Chalk Stream

I wrote this for the ‘Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Poetry Competition’ in June 2017.

It is relevant today as this year, 2019, we have the hottest days on record happening now across Europe! Europe…. don’t get me started. I love being part of Europe.

I can’t remember if I won or not. This version is highly edited anyway. It’s almost a different poem. Next time I read it I will know what ‘glistering’ means.


Chalk Stream

It was hot.

I was wet with sweat walking.

I put my hand into cool water.

The flow pushed my hand back.

Cold, nice and icy.

The other hand went in.

I splashed and danced my fingers,

Like when I was young,

Water-playing, so much fun.

It was hot.

I saw something blue.

A flash of colour.

The kingfisher waited.

Cool bird, staring in.

Its beak went in.

A small splash, then

snaffled fish to feed the young.

Under the warming sun.

It was hot.

I heard sweet birdsong in the tree.

A branch was in the cool water.

A robin gazed right back.

Brown beak opening to sing.

I smiled at him.

His song bubbled in the air.

Territorial display.

Under the yellowing sun.

It was hot.

I smelled something sweet near the stream.

I put my feet in the cool water.

My glistering face looked back.

Clear water burbled by.

A fish caught my eye.

It wriggled away quickly.

Seeking shadows.

Lying low under the sunset sun.



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Galway Boy

He played the flute in an Irish band

(Not strictly an Irish band as there were two Japanese and a German)

(Not strictly a flute, never saw him play)

(Not strictly a band, this was a one-off)

But he fell in love with an English woman

(She would think he had anyway and believe he had eyes for her even if he didn’t look at her much. If at all. She put the not-looking-very-much down to the fact he found her so unbearably beautiful that he had to avert his eyes).

Kissed him anywhere? Don’t think so, he wasn’t close enough that she could grab him, especially in a manner that didn’t appear stalkish and menacing.

Took him by the hand? No, he kept it well out of reach.

Said “let’s dance”, they swayed like trees in the wind and tapped their feet at the same time which showed he had a sense of rhythm which is great. (Separately as he was now over the other side of the room.)

Met him on a street in Ireland by a cafe. No sharing of fags was involved, no idea if he smoked and it didn’t occur this would be a good chat-up line.

Could tell him how she used to smoke and he would say he did too, or he didn’t and finds it disgusting and can’t understand why anyone would and he would make a nasty sound in his throat.

Brother? No idea if he has a brother. If he has he probably plays a guitar as many people do.

He asked about the ink on her hand. Told him the biro in her handbag was leaking and there was no soap left in the Ladies or Mna in Irish as she found out when charging into the Fir (fur/hair/men, should have known) to wash it off.

He took a Mandy, an Aeorta (sorry no that’s a heart thing I was having trouble rhyming ‘water’) and two other women’s names that rhyme with vodka and cocktail.

There was no jukebox, just the live music.

She swore he liked her even though he was really far away and he had his back to her.

Chorus (which part of this is the chorus? No clue.)

He beat her at darts and pool the bastard.

She thought “I’m going to put you in a song I write”

but didn’t tell him as he was talking to someone else.

Arrggh her pretty pretty Galway boy, (not that young)

Her her her her Galway boy (well not exactly she heard later he has a wife and several children).

So that’s it, nothing happened, she walked off into the rain then her brolly broke and her dreams shattered as did her smartphone glass, so she had bleeding bleeding fingers and a bleeding heart and the red mixed with the rain and the biro ink and dripped into a purple puddle.

He played the flute in an Irish band and he fell in love with an English woman (no he didn’t). He didn’t kiss or talk about dancing. She would have asked about his flute after Googling first of course, but he just wasn’t interested.



(A parody on ‘Galway Girl’ by Ed Sheeran and others.)

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Craft of Comedy Conference Llandudno April 2015.

20150425_123955 (Small)     I did not spend all my time looking out of the window.

I did not spend all my time looking out of the window.

