31Dec '13

The Year that Margaret Thatcher Died

In the year that Margaret Thatcher died
and Snowden showed us hidden lies
While China landed on the moon
A royal baby made us swoon
We lost Mandela, Clancy, Gandolfini
Ian Banks and Seamus Heaney
Walter’s meth-amphetamines
and typhoons rocked the Philippines
Armstrong’s cycle-cheating sin
Andy Murray’s tennis win
Miley twerked (I looked away)
The year is done – I’m sad to say.

13Jan '13

For the First Time in Forever

Today I heard the voice of God for the first time in forever.
I cried out to Him with an honest heart, for once.
“Lord would you send a man for me
To lift me up upon his back
To drag my half-dead selfish soul
Through the maze of filthy sewers
That my own sins have made?
Am I worth it?
Am I already too far gone
To ever be brought back?
Please Father send a man like that
To rescue even me. ”
He answered,
“Precious, precious son… I already did ”

I first committed my life to Jesus, albeit with limited understanding or conviction, at a musical Passion Play called “The Witness“, over twenty years ago. I renewed that decision today, watching Les Mis for the second time this weekend… This is a poem I wrote in the taxi home, which is absolutely true (This was long before the song with the same title in ‘Frozen’!)  

There is so much I don’t know now, that I used to be so certain of… But the inconceivable, undeservable grace of God revealed in Jesus? Of that much, at least, I am convinced.

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jondoe_264/4768135484/

8Nov '12

Nine out of Ten / Killing Zombies with a Thesaurus

When unknown voices speak their words of praise
Or critics share discouragement instead
You must decide, Artist, whose verdict stays
Protect your heart; keep flatt’ry from your head.
For if you write or paint or do, alert
To hear the plaudits of your fellow man,
Or worse, in fear of how their words might hurt,
Then you will not produce the art you can.
So please yourself, and no one else appease
For time is turning; we will turn to dust
And we should every precious moment seize:
Create because you have no choice; you must.
Don’t aim for money, or points out of ten
And if you have, give up – then start again.


On Reddit, I run a novelty account which responds to people’s trivial remarks, with a sonnet. I won’t link to it here, because some are a little rude and might offend some of my readers, but I have some fun with it!

Recently one of these sonnets was responded to by another novelty account called ‘Novelty_Account_Rater’.  His comment was ‘9/10’.  This poem was my response to that.


Oh and here’s a bonus sonnet – someone said “You should write a sonnet about killing zombies with a thesaurus”… :-)

Your challenge is accepted, reddit friend!
I will take up my arms against the tide
of foul, undying souls who shall descend
upon the corner of the world we occupy.
When “braaiinss!” they howl, I will, at once, respond,
“Acumen! Accuity! Brilliant Perspicacity!”
And as these words would be so far beyond
their ken – I’d kill them with loquacity!
So when the shambling dead knock at your door
Don’t fire a hollow-point suppository
Nor seek the axe, the shotgun or chainsaw:
But make life’s final stand with thesauri!
For thus is best despatched the zombie horde:
‘Tis proved, the pen is mightier than the sword.


4Sep '12

“The Lesson” by Roger McGough

I distinctly remember my first day at Chatham House Grammar School which was a nightmare of (at the time) institutionalised bullying by Masters and older Boys alike… somehow I made it to the last lesson of the day, and met the unforgettable, sadly-untraceable, Paddy O’Halloran, the Worlds Best Teacher, who introduced us to this poem.

2Sep '12

The Pretzel Family

The pretzel: family, defined
Generations intertwined
Self-supporting, self-protecting
Selfish thoughts itself correcting
Curved and sometimes twisted, yes
A source of calories and stress
But when with faith, not sugar, dusted
Then to God’s purposes entrusted:
A place to smooth our edges, rough;
A place to live,
to laugh,
to love.

