One day in the future


One day in the future I will remember the evening
Walking the river path when I could smell the winter ending
Me and your dogs; we could hear the birds
Starting to sing their evening songs again
The way they do when Spring first comes.
We saw the lights in the houses go on
From where we were, quiet on the edge of the wood,
Me and your dogs. We were late.
We’d found a secret river meadow so remote
That no footprints marked the mud smoothed by the floods
Then you texted: How long will you be?
Ten minutes. Five if we hurry. Is everything ok?
Everything was fine, you messaged me.
And all of us knew it was then, me and your dogs.
How long will we be now? A lifetime or so.
Then I can remember you again,
One day in the future.

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It Had To Be You, Django

It Had To Be You, Django

What is there to say, Django Reinhardt?
You take forever now to smoke
That cigarette on the album cover.
A perfect swirl of smoke
Rises past your svelte lapel.
It all went pretty well that evening,
Even from here I can tell.
You did the gypsy thing
The jazz thing, the war thing
And now I’m older than you then
I still can’t do the guitar thing
The way you did with just two fingers.

Your wife made trinkets out of celluloid
Shirt collars, the same stuff they used to use
For film and like old pictures always could
It can burn. And then it did.
The caravan you lived in,
You two crazy kids in your teens,
The whole thing caught light
And as you saved your wife
You lost your hand; or at least some fingers.
You thought it would change your life
And it did but not the way
Anyone might have thought.
You were a gypsy jazz musician.
You looked like a Jew;
That’s what people said in those days.
Some places they still do but you,
When the Nazis came you got lucky.
Hitler might have detested jazz;
And Heydrich, the Reich Gaulieter of Bohemia
And Moravia wrote the rules but the guys
With the boots and the guns, the farm boys
And the doctors, the fliers and the sailors
Listening to Lili Marlene and Bing
And Miller and Dorsey, all of that swing thing
They liked that stuff. They were hep to that jive,
Man. Betty Grable! What a dish!
That music swung too, so Django, you didn’t
When nobody would have taken bets on you
Coming out the other side of that war.
Nobody at all. But someone looked after you.
You hid in plain view, playing at the Hot Club de Paris,
Not down some alley off a half-forgotten street
In an unfashionable arrondisement.
Not you. You were still up there with your name
In lights same as it was with you and Grapelli,
Back before; Someone else
With a pressing reason to leave Paris fast.
But it worked out somehow.
Nobody knocked on your door
In the small hours or if they did,
Only for friendly reasons
And with some pressing urgency,
The way it is sometimes.
Someone was looking after you.
And then June ’44
And America and electric guitars
That you never really liked
Listening to you, it’s plain that’s true.
The fluency still there but the sound flat.
Maybe nobody knew what electric guitars
Were for back then. Maybe even you.
Transatlantic meant a week on a ship before
You came home again to Soissons-sur-Seine.
Thirty seconds of pain before
You put down your guitar for good.
You played better with two fingers
Than most people learn to play in two lifetimes,
That sound that people danced to, crooned to,
Swooned to, the forever sound of golden years.
In an imaginary past full of promises
That no-one meant to break, but still.
You know how it goes. You do now, anyway.
You played Limehouse Blues for a place
Where now you need a million,
To even think about it. That’s blue.
Nagasaki for a somewhere else
We don’t like to talk about too much.
You told us, back in Nagasaki
Where the fellers chew tobaccy
The women wiggy waggy woo. And maybe they do.
So I’ll see you in my dreams, and in nuages,
In a Sentimental Moon, Beyond The Sea,
In Echoes Of France with those Swing Guitars,
Swinging In Springtime. It had to be you.
Django. Didn’t it? That and Stephan’s Blues,
Double Whisky, Christmas Swing. Just for Fun.
Oubli. Parfum. Swing 39, 41 and 42.
All of these your tunes. It just had to be you.

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Out in Paperback


Out now, just in time for Christmas, the very best of Frank Admiration & The Extraordinary Renditions.

