Into the gutter with the Daily Mail

Daily Mail

THERE are only a few things in life I really hate, and one of them is the Daily Mail.

It is a poisonous rag which cloaks itself in the clothes of middle class decency while demeaning everything which is good.

And, as a journalist, I find its pretence at factual reporting frightening.

Its so-called news reeks of innuendo and loaded propaganda.

And its agenda is unwavering: preserve Conservative Britain from the rabid threat of Marxism, the Labour Party, Comrade Corbyn, trade unions, the unemployed and working people.

There are many reasons to despise the Daily Mail… its casual attitude towards the truth which it pretends to be both seeking; the way that minorities are ridiculed and blamed; how it randomly chooses which causes to back and which to dump; the way in which “outsiders”, such as recent immigrants are demonised and its gutter trawling for so-called “dirt” on anyone who stands in its way.

My own dealings with the Mail as a journalist were rather more obscure.

I would like to take you back to 1997.

I was at the pinnacle of my career working as the Chief Investigative Reporter for The Scotsman.

A whole world away from the Daily Mail.

In three years, I had broken a series of major exclusive investigations. Among the highlights were the dumping of millions of tons of munitions in the Irish Sea, the deadly legacy of the Dounreay experimental nuclear plant in Northern Scotland and a probable link between pesticides and BSE.

I had also been honoured with two back-to-back awards as Scottish Journalist of the Year and was in line for a third.

I loved my job and the collegiate atmosphere I worked in. I honestly believed I would spend the rest of my working life at North Bridge, with no aspirations other than to continue in my role.

But all that changed when in December 1996, our newspaper was surprisingly bought out by property billionaires and close friends of Margaret Thatcher: the Barclay Brothers.

With the new owners came a new Editor-in-Chief, the infamous Andrew Neil.

There was a corporate intake of breath as we all wondered for the future.

That intake turned into something approaching choking when our much loved editor, Jim Seaton, was placed on ‘gardening leave’ awaiting early retirement and a new editor Martin Clarke was announced.

We all winced… Clarke had trained under Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail and he was well known as a Rottweiler in the newsroom.

Clarke’s editorial demeanour attracted a range of tributes from former colleagues: “vile”, “offensive”, “appalling”, “obsessive”, “childlike” and “foul-mouthed” being among the less flattering.

Like Dacre, whose briefings were called “the vagina monologues” for their reliance on one particular expletive, Clarke went one better.

“He would start by saying, ‘You’re all a fucking disgrace and one of you is going to be fucking sacked this week,” and the terrible thing was, one of us usually was,” said Alexandra Blair, The Times educational correspondent, who worked for him for a year and a half at The Scotsman.

Another reporter who worked under Clarke said: “He once said to me: ‘You’ve got to go and shout at the bastards or they won’t respect you.'”

My stay under Clarke’s editorship was brief… just six months.

I moved on after being told to follow his own loaded agenda, which included one weird instruction to prove that wild deer being pursued by hounds are “no more stressed than a cow in a slaughterhouse”!

The final straw came in a bleak week, which began by Clarke blanking me at a press awards lunch after I had been highly commended as reporter of the year and finished by him standing over me at 10pm on a fourth rewrite of a story, berating my journalism as “fucking bollocks”.

I introduce a clipping of a piece written by Rob Brown in June 1997.

“Senior writers and sub-editors now find themselves being showered with expletives by their new editor Martin Clarke, whose lexicon of abuse is fairly extensive.

“Several executives have resigned in disgust. They included the picture editor Paul Dodds, who quit after being ordered to get better pictures from his “f***in’ monkeys”.

“Also out is associate editor Lesley Riddoch, who suddenly found her articles being repeatedly spiked.

“One of the journalists who has quit in disgust said: “I have worked for some brutal editors in my time, but Martin Clarke behaves like a feudal squire and treats his staff like serfs. Change was certainly needed at The Scotsman, but not this. He is running amok, creating a totally demoralised and demotivated staff.”

“But, put it to Clarke that he is pursuing a monstrous form of macho management and he professes his innocence with almost schoolboyish sense of hurt.

“Clarke, 32, says the complaints are emanating from only a couple of “malcontents”. Some people, he says, are driven by “personal pique because they never got a job they wanted”. Nic Outterside, head of the paper’s investigative unit, left last week. Clarke says the unit was disbanded because it was “a crock of shit”.

“Others, according to Clarke, have become “malcontents” simply because they cannot stand the new pace in the newsroom.

“I demand a greater level of working than perhaps some people are used to here and I can be robust at times, like all editors,” he says.

“Clarke confirms that he drew up a five-and-a-half page document a few weeks after he took charge recommending that a number of senior Scotsman staffers should be removed from their posts. This “operation review” leaked from the editor’s office into the newsroom, where it was seen as a sinister hit list. Clarke admits to some regrets about that.

“Of course it was bloody unfortunate, but you don’t expect to work in a place where such illegal activities take place. It was stolen from my computer. I’ve worked in some pretty rough newspapers, but nowhere where people are that underhand.”

At the time of writing this blog, Clarke is tipped to succeed Paul Dacre as the next editor of the Daily Mail.

