Comparing Sporting Codes to Languages.

This is a quick piece, I’ve had it in my head for a while so I thought if it wasn’t going to leave any time soon, I’d write it down. It’s based around the premise, is the development of different sporting codes similar to that of different languages?

As previous readers of this blog may recall, I wrote another short piece a little while ago comparing the political spectrum to dietary choices. I think I must just think in analogies-they’re a useful enough way of making sense of the world. If you have read this blog before, you may well have seen my ten memorable books list of 2019, where I mentioned Tony Collins’ How Football Began, the history of the early development of the various professional football codes that have come to spread around the world. I think since at least the time I read that last Christmas I’ve been thinking of the following list I’m about to share-and probably longer.

I’ve not necessarily matched sports up to the countries that they are played in, or ‘suit their character’ or whatever, but more in how they relate to each other (more on that below). First, here’s the list for the football codes:

 

Soccer-French

Rugby Union-Spanish

Rugby League-Portuguese

Aussie Rules-Italian

Gaelic football-Romanian

American football-English

Medieval-free-for-all-Latin

 

So, a little rationale for my choices: first of all, I think the match-up of romance languages to the football world works because they are both broad, diverse extended families from a common origin (Latin/medieval village football). French, like soccer, is arguably the ‘prestige’ variety and (and this is the true reason for me matching them up) ‘the odd one out’-it is markedly different from the other variants whilst still clearly related to them and is entirely comfortable with that.

Coming on to rugby, I think union/Spanish and league/Portuguese works very well. The former is more popular globally and that is largely through transmission/exposure through the colonial system of the Castilian and British Empires respectively. The pairing works very well I think-speakers of Portuguese and Spanish, like players of league and union, automatically have a big head-start in terms of cross-over and mutual intelligibility compared to outsiders approaching them for the first time. Also rugby league, like Portuguese, is bigger in a country (Australia and Brazil respectively)  other than its birthplace (the North of England and Portugal). I think that’s a big reference point of comparison.

I’ve likened Aussie rules to Italian (both direct descendants of the original code, big in it’s one particular heartland and, whilst often admired from afar, taken up by very few people outside of its own direct constituency).  Gaelic football/Romanian because they are frequently forgotten about but deserve their place. American football and English was a last-moment addition to the list-it fits and it doesn’t-speakers of English, like American football fans, often don’t really think of there being much of a kinship between their code and the others and see it as a code apart. But I think that’s as far as the analogy stretches-English as a language is incredibly widespread, but American football is highly localised (albeit to a very large country/internal market).

I was also thinking of doing a list looking at the ball-and-stick games (cricket, baseball, rounders, hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse etc) to another language family-maybe the Germanic one as I can think of enough countries that come under that umbrella to do a match-up. English is also as much of (if not more so) a Germanic language as it is a romance one and that would mean having to select another sport (instead of the aforementioned American football) that fits the bill more closely-hurling is the perfect hybrid (and, having watched a bit on YouTube for research purposes whilst writing this post, pretty spectacular) but in it’s very localised appeal it’s the total opposite of the English language, which as of writing functions as kind of global lingua franca.

In a nutshell, though, I think the original concept is a sound one: sports are like languages, they develop, diversify and split, their rules akin to grammar and the different styles of play witnessed in different locales the same as accents and dialects in a spoken tongue. I’d be interested to know what others think about it.

 

 

Dominic Cummings: Why I’m Angry.

Here’s why I’m mad about this man’s recklessness. A list:

1. Discounting the largely symbolic power of the monarchy, he’s the most powerful and influential unelected person in the country right now.

2. As someone who taught in the Sixth Form/FE sector when Cummings and Michael Gove were carrying out their ideological, American-flavoured education ‘reforms’ (the left has to reclaim that term from the one-step-forward-two-steps-back thing it has come to mean to the right) that saw my place of work’s workforce decimated  due to budget cuts/re-diversion of funds to their pet projects and in part led to me leaving the country for four years to teach abroad, I’ve already had a taste of this man’s arrogance and disregard as a blunt instrument directing public policy.

3. I’m not a massive Brexit person: I would have preferred to stay in, we voted to leave and that’s that. However, this man was a key part of a campaign that was I think best described as ‘shady’. I will give him credit as a campaign organiser-and for the 2019 election that played on the ‘Get Brexit Done’ theme-he’s clearly very good at generating slogans, but that’s about all I would give him credit for.

