2021 Door Twenty-Four: The Storm Before The Calm

The Storm Before The Calm

Don’t you worry darling,
It’s the storm before the calm.
These last few presents will get bought,
And the final flourishes for Christmas dinner
Will all fall into place.
The pavements seem empty
But every shop in town is mental
And it’s OK to say we’ve maybe run out of time.
Anything we’ve not got now-
Tin Foil! Did anybody get tin foil?
DID ANYBODY GET TIN FOIL?

Yes. It’s all in hand.

This is the storm before the calm,
And it is a storm,
As rain hammers the Zafira roof
And headlamps swim in puddles
In the Lidl car park:
A last minute brandy top up,
Butter – did anybody get butter?
WHAT ABOUT THE BRANDY BUTTER.
We’ll make do. We always do.

When it passes, there probably won’t be sunshine,
But after the storm, we’ll hear the birds sing in the mistletoe,
We’ll flick the switches at four in the afternoon
And watch the light bleed through the rain on the window
And spread beyond their bulbs.
[Shit, did we get cheese, you ask me, as I type this].
Reader, we got cheese,
And tonight, we’ll watch the Muppets,
Gavin and Stacey and The Good Life,
And if Michael Caine’s singing voice can still make us cry,
There’s hope for us all.

There will be other storms,
Other clouds to come in the coming years,
And the rain will fall faster and farther than snow ever could,
But tonight, let the calm descend,
And with loved ones and friends in our home and our hearts,
We will be calmed, and be calm,
This Christmas.


Here we are then: We made it. For everything thrown at us, and all the changed plans, uncertainty and difficulty, it’s Christmas Eve. And it’s wonderful.

Today’s poem, again, sort of speaks for itself, so forgive me a few tangents on this torrential, albeit tranquil, evening.

To everyone that tuned in for the Poetry Advent Calendar Christmas Eve Eve Live Spectacular Two last night, thank you so much for sharing your evening with me – a lot of fun was had, and it felt wonderful to inaugurate this new festive tradition in its second year. I hope it can last. If you missed it, head to facebook.com/owencollinspoet to watch it back, or for everything else I’ve written throughout 2021.

It’s been a challenging year, and among the many kind people who have got me through it are the staff of Ronald McDonald House Oxford. To throw some money in their bucket, click here, and again, thank you, beyond words, to everyone that has helped smash the fundraising target for another Advent. Whether it was £20 or tuppence, every act of generosity counts, and matters, and makes a difference, and if you’ve been one of the generous people this year I can’t thank you enough.

Thank you to all of my beautiful guest poets for 2021 – Khadija Rouf, Liz Duncan, Andy Johnson, Gareth Brading, Joe Collins, Rachel Brading, Rachel Wiggans, Joe Feeney and Anna Soden, plus Anonymous – for allowing me to host your words on this blog. It’s a privilege and an honour, and I’m lucky and glad to have you all as friends.

And finally, thank you – to you – for reading this. You might’ve just dropped in for Christmas Eve or you might have been following all Advent. Some of you may have even been following since 2014, in which case, top marks. I don’t know if I’ll do a final poem tomorrow – it varies from Advent Calendar to Advent Calendar – but I think I’m certain in saying that after this year, the Poetry Advent Calendar will be going back on hiatus for a few years. It’s hard work, finding something new and worthwhile to say each day, finding the time to process feelings into words, and making the effort to make those feelings not just angry, political and miserable each day. But it’s been fun, too, and rewarding, and although there’s been several days where I’ve cursed the very idea of embarking upon it again, I don’t regret doing it. And there’s £300 in the RMHC coffers that wouldn’t have been there otherwise, which in and of itself justifies the effort.

It’s become something of a Christmas tradition, writing poetry for this thing, and stressing over what to say and how to say it. I’m looking forward to devoting more time to all the other Christmas traditions I’ve neglected in pursuit of poetry the last couple of years. But still – I’m glad to have done it, and glad that you’ve read it, and pleased that whatever happens from now, there will be some sort of record of the three Christmases of the Boris Johnson era, the Covid-stricken, hope-depleted, uneven, uncertain, unjust months that were his premiership. Say what you like about this place, but for better or worse, it’s honest. I think.

