Monthly Archives: September 2020

Neighbours Day – poem

Photo Credit: andrewlloydgordon via Pixabay

Yesterday was Neighbours Day here in the Netherlands. The Neighbours Day initiative was started in 2005 by Douwe Egberts, one of the traditional Dutch coffee makers: social contact starts with a cup of coffee. A few years later they were joined by a charity called Oranjefonds. Each year they provide funds, support and advice for a large range of social and community activities, such as Dutch language support for refugees, mentoring, club houses for the old and young.

During the lockdown earlier this year, many new initiatives were started by people volunteering in their own street or local area. A good fit with this annual initiative. My neighbours here on the camping have cut their hedges and have gone home. My day always starts with a good cup of coffee made in a cafetiere. It happens to be D.E. – a firm started in 1753 in a small shop in Friesland, a northern province.

Earlier this year I talked with my brother about events in our childhood. This memory came up.

Getting to know the neighbours

We’re snoozing after lunch
in a Sunday afternoon garden.
One of our family, still awake,
sees silent orange flames rising
that side of the opaque glass.

It’ll be a small insurance claim.
As evening turns pink, the old
Belgian couple walk their Borzoi.

Photo credit: akunnen via PIaxabay

Because of the War

It is an immense pleasure to introduce this month’s poet Aziz Dixon. We first met, just a few years ago, on a writing day with Peter Sansom of the Poetry Business. I immediately admired the economy of his poems: a great deal is expressed through some well-chosen words. Much is unsaid, between the lines.

Aziz has been published in The Curlew, Moon Magazine,  Panoply and Perspectives (Ontario), The Fat Damsel and The North). His collection North Wales Pilgrim is available on Amazon. His work featured in Best of Bolton, November 2017 and Burnley Creative, September 2019.

Early June Aziz launched his poetry collection Because of the War, published by The stunning cover photo Remembrance is by Ian Ladbrooke. Here are the title poem and four other poems, reflecting on different aspects of war.

Because of the War

On holiday none of them liked us.
I was seven when I found out.
When we open our mouths
they hear screams,

my father said,
because of the war.

Now I know what they did,
my people to yours. You reach
across the toast crumbs,
catch my eye. 
We share today, you say,
because of the war.


The metro runs from Aleppo
to Bury. Bullets for breakfast
pepper the door. She glimpses

the hills beyond, snow
but no mountains here. Market
on Thursdays, but the souk

has been razed. Already
her children have friends,
speak English, except

in their dreams. She screams
less often at night, but
still he calls out to her.

One day they will need her less,
but she will not see him again,
on the metro, in Aleppo, or bury him.


Coal smoke thickens the sunset,
shrouds the dank park where
this bright morning she garlanded

her only son. Each day
he dies to her
these twenty-three years.

Maybe tonight it will rain,
dissolve at the edges
the bomb blasts inside,

wash from this salt-spa town
another speck of history,
twenty-four hours of pain.

(The poem refers to the cemetery for young people killed by shellfire in a square at the start of the Serb attacks on the Bosnian town.)

Veteran in the gallery
after Under Windsor Bridge on the Irwell, Manchester, by Adolphe Valette
Manchester Art Gallery

Under the bridge in fog
you stood, but could not see
your face in the dead canal.

Back from the front, you hung
in a painting one floor up;
but today I met your eyes

where you slump on the street
on a bed of card, with a cup
for coins, and I saw

the battle paint you grey
like the desert at dusk
when life and the sun drained away.

Geese come home
Ty Newydd

Geese flood east above a walnut tree,
their haunting caught in a spider’s web
spun on the autumn leaves. The migrants’ cry

echoes from this Mediterranean tree
on a buffeted Celtic shore. Mountain-love,
dawn-blessed shapes rise misted out of the sea,

and my heart goes out to those who flee
with no imprint spelling sanctuary.

Fokkina McDonnell

Abegail Morley


It is morning, too early to know
if the breeze will turn into a horse,
standing still, eyes closed.
If it were to become a lost dog,
you’ll see it running, yelping the length
of that black drystone wall.

A field like this could be anywhere.
Think green, think clouds. Think winter.
In my memory, it’s early evening, sunny.
The ropes of a hot air balloon stretched taut.


Fokkina’s poems have been widely anthologised, successful in competitions, and published in a range of magazines, including Orbis, Magma, The North, Poetry News, Little Mslexia, erbacce, Strix.  Her debut collection Another life was published by Oversteps Books in 2016. Indigo Dreams Publishing will publish a second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous later this year.


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Abseiling – a poem



Photo credit: Elias Sch via Pixabay


This coming week would have been the birthday of Bill Huddleston. My second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous (Indigo Dreams) is dedicated to him. In one of the poems I wrote:

Bill’s last words were always Have fun, so I will.
He was a very good father, Bill, though he wasn’t my father.

Bill and I first met in 1986 when we worked on an Outplacement project in Scotland. In his 60s Bill retrained as a hypnotherapist, and for many years he and I had a peer-supervision agreement – meeting monthly to discuss our clients.

From a poetry workshop on Working the Body I had the marvellous poem Climbing my Grandfather. It’s a first-hand story by a child, starting at the brogues (shoes) and ending on top of the head, the summit, with the slow pulse of (the grandfather’s) good heart. Here you can read the original poem by Andrew Waterhouse, a poet and musician, who was passionate about the environment. He suffered from depression and, aged 42, died by suicide in 2001.

Abseiling Bill

The grey hairs combed back are too few to attach the equipment,
so I slide down slowly to his glasses, see close-up the grey hairs
sprouting from his ear. I think of rabbit holes, hear scuttling
sounds as his amazing brain is shifting, growing, learning.
I move carefully down his cheek where I can hear humming
from his sinus. Suddenly I’m dangling as he turns his head
to hear the other person better. His chin is smooth and
soon I reach the safety of his dark green cardigan,
all bobbly terrain and the round boulders
of its leather buttons. I can slide across his chest
where his large warm heart is housed, my feet
feel the rise of his breath lower down as he is
slowing to pace the other person.
It’s an easy journey now onto his chinos.
I walk across his upper leg, sun lights
my path. I rest in the folds of his knees.
From here I can see his steady feet
in the solid grey trainers and I land
without a hitch, safely.