Letting blood and poetry flow

BLOG Blood

My new book Blood in the Cracks is set for publication later this week. As a taster for readers, this is the introduction:

Blood in the Cracks – Liner Notes

Early one morning the sun was shining and I was lying in bed, pining the death of Different Voices, lost souls, abandoned dreams, broken guitar strings and love’s mortality.

In the end, the world has been betrayed by the old and corrupted by the young.

The cancer of capitalism has destroyed all that once was good… the Gates of Eden closed a long time ago and as the cars roar and hookers score in the Empire Burlesque, it is the money men, the media barons and launderers who grin as the corporate knife goes in.

A screenplay to the evil scourge of ordinary people by the most arrogant, privileged and fascist governments our world has ever witnessed.

For more than 700 years, their arrogance has conquered peaceful countries, imposed Western values and Christianity upon those countries, murdered millions and taken millions more into slavery.

They have sown war and hatred all over the world… because war creates money and wealth underpins the corruption of the powerful.

For the past four years, Saudi Arabia has pursued a vicious bombing campaign in Yemen that has left thousands of innocent civilians dead.

Government figures show that in one six month period alone, the UK sold Saudi Arabia £1,066,216,510 worth of weapons, including bombs and air-to-air missiles.

That is just part of £4.6 billion of UK arms sales to Saudi since the war in Yemen began.

The UN says more than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s war, including more than 5,000 civilians.

Many more have perished due to starvation, or a lack of access to healthcare and medical aid.

Meanwhile, back at home the young are corrupted for their souls…

They have been sleep-walking into a world of personal greed, arrogance and self-importance; with TV totems, tanning studios, face lightening cosmetics, designer clothes labels, supermodels and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Human kindness, gentleness, peace, society and social justice have been jettisoned for a ‘winner takes all’ mentality and a scapegoating of the homeless, those claiming benefits, Muslims, asylum seekers and the poor.

It is underpinned by a malicious mainstream media who smear and pillory anyone who dares question the status quo or suggest alternatives.

The press barons and their big business buddies are terrified of those alternatives, because they threaten the capitalist inertia where the five richest families in the UK now own more wealth than the poorest 25% of the population.

Meanwhile, thousands of families survive on the breadline, make weekly use of food banks or starve due to draconian benefits sanctions.

Yet this is the First World… the land of cherished democracy and freedom.

As Pete Hamill wrote in 1974: “In the end, the plague touched us all. It was not confined to the Oran of Camus. No. It turned up again in America, breeding in-a-compost of greed and uselessness and murder, in those places where statesmen and generals stash the bodies of the forever young.

“The plague ran in the blood of men in sharkskin suits, who ran for President promising life, and delivering death. The infected young men machine-gunned babies in Asian ditches; they marshalled metal death through the mighty clouds, up above God’s green earth, released it in silent streams, and moved on, while the hospitals exploded and green fields were churned to mud.

“And here at home, something died. The bacillus moved among us, slaying that old America where the immigrants lit a million dreams in the shadows of the bridges… and through the fog of the plague, most art withered into journalism. Painters lift the easel to scrawl their innocence on walls and manifestos.

“Poor America. Tossed on a pilgrim tide… Land where the poets died.

“Except for Bob Dylan.”

Ah… Dylan!

The works of Robert Allen Zimmerman have bestowed the soundtrack to my life.

It is now 45 years since I first came to his music, his words of truthful vengeance and his vignettes of love and theft.

A lifetime’s inspiration.

One particular album, Blood on the Tracks, remains a lyrical and poetic touchstone.

My soul is forever wrapped within the songs of its entire 51 minutes and 42 seconds.

Overtly autobiographical, the LP is full of tales of a lover relating a series of unrelated events set in a mythical America. Like a series of impressionist paintings of life itself, the tales are both timeless and without geographical boundaries.

Over 10 iconic songs, Dylan alludes to heartache, deception, anger, poignant regret and loneliness.

It’s a world-weary, nostalgic and ultimately a poetic Bob Dylan; and that is what makes Blood on the Tracks so timeless.

And it is also what makes it the template for my own album of poems… the album you open here.

Welcome to Blood in the Cracks… no plagiarism, just inspiration and words.

These 10 poems are my life and my blood…

Live each day as if it is your Last

BLOG dad and me

My death waits like an old roue’

So confident, I’ll go his way

Whistle to him and the passing time

My death waits like a Bible truth

At the funeral of my youth

Are we proud for that and the passing time?