Enough of this! I’m two stouts and a mulled cider in, enough to type grammatically but perhaps not coherently, and so I’m signing off for the night, to watch those films and shows and drink just enough to see me through to Midnight Mass. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all who have read and shared and supported this blog throughout the last seven years. I will raise a glass to every single one of you this evening.

In case I don’t post tomorrow, have yourselves an absolutely magnificent Christmas. The days are getting lighter. The years will get brighter. Things will get better eventually, and all the beautiful, wonderful people will get their day in the sunshine.

Until then, my fantastic friends, have a good one. Be happy and be kind. Everything else is secondary.

Merry Christmas, and thank you for reading.

Owen xx

2021 Door Twenty-Three: Chess

Chess

A quiet revolution: 2022 nine days away
And new Year’s resolutions ready to jump into the resolve
Of the old ones.

I think I went jogging maybe twice, before knocking it on the head
And I never did learn chess,
But maybe, in the week we’ve got left,
Those glorious downtime days
We’ll unfold that 64-squared board,
That impossible crossword,
And in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang‘s technicolour light
We’ll tick off a year in which the King fell
And far too many pawns were sacrificed.

And I’ll get confused between rooks and knights,
But in the glow of frosty walks and fireside pints,
And those long lush unworked afternoons
You’ll find the patience to teach me this ancient game.

My horses will move in L-shapes, you’ll outsmart my castles,
But perhaps, with an intervention from the bishop,
I’ll win by accident, and say checkmate to my best mate,
And in the gluttonous peace of leftovers and cheese
We’ll count the achievements
Of another year together.


It’s 23rd of December, and normally by this point I’d have done some big speel about how we’re past the halfway point, we’re into single figures, yadda yadda yadda, but I’ve not really mentioned all of that this year, because in my head we’re only about a week in. I have genuinely no idea where this Advent has gone, and worse still, looking through the Doors I’ve written for, I’m not sure I’ve even got much decent poetry to show for it; this traditional preoccupation normally means that although I’ve not done any Christmas shopping until the last minute, I’v got a proud two dozen-strong collection to show for it. Ah well – I’m quite happy with today’s, at least, and I’ve been able to share works by friends and loved ones, which more than makes up for it.

Today’s Door speaks for itself a bit, so in the absence of forensically discussing that, I’m going to plug The Poetry Advent Calendar Christmas Eve Eve Live Spectacular TWO!, which is happening on Facebook Live TONIGHT.

(That’s right, they wouldn’t let me use the Palladium, so Facebook it is.)

It’s a new tradition(ish) I started last year – to mark the last normal day before Christmas proper kicks in with a poetry gig of the highlights of the most recent Advent Calendar. Last year I also got quite drunk while I was doing it, and I think it improved things, so I’ve got the beers in for tonight too.

I’m not certain yet which poems will get an airing, but it promises to be a festive hour by the fireside (OK, plug socket) and might be nice background poetry to wrap your presents to. So please do join me at the above link, and let’s prepare to bid farewell to another Advent Calendar in some sort of style.

See you at half past seven. Two days/two and half hours to go…

Owen x

2021 Door Twenty-Two: After The Solstice (by Khadija Rouf)

After The Solstice

It is dark,
Winter steals the daylight
and the night is long, uncertain.
Those schooled in something incomprehensible
Seem to flourish –
recklessly legislating against love

The flame flickers and dips,
Struggles to stay lit.

But love, this fabled winter world where Earth
remembers, sends her ghosts
through the gauze of time
to remind us of our hearts,
Of who we truly are –

Be a lantern in the darkness

Everywhere, everywhere, there is
tiny hope
Daring to be found,
Written in the cracks
Glittering in the gutters

Aflame in the eyes that smile from behind a mask –
Solstice is past, the light is creeping back


Regular readers of the Poetry Advent Calendar may remember the fantastic Khadija Rouf from the 2019 edition, and her wonderful haiku that perfectly hymned the dark days after the 2019 General Election. Khadj is one of those poets, and one of those friends, who excels in the dark days, and always knows the exact combination of words to make them brighter, and so I’m privileged to welcome her back to the “institution” (her words!) that is the Advent Calendar for 2021, to bring some light to these still dark days.

Khadj can always put these things better than I can, so I’ll pass you over to her…

This was written early this morning, with a foggy brain.
It’s been such a long time of difficulty, and everyone is so fatigued. It can be hard to hold hope. But hope is a radical act, and glimmers of it are everywhere. 
There have been so many small and large acts of love during this pandemic.
Love, and the hope it brings, are antidotes to fear. 
So keep that flame alight, no matter how small. Tiny flames together, can shine far.

