The village store has, just this minute, closed.

It’s drawbridge has gone up-portcullis down.
An aproned granny smirks behind the door
And labours the cruel bolt into its case.
My eyes weak pleading falls on stony ground.

I curse her and her brood under my breadless breath,
And curse ‘life in the country,' milkless on halloween.
A youth observes this frieze of unmet needs
In the dark hunching of Milnthorpe Square.

Just then, Death walks past, blood on his shining scythe.
‘You’re the one that I’ve been looking for
these past two years and more!’ I shout
and push him in the back of my old van,
pleased he’s at my shoulder once again.

Then a little witch walks past with a broom,
a-hubble and a-bubble, lovely little witch.
Suddenly I feel so sad for me.
No kids or pumpkins or those vampire masks.

Just me, and all my dry and dusty books.
Writing down the bones.



QUESTION TIME AND OLD NICK                By Tony Dougan

No doubt it was an event. The leader of Albion’s closest thing to a fascist party appeared on a mainstream TV show and was given a platform. I sat with notebook in hand to give a highly factual account of what might just be history in the making. Ten minutes in I threw the notebook to the ground and sat back to watch a pompous, clearly nervous, shuffling bigot who is obviously not the sharpest pencil in the packet, be publicly eviscerated. Is this what it used to be like when the good folk took their children and a picnic to the public disembowelling at the weekend gallows-fest?

Our media, ever watchful of our freedoms, agonised. The good folk and their wise leadership were split. The Nays declared that giving such a fascist a media platform was tantamount to helping them with a recruitment drive and would sow discord and ruin throughout the fair land. The Yays countered that democracy was at stake and that democratic integrity meant that you must sometimes listen to views you despise and detest. The management of B&Q decided that they must declare for the Yay camp and so it was that Nick appeared on ‘Question Time’ sandwiched between David Dimbleby and the divine Bonnie Greer like a limp slab of cheese betwixt two halves of a rustic handmade bun, or even more visually provocative-an ugly little school bully with his beautiful and popular parents outside the Headmaster’s office.

I am reluctant to call attention to the ‘looks’ of politicians or celebrities. I am an unrepentant Platonist and consider the good and the true more essential than, and even essential to, the beautiful. But Nick, I’m afraid, is an ugly man, in charge of a party of very ugly people. It is as if the internal condition of hate and intolerance scours the outside and moulds the very features into a grimace and an evasive scowl. When Nick laughed his face appeared creased into a contradiction. It did not look right.

There was little that was unexpected. Nick attempted to wrap himself in the flag and sought Churchill as a BNP bedfellow. He spoke of criminal scum and sending ‘them’ back. He justified his previously recorded racist and inflammatory remarks and described one of his Ku Klux Klan mates as non-violent. He denied he was a holocaust denier by saying he’d never been nicked for it. He described Islam as oppressive to women. He referred to Jack Straw’s dad having been in prison during WW2 for refusing the draft and compared his own dad who kebabbed the Hun on his bayonet with apparently heroic aplomb. It was all very predictable.

Dimblebly kicked off the public humiliation with gusto, lashing Nick with his own hate-quotes. It was Jovian, with Dimbers hurling thunderbolts from Olympian heights onto a cringing bug. Jack Straw weighed in with equally august mien barely able to contain his disgust and fury at this…this…minion of evil. (Just as an aside I’ve never really forgiven Straw for letting the old murderer Pinochet get away and he was also responsible for arranging the most beneficial pension scheme on the planet for our noble and self-sacrificing MPs. Mr Straw, you are not coming to dinner at my house!)

Chris Huhne of the Liberal Democrats is the living embodiment of that party’s ongoing existential dilemma. Fundamentally decent, clearly and logically reasoned, but sexless, terminally boring and instantly forgettable. I cannot remember what he said.

But what did strike me about this circus act Question Time episode was the quality of stillness, alert engagement and beauty of the two female members of the panel-Playwright Bonnie Greer and the Tory Sayeeda Warsi.

I am coming to my own extreme view that it just might be time to get rid of men entirely from the planet. I think they may be a bad lot with all their back-slapping, shirt-tugging, school playground high jinks. I shall of course remain behind to provide some gender balance.

Oh, the highlight of the evening? Definitely the joke by one of the audience (male) to poor benighted Nick.

“You’d be surprised how many people would have a whip-round to buy you a ticket…to go to the South Pole. That’s a colourless landscape, it would suit you fine.”

I’d happily bung a fiver in. Poor, poor, poor Nick.



"on the road.. .

