Category Archives: work to be read aloud

Watching and not watching bigger women wearing leggings

They are killing time,

so, an uneasy coffee truce,

Watching and not watching bigger women wearing leggings.

The daughter’s radar is razor-sharp,

quick to pick up any hint of judgement or distaste,

so, she , the mother, keeps her head down, face neutral

stirs her skinny latte once, twice, clockwise, anti clockwise,

tries not to see the mountain of whipped cream atop the daughter’s’ chocca, mocha, frappe latte

And they are watching and not watching bigger women wearing leggings.

A woman walks past, ramming….

“Oh ramming” says the internalized daughter, special branch thought police

“Ramming, what an interesting word to choose”

The actual daughter, looks up, sees and reads her mother perfectly

‘ maybe she’s just hungry”

She says, surprisingly gently.

The mother closes her eyes, tries to imagine, just for a moment, what it would be like to walk down a street

Mouthful of hot cheap cheese, hot cheap meat

To use the hem of a T-shirt, already straining over breasts and belly, to mop a grease spattered chin

And they are watching and not watching bigger women wearing leggings.

The daughter walks to the counter

leans into the display,


She and the server are talking, laughing.

The mother, calculating in her head, wonders if she can risk another coffee, decides  to play it safe,

sips water

Her daughter heading back,

already licking icing off her thumbnail

And they are watching and not watching bigger women wearing leggings

And this is not a love song, but….

This is not a love song


You make art and music and good bread

And never forget that i don’t like butter,

So on picnics, my sandwiches are sliced separately, wrapped differently, ensuring that only I get to enjoy their delicious dryness

And thus is not a love song,


As a DJ, you kept your head down,

Mudjahadin hat just visible above the decks,

Not really a Hands in the Air Like you just don’t care kind of guy,


Just occasionally, if it was going well, you would risk a smile and then a quick 1,2,1,2,3 soft shoe shuffle.

And this is not a love song,


When my daughter was tiny new,

You held her, fitting perfectly into your cupped palms,

Not a father, never a father,

Bound to her with ties other than blood,

Maybe better.

And this is not a love song,


You have learnt to slow down, to keep pace with your father,

Learnt to bite back irritation when you have the same conversation for the 3rd or is it 4th time today,

Learnt to cook meals where the meat and vegetables are clearly delineated on the plate.

And this is not a love song,


Over the years you have,

Supported my attempts at dressage mediocrity,

Scouted backgrounds for photo shoots to meet my social media neediness

And always, always, always preview horror films to check that I can take them.

And this is not a love song,


This is not a love song.




1. Yellow

We painted the walls sunshine yellow

A busy frieze of buses, bikes and boats because we weren’t going to buy into any gender stereotypes

Hung mobiles, placed posters

Carefully fitted cherry red handles to door and drawers, ensuring we left no sharp edges.

2. Pink

Already feeling the space between you, other children and the world

I chose the pinkest pink i could find

Festooned every surface with fairy lights

A cabin bed with a tower of teddies standing sentinel

Stack boxes each with a picture of what lived inside for ease of tidying

And on your special shelf, your treasures, silver fairy wings, a horseshoe from your first pony and one bear, too precious to be simply part of the cuddle toy hoi poloi


3.Accent wall

The accent wall is black and white abstracted flowers

So, black desk, black duvet on the bed that made into a sofa

Your pad i called it

You hung posters of bands whose names i didn’t know

And i learnt to knock

Learnt that often your choice was not to let me in



The walls are utilitarian white now

Filthy with handprints, footprints, smeared make up, other stains

Bed a mattress on the floor, after you destroyed the third bed in some inarticulate howl of rage i stopped replacing them, stopped repairing furniture, stopped worrying about the shattered shards of mirror glass

i used to make speedy sorties inside when i had run out of plates, bowls and cups

Excavating only to top layer

Careful to not see that unfilled prescriptions, the unattended appointments

Now i just buy new crockery


5.Doors and walls

i’m waiting for the day when the policy want will to look inside this room, will want to look for clues, will want to look for meaning

We will stand on the threshold, me squirming with shame, they already on task

i will smile some terrible social smile

Tell them how sorry i am, tell them how nice it used to be in here.




valentines day

its valentines day and the trafic is at a standstill


we’re going nowhere

and i’m tapping, no, actually i’m punching the steering wheel

come on, come on, come on

as if my voice alone can make movement


its valentines day

and all over my network

bunny bookins is wishing mr fluffy a really special day

Kevin is wondering if you want to play hide the carrot ….later

my texts are terser

i’m on my way, i’m coming, please wait, just wait


its valentines day and every song on the radio is a fucking love song

and now i’m starting to sob

those shoulder shaking, snot making sobs


and i’m seriously considering just driving down the hard shoulder

i’m sorry officer, it was an emergency and besides its valentines day


the man in the stationary van next to me has had enough time now to see that somethings not right

so, he gets out, taps on the window, asks if i’m alright

and i look at him

hair standing on end

snail trail tracks of tears

mascara on my chin

i nod and smile and tell him i’m fine

its valentines day and finally, we’re moving, a miracle

and i make a 40 minute journey in 25

and when i get there,

you’re still there,

you’re still there

and you make that special noise of recognition



so we feed you mints and carrots and apples

your favourite things


afterwards, the vet hands me your headcollar and lead rope


and its valentines day

and i’m driving home alone

my thumb brushing over the brass buckle of your best headcollar

your leather high days and holidays headcollar

and i’m beginning to understand that this

this is going to be my valentine’s day memory


this thing is the saddest thing

This thing

This thing is the saddest thing

This is sadder than the face my dog pulls when a bigger dog steals her tennis ball and runs away with it

This is sadder than the time someone told me i was a poor friend and my first thought was well no more late night drama laden phone calls from you then

Sadder than my mother’s fridge, a neat line of pale blue saucers, each containing a tablespoon of left over lunch and in the fridge door, 5 unopened cartons of milk, just in case.

