraph and The Times as well as The Guardian, I didn’t agree with a lot I read but it was useful to read stories from another point of view. For a while I used a cuttings site but it just became a mess! I look at Peurop which is useful as it offers stories from newspapers around Europe, often giving very different viewpoints, but it often just backs-up my pro-European viewpoint.

Does it matter? Well yes, my viewpoint may not be important in the greater scheme of things, but this narrowing goes across the board and we need people to have a much more open view, this goes especially for politicians. In the UK they are going for strong so called populist stances as the next election looms onto the horizon, but which are representative only of tiny pressure groups, much as the politicians in the USA are.

Today’s photograph is of some brickwork I found on a warm cloudy day.




Last night I watched Before Sunrise, it was the first time I’d seen it, as it was made in 1995 it had taken some time to get round to watching it. I enjoyed it, I liked the format and the fact that it was the first of a series about the same characters. It didn’t have the quality of the Antoine Doinel series by Truffaut, but then I would say that wouldn’t I. 

It didn’t feel 18 years old until I realised that neither character, or any of the others, were carrying phones, tablets or laptops. It immediately dated it. The angst the characters had about keeping in touch would not have happened now. To me, aged 59, 1995 doesn’t seem that long ago, but in terms of personal communications it is another age. I didn’t get a mobile until 1997, a big Nokia phone that I hardly used. I was certainly not using the internet to any extent as it was dial-up and very slow and things like Facebook were not invented.

It is odd how quickly the change has happened. When I was little we had a TV which only picked up BBC, I remember we went to a friend’s house to watch Richard Greene in Robin Hood every week and were desperate to see Chuck and P.T. in Whirleybirds! We also have to remember that it was only in the mid 1980’s that we had a fourth channel available. Now we have so many channels and there’s hardly anything worth seeing!

I began a novel in 1994 it is called Underpainting. It wasn’t completed until 2007. I wondered whether to update it, for instance there was a ‘scene’ where one of the dual main characters cannot get in touch with anyone whilst travelling on a train, as the train’s payphone keeps cutting out. That now feels like the stoneage. But it added to the tension he was feeling. I am wondering whether to start putting a chapter every couple of weeks on this blog, get ion touch with me if anyone is interested.

I enjoyed Before Sunrise, I quite enjoyed being annoyed by the character Ethan Hawke played who firstly needed a shave and would have been better drowned in the Danube. I’m sure Julie Delpy could have found another more interesting lover, a young Tim Diggles would have suited her well who would have understood her take on Seurat! I look forward to seeing the other two films.

Today’s photograph is a bit more tree bark, creating maps and abstract shapes. Taken on a cloudy summer’s day with sun emerging dappling then disappearing, just waiting for some more showers.


Don’t shoot into the sun…


The photographs today were taken yesterday evening at around 9.15pm. The sun was low in the NNW and giving a golden warm light onto the overgrown grasses and flowers in the local park. Most shots are into the sun, something we were always taught NOT to do! Oskar was pulling hard at me so as many were blurred as sharp. I’ve tried to capture something of the feeling and complexity.







This photograph was taken while I was waiting for my bus from Renegade Writers last night, about 9.45pm. The bus was 20 minutes late, which meant I missed my connection and waited watching overheated people at Hanley Bus Station. I was however treated to a wonderful blue in the sky while I was waiting in Hartshill and time to ponder what had been discussed at the group. Summer’s ok for waiting and late buses… sometimes.


‘Making life richer… for the pourer’

Today’s photographs on a warm clouding over day, some would say hot, are of the truck from Bargain Booze delivering to the shop on the opposite corner of my street. It’s 9.30am, they used to deliver at about 5.30am, an event which certainly woke me up as it happens about 10 yards from my bed! On the side of the truck there is an ironic pun on what they do – ‘Making life richer… for the pourer’.


This statement could make a blog in itself as Bargain Booze’s shops are mainly in some of the poorest districts in the UK where alcohol is a health and poverty issue. But that is not what I am talking about, maybe not on the surface.

Having the shop there offers a constant trickle of people walking past my window where I write, from 5am when it opens to 9pm when it closes. The main ones I notice are the all-day drinkers living in the streets nearby.


A deep red-faced couple come about four times a day, they have already been today. He usually has a four can pack of extra strong lager, she a large bottle of cheap white cider. She quite often has bruises on her face, he plasters. There is an elderly man who parks at about 10.30am on Tuesdays, buys a bottle of whisky, then sitting in the car pours that into a flask, takes a few long drinks from it, sleeps for about ninety minutes and drives off. There are two women around 30 who most days drop off their kids at the local school, then go and buy a few cans of lager or cider, which they replenish around lunchtime and go together for the kids at 3pm.

Am I nosey? Prying into people’s privacy? Perhaps.

It’s hard not to see, the room I write in has a window overlooking the shop door, it is part of being an artist or writer to notice things, patterns, sounds. They offer imagined stories. I’m not anti-alcohol, far from it, I love a good red wine or dark beer, but I don’t drink in the day or on my own. I don’t need to find somewhere else for my mind to be or to stimulate it. Others do, I have no problem with that, things happen.

For some reason in the bath I was thinking about a photograph I have on my Pinterest board, Photography. It is by August Sander, of three young men, country people, dressed in their best suits on their way to town for a night out. A fine photograph, but not particularly remarkable. It was used by John Berger in one of his wonderful books on photography (his remarkable Ways of Seeing, a series of TV programmes and book had a great effect on me in the early 70’s). He analysed the picture in many ways, but one of his main issues was it’s historical importance. It was taken in Austria-Hungary in 1913. A year later the young men 18/19 would almost certainly be involved in the First World War, very likely dead. Here they are smiling, expectant of a good night out, totally unaware of what is just over the horizon. We know because of where we stand, both through the photographer and our place in history, yet we are unknowing of that same horizon in our lives. Berger’s ways of looking beyond the surface have helped me through my life.

