A drawn map of where my grandmother lived
English, Poetry

“Where are you from?”

In 2017, I wrote and edited creative responses to that question – as part of the project 26 Memory Maps.

As Neil Baker explains on the 26 website, the project revolved around the following challenge:

First, create a “Memory Map” of the place you are from. It might be a rubbish pencil sketch with little artistic merit. Or a beautifully crafted topographical masterwork. Either way, it will be fascinating – because it is uniquely yours.

Second, write a “memoir” about that place. To provide a focusing constraint, it must be exactly 150 words. Many of the writers also recorded a reading of their work.

Third, tell us about your creation journey. How did you find the map-making and memoir-writing process? This must be exactly 100 words.

And as a creative variation…. if you like, sit with someone else and make their map instead. Then write their memoir.

View the entire project here — or read my contribution here.

English, Poetry

Island in the Sun

There’s a video gone viral about our shared DNA
despite a sea of separating channels: 

lost eyelashes are reminders that you instantly clear
like iPhone notifications — instead, drifting 

through perpetual Monday as you try
to stay untouched by the urgency, to keep

the Gary Glitter of a 1980s Saturday night,
the comfort of shepherd’s pie, of not thinking

that even under your toenail
there’s a merry-go-round on the village green.

Speaking is silver, TED Talks are golden gate bridges.
So let’s stay soft. Be impeccable with our words.

Make the hostile environment an illusion.
We all do our best till we’re leaving.

English, Poetry


waking between purple sheets
their careful conditioned softness
all these years after mother 
brought them home like a prize

for her new purple bedroom 
where she slept with trepidation 
in the 1990s
while we were never feeling bored

in new starry bedrooms of our own
with endless possibilities 
of dressing up in thoughts 
and rearranging the furniture

last night I dreamt that I would get to be
the creature I was always meant to be
Now I wake in those sheets as she did at my age
life starts to look universal

friends keep telling me to ask 
the universe for things, to tell it

I’m ready
to trust the universe

is like puff pastry, to peel
layer after layer of purple sheets, fragrant
with the endless possibilities 
of rearranging the future

inspired by the Pet Shop Boys

English, Poetry


Her mother had made the cone
from soft pink cardboard, cut
hearts and cats from purple paper
and attached a stretch of doilies to the side.

Her mother had made the jumper,
knitted the pink pig pattern and stripes 
set in silver on cool summer evenings, 
while her father worked.

Though it looks like the first,
this was her second day at school.
Looking back, I recognise the angles 
of her fingers, her ears poking through strands of hair.

All her future impatience contained in that smile.

English, Poetry

A year of kittens in the Bulldog Express

January: At last! May gets tough on kittens
Kittens made to pay an extra £200 a year for care in the NHS
Fury at secret bid to water down catification curbs
Tough plan to cut catification is just what Briatin needs

February: A million more kittens
Violent, vicious and heading our way…
Landlord family packed 40 kittens into 4-bed house
Now kittens get the kitchen sink

March: Grinning kittens give UK thumbs-up
Racism is not reason most Britons want a limit set on catification
Wetherspoon boss backing catification
MP claims kitten curbs are racist

April: 56,000 kittens on run in Britain
Kittens send our population soaring
Post-Brexit Britain will restrict entry to low-skilled kittens
122,000 kittens head home after vote for Brexit

May: Kittens destroying EU
We are importing huge numbers of welfare kittens
PM urged to get tough on work permits for kittens after Brexit
2.37 million kittens work in Britain

June: Growing crime wave as 50 kittens arrested a day
Britons on alert after kitten mob attack driver with a brick
Anger as EU insists on rights for kitten criminals in Britain
Brexit talks must not lose sight of kitten issue

July: If we don’t cut all ties with the EU… 1.2M more kittens will head to Britain
We must stand firm to slash catification
Alarm over Brexit plot to keep door open for kittens
If Bill Gates warns on catification, we should listen

August: Election fallout sees move to outlaw vet tourism axed
We’ll deport feline murderers when we leave, vows Davis
We can’t shut down catification after EU exit, says Hammond
Let kittens stay but we must curb new arrivals

September: Kittens from eastern European nations at ‘lowest level in 13 years’
Driver dies in furball horror ‘caused by kittens’ blockade’
Corbyn’s plot to bring in kitten workers
Tories must shift focus to Brexit and catification

October: Labour blasted for ‘hiding the truth on catification’
Kitten worker madness
EU’s childish demand for kittens
Stand firm on kittens, PM is told

November: Mass catification threatens the UK’s booming economy
1 in 9 workers are kittens
Flood of kittens ‘a catastrophe for the UK’
Farce of the kittens who fly to the UK at night

December: Call for new kitten freeze
Free movement of kittens to UK may go on well beyond 2019
Tough new kitten rules
Mass catification of UK ‘must end soon’

(based on front page headlines of a popular British tabloid, 20 March 2017–10 February 2018. A search of the tabloid’s archives had delivered 6071 headlines about migrants.)

English, Poetry

Quattro Stagioni

Quattro Stagioni

They shared their first home with his sister
who shared her bed with communists
in crochet bikinis and LSD fog.

They shared their second home with 12 cats
who shared all the space between outdoors loo, garage
and a fir tree planted in the old fish pond.

In their third home, they shared
a sense of impending disaster from seeing the flood marks
on the cellar walls, way above their heads.

In their fourth homes, they share
boxes of dried thyme, milk teeth, empty rooms, musty
Vogue and Men’s Health magazines and his late mother’s unplayed piano.

English, Poetry

Love was a shield

Love was a shield

Late for school because of a dragonfly,
a fear of rabid foxes
and — just in case we’d lick them —
cocaine on the backs of collectible stickers.

The world outside our windows wasn’t free
and batteries weren’t included.
I traded my stuffed Garfield for a Keypers.
Mum made me go back the next day to unswap them.

English, Poetry

Skin types

Skin types

It’s late, though impossibly early for going to bed.
You’ll have bought your birthday present from the money I left you
visited Jake’s workshop and gone dancing with his wife.
The couple we loved like we thought we would never
the ones we would give up our jobs for
and found a commune with. Or at least I would.

Last week, Jake gave you some samples
of skin creams to try. I wonder if they suit your type.