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The Hawthorn Halls (the saltwater edition)

If I was to step out of my front door and leap in to the air and whilst doing so grow wings then I would almost certainly join the crows to see if they do, in fact, fly in straight lines. It would be quite easy to tell by simply watching the passing towns below; first there would be Hebden Bridge to my left and then over moorland towards Colne before dissecting the M6 at Kirby Lonsdale and coming into land at Windermere or possible Ambleside to avoid the tourists. I might, if feeling adventurous, carry on towards Scafell Pike but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m guessing it would take little less than an hour travelling at a constant speed and I would most definitely be home for tea. Regardless of all this, however, I still do not live in the North West.

Although, due to the Yorkshire watershed, I will never be a North Westerner, it was still a pleasure to hop over to Hebden Bridge (albeit by car) last week for the launch of the new poetry anthology, Sculpted. Described as the poetry of the North West, Sculpted is a collection of poems by sixty two of the NW best contemporary poets and to prove it, six of those poets crammed in to the sell out (yes, sell out) launch on a wet and windy Thursday evening.

Hosted by Hebden’s very own independent book shop, The Book Case, the line up included readings from J.T. Welsch, Andrew Oldham, Melissa Lee-Houghton and John Siddique. Also adding to the impressive line-up were the book’s editors, Angela Topping and Lindsey Holland.

J.T. (I don’t know and didn’t dare ask) opened the show and for me was the surprise hit of the event. There’s not a hint of red squirrels in his poem, Formby which he opened with and immediately mesmerised the audience into silence. Buy the book for this one poem alone and read it out loud in your best American accent to fully appreciate the playful use of language and imagery. And if you’re familiar with Formby, you or the kids won’t be disappointed by the lack of squirrels.

Angela Topping’s The Visited brought back some wonderful memories of being dragged around to people’s houses by my mother and very simply just popping in for a cuppa. This was something that just happened, and whilst mums would be knocking on the neighbours it was just as likely that the neighbours would be offering the courtesy of three knocks on our own door before tramping in and plonking themselves down at the kitchen table. Imagine Facebook in real life and you’re somewhere near.

John Siddique was the last to read and it was a joy to finally hear him in the right environment. The last time I saw John was in a busy Waterstones in Bradford where he battled against the piped pop hits of the day and where the manager had very kindly provided only three seats for the audience. You may not be surprised that there was only one shelf of poetry, tucked away at the back of the shop with a fantastic collection of Larkin, Duffy and Shakespeare (sales, however, were down).

John began by reading his contribution to the anthology, I Think of You in which he tenderly uses the sense of a place, this being ‘Spring Wood’ at Hardcastle Crags to recall a lost love. After several poems from earlier books, John ended the evening with poems from Full Blood. His moving introduction that recounted the horrors witnessed in Woolwich earlier made the poem, Thirst particularly thought provoking and, in many ways, healing.

Many a fine wine was drunk throughout the evening and it was a joy to meet so many wonderful poets and supporters of poetry in one swoop. The continued absence of wings meant that I could only watch the wine being soaked so eventually bid farewell and joined the one road out.

Lying next to John, in an editorial sense, in the anthology is a new poem from the very hard working, Kim Moore. Being Married retains the same voice that created many of the poems in her wonderful, prize winning pamphlet, If We Could Speak Like Wolves. I’ve been a fan of Kim’s poetry since reading some of her work through The Poetry Business but refrained from buying a pamphlet as I’ve been trying to catch her live at one of her many readings – it seems that Kim could also possibly do with a set of wings after following her adventures on the blog. Sadly work commitments have led me astray so it was a nice coincidence that together with last week’s Sunday Poem, Kim announced the arrival of a PayPal button on her site. Without further ado, the button was pressed and two days later the pamphlet arrived, signed and with a thank you note. Find out more at

Also on the reading list this week is Gillian Allnutt’s How the Bicycle Shone, Garry Ely’s Angel Visits and, courtesy of the PBS, Michael Symmons Roberts’ Drysalter. You may not see me for a while.

