”  …………………………… then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.”

I had been to Iona

for my last birthday –

not to celebrate it

but to forget  it –

and felt quite uplifted  there

(nothing so grand or poetic

as in  Keats’   lines quoted above

but something of that looking-out-to-sea thing)

yes, felt quite at ease 

walking the beaches  Cadell used to paint,

white sand,

pink rock,

turquoise sea.

This year,

more adventurous,

to escape the birthday thing

I  flew for four hours

to far-off Lanzarote

and found there

some things you can’t escape 

memos of mortality.

Just Let Me Be

Sometimes she felt she was just too much trouble, felt sorry for

the hours that they had to spend each morning just grooming

her, getting her ready to face what they called  ‘her public’,

wished they would just let her be, scuttle about doing the

hundred and one little things they had to do with their own

little lives but  ‘just. let. her. be!’

The Fastidiousness of Birds

                                                                in Kenmore

on a white picket fence

the round robin with such delicate feet

watched me come closer

turned its head

this way and that

then flew off

to sing his song

somewhere else

                                                                        in Antequera

there is a megalithic dolmen

leading down into the dark earth

– closed on mondays –

so the rainy monday i went

no-one was there

and when i went down the tunnel

under the big dolmen rock

the iron gates were shut




in spite of  my angry shaking of  the bars

* * *

when i gave up

turned to go back

i saw

as if waiting for me

at the end of the tunnel

outlined against the light

standing between me and the bright outside world

a big



* * *

i stopped

not afraid exactly

no not afraid

though i  did think of Cerberus

at  the gates of Hades

to prevent the dead from leaving

but Cerberus had 3 heads

* * *

he  lifted his big head

this big black dog

looked at me


loped off


as if to say

‘no this is not the one’

he  had only 3 legs

the front left leg missing

* * *

before i could move

before i could breathe out my pentup breath

before i could take a further step

the dog was replaced

by a hoopoe

a bird  i had always thought of

as purely mythical

a bird i knew from books

pinkish brown

black and white wing stripes

downward curving beak

something to do with the underworld

this was the first one i had seen

really seen

when it saw me

it snapped  out its ragged crest like a fan

and took off

flew off with a curious looping flight

like a butterfly

* * *

next day I returned

took this picture.

Six Things NOT To Do When You’re On Your Own


Be useful. Take a kitchen knife, go out into the vegetable garden, cut a cabbage, then for the family dinner make a big steaming  bowl of  choux  à la manière de Samuel Beckett  (Set an extra place and keep them waiting).


Be active. First thing in the morning, open the door and stretch and bend in the early morning sun, stretch and bend, stretch and bend, stretch and bend at the same time making a continuous humming sound from deep low down  in the diaphragm. Mmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. If it’s raining, don’t bother.



Be interactive. Phone a friend who lives in a far-off rainy country and tell her about the weather here and how life goes on and on outdoors because of all the sunshine here. Describe the clothes you are wearing and how bronzée  you have become. Tell her about your natty sandals and about the gorgeous student you met who wants you so much he veel die wizout you. Describe in detail the alfresco  lunch  you had with the jolly Chevalier family on a long table under their apple tree (don’t forget to mention the  bottle of  Chateau Chambertine they opened in your honour).


Be adventurous. Discover your naked self. Take off all your clothes and proceed to the nearest river and practise walking on water. Note that this requires very little skill but a great effort of will power. Persevere. Fail, then fail again (but fail better).
If it’s raining, don’t bother.


Be idiosyncratic. Let out yor inner self. Put on a fancy waistcoat, find the glass ball you have had for years in the attic in the cardboard box  labelled MISC and go into the street with what used to be called a ghetto-blaster. Do a silly dance and wave at the people who gather round. Smile.  Turn the volume up. Proceed  to juggle with the glass ball. Make fun of anyone who shows  either embarrassment or hostility.
If it’s raining don’t bother. 

SIX (If it’s raining )

 Be more extravert. Talk to people. Assert yourself. Go to an Art Gallery and ask one of these Curator chappies about one of the paintings: a simple question like  ‘How old was Cadell when he painted this?’ will do for starters. Then try a more complicated one like  ‘ Is what Guthrie said true?  That he used orange so much in his later paintings because  in the summer of ’26 he got a bulk supply of the stuff at half-price?’
This will give him the chance to show he is not simply there to prevent people from taking  photographs of  the pictures.


The Boy Who Fell From The Sky


Daedalus stood at the window,
stared down on  the wine-dark sea,
at the white-sailed ships with somewhere to go,
at the sea birds flying free.

Icarus looked up at his father,
watched him carefully  carve struts of  wood
then helped to sweep up the mess on the floor
like a good son should.

