926 Breathless Accomplishments

Relentless much this 9 to 6:
Notes, reports, another news, the internet, bulletin hour.
In shops shelved stock; trains late, on track.
Getting so much done!

This morning I read a up to item ten of a list nearing thirty on essential tips for blogging. In order to create a more magnetic headlines (item #8), take your title and preface it with a number and an adjective. For those who like a formula: Number+Adjective+Title. This poem’s initial title was ‘Getting done,’ an echo of the last line and a nod to how restaurants ask one how you like your meat cooked. ‘Accomplishments’ sounded appropriate for a title and a January poem about real world productivity. The rest fell into place according to the formula.

Follow my 926 breathless accomplishments on Twitter. Find me as @BeadedQuill.


Clementi Brings in 2013

The Sounds of the Suburb on Holiday

Someone’s house alarm is whittering.
Post slips through mail slots,
onto passage carpets.

The crack and fizzle of fireworks on New Year’s Eve;
the sky-bright still of hangovers on New Year’s Day.


Leading up to New Year’s and the party eve just passed, I house-sat for some lovely local folk I know. They are both retired orchestral musicians, so on their walls is an impressive collection of framed posters and programmes. I was particularly taken by the sketched ‘family tree’ outlining the lineage of Italian violin makers which caught my eye as I re-filled Quaver the cat’s water-bowl.

In that street facing room, often with bay windows, where most houses in this neighbourhood have a lounge, these musicians have a tranquil music room. For the season, a Christmas tree, resplendent and fine, had been set up next to the fireplace. But my excitement rested on the shiny, black upright with a bright and strident tone.

They had left out some music for me: Haydn, Mozart and Clementi piano sonatas. My fingers took a while to register the key we’re playing in is no longer D major, but rather G – or even more hilariously, they leapt to add F#’s in a simple C major passage. An Adagio movement in f minor was painful, but I made it to the final double bar-line. For three days, my attempts at Haydn, Mozart and Clementi gave me such pleasure. I’m not sure, though, what the neighbours thought.

Each passing year is another added to that long ago time when I played – that is, practised – with any seriousness. It has been thirteen years since I did this on a regular basis, I keep thinking to myself. After all, I only started playing when I was on the better side of seven and I wasn’t spectacularly good, but all those hours of practising must have left some scaffolding. Despite the inaccuracies, fumbling, muttered choice words of frustration, both my brain and fingers still had an idea of what to do. I am still slightly astonished.

All this has set off some thinking about solid foundational skills and their endurance beyond a period of hibernation. In the face of frustrations about my writing progress and capabilities, I wondered how my recent stint of piano playing might reveal some insights. The truth is I turned a little melancholy. I don’t play anymore. I don’t. This was a bout of sight-reading. It was simple self-indulgence. Hardened, perfectionistic music teachers would decry it as messing about.

“When will you stop being lazy and write something other than short poems,” someone said to me. Through most of 2012 I asked myself that and tried producing some other pieces.

Well, I guess, perhaps I am still merely messing about.

Follow my Twitter musings about messing about, music, culture, yoga, writing and green tea. I’m @BeadedQuill.

Christmas Eve

Today is Christmas Eve and it feels appropriate to note the occasion. It’s nearing five and I’m working on the festively red couch, which will be as red and festive after the seasonal mayhem has subsided. Over the last 48 hours I have oystered a socialising trail across London – Camden Town, Sloane Square, East Finchley, ending (via the Tooley St. exit at London Bridge) here in Deptford.  I’ll be spending Christmas here with four musicians – three string players and a pianist. My friend’s flat looks over Deptford High Street, which is all lit up in cheery lights. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree…” and other seasonal tunes float up from the street-stalls selling last-minute Christmas tack – polyester stockings, tinsel, flashing Santas. There’s an Iceland below us. At this moment, someone may well be buying a last box of mince pies or a forgotten packet of brussel sprouts. Our merry band hasn’t yet done any Christmas food shopping, but here are some thoughts from that strange escarpment of pre-Christmas socialising, moving, eating and waiting:

Pre-Christmas Digesting


Four mince-pies,

two glasses of wine,

a dozen cream crackers, plain


salmon blini’s, bruschetta,

two coffees, a salmon sandwich,

mussels in Szechuan black bean sauce


and prawns stir fried with bamboo shoots and Chinese mushrooms

couscous with broccoli,

green tea, a secondary  weed-smoke hangover

I did yoga, fifteen minutes of Qi Gong, tried some writing.

My friend locked his keys in the flat.


 Arrival text: Eve, 23rd Dec.


In Deptford, settling in…

T locked keys in flat,

so we got to know the



George from Iceland,

guys at the £1 store downstairs,

the waitresses at the local Chinese,

Matt with the ladder from the art studio.


Two SAffas on the loose!


Ninja turtles strike again!

THWACK! Goes Shredder.
Get him! Leonardo.
Raphael and Donatello
Bring out pepperoni.
Michaelangelo is my favourite. He wears
Kick! Punch!
Then lunch
on pizza. (A good plan.)

Now we are grownups
We have forgotten THWACK! Punch!
that pepperoni favourites
wear lunch on Shredder’s pitch.
Wear blue plan good and pizza kick.
Long gone – our ninja turtle fix.

An astute reader commented, “This is a poem about nostalgia.”

Follow me on Twitter (@BeadedQuill) where I grapple with sword drills, my girly voice and being true to the writing life.

Tumbling After

Over here on the hill

Jack, can you hear me?