That’s what photography, art, looking, can do.



Yesterday evening I went for a walk with Oskar at about 10.45pm, I looked at the temperature and it was still nearly 25C (77F). Next week it will probably be going above 35C. This has been going on for a few weeks and looks like continuing, lovely, but not really British.

It reminds me of 1976. During my degree show in Cardiff the heat began and got hotter and hotter until a dramatic brak in the weather at the end of August. I moved to an upstairs flat in Riverside, Cardiff overlooking The Taff and Cardiff Arms Park, as the summer went on the river totally dried up even though at that time it was tidal. It had been a dry winter and spring and within a few weeks there was a drought, we only got water for a couple of hours a day! South Wales and the South West were probably hit the hardest, I remember going to my parents who had moved to an old mill house in mid Wales and there were no problems with water at all.

I found the transition from 6 years at art college to ‘reality’ quite hard, but being in Cardiff was the best place as there was a busy art life which I began to become a part of. It was this time I read Mann’s The Magic Mountain which cooled my brain in the scorching heat taking me to the high Alps!

These hot summers are memorable, once in a generation. Our houses are not really built for heat, more to keep us warm. I am finding it hard to take photographs, rather like the period earlier this year when we had weeks of snow. The light is so strong and it is boring!

Yesterday I updated my printable booklet of poetry Gathering Grief, adding a piece that was published earlier this year in The Centrifugal Eye and adding some pictures that I had had in mind, so please either follow the link at the top or through here (Poetry) , I’d love to hear what some of you think!


I have featured one of my father’s watercolours (above) which he did every holiday, this of Telegraph Hill, Llysfaen in North Wales, painted in 1961.

Being lazy ,today’s photograph is of the strawberry plant in my rubble patch which I featured before and attached itself to the wall. It is now ‘burning’ off in the hot sun, the colours are quite wonderful. This was taken at 10.55am very hot and pure blue sky, the temperature already 27C in the shade and a very hot dog is trying to find somewhere cooler!

The Undiscovered Country


I have noticed that over the past couple of years I have not bothered finishing books, the endings don’t matter to me. There have been some exceptions for instance John Burnside’s A Summer of Drowning and that as I expected just stopped really, as many of his do, which is how it should be. I still begin at the beginning but I have been wondering whether to just open up a book and start from where I open it at random, as I know how much care is taken by writers, editors and publishers to get the first few pages right to entice you in.

One of the things some of the readers of The Report have fed back to me is how they think it needs to be longer and that the ending is not an ending. To me it is, is that arrogance? Well perhaps, but the story reached a conclusion where the next steps were just that, steps which could be imagined by the reader, left to your own device.

It appears George R R Martin does not want to finish his series of books that is now the TV series The Game of Thrones. I think that is right. I read the first one and would never wish to read another word he wrote, but the TV series is enjoyable twaddle. I enjoy how layer upon layer is added and sometimes pulled out from under the viewers’ feet, but nothing really moves on. The story, like life, continues relentlessly whether the ‘hero’ has been discarded or not. Twin Peaks had that same feel, people wanted resolution after the first few episodes, but the entanglement and darkness burrowed deeper and deeper into the soul of the town until there was no need for resolution.

Why do we look for endings? Is it an assurity, a safe place for us. Games have strict beginnings and endings, I love football and there is a 90 minute period where we know all that goes on – goes on, and we know an ending, a resolution, will happen whether we like the outcome or not. The game offers us a period we can let our anger, joy, hidden feelings become public alongside thousands of others.

But real life isn’t like that is it?

We think that an ending of a life is an end, it is for the person dying, ‘the undiscovered country’. But for the rest of us it is the start of grief, the reorganising of our lives, the beginning of memory and past tenses. The endings in our lives are as much a part of our lives as are beginnings – ‘In my end is my beginning’.  The retention of memories are absolutely vital in our culture, isn’t it Judaism that has Yahrzeit, an annual remembrance of someone who has died, lighting a candle to remember them? Most other religions do something similar in some way or other. Is that why people want to follow a religion? But what about someone like me, I have no and want no religious or spiritual belief?

My last blog was about objects and the people are kept alive as long as we remember them, but that fades, objects break, photographs fade.

A work of art has an odd lifespan. A painting is created with a moveable malleable liquid medium by an artist, which dries. If a portrait it has captured and stopped a person in time, a landscape a place, an abstract – a thought, a feeling, a need. If she/he is lucky it gets put on show or is sold. The artist dies, but the painting remains, slowly disintegrating, it may become fashionable or put into store, or like Churchill’s portrait by Sutherland destroyed. But it is there well beyond the lifespan of its creator. In some ways that creator still has life; how many of us listen to Bach or Beethoven, read Basho or Bennett, view Lowry or Leonardo, and they live within our lives for a period, sharing their interpretation of life. I watch the films of Francois Truffaut over and over, wishing that he could have developed his Antoine Doinel character who appeared in five films into later ages.

Is it immortality that unknowingly underlies the need like I have to be an artist? Perhaps, alongside the arrogance I mentioned!

I don’t want endings in books and Traitor will not have one, if it ever gets finished that will annoy those who want a nice rounded ending. Good!

Today’s photograph is of a window in an old factory in Tunstall which I took a photograph through on one of my blogs, it is now boarded up and has another life. It was taken at 10am on a hot sunny day.