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Showing posts from 2013

Why Carl Froch vs. George Groves was a Modern Classic

It was the fight that was going to hand Carl Froch the glue that would seal his boxing legacy.  A domestic fight against a man eleven years his junior.  George Groves had never fought for a world title, while this was Froch's eleventh consecutive world title fight.  Froch: lightening-fast, hard as nails, granite-chinned with bombs in both hands.  Our best pound-for-pound fighter who can count himself among only a handful of British boxers who went to America and won.  And George Groves.  Who'd lost Adam Booth, his trainer, a few weeks earlier because he was more interested in training David Haye, his now-retired stablemate.  Groves.  Unbeaten, but only so up to commonwealth level.  A chin largely untested.  Mortal enemy of James Degale, who thinks he's ugly, but whom Groves had beaten as an amateur and as a professional.  But Degale is no Froch.  Froch came second in a super middleweight contest to end all others: The Super Six World Boxing Classic, arguably the toughest b…

Man & Sea

for L.C

You will try and play down what you think he thinks you mean to him, and it is true when you say that every man awaits his great shift in purpose.
I have seen many of them stood dockside,  fixed, anachronistic and stowaway still, pleading stoic to be woven into The Sea.
But he is not that man.  And this is not his adventure.  Plain sight tells from the tension that unwinds from around his eyes when he sees you  
that one day he will find a ship  for the simple unnautical adventure  of telling you that she bears your name,
and will go on to describe it to you in such detail  that you will dream he brings it home and will warn him when he sails it too close to the fire.

The Evidence of Calmness

You'll try and play down 
what you think he thinks you mean to him,
but you know he needs you, 
as you him, 
because you have watched him 
when he didn't know you were watching
and have have felt the tension unspool around him 
when he sees you.
Whoever you are,
and wherever you were,
and whatever it was 
you did it with -
the result is enough to shock a passerby 
from the unmistakable,
uncensored evidence
of calmness in his eye.

On Waiting For a Postal Reply to a Poem Submission

You invariably chose to have it sent
to your parents' address - safer, yes,
but a way of convincing them
that your social status lies somewhere 
between Failure and Conqueror of Language.

So when your mother calls to say,
You've received a letter, 
you'll know by the way she says
Letter that she's not talking
The AA or Boots Opticians.

The address is handwritten,
she'll whisper. Of course,
she'll know your next question 
because you've asked it before: 
Does it look like my handwriting?

She knows your handwriting. 
She's probably kept the other 
stamp-addressed envelopes
that you'd opened when you still had
light in your eyes. but she'll say
I cannot say for sure.

Don't get your hopes up.
As a general rule of thumb,
if you can still remember 
your mother's first name, 
it's much, much too soon.

2000trees Music Festival 2013

It took a while, but summer has well and truly arrived.  The pale-faced pessimists who said that summer would never come now languish, fan-swept, in the coolest room in their houses.  These are the same pessimists who never believed we would find ourselves with a British Wimbledon Champion come summer's end.  They will have to save their pent up mockery for another grand slam.  Unfortunately for them, and as an extension to celebrations of last year, this summer has been another flag waver's paradise.  Just when we thought we'd expelled enough patriotism for one decade after the Queen's Golden Jubilee and The London Games, along comes 2013, or (for the optimist among us): 2012+1, or simply: The Update.  It's as good as any Super Saturday. 

So we find ourselves slap bang in the middle of music festival season.  This week is book-ended by two of my favourite festivals: 2000trees, which enjoyed wall-to-wall sunshine last weekend, and Latitude this coming weekend.  I wa…

The Lonely Bear


Imagine for a second that I am a cyclist on the final stage of The Vuelta aBolivia.  I have climbed to the summit of 4,496 metres above sea level, through the high plains of Altiplano, Lake Titicaca and finallyLa Paz.  It is the highest and arguably the most challenging tour on the cycling calendar.  When I first arrived, the locals had told me in hand expressions and broken English that the summit climb would make my lungs scream.  This morning, I saw Padre Perez anoint every ambulance with holy water.  Such is its intensity, I’m told he does it every morning during the tour.  I know the task ahead, but knowing this did little to settle my nerves.  The apprehension mostly leaves me when I’m on the road.  All I can do now is focus on the game plan and the wheel of the man in front.  This is the final stage.  For all the pain a rider has to push through on a climb at altitude, we always hope the final ascent is the sweetest - that is, the ascent to a podium finish.
I was at the centre o…