Musically, the Heavy Rotation award this week goes to The National with their new release, Trouble Will Find Me. What, with the lack of wings and everything, it’s been on constant play in the car which is a good thing as with any The National release, several plays bring gifts from music heaven. As a taster, here’s the opener which will very soon be taken its leave from the Halls and probably flying into a digitally sundrenched North Western sky.

The Hawthorn Halls (the bus stop edition)

And so it began. The time: 07.30 am. The day: St George’s Day – the eldest kept quiet in a way that only teenagers can but both Will and Lydia, with backing vocals from mum, gave it their all as they belted out the song (which according to Mark Radcliffe and BBC4 is the richest song in the world, ever), Happy birthday to you…

A late shift the day before dictated that my forty third year on earth had, somewhat, blurry beginnings but the fog soon cleared with a barrage of gifts and cards and more songs. We like birthdays! Lydia is especially enthusiastic as her own special day follows forty eight hours later. Fortunately we’ve had no illness and much to Lydia’s relief, no daughter inspired poetry such as April Birthday with you can read at the UK Poetry Library buy following this link:

As well as a birthday day it was also the start of a full seven days leave after what seemed like a winter that had began to test our patience.

Let the celebrations begin…

Special breakfast followed by a mooch around Hebden Bridge followed by lunch at Mooch followed by further mooching in The Book Case (a great independent bookshop that’s now fully restored after last year’s flood) followed by a quick drive home before finally finishing the day with a great family meal at Discovery Bay (made famous by Gordon Ramsey’s F Word). Phew!

But that was only the start of the celebrations. The next day (to quote David Bowie) began with the alternative drainage folks finally managing to get their wagon up the lane to empty the septic tank (it’s a long story and one that should only be told with addition of speciality cleaning products) followed by garden time followed by a fantastic open mic night at the Castle Hotel in Manchester hosted by Bad Language where the brilliant Rosie Garland headlined. You can find out more about Bad Language at Phew!

And then it was year seven for daughter. After second special breakfast we promptly shipped the birthday girl off to school and went shopping which amazingly coincided with lunch at Bolster Moor farm shop (it’s all about the pies) followed by family celebrations and birthday party followed by Amanda’s unveiling of her amazing ‘Poodle’ cake followed by signing on at the cricket club. Phew!

And then Friday was I Am Kloot day at The Picturdrome followed by photograph of set list gifted by kind sound engineer.

Set List - I Am Kloot

Cuckoo Day – yes, we really do worship those darn birds, arrived on the Saturday and after months of organisation for the day long outside event, so did the snow. Fortunately it was only pretend snow and the showers soon passed to reveal a bright blue sunny type of day where a minority of motorists could shout at us for closing roads to allow the parade to pass and where the day finally finished to the sounds of Prince’s Purple Rain being played by our local rock band in the sunshine from the steps of the Methodist Church – only in Marsden.

Now after celebrating the success of the Cuckoo with several real ales and support for the local Chinese it would have been nice for a rest but, as I said, we like birthdays and this year Lydia’s grand finale was a trip to the Blue Planet (cue photograph of shark)


followed by a wet and windy ice cream at West Kirby beach. Phew!

On Monday I had a rest – leave can be very tiring – and finally got round to submitting a new pamphlet for the latest competition. So now I’m looking longingly at the collection of new books, including Sean Borrodale’s Bee Journal, Adam Feinstein’s autobiography on Neruda and John Burnside’s collection Black Cat Bone, not to mention the plentiful supply of pamphlets from the wonderful Happenstance Press, all propped at the side waiting for some dedicated me time – or is that asking too much.

Now, after the briefest of warm weather (don’t mention London but cue picture of tree taken from horizontal position whilst children modelled wetsuits for first wild swim of the year)


we have now been forced back inside the halls where the now sadly overlooked word, ‘cinematic’ is found nestling beneath the floorboards waiting to join the introduction for this week’s selection from the zero players.

