Tuesday, 12 March 2019

From the highest hills...

First post

Snowdrops and crocuses
keep their heads low,
but first among daffs,
how you rise up and shine.

Keen to see light
and feel the slow sun,
are you brave, or foolish,
or… don’t be stupid…

They’re flowers, aren’t they?
So who is the fool?
This is nonsense verse,
I ask you, but still.

Look at you there,
on the hill, in the park,
your window is open,
you’re blaring a glare.

Though it is early doors
and you do all this
only to be trumped
by mad March gales,

pissed on by labradoodles,
or plucked from the ground
by hungry humans,
desperate for pretty.

Will you learn from this,
go slower next year?
Or will you play even louder
till the sound gets through?

RF 2019

Just when you tell yourself you'll never write another poem ever (and feel relieved), out pops a new one just to prove you wrong. It's a vicious circle (or cycle) but there are far worse crosses. No one has to read it (though if you have, I thank you).

I popped over to Scotland's premier poetry festival (StAnza) this weekend so maybe that's to blame. I only went to one event (Tolu Agbelusi) but she was very good (go and hear this one if you don't believe me). I used to go to StAnza for days, enter things, throw myself in, but times change, habits change, and to be honest I have rarely felt anything like at home there (though I have some great memories - meeting Adrian Mitchell, for one).

And in the meantime, Spring (it's less depressing than Brexit negotiations).

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

A cup or five


Years ago, if I saw the word ‘coffee’ in a poem
I would groan and shift in my seat
At the tired cliché of a weary writer
Reflecting over a hot beverage, possibly abroad.

But now I, too, am tired like words, lost like sense,
And coffee calls from every side.
From choppy chains to specialist brews,
I buy it, drink it, know it’s too late.

RF 2019

Not many poems of late but here is a little one. And I NEVER post photos of food so here is a part of a recent birthday lunch. It was a bit frozen in the middle but that is January birthdays for you (and the company was good).

(Added later) And I forgot to say that this one makes me laugh (if no-one else) because there used to be a running joke with a Leeds friend about a 'latte' coffee being pronounced 'late' (early days of Starbucks in the city I think...).


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Xmas Number One

Two years ago I posted a Xmas poem on here. And behold... it is now a Xmas song (courtesy of Kinnaber Junction/Gary Anderson). Enjoy. Other song poems here.

Thursday, 22 November 2018


It's not a real leaf.

So much change here... moving home... new places... new job... just too much to compute at times. And no new poems, not since the last post, but a few pics on the old instawhat'sit and other such excitements. 

Also, on a poetry tip as it were, I will be reading/performing poems at an event in Glasgow on 4 December. It is at the Project Cafe from 6.30-8.30 pm and other poets on the night are Hugh McMillan (the Mighty!) and Jim Mackintosh (can't comment... will be meeting/seeing/hearing him for the first time). It is a free event so no excuses... unless of course you live on the other side of the world or something. I am just hoping the train there isn't so crowded that I end up getting off at Perth or Stirling and having to bus/walk/hitch the rest of the way... that is the kind of thing I do... 

More after that event perhaps...

Monday, 20 August 2018

Music and moving - the local folk club edition

Links Hotel, Montrose (the 'suite' where the folk club takes place anyway)

In less than a month we will be moving house (and let that explain the recent lack of blogging and all other forms of modern communication). We are not moving too far (an hour or so away… by car) but it is a big move in lots of ways and I am pretty excited about it. It’s not that I don’t love this area (we are currently just on the edge of Montrose in Angus) but we have lived in the same place for a long time now (14 years in this house, 16 in total in Angus) and I am a moving-about kind of person. It feels so right to me to be finally emptying these cupboards and packing boxes and thinking about change.

Montrose has been an amazing place to be. For a start it has huge (often empty) beaches and long sunny days and amazing skies (ages ago I wrote a very little poem about the latter called Looking up in Montrose – you can find that, along with a few other poems, here). There are various places of interest nearby too if you’re mad for wildlife (St Cyrus, the Basin) and it is a just a very pretty little town (or a ‘bonnie wee toon’ as I find myself saying more and more… and the more I say it the less strange that version feels in my mouth… I’m not doing it on purpose… I am just less English every day). But one of the things I will miss the most when we move on is the local folk club as it has been important to me in so many ways (social life, cultural life, musical life, philosophical life, poetry life...). For all my time here it has been run by the same person and held in the same venue (the Links Hotel), though there have been changes to the hotel over the years. The ‘stage’ for the club, for example, has been in different rooms and different parts of the same room… and you only need to know this to understand what I’m going on about in the poem at the end of this post... if you stay with me that long…