Any excuse to go to the seaside, even if pretty chilly and needing to wear a coat and hat in Nearly-May.  My excuse was to listen and speak to  some comedy writers in the hope that some rubbing off would happen. I got as far as Grantham and pulled up at a busy traffic lights when, ping! My clutch stopped working. Clutch. After receiving several hoots, glares and gestures from people who thought I had stopped at the traffic lights in order to annoy them, I was rescued and luckily got a courtesy car. I arrived at Llandudno’s Venue Cymru to find that I had missed the screening of ‘Raised by Wolves’ which I had deliberately not watched on TV so haven’t seen. I said I would like to go into the Q&A and a Jobsworth told me I could not go in and it was finishing in five minutes. After I nearly cried in front of him he took me up and said I could stand at the back. I then joined the Eating Food and Drinking activities but missed the Quiz as I had to go and look for somewhere to sleep. When I came back it was finished but I did get to talk to two others at the same table so did a small network.

The next day we all arrived and were directed to a room for the first discussion which was run by four women! What do women know about comedy? ‘Pulling’ was pulled and ‘Up the Women’ is down. That turned out to be lively and great of course, then we teleported to the next room as no time was allowed to get between rooms. I ended up at ‘A Life in Stand-Up’ where stand-ups Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Justin Moorhouse demonstrated their strong wills and sharp wits and this reaffirmed I would never do stand-up as you need bounce-ability and balls, which Kiri hasn’t got but she’s from Anglesey and can say Llanfair PG in full.

After a tea and coffee break four panelists discussed ‘Shared laughter – online comedy’ and then it was food time.  This was no ordinary lunch, it was a ‘networking lunch’,  which meant sitting at tables with other conference attendees,  previously known as ‘lunch’. As a vegetarian I was very disappointed. The eggs in the sandwiches were not free range (I asked) and when I enquired about vegetarian food I was told the cheese and pickle sandwiches on white bread were vegetarian. I used to eat them when I was ten, before anyone had heard of wholemeal bread or salad. There were some slimy potato pieces covered in oil and leek and potato soup which was dished out by the teaspoonful so I had to ask for more. The panelists had no chance to relax as they had to take their food from one table to another in a bizarre ‘speed-dating’ act which was intended to give us all a chance to speak to everyone but in reality meant watching someone eat or choke in front of you as someone asked them a question and expected a reply. ‘Don’t speak with your mouth full’  I was always told.

After food there were three short screenings ‘Eat My Shorts’, one of which split the room. I did not find it at all funny and other people were laughing loudly, confirming the arbitrary nature of comedy.  Another discussion and coffee break later we were in the final event ‘Women and Comedy in the 21st Century – Levelling the Playing Field’ which pleased me a lot. I get really annoyed when programmes like ‘Pulling’ and ‘Up the Women’, which I found very cleverly written and performed don’t get more series and some of the moronic, male dominated so-called comedy but-they-don’t-make-me-laugh programmes get recommissioned.

Apres-conference activity involved a Wetherspoons meal in a big old theatre and some magic and puzzles after midnight. All in all a great day on Saturday with some very interesting people, next time make it two days! Sunday the weather was sunny but still cool and I went onto the Great Orme and ate chips on the beach.

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Give me a chip.                                                       Give me a chip.

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Give me a chip.                                                     I won’t tell. Look into my eyes.


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The Tidal Surge December 5th 2013.