Whatever the weather, there will always be poetry and music.

Heart Shoots

Heart Shoots

Very proud to have a poem included in the new anthology from Indigo Dreams Publishing that aims to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. Heart Shoots is the successor to Soul Feathers, the 2011 anthology initiated by Annie Morgan and co-edited by Annie and Ronnie Goodyear. 

Heart Shoots has retained the ethos of of publishing poems from the newcomer to the international famous and includes poetry by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Seamus Heaney and Sharon Olds.

Please follow the above link for more information and details of how to purchase your copy.


For the person who stumbled across my blog with the search term Spring Equinox 2013 Marsden then I humbly apologise but do hope you like what you found instead. I’m assuming that it was the word Marsden that drove the engine to think that I could offer some light on the subject. The real question now though is why the searcher put the name Marsden? Is this the beginning of a new Dan Brown type thriller where Robert Langdon stumbles upon the centre of the universe during a lecture tour of the Pennines? I shall remain curious.

It is, of course, happy spring equinox day today which means that we now have equal daylight to darkness which in simple terms means more time to watch the snow. Yes, it’s snowing again! I may have to change the name of the blog if things don’t improve.

The spring equinox also heralds the end of my first year as a poet. After spending the last twenty years as a bedroom poet (similar in nature to a bedroom DJ or bedroom musician both of which I’ve also trialled), about this time last year I finally sat down and began the hard graft of becoming a published poet. It’s been an interesting twelve months and in many ways, quite fascinating. Not quite Dan Brown but something certainly worth writing about so watch this space.

On poetry, I’ve been fascinated with the art since discovering Frost at school but not since Simon Armitage’s first collection, Zoom, have I looked forward to reading a book as much as I did last week when I finally discovered Clare Pollard’s latest collection. Clare was a featured poet on Abegail Morley’s excellent blog, The Poetry Shed. The article featured the poem, Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe from Clare’s fourth collection, Changeling published in 2011 by Bloodaxe Books. I immediately hopped over to a popular shopping site (don’t mention the tax) and bought a copy of the book feeling slightly embarrassed that I’d missed the boat first time around. Changeling is described as being steeped in folklore and ballads and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I read it from cover to cover and then, like most good poetry books, left it on the side to dip in and out throughout the week. A new favourite on the keeper shelves and definitely recommended.

You can read more from The Poetry Shed at

Clare also writes her own blog at

The Hawthorn Halls are currently closed for spring cleaning so no zero players this week. Instead I wanted to leave you with a new favourite. This is Song For Zulu by Phosphorescent. This was a recent headphones moment on my Facebook page. You can find out more about the band at Their new album, Muchacho is released this week.

The Hawthorn Halls (the racing post)

Tuesday’s weather was September blue with the milky sun of the weekend finally giving way to the cut throat light of early spring. Shadows were long and in stark contrast to the flood of sun light, the hills still bore numerous slips of white as the cold air cosseted the last of the snow. It was a good day to be out and about so at nine a.m. I did what every self respecting lover of landscape should do on the first day off work and climbed into the dentist’s chair.

Now there are worse things in life than the punishing quarterly ritual of the ear piercing jet being manoeuvred beneath the gum line against raw nerves but, looking out over the trees into the deep blue sky, I was struggling to come up with any examples.

The trouble with four days off mid-week at half term is that without really trying the days suddenly become laden with activities, jobs, and treats. Most school holidays follow a similar pattern: it’s the tartan of time that we picnic on however this half term would be slightly different.

With the three monthly meditation exercise over (it is true that you can beat pain by focusing on a screw in the light above your head), and the family waiting outside, we were off – to paint an attic room. Now as you might guess; feeling a little like a newly hatched chicken blinking in to the sun, setting off with a whiter kind of smile to paint a room put me in a bit of a grump. It was the first day off to coincide with a real sun blast since weeks before Christmas and the next nine hours of my life were mapped out to include five litres of Dulux best, a brush and a roller.

