A Ferry Story

Endless traverse between two counties

Pulled and pulled by giant chains

Even through the night

Ensuring the ancient crossing is sustained Continue reading A Ferry Story


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.



Early Morning Swim


There’s a singular sting

To the 6am swim

Early starts afford short-term immunity

An aurorean pass to the avian community

All my bobbing and floatery

Is gazed upon by a Laridae coterie

My unfeathered companion: my towel on a rock

My extremities’ numbing stands in for a clock

I think of the dentist as I’m falling and rising

It’s this beach I conjur when he’s anaesthetising

Strokes grazing the safe, sandy shelf

The fleeting dominion of a beach to myself

The hill will soon spill streams of nets and of noise

Now it’s just me and the sea and the gulls (and the buoys)