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Catch Me On The Radio Today

19 Jun


Here it is!

I received an email out of the blue, inviting me to read a poem of mine on BBC Radio Merseyside.  It’s going out at 13:55 GMT today.  You will hear me calm and steady.  I hope.  Because what I really am is trembling and nauseated.

Roger Phillips has the lunchtime show and he contacted me on Wednesday, to say that all of today’s programmes are being broadcast from alongside the Mersey under the banner heading, Turning The Tide.  They found my poem about living near the Mersey on The Healthy Waterways Trust website, and asked if I’d be willing to read it for the show.  Did Shake have a speare?  Of course I agreed!

Once I told everyone I knew that video didn’t actually kill the radio star, reality – i.e. absolute gut-wrenching terror – set in.  As many of you know, I am a member of Write Out Loud, the country’s largest poetry organisation, dedicated to getting us all reading our poetry in company.  That means I read out a minimum of two poems once a month to a tolerant audience.  I also give regular poetry readings at Walthew House, Stockport’s charity for the blind and hard of hearing (the latter seem to be my best audience, if I’m honest).  I read to other community groups and last year I did a grand tour of two Stockport churches, sharing the War Poetry Canon to commemorate 1914.  I even read the lesson in church from time to time.  So no biggie, right?


A follow-up email from Roger about calling me this morning at nine ‘after the news’ had me reaching for the (carefully lined with a plastic bag and toilet paper to stop splashback) sick bucket.  Did that mean I’d be live on the BBC?  To thousands of Scousers who might find my accent wanting (I’ve moved a lot).  What if I messed up?  What if I threw up?  What if the dogs barked and yapped and yelped and yipped while we were on the phone?  Would Mr Phillips pass the recording of me bludgeoning them with a bucket to the police?  What was I thinking?!

That’s when I gave thanks for Hairy Boy, my first-born child, my clever son, my current favourite offspring, because he had the good sense to fall in love with Hairy Girl.  If Hairy Boy is Mountain Man, Hairy Girl is Mountain Dew: beautiful and smart and – the best thing ever about her; I can’t believe I never saw it before – she works for another BBC local radio station

I sent off a frantic email: Help!  I’m going to be on the radio!  I’m going to snatch my three minutes from Andy Warhol (we have just come out of a recession) and I might make a fool of myself because I only have eight years’ experience of performing poetry! and followed it up with a frantic text: Sent you an email!  Read it!  Today!  Now!  Are you well?  We haven’t seen you in ages xx

She talked me down off the ledge with sensible advice and an admonishment to have fun.  Has she met me?  Fun is my middle name, as in Tilly Illhavefunifitkillsmelikethistensionangstanxietyprobablywillbeforelong Bud.

So Rog phoned this morning (having spent four minutes in conversation, I think we’re close enough friends now for me to give him a diminutive) just after the news (a man of his word) and I recorded my poem, (feeling like Marilyn Monroe, in a breathy, high-on-drugs way; not a breathy, sexy-in-white way, unless you count the zero colour in my face), holding on to my breakfast, grateful to be unlive, and then dancing a jig around the living room when we were done.

Radio – I think I’ve found my medium.  I can sit in my pyjamas, cuddle my sick bucket, and read poetry to the world who, because my poems are for the most part short, won’t have time to reach for the off button before I’m done. 

Next stop: hospital radio; a mostly unconscious audience.  They’re going to love me. 

Of This And That

12 May

What Should Be An Apology, But Somehow Isn’t

I’ve had a lot going on and no laptop for a while but now everything’s back to normal.  I saved all of your blog posts that came into my inbox – some going back to January – to read when I had more time.  Then  it occurred to me that I never have more time, so I made the decision to delete them all and suddenly I’m six inches taller because the guilt lifted as soon as the emails went into the trash.

Feeling Yellow

I don’t think I mentioned I was quite ill with renal colic before Easter.  Then the tests came back and it wasn’t renal colic after all – thank goodness, because kidney stones would have followed, the doctor was a little too eager to assure me.  What I had was a severe UTI (I don’t want to say ‘urinary tract infection’ because that’s a wee bit icky).  It had me flat out for a week (the Tramadol might have played a little part in that) and it was several more weeks before I was all better.

Live From Worktown

I had a poem in an anthology published in conjunction with this year’s Bolton Festival.  I went along to the launch event.  45 minutes on the train then another 45 minutes trying to find the Octagon Theatre, which is a five minute walk from the station.  The Hub’s instruction, via Google Maps (printed out with little arrows drawn on to show me which way to walk.  He seems to think I can’t be trusted to find my own way around) was to exit the station, turn left, follow the map arrows.  What could go wrong?  Plenty, it seems.