And the art of being underhand is surely what the Mail is all about.

 

Words for Andrea

MY two year battle with cancer in 1987-88 changed me forever.

During that time I became close friends and soulmates with a fellow cancer patient named Andrea Price.

She was quite simply the most beautiful person who had ever come into my life. She tragically died in May 1990, aged just 23.

I often think about her, and how her life might have been if she had survived rather than me.

On the 27th anniversary of her passing, these poems – written at different times – try to address how I feel about her death all these years later.

More can be read about Andrea here.

 

Still Miss You (May 2017)

Twenty-seven years have passed

You were only twenty-three

You died

I cried

And I still miss you

 

Arrived a January baby

You died a May Queen

You inspired

I tired

And I still miss you

 

Your laughter is everlasting

Now you rest in a better place

I went on

But you are gone

And I still miss you

 

You would be 50 now my love

And giving so much joy

I lived

You died

And I still miss you

 

Gone Again (May 2016)

Twenty-six years are gone

Since we laughed out loud

At nonsense

We cried

You died

This is your song

 

One last breath, a whole life

A child born and scars torn

Love knot sealed and tied

Goddess cried, Goddess died

 

Twenty-six years are gone

Since I kissed your sweet cheek

Said farewell

We cried

You died

This is your song

 

One last breath, the sky is grey

The hungry earth, the empty hole

The velvet box is death’s own bed

Eve’s own kin is dead

 

Twenty-six years are gone

Since your soul passed away

To heaven

We cried

You died

This is your song

 

One last breath, a spirit shed

The heavens frown, an angel down

Spirit moaned, lick of flame

Grips the sky, she’s gone again

 

Twenty-six years are gone

Since we commended your body

To the ground

We cried

You died

This is your song

 

Pass in Time  (May 2015)

Whispering quietly

Watching the moon

Counting time slowly

Thinking of you

You were part of my life

And I am thankful for that

But your souls have crossed over

There’s no space for regret

Andrea, Father, Gillian, John

Betty and Stephen, Ramsay and Don

Once you were here

But now you are gone

 

Living life quickly

Dancing till dawn

Singing the chorus

Of each new born song

Fifty years onwards

Battle weary and tired

Now your souls have crossed over

My thoughts are hard wired

Andrea, Father, Gillian, John

Betty and Stephen, Ramsay and Don

Once you were here

But now you are gone

 

Darkness is falling

The water is high

The mist it is rising

And touching the sky

Life’s an adventure

But the road is too short

Since your souls have crossed over

The memories distort

Andrea, Father, Gillian, John

Betty and Stephen, Ramsay and Don

Once you were here

But now you are gone

 

Darkness (May 2014)

Death where is thy sting?

You came and took

Her away

And still you haunt me

In my darkest

Dreams

You sit like a cactus

At my window

In smothering

Stillness

In my darkest

Dreams

I wake in the night

Still crying

Cursing the name

Injustice

In my darkest

Dreams

You reach out darkly

And remember

It was you who died

Not me

In my darkest

Dreams

 

She’s Gone (May 2013)

I cupped her face in my hand

Gently

Surveyed her features with my eyes

Lovingly

Brushed her hair with my cheek

Sparingly

Tasted the sweetness of her lips

Deftly

Stroked the coldness of her hand

Sadly

Said goodbye

 

The tax exile millionaires who fund the Tory Party

Pounds

FOUR filthy-rich tax exiles and hedge fund managers are part of a shadowy cabal of multi-millionaire donors to the Conservative Party.

Their millions are the life blood behind the Tories and directs their fiscal policy to protect the super-rich at the expense of the rest of us.

And their millions are behind Mrs May’s snap General Election campaign.

In the 10 years to November 2016, the Tory Party received a staggering £247,426,722 in personal donations from some of the richest people in the world.

Top of these was a single donation of £2,990,582 in November 2001 from tax exile Lord Irvine Laidlaw.

Hedge fund manager Sir Michael Hintze was a short way behind with a donation of £1,503,500 in March 2014 and fellow hedge fund manager Sir Stanley Fink gave £1,080,500 in February 2009.

But they were all outdone by another tax exile David Rowland whose four single donations in 2009-10 totalled a staggering £3,774,000.

Small wonder that the Tories do not want regulation of the financial sector.

These figures only include those submitted to the Electoral Commission. We have no way of knowing whether these millionaires may or may not have also donated through other associated companies or agencies.

And until the Electoral Commission’s year-end figures are published, we have no way of knowing just how much they have donated this year.

Lord Irvine Laidlaw is a former Conservative member of the House of Lords and has long been one of the largest financial backers of the Tory Party.

Laidlaw was made a life peer as Baron Laidlaw of Rothiemay in 2004.

In 2008 he was described by The Guardian as a “Monaco-based tax exile”.

He was widely criticised in the press for failing to become UK tax resident despite being appointed to the House of Lords.

The BBC said that, in a letter seen by them, Laidlaw “cites a variety of personal reasons” for non-compliance.

Criticism by Baron Dennis Stevenson, chair of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, on assurances given to the Commission by Laidlaw to become a UK tax resident by April 2004, were followed by Laidlaw taking leave of absence from the House of Lords.

