The Illusion

Below are the words I wrote to one of Johnny’s amazing tunes. It’s called, ‘The Illusion’.

It made me think of the circus (which I hate). And politics. And we, the people. This world of ours.

I hope you enjoy the results of this particular collaboration.

Some people may be offended by some of the images. What can I say? I’m offended by them too.

Here is the circus, here is the street,

Ringmaster has found the beat,

Try to keep up with his song,

Try to march in time along.


This is the game we all play,

Carnival is now the way,

Jugglers, clowns perform, we pay,

Sideshow stalls have won the day.


See, look, the Big Top, there go the lions,

Whipped to submit, they stride in time,

Prancing ponies do their thing,

All well-trained for circus ring.


Fire-eaters and trapeze acts,

Contortionists, acrobats,

Bearded lady, strongman too,

A man who’ll throw sharp knives at you.

Elephants and dancing bears,

Chained and trained with treats and chairs,

Barking seals we’ll photograph,

Voyeuristic, look and laugh.


This is the game we all play,

Carnival is now the way,

Jugglers, clowns perform, we pay,

Sideshow stalls have won the day.


Freaks, a frenzy, humankind,

All been hired, so we don’t mind,

Reassured by loud applause,

Menagerie all minus claws.


Unicycle, wheel on fire,

No safety net below the wire,

Seats aplenty, catch the thrills,

Captive held, donated will.


This is the game we all play,

Carnival is now the way,

Jugglers, clowns perform, we pay,

Sideshow stalls have won the day.


Crocodiles that cry and smile,

Hoops and loops, a queued turnstile,

Welcome mat once bona fide

Shit and sawdust strewn inside


Red coattails and top hat guy,

Prices tickets, would he lie,

Roll on up for daring acts,

Roles by rote, learned down pat.


Calliope, glockenspiel,

Beating drums, can this be real,

Mesmerised by costumes grand,

Performances all out of hand.


Extravaganza, three-ring whip,

Drugged as mugs, all on this trip,

Flashing lights and strobes that blind,

Custard pies but we don’t mind.


This is the game we all play,

Carnival is now the way,

Jugglers, clowns perform, we pay,

Sideshow stalls have won the day.


Disassembled, faded grass,

Circus moved, out on our arse,

Try to keep up with his song,

Ringmaster can do no wrong.


This is the game we all play,

Carnival is now the way,

Jugglers, clowns perform, we pay,

Sideshow stalls have won the day.


Have No Fear, Wild And Free

I’ve given up for the night on attempting to write any more school reports. I have weans on the brain. Those I’ve been writing about, my own, my nieces and nephews, friends of my kids, you name it, I’m surrounded!

And they amaze me. They fill me. They are up to the mark on so many things I wasn’t even thinking about at their age. They’re so on the ball. Sharing their thoughts and feelings with a passion that leaves me speechless. OK, nearly. I have to have my say. And they come back at me, and they listen and they question and they share.

Gawd, how they share! Do weans these days have no embarrassment?!

Seriously, I won’t tell you what ‘inappropriate’ stuff filters through my poor lugs. I’m scandalised half the time and, fortunately, honest enough to acknowledge that the only thing that stopped me from sharing so much for so long was fear. They don’t seem to have that. Well, they do, in some ways, for things I can’t believe they fear. Then they go and say or do something that leaves me gasping WTF!

They are tremendous. Truly tremendous.

Young minds engaging in absolutely everything and with passion and a sense of truth and justice I am proud to say must have had something to do with their parenting. Even a little.

As for the rest, the times they live in, we live in, guarantee easy engagement.

I could go on forever as to why this matters to me, to us, but I won’t, hoping instead that my poem says it more succinctly. If it doesn’t, I have a cohort of youth at your disposal to enlighten you to their feelings and thoughts.

You’ll find them near an almost empty fridge. Do they ever stop eating? No wonder they’re all towering above me. In more ways than one.

We’d better laugh just now,

The kids are crying,

They’ve taken all they’re gonna

And that’s sad,

Sad they ever had to

Deal with lying,

Keep on trying

To oppress,

The kids are mad,

Mad as hell,

Just like their mental mothers,

Sanity in fathers

Gone for good,

Pressure boils the cauldron,

Can’t contain it,

Watch out folks,

For kids misunderstood,

Understanding new,

Where once was absence,

Absent fathers,

Mothers gone to pot,

Bubble, bubble,

Here comes trouble,


Raised without

Deserved, so

They’ve got

Passion in their veins,

The kids can’t help it,

Fires in bellies

Where there should be food,

Listen to their grumbles

And you’ll see it,

Won’t take much more,

The kids don’t need the ‘hood.

Courage on their foreheads

Like a tattoo,

Raising merry hell in politics,

Ask them,

Go on, ask them

Can you take it,

Up to all the spin

And dirty tricks.

Child from streets

Not talkin’ ’bout the ghettoes,

Kids like yours,

Like mine,

They see it all,

Festering, they burst it

Then anoint it,

Blessed be,

The kids won’t take the fall.