4. Cummings and his wife were ill around late March/early April. At exactly the same time, firstly my wife and daughter, and then myself, succumbed to illness. We weren’t tested (lack of availability/not important enough), but it led to us observing the government guidelines, self-isolating at home and generally feeling wretched, with various symptoms of Covid-19 (don’t know if it was Corona-but if it wasn’t then I would hate to get it!) and still managing to look after a three-year old (who was less ill than either of us). Not once did we drive the two-and-a-half-hours to my in-laws or the 45 minutes to my parents. I’ve only seen my folks once since the lockdown began-after the restriction on seeing them was lifted, to pick up some belongings from my parents’ house that were otherwise getting discarded-I didn’t even go inside the building. Not once has my daughter seen either set of grandparents during this period.

5. He clearly broke the rules. Even though he sat in on SAGE meetings and was part of the policy-making process with the PM.

6. He originally was an advocate for the ‘herd immunity’ plan which led to a classic British fudge at the start of the lockdown-and which definitely caused a lot of harm.

7. Imagine if we had all done what he did?

8. He thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

9. He’s not ‘just’ some press officer or glorified coat-carrier-he’s the power behind the throne.

10. In an attempt to deflect from this, the government are hammering hard again for a premature reopening of schools, just as it looked like they might be listening (not saying they were, but push-back was having an effect which they seem to be set on overriding now).

 

One possible way of buying a bit of time for a successful return to school, post U.K lock-down.

With the current lock-down situation affecting education systems worldwide, there has been much talk about the most effective way to support students, ensure some semblance of educational normality and there has also been an overnight shift to remote learning, too. My own school has elected to use Microsoft Teams and the adaptation from staff and students alike to the new normal has been relatively good, given the circumstances. But, we all know that this situation-however long it might go on for-is a temporary one and the eventual return to school will present logistical challenges.

I caught about ten minutes of last night’s Newsnight on the BBC and they were discussing when schools might go back and what it might look like, as well as concerns over an ‘attainment gap’ between those students with stable home lives, good internet access etc and those without some or all of these factors. With the best will in the world, and even in the most uniform of school cohorts, there will be inevitable gaps and differences in how much home learning has successfully taken place. So how do schools adapt to this? Time is a very valuable commodity in the teaching profession, as it is in other fields, and I think that will become more apparent than ever when we finally go back to work. How do we ensure that catch-up takes place over the long-term that means any gap in learning experience during this period of school closure is ultimately closed? I think we need a range of possible solutions, that can be considered in view of their merits and deficiencies and then the best course of action decided upon. One possible way forward occurred to me earlier today-I am not saying it is the best course of action and as with any possible option it would present its own myriad logistical challenges, but it is one route and as mentioned above, I think we need a range of options to pick from at this time.

So what is it? Well, we in the northern hemisphere traditionally have a September-July academic year. In the southern hemisphere, where many educational systems are post-colonial ones, influenced by the system established during times of empire (be it British, Spanish, Portuguese etc) they run an academic year on a linear basis in line with the calendar year to account for the inverse nature of seasons to those of the north, typically running an academic year from February-December (so, for example, Christmas traditionally marks the start of the summer holidays).  Once we return to work in the UK (and other northern hemisphere nations), there will be an inevitable period of consolidation and catch-up, not to mention the process of readjusting to school norms and routines (this will be a big one). If the 2020-21 academic year is scheduled to still go ahead in September, even with the earliest mooted return date of early June, this would leave little time to get back on an even keel before the current 2019-20 school year ends. If that was the case, would the summer holiday be a truncated one to allow for catch-up time before a rapid re-start for the new academic year? (remember, currently students and staff are still working from home, albeit quite differently to how they normally might do-if the lock-down were to be lifted by August would families want to holiday, however locally/see relatives and friends? It might not be an economic or academic factor, but it is a life one and I would argue a mental health issue, too). Here’s my suggestion: why don’t we consider the merits of the linear academic year as a way out of this impasse?

Let’s say that June would be a ‘rapid re-start’ that would see schools chasing their own tails to get students back on track, but simply shutting down until September and then starting up a brand new academic year would leave a layer of catch-up/revision of topics covered via home learning on top of the content needed to be covered in the new academic year-to simply run an extensive plethora of additional classes, holiday and weekend catch-up (and I am one of many, many teachers who has put on additional sessions in the past, I’m not allergic to doing such extras when truly needed) runs the risk of backfire due to collective fatigue setting in. How, instead, might extending the current academic year until the end of 2020 be of practical use to the education system?