My death waits like a witch at night

As surely as our love is right

Let’s not think about the passing time

But whatever lies behind the door

There is nothing much to do

Angel or devil, I don’t care

For in front of that door there is you

(Jacques Brel)

 

ONE thing I have learned from my life, is that it is a short movie.

And if I die tomorrow I will be grateful for it.

Sure, it has been a rollercoaster with more depths and dark places than I care to recall… you can visit those if you wish in plenty of my other blog features.

But, it has also been a stellar ride; visiting so many beautiful places, meeting scores of amazing people, enjoying two successful professional careers, producing five wonderful children – plus three more I sort of adopted – and the best family and friends I could ever wish for.

And I know it will end soon.

For the past 30 years I have been living on borrowed time, since I twice cheated cancer and later survived an almost fatal assault.

But I am still here and my life defines me.

As it does for all of us.

A couple of summers ago, I sat talking with my 87-year-old mum about life, death, the universe and our own mortality.

She began reviewing the fact that most of her peers, friends and siblings have now died and the ensuing loneliness is sometimes difficult to bear.

I blithely joked that she is still healthy and active and has experienced a full life.

And that life should not be measured by age or loss.

As I looked at my ageing mum and in the mirror at myself, I realised that time never stands still.

In 2016, I happened to be in South Wales on a business trip, and decided to use my time there to visit the grave of a dear friend who died tragically young, 28 years ago.

Andrea Price grew up in the small mining village of Rassau by Ebbw Vale.

She was the sweetest and most funny girl I have ever met and we became inseparable soul mates, while we both battled cancer together during the winter of 1987 and summer of the following year.

Racked in pain, with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a bone cancer – diagnosed while she was on a walking holiday in France – she knew her chances of survival were slim.

“But I’m going to fight it,” she urged, willing me to do the same. “I haven’t yet got my degree, I haven’t learned to drive… and I’m still a virgin.

“I want to live a bit before I die.”

She did.

But that did not dull the agony when in May 1990 I stood and shared heart wrenching tears at her funeral.

She was just 23.

For me, my memories of Andrea always remain, and often been my driving force to live.

Her smile and her laughter as she beat me in a physiotherapy game of football in the hospital gym, where she was only allowed to use her right leg and I only my arm. At the end of the game we collapsed side by side on the floor guffawing at how silly all this was.

Then there was the Wednesday night visit to the local rugby club for a game of bingo and a half pint of beer. We walked slowly back to the hostel at 10pm. She rested her head on my shoulder as we walked and suddenly whispered: “I love you Nic… we are going to win, aren’t we?”

I kissed her forehead and answered: “Of course we will.”

A year before her death I visited Andrea again in a hospital in Birmingham, where she had undergone a hip replacement operation in a last attempt by surgeons to remove the seat of her cancer.

I sat and clenched her right hand and looked into her sparkling eyes.

I giggled: “Hey, you’ve got freckles and hair!”

“Yes,” she answered, “I have been off chemotherapy for three months now to build up my strength for the op’.”

I had only known Andrea as a tall, underweight, pale-faced girl stooped under a horrendous NHS wig, which at times made her look like an extra in the Addams Family.

But now, holding her hand, this was how I was going to remember her.

True love never dies.

And something remarkable happened during my trip to south Wales.

After laying flowers at the cemetery where her body rests, I decided to post a copy of my first poetry book The Hill (with a brief accompanying letter) through the letterbox of her old home – vaguely hoping it might reach someone in her family.

My book included two poems I had written to Andrea.

Time passed and I naturally assumed the missive had failed.

But always be prepared for the unexpected.

Suddenly, I unexpectedly received an email from Andrea’s younger brother, asking if he could buy more copies of my book for other members of her family.

I fought hard to fight back tears as I read his email.

And later I cried again when he told me that her father (now in his 70s) was writing to me with some photographs of Andrea – the one thing I have never had is a photo of my beautiful departed friend.

In the words of Bob Dylan: “Death is not the End”.

I have faced the death of family and friends many times over the years.

The grief is always immeasurable, and in recent years some of those deaths were untimely and shocking.

Three years ago, I discovered that my former brother-in-law Dougie had died suddenly aged just 54.

It was a total shock. I had not seen or spoken to Dougie for many years, since my former partner and I split, but he was a lovely man and the world became an emptier place with his passing.

Then a few weeks later, I found out that one of my oldest and dearest friends Gill Gilson had died in the summer of 2014 after a long battle with lung cancer. Gill was just 56.