Enrage your friends, amuse your enemies, form the ice at parties. Get you copy today.


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This Is An Is Thing, Isn’t It?

The really great thing about being a bit crap at relationships is you get an awful lot of stuff to write about.

This Is An Is Thing, Isn’t It?


This is an is thing

This isn’t a once thing

Too late for once now anyway

This I hope is a future thing

And an odd thing this not once and future thing

An odd thing; time

Not just because it breaks the rhyme

It was getting close to needing to do that anyway

So where are we?

Where we were both before was

Nowhere much good; it was ok

But you know, not really

What we were looking for

And then; us. Somehow

It’s good.

We’re hoping it will stick

This time, this summer

These nights and days

The blossom time,

The blessed Chinese June bride time,

Something I saw

On the label of a T shirt in Hong Kong

Ten years from now;

We’re not that young.

We’ve both been places rich and poor

But fingers crossed and hoping

The pigs aren’t whistling;

It’s hard sometimes to make this right.

So let’s go slow this evening

And do no hurt tonight.


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La Danse Du Coeur

I wanted to call this Encore En Coeur, but I think that’s not really that good Franglais. This probably isn’t either.


Encore La Danse Du Coeur


It seems to be time for the same thing again,

The hurt look and the blank stare at best; the tears and shouted accusations

Tears and half-remembered truths and tears alcohol-blurred and things I don’t recall

Happening the same way, at worst. The calls missed, the last kiss,

And the appointments, lifts, lives and words in twists and why just exactly

After all this practice on our long walk to now, the two of us, let’s face it,

Let’s get some real clichés out there. Just why after all this now are we here?

Not together again? It’s not you it’s me. I just don’t see it that way,

It’s true. I don’t think it’s me at all. It’s you. Or who, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Here we are again, like Bogart at the airport. We’re both going to miss that plane,

Both going to be grateful to Claud Rains for rounding up the usual suspects.

The Xs left our texts just before we became exes again ourselves; they usually do.

Not that long ago two rings of a text from you coming through

Would wake me from the deepest sleep, piling out in T-shirt and no socks at 4AM

Scrambled like a black and white film pilot cycling the back road, August, pre-dawn,

Answering your call again. Now I sleep through the unsaid and if we call

Neither of us rush to return the words, to pickup the phone and bare our hearts again;

Not now. Again. Once more, once more as the French say, Rodders, encore.

Part of you will always live there, in my heart – parts of people always do.

Even as we dust ourselves down and try not to pick the scabs on our knees,

Sniff just once in public, waiting till we’re out of sight to feel pretty much anything Now. Certainly not in front of you, when I’m supposed to be the total bastard

And you the stupid cow. It’ll heal, won’t it? Shoulders back and deep breaths

And I promise I won’t tell anyone how you liked to take it in the heart,

The same as me, too often coming back for more as we hold hands and walk

Across the stage, always, the pair of us, looking for the applause,

Blinking in the lights, it’s ok to do that now.

It’s just the glare, you know? Take me with you. I can see.

Take me with you, encore, once more.

Let me put my arms around you this last time.

Encore, pour la danse du Coeur.

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All I Want

Francis Shelley did a marvellous song called All I Want. This isn’t it.

 bath abbey

All I Want


All I want is a Marks & Spencer jumper

Actually, that isn’t even vaguely true.

It’s not the woolly jumper part I want

And need so much but the fact

It would be bought for me by you

Against the cold and I remember

The smell of the cold each winter

The feel of it in my arms

Much as I remember you there too

And walking with blue jeans

And grey turtleneck sweater

That last year of school

Walking with you, walking with blue –

But it always stopped there.

It was a poem I tried to write for you,

Whoever you were going to be

I never really knew till maybe this evening.

The memory of your head on my arm

Bringing me back to you this dawn today

In the still quiet of the birds waking

Then singing the Spring home again.

And maybe this time it’ll all come true.

