Category Archives: New writing 2018


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******.

hashtag me too

He said he liked my sweatshirt, said wonder woman was his favourite when he was a kid

hashtag me too

i see your compliment and raise you

This boy in my french class keeps staring at me

hashtag me too

i see your gaze and raise you

They made us read a book where a woman got hurt in olden times

I see your literature and raise you

When he reached across my desk to get a paper clip, his hands brushed my shoulder

hashtag me too

I see your uninvited touch and raise you

In the pub, with work friends, he made a joke about big breasted women

hashtag me too

I see your banter and raise you

He asked my friend to ask me if I fancied a drink sometime

hashtag me too

I see your assumptive behaviour and raise you

When we kissed, he put his tongue inside my mouth

hashtag me too

I see your boundary pushing and raise you

We got drunk, we had bad sex, in the morning, i wish we hadn’t

hashtag me too

I see your issues around consent and raise you

He told me that i had to chose, him or my friends

hashtag me too

I see his controlling behaviour and raise you

He told me it would really help my grades if i had 1-2-1 tutorials with him on a sunday morning at his house

hashtag me too

I see his abuse of power and raise you

He pushed me into  a doorway and told me he had a knife

hashtag me too

I see your stranger rape and raise you

My father only touched me when he was very drunk

hashtag me too

I see the child abuse and raise you



more and more i find myself thinking about chi chi the panda – part 2

It is the 1970s and the TV is black and white, there are colour TVs of course, but they still have a black and white one and sometimes that’s a problem.

Sometimes when other children come round, they notice, notice the TV, notice the holes in the carpet in the hallway, notice the saucepan instead of a kettle.

But pandas work well in black and white . For once, the children don’t feel as if they’re missing out on something, don’t feel as if they’re getting second best.

It is the first time that Claire can remember actually watching the grown up news, properly watching, not just waiting for it to finish and she sees the panda being carried down the steps of an aeroplane.

Weeks pass and the panda story grows, and Claire watches them all. These are the things that she learns about pandas;

They eat bamboo shoots, only bamboo, nothing else will do.

Chi Chi the panda has come all the way from China, she is a present from China.

Whenever she is on TV, there are always men in suits and the kind of hats her dad wears when he goes to work.

A famous architect has designed her new home at London Zoo.

London Zoo is in London which is a long way away from where they live.

For Christmas, Claire asks for a panda, really she wants Chi Chi or at least the chance to go all the way to London to see the real Chi Chi, but she does get a small fluffy black and white bear, who she calls Chi Chi and  plans makes a zoo home for her out of a cardboard box on the day after Boxing day when they have nothing special to do.

She also receives;

A famous five book

A selection box

A wade whimsy china rabbit

A new swimming costume

A charm for her charm bracelet, she has nine now and wears the bracelet all day on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day evening, when the adults are opening a bottle of wine and all the nice quality street have been eaten, she lies quietly on her bed and strokes the bear’s soft fur and whispers her name out loud

Chi Chi

Chi Chi

Chi Chi