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.


Snow joke

The smiling, suited seers had long foretold
Its coming. Now the bitter wind is thick
With it, and whole lands disappear; the cold
Magician works his well-worn conjuring trick
And we are in an older Age once more;
When wolfish winter stalked us and we stood
At bay for months, dependent on our store
Of fodder, and the warmth of wool and wood.
And now it seems that Progress counts for naught.
Our wheels will not avail us; no device
Can liberate our captive country, caught
And held by one hand’s-breadth of hard-packed ice.
For all our cleverness, we’ve been undone.
We’ll go afoot, and so await the sun.


Once again, our sceptred isle has been paralysed by a modest, and long-expected, fall of snow: a couple of inches of the blessed stuff and we’re back in the Middle Ages. It’s wearisome, frankly. Stay safe and warm, everybody. N.

Ruba’i: Footprint

I found her footmark in the snow;
Though there were many, I would know
My lover’s imprint anywhere,
And where she wanders, I would go.

Beneath the birches winter-bare,
I walk alone. The clouding air
Is silent; birds are heard no more
Along the path we used to share.

And soon that single sign I saw
Will be erased; now comes the thaw.
That final trace will disappear
When Spring reclaims the forest floor.

But I will seek her, far and near
Through every season of the year.
For what is life when she’s not here?
It is no life when she’s not here.

Winter workout

Now, after days confined by snow,
I venture out of doors, at last,
To witness Winter’s overthrow.
But where the banks and hedges cast
Their shade, the lanes are smooth as glass,
Reminding me that time must pass
Before we’re free, and every tree
Is dressed in new Spring finery.

The fields, snow-covered inches deep
Gleam in the pale sun at noon;
The woods lie silent, still asleep,
No sign that they’ll awaken soon.
The redwing and the fieldfare
Still haunt the hedgerows; they don’t dare
Leave till we’re free, and every tree
Is dressed in new Spring finery.

The air is eager, nips at skin
On face and fingers as I ride.
This is no day for staying in:
Too long I’ve missed the world outside.
My mind is clear, my spirits soar;
The day will soon come when, once more,
The land is free, and every tree
Is dressed in new Spring finery.  


A workout in two senses: a physical one, in that I’ve finally got back on the road today for the first time since Saturday; and a poetical one, this time inspired by another great literary hero of mine, William Barnes. Born in 1801, Barnes wrote much of his verse in the dialect of his native Dorset, which is also where I spent my formative years. A true polymath – he was a schoolmaster, clergyman, composer, skilled engraver and linguist familiar with over 60 languages – Barnes is generally considered a ‘minor’ poet, though he was revered by Thomas Hardy and WH Auden, among others. Probably his best-known dialect poem, on which this vastly inferior effort of mine is based, is Linden Lea; the famous musical setting was the first composition ever published by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Ruba’i: Thaw

The snow and ice are in retreat;
Clear water sparkles in the street
And my mind turns once more to Spring
When Winter finally knows defeat.

Dank days and endless evenings bring
Bleak, melancholy thoughts that ring
Like curfew bells inside my head
And set the darkness echoing.

Long months the woods and fields lie dead
And, with them, joy. An aching dread
Of all the life I’ve left undone
Leaves me unsleeping in my bed.

But soon the battle will be won:
The ground will warm, the sap will run,
And hope will rise up with the sun.
And hope will rise up with the sun.


This is my first-ever attempt at the ruba’i, but I already know it won’t be my last (you have been warned!) It’s a very humble homage to one of my poet-heroes, Robert Frost, who adopted the same form for his incomparable ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.