What’s in that pot on the burner
What do you have in these sacks?
Why are you carefully sticking those feathers
one by one into that wax

Father, what toy are you making
with wood and feathers and glue?
And why do you work here all the day long
and half  the night too?

Why do we work for these people?
Why have  they locked our door?
Why can I never go out to play
with the children on the shore?

Daedalus stood at the window,
stared out at the clear blue sky
and the birds that passed all flew in from the left.
He felt his mouth go dry.

Icarus looked up at his father.
His eyes were full of fun
but his father’s eyes were cold as the stars
when he looked up at the sun.

Tighten those straps on your shoulders. 
Tighten those straps on your arm 
and listen to every word that I say 
and you cannot come to harm. 

Fit your fingers into the canvas. 

Spread your fingers out wide. 
Now lift your arms up to your shoulders. 
Now sweep them down to your side.

He led Icarus up to the turret
that towered over the town.
Watch what I do then you do the same. 
My wings won’t let you down. 

These wings are the best I’ve ever made 

but my skill can be undone. 
We must fly low.  We dare not go 
too close to that blazing sun.

Daedalus stood poised like a diver.
Like a diver he fell through the air
and the air let him fall through its fingers
as if it didn’t care

till his wings  stirred up some  invisible force
that carried him over the town –
the slightest movement of his arms
sent him up, or sideways, or down

and Icarus flew right behind him,
laughing his joy out loud
for the air felt safe as houses
and his body light as a cloud.

The gods were alerted  by  Minos
with his curses,  his cries of despair
while the boy and his father,  too clever by half,
trespassed brazenly through his air.

It only takes a second;
it catches you unprepared
– first the impulse of joy and then the act,
the deed  that can’t be repaired.

The careful work of a lifetime
in a moment is undone.
Wisdom ignored,  Icarus soared
up to the golden sun.

He did not hear his father’s cries
nor see the red wax run;
he did not see the fragile feathers
drop off one by one.

Where was the dolphin, the sailor’s friend?
Where  the ship? the look-out’s  cry?
Why did everything turn away
from the boy falling out of the sky?

O father what is happening? 
O father what have I done? 
Why are they tumbling round my head 
the sky and the sea and the sun?

Why was no dolphin, no  eagle
called to his aid by a simple nod?
Which of us would not have saved him
if we had been a god?

A splash of white starred  the wine-dark sea
and Icarus was gone.
The gods had other things to do.
His father flew hopelessly on.

The Intransigence of Things 4



The light went out.
Hermat shut his eyes, opened his eyes.
The same total dark.

Then a
ll the noises started again, but not the same noises, no longer the screech of metal-on-metal  but the   plaintive songs and cries of imprisoned birds:  linnets, thrushes, robins, nightingales, wrens, larks, warblers, a cacophony of calls above which Hermat could clearly distinguish the distinctively complacent  voice of  the cuckoo. They seemed to be whirling all around him, past his face, over his head, he could feel the draught of their passing wings, some bird even brushing his hair with a wing or a claw as it flew too close, making him duck even though it would have been too late.
Then s
omething was tugging at him, not so much tugging as pulling, not even pulling, holding rather but with a slight patient indication of the desire/need to be moving/escaping.  Now that his eyes had adjusted  to the darkness, Hermat could see  one of the capped figures, now a dark presence, standing at his side, gripping him by the upper arm. There was no real reason to resist. However there was still the option of pulling his arm away…
Meekly he allowed himself to be guided away – a long way –  from the visible side of the cube into its inner reaches and recesses where the darkness was complete and palpable……
and then the guiding hand was no longer guiding and there he was,  abandonedin the dark physically and metaphorically, forsaken, frighteningly alone, the dark presence by his side no longer present, the bird songs trailing off one by one as though the individual birds too had taken flight for a sunnier,  friendlier clime till only the call of the cuckoo was left.

He stood there for what seemed hours,  wide open eyes seeing nothing, total darkness, only the relentless bi-tonal call of the cuckoo sending through his listening brain a crackling  tide of strangely patterned repetitive sound waves.
When that call also began to trail off, he followed it through the darkness,  his hands held out in front of him, till it too was lost in the dark silence,  leaving him guided now only  by an inner voice in which he placed absolute trust……

and then he was falling, falling, stepped off the edge of his world into airy nothingness, turning, rolling, somersaulting, cartwheeling helplessly through the dark vacuum that nature was supposed to abhor.

The Intransigence of Things 3


 sweet smell.

But so dark.

Back again. In the black cube.

