Sunday, 26 July 2015


Something a little different from my usual stuff. It’s been said that if you can remember the 1960s you weren’t there and this is a hazy, collective impression from four and a half decades ago that’s a moment in time from 3 years living in a seedy basement flat in Notting Hill, which was an unplanned hospice for a transient flow of musicians, artists, writers, freaks, bohemians, pedlars of mind-expanding substances and ideas, and weary pilgrims on the hippie trail from California to Kathmandu, most of whom are now more phantoms than memories.

Reflections: Notting Hill, 1969.

Years away in those wild days and time was not an issue
when an eternity of hopefulness stretched onwards
and memories were not yet cruel captors.
Then we had no past to speak of and the future was of dubious concern.
In the high, wild days of that brief halcyon,
we were freer than we knew or ever would be all our lives;
our hearts blissfully unencumbered
and our minds
were seldom mindful of the later rotten preconceptions,
preferring, then, to trust our new-born liberties
to Leary-induced reflections
on the holy scriptures preached by Hendrix, Kerouac and Baudelaire.
Always drunk – that’s it!
Drunk on our own exuberance, impertinence and arrogant imaginings,
drinking in the seedy, sweating nights of Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove,
where couplings were short and inconclusive,
in artless striving between unremembered thighs,
but lovely, too, in light of retrospective mornings
as cracks of heavy sun broke through the basement railings
into rooms of tossed, disordered minds
where scents of Lebanon hung warm and sweet to our naked senses
and patchouli-infused clothing lay strewn across the floor.

Lost nights began in faded hostelries on cracking leatherette banquettes,
our Cuban heels protruding out of Lord John flares,
as heavy, dimpled glasses left wet rings on time-rubbed Cuban wood
and our laughing, hair-framed faces leered, distorted, from the tarnished brass
and, fragmented as our thoughts and conversations,
reflected in between etched letterings of India Pale Ales.
The words were loose and easy as we drank, and rolled like handmade cigarettes,
expressively between the fingers and the mouth.
How’s Jonah doing?
He’s been screwed since that last trip on acid scored in Finchley Road.
He’s done too much, his mind’s completely blown.
Another round here?
Might as well. The Elgin will be packed by now.
And get some skins for later. I’ve none left.
The green ones, man, and score ten No.6. I’ll pay.
Have you read The Dharma Bums? It’s pretty cool.
I found a Penguin copy in the bin, John must have chucked it there.
Probably because the last few pages are torn out.
So now I’m curious to know what happened after Desolation Peak.
Anyway, I’m reading Malcolm Lowry now. He got wasted even more than us.

And around the smoke-saturated room,
faces scored with age stared into solitary drinks,
pulling on nicotine-stained tabs, sucked, like life, until the bitter end.
Was this a cloudy crystal ball that showed us as we would become:
impotent, dim-memoried and grim,
without the consolation of a firm, round breast under a sleeping hand?
A glimpse, in fact, of the end of everything we’d gain through life,
sitting on the other side of destiny and seeing our incipient selves
across a bar in Notting Hill?

It's gentrified now and flats cost in excess of £1 million, but in the 60s Clanricarde Gardens was a run-down cul-de-sac inhabited by an eclectic mix of eccentrics, part of the wonderful urban village that was Notting Hill.

Friday, 3 July 2015


This disturbing but compelling image - one of a series by French photographer, Cal Redback - reminded me of a poem  I wrote some time ago as part of a much longer poem entitled The Path - A Pilgrimage'

The pathway ends

The pathway ends;
the wilderness prevails.
Unmanaged, un-shoe-trodden,
(a dangerous domain).
Super-human influence created this
and, where feral codes persist,
nothing lives by our laws.
Here there exists no mediation
as to whether something is
or it is not.
Interpretation is instinctive;
natural anarchy prevails.
The weasel doesn’t know how not to kill;
fox and hare have made
their own compact,
although the hare has also formed
a side allegiance with the moon;
briars create coverts,
offering sharp shelter
to shrew and chaffinch,
but the owl still hunts.
Here the badger digs his earth,
not knowing spade or plough,
and the ever/never-changing stream
runs where it has agreement
with the land.

In this world, things are not measured
by their usefulness to man;
every inch composes its own text;
a symbiotic syntax
on ever-changing pages
of the arcane book of life.
Each noise is a response
to one that went before;
every creature merges
into one that will come after.
The opening fern becomes a dragonfly;
the clear-voiced blackbird,
when it’s silent,
is an extension of the branch.
The world is an illusion;
nothing here is ever as it seems.

You may venture here if you will;
there is no-one to stop you, after all;
but a thousand eyes
will watch your every step
and half a thousand brains
will wonder why you came.
So tread carefully,
for now you are beyond the pale
and there are no pathways here,
(except the tracks of fox and deer),
and when you come, and when you go,
do so with a humbleness of soul.