This was prompted by a friend on Facebook saying goodbye to her colleagues at the “Mr Pretzels” restaurant – she called them her “pretzel family” and it conjured up this image for me…

5Mar '12
The Grey

The Grey

I really wanted to like “The Grey”, a film starring Liam Neeson leading a group of plane-crash survivors being stalked by wolves in the Alaskan wilderness. The trailer made it look like a determined struggle against the odds, an old-fashioned adventure yarn, an inspirational tale. Unfortunately, despite beautiful cinematography and artistic direction, it turned out to be a morally bankrupt film with the single worst record for foul language I’ve *ever* encountered, and a penetrating bitterness of spirit that left me regretting my own determination to see it through to the end. Even watching it at double speed (VLC will let you do that, and still hear the dialogue, but the script only really contained variations on one word anyway) – even watching at double speed, it was a waste of 58 minutes. Avoid.


15Feb '12

The Right to be Blind

In the naval Battle of Copenhagen, 1801, Admiral Nelson was ordered to disengage his ships from the fight by a hoisted flag signal from his superior’s ship. He said, “You know, I only have one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.” Raising his telescope to his blind right eye, he said – not the misquoted “I see no ships” – but “I really do not see the signal.” He fought on and won the day. Sometimes people will tell you it’s time to give up. You have a right to be blind sometimes.

7Dec '11

Codex Sinaiticus

I pass through St Pancras station in London twice every week. A few hundred yards from there, in the British Library, is a room full of treasures so ancient, so delicate that they may only be viewed through a dusky almost-light. In the centre of this room is a a book that is so valuable that without it and a few others, we would understand as little of the ways of God as an ant knows about Facebook. And such would that mystery have remained, untold, untaught, unpreached, if its pages had been left hidden behind a shroud of ignorance. The first time I saw it – Codex Sinaiticus, an ancient, handwritten Bible, and the oldest copy of the New Testament we have – I cried. Not because of some unique superstitious power infused in its parchment pages – but because of a new recognition of the message it contains. And what a message that is! It is a living, breathing thing! It is the origin of every Jesus-follower’s relationship with God; it is the source of every mustard-seed of faith; it is the God-breathed, self-sufficient proof, the truth, of the furious grace of our Lord. I thank God for every scholar, every spectacled academic, every student who devoted themselves to the study of this text and others like it. I spent years learning to read the New Testament in Greek, but I could barely follow the lines and forms of the Codex’s unpunctuated text, which does not even have a space between its words! I thank God for every transcriber, every translator and every teacher who helped me to find the truth that, were it not for them, would remain hidden behind this impenetrable encryption. It’s time to bury once and for all the unscriptural distrust of learning and intellectual ability that has kept the Church hamstrung and less effective than it might have been, for so long. It’s time to repent of both dehydrated theology that denies the power of God, and the dangerous, easy path of an oversimplified, that-settles-it faith. In Paul, God chose to use a man of extraordinary ability and exceptional education, who, having submitted all he was to the Lord, walked incomparably in the power of the Spirit to establish the early Church. Let’s not celebrate ignorance, or intellect either for that matter; “All things are ours”, whether Paul or Apollos… or Wigglesworth. Let’s celebrate instead the goodness and grace of God, and choose to submit *everything* we are to him in the pursuit of our great mission to make his name famous in this broken world. http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/

10Nov '11
Man getting head shaved


I’ve been bargaining with the Almighty
Selling my soul back to He
who fused its ethereal sinews.

Sacrificing cherished sins
On the secret altar
of my own covetousness.

Haggling generosity
In a fingers-crossed commitment
to karmic superstition.

Talking by faith
But needing to know
Begging to reap
What I promise to sow.

Lord, Lord?

As I write this, I’m waiting to hear about a mortgage application to buy a house that’s just perfect for my family. I’ve been praying hard, but reflecting on my thought-processes, I’ve realised that selfishness, covetousness and superstition were all at the heart of my communication with God instead of faith in my Father’s love and desire to bless. This poem is my attempt to process that and move to a better place – whatever happens with the mortgage. God is in charge, and the Best is Yet to Come.

PS – the cryptic title is a reference to Acts 18:18. It’s the name of the place where Paul shaved his hair to fulfil a vow. I briefly turned to this verse to justify my negotiation with God before realising the foolishness of my approach :-)

Image Credit: Flickr User knowprose CC licensed