Downhill fast

I fear the sudden fall –
The shrieking plunge into the void
In all its shifting forms.
I have history here:
A lifetime’s toil in trying to tame
My rebel brain and its wayward chemistry.

Yet here I am
Hurling myself downhill
Rain-stung, wind-blasted
Into this blind curve
Poised on the point where what just can
And what just can’t be done converge.

So many years
Holding on so tight
But still just crazy enough –
And happy
In this moment
To be letting myself go.

The rain it raineth…

More rain. Each drop that falls
Is a cold, hard reason
To play it safe today and stay inside.

An instinct to protect
Inculcated early;
A holy wisdom, faithfully applied.

But in every silver splash
I glimpse an eye that slyly winks
Inviting me to hang it all – and ride;

To tell the child within
Not to heed that warning voice,
And revel in the freedom to decide.


Strange as it may seem, I actually love riding in the rain. There’s something empowering and uplifting about being out in conditions that keep others indoors – and in knowingly, deliberately, joyfully getting wet and filthy, which my mother always told me not to do! As has often, and rightly, been said: there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. N.


A page unturned
A bow unstrung
A match unstruck
A song unsung
An unbacked horse
An unheard choir
An unmade bed
An unlit fire
A cake uncut
A book unread
A keg untapped
A word unsaid
A handless clock
A limbless tree
A roofless house
A shoreless sea.
A silent scream
A soundless shout.
A lifeless life.

A day without.


Bad weather and meetings away from home have conspired to keep me off the bike the last couple of days. A poem for anyone sundered from the object, activity, place or person that means the most to them today. N.

Vertical limit


This is my world: no flat road to be seen;
A jagged country chipped from ancient stone.
Not high, my hills, but fierce, their ramps and walls
Burned deep in heart and lungs, their contours carved
In calves and quads. Then every hard-won inch
Is gleefully abandoned on the drop;
Hard hauling to the roof, a deep-drawn breath
Then hurled down to the basement. And repeat.
Why seek so hard a road? What rare reward
Lies in such fruitless work? In desperate days
Where all seems doomed and doors are slamming shut
To take it on, eyes open, willingly
Endure a needless hardship and survive
Is proof we’re living yet. And in control.



Went out and rode one of my more egregiously hilly routes today. Not especially long (about 24 miles) and tops out at a mere 623 feet, but packs in a lot of climbing and descending. Nothing like it for clearing out a cluttered mind. N.



Dirt, sure. But not the ground-in grime
Of long neglect,
The careless patina of time
And disrespect;
No nameless filth, no gnawing rust
To stain and blight;
No petrified, cemented crust
Of oversight –

No: these are battle honours, scars
Earned in the field
That tell, through long and bitter wars,
We did not yield
But faced down Winter’s worst, and won.
So let them stand
Until a cleansing, reborn sun
Reclaims the land.

Doha: Charmed

No warmth left in the cast-iron soil, or weak winter sun.
A cold, colourless world, emptied of all life.

Silence lies on the leafless woods and bare, frosted fields;
Ice lurks in shadows, a wicked, watchful eye.

Naked hedgerows, armed with thorns, frown over dank ditches;
Half-lost lanes languish, scabbed with old farmyard filth.

And in this desolation, your swirl of red and gold
Sparks hope of brighter days and tales to be told.



By this stage in an English winter, everywhere is looking a bit dead, grubby and neglected. But Nature has a way of redeeming herself, as she did yesterday with a charm of goldfinches, who burst out of a hedgerow as I rode past. At that moment, all was forgotten and forgiven. N.

Flying visits

A poem about welcome guests…


Like an early fall of festive snow
Sent from a flat, blank sky;
Bringing a gentle, momentary reshaping
And bright retouching of our world.

An altered light and shift in sounds;
A different music to our ears.
Old things recast and seen afresh;
New footprints and angel-wings on familiar ground.

The everyday briefly suspended;
A borrowed grace, all too quickly gone –
Leaving us wistful, wishing for more
But enriched, and warmed right through.


This week, we’ve had the privilege and pleasure of being a host family in a long-established, highly successful exchange between the music department at our daughter’s school, and its counterpart at a school in Germany. As is customary, the visitors performed alongside our youngsters in the town’s main church at our school’s Carol Service, which is open to the whole community (it’s also recorded live by the local radio station, which then broadcasts it on Christmas Eve). It’s always a wonderful, moving occasion, made all the more poignant this year by the dreadful events in Berlin, which had unfolded the previous evening. Our guest (whose family generously hosted our daughter on the exchange’s ‘away’ leg back in July) was absolutely delightful and quickly became part of the household; we’re already looking forward to seeing her again this time next year.
Frohe Weihnachten, one and all. N.