So early this year she

announces to nobody but a blackbird

who rattles his response. Candlemas bells and not

even Christmas. Crouching and wind-curved, she tilts a milky bud

towards her, half-blind, tight-lipped, silent in the leaf-strewn mud.

No longer seeking hope or the promise of spring, she considers

picking one, taking it in – to disprove her mother’s foreboding

of flowers for the dead. Besides, she doesn’t fear anymore, no,

sees nothing to dread from endless slumbers, snug in a clay bed.

February fair-maids, dingle-dangles, dewdrops, death’s flower.

Granny’s schneeglöckchen growing greenest of green, ringing in

spring, but this soon – with autumn leaves unscorched by frost,

unsucked by worms? Winter’s not winter anymore

she mutters, then squints at the sky, waiting

for the blackbird to offer

his reply.


(This poem was shortlisted for the Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival Poetry Prize 2018, judged by Alison Brackenbury – who said she loved my blackbird!)


We shout HARE!
Like he’s the first hare. The only ever hare –
he curves his ears forward, lets his conker eyes flare.
Hind legs rise to the brink of sprint – but momentarily
he pauses, tastes the waiting air, so we fall silent…
then in a blink he takes his brake off, and in a breath’s
no longer there.

Collective nouns


I’ve seen
starlings murmurate, heard exaltations of larks
witnessed crows plot murder in lawless corners of the park.
I’m told owls hold parliament because they’re clever and also wise…
and I’ve gawped as gulps of swallows flee from fading summer skies.
I’ve braved bellowings of bullfinches, watched gnats pulsate in clouds
but as a mere human being I mostly hang
around in crowds

I’d prefer
to skulk with foxes, perhaps party with the jays
chase charms of glowing goldfinches, shiny as sun rays.
Unleash unkindness with ravens, join the herons’ iron siege
deal deceit with lying lapwings, help scything swifts to screech.
I’d tangle with a knot of toads, if it were allowed –
anything is better than
being in a crowd.




Squirrels get up early when the grass is damp with dew,

they skip around on tiptoes so their paws don’t get soaked through.

They’re busy seeking conkers stashed safely since September

but squirrels seem quite scatty, and usually can’t remember…

where they carried conkers to on golden autumn days –

did they slip them under stones, or drag them to their dreys?

And so when spring has sprung, when the weather’s wet and warm,

they’ll be skipping round horse chestnut trees sprouting in my lawn.

Seashore survival

In an ever changing situation
consider well your adaptations
be you bi-valve or crustacean
could you switch from desiccation
to total salt-water hydration,
and how would you prevent predation –
could a shell be your salvation?

Children arriving for vacation
full of cheer and sheer elation
may dislodge you from your station
(it’s all part of their education)
could you survive such devastation
form a cement-like rock fixation?
It might postpone your own cessation.

So when considering incarnation
take on board this information
to succeed at seashore habitation
you must display determination
be a master of specialisation
proactive against extermination.
Good luck in your chosen destination!


(In fond memory of all those biology field trips, armed with quadrat and clipboard, knee deep in bladderwrack…)


Country nights

Something’s chilping in the chimney, something’s chackling in the trees
and though I try I can’t convince myself that it’s only the breeze.
Now the chilping’s getting louder and the chackling’s coming near
and the scratching on the ceiling fills my thumping heart with fear.
Too much chilping, too much chackling too much scratching in the night…
So I hide under the covers, try to chobble up my fright.


(Chilping, chackling & chobble – from the Warwickshire Word Book, 1896. I shall try to use them every day)