Theme for February is places  - perhaps the places we wish we could travel to!















Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!





1/ After Visiting Hours. by U.A. Fanthorpe.
Like gulls they are still calling-
I’ll come again Tuesday. Our Dad
sends his love. They diminish, are gone.
Their world has received them.
As our world confirms us.Their debris
Is tidied into vases, lockers, minds.
We become pulses; mouthpieces
Of thermometers and bowels.
The trolley’s rattle dispatches 
The last lover.Now we can relax
Into illness, and reliably abstracted
Nurses will straighten our sheets.
Reorganise our symptoms. Outside
darkness descends like an eyelid.
It rains on our nearest and dearest
In carparks, at bus stops.
Now the bed- bound rehearse
Their repertoire of movements,
The dressing-gowned shuffle, clutching
Their glass bodies.
Now siren voices whisper
from headphones, and vagrant
Doctors appear, wreathed in stethoscopes
Like south sea dancers.
Alls well, all's quiet as the great
Ark noses her way into the night,
Caulked,battened, blessed for her trip,
And behind, the gulls crying.
2/ Sanctum. by Roy.
In our glen a stream has carved a place
Enfolded by hills.
Where sheltered from the gale,
Trees have grown tall arches
Which column a stately quiet
Cathedral space.
Lit with foliaged shafts
And candled with primroses
The silence is psalmed by
Susurrus pines
And hymned by Buzzards mew.
The wind weaves silken screens of sedge
Where, threading deep aisles
The stream recites it’s rosary.
Here prayers are as valid 
As in any holy place.
Freed from the Word
And all authority.
They soar like the Buzzard
High over the hill,
Giving assurance to the heart
And strength to it’s beat.
Here is a sanctuary
Far from the storms of the sea
And the hazards of the hill
Which I call home.













My Garden by Vicky Darling

It waits,

a wilderness of plants proliferating, weeds,

wasps, worms, woodlice, scarlet centipedes,

breeding, feeding, multiplying, jostling for space

amongst ground elder, chickweed, bindweed.

There’s the everlasting bonfire

that smokes, but does not consume, and the dreaded shed,

with pyramids of plastic pots, rusting tools, tangled twine,

recalcitrant mower, evil smelling sacks of compost,

blood and bone, of noxious substances that kill and

poison, decimating slugs, greenfly, whitefly

blackspot on the roses.


Oh, for a proper gardener, touching his forelock

by the kitchen door, holding a trug, potatoes freshly dug,

crisp curly parsley, a few ripe raspberries covered with a leaf,

Will there be anything else missus? He gratefully accepts

a mug of tea, sets to, digging, mulching,

pruning, hoeing, raking, watering, knocking some sense

into wilful perennials, standing them to attention,

while I would sit, reading a novel under the magnolia tree,

glancing at him, benevolently.


Kitchen Catalogue  By Vicky Darling

I’ve known steamy, flypapered kitchens

with crumbs in drawers, spongy wooden spoons

cracked breadboards, blackened baking tins,

wobbly handled saucepans, flappy washing,

funny smells in the larder, that old Christmas pudding

with its yellowing cloth tied up with string,

and as for the cupboard under the sink

best not to look in there at all.


There are kitchens, where food

is never cooked They buy it ready made

like dolls house meals stuck on to plates.

Gleaming pristine surfaces, islands

of stainless steel, odourless and comfortless

are reminiscent of a morgue.


I prefer a place to sit and talk,

with elbows on the table, cups of tea, a glass of wine,

the close conspiracy of women.

Cats sprawl on wicker chairs,

dogs thump their tails beneath the table,

even the dishwasher hums and splutters peacefully.


Men’s kitchens are a different

kettle of fish. They have butcher’s blocks

to pound big bloody steaks, they tear at gentle herbs

with urgent hands and grind their huge priapic pepper mills

above defenceless pasta.


There’s my kitchen, a refuge,

the heart of the house. I iron and fold the linen

listening to Bach. I crimp my pies and blend

warm soups, marvelling at the transformation

of dough into bread, risen cakes and golden marmalade.






