During the Rainy Season…..

Dad’s poems


Spring in Brittany



“Land of soft mists,

Of dapple sun

And gentle rain.

Where knights once shone,


In splendid armour.


“Sweet land of myths,

Of jousting grounds,

Where heroes fight

For honour of their ladies

Luminous in their gowns,

Colours bedight.


“The while King Arthur,

On the high bench

Takes precedence.

With wizard Merlin,

Strong in prophesy

Seated on his right.


“And all is sorcery,

Immune from Time.”




Thus prates the guide:


The tourists stand agog,

eyes popping and bouche-bée,

forgetting that outside

the land is thick with fog,

and the rain pelts down.


Wednesday, 09 May 2001




Ode to the Third Age


Turn back the clock!

And turn back the mind!

Now is the time!


Turn back the clock!

against the flow,

tick by grudging tock


Rebellious youth


in your old age.


Regain the sense,

the very essence

of who you were

and who you are.


So in your Third Age

you may achieve

insight into your rage.


Written in Normandy


Tuesday, 08 May 2001






View from the Gîte

 Spoken version


At the far edge of the land

the line of poplars stand,

naked and swaying,

outlined on the sky.


Taut branches grope,

piercing the clouds

prying into their top

grey secrets.


The land swells like the sea,

order and rhythm,

with white horses,

towing the plough.


Leaving behind,

precise as logarithms

neat shining

waves of clay.


The clouds grow weary,

shed their soft rain

upon the landscape,

and the afternoon.



Thursday, 10 May 2001





Repeat Performance

Something very peculiar was going on.  At first he could not decide whether he was dreaming.  If so, no point trying to make sense of things.  For dreams are peculiar.  They have their own logic, their own momentum.  He knew –but how did he know?  – that there were such things as lucid dreams, observing your own dreams.  The test was then to force yourself to wake up.

He took stock.  He was lying gazing upwards, but he could not move.  Not strictly true.  He could move his eyes.  Up, down, side to side.  He took a childish pride in his skill, although it was limited since he could not move his head.  Everything here was faded, almost in monochrome, a grey and white gradation.  He tried to focus his brain a little more on his surroundings, extract some meaning.  Now he came to think of it other senses were weak:  There was no sound.  Perhaps there was nothing to be heard, or again perhaps in his dream he was deaf.  No smell, but again his olfactory function had always been quite feeble.  Olfactory there’s a good word! 

He could barely locate his limbs; feel the weight of his head on the pillow, the cool whiteness of the sheet under his chin.  Depressing his eyes to the utmost he could see the twin mounds of his feet, at the end of the bed, but they were foreign objects, beyond his control.  He was in bed then.  Relief!  Problem solved.  He must be dreaming.

Now to wake up.  He willed himself, gripping his brain with his mind, but nothing seemed to change.  Panic.  He was stuck forever within his dream, within his mind.  Perhaps if he shut his eyes and then reopened them, something like switching a crashed computer off and on, he could cure what can only be a glitch.  Another thought.  How was it he knew about computers and glitches when he did not even know who he was?

Try it anyway.  He closed his eyes, screwed them tight for good measure.  The usual regression of glowing fractal shapes, colours coruscating, diminishing to the horizons of the mind. 

Good, he thought, the optic nerves are still firing and all complementary colours are intact.  And again he astonished himself at this scientific concept.

Then with his eyes still closed he was back in the Lecture Room, at the focus of the amphitheatre, with a hemisphere of earnest student faces like pale intelligent moons, taking frantic notes, spectacles dipping and rising and semaphoring flashes at him, reflected from the brutal blue fluorescents overhead, noses aimed at him.

The senses were back in operation and working overtime.  He could see sharp as an eagle, zoom in, zoom out to any part of the room, smell odours like a wild beast, dote like an artist on the impact of colours, feel surfaces and textures in exquisite sculptural detail, reap gestalt in vast creative impulses.  In a queer manner the sensory modes linked, convoluted, colour with smell, sound with touch, music with warmth.

There he was on the podium, standing confidently behind the lectern and the microphone, waving his arms in emphasis, coming as he already knew to his peroration.  It was all so clear, so crystalline, as if engraved on the inner surface of his mind. He was an observer observing himself observing.  It was all so inevitable, so déjà vu.

He listened to himself with professional pride, admiring the architecture of his ideas, the choice of words, the cadence of the phrases, the deep mahogany texture of the voice.  He really must be somebody, he thought.  It was very important he should know whom.