Well, for a start I cannot see secondary schools returning en masse, all at the same time, from a situation of total lock-down. For that to happen, the risk of Covid-19 passing through the school population would have to be as close to zero as possible. It’s often said by lock-down sceptics that as younger people run a lower risk of suffering from the virus, that therefore what’s the problem with schools re-opening? For a start, you have a large body of teachers, support staff, caretakers, canteen staff, office personnel and pastoral staff (plus others) who are as susceptible to the virus as any other adult. In addition, that student body almost all with live with and/or come into contact parents, grandparents and extended family. If the virus wasn’t close to total suppression, you are looking at a second wave spreading like wildfire through that wider population. So let’s say, as appears likely, lock-down will be gradually lifted and, as some reports have suggested, there will be a phased return to schools. This strikes me as wise; schools are highly social environments-maintaining social distancing on the corridors, in the classroom and even on the yard is an extreme challenge in the event of a full return. I think some kind of shift system of different students coming in on different days could enable some measure of successful social distancing to take place-I don’t know the finer particulars of how that would be worked out and even that would have to be in a very-low-risk-of-contracting-the-virus scenario, but again to reiterate I think that that would be preferable to getting everybody back in, overnight and undoing all the good work undertaken so far to minimise the danger.

A switch to a linear year would buy at this moment, that most precious of all commodities in the academic world (along with resources and space): time. With classes coming in part-time, the pace of learning could be slowed down (so, in effect, the same amount of learning would be taking place per lesson), but there would also arguably be the time for the re-teach and revision that can so successfully cement the learning process. It would also provide the Department of Education and schools valuable time to plan ahead for a 2021 academic year, so as to make it as smooth and successful a year as possible.

Then, there is the factor of current Year 11 and 13 students, who have seen with the cancellation of their exams their GCSE and A-Level studies curtailed. An extensive nation-wide process of grade calculation has been taking place and the results will be decided upon and disseminated some time in the summer months. For those students looking to take re-sits in the autumn, this potential scenario could free up valuable time to organise the logistics of such exams and put on re-sit/revision classes if needed.

This shift would also require shifting the school holidays about a bit, but that’s not insurmountable and might even prove popular and beneficial in the long-run, if done sensitively and well (I don’t know about any other colleagues, but I find autumn and spring the best times for productivity in schools, with the height of summer and winter being the least so).

Hopefully all of the above has provided some food for thought. I’d be interested to know what others think-as I’ve already stated, I don’t think this is necessarily the solution to a successful return to normality in schools, but it is one approach-and I think we should entertain a range of possibilities in order to arrive at the right one.

What I Read: 2019.

Ten books I read in 2019 (not the only ones I read, but a list just for fun):

In no particular order…

1. Buzz-The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson. I posted up about this at the time, but worth a re-mention as it’s such a well-written treasure trove of information. Does what it says on the tin.

2. The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa. Read a few others from Peru’s most famous literary export, finally got round to this one. Biographical novel about Roger Casement, a controversial man ahead of his time in many respects.

3. Alarum by Wayne Holloway-Smith. Debut poetry collection I happened upon when browsing the Bloodaxe Publishing website. Infuriating in places, but overall pretty good.

4. Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman. I think Amazon was trolling both Bregman and lefty readers by offering this for free on Kindle but I wasn’t going to turn such an opportunity down. Food for thought and again the title does what it says on the tin.

5. The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth-I read it when it came out about five years ago and I read it again this year because it’s just so good.

6. How Football Began by Tony Collins. I asked for this one for Christmas and I’ve just finished reading it. Great social history of how soccer, both codes of rugby, Aussie rules, American football etc all evolved and codified out of one proto-game of football in the late 19th/early 20th century. Recommended.

7. The Forbidden Game: The Untold Story of French Rugby League by Mike Rylance. Taking a much more niche aspect of the above and telling a fascinating story of how RL in France was born before WW1 and then suppressed by the Vichy regime in WW2 just as it was attaining ascendancy. Really interesting.

8. Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr. Now, this is a book. Story of East German punk scene in the 80s. Book of the year for me.

9. Berlin Wonderland: Wild Years Revisited 1990-96. A collection of photography/oral history which functions as a great (if unconnected/unintentional) sequel to the above, as the punks and other subcultures try to carve out an independent space for themselves before the inevitable take over by ‘the man’ from the west.