Basho in Ireland

Billy Collins 2016
I am like the Japanese poet
who longed to be in Kyoto
even though he was already in Kyoto.
I am not exactly like him
because I am not Japanese
and I have no idea what Kyoto is like
But once, while walking around
the Irish town of Ballyvaughan
I caught myself longing to be in Ballyvaughan.
The sense of being homesick
for a place that is not my home
while being right in the middle of it
was particularly strong
when I passed the hotel bar
then the fluorescent depths a laundrette,
also when I stood at the crossroads
with the road signs pointing in 3 directions
and the enormous buses making the turn.
It might have had something to do
with the nearby limestone hills
and the rain collecting on my collar,
but then again I have longed
to be with a number of people
while the two of us were sitting in a room
on an ordinary evening
without a limestone hill in sight,
thousands of miles from Kyoto
and the simple wonders of Ballyvaughan,
which reminds me
of another Japanese poet
who wrote how much he enjoyed
not being able to see
his favourite mountain because of all the fog.
The Partial Explanation
Charles Simic (1938 - )
Seems like a long time
Since the waiter took my order.
Grimy little luncheonette,
The snow falling outside.
Seems like it has grown darker
Since I last heard the kitchen door
Behind my back
Since I last noticed
Anyone pass on the street.
A glass of ice water
Keeps me company
At this table I chose myself
Upon entering.
And a longing,
Incredible longing
To eavesdrop
On the conversation
Of cooks.



John's Poems


  TEA BY THE ROCHERS DE PUYCHAUD   by John Souter, September 1997

A short climb from the road
Lie the stones.
Geologically rounded in a rough circle
A megalithic sculpture of granite tortoises
Mounting one on another,
Balanced point to point.
Squeezed light squints between,
Brassy moss pours over
Textures of silver lichen.
Long fingers of crack-rooted oaks
Hold the pebble rocks in a giant's hand.
A tiny wind moves their branches
Crackling the browning leaves.

In the centre of this ancient ring
We have set a picnic kettle
Boiling to make tea;
A holiday libation to the local genii.....

Then a sudden louder crack
Shocks the surrounding silence;
Somewhere in the woods
A tree or branch has fallen.
Not seen, but not unheard.
Inside the encircling stones
The vibrations of sound
Have impinged on our ears.
We are here.
We mark its fall.

Peggy's Poems

ST GERVAIS   by Michael Roberts    1902-48

Coming out of the mountains of a summer evening,
travelling alone;
Coming out of the mountains

Coming among men, and limousines,
and elegant tall women, and hotels
with private decorative gardens,
Coming among dust,

After the distant cowbells, bringing
memory of mule-tracks, slithering snow,
wild pansies, and the sudden
loose clattering of rock,

I remembered Sunday evenings, churchbells and cinemas
and clumsy trams
searching interminable streets
for quiet slums, the slums where I

remembering St Gervais and the gorges, linger, bringing
in the worn shell of air, the pines,
the white-cloud-vision of Mont Blanc, and up
beyond Les Contamines, the seven shrines.

THE NEW LONDON     by John Dryden, written after the Great Fire   (with rather a lot of hubris - maybe justified just then?)

Methinks already, from this Chymick flame,
I see a city of more precious mould,
Rich as the town which gave the Indies name,
With silver paved, and all divine with gold.

Already, Labouring with a mighty fate,
She shakes the rubbish from her mounting brow,
And seems to have renewed her Charter's date,
Which Heaven will to the death of time allow,

More great than humane now, and more August,
New deified she from her fires does rise;
Her widening streets on new foundations trust,
And, opening, into larger parts she flies.

Before, she like some Shepherdess did show,
Who sate to bathe her by a River's side;
Not answering to her fame, but rude, and low,
Nor taught the beauteous arts of Modern Pride.

Now, like a Maiden Queen she will behold,
From her high Turrets hourly Suitors come;
The East with Incense and the West with Gold,
Will stand, like Suppliants, to receive her doom.

The silver Thames, her own domestick flood,
Shall bear her vessels, like a sweeping Train;
And often wind (as of his mistress proud)
With longing eyes to meet her face again.

The wealthy Tagus, and the wealthier Rhine,
The glory of their towns no more shall boast;
And Seine, that would with Belgian River joyn,
Shall find her lustre stain'd, and Traffick lost.