“As to the whole problem of the Self, recent studies suggest that the relationships between mind and body may be aided by realizing that, within our brain, we have a virtual body.  I speak in computer terms. 

“An outdated and simplistic idea was that within the brain was a little man – a homunculus – depicted as looking out through the eyes, listening at the ears and so forth.  A more up to date model, confirmed by brain scans maintains that the cortex houses a complex set of dynamic neural maps. 

These are maintained as an extra level of remembered feelings and experience in neural circuits throughout the somato-sensory cortices and the upper brainstem nuclei.  It is posited that these circuits are in fact the enduring proto self with instructions that govern basic life regulation, emotion, feelings, and consciousness.  How long these circuits will continue to reverberate without continuous experience and neural input is a matter of speculation. 

I wonder whether it would be feasible in the course of time to maintain a conscious Self “in vitro” with suitable computer input. 

Right!  Are there any questions you would like to put?”


There was a whispery hush while students conferred amongst themselves, and then on the far side of the theatre, a man with a heavy beard, a lecturer perhaps stood up:

“Professor Stenbridge, are you suggesting that your neural research coupled with Information Technology may well be heading towards the prolongation of life.  In effect towards assisted immortality!”

The professor turned sharply, caught one foot in a microphone cable and toppled headlong.  As he fell he struck his head with a great echoing clump on the corner of the lectern, and everything went dark.


He opened his eyes and he was back in his monochromatic world.  At least he knew who he was, knew where all the technical terms came from, but little more.  Now his eyes were fixed on one spot on the ceiling and he had no more muscular tone in them.  And all the greys and whites were merging into one neutral unsaturated hue.  His eyelids gradually drooped shut.

Then the fractal shapes at the back of his eyes began to coruscate, retreat into the inner recesses of the mind and once again he was back in the Lecture Room, standing at the focus of the amphitheatre, with a hemisphere of earnest student faces like pale intelligent moons, taking frantic notes, spectacles dipping and rising and semaphoring flashes at him, reflected from the brutal blue fluorescents overhead, noses aimed at him.


“As to the whole problem of the Self, recent studies suggest that the relationships between mind and body may be aided by realizing that, within our brain, we have a virtual body.  An outdated and simplistic idea was that within the brain was a little man – a homunculus – depicted as looking out through the eyes, listening at the ears and so forth.  A more up to date model, confirmed by brain scans suggests that the brain houses a complex set of maps, dynamic neural maps…


The whole sequence unfolded in his mind like a computer loop, a “GOTO line 1” instruction.  With one last effort of the will he forced his eyes open. 

He spoke slowly to himself within his mind, while the world without grew dark:


“I was quite right in my hypothesis.  The self, however precarious, does exist, caught in the web of the brain.  But I feel myself fading.  There is no repeat performance for me.  I was Professor Stenbridge.  I really was…”




...  and Circuses





I was high on the green swelling slope of the hill still warm with the setting sun.  Down below were the streets of the town, latticed with long sharp shadows and yellow street lamps.  The place where I sat was a gentle mixture of peace and muted sense, suspended between thought and reality.

Then I saw him, not for the first time, coming over the brow of the hill, eminently alone.  He always walked about by himself, and each time I almost but not quite recognised him.

He came down past me, frail, grey and transparent as if not quite there, smiled, made as if to speak, held out his hand and I the same, but then walked on.  As always, the moment was past, and I was left with nostalgia and a need.

I closed my eyes.  It could have been only for a second, but of course you can never tell. For  time up there on the hill is different, and when I opened them he was a distant silhouette.

Now the sun was drained and swallowed by the night and there was no good reason to stay up there and every slight reason to go down.  For in the dark oasis at the centre of the town a nova blossomed in a silent explosion of fairy lights and colour and motion and the Circus came to life.

Before I knew it I was walking through the commercial outskirts of the town, between the canyons of the buildings with their pools of powdery sodium yellow light and their lakes of mauve darkness.  There were few people about and those seemed aloof and deep within themselves. 

Then on towards the centre, joining the throng young and old, making their way to the delights of the Circus.  Like trout swimming upstream, instinctive, happy, sensation seeking, escaping from apathy, escaping from their linear history and their all too predictable urban future. 

Jostled and elbowed I was swept along with them, , imbued with their communal need for distraction, bathed in their body smell, with a need to immerse myself in their common joy, and abandon my individual angst and egotism. And bobbing along, jumping up from time to time above the level of the rest turning to make sure I was still there, I could swear I saw the frail figure of the man on the hill.


