Painter of the Edgelands

She sits up late into the night,
Brushes cleaned and neatly packed,
In her worn wooden case from the old man’s market stall.

Fingers gnarled and twisted,
He’s long since daubed his last.
But in her he sees the genius he was before.

Morning comes and bags are filled.
Paper, paintbox, flask of tea.
A day of capturing beauty lays ahead.

She’s heading for the edgelands,
On the sleepy morning bus.
Seeking out the stories where the people seldom tread.

The painter sees things I can’t see.
Her eyes don’t work like mine.
Enchantment flows from brush and pen,
When skill and magic combine.

Off the bus and through the park,
To find her favourite scene,
Where the river winds beyond the gasworks wall.

She’s happiest on the fringes,
Where the town and country meet.
Painting ghosts of industry that few alive recall.

Her work’s so very different
From the textbook landscape scenes
Factories and chimneys are her fields and her trees.

She’s not Constable or Turner,
But her work speaks more to me.
It makes me feel something, and the old artist agrees.

The painter sees things I can’t see.
Her eyes don’t work like mine.
Enchantment flows from brush and pen,
When skill and magic combine.

Abstract lines on paper,
Give a guide for paint and ink
As chaos turns to order over time.

She slowly creates
As the hours pass
Her page a forgotten world of smog, soot and grime.

As sunlight slowly fades,
Wooden case is packed away.
A slow meander back towards the town.

She’ll be back tomorrow,
With fresh paper and paint.
To create another masterpiece when she sets her easel down.

The painter sees things I can’t see.
Her eyes don’t work like mine.
Enchantment flows from brush and pen,
When skill and magic combine.


Disco Badgers

I’ve seen some things you won’t believe,
Whilst jogging in the park.
I once saw a duck eat a chocolate eclair,
But the strangest things come after dark.

Last year I saw two postmen,
Who appeared to be in distress.
The first’s trousers had fallen down,
And the second seemed quite out of breath.

But the oddest thing I ever saw,
And I swear I wasn’t drunk,
Were disco-dancing badgers,
Taken over by the funk.

They’d built a dancefloor in the woods,
Just outside their sett.
One had silver hotpants on,
And a Chaka Khan cassette.

I just couldn’t believe my eyes,
I stood there quite askance.
They used a pine cone for a glitterball,
And boy, those guys could dance.

If you’ve never seen a badger strut,
And shimmy on the floor,
Think of Travolta in a stripy suit,
Crawling around on all fours.

I’ve looked in all the textbooks,
I’ve spoken to the nerds.
But all I get are funny looks,
And i’m told that it’s absurd.

But I know what I saw that night,
Don’t patronise me please.
Glamour, sequins and funky moves,
From the Badgery Bee Gees.

I rushed back there the very next day,
To see what I could find.
But all I saw was a plain old sett,
And no sign of bump, nor grind.

I felt a bit downhearted,
A sadness in my soul.
Until I saw, whilst walking away,
A silver flash from a rabbit hole.

It feels strange to tell you this,
I’ve kept it to myself.
But a pair of hotpants (badger sized),
Are sitting on my shelf.

The government will tell you,
That the badgers are no good.
But that’s a lie, I know the truth,
They’re the dancing queens of the wood.

Lefty Protest Song

Pull the plugs and cut the wires
Throw your smartphone on the fire
Shoot down the satellites,
Tear down the masts,
The only news we need is the weather forecast.

Delete Facebook, send your last tweet
Chuck your laptop in the street
Stop funding Murdoch,
Ignore the press.
It’s time we made some real progress.

Let’s go outside and make some noise
It’s time for action, girls and boys.
Let’s go outside and breath some air.
It’s time to say the revolution prayer.

I don’t really know where the internet is.
But dad never had it when he was a kid.
Too much information.
Eyes glued to screens.
One step away from being ruled by machines.

It’s got to stop, it’s gone too far.
A concrete jungle with a billion cars.
I’m all for progress,
But this ain’t it.
Dying from fumes that the city emits.

Let’s go outside and make some noise
It’s time for action, girls and boys.
Let’s go outside and breath some air.
It’s time to say the revolution prayer.

Goodbye media, goodbye big oil.
Goodbye industry that kills the soil.
Goodbye tech giants that pretend to be poor.
Goodbye to politics that vilify the poor.

Let’s go outside and make some noise
It’s time for action, girls and boys.
Let’s go outside and breath some air.
It’s time to say the revolution prayer.

Lay Us Down

Winter mist hangs in the air,
As we sit and plan our great escape.
Down from the village by the secret path,
To where the wooded valley waits.

Hand in hand we skirt the barley,
We climb the fences and the dry stone walls.
Beech and ash reach out to meet us.
As we enter the wood where the ring dove calls.

Lay us down amid the leaf-fall,
Where the fungi grow and the foxes play.
Lay us down amid the leaf-fall.
We’ll close our eyes and drift away.