Your Ugly Face

When you frown, your face screws into a knot not dissimilar to that of a clove hitch, though to compare you to a knot as useful as this one would be to labour it with a comparison it doesn’t deserve.  There is beauty in seeing a well-groomed, happy, obedient horse tied neatly to a hitching post outside of a saloon. There is no beauty in your frown. In fact, I do not know a horse, rope or post in history that has been afflicted with the separate or collective ugliness  of your scowl. I am reasonably confident of this supposition and I will stand by it. However, I must distance myself from objectifying matters, because it is an overly simplistic device used to derive an element of humour from a place where there absolutely is none. And therein lies my problem.  Or rather, your problem. So for fear of comparing you to something marginally favourable, it is only fair that I compare you to yourself, because the only thing that comes close to the profound ugliness of your ugly, frowning face is your ug…

How to Win the Lottery by Matthew Sweeney

I'm currently reading Matthew Sweeney's 'Black Moon'.  Sweeney has been one of my favourite poets ever since I discovered his prize-winning poem, 'The History of Glassblowing' a few years ago.  For me, it's his sense of humour that gives his poetry lasting appeal.  It's inventive and often fantastical, and his poems are a real joy to read.  Humour in poetry requires a very light touch for it to work on more than one level, but Sweeney does this with incredible skill.  As a result, his humorous poems are understated enough to avoid becoming distracting or intrusive.  'How to Win the Lottery' is taken from his 2007 collection, Black Moon, and is absolutely an example of one such poem. 

There Will Be Blood

Nurse: Before you give blood, I've just got to ask you a few questions.
Me: Okay.
Nurse: Have you done any strenuous exercise today? 
Me: Yes-I mean no. By yes I mean no. Well, maybe.
Nurse: Which one is it? 
Me: It's a possibly-but-pretty-please-I'd-still-like-to-give-blood. Is that an option on your sheet?
Nurse: Mr Wiggins, I'm going to have to press you for a straight answer.
Me: It depends how you define strenuous.
Nurse: What did you do? 
Me: I went on a small bike ride.
Nurse: How small? 
Me: A medium-sized small. I cycled back from Cheltenham. You see, I don't have a car at the moment.
Nurse: How far did you cycle? 
Me: It's not as much about-
Nurse: Sir, how far did you cycle? 
Me: Five miles, give or take.
Nurse: Give or take? 
Me: Um, now let's see. No, it was five miles exactly. 
Nurse: And how fast did you cycle? 
Me: Now, you see: that's the thing. I had to rush back to make this appointment.
Nurse: How long did you cycle for? 
Me: Oh, maybe thirty minutes. Th…

A Short Account of Kurama, Japan (And Why Andy Likes Men)

Thursday 26th July 2012

The Lonely Planet book states that Kurama is a retreat for Kyotoites who need to get away from the pressures of the city.  The receptionist at J-Hoppers Hostel in Kyoto said that it would be a lot cooler there, and indeed it was: the higher altitude (Mount Kurama rises to 1,916 feet) in an area of little congestion allowed us at least a little respite from the overwhelming heat of Kyoto that has tormented us since we've arrived. 
The train weaved the 12 kilometres north-west through dense forest to the small rural town of Kurama.  You can understand why the residents of Kyoto City like it so much.  For one thing, the train provides a transition from big city to small rural town that is as soothing and restorative as any journey I've ever experienced.  The vast green borders that the train cuts through allows the traveller - Kyoto resident or otherwise - a much-needed period of reflection before the real recuperation begins.  
I cannot recall seeing one wes…

Helen Ivory's 'Waiting for Bluebeard'

I must join Matt Merritt at Polyolbion in drawing attention to Michelle McGrane's blog, Peony Moon.  In her latest entry, Michelle interviews Helen Ivory in which she talks about the inspiration behind her latest collection, 'Waiting for Bluebeard' (published by Bloodaxe Books, 2013).  That interview can be found here.  I owe a personal debt of gratitude to Helen Ivory as she was kind enough to publish one of my poems on her extremely well-regarded poetry webzine, Ink, Sweat and Tears.  I urge everyone to take a look.  
The interview concludes with a picture of a mouse reading one of Helen's poems.  What more could you want?   

