A Wasp

A wasp dillies and dallies at the door,

performing a dithering dance

as it decides whether to enter

or not, as the case may be.

And indeed, a moment later,

he buzzes away,

a declaration of defiance

or perhaps defeat.

Work after Lockdown

My hands cup the heated mug

of boiling hot water

that I have poured to protect

against the elements.

It is not working.

.

The sharp wind sears

through my skin, my clothing

too feeble to withstand

the feel of the freezing cold.

August my arse!

.

It may be bank holiday

but the clouds coat the sky

with a paltry grey palette,

shielding the golden hue

of the summer sun.

Typical.

.

I check the clock.

My time taking names

for test and trace

is ticking by

nonchalantly.

Come on.

.

I cannot wait

for the call of a colleague

on the walkie-talkie

to announce their imminent arrival,

so I can wander into the warmth.

Winter is going to be testing.


On Bob Harris

It’s #50notout for Bob Harris. The legendary presenter has hit a significant milestone in broadcasting. A special celebratory documentary on Radio 2 marked the occasion, Bob chatting to Radio 1’s Greg James about his life and times over the last half century. It is well worth a listen. His is an extraordinary career in which he has met some of the biggest names in music. But it’s his continued enthusiasm for the medium, and his support for new artists, that make him not only a giant in broadcasting for me but a role model too. Alongside the late, great Sir Terry Wogan, Whispering Bob has had a somewhat formative effect on my life, his soft, intimate and welcoming style always inviting me to sit and share in his company, wherever I am, however I’m feeling. That open style, that ability to speak directly to the individual listener, is a skill that not many possess. Terry was the best. Bob comes next. Both let their natural character and personality shine through. And as someone who feels pressured to conform to the expectations of others, I take great inspiration and encouragement from their uncompromising approach.

I will let others laud it over Bob for his professional achievements. I wanted to write a little something about what he means to me, for he has been a positive presence in my life for the best part of fifteen years. I have never met him. I have spoken to him only to ask a question at a Q&A screening of the film Wild Rose. After the event, I walked close behind him for a few hundred yards. I didn’t wish to disturb him. It would have been nice to get a photo. But whether the opportunity to meet him in person arises or not, his influence on my life remains nevertheless. I can still remember the first time I heard his voice on the radio. I was sat in the car outside Flint Leisure Centre on a dark autumn (or was it winter?) evening, waiting for my brother to finish swimming. I think my mum had gone inside to wait for him, leaving me to listen to the radio alone. I used to tune it to Radio City most of the time in my teenage years. I don’t know why I didn’t on this particular occasion. I will put it down to fate though, as through the speakers came a piece of music that surprised me and shook my world.

I don’t remember what the song was, or who sang it. I remember that it was a female voice; and, most significantly, that the lyrics contained explicit words regarding the Christian faith. I had only been a Christian for a year or two by that point. Already my faith had become compartmentalised into a sacred-secular divide. Church was distinctly separate from other activities. My faith was hidden most of the time, only talked about with other believers. Yet suddenly, here, for the first time, I heard someone talking about Jesus outside of Church. On national radio, early on a weekday evening, someone was singing honestly and openly about their faith. They may have been American, but still. The moment punched a hole in the wall of my partitioned heart. It is a hole that remains, to some extent, to this day. The warm and dulcet tones of Bob Harris came on after it. I did not know at the time that I was listening to his Country show. I don’t think I even realised that I was listening to country music. All I knew was that this moment was significant in shaping my faith. It turned out that it also laid the ground for how important country music would become in my life. I have Bob to thank for that.

I never listened to Radio 1. My heart has always belonged to Radio 2. That evening in the car, when I chose not to turn over to Radio City, also represented the moment when the station became a firm fixture in my life. I had listened to Terry Wogan in the mornings before school sometimes. Johnnie Walker’s Drivetime show was always the accompaniment to our Friday night drive to Grandma’s. I loved Alex Lester on the early morning journey to swimming. But that was the moment when Radio 2 became my default station. And it was whilst listening to that station, back in 2014, that my ears suddenly caught sound of a song that would completely change my life. Nashville (Grey Skies) by The Shires was part of a transformative journey for me into the world of country music. Its release was part of a year in which I remember hearing Kacey Musgraves for the first time, as part of Radio 2’s Live in Hyde Park. I had been utterly transfixed by what I was hearing, though I didn’t know why. Ward Thomas also appeared on the scene. And it was their appearance, along with The Shires, at Hyde Park in 2015, that I firmly became a country music convert. Radio 2 Country, the BBC’s pop-up station, had covered the Country2Country Festival only six months before. This had exposed me to the great and glorious world of the genre in a way that took my breath away. It crystallised what had gradually been blossoming in my heart: a love for country music that continues to this day. And who should be at the centre of all this but one Bob Harris. The man who first championed The Shires; who introduced Kacey Musgraves; and who has supported the growth of country music in the UK more than anyone else. The man whose music choice helped shape my faith had now become a major influence in my life. And with the passing of Sir Terry in January 2016, I turned to The Country Show to find solace in the music and the musings of Bob. It has been a regular feature in my life ever since.