10. What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain by James Hamilton-Patterson. Not the reactionary book it sounds like, but rather a heartfelt polemic about why we have thrown the baby out with the bath water in the name of economic ‘modernisation’. A love-letter to Britain’s lost manufacturing industry, basically.

Currently reading Peaky Blinders: The Real Story by Carl Chinn (another Christmas gift and more social history-I can’t get enough!) and Maya Angelou’s second volume of autobiography Gather Together In My Name. Trying to get the reading in whilst still off for Christmas!

If you’re reading this, please do feel free to comment below about your own recent reads-always fascinating to see what others are delving into. Happy New Year!

Comparing the Political Spectrum to Dietary Choices.

This one popped into my head whilst driving home from work yesterday. I’ve been teaching Animal Farm as of late for GCSE and actually spent most of an hour-long lesson trying to explain to my Year 10 class the political continuum. Wish I’d thought of this then as an analogy (might use it for revision purposes when we come back to it later!):

Left-vegan
Centre-left-vegetarian
Centre-‘I’ll have what you’re having’
Centre-right-it’s not a meal unless it has meat in it.
Right-carnivore diet.

I don’t mean all vegans are hardcore leftists (or vice versa), rather the political spectrum is a bit like dietary choices in its sliding scale.

Thoughts?

Why I’m watching Millom vs Red Star Belgrade.

Today, on the BBC lunchtime news, they decided to end with a good news sporting story. One that couldn’t help pique my interest. Millom RLFC, the world’s oldest amateur rugby league club, were going to be going head-to-head with Red Star Belgrade, the newest. The unlikelihood and romance of the Challenge Cup tie in itself was interesting, but it set me off thinking about a whole bunch of other, related stuff, too.

But wait, Red Star Belgrade have a rugby league side? The Red Star Belgrade of European football fame? Turns out they do. More of that later.

As for Millom, I’ve always had a soft spot for the place, as it where’s my Gran, who I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, spent her childhood years and just recently my interest has increased-partly due to a natural interest in family history but also due to: 1. I am now living about a one-hour drive away from the town, and recently visited it for a camping-and-hiking expedition late last summer (I think one always feels a bit more of a connection to a place once you’ve visited it). 2. I’ve also in relatively recent times discovered the great Millom writer/poet Norman Nicholson, who writes in his poetry and prose so vividly about the place.

I’m currently reading the late Nicholson’s 1968 book Greater Lakeland, which I found in the school library where I work and posits the idea that the Lake District does not solely exist within the narrow confines of what is now the national park but also takes in a wider area such as Morecambe Bay/North Lancashire (where I now live) and the Cumbrian coast, the Howgills etc. It’s a great read (I can say that at about three-quarters of the way in), exploring almost every valley, lake, town and village in the region-describing their quirks and characteristics, the types of work that led to them existing in the first place and the very rocks and water that make up the landscape (more interesting than it might sound, that last one!). Nicholson, although a romantic in his own way (a poet, after all), didn’t have much time for the idea of a chocolate-box Lake District, made up solely of farmsteads and tourism. Being a true Cumbrian, he wanted the people to have a diverse economy that could support them in good times and bad. And, like my Gran, he’d grown up in the small, working-class industrial town of Millom on the banks of the Duddon estuary, the quarries, ironworks and the mines were as much a part of his landscape (and hers) as the dunes, the mountain backdrop and the vastness of the bay and the Irish Sea.

The town had a peak population of 10,000 in 1967, but, even as Nicholson was writing, ill winds of change were blowing in. The following year the local ironworks closed, announced whilst he was on holiday in the Scottish highlands, discovered in a chance encounter with a newspaper headline, and referred to in the poem Glen Orchy (‘five hundred men/At one stroke clean out of work’) and leading him to write in another poem, On the Dismantling of Millom Ironworks:

“…they shovelled my childhood/On to a rubbish heap…

here five generations/Toasted the bread they earned at a thousand degrees farenheight

And the town thrived on its iron diet.”

 

And then later, as the poem rises to a crescendo:

 

“An age/Is pensioned off-its hopes, gains, profits, desperations/Put into mothballs.

The proud battery of chimneys, the hell-mouth roar of the furnace,

The midnight sunsets ladled across a cloudy sky-

Are archeological data…

To a peninsula bare as it used to be, and beyond to a river

Flowing, untainted now, to a bleak, depopulated shore.”