For starters, the station had two exits.

I checked them both out and went with the one that most resembled the Google Street View image the Hub had shown me (did I mention he thinks I can’t find my way out of a railway station?).  I exited, turned left, walked and walked and walked for much longer than five minutes, not finding any street names matching my map.  I walked back to the station and started again.

I exited the second entrance, turned left, walked and walked but not quite so far this time before I turned around and walked back to the station, then around the station, then inside and around the station, then I bought thinking time by raiding the vending machine.

Idea!  Look at the wall map.  

There was bound to be a wall map.  

There was a wall map.  

Very pretty it was, too, with a helpful YOU ARE HERE arrow.  I could even see the theatre on the map.  What I couldn’t see was any indication as to which of the station’s two exits I should use to get to the theatre, nor in which direction I should go, nor any street names that tallied with my well-worn and now a little sweaty map.  As pretty wall maps go, it was a bit of a let down.

The chocolate worked its magic and it occurred to me to ask someone – a very helpful news vendor who told me, Turn right [hear that Hub & Google Maps/Right!] out of the exit that doesn’t appear on Google Street View [okay, he didn’t say that last bit but I could tell he was thinking it], up to the clock tower which is the town hall [or courts or something] and the theatre is just behind it. Which it is, if you come at it from the clock tower’s right if you’re heading up from the station, as I discovered once I had walked the long way around the town hall.

The excitement at actually arriving at my destination meant that for me, the anthology launch itself was a bit of an anticlimax, until I was given a free glass of wine.  Everything looks better after free wine, especially on an empty except for a small bar of chocolate tummy.

I chatted to a bewildered Bolton University Creative Writing student, booze making me loquacious and free with all the writing advice she could ever need – Keep a notebook!  Follow the muse!  Get critiqued!  Read my blog!  Email me if you have any questions! – until she was rescued when I spotted a fellow contributor, Julia McGuiness, who once held a writing workshop I attended, and who used a few of my piku in a writing book she wrote [see, BUCWS: listen to me and you too can write long-winded and confused sentences in just such a style].

I took photos on my phone, sure in the knowledge that I could fiddle with the phone charger lead and connect it to my laptop to upload the photos to share with you.  

I did manage to fiddle with the phone charger lead and connect it to my laptop.  

Sorry there are no photos.  It appears that I don’t know what to do once the phone and laptop are connected.

 Julia D. McGuinness Julia on somebody else’s phone.

Spud Acts Again

Over Easter, Spud was at the national Student Drama Festival in Scarborough, sponsored by The Sunday Times, in Joe Bunce’s The Nutcracker [I accidentally typed The Butcracker and I can’t help thinking I’d really like to see that play].  

A committee checks out student productions throughout the year and then invites twelve from around the country to appear at the Festival. The Nutcracker won four awards, including Best Director and The Cameron Macintosh Award.  I suspect Mr Bunce will go far.  I hope Spud is his Facebook friend because it’s often about who you know in the brutal business known as show.  

You can read a little about the festival and The Nutcracker here.  Spud sent me some photos but I can’t upload them.  Is it possible that UTIs can affect your brain?  Mine stopped working about six weeks ago.

The Hub and I are off to see Spud play Mole in The Wind in the Willows.  More of that later in the week, but here’s a teaser:


A Poem To Celebrate NaPoWriMo

15 Apr

It’s National Poetry Writing Month in the States; of course, the whole world is joining in, including me.  I’m writing like mad so I’ve been even more absent than usual.

By way of apology, here’s a poem I wrote eighteen months ago, which made me smile when I came across it in a notebook.  Something the whole family can enjoy.


Dog Walk On Bonar Park

Fresh-cut grass!

Here’s a pile – let’s wee on it
Here’s a pile – let’s wee on it
Here’s a pile – let’s wee on it
Here’s a pile – let’s wee on it
Here’s a pile – let’s wee on it
Here’s a pile – let’s wee on it
Here’s a pile – let’s wee on it
Here’s a pile – let’s wee on it

Can we go home now?
I’ve an empty ass.



Je Suis Charlie

9 Jan

Sad Paris


Kill twelve

Kill thousands

Kill me

Speech must remain free

or there is no democracy

Je suis Charlie



Poets Are From Earth, Haiku Go To Mars

23 Sep

So NASA emailed me to say my haiku had arrived on Mars…



There’s a sentence you don’t read (or write) every day.  And what’s great is, it’s true!

Truth is relative, of course.  NASA did email, as they do every day; I’m subscribed to their website.

