All posts by jemimalaing

The Library

How can anybody think that you don’t need them?
There‘re books in there – you want to read them
You have to take them back, it’s true
But the stories get to stay with you
Where Mum and Dad sang rhymes and songs to you
It’s your library – it belongs to you

Just what history might you unleash
Scrolling through the microfiche?
Where else will a bookworm leave their cast
If libraries are consigned to the past?
Don’t stand for it: start a reading riot
It’s your library – you can’t stay quiet

Sign the petition to #saveplymlibraries HERE


I, Daniel Blake review


I reviewed I, Daniel Blake for the Plymouth Arts Centre blog – the film is showing there until 8 December

Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake is an unmagical mystery tour through the wilfully labyrinthine world of benefits.

It’s an unsettling game of snakes and ladders where, even if you actually did fall off a ladder or were bitten by a snake, the DWP “decision-maker” would likely deem you fit for work anyway and have you at a CV writing workshop quicker than you can say Employment and Support Allowance.

The film’s central performances are stunning, lives of quiet desperation writ large. Comedian Dave Johns is the eponymous Dan – played as an intriguing mix of naïve and world-weary – a carpenter whose heart attack has rendered him temporarily unable to work.

He is tossed, like a pinball, into the vagaries of a box-ticking system which can seemingly override a consultant’s advice that he is not yet recovered enough to get a job.

A chance meeting in a benefits office leads him to meet a young mother Katie (Hayley Squires) with whom he forms a touching, avuncular relationship as they both attempt to navigate the system.

A special mention is merited too (especially given my interest in child acting) for the touching performances of youngest members of the cast, Dylan McKiernan and Briana Shann, as Katie’s children, utterly blameless flotsam in the eddies of the welfare state.

At The Foodbank

Dan and Katie’s stories show how easy it is to stray unwittingly from the path, courtesy of a wrong bus or a harsh word to a benefits advisor, with a sanction the penalty and the resulting challenge of surviving with no money.

This modern-day Catch 22 leads to the film’s central and most affecting scene in a food bank – exquisitely rendered by Hayley Squires’ Katie – where I finally gave in to the angry tears which were already brimming.

It’s unflinching polemic, doubtless, but it is an important film which begs the question how a country like ours can tolerate queues at foodbanks and it’s hard to think of anyone better able than Loach – at his Palme d’Or winning-best – to ask it.




It’s a funny word is housewife
Like I’m wedded to my house
As if we pledged in public one to the other
Much as I did my spouse 

If houses could choose wives, though

I’m not sure I’d be who they’d pick

I’d be blue without my white goods

I think domesticity a patriarchal trick

To that end I offer up my thanks

To all the inventors of appliances
My friendship with my dishwasher
Is the most vital of alliances
I do a bit of housework
Although we might differ over meaning
I think blowing dust from things as you walk by
Can be classed as cleaning
I’m not the kind of person
Who thrives on homely bliss
If there’s a choice I’d really rather
Spend my time writing stuff like this
There are things I love about my house
There are also some I hate
Which, when you think about it,

Is not a bad description of my mate

But it’s more steadfast than many humans

More welcoming than my cat
The thing is, with my house,
I always know where it is at
While I’m never going to be its partner
I do hold this building dear
Most of all because I know
Who I am when I am here

Portents x 2

You said it didn’t mean anything
That bent beak as skewed as ill-used classroom scissors

One closed eye – one staring

That can’t count for nothing

Not when there’s a next time
Thudding like sodden wool hurled with motive –  not startling now

An unfamiliar sound made commonplace by what you call coincidence

Dismissing speeding plumage colliding with glass

You were mistaken
Those birds, feathered portents, were flying to me

Only the windows got in the way