Defiant Deckchairs


Defiant Deckchair

Being ironic…


Not On Fire There’s A Hole

not on fire1

There is genuine yin yang in the incident of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 in the sad and tragic loss of a life and the actual calm heroism of the pilot that prevented further loss.

The Dreaming Fields are Singing

A dream of
karaoke academies

with tongue lashings
of culture coding –

fried rote learning in
chicken-shop songs.

In shaved lines of
panoptic surveillance

verbal canes
whip their singing

but accept an ethnic
fringe: barbering

this barbarousness.
Staff screaming in a

takeaway after school
is in its glass frontage.

Outside the democratic
this is enforcement

is military investigation
is constantly monitored

is suffused to intervene
is chicken representing

poor choice.
Almost uniforms

are mythical qualities
of poor choice,

suede knowledge
not rote fried.

This is the dream of
chicken shop singing

crossing its road
just for this melody.


Source: ‘Little Robots’: behind the scenes at an academy school, University of Cambridge, here.

Redacted Angry Old Man


Very pleased to have my poem ‘Redacted’ on the Angry Old Man site today here.

Thanks to Drew, and I’ll say again how much I appreciate having work from my two found poetry novel sequences getting out there, this from American Finds.

The illustration above for #3 Angry Old Man Magazine is by Meena Sediqi, and you can read an explanation about its origins from her here.

Bad Examining

bad english

A couple of things before referring to and writing briefly about the articles to follow:

I am not opposed to testing/examining as a blanket view – I have been a Senior GCSE English Literature examiner for over 30 years [I think that’s a biggie in dispelling myths on this line], but I am totally opposed to testing/examinations where the content and method of assessment are inherently flawed. I therefore have to stress that my main and continuing opposition within national testing regimes is to English SATs, now at Key Stages 1 and 2 – I have significant experience of English Key Stage 3 testing where content and mark schemes were, when taken together, simply punitive; and I have closely followed the, previously, English SPaG and now GPS testing papers, and these are as punitive in overall impact as well as meaningless in terms of teaching and learning as the KS3 nonsense when it existed.

The second rather obvious point is I have chosen the following articles to support my views, though one is an alternative perspective but it highlights my concerns all the same. If you want to read articles in support of testing and similar, check out Minister of State Nick Gibb’s twitter postings where he references loads of complete drivel in support of his ideologue’s fervour where a complete lack of actual educational [teaching and learning] experience is no barrier to holding a position of influence in Education.

The first is today’s Guardian article urging parents to boycott again this year’s SATs. I simply support this because I think parents need to be more proactive in expressing – here through protest – that they have informed and knowing opinions on the pointlessness of and damages caused by SATs. I have written elsewhere on this blog my view of these ‘damages’ and how not to overstate, so I won’t repeat this here.

One quick ‘other’ support of my view about boycotting SATs is that we as individuals need to be more critical of and proactive against those decisions made on our behalf by governments where their purposes are blatantly beyond stated intentions.

The second is in yesterday’s Schools Week and it is from a Head urging parents not to boycott SATs. Referenced partly as potential balance, I of course disagree and think the needs expressed about requiring assessment on pupil progress are patently true but better served by teacher assessment – after all, they/we are the experts. Any scrutiny of English SATs papers and mark schemes will demonstrate their significant remove from meaningful expertise.

The third is a genuinely disturbing analysis and observation reported by University of Cambridge research here. I think the review of and response to ethos and practice in a school which, among many suspect approaches, sees ‘exam’ success as such a high priority links into my questioning of the value of examining – though I admit this is at secondary level and thus GCSE which is less my adamant concern [though the secondary testing and target culture is a part of the larger despairing national picture].

Those recent reports – much on Twitter – of schools now following ‘four year’ GCSE courses in order to hit targets is another layer of incredulity.

little girl hammering

a little girl
takes her hammer
to the gate then

hits it again and
again and again and
again as I pass by

and away hearing
that hammering in
such a deliberate act

the intention clear
as I saw her walking
straight towards it just

a toy in a tiny hand
but it could have been
so much more with

that look she got from
somewhere and/or
someone else before

Top Fifty 22: Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Everbody Knows This Is Nowhere, 1969

[Originally posted December 2011]


I have neglected my Top Fifty for a while and therefore am returning now with a gem and the jeweller. I have selected another ‘obvious’ choice in as much as who wouldn’t/couldn’t have this in their favourites at some reasonably high ranking?

This album was my initial introduction to Neil, and I didn’t in fact hear his eponymously titled first album until much, much later. I also discovered this big bang release whilst staying with a friend in his Putney flatlet in London – a small home behind the toys, sweets, cigs and newspaper shop he ran at the time [his parents’, but him in charge, precariously]. I discovered loads of music in that place, along with much else, and when I look back it was an amazing, impressionable and exciting time – I was 16 years old and entering an occasional world where everyone else was in their early twenties and much more experienced than me. What a journey.

The album was designed to appeal to someone like me, and so many others. It opens with Cinnamon Girl and those simple power chords and bass setting the pace, then the beautiful harmonies co-producing that perfect symmetry of heavy rock with folk vocals [noting Stephen Stills’ apparent long-standing and bitter  criticism of Young’s involvement in CSN&Y because he wanted to play folk music in a rock band]. Next track Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere introduces the Country element a la Gram Parsons and The Byrds, an inclination to twang that resonated in my American bones.

Favourite has to be third track Round and Round [It Won’t Be Long] – everything about the roundness of its title, lyric and slow loop of a song structure hypnotising as you listen. Then there is the beautiful poetic tone of the lyrics

Round and round and round we spin,
To weave a wall to hem us in,
It won’t be long, it won’t be long
How slow and slow and slow it goes,
To mend the tear that always shows.
It won’t be long, it won’t be long.

and the assonantal words lull and calm and comfort the teenage heart!

Side one closer Down By The River oozes its cool, the bass-line and funky chord core laying down a smooth strut and stroll for Young’s signature fuzzed-out guitar to dance and shriek upon throughout; and then again the gorgeous harmonies. All praise to band Crazy Horse for its central contribution.

Side two opens with the other countrified number The Losing End [When You’re On] and I wonder if this alienated any listeners? Never this one. Sixth track Running Dry [Requiem For The Rockets] is a wonderful folk lament with its melodramatic violin strain [Bobby Notkoff from The Rockets and Electric Flag] and the echoed guitar.

The album ends on another Young classic Cowgirl In The Sand, all sublime vocals and guitar jam igniting the rockharmony universe with its emerging and decades’ forming planetary system of memorable albums and the still-rockin’ great, great artist that is Neil Young.