In 2010 following the enactment of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 he stepped down from his seat in the House of Lords to maintain his non-domiciled status and so be able to avoid paying UK residents’ taxes.

Sir Michael Hintze is a British-Australian businessman, steeped in the financial services industry having worked for Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

In 1999 he launched his own hedge fund company, CQS and has been cited as one of the highest paid people in the City of London.

In 2013, Hintze’s CQS received awards for the “Best Hedge Fund Manager Overall,” “Best Hedge Fund Manager in Credit,” and “Best Multi-Hedge Fund Manager” at the Financial News Awards for Excellence in Institutional Hedge Fund Management.

In 2006, at the time of the Cash for Peerages allegations Hintze voluntarily revealed he was one of the previously anonymous patrons who had made loans to the Conservative Party.

His known loans and donations to the party total around £4million.

In the five months to September 2011 he donated £31,000, enough to grant him membership of the Conservative Treasurers’ Group, the second highest rung on the party’s donor’s ladder, which allows its members access to senior Conservative figures through a series of lunches, receptions and campaign launches.

In October 2011, it was revealed that Adam Werritty, a close friend and business associate of then Secretary of State for Defence Dr Liam Fox MP, was provided with a free desk by Hintze at CQS’s London base as part of his £29,000 donation to Fox’s charity Atlantic Bridge.

Hintze also supplied a private jet for Fox and Werritty to fly from the United States to London in May 2011.

These disclosures led to the resignation of Liam Fox and the dismissal of Hintze’s then-charity adviser, Oliver Hylton

Sir Stanley Fink is another hedge fund manager and the former CEO and deputy chairman of the Man Group.

He has been described as the “godfather” of the UK hedge fund industry and has been credited with building the Man Group up to its current status as a FTSE 100 company and the largest listed hedge fund company in the world.

In September 2008, he came out of retirement to act as the chief executive of International Standard Asset Management (ISAM) in a partnership with Lord Levy.

In January 2009 he was appointed co-treasurer of the Conservative Party.

On 18 January 2011, he was made a life peer, taking the title of Baron Fink of Northwood.

After the resignation of Peter Cruddas over a cash-for-access controversy, Lord Fink returned to the position of treasurer of the Conservative Party. Fink previously donated £2.62milllion to the Tories.

In February 2015 Fink was accused by Labour leader Ed Miliband as having undertaken “tax avoidance activities”.

He responded by stating that he had indeed avoided tax but stated “everyone does tax avoidance at some level”.

David Rowland is a UK property developer who has made a fortune in banking.

In 2009, Kaupthing Bank, affected by the global liquidity squeeze was divided into two entities, a ‘good, healthy’ bank and a ‘bad’ bank.

David Rowland and his son Jonathan, via their investment company Blackfish Capital, acquired and recapitalized the former and now manage the assets, on behalf of the interbank creditors, of the latter.

In the year before the 2010 General Election, Rowland donated £2.8million to the Conservative Party, making him the party’s major donor.

In 2010 he was announced as being the next Treasurer of the Conservative Party.

But following public criticism of his former status as a tax exile, Rowland resigned before taking the position.

Rowland had lived in Guernsey, but returned to full United Kingdom residency in order to make more donations to the Conservatives.

But these four millionaire donors are just the tip of a much darker side of the financing of the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party’s close links with the hedge fund industry, coincides with research which shows that around half of the wealthiest fund managers in Britain have given money to the Tory party.

The based on public disclosures, finds that of the 59 wealthiest asset managers, 27 had made a combined £19million in donations to the Conservatives, with £10million flowing into Tory coffers since the 2010 general election alone.

Labour has previously drawn attention to the government’s abolition in 2013 of a stamp duty reserve tax on investment funds, which it described as an effective £145million “hedge fund tax cut”.

Labour claimed the hedge fund loophole had cost the country £100million a year over a five year period, and others have put the figure higher.

A similar analysis in the Financial Times found that the number of City backers for the Tories doubled during the last parliament compared with the period 2005 to 2010.

The FT found that 35% of all party funding comes from eight of the top 20 donors.

The eight are all from a City background and donated £12.2million to the Conservatives.

The Conservative Party’s top 10 funders:

1 Michael Farmer

Hedge fund: RK Capital Management

Worth: £150million

Total donation: £6,556,092

2 Sir Michael Hintze

Hedge fund: CQS

Worth: £1,055million

Total donation: 3,221,027

3 Lord Fink

Hedge fund: ISAM

Worth: £130million

Total donation: £3,172,007

4 Chris Rokos

Hedge fund: Brevan Howard

Worth: £230million

Total donation: £1,344,850

5 Andrew Law

Hedge fund: Caxton Associates

Worth: £350million

Total donation: £1,226,411

6 Sir Paul Ruddock

Hedge fund: Lansdowne Partners

Worth: £300million

Total donation: £818,783

7 David Harding

Hedge fund: Winton Capital

Worth: £750million

Total donation: £593,765

8 Hugh Sloane

Hedge fund: Sloane Robinson

Worth: £185million

Total donation: £533,500

9 Sir John and Peter Beckwith

Hedge fund: RiverCrest Capital

Worth: £350million

Total donation: £520,996

10 Alexander Knaster

Hedge fund: Pamplona Capital Management

Worth: £1,266million

Total donation: £400,000

 

Towns called malice – the legacy of Thatcher

Darton blog

I WAS born into a middle class Tory voting household and to my eternal shame joined the Conservative Party at age 16.