We’ll take the track down to the river,
That silver stream where the dippers dwell.
Let’s clamber over mossy rocks,
And bid our urban lives farewell.

One last push will see us free,
One last climb up to the ridge.
We’re miles away from the place we left,
Far past the vale and the river bridge.

Lay us down amid the leaf-fall,
Where the fungi grow and the foxes play.
Lay us down amid the leaf-fall.
We’ll close our eyes and drift away.

Each step from here on is uncharted,
As we walk toward the setting sun.
Twin souls with a shared desire,
To melt into old Albion.

So lay us down amid the leaf-fall,
Where the fungi grow and the foxes play.
Lay us down amid the leaf-fall.
We’ll close our eyes and drift away.

Stinky Alan

Some jobs make you hard to love,
They suck the romance out of life.
By day I scrape fatbergs out of the sewer,
By night I want to find a wife.

I just can’t seem to shake the smell,
It seeps into my every pore.
I’ve tried to bath, and I’ve tried to shower,
But I smell worse than a wild boar.

They call me stinky Alan,
Which doesn’t help my case.
Every time I talk to ladies,
They scream and slap my face.

They call me stinky Alan,
And it really isn’t fair.
I’m actually very handsome,
With a lovely head of hair.

My only hope is to find a girl,
Who doesn’t seem to mind the stench.
A busty lovely with a wooden nose,
But classy, like Dame Judi Dench.

I’m thinking about online dating,
You can’t smell bad on the internet.
I’ll search for someone accustomed to odour,
A zookeeper, or a saucy vet.

They call me stinky Alan,
I want to make love all night.
All I want is to find a girl,
Who can stand the smell of shite.

They call me stinky Alan,
And I’ve had a great idea.
I’ll carry a skunk wherever I go,
And say that he’s got diarrhoea.

They used to call me stinky Al,
Until I learned a cunning trick.
“What’s that smell?” I hear you ask,
“It’s my skunk, he’s very sick”.



The vixen lay dying in the undergrowth, wracked with searing pain where the cruel snare bit deep into flesh and sinew. She was used to being hurt, indeed her whole life had been one of pain and hardship, but she knew that her struggle was nearing an end. The hunters had found one of the places where she came to drink, and had concealed their crude wire traps in the bracken that lay along her regular path to the woodland stream. Traps with one purpose, to devastate that which had previously been so full of life and spirit.

Her final act was to drag herself into the undergrowth, as far from her natal den as her maimed leg could manage. Her kits were strong and nearly full-grown, yet their chances of surviving the winter without her were slight. She knew that her moribund form would attract attention from animal and human alike, so finding a secluded spot to wait for the inevitable end was critical. Her final act of motherhood would be to try to keep the evil fuckers as far from her younglings as possible. In seclusion lay safety, and in safety lay a chance.

The fine divide between life and death was a constant in her short life, and she herself had been the angel of death and destroyer of worlds. She was a killer, but she was different to those that were soon to take her life. She killed to live, and to ensure the survival of her offspring. She killed because she was part of nature, and nature is primal and vicious. Yet she never killed when she didn’t have to, and she never killed for pleasure. Her conquerors were different. They were not part of nature, but instead saw it as something to be owned and controlled, to assert dominion over. It’s true that their species had once killed to live, but those days were many generations past. Now they killed for sport and took pleasure from apportioning pain. They hunted for the sheer joy of taking life, self-proclaimed gods intoxicated by their own importance.

None of this mattered now, of course, as she lay still in the undergrowth. Her breathing grew laboured and shallow, her eyesight milky and dim. The fading light of day picked out the crystalline sparkle of the leaf litter, the cold air turning evening dew to the first hoar-frost of winter. She had so nearly made it. She had so nearly escaped the brutal end met by so many of her kin, and yet the hunters had won in the end. In some ways her ending was more peaceful than those meted out to others of her kind, be it by the crack of a shotgun or evisceration by the baying hounds, however the result was always the same. One more life exchanged for a fleeting moment of satisfaction, soon forgotten. One fewer scrap of beauty in the world.

She thought she could feel the sun on her back as she closed her eyes, never to open them again. The hunters never found her.

The Ballad of Bridge 34

He’d seen it all from his booth on the toll bridge.
From his crude wooden shack that held off the rain.
Beneath him ran the creek, a meandering blue streak.
Above, the rusted struts of a cantilevered frame.

From his worn leather chair he’d seen countless acts of romance.
The valley a stage for declarations of love.
Each illicit kiss, each secretive tryst.
Recalled to him his sweetheart, his Mary, his dove.

Through the sliding glass window he’d seen love turn to hatred.
A thousand wedding rings cast into the abyss.
Vicious verbal combat, tears and bitter words spat.
Were a mirror for his own loss of marital bliss.