Happy as trout

mounting the flood,

bobbing about

on jets of blood.


As the park drew near so the euphoria grew and the expectation.  Under the rickety trellis arch over the gate, beaded with twinkling bulbs that spelt out in multicolour:  

"Happiness is all !"




All was vulgar and gaudy and blaring. blatant with noise, smells, colour.  It was all so natural and naïve and honest, brazen and discordant.   I could not but compare it with the experience on the hill, but could not find it in my heart to condemn.  It was of a completely different order. 

Happy the steam organ

strident pop music

howling orgasmic.

With no rhyme or reason,

churning the same refrain.


Candyfloss competed with hot-dog, hamburger with barbecue ribs, cheap scent with sweat.  The oily smell of machines clashed with cooking fat.  Fluorescent lights of all hues fought with each other.  Brass band music and steam organs and pop music blasted out in infernal discord and counterpoint and the thrum of generators provided the bass.  Screams of delighted fear as machines whirled and abused people to the limit of endurance.  Yet all mingled into pleasure, maybe commercial and synthetic, but within the grasp of everyone.


I wandered around, looking perhaps subconsciously for the man of the hill and caught tantalising glances of him as I passed between the stands.  I don’t know why he should preoccupy me – there were plenty more interesting things to see and do.  It was the people and their pursuit of happiness. I stopped for a while at the foot of the helter skelter, gentler and more traditional than the more modern devices. 

One couple, a redhead and a gipsy looking lad, swished  down the chute, intertwined, again and again  Then exhausted they took a more genteel ride, this time on the Carousel, but there was no opportunity for body contact and the swarthy lad was content to wait and watch and be glad


Happy the ones in love,

on their helter skelter.

Happy the redhead,

on her white steed.

Happy the swarthy lad,

waiting and glad


Unashamed and unembarrassed a man with the aspect of an undertaker, perhaps Father Time himself but without the whiskers and the scythe, was standing by himself in the nacelle of a Swing Boat, hanging on to the rope, performing mad gyrations and gymnastics, oblivious of the stir he was creating and the ribald comments and ironic cheers of a group of young lads.


Happy that man in the black coat,

standing in the Swing-Boat


Moving majestically but at some speed through the crowd and equally oblivious was a large lady, leaving behind a wake of amused onlookers.  She was towing a large blue and white paper kite that looped and swooped perilously close to the ground only to recover altitude when she lugged at the string,

Happy the fat lady,

towing her paper kite

Woolly toys, and meretricious prizes, Hoop-la and Smash the plate, anything for males to display their skill and prowess before their intended – but what was their intention?  One very rotund gentleman, grand-fatherly, bald pate shining, with apparently no need for any audience except his ideal self, was hurling wooden balls one after the other in an orgy of destruction at the crockery stand.  By his side an old high-sided old-fashioned pram, rocking gently on its springs.


The old boy off his trolley,

happy smashing the crockery.

Happy inside his pram

a tiny baby


Youths strive desperately to be complete and happy and self respectful, but do not quite succeed, even to their mates.  They fire and fire, wreaking imagined and unimagined havoc at the shooting stands.  Bang! Clang! as the puny 22 calibre bullets strike home on  metal plates behind the bobbing ping pong balls on jets, and hearts on swinging targets outlined in red.  A cinch they think.  They swagger and leer at their empty success as they walk off, with their girl friends painted and cinched.  But the girls are equally empty.


Sad the youth of the town

taking careful aim,

again and again,

at the shooting gallery,

with hearts in their sights,

but their own hearts,

 their own pain,

their own anxiety

trembling up and down,

and giggling



Suddenly I have had my fill of synthetic happiness, and I walk away, back towards the trellis arch and the entrance.  But I am beguiled by the Hall of Mirrors and I stand in front of each one, in turn bulbous, elongated, emaciated and distorted.  And at the very last one I meet the reflection of the man on the hill.






Happy as trout

mounting the flood,

bobbing about

on jets of blood.


Happy the steam organ

Howling orgasmic

With no rhyme or reason

Churning the same refrain


Happy the ones in love

On the helter skelter


Happy the redhead

On her white steed

Happy the swarthy lad

Waiting and glad







Happy that man in the black coat

Standing up in the swing boat


Happy the fat lady

Towing her paper kite


The old boy off his trolley

Happy smashing the crockery.

Happy inside his pram










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