I guess my father’s right wing doctrines influenced my own, and as a teenager and college student I followed those politics quite radically.

At 21 years old, against a left wing university backwash, I was Yorkshire vice-chairman of the Federation of Conservatives Students. I was a radical Tory, brushed shoulders with Michael Portillo, shared a whisky with former PM Ted Heath and fought hard in Thatcher’s election victory of 1979.

That remains the eternal shame of my youth.

But life is a great leveller and educator, and chalk face experiences over 38 years changed all that… it changed me as a person, socially, spiritually and politically.

In the year Thatcher was first elected, a more socially aware friend of mine warned: “There will be war in three years!”

How right she was!

In 1982 we were at war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, ostensibly to liberate islanders loyal to the British Crown, but in reality because we had discovered huge reserves of oil in the South Atlantic a few years earlier.

And with Thatcher’s ratings in the opinion polls falling, there was a nothing like a bit of jingoism and nationalistic war fervour to boost Tory ratings.

But it was what I discovered years later as a newspaper journalist, which cast the Falklands War in a new light.

Not only was our prized battleship cruiser HMS Sheffield sunk while carrying nuclear depth charges, but against all international treaties to keep the South Atlantic nuclear free, Thatcher had deployed a British nuclear-armed submarine into the area.

The orders were clear: if the Argentines sunk another of our flagships, a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Cordoba was to be considered.

Just think for a minute where that might have led in 1982, at the height of the Cold War. Thatcher was prepared to risk a global Armageddon to secure her political ends.

But it was at home, where my opinions of Thatcher and her politics changed me forever.

My real education began in the early 1980s as a secondary school teacher in the South Yorkshire pit village of Darton – the home of Woolley Colliery, where NUM leader Arthur Scargill began his working life.

I lived in the village for four years among miners and their families, and many of my pupils were the sons and daughters of miners. Most of the boys were destined to become miners, and many of the girls would get jobs in businesses dependent on mining.

I played cricket each weekend with miners. My neighbours were miners. I went to football matches at Oakwell with miners. And I bought my first house from a miner.

The sound of the local pit hooter and the rattle of coal trucks woke me early each morning and the coal dust got into my clothes and my life.

But what struck me then, and has stayed with me ever since, was the sense of community and friendship which imbued every aspect of life in that village.

Life was vibrant!

If one of my charges misbehaved at school, I could be sure his or her parents would know about it, and he or she would be disciplined at home.

If I was ever ill in bed, a neighbour would knock at the door and ask if I needed any groceries or would leave a casserole of stew.

If the snow was deep we would all help clear each-others’ drives or pathways.

If anyone had a party in the street, the whole street would be invited, no exceptions. And those parties were real parties with Yorkshire beer, pies, gravy, chips and puddings.

And if my girlfriend had to walk home late at night, I wouldn’t fear for her safety.

It was a time of the greatest friendship and community I have ever known.

I moved away for misled career aspirations in 1983.

One year later, Thatcher’s brutal decision to crush the trade union movement at any cost, laid waste to this community and countless more like them.

They were never to recover.

For those not familiar with this time and place, watch the BBC TV boxed set Our Friends in the North to gain a little perspective.

All that was wonderful was lost forever due to capitalist greed and Thatcher’s need for unbridled power.

We had a nation divided against itself where the rich got richer while the rest fought for the scraps.

A whole street’s belief in Sunday’s roast beef

Gets dashed against the Co-op

To either cut down on beer or the kids new gear

It’s a big decision in a town called malice.

(Paul Weller)

My politics changed fast.

In 1988 I was in hospital in Cardiff undergoing surgery for a lung cancer.

It was a time of personal trauma, but also the making of new friendships.

Many of these friends were former miners from the South Wales valleys. Most were suffering from lung cancer due to a lifetime working among coal dust.

But it was their tales of how Thatcher crushed the miners’ strike that will always stay with me.

Some blamed Scargill for getting some of the NUM tactics wrong, but it was Thatcher they blamed for the decimation of their lives and families.

I learned how she used MI5 and the Met Police, and every dirty trick imaginable, to tarnish the personal reputations of the striking miners, even down to the conspiratorial murder of a taxi driver.

When I had fully recovered from the cancer in the mid-1990s, I travelled back to my old village near Barnsley to see how things had changed.

What met me was post-apocalyptic.

All vestiges of coal mining had gone, the shops had steal shutters on their windows, litter blew around the main street and pale youths gathered on corners with eyes that seemed devoid of hope.

The ghost of a steam train – echoes down my track

It’s at the moment bound for nowhere –

Just going round and round

Playground kids and creaking swings –

Lost laughter in the breeze

I could go on for hours and I probably will –

But I’d sooner put some joy back

In this town called malice.

(Paul Weller)

But time passes, and surely with two decades of government promises of better lives and Tony Blair’s “Things Can Only Get Better”, that despair I witnessed in 1997, must have changed.

