In the evening I walked through the subway towards the station.


I saw the writing on the wall, and realised I had walked into a poem. One that was meant to be commenced at my destination. For those going towards the city.

Pointless to read, but I glanced nonetheless. I would not have stopped, but that one line not hit me like a cold slap across the cheek. It may have been written for all travellers, but today it was only for me.


I read it again.



I knew, I remembered, because of that very day. A day of watching lovers in Westminster, lovers in Jubilee Gardens, lovers in Waterloo.

I remembered without jealousy when we were them, or they were us. I was as happy for them as I was happy for us. I remembered that day when we rolled on the grass in that public private garden, putting on a show of the most exquisite happiness for all the people having their lunches, reading their books and waiting for their buses.

We strolled from park to place to point, never needing to be anywhere but the place we were. Up there on the cool grass, I laughed so hard, kicking my legs in the air, holding his face over mine, pulling his arm around me, pulling my dress down around my knees for the sake of the strangers. But now, under pavements, I am sucked through a concrete straw, into the mouth of Waterloo station.


The words on the rounded wall pointed to me alone and my dream of a garden, faded and foxed like a watercolour left in the sun.


I remembered another summer in another garden in London, sunlight on my face and hands in my hair. Then flashes of trains, airplane windows and cars, always moving and waving goodbye. A Venn diagram of our worlds merging in the thinnest secondary-coloured sliver. But then how I suddenly thrashed and reveled in wonderful grief, doubled over clutching at my stomach, gasping, barking, rasping.

I remembered how I grieved then for the grief itself, quietly and exquisitely, drawing out its every breath and measuring its feebling pulse. Then how I suddenly wished it dead. I folded it neatly and put it into a box of favourite mistakes, there to gather dust and eventually, hopefully, innocence.


Cold uneasiness came over me, faced with the fading stain of the kiss that was once so eager, then became so weak. Not just the draft through the tunnel.


It was the guilt. Of not wanting to live in the dark any more.


Guilt. The guilt of letting it go and it letting go of me.


Guilt. Of cruelly prising apart the grip of my right hand with my left.


Guilt. Of wanting to see the surface again.


But how long could I stand motionless in front of these words? There could no longer be any place left for it, not by my invitation. Neither here in this close tunnel nor above ground. Up there, my green garden belongs to lovers; down here, it cannot exist. The expectation and the memory fought. Green and grey, they collided and kicked at each other until I tore them apart. Crumpled and flung into the corner like read letters. So it had to be. I knew it wasn’t a promise; it was only a plan.



I had a train to catch.





Originally published in 2011, this was inspired by my first encounter with Sue Hubbard’s poem “Eurydice” on the walls of the Waterloo underpass.

The Best Spam Comments On My Blogs This Week – #2

The silliest spam comments on my blogs this week.

Another week of pruning comments from my websites‘ spam filters. Not as good as the previous week, but good enough to make me want to do it again, so here goes.

Here are the gems that Akismet vacuumed up for me this week.

Let’s all sing together.

“As a choral musician myself, I can relate to Br. Mark’s comments. I never had the talent or discipline to be a soloist, but I’ve always loved choral singing. Currently, I sing first soprano with a 75-voice master chorale. The most important skill I’ve learned over my nearly 40 years of singing in choirs is to listen to those around me, to be a complement to the others, to not be a selfish singer of prideful arrogance about my own skill, but to be a generous member that can blend into the totality of the choral sound.”

Right before dropping in a link to knockoff Hermes bags.



“Spring lasagna??! Love this idea!”

I have never published a recipe.


I am not your cousin.

“I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You are wonderful! Thanks!”

I may well be wonderful, but I assure you that I am not your cousin.


It’s your thing

“No matter if some one searches for his necessary thing, so he/she wants to be available that in detail, thus that thing is maintained over here.”

Go on then…

You must have come across some spam clangers yourself. Any to share?

Inheritance: The Search For My Mother’s Father – Part 2

(Start here – Part 1)

For years, we believed my eldest aunt’s story about the identity of the white man who got my grandmother pregnant.

Joycelyn was the eldest of my grandmother’s two daughters, and although she was only twelve years old at the time, she was more reliable than anyone else who had given us information. However, no one else had any information for us, so my mother had no choice but to believe.

The Best Spam Comments On My Blogs This Week

The very best spam comments on my blogs this week.

I publish a number of websites, and this inevitably means pruning a lot of comments from my spam filters. Most are vile, if I’m honest, but some are silly enough to crack a smile.

Comment spam must be the bane of internet publishing, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon, so here are some gems that Akismet vacuumed up for me this week.