The venturous Merchant, who designed more far,
And touches on our hospitable shore;
Charmed with the splendour of this Northern Star,
Shall here unlade him, and depart no more.

Our powerful Navy shall no longer meet,
The wealth of France or Holland to invade;
The beauty of this Town, without  Fleet,
From all the world shall vindicate her Trade.

And, while this famed Emporium we prepare,
The British Ocean shall such triumphs boast,
That those who now disdain our Trade to share,
Shall rob like Pirates on our wealthy Coast.

Already we have conquered half the War,
And the less dangerous part is left behind;
Our trouble now is but to make them dare,
And not so great to vanquish as to find.

Thus to the Eastern wealth through storms we go;
But now, the Cape once doubled, fear no more;
A constant Trade-wind will securely blow,
And gently lay us on the Spicy shore.





The Well of St. Keyne

A Well there is in the west country,
    And a clearer one never was seen;
There is not a wife in the west country
    But has heard of the Well of St. Keyne.
An oak and an elm-tree stand beside,
    And behind doth an ash-tree grow,
And a willow from the bank above
    Droops to the water below.
A traveller came to the Well of St. Keyne;
    Joyfully he drew nigh,
For from the cock-crow he had been travelling,
    And there was not a cloud in the sky.
He drank of the water so cool and clear,
    For thirsty and hot was he,
And he sat down upon the bank
    Under the willow-tree.
There came a man from the house hard by
    At the Well to fill his pail;
On the Well-side he rested it,
    And he bade the Stranger hail.
"Now art thou a bachelor, Stranger?" quoth he,
    "For an if thou hast a wife,
The happiest draught thou hast drank this day
    That ever thou didst in thy life.
"Or has thy good woman, if one thou hast,
    Ever here in Cornwall been?
For an if she have, I'll venture my life
    She has drank of the Well of St. Keyne."
"I have left a good woman who never was here."
    The Stranger he made reply,
"But that my draught should be the better for that,
    I pray you answer me why?"
"St. Keyne," quoth the Cornish-man, "many a time
    Drank of this crystal Well,
And before the Angel summon'd her,
    She laid on the water a spell.
"If the Husband of this gifted Well
    Shall drink before his Wife,
A happy man thenceforth is he,
    For he shall be Master for life.
"But if the Wife should drink of it first,—
    God help the Husband then!"
The Stranger stoopt to the Well of St. Keyne,
    And drank of the water again.
"You drank of the Well I warrant betimes?"
    He to the Cornish-man said:
But the Cornish-man smiled as the Stranger spake,
    And sheepishly shook his head.
"I hasten'd as soon as the wedding was done,
    And left my Wife in the porch;
But i' faith she had been wiser than me,
    For she took a bottle to Church."


The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core






Dover Beach

Matthew Arnold - 1822-1888


The sea is calm tonight.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair

Upon the straits; on the French coast, the light

Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,

Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!

Only, from the long line of spray

Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,


Listen! you hear the grating roar

Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,

At their return, up the high strand,

Begin, and cease, and then again begin,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring

The eternal note of sadness in.


Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.


The Sea of Faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.

But now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating, to the breath

Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear

And naked shingles of the world.


Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.


2.  A place, a time.  By Tricia


As I walked out this grey, cold afternoon,

I spied a raven perched atop a sprig –

A pole -  amongst the wintered scrub and bushes,

And thought his air quite oddly melancholic.


It seemed he peered, in calm consideration,

Down, down the deeply falling hillside,

And, if he saw me, gave no wince nor shudder,

But stayed his gaze, intent, in contemplation.


He struck a pose like some old, wizened farmer

Leaning on a gate, with elbows resting -

The long past, part of his reflection: an era gone;

A different queen upon the British throne.


Yet, what he saw was not the 1860’s –

No pony trap, or carriage drawn by horses - but

Now, a constant, endless flow of traffic

Teeming, up and down a ‘70s six-lane highway.


And when I moved, he cocked his head, just sideways,

And shifted on his pole.  With wearied wings, he

Lifted up his scythe-worn, coal-black shoulders,

To press the air, and leave this time, and me, alone.