So last weekend I returned to Darton once again, for the first time in 20 years.

In the distance the old pit heads have been replaced by rolling grassland, trees and green parkland.

To a passer-by it is picturesque… but this is nature’s illusion to mask the reality.

On the main A637 a small single business park is all that has replaced a mining industry that employed thousands in Barnsley alone.

And as I strolled round the decaying remains of the village and community I once loved, everywhere I looked brought tears to my eyes.

Long gone was Steve White the butchers, Broadheads the ironmongers, Henrietta’s dress shop, the local newsagents, the greengrocer and the launderette – a community meeting place for the miners’ wives.

Below uncleaned windows and blackened limestone walls they have been replaced with a Chinese takeaway, a tanning studio, an exotic pet store, a charity shop and boarded-up facades.

Cars and buses pass by quickly, rarely stopping on their way to somewhere else.

Only the elderly trundle along the pavement, past shops where there is nothing left to buy; walking small dogs and faces waxing grey and etched in lines of worry.

It reminded me of scenes I also witnessed in Northumberland (where my paternal grandfather and great grandfather were both miners) where three generations of families have been unemployed since 1984.

Their former pit communities have crumbled into decay, with all manner of social problems: derelict housing, rotting schools, drug dependency, street crime, high rates of teenage suicide and homelessness.

The villages remain, with three buses a day to their nearest towns and any chance of a better life, the lasting memory to Thatcher.

Thatcher’s true legacy lies in the coal dust of the communities she destroyed and the lasting fear of nuclear war.

And 38 years of Tory government (including Tony Blair’s New Labour Toryism) has ensured that the decay and legacy continues.

But the reality is there is an alternative.

That is the terrifying truth that the media, government and big business work so hard to conceal.

It the past two years, Jeremy Corbyn has woken us all to that truth and shown that alternative way forward… for the many and not the few.

  • No more forgotten communities
  • No more decay
  • No more unemployment
  • No more homelessness
  • No more scapegoating the poor
  • No more rough sleepers
  • No more fear of war

We can change the future for everyone on 8 June.

This is a journey we can all go on together, all of us. We can include everyone and fear no one.

I am voting Labour.

 

Darton 2017

It’s hard to believe

That this is the place

Where I was so happy long ago

The wanderer returns

And everything’s gone

Now whistling in the wind

A melancholy song

 

Oh Henrietta, where did you go?

Did time for you move quickly?

Or like me far too slow

And do you remember that love lived here?

 

The pit heads are flattened

Grass grows anew

For the benefit of the many

Or was it just the few?

Butchers and dress shop decay

Left miming like an actor

In another lost play

 

Oh Henrietta, where did you go?

Did time for you move quickly?

Or like me far too slow

And do you remember that love lived here?

 

I walk down the road

Now so empty inside

This stupid numb pain

Watching lives fill the puddles

In black water down the drain

These tumbleweed memories

The saddest refrain

 

Oh Henrietta, where did you go?

Did time for you move quickly?

Or like me far too slow

And do you remember that love lived here?

 

Darton 1981

The hooter booms

And day awakes

Coal trucks rattle past the door

Ice traces on the window pane

Memories of what went before

Coal dust in my hair

Coal dust in my nose

Coal dust in my clothes and mouth

 

Rats scurry empty

Miners huddle silently

The dawn breaks past the door

Hot tea poured in old brown mug

Memories of what went before

Coal dust in my hair

Coal dust in my nose

Coal dust in my clothes and mouth

 

Cash machine spitting

Newspapers selling

The sun rises past the door

The pit wheel turns and children run

Memories of what went before

Coal dust in my hair

Coal dust in my nose

Coal dust in my clothes and mouth

 

The day grinds on

The miners crawl in

Coke sack settles past the door

Rag man yells and women scrub

Memories of what went before

Coal dust in my hair

Coal dust in my nose

Coal dust in my clothes and mouth

 

Dinner-time snap

The kids fill a gap

Laughter lingers past the door

Coal cutters cutting and babies crying

Memories of what went before

Coal dust in my hair

Coal dust in my nose

Coal dust in my clothes and mouth

 

No one really knows

But many more fear

Rumours circulate past the door

The milk snatcher is snatching

The memories of what went before

Coal dust in my hair

Coal dust in my nose

Coal dust in my clothes and mouth

Songs and Poems of Love and Theft

September Song

Boots and bottles and a telescope reel

No-one knows just how I feel

Sitting blindly by a Catherine Wheel

I open my arms to you

 

Write me a song to sing all day long

Catch me a tune to howl at the moon

Watch me waltz on a silver spoon

I open my arms to you

 

My golden daughter does what she oughta

Reading medical books with whisky and water

The words get longer but never shorter

I open my arms to you

 

The breakdown came, the breakdown went

Forty-four years they were paid and spent

I’ll pack up my shoes and buy a new tent

I open my arms to you

 

The sun still warms the September air

The grass is green and the day is fair

I look at my life with barely a care

I open my arms to you

 

The fox it will run and the bat does fly

The poacher stares at the empty sky

Time it passes with no reason to cry

I open my arms to you

 