We met at university and became the closest of friends. We were never romantically attached… we were just good mates and stayed in touch for many years after graduating. She sometimes came to stay and we would sit and laugh as we shared many student memories.

I also remember Gill giving me a lift home from Yorkshire to Sussex in her old Morris 1000 Traveller and eating cold bacon sandwiches which she had secreted wrapped in foil in her glove compartment.

Memories of life are made of this.

Gill was a musician and a fabulous piano teacher. Her only weakness – and her charm – was she loved beer and I still remember the mornings I had to knock on her door to tell her to get to lectures because she had imbibed in a few too many jars the night before.

Gill oozed fun, gentleness and companionship in everything she did.

I miss her.

Then in the summer of 2016, I took a long overdue holiday in my old haunt of Chichester in West Sussex.

Whenever returning home – as I still call Sussex – I always made a point of catching up with another old friend, Jayne West.

Jayne and I met as teenagers while nursing together.

Any hope I may have had of a romantic attachment disappeared quickly when on our second date she told me she was gay and lived happily with her partner Julie.

She was the first openly lesbian woman I had ever met – in a time when personal sexuality was more closely guarded.

So instead of romance, we became lifelong friends. Each visit we would swap stories of the directions our lives had travelled and how much weight we had both gained.

I had not seen Jayne for over 10 years, so this holiday visit was going to be an extra special catch-up.

But before I set off for the drive down south, I discovered that Jayne had died in November 2013, aged just 56.

Her partner Julie was with her to the end.

It seems that time, life and death waits for no one.

So we live our lives as constructively as we can, seeking happiness and pleasure, loving and caring, and at times grieving.

And always knowing that our own time is limited.

And each day might be our last.

I recall two sets of lines from the movie Dead Poets Society.

The late Robin Williams, playing the role of school teacher John Keating, teaches his charges the essence of life: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.

“And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for… that you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

“That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

And later, turning to fading sepia school photos of students taken decades earlier, he reminds them of the passing time and the brevity of life: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel.

“The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable?

“Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Listen, you hear it? Carpe – hear it? Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

We should all make our own lives extraordinary as we pass this way just once.

My own is almost run, and it has certainly been extraordinary

So my advice to all my children and other young people I know: live today as if it is your last… carpe diem.

Sex abuse survivor’s first poetry book now available on Kindle and paperback

WP Hill

MULTI award winning writer Nic Outterside quit his job as editor of North Wales’ flagship newspaper The Denbighshire Free Press following a nervous breakdown in June 2013.

Nic launched his own publishing company and began the slow road to recovery under the watchful eyes of his doctor and the support of his family. Part of the suggested therapy was for him to begin writing and talking about the life experiences which had led to his breakdown.

From childhood sexual abuse, through cancer, bereavement, bankruptcy, divorce, repossession of my home, the loss of two of my children and an assault which almost took my life, I guess there was a lot to write about,” says Nic.

“My first book a paperback The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light, published in November 2014 was a huge success, and last winter I started work on the follow-up.

“I also decided to make the book more widely available this week by publishing a second edition worldwide on Amazon Kindle,” he adds.

The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light is a raw, and at times shocking, book of angst, joy and reflection on subjects as diverse as abuse, cancer, politics, depression, bereavement, love and joy. The full story behind the book can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2N2X7t7awo

You can buy the book on Kindle, priced just £1.43 at:

www.amazon.co.uk/Hill-Songs-Poems-Darkness-Light-ebook/dp/B07CNZ75MZ

Alternatively you can still buy the First Edition paperback (120 copies left of the print run of 1,000) The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light in paperback, is priced at just £1.99 with £1.80 for UK post and packing and is available via Ebay: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Hill-Songs-and-Poems-of-Darkness-and-Light-Nic-Outterside-Paperback/222959978770?hash=item33e9734912:g:3O0AAOSwdjha6DvY

 

 

Echoes of Darkness

Beware of darkness

Beware of darkness

It eats the soul

Nightmare claws attach

Voices whisper

Wild thoughts

Trespass

Beyond sanity’s climax

 

The hopelessness surrounds you

Watch out my own sweet love

The dead of night

Darkens deeply

The shooting star

That shines

Above

 

Beware of sadness

And words that linger

Deep inside your head

Memories twisted

Vain hopes

Blistered

Beyond my own deathbed

 

The Edge

The morning dawns grey

A blanket on another day

The savage wind

Whispers

Of another place

Where time stands

Still

Like a bitter pill

Unswallowed

 

Empty Sky

Empty

Broken

Yearning

Where has the time gone?

