Monthly Archives: March 2016



These flats corral more than the
feckless young, the drug-sellers,
the drug-takers, the indigent,
the “underclass”, the immigrants
from near and far. These flats
also hold the ageing, the ancient,
the gaga.

Three o’clock in the morning,
the full-voiced cry.
Three o’clock in the morning;
no reason why.

“Mummy, Daddy! . . . Mummy, Daddy!
Mummy, Daddy! . . . Wheee!”
The elderly woman in the flat below me;
at 3 o’clock in the morning, she has woken me.
She has hair of steel, eyes of stone;
sturdy legs of sinew and bone.
At 3 o’clock in the morning, she has broken me.
“Daddy! . . . Shot!” A thunderous silence.
“Daddy! . . . Shot!” The full-voiced cry
echoes, questioning how and why.
How and why did her “Daddy” die?

I face her; plead with her to stop.
I mask my fear, my fright.
She plants her feet firmly;
spoils for a fight. Her grey eyes
glimmer with unearthly light.
“You shouldn’t speak to me like that,
it ain’t right! Lots of people
talk to themselves in the night!”

Three o’clock in the morning,
the full-voiced cry.
Three o’clock in the morning;
no reason why.

Another poem in my on-going sequence about events and characters in the flats where I happen to live.  Although I am in the middle of writing this sequence at the moment, some of the occurrences happened quite a while ago.  The events that inspired “Gaga” occurred a few years ago, and the elderly lady mentioned in it has long since passed away.  I attempted to write about it in the form of a short story, about a year ago.  The story took three weeks of hard labour to write, but I must admit that – after expending all that sweat, strain, time and trouble –  I feel I’ve captured the essence of what happened much more effectively in this short poem.


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Spirit of Place


From my living room window,
I have a direct view
of The Flat of Presence.

Presence, Spirit, call it
what you will, but we must talk,
I’m afraid, of Goodness and Evil.
All who enter are coarsened,
changed, over time; become
rough beasts, resorting to crime.
Crass though it is, I fantasise:
it sits, it hovers, brooding, malign.
It feeds on their souls; instils
an urge for deviance, for the
perverse; addiction to tattoos,
to drugs, or worse. I see
their entrances, their exits.
I witness, numberless times,
the tenants arriving, delight
in their eyes; enthused with
the thrill of a new enterprise.
Mere months later they exit,
raddled by booze; skinny
bodies covered in tattoos.
In police shackles,
undernourished, pale,
they are pushed to the van,
hauled off to jail.

From clean-living youth,
to drug-dealing disgrace.
I observe it, objectively,
case by case, but avoid
direct contact, look not
upon its face, for fear
it exists, this Spirit of Place.

This is another poem in my on-going sequence of poems about events and characters in the flats where I happen to live.  I don’t have any real belief in the supernatural or the occult, but it is difficult for me to explain, rationally, what inevitably seems to happen to the occupants of “The Flat of Presence”.  I have lived here for almost thirty years now, and the number of times I’ve witnessed the same chain of circumstances happening in that one building seems quite remarkable. 

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Mr Twink


the cat detective. I must have been
seven or eight when I met him,
in the Children’s Public Library.

Mr Twink, the black cat; so calm,
so clever. So sleek, so slim,
so self-contained.

Sgt. Boffer, the large, hairy,
friendly dog assistant, ran around,
laboriously, all over the place;
sweating, fretting, getting nowhere,

while Twink slept, preened
his immaculate fur, and solved
the case, by pure ease of intellect.

Poor old Boffer ended up
baffled, bothered, and bewildered.
How I envied Twink! How I wanted
to be him!

Later, I read Conan Doyle;
saw Holmes and Watson as pale
simulacra of Twink and Boffer.

Then there was Cardew
of the Fifth Form: lax, lazy
with his homework,

lounging, smoking cigarettes,
while his schoolmates toiled
and scratched their heads.

Coolly timing his decisive
surge to the tape in The 440 Yards
on School Sports Day.

Later still, I recognised Mr Twink’s
feline intelligence in Mrs Peel
on The Avengers.

Steed was no slouch,
but he would puzzle and fret,
while she calmly cut to
the heart of the case.

They were my heroes; my idols.
I wanted to glide, lazily, through life;
succeeding, where others failed,
by the languid use of my
incisive intelligence.

But now, as I veer unsteadily
towards my doddering seventies,
I can see that Mr Twink as me
was something that could never be.

I was, have always been, Sgt. Boffer:
bothered, baffled, bedraggled,
and now, increasingly,

The global success of the BBC TV series “Sherlock”, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr Watson, is the latest incarnation of the Holmes and Watson characters from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  When I first started reading the Sherlock Holmes stories, as a teenager, my initial response to them must have been fairly unusual, for I remember thinking “Oh, I see what this is: this is an imitation of the Mr Twink stories!”

I can still vividly remember my excitement when I came across a series of books, in the Children’s Section of Barnsley Public Library, all featuring a cat detective called Mr Twink and his collie dog assistant Sgt Boffer.  I was, I think, seven or eight years old at the time.  I remember the books having jackets in different shades of pastel colours, and black and white illustrations of the animal characters.  I’ve searched the internet many times without success, looking for any trace of these wonderful books.  I even started to wonder whether they were a figment of my imagination.  It was only today that I finally found a website that actually had the information I was looking for.  So I now know that the books were written by a children’s nurse called Freda Hurt, and the illustrations were by a well-known artist called Nina Scott Langley.  There were a series of nine books, published between 1953-1962.  One other interesting fact, that did not impinge upon me at the time, is that Mr Twink’s owner happened to be a poet!   

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