Last year I was working recruiting members to the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. Starting in November,  I was one of those people you see in between the two exit doors of large stores like garden centres, toy shops and DIY stores.  The only part I enjoyed was when speaking to someone about wildlife, the rest of the time I was stood in a cold draught with obnoxious sounds of Christmas, trying to attract people to come and talk to me. As  wasn’t employed by the store I didn’t belong to them and was like some strange beggar standing there in a cramped position in between offers and store information. On December 4th I wasn’t working and I went to Gibraltar Point just beyond  Skegness to have a look out for birds and have a cup of tea in the visitor centre. It was a calm day, and as I left I took some photos on the road out. The following day I was meant to be working at Donna Nook. This is where seals come to breed every year which are visible from the path and is another Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust place. I hadn’t been there but I was told I had to set up my table  and information boards a few hundred yards from the car park. This already sounded like bad news, carrying this stuff along a coast path in December was surely inviting hypothermia, assuming I didn’t do my back in first. On December 5th the weather forecast was dire. Storms were forecast and I sent a text to my line manager about the predicted winds. He texted back saying he had been in touch with a warden at Donna Nook and it wasn’t too bad. I decided to go to the default centre in any case which was Gibraltar Point. I was able to set up inside the shop because it was cold in the corridor where I would have been. Hardly anyone came in, the volunteers had been sent home and there were only paid workers there. The winds started picking up and I took some photos from inside and a couple of short videos. I noticed the wind turbines that line the sky had stopped, perhaps turned off as the wind was strong, possibly force 9-10. I was told people in the building next door which had accommodation and ran courses had been evacuated and that everyone would have to take cars out of the car park as a tidal surge was expected. At about two in the afternoon I bought a souvenir from the shop which was probably the last purchase made there and packed up. Getting to the car was hard work. The tidal surge turned out to be the most serious since 1953, the North Sea floods or watersnoodramp as the event is called in the Netherlands. At Donna Nook the wardens and volunteers had to cut the fencing as seals and pups were being  washed further up the shore and over the path. They worked as long as they could by torch light and the following day went back to find seals and pups separated and washed all over the area. The Gibraltar Point visitor centre was flooded by the sea and became unusable. A new centre is going to be built.

December 4th, 2013 Gibraltar Point. Calm the day before the storm.

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December 5th, 2013 Gibraltar Point. Wind turbines still as wind increases. 20131205_133421 (Medium)

January 8th, 2013 Gibraltar Point & December 8th, 2014 (right)20140108_132033 (Medium)Spar 005 (Medium)20140108_125520 (Medium)

December 8th, 2013  Tideline, Visitor Centre

20140108_131056 (Medium)   20140108_131210 (Medium) Donna Nook December 17th, 2013. Stuff left on fence after sea retreat. 20131217_133448 (Medium)20131217_141556 (Medium)

Donna Nook, December 17th, 2013. Seals chilling.

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Skegness beach. Sand had to be moved.

Feb 27th 2014 possibly all today 425 (Medium)

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The Woodpigeon Nest. Year Two.

Unbelievably there has been a wood pigeon sitting on a scruffy nest in the same part of the tree as last year (which went terribly wrong). There are two of them, one brings a twig or two several times a day and the other is sitting on the nest. They’ve been there a few days and I’m hoping for no wind this year though the tree has more protection and they’ve  chosen a better branch. Woodpigeon in tree (Small) 26th September, 2014. This morning I looked out of the window and saw a woodpigeon on the shed roof where one often lands with a twig before taking it into the tree for the nest. Today there was no twig. The woodpigeon looked distraught and disheveled  (I thought) and turned with it’s back to the tree then flew away. A while later I saw a cat and went out to chase it as it was the same one that I chased out of the Nest Tree the other day. I looked up into the tree as normal and saw the nest, like last year, had spilled off the branch. On the ground were two small woodpigeons. One was dead, but the other sat there very alive and when I went towards it lunged its head forward (someone told me this was to beg for food). I put it in a box with plenty of grass, twigs and leaves and locked it in the shed. Online there was conflicting advice as usual but I found a local bird rescuer and phoned her. She told me where to take the pigeon and when I met her she obviously cared a lot about wild birds. Yet again I watched the woodpigeon parents for a few days and grew attached to the head looking out at me, but their building skills and choice of tree are shocking. I hope they do better next time. It’s sad that I can’t tell them that one of their offspring might survive but we can’t talk to birds yet. Woodpigeons 2014 001 (Small)Woodpigeons 2014 005 (Small)Woodpigeons 2014 002 (Small)

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Should I leave the dead bird in the fire grate?

stove 001 (Small)

There’s a dead starling in the grate.

I heard it, a couple of weeks ago, fluttering but not calling. I told the landlord but they didn’t seem to believe me. I asked them to check if the useless company that renewed the roof and threw my television area in a skip that they left outside my house for days had put back a cover on the chimney to stop birds falling in. They told me there would be a charge if nothing was found. So, if they were incompetent enough to not find how birds can get into the chimney I would have to pay.