When we moved to Montrose I was 37 and I had never been to a folk (music) club. I didn’t grow up listening to anything that I would have called traditional or folk music though I had, I suppose, gone through phases of listening to some folky artists, like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, but that had mainly been a private kind of listening and I don’t think I ever knew what to call that kind of music (I’m not sure I still do..). In 2004 in particular I was in a period of recovery from listening to far too much house music and so really at that point I was happy to listen to anything that didn’t have an endlessly banging drum machine (and therefore a folk club was the perfect antidote – I think I’ve seen one drummer there in 14 years and only odd flashes of a drum machine…). I have gone to the club more or less regularly for all our time here and it has given me so many great nights of music and taught me so many things. It has been a very good friend.

Ours is the kind of folk club that takes place every fortnight and invites a guest artist or band and gets them to play, on the whole, two sets of 45 minutes or so (many are Scottish but certainly not all... lots also from Ireland, England, the US, Canada, plus an Italian, some Australians, New Zealanders...). There are also support slots now and then and, most weeks, an opportunity for locals to do a song or two in the middle part of the evening (or maybe even a poem – if they're really cheeky…). The quality of the guests’ music is phenomenal – amazing musicianship, often excellent songwriting of their own and, almost always, they tell a good tale too so you get a very broad experience, much more than just a few hours of music. After all these years I have learned to appreciate the stricter traditional instrumental music (though I can’t say I will continue listening to it all that much) but some of the singing (and the songs – both old and new) will definitely come with me (in my memory, in my hard drive…) and will remain an important part of my life. I can’t even start to list some of the great artists I have heard at the club (some of them you might have heard of, many others you won’t) but I suppose I could mention (once again) how without Montrose Folk Club I would never have heard the incomparable Michael Marra. I saw him 3 times in Montrose (and once in Dundee) and I have mentioned before my poem about his performances at the club and local songwriter Gary Anderson’s version of that poem turned into a song.

So to get to the new poem… quite a few years ago I wrote a poem about the folk club (called, shockingly, Folk club) and you can read it, if you want to, at the end of a long rambling post at the old blog (it’s here – the poem is in my first book More about the song too). That blog post (very long, very full of… something I don’t feel much anymore…is it youth?) also details how and when I started reading poems aloud during the open mic/floor spot part of the evening at the folk club and all that that meant to me (a lot… ). And as I sat in the folk club last week (enjoying a wonderful night of music and raconteuring from Findlay Napier…up from Glasgow, down from Grantown-on-Spey…) I thought maybe I should try to write an updated version of my folk club poem – something to read (as a thank-you) in a couple of weeks’ time when I go down to hear the Delightful Squalor Trio and maybe say a few good-byes (if temporary ones, we’re not moving that far away). And so I wrote another poem and you can read it here. It isn’t fancy – that’s not the folk club way (not in Montrose anyway). Thanks for reading.

Montrose Folk Club (2018)

Well, the hotel has changed
And, of course, so have we –
Our faces, our places,
The way that we see.

The bar’s still expensive
And yet here we are.
We turn to the music,
Our comfort, our star.

We sit (never dance!),
Put our stories on hold
As we laugh, hum and cry
With the new and the old.

It’s all “tell us a good one”
And “play us a tune”.
Because winter is coming.
Yes, even in June.

The quicks and the slows
And the chairs are the same.
We are nothing but folk.
There’s a clue in our name.

It’s a club, but it’s not
And the rules, they are few –
Just listen and drift,
Be a more rounded you.

There is one other note
And again it will rhyme –
You’ve been kind to this rambler,
So thanks for the time.

RF 2018 

Montrose folk club's website is here. There is a facebook page too.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Jo Cox poem, aloud

It's nearly two years since English MP Jo Cox was killed in West Yorkshire. Since then there have been events in her memory and there will be more again this year. They focus on a very positive message (Jo's words: 'We... have far more in common than that which divides us') and I am aware that the poem I wrote just after her death (Turn) does not entirely share that positive tone, but still it is a tribute to her and listeners/readers have always responded well to it (so far). For this reason I have recently recorded it (a rough video to YouTube but the audio is clear) and you should see it at the top of this post. The text of the poem is here (from when I first posted it, just a short while after she died). I am not a Labour supporter these days (and in fact have never been a big fan of political parties, though they have their moments) but her killing was a political act and so this is a political poem. We have to stand up for each other, remember each other, see each other.