The tears flow

And weeds grow

Hands both shake

Sat all alone

The wall

The hall

The call

Sad deserted shore

Friends now leave

Lovers grieve

Birds they fly

I don’t count the score

 

Black Dog

Black dog at my feet

The darkness drifts dreaming from another place

Been here before

But still I’m not sure

Where it all will end

 

Black dog by my side

The dawn drowns drinking hope from the daylight

Been here before

But still I’m not sure

What the morn will bring

 

Black dog on my lap

The day drags drearily to the dark of noon

Been here before

But still I’m not sure

When the sun will set

 

Black dog at my back

The evening draws draping dankly upon me

Been here before

But still I’m not sure

When the night will end

 

Blink of an Eye

Shattered pavilions

Lost in the mist of time

Broken ladders

Leading nowhere

Looking for answers

But lost for questions

Life in a broken moment

In the blink of an eye

 

Bootleg

I fought to survive the cancer

But still the boot came in

I fought to save my marriage

But still the boot came in

I fought through tears and laughter

But still the boot came in

I fought for truth and honesty

But still the boot came in

I fought with the sword of justice

But still the boot came in

I fought the nuclear dustbin

But still the boot came in

I fought to find my children

But still the boot came in

I fought for all the homeless

But still the boot came in

I fought for faith and family

But still the boot came in

I fought for Islam’s children

But still the boot came in

I fought for Labour’s heartland

But still the boot came in

I fought against Noah’s rainbow

But still the boot came in

I fought for all the others

But still the boot came in

 

Heaven can wait

Leaving Beersheba

Stumbling

Remembering

Aching

Eyeless

In Gaza

Climbing Jacob’s ladder

Reach the top

And stop

Because

There’s nothing

There

 

Top of the End

Head screams pain

Life broken again

The grey sky

Burning eyes

Hope that shone

So bright

Now

Dust under the feet

My, oh my, oh my

Let me die

 

Laughter now dead

Words are all read

Plans for the future

Solitary torture

Life that fought

So hard

Now

Lost and beaten

My, oh my, oh my

Let me die

 

The moment

I walk a fine line between sanity

And despair

Where abuse and loss

Erode

Self-confidence and self-care

The memories eat away

The small joys

Of today

And leave me sightless

Eyeless

In this land of the blind

 

Memories

Floating

Whispering

Waiting

The times lies in pieces

On this broken

Soil

A pathway

To the stars

Where the crescent

Moon

Doesn’t bend

Its light

Shines

And memories

Fade

 

Momentary Nails

Flash of anger

Howls like a

Hammer

We regret the

Past

Now

Homeward bound

It will not last

Battles won

And souls are lost

Peace is sewn

The wind is blown

Society ponders

Justice

Corruption

The sickle

Recycled

Stumbling

Hoping

Crawling

Hanging by nails

Upon your cross

And Crescent

Moon

 

Kindred recall

Sunlight dapples

Oak tree tops

Above the leaded roof

The sky screams

Infinity

Searching for the truth

 

I don’t know you

Kindred spirit

Lost refrain

Your eyes betray

Hope

And more deeply your pain

 

Victorian tiles

Line the attic

Of Dylan’s distant vision

The rain cascades

Torrential

Reaching no decision

 

Radiators rumble

Shunning silence

With dim electric noise

The heating coughs

Creative

Humanity destroys

 

Window shutters

Cause shadows

Upon the office wall

The day’s stillness

Meanders

No-one hears the call

 

I might die tonight

You smile

And your mouth says you love me

You laugh

And the world laughs with you too

You sigh

And my arms they do uphold you

You cry

And my tissues dry your tears

You break

And your eyes they see the distance

You sway

And the planet is still turning

You sleep

And I might die tonight

 

Life

Oh what a life it’s been

Even the trapped ambition

The mistakes

The gaffs

The love

The lust

The diamonds

The rust

The music

The lions

The dust

What a life

 

Oh what a life it’s been

Even the damned confusion

Despair

Regret

Depression

Recession

The beach

The waves

The reach

The illusion

The speech

What a life

 

The Poplar

The lonely poplar

Pricks holes

In the darkening

Sky

As snow cascades

And quiet songs sing

In chill white

Flakes

By a window

To the world

Outside

Just waiting

Waiting

Waiting

For the grey around

Me

To lighten

The journey

Onwards

To a place where

I can

Live

Sweet dreams

And sing quiet songs

 