When I came back from being away there were some flies around the window. I opened it and half a dozen flew out followed by more. I looked in the stove. There was the bird. I have left it there as evidence so the bastard landlord believes me. Of course it is a Bank Holiday Monday tomorrow so I will have to wait until Tuesday to speak to them

People don’t listen when you’re older. I told them. I told them about several other shortcomings to do with this house.

I phoned them three times to ask why they shave the grass outside the front of these houses so nothing wild grows for birds, butterflies and insects. The council aren’t obsessively cutting their bit of grass so why is my landlord?

When I first moved here I was shivering in winter. The stove did not heat the radiators efficiently. Eventually they put some insulation in and replaced doors which made some difference.

I’m sad for the bird and all the deceased creatures I have seen today on the roads and every thing that lived and we (humans) have killed.

There were some good things I saw today too. The Woods that had been bought by the Woodland Trust in Woodhall Spa with the Woodpigeons in and Wood in. The harvested field with its golden wheels.

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Update: 24/9/2014

Five and a half weeks since I reported the bird, someone has finally come to take it away. Last week they put a wire cap on the chimney.  Goodbye starling, migrated to the big place in the sky. Or at least the back of a truck.

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The Empty Nest


On the nest.

I returned home on 28th August, 2013 to find a woodpigeon was sitting on a nest in a big tree in my garden,  visible from the house windows. Using my not-very-good binoculars I could see her sitting there and watching her became a daily obsession.

I did an Internet search and found out that both males and females build the nest, two eggs are  laid  and they alternate incubating the eggs over 17-19 days with the female doing the night shift. They then take it in turns to feed the hatchlings with crop milk and they fledge after 33-34 days so they were going to be around for several days. They mate for life.

The nest was very loose and  twiggy and I could look out of the window at the top of the stairs and see the wood  pigeon sitting on it through the leaves which were still profuse because of the hot daytime weather we’ve had this year. It was sometimes hard to see when the wind blew a bit as they were well hidden by leaves from that angle even though I knew where to look.

About two weeks ago we had gusty winds and this was the first time I knew the other parent was around. They were taking twigs up and passing them to the sitter and did this quite openly as it was urgent. They went from the tree to the top of my shed then to the ground and back up again. I thought about the birds swaying and swinging around in the wind as the branches  dipped and dived.

After a few days the birds were agitated and it became clear the eggs had hatched. One day I saw two small heads poking up in the nest. I only saw the morning swap over once at about 8am. A pigeon arrived on one side of the tree and the other pigeon flew off from the other side. I saw the evening shift arrive a couple of times just before dusk.

On the 18th September I went out of the house and on the path between the door and my car were several feathers. There had been an incident. It looked like wood pigeon feathers but I thought it might not be to do with my wood pigeon family. I didn’t see the nest clearly after this as the nest had shifted and I couldn’t see it. I could see there was a parent bird by looking up from the ground and seeing a tail.

On Thursday 27th September I was away from home two days and a night. When I returned at dusk I was unpacking the car and I saw what looked like feathers on the ground in the garden. I looked closer and it was a squab that was dead. That upset me as I could actually see it unlike the feathers of a few days earlier. I wondered about going back out and taking a photo but changed my mind  thinking it would be painful to look at. I had wondered about keeping some of the feathers  of the other bird but didn’t want reminding. I thought of the parent birds, they had invested many days so far and were in the habit of feeding the young. In the daylight I could see the nest was now about 15 feet lower down the tree caught on some branches. I went out and stood directly under the tree and peered upwards where the original nest was, trying to make sense of it and see if any twigs were left higher up. A loud flapping and a bird flew out of the other side of the tree. I didn’t see it but I know it was one of the parents.

One  of the birds came and sat on a branch in the tree for about a week for three or four hours at a time. After ten days it didn’t come any more. What was left of the nest blew down onto the ground.

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An Incident.                                                              Nest 15 feet lower down the tree.


Parent bird on a branch.       

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Wood Pigeon Woods. Oo oo ooo oo oo.