I have loved my journey through the world of country music so far. It has been great to discover its delights at a time when its presence in the UK has grown exponentially. The Shires, and subsequently Ward Thomas, seemed to carve a path for a plethora of UK country music talent, with the likes of Catherine McGrath, The Wandering Hearts, Wildwood Kin and Laura Oakes riding the crest of a wave that has seen them all, to varying degrees, break into the mainstream. It is no coincidence that all have been personally supported by Bob Harris. His commitment to championing new and emerging talent is one of his greatest attributes. I can think of no one better to emulate when it comes to doing so. I have taken all of the above to heart, along with the likes of Clara Bond, Katy Hurt, Elles Bailey, Philippa Hanna, Jade Helliwell, Vic Allen, Two Ways Home, and Twinnie*, to name but a few. I think it is my faith that fuels a desire to support these (often independent) artists seriously, in the face of a society that has become so fixated on consumption that streams on Spotify and breaking even on tour have become measures of success. If Bob Harris has taught me anything, it is that we need to value those who make the music we listen to. And when that music plays such a significant part in my life, it is only right that I do so, whether through attendance at gigs, purchasing merchandise, or actually buying their music. Through my faith and the influence of people like Bob, I have come to treat country music with respect and love. I want to make a difference to the artists I support, however small. It will be nowhere near the impact that Bob Harris has had. But then his heart and passion for music is unrivalled. He is a legend for a reason.

Bob Harris is someone I look up to. He is someone I love listening to. And I hope he remains a giant in broadcasting for many years to come. I do not think I have overestimated my affection and gratitude for the man himself. He really has been an influential force in my life over the last few years. He will no doubt continue to be a role model for some time yet. That is why I consider him to be a personal hero. This is my small tribute to a truly great man.


*Check out my review site for further info on this list of artists (and more!)

I-land

Lockdown was for living.

The sudden absence of interaction

welcome.

                                                                                                           I like being alone.

Man may not be an island               but

I would like to live there

with a plane for the odd trip out,

and a red telephone box

to keep in contact with a world struggling

to come to terms with itself, returning

all-too-quickly to its old ways.

The new normal – my normal –

has already been

and gone.

Return (Post-lockdown)

The sound of an Arctic winter

blows in through the open windows,

defying the summer sun

which casts shadows over the waving fields

of browning grass.

.

How the serene sound

of the unexpected spring

soon disappears with the return to normal,

the seasons once again darkened

by man’s inability to change

for the better.

Time

The rigid ring

of the church bell

is a painful reminder that

death is near,

instilling fear

into the image

of the quaint village

.

whilst the waves lap, unhurried,

elongating each second

against a numberless shore.

My First Prayer

I am sat, head down,

legs crossed, hands together,

saying words with no meaning.

I just know them, like an equation,

with no feeling, no emotion,

not realising that years of recitation

would multiply to equal

the foundations of a conversation

with someone I knew of

but had never met;

had spoken to, without realising,

but never with.

.

I wonder if that moment,

sat in the cubicle

of a toilet block

on a Swansea caravan park,

would have happened

if not for the ritual action

of the assemblies’ conclusion

which now, like Colours of Day, dawns

on the mind’s horizon

with the sudden realisation

that this was my first prayer.

Listening

It appears that you are absent

but your presence

in the silence

is marked by an

attentive listening.

The Gathering

A flock of birds gather

for their morning coffee,

gossiping away on the posts

of a weathered fence.

.

To the untrained ear,

they could be mistaken

for a congregation

of hymn singers.

.

In truth, they are busy-bodies,

parading around in their Sunday best,

whose tweeting is more

of a twitter;

.

telling shrill tales

through needle-like beaks

as they ruffle their feathers

and puff out their grand plumage.

.

Their pomposity is reflected

in the still, shining surface

of the water which sits silently

in the stone bath beneath,

.

casting their colours

to give the impression

of regal refinement,

whilst hiding the sullied silt

.

which lies beneath.

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