However,  once his  eyes got used to it, Hermat began to find his way around, began to distinguish solid shapes from empty space. He picked up a smooth sphere made of some sort of heavy stuff and  as he had been taught sent  it rumbling across the floor of the cube.
When it stopped, he realised he was not alone in the dark. It had stopped before it had got as far as the side of the cube. It had stopped because someone had put out a foot and halted its progress.
Two vague shapes were moving slowly ahead of him or was it one vague shape and its reflection?  In a raincoat. And a cap. A bag hanging from the right shoulder. It was hard to see exactly. Could they see him?
Light oblongs kept appearing and disappearing along the sides of the cube and then when they stopped altogether it was so much darker.
And these noises!
The clatter bang rattle screech rumble of things bumping into each other, things scraping, things touching, things rolling, rattling, rasping. The dark space was full of their sounds, making it difficult for him to think. He could no longer see the two shapes in front of him and didn’t want to turn round to see if they were behind him in case they were.
Suddenly all noises stopped, were sharply cut off as if at some command and at the same time  an oblong of light opened on the side on his left. One of the shapes in front of him turned and began moving in his direction.
His password.
He stopped.
He had been warned not to forget it but not to write it down in case it was stolen but if he was challenged he had to be able to show it. And then it would be checked against official records and ….But all that was so long ago. Which password had he finally decided upon? There had been so many… birds, he had used birds’ names 

Or  had it been animal names?
A light was shone in his face.
He could see nothing but light.
He brought a hand up over his eyes.

” Cuckoo,” he said. “Cuckoo.”
And he was back in the street. It was raining but he was back in the street. 

The Intransigence of Things 2

Chapter 2

With a slight inclination of her head in his direction, perhaps indicating that he should follow her, perhaps questioning what he was doing there in the first place, she turned from the square of light she had made and paused in  the oblong through which she had made her entrance. Was she waiting for him? Should he have given her something? His password? She did not turn round, just stood still with her back towards him as though there was nothing more she could be expected to do. What were his instructions exactly? Had he been told something but had forgotten? Was he expected always to follow even when he knew it was safer not to? He watched her closely. It was hard to interpret meaning when meaning was so minimal.

They stood like that for a long long time then something changed, something in  the space between them became unbearably heavy making it difficult for him to breathe, difficult to see even and when whatever it was had cleared and lightened,  she had gone and the oblong too had disappeared. Another step not taken. Another escape. He moved cautiously towards the  lightshape she had made for him, not for the first time not quite sure that it wasn’t some sort of  trap like so many of the other unexplained creations that had been conjured up for him in the past.
He stared hard into the oblong, seeing himself staring at himself, seeing himself lifting his arms,  seeing himeself  lowering them, seeing himself staring. Nothing. Nothing but light and himself staring into it. Not disappointed, relieved rather, he turned away.

He picked up one of the square shapes. It was cold and hard unlike the place where he had slept which was warm and soft. He replaced the square shape and went to the place where he had slept and sat down. Yes, soft. He lay back and put his hands behind his head and stared into the white top side of the cube and began to think things out. How had he got here? He could remember the other place quite clearly. Dark, hot, full of strange sounds. And the smell. How long had he been there? It had been so dark it was difficult to tell….but such a sweet smell. Such a

The being was looking down at him, making signs with her hands and fingers that he could not begin to understand but obviously requiring some answering response. He raised his arms like he had seen her do when she had created the oblong of light and her response was to place herself in the space he had thus created, lying on top of him although because he was so much taller than she was, her head barely touched his chin and her little hoofs  rested on his knees. She was soft and warm and her hair gave off a sweet smell which he remembered from somewhere but couldn’t place. He brought his hands from behind his head and placed them on her back and they lay like that without moving. Such a sweet smell. Such a

The Intransigence of Things 1

Chapter 1

Let there be light

Hermat  Gersonn  must have been having funny dreams because the first thing he did when he woke up was burst out laughing but as he looked around the  laughter died away. He was in some sort of large cube  –  four sides ( one side brighter than the other three), a top and a bottom. The top side was white and empty; the bottom side had a whole heap of different coloured shapes growing up from it,  round things, square things, crescents, trapezoids….
Apart from all those there was nothing. He could feel one of his paragraphs coming on as they always did when he found himself transferred overnight with no plot  instructions. Nothing He waved his hands above his head and met with no resistance. Nothing . He kicked away the covering over his legs and waggled his feet free. Nothing.
On the side opposite the bright side a dark oblong appeared  and the being who passed through it made shoo-shooing gestures with her apron as if he could be so simply blown out of her way but try as he might to resist that is exactly what happened. The being crossed to the bright side, raised her hands and hey presto!
A  blindingly white oblong of light was created.