We were clearing Uncle WA’s house, which, at first sight, appeared to have been used as a store for the last forty years worth of racing papers. WA didn’t like to throw things away. He had passed away just before the festive season and Amanda and her sister (the only remaining relatives in the UK) had worked tirelessly since the new year to clear, scrub, clean and throw away as much of the hoard as they could fit in the back of the family estate. It had been a Herculean effort and timed to coincide with the arrival, from Ireland, of Uncle John (WA’s brother) and his large white van. I scalded myself for being a little grumpy and left the walking boots at the back of my mind.
Five white van tip trips later (yes, we had to take the death certificate) and several coats of white paint and the house suddenly began to quiet down and stop moaning at the thought of being clean and tidy. We had done it, just, and it was time for tea.

Now, should proof were needed that being a six year old child is the best thing in the world then the following day provided all the evidence. It was ash scattering day. WA’s first and only love in life had been the horses: race horses. With this in mind, Amanda had made an enquiry to York Race course to see if there was any possibility that we could hold a little ceremony near the track. ‘Of course,’ said Tom, who appeared to deal with all things ash scattering, ‘no problem at all. Many people like to use the finishing post, that’s as long as they’re not racing!’

So, on a bitterly cold grey Wednesday we found ourselves, after a short guided tour of the facilities (never one to miss a sale) stood beneath the finishing post at York Race course with a large tub of ashes. As we arrived at the post and Tom said his fair wells and good wishes it became clear that the world had lost a few racing fans over the course of the winter. Flowers clung to the post and piles of ash dotted the track side. We all looked at each other and secretly wondered what to say. We didn’t need to worry. Lydia and cousin, Daisy suddenly seized the opportunity and grabbed the pot of ash. No one else was getting a look in. ‘Come on,’ they both chorused furiously shaking the ashes over the grass. ‘Let’s be having you. Come and see the horses.’ They continued, chatting merrily away to their great uncle.

It was a good send off; something that WA would have liked.

We thawed out in Jamie’s Italian as a bit of a treat. It was good to enjoy the food without the strange feeling I had the last time we took Explorer George to the Manchester version for his birthday treat. Unbeknown to me throughout that last meal and proceeding drinks I was harbouring the Noro virus and hours later would discover the exacting peculiarities of being sick as a dog. It would be four days before I ate again so at least the last meal had been a fine one.

The day finished with The Marsden Write Out Loud open mike night. We’d landed back in the village just after the M62 rush hour (2 – 7) and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to try out a couple of new poems to our monthly group. The secret must be out. Arriving in the Mechanics a little past the starting time I was greeted with a number of new faces and emergency chairs! Our normal sedate group of around ten to twelve people had swelled to well over thirty and everyone was raring to go. Some had just come for the pleasure of listening whilst others, including myself, were happy to read a couple of poems – just a little faster. I always find reading new work to an audience extremely rewarding. You get that instant hit of whether the poem makes the right emotional connections. The shorter introductions and speed reading had the desired effect and, along with the usual five or six, the day ended in the Riverhead.

Exactly two nights later the same emergency chairs where waiting for me again in the Mechanics, this time for the annual beer festival. It was a great way to end the week, sharing numerous local brews with friends and neighbours. Only towards the end of the night was I introduced to a Finnish lady who now lived next door to where I had spent most of my child hood. Small world! The village has changed so much over the last twenty years or so by becoming a set for countless films and TV programmes as well as a tourist centre and second home for people from Lancashire, so to hear that many of the old neighbours, including Donald with his infamous home brew and Alan from across the road where still there was strangely comforting.

It’s just a bright blue sky

Whilst searching the enclaves of zero plays within the Halls this week I came across a tune from what was one of my album of the years in 2012. It’s a proper start to finish record and my only regret so far is that I’ve not seen the band live. The video for Chapel Song by We Are Augustines was also included on the album, Rise Ye Sunken Ships and as I’m not a fan of freebies and extras at the end of a record the track was promptly unchecked and un-played.