On the way back I went to Sandringham. The car park. It is surrounded by woods and the woods are home to many, many wood pigeons. It was a cold but dry day and they were all calling and flapping about in the 100 feet trees. Oo oo ooo oo oo. Oo oo, oo oo ooo oo oo. I got my sound recorder out but the battery was completely flat. “Shit.” I said.

“What’s the matter?” said the mature voice of an older woman with plenty of money and time on her hands.

“I want to record the sound of birds echoing through the trees, aren’t they gorgeous?” I said, looking wide eyed up into the fir-y branches.

“Delicious.” she said. I double-looked at her. Was she joking? No, she was licking her old lips. In the near distance was the loud boom of a gun which I assumed was shooting something. “The bastards are probably shooting birds.”

“Pshiw, pshiw, plop, nom nom nom, poop, splash. (Shouts) Change the seat!” said the woman. She had an umbrella, I’m not sure why as it wasn’t raining.

“You’re fucking mad.” I said.

“Don’t you know who I AM?” she spouted, giving me a wrinkly, haughty, scrunched-up face look from below my eyeline.

“The Queen?”


“Really? Well you don’t look like a queen.”

“You, you, you are a pleb.” She (whoever she was) made fists with her hands and moved them in opposite directions like someone strangling a pheasant. “Now do you recognise me?”

“No. Why have you got an umbrella?”

“For my reigning. I reign over you. Reign reign reign, pissy pissy reign over you. Hee hee.”

“Now I know you’re not The Queen. She never makes jokes, even bad ones.”

“You cheeky pleb.”

“So when are you going to give it up? This royalty stuff.”

“Long to reign over you. LONG. I’ll be here a long, long time. Reign. (Shakes her umbrella). Hee hee.”

The so-called queen was starting to bore me now so I moved a couple of steps away.

“Ruff, ruff. Ruff. Ruff ruff.” Two rough dogs shot out of the undergrowth. One had an owl in its mouth. I’m not sure who looked most surprised, the dog, the owl or me.

“Well done Ruff, good dog.”

“Poor owl. Let me take it to the Owl Rescue.”

The barn owl stared at me, its face looking full at me in a ‘we have to look at you like this as we can’t  swivel our eyes like you’ way. Also it couldn’t move as it was in the dog’s mouth. I stepped forward with my scarf in my hands ready to put over the owl’s head. I didn’t think about the dogs. I was brave. Or stupid.

“Mine. It’s mine. I got it first.” said the queen/whatever.

“I tried to kill two birds with one stone and one flew away and this was the second one. I must be losing my touch. I like a nice owl and coriander soup before my horse for tea.”

“You are not taking this owl. Piss off.” I put the scarf over the owl’s head and gently pulled it from the dog’s mouth. The dog didn’t seem to care and if the owl had human thoughts it would have been grateful I’m sure. It didn’t struggle, it must have know I had its interest at heart.

A man’s voice could be heard coming towards us with twigs snapping under his feet.

“Mam as in webcam, not marm as in tarmac. Marm as in marmalade, not mam as in dram. Oh fuck I don’t know. AH. YOUR HM MAJESTY. I’ve  been looking for you everywhere. I have your horse ready.”

“My riding horse or my snacking horseburger? Hee hee. If it’s the horse you know I don’t want to ride today and if it’s a burger is that the best you could do? Did you bring salad and whisky? It’s a cold day don’t you know.”

“It’s a horse and cart, mam, dram, marmalade.”

At this stage I wondered if I should have been more polite to the old woman. I am pretty old but she is ancient, maybe I should have had more respect and sworn less.


“Well it’s, sorry marmalade, oh fuck, er, no! don’t chase me.”

The man disappeared between the trees followed by the rough dogs and the so-called queen. They had just got out of sight when I heard a strange noise. It sounded like an old woman turning into wood. I ran to look and all around I could hear the sound of wood pigeons calling “oo oo ooo oo oo” and this is what I saw…..

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC Disclaimer. Some of this is not true.

By the way the owl flew away and  was fine.

Fran March 23rd, 2013

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