Savvy on the streets

And in the parlours,

Talkin’ jigsaws,

Piecing all the bits,


Some arse is due for whipping,

Generation 20′ need their fix.

Rocking chairs we ride on

Are now seizing

Little bits of pasture gone if dealt

On the pain of children,

That’s called justice,

Not too late yet

If we feel what’s felt.

Riding with the kids,

No need for Harley,

Hair to air on horsepower from inside,

Comin’ at you,

Watch the film now screening,

No place to run to,

Braves are running wild.

Wild and free,

We know that we were there once,

Difference being,

Not a bit afraid,

Everything’s been shared on social media,

Not got a secret left,

They’ve all been played.

Free from fear,

The kids are on the rampage,

Some misdirected,

That’s just par for course,

But watch the wonders,

Surging all around us,

Youth with yearning,

Action and discourse.

Gawd, excited! Can’t you feel their movement!

Battalions brave, bevy beautiful,

Lads and lassies,

More than hopeful, fired up,

Subtled to astute

‘Tween ruled and rule.

The Falls Of Retribution

Oh, the Falls of Retribution gush, they thunder,

Torrential rush, eroding cliffs around,

Flushing false, mean coatings of distemper,

But tempered mercy is their roaring sound.

Surging waterfall, a bless of teardrops,

Fashioned from the weeping, those in pain,

Justice cries, rejecting meagre milk sop,

Those who suffer most have most to gain.

Kindred knowledge tenders where it touches,

Beneficial bathes, aches no more,

Union of the pained, of those inflicted, purges

Vengeance while it evens score.

Hands of watered loving, this baptising

Soothes as much as takes, for this we hope,

Falls of Retribution, count our blessings,

Count our faults, counted thus, we cope.

Oh, the Falls of Retribution flood with knowledge,

Hidden coves beneath that flash with gems,

Nuggets of the knowing long secreted,

Never to be unknown e’er again.

Without Us

The echo of a dream still sounds,

I stand alone, the world turns round,

Without us.

There’s no one left

But me, bereft,

Without us.

The sky so blue with height astounding,

Sweet clean air, green grass, surrounding,

Without us.

Silence deafens, no birds in flight,

An emptiness as cold as night,

Without us.

And I’m stood there, quite all alone,

A lonely beauty now my home

Without us.

A hellish dream, to be apart

Amid such glory, there’s no heart

Without us.

Such hollow sight though stunning seen,

Nightmarish, really, sort of scene,

Without us.

I chose life when sound was heard,

Arise, it said, an awesome word,

We’re here. 

Turn The Lights On

Turn the lights on, daddy,

there’s a demon and he’s scheming

and he’s lurking underneath my single bed,

I know that you can’t see him but I feel him

and he’s scratching round and hatching

awful thoughts inside my head,

I need you for my hero

and I trust you with my life

and I believe that you can vanquish all my foes,

So turn the lights on, daddy, please

and leave a little glow before you go.


Turn the lights on, mummy,

for the demons have grown larger and they’re looming

in the darkness all around and

I can’t see them but I sense them

and they follow

and they wear me to the ground.

I know that you have answers for you’ve lived a life

and carried thought and love

and won some battles in your day,

I trust that you will guide me and direct me

with your wisdom,

You’ll never steer me wrong no matter what I say.

So turn the lights on mummy, please,

And show to me the lightness of your ways.


Leave the lights on, darling,

to the demons of your darkness

in the night that come to steal,

let me see your demons dancing, I’ll destroy them,

we’ll be stronger when we fight them, both together,

we have power in the loving, can’t you feel.

We’ll spread it out and round and up and down,

we’ll cover corners, every base that comes along

and fight the fight we have to win,

we’ll vanquish ghosts and ghouls and demons,

terrors of the night and daylight hours,

every torment, everything.

So leave the lights on, baby, I’ll protect you,

You’ll protect me, we’re a team.


Turn all the lights on, fetch the torches

bring the candles, lamps and shining stars

and blazing sun,

the demons are retreating,

we have power all around us,

they are fearful and we’ve got them on the run.

All these demons, they’re illusion

and their danger is persuasion

and it’s fear all children fear along their spine

and it grows along beside us and defeats us,

all negation, all abstraction

and it subjugates our light to shine.

So turn the lights on, leave the lights on,

we’re all children but, together, with our beacons, we’ll be  fine.





I knew instantly that you were furious. Hunched, seething, in your chair, your vibrations were chunked with rage, clear as clear.

Upon discovering that the signed-on-the-back photo had been smudged, you snarled and muttered imprecations.

Heart in mouth, fear already surging, I tried to think what I had done wrong this time. Was it the fact that I went to get the photo sorted without asking your permission, asking if it was all right to do this?

Just in case, I explained that I had dropped a friend of our elder daughter’s off at her house (having loaned her my little gas heater because they have no heat in the house and she has been unwell) and popped in on my passport application errand on the way back.