It’s a great anthem and a fitting end to the week. Follow the link to watch the video.

The Hawthorn Halls (the silent edition)

As the eighties tripped into the nineties, almost without warning my soundtrack of life suddenly derailed towards an E before I coloured landscape where I was suddenly the one out of time.

U2 did the honourable thing and bowed out declaring that they would have to go away and dream the whole thing up again, Echo and the Bunnymen rode away on horses, The Cure disintegrated, The Smiths turned the light out and, in an Orwellian twist, no one was allowed to mention the words, Brothers in Arms. Things were changing and even in the spot lit fog of the Broken Doll pub at Newcastle, The Stones’ Gimme Shelter failed to impress the afternoon grant funded drinking club.

We were only months away from the real world and without warning friends began to get their hair cut, started to wash, stopped drinking and, most alarmingly, started to dance. Whatever Charly said then anyone cool enough to be listening to The Prodigy did. We were in the North East but under the shadow of the West. Joy Division was dead and Madchester reigned with New Order in full club spangled party mode.

I have to admit that I was quickly becoming disillusioned and retreated back to Floyd, Zeppelin and Sylvian in the comfort of the not very expensive quayside student rooms. I tried to hide away but room mates constantly hopped into my darkening days with luminous anthems such as Come Home, The Only One and Fools Gold. Perhaps I was homesick; longing to watch the sun sink behind the Pennines with Shine On You Crazy Diamond in the background or sitting on the floor of the cellar bar in The Zetland with Lemmy shouting about his Silver Machine. Whatever the reason, the ideology of Madchester left me as cold and colourless as the very streets where it was born.

Days were getting longer and the inevitability of work was looming. First year students were beginning to find their feet muscling in on the secrets of Indie Nightclubs with their fake denims and floppy hair. Getting drunk was becoming unfashionable; as was pogo dancing. And just when things couldn’t get any worse a smiley face appeared. ACEEED! Whistles, Poppers, shoe gazing and hapless DJs trying to keep the whole thing together was the re-write. No longer could you whip a crowd to frenzy with The Only Way is Up: Fool’s Gold was the new cool!

Into this environment we enter the land of the Darling Buds. Recently downloaded as a good value greatest hits (hence the zero play), this week’s track finds a visitors pass to the great halls.

It was Indie night at Walker’s nightclub (Tuesday) and A Guy Called Gerald was playing with Voodoo as the soon to be inspired DJ began to loop the opening sequence of this week’s track into the acid house buzz. Suddenly, as the song burst into life all thoughts of Dexy’s begging Eileen to come and save the day faded to a euphoric chant of all I ever wanted/all I ever needed/is here in my arms. The music was intoxicating and for a moment I couldn’t think for the life of me who it was until the realisation that the south had invaded and left Madchester standing in its own shoe gazed polish.

Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode re-awakened the soul. True, the vinyl of Speak and Spell had been on the shelves for several years but it was the extraordinary re-invention of the Violator album that charged my senses. The music coupled with the art and film work of Anton Corbijn gave the music scene a genuine sense of purpose that would soon snuff out the mad spin of Mad.

I was already a big fan of Anton Corbijn following his work with the likes of David Sylvian, Propaganda and, of course, U2. Who doesn’t think of the iconic gatefold with the metaphorical tree and desert when you here the Eno and Lanois inspired opening to what fans call ‘Streets’.

Corbijn’s work for Depeche Mode was as groundbreaking; still rooted in the American Interior, this time the black and white was washed with Technicolor – a style that would soon follow U2 to Berlin where dreams where re-worked with a Trabant. Unless you’re lucky enough to track down an original version of the Violator film, Strange Too, which includes the inspired –this is how you make a pop video (clowns and donkeys included) – film for the track, Halo then opt for Videos 86 – 98.