Beyond love and hate, the bridge had seen tragedy.
He had 911 on speed dial on his old service phone.
Car smashes and suicides, jumpers and drowners.
He felt them more deeply now that he was alone.

He’d though he’d seen it all from his booth on the toll bridge.
But he didn’t see it coming when his dove flew away.
Whilst performing his duties, his Mary had been fruity.
With the jerk of a toll clerk from Bridge 38.

It’s hard to be normal when you live in a toll booth.
The bridge was his real love, and that’s the sad truth.

Arrogant Alan (A Children’s Fable)

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m by far the best animal in the whole wide world.
No other animal can compare to me.
I’m better at dancing than a boa constrictor.
I’m better at tennis than a bumblebee.

I’m the cleverest creature that ever existed.
I learned all I know from daytime tv.
I’d outsmart a badger on Jeremy Kyle.
I’d beat a cat at Countdown and have sausages for tea.

I’m the bestest beastie since records began.
I once won an award from the BBC.
I’m greater than a gecko and cooler than a camel.
Suaver than a sausage dog, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I’m the most handsome organism to ever draw breath.
Michelangelo’s David ain’t got nothing on me.
I’ve got smarter facial hair than a Walrus at a barber’s shop.
A bigger horn than a Narwhal, the largest in the sea.

Oh what’s the point, you don’t believe me.
I’m a compulsive liar, that much is true.
I’m actually a particularly boring type of worm.
I’m very unimpressive, and I live in a poo.

I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused.

Yours sincerely,

Alan the poo worm (age 7 months)

My Countryside

The countryside isn’t the countryside. Not really. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that much of the countryside isn’t my idea of what countryside should be. Allow me to explain…

If I asked you to think of the countryside, what would you imagine? My guess is that many may think of the things that they can see from the car window. Woodlands, lakes and mountains would hopefully feature heavily, but I suspect that vast, rolling fields of farmland would be the most common response.

I want to be very clear in stating that I have nothing against agriculture. It is hugely important to sustaining the population of the UK, and indeed some of our farmland is exceptionally valuable to wildlife. There are large numbers of species that wholly rely on farmland, including some of our most beautiful bird species and our most charismatic mammals. I have no beef with agriculture (excuse the pun), but I have a real problem with the bastardised form of agriculture that dominates many rural parts of the UK. Endless fields where ancient hedgerows have been deemed an inconvenience and ripped out. Fields that are cropped to their boundaries to maximise yield. Tracts of grassland given over to sheep and castle grazing to keep our failing dairy industry alive. The increasing trend towards crops such as oilseed rape and maize, both of which are like wildlife deserts in comparison to more traditional wheat or barley crops. Each of these practices has dealt a harsh blow to biodiversity in this country, sterilising huge areas of land for native wildlife and destroying valuable topsoil. This topsoil in turn is washed into our streams and rivers as silt, where it it clogs the gills of fish and contributes to our ever growing problem with flooding by reducing the carrying capacity of the wetland infrastructure upon which we are so reliant. In addition, the use of pesticides and herbicides that are needed to keep these areas at their most productive has an equally devastating effect on nature. We’ve all heard about the extent to which bees are being damaged by pesticides, but the same problem extends to a myriad of other species. Fish are poised, insects are wiped out, and in turn the species that rely upon them for food slowly starve and reduce in numbers. Intensive agriculture is tantamount to concreting over our green and pleasant land.

The farmers aren’t to blame. The blame lies with the politicians that have created an economic race to the bottom, wherein farmers are under extreme pressure to produce more and more in exchange for less and less. Money is pumped in via subsidies to create an illusion of a healthy, functioning market, but it’s not hard to see beneath the veil. Farming in this country is broken, and the farming communities and our wildlife suffer equally. This is the true price of a cheap loaf of bread or pint of milk.

It’s heartening that many landowners are in agreement that the current situation is unsustainable, and that there is a better way. There is an observable trend towards lower intensity land use, and in recent years EU funding has seen an increase in better environmental stewardship. It’s incredible what the retention of arable field margins and areas of set-aside can do, and it’s also evident that there is a market out there for ethical produce. People want to support sustainable farming and wildlife, but that’s still not enough. Without a fundamental sea change in policy and the economics of farming, the rate of biodiversity loss will continue. I’m optimistic that we can make real improvements, but it’ll be a long road.

My perfect countryside is an unachievable utopia, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.

My countryside is one of ancient woodland, of hedgerows enclosing small fields, of wildflower meadows and field margins, of rare breed livestock on organic land.

My countryside has clean water and rich soil, and crop fields are thick with skylarks, pipits and partridge.

My countryside is one where foxes and badgers can sleep safely at night, without fear of being murdered to appease a vocal minority.

My countryside is driven by self sufficiency and a love of nature, rather than tariffs and quotas.

My countryside is about 500 years in the past. Let’s make it the future too.