 

These last lines, are a riposte to that other Cumbrian great, Wordsworth who had written (as quoted in the opening of the poem) ‘remote from every taint/Of sordid industry thy lot is cast’ in the poem The River Duddon. Nicholson was an admirer of Wordsworth but found such a claim about the Duddon to be laughably inaccurate ‘Even in Wordsworth’s time’, never mind his own era. And that goes to the crux of the matter and its something that, as a Lancastrian, but growing up in sight of Cumbria and with plenty of Cumbrian blood in my veins, I feel as well-for all its beauty-of which I’ll never tire of visiting and exploring when I get the chance-it cannot and should not be devoted solely to a straight jacket of what a few tastemakers decide is a timeless rural idyll. Industry has always been a part of the picture and, as much as one cannot stop the ebb and flow of economic forces as much as King Canute could not command the flow of the tides, the problem of Cumbria is a problem of the North, the whole country and the western world-too much reliance on services and not enough of the older industries around to balance it out.At least other parts of the Cumbrian coast are managing to bring forward their industries into the modern era-I hope they continue to do so, so that at least part of the local economy is founded on something other than what Nicholson refers to in Greater Lakeland as ‘taking in other people’s washing’ (and maybe I feel this even more keenly as, being from Blackpool, we always had the car industry and the civil service as counterbalances against the vast tourist economy, and I had family members in both of those former categories-and like, the men from Millom Ironworks, my father’s brothers, my Millom Gran’s sons, were forced to look elsewhere for work when the TVR car factory they had worked at pretty much from leaving school was closed and relocated elsewhere when they were both well into middle age).

To bring the picture up to date, Millom is now just over half the population it was back in the 60s (it lost nearly a third of its population in the three years following the closure of the ironworks) and to visit it now is to visit a lovely (or so it was when I went in late summer) yet remote (by English standards) spot on the edge of Lakeland and the sea. I’m sure it does bleak with the best of them in winter (when I write), but in, what is becoming something of a late-summer tradition, I agreed to meet up with my old university friend Mike to do a bit of camping and exploring so we pitched up at the Harbour Lights campsite (recommended, check it out), and spent a late Saturday afternoon and early evening wandering around the ruined-mine-cum-marina of Hodbarrow Nature Reserve, the beach and skirted the town via pathways through housing estates en route to a pub meal in the neighbouring village of Haverigg (probably most famous for its prison, these days). We didn’t make it into the town centre of Millom itself (a pleasure deferred, as far as I’m concerned) but the following day we did undertake a short expedition that I’d always wanted to (and in fact had sold the trip on the merits of): walking up Black Combe Fell.

Black Combe-highest hill in England, more impressive than many mountains, rising up as it does almost from the sea itself. Visible from a great distance-it was always there, dominating the northern horizon across Morecambe Bay when I was growing up on the Fylde Coast and visible from even further afield (I’ve seen it from the beach at Southport).I didn’t even know its name until the last couple of years, we always referred to it as ‘Barrow’ or ‘the Lakes’ as the shipyards of the former and hills of the latter make up part of the same scene looking northwards from Blackpool, but it’s both adjacent to and separate from those particular landmarks. We walked up it on a murky Sunday morning-somewhat spoiling the view out to sea, but the view of the Duddon Valley and back up into Lakeland was truly spectacular. I’ll definitely be going back on a clearer day.

So, how does all this link to Rugby, and the capital of Serbia for that matter? As mentioned above, Millom RLFC claim to be the oldest amateur side in the world. The Cumbrian coast, being similar in character and workforce to the heartland areas of British rugby league in neighbouring Lancashire and Yorkshire were enthusiastic adherents to the new 13-man code at the time of the league-union schism in the late 19th century. They even had a local saying (according, again, to Nicholson) for doing things wholeheartedly, no half measures-‘Giving it Wigan’-a reference to the endeavour and commitment of the great sides that hailed over the years from that former Lancashire coal-mining town. I’m pleased that they are going to get their moment of glory in front of the cameras, and that the club exists as a focal point for the community, and a link to its blue-collar past.

