The Man In The Cell

Waisted at the waist, at the weakest part of the week, she hauled herself to the bleak hall to hear the compliments that complement her message.

She received mail from the male who sent her scents and badly written letters. She had taken all her jewellery to town to sell for the man who resided in the cell.

This former bear of a man was barely able to lift his head to gaze up through his pain to the barred pane, wishing the reign of rain would soon cease.

He had met his fair companion at the village fayre – she has been a sight to behold at that pretention of a site. She had become his idol to whom he would sacrifice everything. His dream now lay idle.

His great misdeeds grated on him daily. He ached to travel to the United States as a coal miner. Now he was blocked forever by offences that were not minor.

Each night, cries went up, aloud for all to hear. These men were now no longer able to see their daughters or sons. The next day, the sun would burn their red eyes.

They knew it was their fault, and no pretense of a new life would bring back the joys of the past.

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My Dream

I am a writer who does not write.

I am a foreign language speaker who does not speak foreign languages.

Life is tough, life is expensive. I have had to work – work hard over twenty years. I have had little time for hobbies and little money for travel.

And so my hope is that, one day, I will be able to travel the world and meet new and interesting people with interesting stories.

scenic view of beach

Photo by Pixabay on

I would like to see the sun shine. I would like to lie all day under the sun, sharpening my slacking skills.

I would like to see the sea, all glittering and warm – perfect for me. I would like to lounge on a lounger and read and enjoy all the hard work other writers have to offer, and then write my own world best seller. That is my dream.


Recently, a researcher asked me to contribute to their projects about dreams. 

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Staccato stop.

Paint a full stop on the page of your life.

woman wearing red chinese traditional dress

Photo by Tún on

Big mouth.

Big ideals for the future of the human race.

At your own pace, run your race.

Big nose.

Big nose for business, making skills grow.

It may be fast or slow, cultivate it to grow.

Big eyes.

Big eyes to take in the vision of a big future.

It may, now, have a weak structure,

But work with it and have a big future.

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A Word Of Thanks

While I am working on another project at the moment, I want to thank everyone who has been following my blog. I don’t know all your names but these are the countries from which you hail:

Australia – g’day and thank you mates!

Belgium – ik heb in Gent gewoond en j’habitais à Bruxelles. J’adore Belgique! Ik hou van België!

Bolivia – hola! Gracias!

Canada – bonjour! La plupart de ma famille habite en Canada. Most of my family live in Canada. I love Lake Louisa and the rest of your beautiful nation!

Czech Republic – senza Borge! Thank you!

France – J’adore votre nation! Surtout Bourgogne et les frères et les soeurs de Taizé. Merci pour me suivre.

India – Thank you for following me. You have a great nation.

Ireland – Failte! Ní laorimdh. My Irish is terrible but I love your capital city and I hope to return soon.

Kenya – Thank you for following me. My next main character of my next book is Kenyan. She is a superhuman. Any pointers you can give me with the accuracy of her character would be appreciated!

Nigeria – Thank you for following me. I would love to write the project I started about the part of Lagos that is a floating village. I will write it when there are enough hours in the day!

Philippines – Thank you for following me. The Philippines have been close to my heart since I met Craig Burrows who teaches in Manilla.

Spain – hola! Gracias! I loved spending time in the South of your nation last year. There was a special Picasso exhibition in Malaga that I was fortunate to see, and my historian husband spent a lot of time in Fuerigola at the Roman site.

South Africa – Thank you for following me. My brother has lived in South Africa for over five years now and loves it. If you  want cheap, solar powered electricity, he is your man.

Switzerland – thank you for following me. I was lucky enough to be driven past Lac Génève – such a beautiful place. I hope to return.

UK – thank you to everyone who follows me from my home. We have a great collection of nations with amazing sights and things to do, from London to the Hay On Wye festival in Wales to rock climbing in Edinburgh to the new nation that is appearing in Northern Ireland. We have a lot to celebrate!

USA – thank you to the people who follow me from America. I would love to visit one day. God bless your country.



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Kate Tempest, Stormzy and Gorillaz

This is my third look at poetry in modern music.



Back in 2005, Gorillaz released Demon Days, an album that spoke of many of the miseries and catastrophes we face on Planet Earth today. Then, just before the end of the album, Dennis Hopper performs a spoken word piece Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey’s Head, which then gave way for The London Comminity Gospel Choir to turn the whole album around, telling us to turn ourselves around to face the sun/The Son. This album was full of energy and lively music with so much to dance to. Even though it was an album of issues, part of it was also a party.