I did write a haiku, however, and it did go to Mars…along with thousands of others submitted to their competition.  NASA put all of the entries on to a DVD in case the Little Green Men like Japanese poetry.

According to the website:

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.

It doesn’t say anything about my haiku but I guess they’re kind of busy with all the, like, sciency stuff and that.  Go figure.

But hey – I can say with absolute truth: my writing is out of this world :)



I’m All Poemed Out

17 Sep

What a weekend I’ve just had!

Stockport Writers Do It In Church

On Saturday, it was my church’s Fun Day.  We invite local community groups to come and share their info with the local community.  It’s free and always popular.  I represented Stockport Writers.

You may recall that last year I offered free poetry workshops and not one person came.  This year, I offered to write poems for people.  I asked for their name, age and five random facts, and then wrote something in the style of the birthday poems I have written for you, my readers.

For the first takers I said, Come back in ten minutes.  More people signed up; I told them to come back at the end of the day to collect their poem.  Eventually it was, I’ll email it to you tomorrow.  And finally, You’ll have it by the end of next week, I promise.

Photo © Pam Robinson

Photo © Pam Robinson

Forty people wanted poems about themselves!  I’m still busy typing them up and emailing them out.

At the same time as writing the poems, I invited people – at my friend Pam’s suggestion – to write a community poem: the theme for the day was joy, so I asked people to name three things that brought them happiness; and why.  Roughly forty people (not the same forty people) completed that form, resulting in a poem three pages long, in fifteen five-line stanzas. I’ll post it at the bottom, in case you’re interested.

I cut out the answers and sorted them into themes and voilà!  One community poem!  It was a fun activity and easy enough to coordinate; you should try it.

Photo © Pam Robinson

Photo © Pam Robinson

Sunday, I chaired the monthly meeting of Stockport Writers at the Hatworks.


Spud & Mum Do World War One

On Monday night, Spud and I read poems for an hour, to an audience of nineteen. Not a bad turn out for a Monday night poetry reading.  It was a commemorative event for the start of the war.  I had intended to read poems written only in 1914, but there aren’t that many; I suppose because the war was only a couple of months old in that year.

I chose poems written about the period, and ordered them roughly chronologically in terms of event.  I began with an Andrew Motion poem about Archduke Ferdinand between assassination attempts; moved on to jingoistic poems and songs intended to encourage enlistment; followed by first time events e.g. going over the top; and concluded with poems about the effects of the war.  I used War Poets, modern poets, and female poets.  Spud complained that to listen to poetry for too long was tedious, so I introduced each poem with pertinent information, which also helped the chronological flow.  It seemed to go down well.

Spud and I read for thirty minutes and then there was a break for tea – very English.  In the second half, we read three of my own poems, to prove to the audience I am a poet (I hope); and then he read poems by Wilfred Owen and I read poems by Siegfried Sassoon, taking turns.  We finished with Spud reading two in succession: Anthem For Doomed Youth (my favourite) and Dulce Et Decorum Est (Spud’s favourite).  I wanted to close with the war still ongoing, as it was, 100 years ago to the date we read.


Boast Post

Spud was good.  When he shouts, Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! it sends shivers down your spine.  When his voice breaks on we were young at the end of Houseman’s Here Dead We Lie, you get a lump in your throat.  His plaintive Why don’t they come? at the end of Owen’s Disabled is pathetic in the best sense of the word.  To paraphrase I’ll Make A Man Of You, it makes me oh so proud to be a mother.

Almost a quarter of the audience was made up of Spud’s friends, and I was under strict instructions not to say anything embarrassing.  That’s usually a forlorn hope – at the award ceremony when he won the Drama prize, I managed to confuse his First Year tutor with a rugby player we know, asked about his wife (he’s not married),  and compounded the problem by explaining my confusion was because he had ‘a rugby face’ i.e. broken nose.

This time, however, I was good; though he did tell me off for roping two of the girls into Stockport Writers and suggesting they friend me on Facebook.

I think Spud’s poetry performance was helped by appearing in The Tree of War. You may recall that he was amazing in that. Not that I’m biased or anything, but his a cappella singing of Pack Up Your Troubles was a moment when, according to X Factor thinking, he made the song his own.  Not bad for a song that’s a century old.  He played drunk pretty good, too; and I fervently hope that’s not based on experience.  But it was the moment he was huddled at the bottom of the trench, terrified, crying, that made me realise he had something special.