And, what about Red Star Belgrade? Well, like most people I knew them solely as a football side, one that with a name with both connotations of both communism and glamour stands out like a sore thumb in any Champion’s League fixtures list. Turns out they are a very recent phenomenon, under the Tito regime in the former Yugoslavia league was supressed in favour of union-which seems typically Tito-esque (emphasis on unity, no regional offshoots) and all media (and probably most neutral) eyes are on them as the surprise package, the exotic team. I’m looking forward to the game, I don’t claim to be an expert but I enjoy both watching both codes of rugby (and especially league) as a casual spectator. And it’s history, too, for both sides a part of their hopefully on-going story. the live stream is on the BBC Sport website at 1.30 p.m. Check it out if you get the chance, and feel so inclined. And let’s hope they both give it some ‘Wigan’!

 

 

 

Summer Storm.

The smallest pub in town
Affecting to charge tourist prices
Even though it’s largely locals inside.
I can forgive it that, just.

If I picked up a book in town, I’d plot up there for a pint.
In amongst the pictures of here in yesteryear
And the semi-decent jukebox, the small, wall-mounted telly.
Wood, and brass, the time-honoured criteria for ‘real’ pub decor.

So on this occasion I’d read my fill, had a drink or two and was ready for the off.
The trams were tempting, pulling up right across the road-but I was a roadman before it meant something else.
I set off, past the North Pier and the Metropole, with August skyline to my left humid and ominous away, yet still benevolent above.

I made it past Gynn Square and started to climb along the cliffs.
Gradually, no hands, pure footwork along the easy pathway, taking me higher.
Out to sea the horizon darkened as if swarming
I quickened my pace, aware of its trajectory.

I could see it out to sea now, the cascading sheets of rainfall,
And as Bispham came across the horizon the first flecks announced themselves.
I moved even quicker now, I knew I had one destination.
With a boom, it announced itself arrived, shouldering aside its own advance guard.

Redbank Road station, made it.
The downpour a tail end of mild fury from the Caribbean.
Passing through en route to Norway.
I stared out at the sleek black tarmac and heard the glide of tyres pass on indifferently.

Final furlong home,
The air-sweetened aftermath.
At a decade’s remove memorable
As I write these words.

A January Dream.

A January Dream.

I worked a long, long day
Home via the motorway
Then family, and food
We were in a T.V mood.

But I kept nodding off,
So she turned the T.V off.
So I went to bed, only to wake.
5am, for heaven’s sake!

The subconscious mind,
It can be bleak, what we find.
A reindeer running at me
What symbolism can that be?

Jolted awake, by a dream.
What can it mean, what is the theme?
Working hard, but sedentary.
Is to the mind, a penitentiary.

From The Cabin Lift.

This poem I wrote recently, but refers to a time early on in this decade when I was still living in my hometown, Blackpool. I spent many, many times walking up and down the cliff tops at Bispham, Norbreck and North Shore and really thought of it as my territory. Having miles of sea to look out on and views towards the distant Lakeland fells to the north, Snowdonia to the south and, on a really good day, the distant humps of the Isle of Man really works wonders on one’s mind, especially if on a downer or feeling blue-and the sea air is absolutely magnificent. The last part of the poem refers to a summer’s evening at twilight when I paused by a local landmark known as the cabin lift to look due southwards, right down the coast. I fancied I could see the distant lights of Liverpool (and you can see the city quite distinctly when up in the air when taking off from the old Blackpool Airport-I have), but looking again at a map I think of this particular occasion I was looking at Southport, halfway between the two and easily visible from the southern Fylde, but (so I thought) too south-easterly to be seen from where I was. The first part of the poem refers to the coast in general and particularly Barrow-in-Furness to the north, largely invisible by day from where I hail from apart from its enormous shipyards but suddenly apparent by its many twinkling lights at nightfall.

 

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the poem:

 

Hiding in plain view by day,
And becoming apparent at night.
As silhouettes sharpen and grow, and hazes diminish, the first twinkles begin.

Like candles sat on water, each one delineating our coastline from space.
This coastline, estuaries and bays.
I search for the vantage points.
I know a few.

The westwards facing shoreline.
The racing of the inland waterways to meet it,
Or their sluggish transition to the brine.
I see it, in my mind.

But back to these lights.
The night I was on the high point of my own urban cliffs and I perceived the city to the south.
Liverpool Bay, a way away.
I know it was you.

 

Fatigue

A constant friend, or foe, I feel a soldier in its army.

 

A constant companion, sometimes summoned by the best of times

and sometimes the cause of the worst of them.

 

I am trying to channel you for inspiration right now.

You should have your uses.

 

You can come with me, but I cannot permit you to stop me.

 

Like any old friend, experience teaches me how to deal with you. The permissible and the possible.