Punch Drunk

Punch drunk

Been knifed in the back

Punch drunk

Dazed by distorted fact

Punch drunk

Hit between the eyes

Punch drunk

Poisoned with their lies

Punch drunk

Twisted tales that they tell

Punch drunk

Stumbled and then I fell

Punch drunk

Reeling on the ropes

Punch drunk

Left with little hope

Punch drunk

One too many blows

Punch drunk

Blood running from my nose

Punch drunk

Nothing left to lose

Punch drunk

Stand inside my shoes

Punch drunk

Depression runs too deep

Punch drunk

Fighting for some sleep

Punch drunk

Trying to stay straight

Punch drunk

The fightback is too late

Punch drunk

Dimming of the light

Punch drunk

Losing every fight

Punch drunk

The game it is too rough

Punch drunk

Think I’ve had enough

 

This is the Sea

Swirling salt water laps at my feet

The west wind finds frailties

Of what remains from the sleep

Greyness spreads to the dark horizon

Herring gulls call me to the deep

This is the end

This is my friend

This is the sea

 

Memories meander around what happened before

Questions open wounds bleakly

Yet we all know the score

Emptiness echoes as hope once evades

Waves they now crash upon the shore

This is the end

This is my friend

This is the sea

 

Colours of life

By these sandstone walls

My life unfolds

In colours of love

The white May blossom

The lilac hops

The pink cherry flowers

Under a blue sky above

 

By the fields of rape

My life unfolds

In colours of pain

The black crow flies

The grey clouds

The poppies red

Upon opened sacks of grain

 

By the wind whispered Wold

My life unfolds

In colours of life

The azure horizon

The creamy cotton

The emerald field

Its beauty cuts like a knife

 

Leather Bound Memories

You wore grey

On that blissful day

Your love cut like a knife

A handful of rain was all I gave

As you held my hand so tight

Just leather bound memories

 

Our lives were grey

On that frightening day

I feared for my new wife

We waited for fragmented time

Magic and loss returned your life

Just leather bound memories

 

The future was grey

On that fateful day

Into your wide arms I fell

Abuse and pain ate through my brain

Forty-three years of a living hell

Just leather bound memories

 

The sky was grey

On that moving day

Into Alice’s hole you stumbled

The snap, the break, the huge mistake

In chaos the dead spirits mumbled

Just leather bound memories

 

Your dress is still grey

On this broken day

Like Lennon’s dream recalled

A Revolution 9 as I sip the wine

And remember these times before

Just leather bound memories

 

Rainbow of Friends

Sexuality should not define us

But society says it must

Too many friends within the closet

Their lives oxidised to rust

 

In my life of stolen moments

Good friends have all been gay

At first it was quite scary

In a world of bleak dismay

 

Come out now my friends and dance

Your life it is supreme

Don’t hide your love away

Behind some bitter Fascist scheme

 

Brave Andy was the first to dance

Back in queer bashing seventy eight

He came out to his parents

And faced their irrational hate

 

Cast out by those he loved

Alone inside his motor car

His body found next morning

Killed by a prejudicial scar

 

Come out now my friends and dance

Your life it is supreme

Don’t hide your love away

Behind some bitter Fascist scheme

 

Hiding in the closet Vicki, Jane and Hazel

Also loved to dance

They would boogie in a ghetto club

Whenever they had a chance

 

My house mate Trevor was the next to hide

His secret he was afraid to share

His father was an old coal miner

His black views were just unfair

 

Come out now my friends and dance

Your life it is supreme

Don’t hide your love away

Behind some bitter Fascist scheme

 

But time does not stand still

Liz and Nadine they were so brave

Together raised their wee son Thomas

With parent’s care and love to save

 

Some years along the road

My son’s friend talked of his two mums

The most wonderful of natural parents

They made prejudice seem quite numb

 

Come out now my friends and dance

Your life it is supreme

Don’t hide your love away

Behind some bitter Fascist scheme

 

The next to dance was close to home

My young nephew’s so camp and gay

It was no lifestyle choice, you faggot haters

So what’s that I hear you say?

 

Now this dance is almost over

But for Darren it was done too soon

He lived and loved with vigour

But now lies under a Mexican moon

 

Come out now my friends and dance

Your life it is supreme

Don’t hide your love away

Behind some bitter Fascist scheme