I’m trying to drop the pail

But I can’t keep my mind

on lowering the rope.

I think, instead, of you

in the valley

where you scythe the bending wheat.

I draw up the pail

careful not to slosh the water

(for then I shall have to refill it).

When you sit in the shade,

Do you wonder about the shade I sit in?

Where do you bundle the hay?

Do you toss it in piles by breaking it?

When the grain is gold and ripe, we’ll crush it

between grindstones to flour.

Carry it then in a sack

to my kitchen.

There on the table

flour and water will be scooped to dough

kneaded under the heel of my hand

left to rise.

I’ll remember the autumn, Jack

when you brought in the hay.

Now, come and eat of the loaf while it’s warm.

The problem with being a girl is that one does seem to write a great many ‘girly’ poems. Remind me to post one I wrote about Ninja Turtles. In fact, I’ll do it now.


For 9 days we had no WiFi.

I welcomed the chance

to unplug and

watch my life boom into productivity.


I polished wooden furniture

in my rented room; hoovered

the carpet; read and slept fitfully on a bruised rib.

I wrote lists of to do’s and didn’t write.

For just over a week, from the end of November through to early December, builders came to reset some tiles on the roof. They had to unplug “all the computer wires,” as my landlady put it. I was WiFi-less at home. Glorious! I would do real things and write, lots.

Facebook, Twitter and blog activity dulled while I ticked off domestic chores and baked test rounds of chocolate cake. I read more than my weekly quota of chapters from Pamuk’s “My Name is Red.” (I’m about four chapters from the end, now.) Instead of being online, I was amongst the miniaturist painters of long ago Istanbul. I also went to the GP for a flu jab.

“If you don’t post consistently and regularly on your blog, it will ruin your reputation,“ I’ve read on optimal, pro-blogger advice websites.

You’re not meant to write about life’s banalities either.

Still, I hope you’ll be back sometime. Unless you, too, have unplugged for a bit.

(Follow my more regular comments on writing, culture and life’s banalities on Twitter – @BeadedQuill)

Now here is something to marvel at…



THERE IS £592.16p

in the bank


the statement says.

It will pay rent,





I think there is £271.97p

left in the account



the blossoms are shaking

off their white petals.

Songbirds are returning.


There is still a chill

in the air.




Waterlow’s lake sings to the city skyline

far away    The Gherkin

This poem appears in the September 2012 issue of Party in Your Eye-Socket, an independently published, illustrated anthology. Visit them at http://partyinyoureyesocket.tumblr.com/

“Shining in Brightness,” my forthcoming volume, includes this poem and others from a mystical decade (i.e. twelve years) of writing.

Wild Horses Don’t Break

            Stronger than plastic ponies

            They are white

            on Kleinmond’s dunes


            Not small or pink in plastic

            Not in your pocket

            Oh no! Sirree

Wild horses

            fling their thoughts

            to windy mountain passes

You’ll never see

            or catch them, no


Alone they go

            Wild horses in their group

Leaves are no longer green

During my undergraduate years, one of my favourite times of year was when the green-leafed creepers, which cascaded down the old JM Solomon buildings, turned to red. The campus would be adorned in a colour beyond ordinary and the logic that leaves are green no longer stood. This is the fourth Northern autumn that I am living through. It is probably because I spend so much time walking pavements and paths that this time of year is the most interesting for my (sub)urban wanderer. She has so much to take in: trails and piles of fallen orange leaves, the seeds and cones that fall from the trees and then there’s the darkening.

It’s only a quarter past four and that mysterious Northern afternoon darkness beyond dusk has descended outside, accompanied by a Mozart’s Eb horn concerto. It’s mysterious to those of us who grew up with winters that darkened only at an evening hour of say 6pm.  On earlier holidays to snowy Austria, the long nights became part of the novelty of a European holiday. Now it has become part of my lived routine.

This Northern light does not filter through a gentle dusk; it seeps from the day’s overcast sky to reveal grey that grows ever darker. Then I, like many others, will have to go out into this darkness and continue as if it is not so. In late autumn, the early part of the Northern winter, I pep talk myself into believing living two thirds of your day in darkness is not so bad. It is only November.  I have to sit out another three months until the end of February. Then new green will point its shoots from the branches.

In autumn, brown beacons nose their seeds skyward


Dead star


Lost is that light year

when my star

glowed, swelled, exploded: –


Now walking across the metal bridge

morning’s grapefruit rays

Break the breathing night

To touch yellow leaves,

Rustle skirts on trees.

Brown beacons nose their seeds skyward

before the snow.


Lost is the night

That held my star

brightly for you.


2006, Opole, Poland

– o –

In autumn, brown beacons nose their seeds skyward

During my time in Poland I used to walk over an old metal bridge from the town part of Opole to the industrial area. It was there, at the large baby-food factory, that I taught English to lab technicians and administrators. In biting morning cold I would set off from my flat, 6.15am for the 7am lesson. The only consolation was those memorable sunrises. Someone for whom I had pined for some years began to fade from importance, like the nights to those grey and delicately painted early winter sunrises. My favourite line captures this metaphorical seasonal change in a real image that struck me. A tree caught my eye as I crossed this metal bridge, where all too often I skidded on the black ice. On this bare tree, “[b]rown beacons nose[d] their seeds skyward.”

A fellow EFL teacher who still lives in Opole, writes that the bridge has been replaced, “by a very fancy suspension-cable thingy.” Sunrises bring all manner of changes.

– o –

“Dead star,” is one of the poems that will feature in my forthcoming first volume, Shining in Brightness.