Creative Writing PhD

Can you feel the night? I watch stars as a small herd of sheep quietly graze on evening grass. The hills are monochrome against a dark sky. A small flicker of light hugs a corner near the dry riverbed. This is Bethlehem in Galilee. You know the light. It comes from a stable cut into the rock of our imagination. It is real, if anything is real. It has changed lives. It is an ever-changing artefact that demands our attention and devotion. It is no random event, it is a creature that has crawled through history living and breathing with us. It is where our story begins.

Can you feel the sunrise? I watch as a herd of cows make their way towards the milking-shed, their udders full. If I can get myself out of bed I will walk down and watch them being milked by Jock, the milkman. I’ll watch the machines suck the long, thin teats as the warm-white liquid flows along the transparent pipes. If I remember to take the small churn, I will bring back milk with me. Mum will be pleased.

Story is like wine. Built from parcels of life full of encounter and sunshine, stored and fermented. Forgive me then if, sometimes, I ride my paper bike, intoxicated. As children, we live a life of tall grass and long days.  We don’t notice the wide gaps that exists in between the rare moments we are touched by the sacred hand that strokes the air around us. As adults we grow easily bored, as the world begins to belittle itself and we lose faith in the day. Story and wine replaces the magic we once knew when we didn’t know what we imagine we know.

Can you smell the hops? They came at the time we’d be sent to celebrate harvest-festival in church. Dragged by unbelieving teachers and an indifferent curriculum, we’d stand stone-cold and get to know hymns that would after, accompany us through the years and become familiar friends. It all made sense: The stable, the three kings, the child, the words and deeds, the body and blood. It all made sense until it didn’t. Story is a poor substitute for the real thing, but it is all we have. And its real all the same. A different sort of real.

I’d walk to the hop kiln and watch the men work into the night. The fires would glow, and the hops would dry to a crisp grey-green. Dad worked hard. I didn’t realise then, how close those days were to ending. At school we’d be told how machine would soon do our labour for us and that we’d have so much leisure time we’d not know what to do with it. We have. We spend our time looking back for the meaning we once had. Even the recent-born realise there is something missing.

Stone Cottage

Who lives at Stone Cottage?

Firstly, there’s a man who sometimes writes poetry and sometimes prose-fiction. He is greying. Likes walking and photography. Likes to cook, has a penfriend in Poland and is known, on this website, as Fender (that’s me – goodness knows why I am writing in third person!). I am keeping the blog and will write most of the posts. Here is a sample of my poetry:

Our Love

our love was built in the sixties
hit ice on its maiden voyage
and sank without a trace

sex is not easy to endure
when the fridge is left open

cold words lose their fire
in the empty moments
of everyday

a few more flowers in the vase
would have been nice
another joint
might have done the trick

remember how your legs
squeezed my love
into our soul

remember how we cried
when cupid sewed
our hearts together

remember the time
you threw our song
out of the window

that’s when I realised
love is vinyl
breaks too easy

sometimes I want your legs
around me again sometimes

I just want to know
why cupid continues to live
in the ice box
of our fridge

And then there is Sarah. She likes walking too (and photography), has a whippet and plays the cornet. She is a Counsellor training in psychology, a Buddhist-Pagan (or Pagan-Buddhist) and enjoys relaxing on the PlayStation. Sarah was once a Christian but lost her belief in a personal, all-powerful God. She bakes – bread and cakes (which is why I have joined the gym).

Finally, there is Margaret. She is Sarah’s mother and has been living with us for seven years. She is quite a personality. She has had a lot of health problems – a diagnoses of inoperable cancer most recently – but she does not let it get her down. She lost her Christian faith several years ago but continues to believe that the universe is meaningful. Her hobbies, at the moment, are: shopping and puzzles.

What To Expect…

I wrote this poem in Finland. I was staying there for three months on a university exchange program (I was training to be a nurse). I spent a lot of the time in Finland just wandering around the magnificent countryside and one day stumbled upon a little graveyard surrounded by trees, spring flowers and the sound of birdsong. The poem below is the result.


What to expect when you visit a graveyard.

When you visit a graveyard
you expect stillness, but
you get crowds, horizontal layers
of rowdy life stories,
jostling and bumping.

You expect honesty but you get
thieves, feathered voices
stealing your attention.

You except a certain
decorum, but you get sensuality,
a brutal harmony of light
and sweetness wrapped
in the intimate touch of a breeze.

You expect melancholy,
but you get joy,
like a bright colour

When you visit a graveyard
do not expect
a quiet word with the dead.

I have included this poem in a collection of my work which can be purchased on Amazon – if you like my work: The Road from Albiez