Another time:

In December 2011, Amanda and I returned to Newcastle to see the wonderful Unthanks perform the songs of Robert Wyatt and Andrew and the Johnsons at the homecoming show at the Gateshead Sage Theatre.

The Broken Doll is long demolished so after the show we escaped to another old favourite haunt of mine, the Red House. There we were met by a group of students challenging each other at the jukebox. Thankfully there was no Happy Mondays or Inspiral Carpets. Stone Roses made a guest appearance as the soon to be new millionaires of rock and roll and then in the dark of the night, Silence. All I ever wanted was the shout from the bar.

How did it get so late?

We laughed at the circle of life being witnessed in real time. I then had the realisation that Enjoy the Silence was as old as Gimme Shelter had been in those black and white days of The Broken Doll. We finished our drinks; it was getting late. As we walked back to our hotel I was reminded of the poem, Evening by Simon Armitage: home seemed so far away and so did our past.

The Deafening Silence

View from Spring Hall

After nearly three years living at the end of the road one of the things that we try not take for granted is the silence. Yes, we will always have the birds and their season songs but, with the exception of bleating lambs and the occasional rumble of farm machinery, it’s quite easy to while away the day listening to the pin point of nothing. Time disappears into silence. Without the passing of modern life we frequently prove to ourselves the hopelessness of body clocks and sun charts. During days off the run of life quickly returns to the elements of sleep, hunger and, of course, children.

We have also come to ridicule the weather forecast. Our place on the Pennines is just eight miles south west of Huddersfield yet any similarity with the weather conditions of this grand town stops with the shape of the clouds. As children we would make expeditions to ‘town’ wrapped as though we were Arctic explorers only to be met by strangers wearing jumpers and trainers. Return journeys would be spent re-dressing in the condensed air of the 352 bus in readiness to be evacuated at the West Slaithwaite turning circle where the road would turn white.

Today, the seven am text message that shattered the silence proved that the weatherman had, for once, got it right. School is closed read the first from juniors. Then came the infants and finally the high school; heavy snow had been forecast and heavy snow had landed. The children retreated back to their rooms as we laid in the warmth just looking at the milk white view. Nothing moved; the world was silent again.

The snow reminds me of our days at Rotcher in nearby Slaithwaite where the neighbouring Trans Pennine railway challenged the rural idyll. I used to watch the passing trains and catch glimpses of the passengers; all the passing people journeying, going somewhere. The sound of passing trains became almost comforting: sounds of people; of life still turning. When the trains stopped during heavy snow the silence became almost deafening, almost awkward in the rooms but, strangely, as the snow thawed we would mourn the loss of the silence.

Today is a snow day and that means cancel all plans and enjoy.

Today also sees the publication of a new poem on the poetry and prose webzine, Ink, Sweat and Tears. Threadbare has been described as a poem that will haunt you and, whilst it is a challenging piece of work, there are some universal themes to explore. You can find out more at

The snow day has secretly put on hold good intentions to sit down with the recently arrived art book, Gloaming by artist and musician, Keaton Henson. If you’ve not already come across Keaton then I would urge you to explore his website at Keaton’s 2012 album Dear was almost the one that got away but thankfully social media knocked on the door and the track, You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are is quickly heading towards the most played list.

Another book recently arrived that will have to wait is Paul Muldoon’s new collection, Songs and Sonnets. This is a fascinating collection challenging the concept of song lyric as poetry. For more information see

Now back to writing and painting avoidance techniques part one. Just for fun and exploration, here’s a snow inspired playlist to enjoy.

Run – Snow Patrol
Wintered – Songs of Green Pheasant
Snow Borne Sorrow – Nine Horses
Sky Starts Falling – Doves
Silent Hedges – Bauhaus
White Blank Page – Mumford and Sons
Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
Winter Birds – Ray LaMontagne
Snow (Hey Oh) – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
The Snows – Pentangle

I had considered Snowballed by AC/DC as an extra track but the silence was waiting.