Nan's Tribute

I know my brother will agree with me when I say that we both had a blissfully happy childhood, and this was in no small part due to nan.  She was a strong woman: strong-willed, strong-minded.  Strong was a regular prefix.  But she also doted on us with that strength and we doted back.  Another of her many good qualities was her generosity, which as a kid translated to pocket money.  Such was this generosity that receiving pocket money from her – particularly during her final years – was like receiving a tax-free second income.  
Nan was someone who saw things plainly - sometimes a little too plainly, though sometimes not.  Her methods, also, were occasionally received with suspicion, such as the time when I was eight or nine.  We were having tea around nan and granddad’s.  My hands needed to be clean for inspection at cub scouts later that evening and soap wasn’t doing a good enough job of removing the ink I’d got on them.  So Nan motioned towards the cupboard below the sink and produc…

On the Occasion I Turned to My 23 Year-Old Brother and Asked Him to Tell Me Absolutely Anything

Hippocampus: it projects rostrally. Write something about the brain – not like a technical poem, but one pertaining to the brain.
The lateral geniculate nucleus is part of the thalamus, a mid-brain structure that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, amongst other functions,
such as the generation of neuronal oscillations, and it’s also a target for deep brain stimulation, which is a treatment designed to attenuate resting tremor in Parkinson’s Disease.
Russians managed to transplant the head of a dog onto the back of another dog, which could blink.
Head transplants are a thing of the future. 
Take the head off a paraplegic and swap it with the head of a comatose patient.
Have you seen Face/Off?  Basically, that film, but instead of the face, it’s the head.

In Memoriam

A Few Moment After a Boy Inherits His Grandfather's First Generation iPod

Dad!  Dad!...I can't work it!...I've read the manual...It has loads of foreign words...I am reading the English section!...Words like "Mains Charger" and "Socket"...It sounds unreasonable to me...Wait for what?...Power?...Honestly, dad.  You aren't making any sense...How on earth can they expect me to wait?...And what are these dangly white things?...Ear what?...You are joking, right?...There is no way I am putting those in there...And this is something granddad did for fun?...I'm just saying it's unprincipled...All I'm saying is that perhaps that fruit company should have stuck to making fruit.

Some Thoughts on Today's Cryptic Crossword

Today's cryptic crossword in today's Citizen went better than expected.  This is usually slightly more difficult than The Sun's cryptic, and I'm usually left struggling after half a dozen clues.  But today I managed to do half of it: 12/24.  I sat in the garden while I did it, so perhaps it was a combination of sunny weather (rather restorative after such a long winter!) and St. George's Day - a dragon of a puzzle, albeit half-slayed. 
A few clues in particular made me chuckle:
23a: Right in the middle of the cemetery (4,6) Answer: Dead Centre
As far as cryptic clues go, this was quite a straightforward one.  Easy to work out but a nice little pay off.  
16d: Forty five and not yet married? (6) Answer: Single
As you can see from my scribbling at the bottom, numbers within clues usually suggests that roman numerals should be used, so I wrote "XLV" to see how that would fit into the answer. Then it dawned on me that a 45 is a record, or single.  This one was a dou…

Recollecting a Particular Sunday Morning in February

I had always hoped that there would come a time when a beautiful and articulate young woman who, upon graduating from university, would return home to live with her parents while she set about planning the next stage of her remarkable life.  If I was ever lucky enough to meet her, I had always wondered what drink she might order if she had accepted this man’s invitation of coffee. 

It was a particularly fresh Sunday morning in February.  We had agreed to meet at 11 o’clock.  I had cycled in spite of the cold.  It didn’t snow, but the air was manufacturing something close to it.  The atmosphere was sharp with ice, found its way through my gloves, drying out the base of my fingers.  I arrived forty minutes early.  Seagulls circled over an ugly, concrete sea.  I muttered a curse to each and every one of them. 
A man was cleaning the frontage of the jeweller’s shop next door while his son secured the ladder at the bottom.  I couldn’t think of anything worse than a wet sponge on a day like …

The Top Four (A Google Found Poem)

Why is the sky blue
Why is it called boxing day
Why is the sea salty
Why is loft insulation needed