I can still feel the shadow of your head

Resting on my arm and I don’t know yet

Before this new year ahead if I can dare to hope,

Wondering if this Christmas you’ll take me to the shops,

Bath sparkling around us at the frosty end

Of Michaelmas term, spotlights glowing

On Jacob’s Ladder climbing to Heaven on the front of the abbey,

Chestnut sellers doing well, the choir outside Boots

Heralding angels among us in our coats,

Bright lights all around us, halos of frost too

So sparkling, so bright it could all almost be true.

That’s all I want for Christmas:

A Marks & Spencer jumper,

Lambswool not merino,

Found and bought,

Wrapped and hidden

For me by you.

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Das Boot



Das Boot

In the film the sailors were down deep in their submarine

Hunted hunters or hunting, it was hard to tell

Under the water and oil and blood and fire

If not honour. The destroyer was closing in fast

Dropping depth charges, the twin screws churning

The water above the submariners’ heads,

Cavitation whining, foreheads furrowed,

Woollies on, tense glances while they had to keep silent

Or they’d never hear the ping on the hydrophones

That would tell them who was where.

It was just a film

But it made me think of you and I and how

When we met we were both quiet,

Talking almost in whispers

One voice loud enough for both of us to share

When the pings of our sonar echoed back to each other faster

And faster as we got closer until nobody could really hear

Any difference in the two beats, the ping meeting the echo

In one long high sound that almost hurt to listen to it.

It never lasts long, that sound.

They dived deep to get away from the ship hunting them;

Only one option in the face of the evident danger.

The ludicrous flaw in this whole arrangement

The deeper you go the longer it takes for the depth charges

To reach you but because of the pressure all around,

Going deep, running silent, when they find you

The bolts shear more easily and the red lightbulbs smash

With the concussion, the rivets groaning as you look at each other

And wonder looking, each knock -Is this it? Is this the end?

Is that the tap on the hull that’s going to crush this all around us?

This blast of smashing cold that’s going to take our breath away?

And somehow it never is. It’s just that now the hunt’s over

And there’s so much time between each ping, each echo of you,

The air getting stale somehow, the signal fading

And so hard to even get a clear fix on your direction

These days, these nights, I miss the sound of that one long joining

Of that separated out again to two different pulses,

Longer now between each one. And longer still each time.

The sounds the ships make sinking, on the screen,

Their bulkheads blowing as they make the last voyage to the bottom.

It sounds like a scream. As if they had real feelings.

Then the longer silences now and just the echo of you fading too,

Contact broken, skipper. I think she’s gone,

However much I listen, my fingers twisting the dials,

Still here in the quiet, searching, headphones on.

Keep it down in the engine room. They can hear us miles away

On a night like this. But I can’t really hear your echo at all.

We can come up to the surface now. I think we’re in the clear again.

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High on a hill

There is a green hill far away. We sang about it in Sunday school, but it’s more true now then when I first sang it, back where all the hills were green and not far away at all, just a cycle ride away.

I wrote this today about something over a year ago. I don’t know if it works or not. I thought it did when I wrote it.

This is the place I grew up, the place I'm from, this land of green hills far away. But somehow, very close to me all the time.
This is the place I grew up, the place I’m from, this land of green hills far away. But somehow very close to me all the time.

High On a Green Hill


I met her in a pub when we were younger

Half our lives away; I met her on Facebook when she was ill.

I gave her a book of mine to read, while she lay

Under a blanket in the chill of an Andalucian winter,

Thick patterned wool around her thin shoulders,

Cold tiles under her long feet. She had a plan

To start a marmalade factory but something happened

To the farmers collective or the orange crop,

I didn’t really know.

And then there was the husband

And then there was the son and it was complicated,

You know how it goes sometimes.

I thought of her all that winter, pale and cold

Her light burning lower.

You can die when you’re our age.

Or anytime, it’s just we know that now.