 

Redemption Song

I stand here amazed

Lost in your gaze

Emerging from hell

In a delicate shell

You came and you saw

Just like the law

I gave you my soul

And it made me feel whole

 

One life

One chance

One kiss

One dance

 

I asked for some time

Tasted your wine

Looking to the sky

As the comet passed by

You came and you saw

Just like the law

I gave you my soul

And it made me feel whole

 

One life

One chance

One kiss

One dance

 

You waltzed by the moon

At the dark of the noon

Standing so still

My glass yet to fill

You came and you saw

Just like the law

I gave you my soul

And it made me feel whole

 

One life

One chance

One kiss

One dance

 

 

Tortured Blues #2

And now that it is over

He could sit and count the cost

Wondering if she’d changed at all

And realised what they had lost

He was standing in the driving rain

Water filling up his shoe

She was lying on a snow white bed

Hair and face were all askew

Tortured by the blues

 

He found shelter in a small café

Writing hymns and poems on the wall

She slipped close by and cursed at him

They were both heading for a fall

Outside the booths were filling up

Minstrels and waiters in the queue

He stopped nearby and filled his cup

The last romantic of the few

Tortured by the blues

 

Their breaking up was a tempest storm

Promises and words were said in vain

She withdrew from the human race

Neither one could take the strain

He drowned himself in red wine

Street lanterns burned green and blue

Once their love was something fine

Now it was split like cracked bamboo

Tortured by the blues

 

Another year had passed by slow

His young face was lined with pain

She lay wrecked in a juniper bed

They both had to start out again

But all the while he was alone

Clinging to an old church pew

Women came and lovers went

The howling wind it ripped right through

Tortured by the blues

 

 

Willow’s End

I’ll wait for you where the Willow bends

Where lives and deeds make no amends

Branches and leaves punctuate the sky

Life races quickly

And the grey gulls fly

Talk to me, talk to me, we have such little time

We drift this way and pass sublime

And sip our cup of blood red wine

 

I’ll wait for you where the fenland breaks

Where time releases our past mistakes

Branches and leaves punctuate the sky

Life races quickly

And the grey gulls fly

Talk to me, talk to me, we have such little time

The day it breaks and shadows fade

Into a life of light and shade

 

I’ll wait for you by the wooded glen

Where lovers search for the souls of men

Branches and leaves punctuate the sky

Life races quickly

And the grey gulls fly

Talk to me, talk to me, we have such little time

Turn and face the tangled weeds

Forget the curse of forgotten deeds

 

I’ll wait for you on the old brown moss

Where the water birds don’t count the cost

Branches and leaves punctuate the sky

Life races quickly

And the grey gulls fly

Talk to me, talk to me, we have such little time

Clouds of oblivion blow around my head

As we creep still closer to the living dead

 

I’ll wait for you where the seas cascade

Where life and death are not betrayed

Branches and leaves punctuate the sky

Life races quickly

And the grey gulls fly

Talk to me, talk to me, we have such little time

Then drink to me at the graveside brae

And pray together for the passing day

 

 

Drifting

You drifted in from nowhere

On the breath of a southerly breeze

Your face now haunts my dreams

Like golden butterflies in the trees

Your eyes pierce my soul

And your fragility tears a hole

So I reach out

To touch you

But struggle

Stupidly

You know me

Yet

Heaven is a place

That dreamers want to see

And sometimes you may find

An occasional angel

 

 

Redemption Paradox

She was the rose of Sharon from Paradise Lost

The scent of peach blossom beneath the Conquerer’s cross

I told her about my own agony and the driving rain

She told me about the year when her innocence was slain

Was she a girl or a woman, I can’t say which

From one to another she could easily switch

My Kether, my Abbadon, my redemption

 

We went to a place that our friends could not reach

We learned from the lessons we both could teach

She looked into my soul through the clothes that I wore

And told me without words that she knew the score

Was she a girl or a woman, I can’t say which

From one to another she could easily switch

My Kether, my Abbadon, my redemption

 

Our lives they were ruins and her heart was a snare

We both had to run and leave hate to die there

I hear my voice crying, “Help,” and she echoes back

But it’s only the silence as the darkness does crack

Was she a girl or a woman, I can’t say which

From one to another she could easily switch

My Kether, my Abbadon, my redemption

 

 

Empathy

Beauty is a painted veil

Its colours are skin deep

Love is just a holy grail

Fading grey while you’re asleep

 

Don’t look away, I’ve drained the cup

And life’s race is all but run

Thinking of you when the sun comes up

To finish where I begun

 

Magic sparkles in the night

And laughter fills your dream

Hope dances in the morning light

Drifting away on an urgent stream

 

Don’t look away, I’ve drained the cup

And life’s race is all but run

Thinking of you when the sun comes up

To finish where I begun

 

Life it seems to crawl away

Drowned by rivers of blindness

Curtains shutter the brand new day

Floating on a sea of kindness

 

Don’t look away, I’ve drained the cup

And life’s race is all but run

Thinking of you when the sun comes up

To finish where I begun

 

Time lingers on the ocean’s edge

To where the soft winds blow

High up to that golden ledge

Looking back on what was left below

 