A few years earlier in 2002, The Streets released their first album, Original Pirate Material, which was spoken word and music quoting normal life in working class England. It was humorous, with quotations of things men say when drunk and in a kebab shop; “if there was a war on, I’d be on the front lines!” With its music, unique insights and fun, Original Pirate Material was something you’d want to listen to over and over, as I did.

Last year at the 2017 Mercury Awards, Stormzy’s album Gang Signs and Prayer won the award. It also won a Bafta or two. There had been many criticisms that music awards in the UK had become too white, and so many grime acts were up for awards this year after judging panels became more diverse.

Stormzy’s album is another look at working class London from his perspective as a Black man. There’s quite a bit of swearing and gangster- like conduct on the album. Then, just as Prince sandwiches sexual songs between religious songs on his many albums, Stormzy interperses the crime with the divine, complete with prayers from elders as well as his renowned Gospel song Blinded By Your Grace. The inclusion of elders praying and talking gives a community feel, much like Arrested Development’s 3 Years 5 Months and 2 Days In The Life Of, yet with a distinctive London working class flavour.

Kate Tempest, the renowned English poet and spoken word artist lost out to Stormzy at The Mercury Awards. Yes, an album of poetry – with music as a background filler – was up for a music award.


Let Them Eat Chaos starts with the planets orbiting our sun and then we beam down to London, white working class London. Tempest tells us stories about seven people who all are awake at Silly O’clock for seven different reasons, and she brings them all together in the track Grubby towards the end of the album where she uses the phrase, “Existence is futile” – a nice twist on the Borg saying, “Resistence is futile”, delivering meaning.

There are some other good turns of phrase such as, “His thoughts are like a pack of starving dogs fighting over the last bone” and “Street-smart, jabbering gnome”. Unfortunately, Tempest fails to deliver more such like gorgeous, clever turns of phrase. She seems to have concentrated on telling stories, which is great, but when I hear a poet, I would like to hear more of the poetic.

The pity about Stormzy’s album and Kate Tempest’s album is that they are both quite depressing and angry. Unlike The Streets’ first album – which had some great music and singing backing up their humorous words, I do not really want to listen to Stormzy’s album nor Tempest’s album again. And that is a darn shame because there are some real nuggets on both albums.

Compare these albums with their gritty subjects (McJobs, knife crime, working the night shift in care homes and drug use) the first album released by Arrested Development that covered issues such as racism, street violence and sexual harassment of women and poverty, I wonder why these new albums concentrated on the dark side of life continuously, whereas Arrested Development talked about the dark but they also talked about the light. They rapped about educating ourselves, not judging people, giving time to others and giving everything over to God, trusting that God will listen to our pain and sort everything out.


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Dizraeli, Tim Matthew and Eliza Carthy

For my second examination of the use of poetry within modern music I will delve into two albums by Eliza Carthy.

Last year, Big Machine – a storm of an album by Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band – won awards and was performed at festivals and venues up and down the land. Outside of The Wayward Band was another contributor, Dizraeli aka Rowan Sawday. I remember when I first saw Dizraeli and The Small Gods at the Beautiful Days festival perhaps ten years ago and I was struck by Dizraeli’s fusion of politics and rhythm and The Small God’s fusion of rap with reggae, folk and Balkan music. For someone who is a mix of many things, it was inspiring to see.

Dizraeli is a rapper and poet from Bristol in the South of England. He moved to London to seek his fortune, and brought out his first solo album in 2009. He joins the bombastic Big Machine album to rap over Eliza Carthy’s vocals and the band’s instruments on the track You Know Me. You Know Me is about the UK’s strong tradition of hospitality – do we extend it to people fleeing conflicts? The refrain of the song, “the fruit in our garden is good” reminds me of Jesus’ words about the people who follow him. Eliza Carthy said that You Know Me reminds her of her great- grandmother’s quoting of the Bible, when Jesus said we are to serve others and in doing so, we won’t know it, but we may have been serving angels disguised as humans in need.


On the second CD of Big Machine, all the music is stripped away and allows us to hear Dizraeli the poet. He recites Aleppo As It Was. He reminds us that Syria was a thriving and wealthy nation with computers and all the trappings of modern life, with citizens who were friends who worked in their professions and welcomed each other in the cafes. And then Dizraeli reminds us that the way these people are described by our politicians in their hour of need is dehumanising. These people were referred to as insects, cockroaches, so that people like you and me would not view them as fellow human beings who deserve a safe place to sleep. Dizraeli, in pausing the music on Big Machine, makes us pause and reflect on our own lives and responses to people in need.