This is sadder than when at 17, 18, 19, your heart broken for the first time, you lay on the bed, quite convinced that you would die, because who could endure such pain

Sadder even, then when later, at 40, 50, 60, veteran of multiple failures of heart, you know all too well that you will survive this break and the next and the next.

This is sadder than food banks

Sadder than my neighbour, beginning to lose language, beginning to feel meaning slip away

This is sadder than the boy in the doorway, his dog wrapped in a coat and a duvet, snug as a bug in a rug, but when I look down, the boy is wearing shoes, but no socks.

This is the very saddest thing

This is the hearse and this is the coffin that doesn’t fill it

And all the flowers and helium balloons and teddies in the world cannot erase this space, cannot fill this gap, cannot hide this hole

This is the very, very saddest thing

And then the lights change and they turn left and I execute a clumsy right hand manoeuvre

It’s hard to drive well when you’re crying for someone else’s saddest thing.

That was then and this is now…..

I was the speed poet at a recent spoken word event….3 ideas from the audience, an hour to incorporate all 3 into a poem. i wasn’t too thrilled with the end result, but one of the suggestions….being 18 ,stuck with me.


At 18 I was careless,

Let things slip through my fingers, pretty boys, opportunities , a fabulous Biba frock,

confident that around the corner was a bigger, better, shiny thing.

At 58, things still slip through my fingers, arthritis is clawing at my joints, I’m losing my grip

And around this corner is probably another corner.

At 18, in the room, in the squatted house, on the street that nestled beneath the 3 tower blocks,

I filled the space with mirrors, papered the walls with pages torn from the glossy magazines that Jem stole so stylishly from the better department stores.

On days where there was not much going on, we recreated those photos, expressed dissatisfaction, but each of us secretly  a little in love with our own reflections.

At 58, there are days when I don’t recognise the woman who smiles hesitantly at me from plate-glass windows.

At 18 I was all about brazen presence,

Walking through the market at 6am

Grey fedora

Men’s vest slashed just below my breasts

No bra and on my feet workmen’s boots, spray painted silver.

At 58 in my sensible dog walking coat and my sensible dog walking shoes and my sensible dog walking hat, I am almost not here.

The boys who congregate on the park to smoke weed are solicitous when they spill from their bench onto the path

“mind” says one, ” that lady needs to get by”

At 18 I knew everything I would ever need to know

At 58, I tentatively offer these 3 truths

Dogs are better than hot water bottles

You cannot own enough pairs of reading glasses

And never take a good nights sleep for granted.


your cleaner hates you

Your cleaner hates you

Not of course in the way she hates Crocs, Jacob Rees Mogg or the kind of people who talk about going for a cheeky Nando’s ,

But, make no mistake, your cleaner hates you.

And just because she knows the names of your dog, guinea pigs and husband and remembers to ask about your son, studying what was it…..forensic physiology and photography ……don’t be fooled, your cleaner hates you.

Sometimes, your cleaner wonders what exactly it is you do all day, given that you have a woman to clean your house and a woman to iron your clothes and another, slightly younger posher woman to walk you dog….

Oh, they hate you too.

You tell your cleaner that you have projects on the go as you waft to your study on the 3rd floor, your room of your own

What you don’t do up there….ever… bring down the multitude of mouldy and malodourous mugs, some homage to a long gone undergraduate lifestyle and your cleaner would like you to know that emptying an ash tray into a wicker waste paper basket is exactly the same as not emptying it all but with additional hoovering work.

Your cleaner hates you.

Your cleaner has flicked through your expensive moleskin bound journal and quite frankly her advice would be to not give up your day job, if of course you had a day job to give up.

Your cleaner hates your poetry.

Your cleaner hates the rumpled crumpled used tissues your leave in your unmade bed.

She hates the ring of pubic pelt around your bath, but at least she knows for sure that you’re not a natural blonde

But most of all your cleaner hates the notes

The ‘House in a bit of a state today, please work your usual magic, kiss kiss”

The “ If you get time today, can you empty all the kitchen cupboards, clean them and put everything back, but you know, just better, kiss, kiss, kiss”

The ” Don’t bother coming for the next 2 weeks, we’re away, kiss”

Come the day of the glorious revolution, you will find yourself not with your back against the wall, instead, you will be issued with an official cleaner car,

12, 13 years old, prone to making noises of terrifying potential expense that you will be forced to drive everywhere with the stereo as loud as you can bear, while you mumble prayers to some god of paupers transportation

Please just let the car last a few more months

And every time you hit a speed bump or a pothole, the buckets and mops and Hoover in the boot will jump into the air and crash down with another layer of cacophony chaos

And you will get to wear cleaner clothes, badly fitting grey joggers and a sweatshirt full of holes where neat bleach has burnt through fabric to meet soft bare flesh.

You will become your cleaners cleaner

Your cleaner, your ex cleaner will look you in the eye and she will know that you hate her, but actually, actually, your cleaner, your excleaner, well actually,

Your ex cleaner won’t give a flying f******.