Don’t look away, I’ve drained the cup

And life’s race is all but run

Thinking of you when the sun comes up

To finish where I begun

 

 

True Love Never Dies

The sky dawns grey

The branches they sway

Your beauty it knows no bounds

Our eyes they still meet

And your lips taste sweet

The brute is running from the hounds

 

By rivers of blindness

My love is pure kindness

We’ll drink another cup when we meet

It’s the cutting of fences

To sharpen the senses

That linger in the fireball’s heat

 

So come with me quietly

Dance with me slowly

This time is for us both to share

This true love will never die

For the sky does not lie

The evil of man will be laid bare

 

So bang the drum slowly

And play the harp lowly

You know the song in my heart

In the turning of twilight

In the shadows of moonlight

You can show me a new place to start

 

 

Shades of Abandoned Love

I can feel your hand upon my knee

Deceived once more by the clown inside of me

My head tells me it’s time to make a change

But my heart still screams I love you, something strange

 

Love was found

Rekindled

And then lost

Sitting here trying to count

The cost

Of an abandoned love

 

Everybody’s wearing a disguise

To hide what they’ve got left behind their eyes

But me, I can’t cover what I am

Wherever the spirits go I’ll just follow them

 

Love was found

Rekindled

And then lost

Sitting here trying to count

The cost

Of an abandoned love

 

I’ve given up the game, I’ve got to leave

The pot of gold is only make-believe

The treasure can’t be found by men who search

Whose gods are dead and buried deep within the church

 

Love was found

Rekindled

And then lost

Sitting here trying to count

The cost

Of an abandoned love

 

We sat in an imaginary place and we kissed

I asked you please to cross me off your list

You looked at me with a smile upon your lips

Your heart it heaved towards me in another script

 

Love was found

Rekindled

And then lost

Sitting here trying to count

The cost

Of an abandoned love

 

One more time at midnight, near the wall

Put aside your unspoken fears and your shawl

Please come out from the dark room where you sit?

Let me feel your love once more before you abandon it

 

Love was found

Rekindled

And then lost

Sitting here trying to count

The cost

Of an abandoned love

 

 

Coloured Memories

It was in another lifetime

When we walked together

On the moss

Hope it stretched before us

Beneath the Southern Cross

 

Blue, the sky explodes above you

Green, the leaves they dapple free

Brown, the earth beneath our feet

Black, the colour of the mud

 

It was in another lifetime

When we talked together

In the woods

Laughter it sang so sweetly

The wine it tasted good

 

Blue, the sky explodes above you

Green, the leaves they dapple free

Brown, the earth beneath our feet

Black, the colour of the mud

 

It was in another lifetime

When we danced together

On the green

Our feet moved so swiftly

Your beauty could be seen

 

Blue, the sky explodes above you

Green, the leaves they dapple free

Brown, the earth beneath our feet

Black, the colour of the mud

 

It was in another lifetime

When we drank together

In the yard

Words they flowed so freely

Written upon a card

 

Blue, the sky explodes above you

Green, the leaves they dapple free

Brown, the earth beneath our feet

Black, the colour of the mud

 

It was in another lifetime

When we laughed together

By the lake

I told you that I loved you

Was that my last mistake?

 

Blue, the sky explodes above you

Green, the leaves they dapple free

Brown, the earth beneath our feet

Black, the colour of the mud

 

 

 

A Handful of Rain

I was drifting in from nowhere on a prayer and kiss

Life passed me by, 34 years I had missed

So how did this happen and when did she come?

Like Louise in the attic of Dylan’s radio hum

 

A handful of rain, a handful of rain

Tempting me to defy it

My scruff bag sweetheart, you don’t know how to buy it

 

She came from nowhere and she carried my name

Talking to a banana in her wild childhood game

Mercurial mouth and missionary times

Lost in a dream of music and rhymes

 

A handful of rain, a handful of rain

Tempting me to defy it

My scruff bag sweetheart, you don’t know how to buy it

 

She captured my heart by words in the mist

Still waiting in line for her geranium kiss

Floating ‘cross the airwaves from time gone by

Tracing blood on blood to the fog on the Tyne

 

A handful of rain, a handful of rain

Tempting me to defy it

My scruff bag sweetheart, you don’t know how to buy it

 

Insomniac cat now dancing on her bed

Sixty miles away morning sky’s turning red

Sleepless in Seattle ghostly figures at my door

And words that trip unconscious from phone to the floor

 

A handful of rain, a handful of rain

Tempting me to defy it

My scruff bag sweetheart, you don’t know how to buy it

 

She holds my hand in a dream undercover

Tracing Patti and Frederick asleep she’s my lover

Under a southern cross she casts the years unspent

Matching I for eye for a back broken and bent

 

A handful of rain, a handful of rain

Tempting me to defy it

My scruff bag sweetheart, you don’t know how to buy it

 

So how did we meet and where do we go?

