The fear of failing rules my life – I long
To cut myself some slack. The need to please
Runs deep as death: to screw it up, be wrong
From time to time, be sloppy, careless, ease
My rigid standards half of one degree
Would liberate my soul; no prison cell
Or torment that the world devised could be
As harsh as my own self-inflicted hell.
Just how bad could it be – would heaven rend
Itself asunder, oceans boil, old men
Tear out their beards, Life As We Know It end
If I were less-than-perfect now and then?
It’s time I learned to stumble, slip and fall.
Accept I’m only human, after all.


Does anyone else beat themselves up over the smallest mistake, see near-success as a total disaster, or focus solely on what isn’t quite right? Or is it just me? N.

(I just described my perfectionist tendencies in a strict metrical form, didn’t I? Good grief, it’s even worse than I thought 🙂 )


Jorio: Note to self

Don’t think. Just start.
No head. All heart.
This, in any art,
Is the hard part.

That’s easy to say.
But could be today
The Muse stays away
Completely. What then, eh?

Yep, guess she might.
(Or at least fight
Off any advances.) Delight
In the struggle. Write

Anyway. It’s in there.
Long as you care
Enough to dig, dare
To lay it bare

Something will eventually appear.
It’s not always clear
What, or how. Fear
Is the enemy here.

Let the words run.
Follow them for fun.
And no sooner begun
There’s a jorio done.

Hard, and no mistake,
To get going, break
The block, and shake
The poet within awake:

He (or she) sleeps
Deeply some days, keeps
Silent, still – or creeps
Away somewhere and weeps.

And even if what
You produce is not
Great Literature, you’ve got
Something. That’s a lot

Better than nothing. I
Struggle even to try
Sometimes; want to cry
In frustration. (Or die.)

But today I fought
Back and finally brought
Forth a poetical thought.
(Well, of a sort.)

Why all this striving?
It’s how I’m surviving
The rigours of living:
Seeking, remembering, finding, forgiving.


Had no idea what to write when I sat down at my desk this morning. Felt lousy. Poet, huh? I thought. Yeah, right. Ended up giving myself a stern talking-to (see above). And apologies for a rhymed jorio. It was only a matter of time. N.

Villanelle: An appeal

Was ever thus, and ever more shall be.
What’s done is done, and nothing more to say.
Leave this last, simple, precious thing to me.

You wring your hands and preach austerity,
Express regret there is no other way.
Was ever thus, and ever more shall be.

So much I have surrendered willingly,
Decided I can do without. I pray
Leave this last, simple, precious thing to me.

A cost we can’t sustain, a luxury
We can’t afford. (Unlike the bankers’ pay.)
Was ever thus, and ever more shall be.

Is this your dream for our society –
A colourless machine; all work, no play?
Leave this last, simple, precious thing to me.

Our life and soul, heart and humanity –
Made yours to buy and sell, or throw away.
Was ever thus, and ever more shall be.
Leave this last, simple, precious thing to me.


As I’ve mentioned before, our peerless County Music Service is facing a 50% cut in its budget, and the subsequent loss of one-third of the instrumental teaching staff. I readily declare a selfish interest in this, because my daughter has her violin lessons, attends Summer School, and plays with some fantastic ensembles through the the Service. It’s been judged Outstanding by OFSTED three years running, and works with literally thousands of children, many of whom would otherwise have little or no access to music education. For the sake of saving £500K a year (out of a total County Council budget of £380 million) it’s all being put in jeopardy, and it seems there’s nothing we can do about it. (Somehow, they’ve been able to find an extra £57 million for roads, and I’m not aware that the leader of the Council is volunteering to forgo any of his £200K+ salary, either.) And once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Would I be so exercised if similar cuts were proposed to, say, a children’s football programme? Well, yes, I probably would. We’re so fixated on business, growth and economics, we’re becoming the cynics, as defined by Oscar Wilde, who ‘know the price of everything, and the value of nothing’. We’re consumers not citizens, target markets not people, and existing rather than living. When we sacrifice music, art, sport, or any of the other things that make us human on the altar of money, we lose something of ourselves. Did any of the 200 children and 400 parents who attended the concert on Saturday think music was a waste of taxpayers’ money? I doubt it. And it’s not even as though we’re taking a State handout here: we pay fees for everything, as well as buying instruments, music and so on.
This blog isn’t meant to be a platform for my opinions, rants and crusades, so I apologise for sounding off. Thank you for bearing with me. And the villanelle goes out to anyone who faces having something dear to them taken away, in the name of saving money. N.