She had pneumonia, she had blood tests,

She thought she had something else and

We shared the great day when she could walk in the sun

Three clicks to the village and rest and back again

On her own, by email, the way people do now.

After the marmalada corporation somehow didn’t happen

We met face-to-face the second time in our lives;

A university reunion.

She was the only reason I wanted to go.

She didn’t drink any more.

I was about ten years too late for that plan

But I didn’t know that when I offered her a glass of wine

And as she said “if I drink I have no limits,”

As I tried so hard to catch the waiter’s eye

For a whole bottle her friend kicked my leg under the table,

Hard and then harder until she said

“And this time I’ll probably die, so no,

I won’t have a drink. Thanks.”

She drank fizzy water.

Apparently there are different tastes,

Just not the ones I thought she meant.

We ate while I tried to hide the tinted sin of my glass

And talked and went quite early to our separate rooms.

When someone doesn’t drink, what else do you do?

But in the morning, fresh, we walked through sacred damp Bath

To the café I’d found that I thought she might like.

And she did. And I did, when the waitress assumed

She was my wife. It felt like it could have gone that way,

In a different life. After breakfast we walked along the canal,

Early Spring and suddenly it’s May and maybe,

Just maybe everything would turn out ok and

After she told me where she’d been and I didn’t need

Or even want to top her stories and win,

Because just walking there with her,

It felt as if I had for once,

As if I’d already won,

Although what that was

I didn’t really know.

She played electric bass and me, I played

A bit of guitar and sax.

Our first gig was outside the city, later.

I thought I’d need to drink but somehow I didn’t.

In the shadow of a church up there on the hill,

In the mist outside the pub door.

I didn’t finish my drink, blowing warm

If not hot and maybe close to cool.

She was taking a taxi to the airport at four.

After we’d all judged the gig a total success

And packed away our rocknroll music stands,

Our funky bifocal reading glasses,

She zipped her Hofner into its flight case

As I said don’t call it, I’ll drive you there

And she said ok. We both knew

It wasn’t really the right direction

But part of her wanted to stay.

A little bit. Just a little bit.

We bought factory-made hummus

Second-hand in a Sunday supermarket,

Some grapes and bread on its sell-by date,

Flavoured water I’d never drunk,

Something with a hint of lime and ate

Parked on a grass verge in my car,

High on a green hill in the sluicing rain,

Next to a stone barn grey against the black sky,

The food unimportant until it was time

For her to catch her plane, nearly,

Or anyway drive her to the airport.

We parked again and haggled again

Over petrol money I didn’t want from her,

Paid the car park, carried her bags

Then watched her smoke a cigarette outside.

Before we hung around Departures

Until it really was time for her to go.

We’ll do it again some time.

All of us, maybe. Sooner than before

We’ll be high on a green hill again.

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That place

I used to drive around a lot, just for fun. There wasn’t much else to do where I grew up; everywhere was somewhere else. As I got older I kept on driving for fun, or if not fun then more often to be somewhere I wasn’t.

I bought a house in the Cotswolds one winter, a place I’d driven through when I was eighteen and not that far from where I was born, but we left there when I was two. The real  town I bought the old posting barn, four hundred years old, where footsteps often carried on from the old pub next door straight through where the wall was, six feet thick, and walked through the barn, and still the house I was happy walking around at three in the morning, can’t sleep, leaving the lights off to see the sleeping town was in Not Your Heart Away, the place where Ben and Claire, Peter and Liz stopped after the car crash they’d just escaped having.

But none of that ever happened. Things like it did, but that didn’t, because they were imaginary people. Almost. Just like that place.

That Place

That place we saw once

Driving that bright January day;

I can’t remember the name of the town

Just bigger than a village

I don’t often drive that way now.

But somewhere on a hill,

Stark trees against the sharp blue sky

Up on the ridge, a red phone box

Against the snowy hedge,

The morning almost silent

Now the car’s calmed down.

Our eyes nearly back to normal

Once the motorway’s long behind us.

Cold with the window open.