Big Machine is not the first album by Eliza Carthy that uses spoken word. Dreams Of Breathing Under Water, which was released in 2008, includes the track Mr Magnifico. I love this track for its mariachi-style music, but also for the ironic verses spoken by Tim Matthew of Lau that are interspersed by Eliza Carthy singing choruses. Mr Magnifico is a comical story told in a straight way about a man who thinks he’s all that, but he ain’t. Tim Matthew’s thick Scottish accent sits perfectly with the Mexican-style music and Eliza Carthy’s scathing choruses.


Eliza Carthy is an incredible artist, performer, singer, violin player, song writer and interpreter of traditional music who has worked with Salsa Celtic (a Cuban-Celtic band), Imagined Village (an Indian-British folk band), The Rat Catchers (who all went on to become major artists in their own right) and has produced several solo albums as well as performing on albums with her family – the world renowned Waterson:Carthy.  As a perpetually exciting and evolving artist, it is no surprise that Eliza Carthy would feature poetry and rap on her albums and collaborates with someone of Dizraeli’s musical and performance background.

If you are into collaborative music and finger on the pulse alternative music, Tim Matthew, Dizraeli and Eliza Carthy are people to follow closely.

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Benjamin Zephaniah

In the first of my explorations of poetry used in modern music, I will shine the light in the direction of top UK poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

Benjamin Zephaniah appeared on the first Imagined Village album, where he performed a retelling of the old English poem Tam Lin in words that would speak to our current times, picking up the hot potato of asylum and immigration.


This was the first of Imagined Village’s three albums, and it seemed deliberate that for this first album they employed well-known names such as Billy Bragg and Paul Weller – great musicians and a little controversial.

Benjamin Zephaniah has never been one to shy away from controversy, but in the nicest and most morally upstanding of ways – namely his rejection of his OBE. “OBE” means “Order of the British Empire”. Zephaniah said, ‘Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought. I get angry when I hear that word “empire”; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality…’

Zephaniah was born in Birmingham – a diverse city in the south of England – and gained a keen audience among Afro-Caribbean and Asian people. However, he wished to reach a wider audience and so set off to London in search of riches, like so many characters in folk music and British history. Well, Zephaniah certainly did reach a wider audience after first publishing “Pen Rhythm” in 1980 and releasing an album “Rasta” in 1982. Nelson Mandela requested Zephaniah open The Two Nations Concert at The Royal Albert Hall in 1996. Zephaniah sat in on the Bloody Sunday inquiry, he wrote more poetry for adults, children and then four novels.

In 2015, Zephaniah called for Welsh and Cornish to be taught in UK schools, stating that these languages are a part of UK culture. An author, social commentator, poet, actor and playwright, Zephaniah has come a long way in 60 years and has played a crucial role in UK life. He has also impacted individual lives in his voluntary role on the streets of inner cities, talking to gang members, encouraging them to leave their criminal lives behind for a better life as he himself had done. As a dyslexic child, Zephaniah had left school at 13 and fell into crime. After leaving prison at the age of 20, Zephaniah taught himself to read and write, and to want more out of life – possibly his greatest achievement.

I love Zephaniah’s role on Imagined Village’s first album. As a fan of both Zephaniah and folk music, I was a happy chappy. Imagined Village set out to marry traditional British music with the cultural diversity that we are blessed with in the UK today. Band members include Simon Emmerson of the Afro-Celt Sound System, Johnny Kalsi of The Dhol Foundation and the Afro-Celts, renowned sitar player Sheema Mukherjee and Andy Gangadeen of The Bays, along with folk royalty Martin and Eliza Carthy and Chris Wood. Zephaniah was a perfect fit for Imagined Village and Tam Lyn Re-Told.

Benjamin Zephaniah’s new album “Revolutionary Minds” is a banquet of reggae, dub and politics. As an English teacher to Chinese students, I was happy and taken aback to hear Mandarin Chinese spoken as an interlude before the fourth track.


Don’t be fooled by the laid back reggae beats and a track called “Hot Like Jamaica” where Zephaniah goes on a bit about a woman who is, um, hot like Jamaica. Don’t be lulled into any false sense of security because this album is full of POLITICS. Aborigines, LGBT, Stephen Lawrence and Palestine all get more than a mention, along with that longterm theme of Zephaniah’s, civil disobedience. Zephaniah once said that he tried to break one law every day – probably by lighting up the holy herb – but now he seems more concerned about people following their government blind; sheeple.  It’s worth a listen or six.

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