Who is the secret footballer
Who is banksy
Who is the stig
Who is gossip girl

Where is chuck norris
Where is death in paradise filmed
Where is bora bora
Where is downton abbey

What is my IP
What is the harlem shake
What is love
What is my IP address

The Oscars 2013

I think it’s safe to say that I’m not as excited by this year’s Oscars as I have been in previous years.  I can’t help deriving a certain apathy from the short list   I haven’t had this feeling since The Hurt Locker won Best Film in 2010 (it denied Avatar its Oscar, so perhaps it was the lesser of two evils).
My two main gripes: all the Best Supporting Actor nominees have all won before, and the presence of Silver Linings Playbook, a film of such abundant mediocrity that I felt guilty for convincing my brother to watch it with me over Seven Psychopaths.
Do I care that Ben Affleck was snubbed his Best Director nod?  Do I care that the Best Actress Nominees contain the youngest and oldest actresses ever nominated?  Do I care that Daniel Day-Lewis could make history and win his third Best Actor Oscar?  The answer to the last one is ‘probably a little bit’, but the others?  Well, not so much. 
To be honest, I'm most interested in seeing the kind of job that Seth McFarlane does as host.  …

New Tab

I open a new tab,
go to Google, type in your name,  click Search just to see it there
as a title  at the top, and go back  to whatever it was I was doing.  

The Legend of the Casio Calculator Watch

Following on from a poem I wrote recently entitled The Gift of Shower Gel - Christmas Eve 1997 in which I explore what my eleven year old self considered as successful and, er, less successful presents, I'd like to expand further on its last line: 
      "would kiss two cheeks twice for a calculator watch."
Of course, by 1997 my wrist already sported a calculator watch, as was the fashion of the day.  But there was an upgrade.  Always an upgrade.  I prayed that Santa knew his Casio from his Seiko and had what Bill Bailey calls "The Laminated Book of Dreams" in his reference library, otherwise known as the Argos catalogue.        

During the first or second year of Secondary School, my beloved Casio Calculator Watch went missing.  When I say went missing, I mean a substitute P.E Teacher stole it.  It went into his sports bag before a lesson one day and - like the teacher - was never seen again.  
My mum wrote to my tutor and after a little bit of wrangling, was give…

The Tarantino Vows

Repeat after me.


Not yet, stupid.  Repeat after me: I solemnly swear. 

"I solemnly mother f***ing swear."


"I solemnly swear."

That from this day forwards.

"That from this day forwards."

I will watch every Quentin Tarantino film at the cinema.

"Excluding Deathproof."


"Excluding Death Proof.  I thought it'd be rubbish.  And I didn't want to watch the other one.  

Okay.  Repeat after me: I will watch every Quentin Tarantino film apart from Death Proof at the cinema as long as I shall live. 

"| do."


"I will watch every Quentin Tarantino film apart from Death Proof - because I thought it was going to be a bit rubbish and I read in a review that Planet Terror was shit - as long as I shall live." 

Till Death Proof and Planet Terror do part. 

"Till Death Proof and Planet Terror do part." 

You may now kill the bride.

"Thank you, vicar.  I'd just like to say a few words: [Clears throat]…

The Gift of Shower Gel, Christmas Eve 1997

As a kid, I knew all-too well its weight, its shape, my welling
disappointment.  It's ushered into my hands by aunt; uncle
typically backgrounded, nodding with false involvement.
It’s a football! someone shouts, No! It’s an upright piano.

I play along, guessing Ladder, feel my blood vessels pinching at
the sides of my mouth.  All is not lost.  I shake it - it could still be
a G-con 45.  If I squint hard enough, I can imagine the utopia of
Destruction Derby 2. I begin to open the lifeless, unholy trinity

of Shower Gel, Body Spray, Post Shave Balm.  Give me
anything.  Give me the anonymous metal hexagon
of Quality Streets, or ironic socks, or last year’s Now 35 -
would kiss two cheeks twice for a calculator watch.

Gabriel Manfred Aris (b. 25 March 1925 d. 30 January 2000)

In the car it crept up on                             me smarted  like the pang of mortality.  
Did Granddad leave                 a note?     I wanted to ask.
But I could taste the pause bitter  rolled it around on my tongue                                waited
as long as that ferry                                crossing                                    at 15 from the Hook of Holland  to Harwich.