Definitely not a day you want

To come out without a coat.

That feeling in your throat this time of year

Making you wonder if it’s the weather

Or whether you’re getting a cold

And how long it’s been since you were here before.

The shop’s become someone’s house now

And other new houses built on fields

To let you know you’re getting older,

But still alive. Still alive

As a cat walks across the frosty road

This crisp morning and you’d swear

You caught the Boxing Day fox-hunting

Smell of cigars as you turned the corner

That wasn’t quite where you remembered it was.

Wrong turn; And you drive the length

Of this Cotswold street.

A man on his phone, smiling, carrying the newspaper

Back towards his home or someone else’s.

Safe and warm for now.

If you’d lived here it would have been different.

All of it. And you know that’s true.

How different it would all have been

If I’d never known you.

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For a day job I work for a mental health hospital. Today I read one of the descriptions of the services the hospital offers and wondered about the way the fear and stigma of mental illness has affected treatment, to the extent that it’s not the done thing to even talk about it. We can and do happily discuss mental health but it’s not really on to talk about mental illness. It’s frightening. It’s a total loss of control.

Out on the primal veldt if you break your leg the lions might get you sooner, but at least you can make a plan. Light a fire, sharpen a stick, do something to put it off. And maybe, maybe you’ll get through. But when your mind isn’t very well you’re the most vulnerable you can possibly be and still be alive. Your plan is going to be about as good as the lions’s and they’ve got much bigger teeth than you.

Watch a cat with another cat that just came back from the vet and acts woozy from the anaesthetic. That would be my fear of what would happen, that frightened people would lash out, as frightened people do. Unless you’re lucky. Unless you can get help.

The service description got me thinking of how sanitised the language of therapy has become. Maybe it’s a good thing. I honestly don’t know. In one way it helps by reminding people, maybe unintentionally, the thinness of the tightrope we all walk. I see people who’ve missed their footing every day. It’s a terrifyingly long way down.



Treatment for psychotic symptoms, including hearing voices and seeing things others do not, feeling paranoid or mistrustful, believing in an ability to read other people’s minds, feeling confused, irritable and depressed, not thinking clearly, feeling that bad things may happen to self or others, believing in one’s special powers or fame are classic symptoms of a psychotic episode.


The factsheet told me the symptoms are common

And extensively varied including hearing voices,

Or seeing things that other people don’t see and hear.

And it’s true. I hear voices that other people don’t.

Other people don’t share my memories

And I hear your voice still telling me it’ll be ok.

Feeling paranoid or mistrustful.

I used to think paranoid meant thinking

Everyone was out to get you

But in the end, one person’s quite enough

Especially when they don’t want to get you at all

But the opposite. They want to un-get you.

For good. And mistrust.

Where would I be without a healthy dose of that?

Signed up to share my bank account with a Nigerian prince

Who suddenly needs to get the money belonging to his uncle

Who sadly died in a plane crash out of the country.

If I’d only share my details half of it can be mine.

And I can tick another box now. I could read his mind

This prince with a distinctly un-royal address.

But maybe things are different there.

Where nobody is confused or irritable or depressed

Where everyone thinks clearly all the time,

Where the words psychosis and mental health

Or service user are hardly ever used,

Unlike American Express or bank account details.

It’s my attitude, isn’t it?

It’s all in my head, as if I could think anywhere else

And shift this feeling that bad things might happen to me

And they will without any question at all

Because nobody gets out of this alive.

Do I believe in my special powers? It depends.

Right now only my special power to survive

Unlike the tens of billions who went before me

Dying and being born, a flash and dust

Under an eternal flame

So yes. Hands up. Me sir! Me sir! Sir! Sir!

That’s my special fame.




This is not the thing I wanted to write about mental health treatment. It just came out that way. As some people seem to have problems, oops, sorry, I meant issues reading this and thinking ‘Is he?’ You know, is he like that?’ the answer is no. Not diagnosed, anyway.

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