There are no desks. or bookcases. or boxes of photographs, keepsakes, angel pins, postcards. mistakes. They’re all in an attic waiting somewhere safe. Being on the road, in the less than Kerouac sense of Bukowski’s middle name, is a hard place to beat. Because you tell yourself that you need a desk. a heavy desk.. . some kind of antique coffee-haloed, dark, foreboding, menacingly difficult to drag alongside with you, kind of desk. Piled high, like Dr Caligari’s desk, along with an endless stream of consciousness, caffeine.. . alchemy. are all of the books you’ve ever fallen in love with. all of the books you never dared or even dreamed to fall in love with. all of the books that seduced you. all of the books that made your world fall apart, undone. all of the books you’ve ever wished you’d written. all of the books that stole your ideas, thoughts, feelings, without you ever really knowing. all of the books that you’ve ever read. all piled high across a desk. a heavy desk. all or nothing in the desk sense of being, you are. all that you can think about. all that you think you know. all that your thoughts hinge, pin and hang from. is this. like a labyrinth, taps against the train window pane you’re staring out of. touching the fold down tray, with your absent hand, like this could ever be, some kind of desk that you dream about, want. to hold. in your hands. like a lover. and never let go.. .

All of your thoughts are shoe less, lined up, waiting to be invited into this, desk. this world of salacious ink stains, words. All of your thoughts are blindfolded, hands tied behind their backs. quiet. patient. waiting. for what? a desk. And without gravity we have no real ideas. about being. they go like the clappers, out of our minds, like kites, I imagine. I fear. would happen, instead. of a life, on the road. without gravity, without a hand to hold, without a bookcase, or an angel pin. without old collections of photographs. without a bed to fall out of. that you can call home. without meaning. without sense. without reason. without a decent hat stand. without a desk. How can a writer, write. so far away. so far removed. from everything. all or nothing, in the fictional sense of being all midnight around the eyes, without a light in the dark. How suffocating it can be, to be on the road. sometimes.." .



Hi Folks,
Ok I admit it I'm running out of puff sometimes on the hills.  My endurance isn't what it used to be and my timing is sometimes right off.  Add to that the fact that I am lazy to the bone and the time seems right to call in the cavalry-said troopers being the best, mostly unpublished writers, I know, to start contributing to this blog and hopefully to expand and develop it into one of the hottest blogs on the internet for great new and original writing in a variety of genres.  This is really exciting for me.  Our first guest bloggers will be Lou Mansfield and Tim Carrette and I'm going to be posting their stuff here over the next few weeks.  I'm also hoping for some art work from Chris Beaton of Gaia Graphics and really looking forward to that.  So please do look out for it all, enjoy and let us know your thoughts.
Success to your work.




Arnaut Daniel

The Sestina, a lovely name for a lovely, if somewhat tortuous poetic form.  Invented by the French thirteenth century poet Arnaut Daniel and developed by Dante and Petrarch.  The classic sestina has six stanzas of six lines followed by an envoi of three lines.  The last words of each line are repeated in a strict order in the next verse and the final envoi repeats all six key words in a concise summation, normally all written in iambic pentameter.  My own view is that these wonderful forms are as relevant today as they ever were.  Form and metre give the poet a ground against which to push and, interestingly they can open the drawers of the mind in sometimes unexpected ways.  The poet reads the completed poem with a certain apprehension as the dark side of her soul is sometimes nakedly revealed.
I know this dark nymph well but upon this matter I shall mysteriously say no more.

Enjoy, and success to your work.


One day she climbs the steep green hill and looks;

takes in the various boundaries of her world.

That crack-toothed snarl of distant flailing peaks;

beside the purple seed, an ocean dreams.

Some days she’s down so deep it catches at her breath,

on others, light laughter skips within her bones.

She walks like a ghost in fields of whitened bones,

And there’s no doubt she has impressive looks.

But what is it that hastens on her breath?

What quickening clench welds her to her world?

Naked beneath the shivering trees she dreams

of poems whispered from the distant peaks.

She knows one day she’ll climb those distant peaks,

and read those runes carved into the bones.

Perhaps she’ll find the means to feed her dreams-

Those mystic keys for which she roots and looks.

The world of men is yet another world,

the idea nails her-makes her hold her breath.

Her eyes are autumn’s crushed leaves; her breath

catches in the singing troughs and peaks,

and in the pearling of the far-flung world.

She knows the random code of scattered bones

Reveals the name and place for which she looks.

But for now she only digs her dreams.

Her myth will spawn from that womb of dreams.

Within the hurling of its gale-a breath.

That sentinel upon his stone just looks

emotionless upon her sphinx-like peaks.

His eyes, the skinny nails that pierce her bones.

Her refuge? Just this unrelenting world.

This nymph has been a traveller in my world.

I thought her beauty just a passing dream,

but she’s become the marrow in my bones.

The mother of my brood. My blood. My breath.

Together we will scale the dreaming peaks,

and from their heights see how it really looks.

Those looks of sorrow and the brooding bones.

The dreams of distant, lost and lonely peaks.

One sweet breath becomes a world entire.