I asked if there had been friction between you and one of the children, if you were tired (for it had been a stressful day, and your usual routine had been interrupted); you growled angry negatives.

I was, I confess, concerned about you driving in such a mood, having seen, two years ago, the damage caused by this kind of fury, unwillingness to back down and refusal to ask for help: That previous instance cost us £800 in repairs to the car, but at least no one was harmed.

I tried to suggest that you take the two girls to ballet, and I collect them on my way to choral rehearsal; you wouldn’t hear of it.

The atmosphere thickened upon your return, became more poisonous.

‘I’ll assert myself here,’ I thought,’ and just say that I’ll do the pick-up…’

You erupted in vituperative and incandescent rage, showering me with accusations.

I was, you told me, trying to thrust myself into plans YOU had already made; I was trying to take over; I was being bossy and controlling, as usual – and, NO, I was NOT going to collect the girls; YOU were, and I needed to BUTT OUT.

Your face (which I once thought so handsome) was set in the now all-too-familiar pursed-mouth, mean and threatening stance.

The thought of you driving became ever-more frightening because, in this mood, you have been known to scrape a neighbour’s car, knock wing mirrors off deliberately when walking down the road (because you don’t approve of them being left out) and, on the day we drove to Marlborough, force me to leap into the verge to avoid being hit by the front of your car.

I ran out, terrified, and tried to hold the door of the car open, to stop you going.

‘Please,  Gary,’ I begged, ‘can we just discuss this…’


And, when I wouldn’t, you turned the key in the ignition – and would, I know, have driven off, even if I had been injured in the process.

I should, I am sure, have just let you drive away – but I was afraid of your unacknowledged capacity for damage and violence when this riled-up.

We tussled over the keys. You scratched and bruised me.

I had to let go in the end, had to retreat. I tried to suggest that we should drive together and discuss it calmly.

‘No,’ you said, ‘I don’t want you in the car. You are NOT coming with me. You have made a scene in the street and you have got bare feet. Get back into the house.’

You were far more concerned about the potential embarrassment caused by my bare feet and the neighbours watching than you were about the bruise on my forearm, the scratches on finger and back of hand, the shaking which I was unable to control.

You drove off – and, as I discovered later, told the girls that we had argued, just in case, as you put it, ‘we got back and found you waiting behind the door with the rolling pin or worse…’

Once you had gone, I gave way to tears and, feeling an absolute need to escape, drove round to local friends.

The next bit is mostly a blank, though I know that they were kind and caring, the way they always are.

But what was dawning ever clearer in my mind was the recognition of a pattern which goes back years, if not decades – and that is your absolute need for things to go the way you have decided they will, and your need to intimidate, bully and punish me if I question your dictats, do things without asking you first or go against rules which shift like the sand.

Rocking Friday

I’m having a night off tonight, I am,

It’s been a long week at chalk face,

Cabernet Sauvignon’s ready to pour

And there’s a movie I’ll watch for his grace…

Not really a fan of blood and of gore,

Hallowe’en’s just really for weans,

But I’ll risk some vampires and hunters as well

For his eyes and a dose from his veins.

Van Helsing is playing tonight on the screen,

Well, really, it’s Hugh that I covet,

But at a pinch, I’ll put up with the blood,

Suck it up and hope that I love it.

I rarely do movies it has to be said,

Not much a fan of the box,

But with glass held in hand and feet on the couch,

I’ll suffer ‘cos Hugh Jackman rocks. 😉


Blame not

the cast of shadows

on corners closed to light,

But flame the torch,


awaiting willing hand.

Trip not,

in hesitation,

cursing blunderous steps,

But feel cracked pores, crevassed pointing,


for faith touch.

Idle not

in disharmony’s speculation.

Rather, murmur

faint remembrances

Till refrain

makes glorious your voice.

Fear not

the underground passages

dependent on your darkness for existence.

Rather, shelter there,


eyes to gloom’s recognisance of faint shafts.

So Odd…So Real

I dreamt anger last night,

woke late to the strangest feeling,

one I can’t recollect dreaming before.

Perhaps I have but don’t recall.

I’ve dreamt so many allsorts, remembered and not.

But to wake in anger,

disoriented, wondering why I felt so peculiar, was odd,


seeing the pictures flood back as spoon filled coffee cup,

pausing as steam turned its contents black,

visions in the molten awakener, of

one person attempting to bully

a whole crowd of grown-ups,

young and old but all compromised by power,

held hostage to her whims,

immobilised by fear.

I snapped several times, went against the pack,

refused to cooperate with petty injustice,

got right in her face and snarled,

‘They all hate you, you know.

It doesn’t have to be this way.’

She turned slit eyes on me, red and fierce

and spat, ‘ I despise you all’.

My parting shots,

witnessed askance by all, became

full of heat and promises 

of just retribution.

She mouthed, ‘I’ll lie.’

I knew she would.