Marmot day.

“Tired of debts and loans? I’m tired of working for my uncle? Every weekday reminds you of marmot day?”

Well, I say… this one surprised me. I was genuinely wondering if I’d missed celebrating marmot day this year. This has got to be the best spam comment I’ve had so far, though – I gained an education about rodents and public holidays, which I certainly wouldn’t have gone in search of.

I wonder what this guy’s uncle’s business is about, though; if it’s not marmot wrangling, I’d be disappointed.


Whooo hoo!

“Whooo hoo! That is fantastic news!! THANK YOU for trying it and sharing this lovely review.”

It wasn’t a review post. But glad I got you excited.


Link exchange

“Link exchange is nothing else except it is only placing the other person’s website link on your page at suitable place and other person will also do same in support of you.”

This isn’t groundbreaking information, but the dude then proceeded to leave the longest list of links I’ve ever seen – all for prescription drugs. I put this comment in a suitable place on my site, of course: the bin.


Liposuction costs in case you lose your tough copy.

“You know about them as quickly as yet sent to you, an individual even have digital copies of everything in case you lose a tough copy.
You may choose liposuction costs them pertaining to your computer or phone, or to print them out.”

I can only imagine this is a product of Google Translate, but seeing how many spam comments are left in Cyrillic, I might be missing out on stacks of comedy gold… so thanks, weird spam dude, for attempting English.

Go on then…

You must have come across some spam clangers yourself. Any to share?

Even more spam – week #2

Little Bee – A Book Review

Little Bee / The Other Hand by Chris Cleave – a review.

Little Bee is a 16 year old Nigerian refugee whose story begins long before we hear her voice in a British immigration detention centre. Somewhere in the past, the thread of her tale has become inextricably knotted with that of a middle class couple from Kingston-upon-Thames, and as she prepares to step out onto British soil, that couple’s world begins to unravel.

The first revelations come quickly, but leave the reader begging for more: how has this funny, clever but terrified girl found her way to this far-away land, and how does she know Andrew and Sarah O’Rourke?


Power, privilege and violence

Andrew and Sarah have the power of money and the privilege of British citizenship which allows them to escape the events that tied them to Little Bee, but they cannot escape the aftermath; it will not reveal too much to say that death arrives not long after the girl does. The couple have the desirable veneer that the refugee girl wishes she could put on, but it isn’t enough to protect them, or their young son, who incidentally lives in a Batman costume.

It makes one think about the loss of security we feel in the Western world , where terror has come to our doorstep in spite of our wealth, armour, and our perception of ourselves as being exceptional.

As for the book’s alternate title, The Other Hand, it speaks about more than an alternative view of an event; it hints at the violence buried in the pages and the value of another’s life.

Value and values

Its opening line sets up an investigation of value and values: if a single pound coin is both free to circulate and is welcomed everywhere, then why can’t an African girl enjoy the same freedom, or be as welcomed?

This plain description of the pound and its power is simple but arresting, and brings to mind innumerable concepts of money and intrinsic worth that we hold to be sacred, just by virtue of never challenging them.

In truth, this may be more arresting to me than some others, as when Little Bee talks about the freedom of the pound in opposition to the restrictions placed on a girl like her, in a way I am reading, “a girl like me.” Cleave drops globalisation squarely into the scene in the first part of his story; Little Bee understands it and tells it like it is, with a solemnity we wouldn’t expect from someone of her age and background.

Narration and language

Cleave’s writing is gripping, and seamlessly uses both Little Bee and Sarah as narrators. However, Little Bee’s language tends towards the poetic as the novel reaches its melodramatic climax, and you are left with the sense that this girl, formerly very solid, funny and real, is being used as a substitute for some general “elegant African-ness”.

Also, attempting dialogue in Jamaican patios results in a jarring effect, and only serves to point out the difficulty in writing so far outside one’s natural frame of reference. This one small thing for me reduces Yevette, a character from the detention centre, into a caricature; it is the one thing that could be seen to suggest a lack of sensitivity.

From the novel to the news

The story is a curious mix of humour and horror that stays with you long after you finish it. There are few books that return to mind in the way that this one does – forcefully and unbidden. This is helpful in an age of compassion fatigue, where the plight of migrants is brought to us first with shock and disbelief, and soon afterwards with side helpings of scorn and mistrust by the mainstream media.

It is particularly hard to read it now without recalling Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, seven years after the book’s publication.

This, and the horrific new slave trade awaiting sub-saharan migrants who make their way to Libya in the hopes of reaching Europe, colours the story with a new sadness; you realise that even when the cover is closed on this book, the true story is far from over.