On a boat on a river we meander and flow

But my darling you have me for time to come

I know I have found you and found my home

 

A handful of rain, a handful of rain

Tempting me to defy it

My scruff bag sweetheart, together we try it

 

 

Comfort Zone

She cuddles up beside me

The log fire is burning bright

I whisper that I love her

We’re settled for the night

 

The music plays quite softly

Our glasses both half full

Her head it rests upon me

Warmed by old lamb’s wool

Love is

Love is

Love is

Love is just a pretext for a better place to be

 

A fox slides through the hedgerow

The owl hoots a new refrain

The wind it howls like thunder

And suggests a chance of rain

 

The new moon casts mad shadows

Across the placid pond

The air it is enchanted

From the doorstep and beyond

Love is

Love is

Love is

Love is just a pretext for a better place to be

 

A half familiar key change

A riff that sounds so blue

Guitar music fills the air

It was made for me and you

 

You searched for love eternal

Now tell me what you found

A passage of lost time

And we are homeward bound

Love is

Love is

Love is

Love is just a pretext for a better place to be

 

My golden ring shone brightly

As I hit that long lost chord

It held our love so tightly

When the final lyric poured

Love is

Love is

Love is

Love is just a pretext for a better place to be

 

 

Vision

Your face

Your voice

Your eyes

Your hair

I sense you here

And everywhere

The sun

The rain

The night

The day

My love for you

Does not decay

 

 

The Moving Finger Writes

On the windswept dales of limestone Karst

See Emily play

A romantic farce

Heathcliff searches

For a Wuthering lust

The window glass shatters

And life returns to dust

But true love never dies

As the darkness fades to light

My soul is yours to keep

Bill Burroughs is writing tonight

 

My love she sleeps in Cham

In a bed of Norwegian wood

My heart is buried somewhere

Under Dylan’s old Milkwood

 

On the melting tarmac of Kerouac’s road

The sun now rises

On Sal’s paradise load

Dean Moriarty sleeps

His heart trips a beat

Life it slowly creeps

But true love never dies

As the darkness fades to light

My soul is yours to keep

Bill Burroughs is writing tonight

 

My love she sleeps in Cham

In a bed of Norwegian wood

My heart is buried somewhere

Under Dylan’s old Milkwood

 

On the frozen streets of forgotten Oslo

Knut Hamsun he tries to write

But his words are just a show

As the hunger eats within

From Kafka, Joyce and Camus

Their life is full of sin

But true love never dies

As the darkness fades to light

My soul is yours to keep

Bill Burroughs is writing tonight

 

My love she sleeps in Cham

In a bed of Norwegian wood

My heart is buried somewhere

Under Dylan’s old Milkwood

 

On Woody’s slow railroad train

The hobos beg for dimes

His broken voice remains

In Bob Dylan’s homage song

His tune plays ever onward

Bound for glory all along

But true love never dies

As the darkness fades to light

My soul is yours to keep

Bill Burroughs is writing tonight

 

 

Siren

Salt spray

The crashing waves

The sound of thunder

Can you hear it?

The ocean so deep

Your eyes shine

Your face, your smile

A vision shared to keep

I’ll keep it with mine

The siren of my dreams

I can never forget you

Old bathetic fool

I know that fate is cruel

I ought to forget it

Yes, I know it’s true

I’ve seen what love can do

But I don’t regret it

My voice chokes

I can no longer sing

I love you… but

I can see what’s happening

I must now admit it

Unrequited love

A tsunami from above

I have to accept that

Now within your coral sea

You swim so deep

And don’t need me

We’re both safer without it

Is that really the case?

If you were in my place

You never would doubt it

The mermaid of my dreams

I’ll never forget you

Can you hear the siren screams?

I’m glad that I met you

Old bathetic fool

Who has broken every rule

I tried to resist it

Though it’s all in vain

I’d do it all again

I’d give my world to you

Just to relive one minute

By your side

I have to admit it

As I fall in love

Your presence I breathe for

And I am not mistaken

So I think of when

And turn to sleep again

A lot was meant

But nothing was taken

 

 

Beyond Dark Eyes

I am sat here alone and writing

The midnight moon shines on the temple gates

They’re drinking wine and talking

And my thoughts they all now separate

I live in another world

Where pain and death are iconised

My life is strung with traitor’s pearls

And all I see are dark eyes

 

I think of you sleeping so far away

Hear you breathe sweet innocence

Your face it fades into darkened grey

But your words now enter my inner sense

I can hear a desert drum

Beating beneath the poet’s disguise

Four riders watch as they come

And all I see are dark eyes

 

I was raised to be discreet

For all life’s intended purposes

They tell me revenge is sweet

Against my enemy’s twisted vertices

But I feel nothing for their game

Where beauty goes unrecognized

All I feel is heat and flame

And all I see are dark eyes

 

 

Future Comfort

Sweet gentleness

Your name is life

It surrounds my being

Cuts like a knife

Cascades and unfolds

In all that I do

The love that surrounds me

And the friendships too

 

I watch the rain fall

And the winter does grip

But your warmth it envelops

So nothing will slip

Risk and perspective

Valour and pain

Is marked here forever

Though death does remain

 

So fear not my love

As we walk up that road

Stronger than ever

Let me carry your load

And we come now full circle

To the top of the hill

And hold hands together

Brave blood to spill

 

For love is not blinded

And neither is truth

As my tale unfolds gently

Our own fountain of youth