Thinking about his character Bert, he imagined what it would be like at eighteen – his age now – to go blithely off to war; and then to learn of its horrors and sacrifices.  Some of that informed his poetry reading.  For someone who dislikes poetry, he did an incredible job; although not according to one critic, who told him, ‘You murdered that Ivor Gurney poem, didn’t you?’  

Those who can’t, critique those who can, is my motherly response.


Hot Stuff

Spud and I dressed in vaguely period costume to enhance the mood; and I wondered how women managed on summer evenings in long skirts and hats. The church was warm and I felt a hot flush come on.  I thought I was going to faint at one point, particularly when the poetry folder on the music stand in front of me began to recede.  Then I realised that it wasn’t the menopause so much as a not-screwed-tightly-enough bolt: I was merely glowing but the stand was slowly lowering.  I had to bite my lip to stop myself giggling during Spud’s moving rendition of A Dead Boche.

Honestly, I don’t know why he finds me embarrassing.


St Matthew’s Community Poem:


Happiness is a Serious Business


The smile of a child when they find something funny.

Seeing other people smile.

Seeing people smile when I’ve baked them a cake.

Cuddles and tickling.

A good laugh with anybody.


Miles of sandy beaches.  The smell of the sea.

Looking out over Kent Estuary and Lakes –

mountains meeting the sea.  Going on holiday.

Sunshine, because you can go out with friends.

A sunny day.  Sunshine.


Being in the garden.

Growing my own veg in the garden

(shared with many, many slugs).

Being outdoors in the fresh air.

Getting caught in the rain.  The seasons.


Bus rides on the top deck of a double-decker.

Going to Cornwall to see Nana.

Spending time with Grace (granddaughter).

Running around after my daughter.

Happy daughters playing together.  Daughter.


To see my Sarah smiling and full

of energy all the time –

my greatest gift from the Almighty!

My greatest blessing!

Sons – utter happiness, contentment.


My sisters and my brother make me feel

really warm inside.  Children.

My beautiful children.  Kids.  Family –

people I am close to.  Spending time with my family

makes me feel happy because I feel loved.


Auntie Alison!  Mummy.  Memories about the bond

I shared with my Dad – love for my family.

Seeing my Mum and Dad happy makes me feel

very happy. My two parents make me feel calm

and loving.  My family.  Smartie the cat; she plays with me.


My two teddies are my only best buddies

and they make me feel less alone inside me.

Sweets, sleepovers and playing with friends.

Seeing my friends.  Having good friends.

Big network of lovely friends.


Facebook – you can keep in contact with people

you normally couldn’t.  Christmas, when we see everyone.

Church.  Reading in church makes me feel I utilise a gift,

a talent God has given me – makes me fruitful.

Having time with my church family.


Jesus – joy, peace, fulfilment.

Four hundred voices singing a song

they really love, in collective worship.

Singing – the joy of it.  Singing.

Singing: it puts nice pictures in my head.


Music.  Music cheers you up.

Finishing a fantastic book.

Walking the dog.  Knitting.  Walking –

I like to ‘breathe’ in the hills.

Riding my bike in the sunshine.


Driving – I’m in charge.  Painting – I’m good at it.

A day in my sewing room.

Baking cookies…and eating them.

Eating real food (especially love green smoothies!

With avocado, coriander, spinach and berries).


Chinese Buffet in Stockport – I always go for comfort food.

Cricket: it’s fun.  Alex Park.

Clouds of pink blossom on cherry trees in Edgeley Park.

Rainbows.  Rainbows make me happy:

I love the colours.


New York.  The Statue of Liberty.

Minecraft.  Chocolate.  Football.

Friends.  Friends.  Friends.

When all around me are settled and content.

Kindness to others.


Sharing.  Random acts of kindness.

Being positive.







26 Jul

This weekend it’s the Heatons Arts Trail – a bunch of artists in Heaton Moor open their galleries and invite you to look around and, hopefully, buy their work.

Write Out Loud members are supporting the event by tweeting poems.  I’ve written a cycle of 26 haiku  – we call them ‘twaiku’ – about the individual artists, based on the information in the flyer.  I’ll be honest – it’s not my greatest work; but it was fun to do.

I would say check me out at @laughwife and @heatonstwaiku but the first two twaiku I posted have not appeared.  Not that I’m a technept or anything…

If you are an art lovin’ Stopfordian, you should follow the trail.  Details here.  And don’t forget the art gallery

There’s just one annoying thing (no; not the Hub): I have had an earworm all week.  I think ‘Heatons Twaiku’ and I hear ‘Eton Rifles’.  What a Jam!

Vivinfrance's Blog

mainly poetry, also quilts, pictures, life-writing and the occasional short story.


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