Those sentiments are essential, I would argue, and I’m holding onto them tonight. Last night, my extended family cancelled our Christmas celebrations, meaning I won’t see my Aunt, Uncle and cousins for a second year running, and of my family who were coming to ours for Christmas, individuals are dropping out with every passing PCR test. I should probably go for one myself, although it will almost certainly rule out seeing my Mum, Dad and brothers on Boxing Day. It’s truly rubbish. Christmas seems to be receding like a disappointing night of snow as soon as the sun comes up. And on top of that Liverpool are losing, although as I type Diogo Jota’s just pulled a goal back, so there’s room for a radical act or two at Anfield just yet.

I don’t want to sound glib – I know our Guest Poet today is a Reds fan too, so I’m sure she won’t mind – because tonight’s poem is honestly beautiful, and a timely and vital reminder, when we need it most, of the need for light, and love, and hope. Because I don’t know whow we would have got through these years without it and I’m grateful to everyone that’s shared theirs with me, most recently the inspirational Khadija. Once again, thank you all.

If you want to share some light, a reminder that tomorrow evening I’ll be reading my favourite poems from this year’s Advent Calendar live on Facebook – it’ll be sort of like a Jackanory Christmas Special, but with more alcohol. I would love it if you’d tune in, wherever you are in the world.

Another reminder that if you’ve found joy, or hope, or solace, or solidarity in the Advent Calendar these last three weeks, you can pay it back/forward by contributing to the fundrasier for Ronald McDonald House Charities UK. The JustGiving page explains more about their work, but let me say that my family would’ve been broken without them this year, and any support you can give will be gratefully received by them, and by my family, and by thousands of other families who they will be looking after this Christmas. If you can, please do.

Once again, I’m using Khadj’s words on this blog to prompt a change of thinking. The darkness is retreating like that aforementioned disappointing snow, and the Kanneh-Mason version of ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ has transposed into their take on ‘Redemption Song’ since I’ve started this installment of the blog, via a couple of YouTube adverts. So let’s go for it.

Won’t you help to sing? Three days to go…

Owen x

2021 Door Twenty-One Christmas Bonus: Mother (by Anon)

One of the most uplifting things about maintaining this Advent Calendar over the past however-many years is when people have been inspired to write something on the back of it – either for publication among its Doors, or just to put a particular feeling or mood into words. As well as Liz’s magnificent poem earlier today, another dear friend has got in touch this evening with a piece they’d written.

This ain’t no Bethlehem inn – there’s plenty of room, and if Christmas is about anything it’s about sharing whatever you’ve got with the people you love. So although they’ve asked to remain nameless, I couldn’t not publish this superb offering as today’s Christmas Bonus.


Mother

As he stood and stared without seeing
wishing there was life with more meaning.
All around him bustling with seasonal joy
oh how he prayed he wasn’t that boy.

Now all alone, sad and helpless
he shuffles along, heavy hearted and hopeless.
Past joy he had known, love he had felt.
Who stole the hand he was once dealt?

Through daily struggles and inner torment
from fantastic to downtrodden he quickly went.
Bottle in one hand, sleeping bag in the other
all he craved is what was lost, His mother.

Xmas is for family, love and giving,
spare a thought for those that are not sharing
with those they have lost and still are grieving.
After all Xmas is a time for caring.


Thank you so much to our anon. Guest Poet for giving me their blessing to share this, and the message within it. I was so warmed and touched to receive it out of the blue and, as with Liz and all our other Guest Poets, privileged to be able to publish it here on the Advent Calendar.

I hope nobody will mind, in that spirit of sharing and generosity, if I give one more plug for the Poetry Advent Calendar fundraiser, which is raising money for Ronald McDonald House Charities UK. The work they do means families with children in hospital have somewhere to stay, free of charge, somewhere to rest, make base, and somewhere to know a bit of peace, calmness and stability – all of which can be in very short supply in such situations. I know it’s a squeeze for everyone amongst the monetary madness of this time of year, but if you have a couple of quid to spare, there are families you will never meet that will feel the benefit of it, and who will be vicariously grateful for a long, long time. I know that first hand.

Thank you again. Four days to go…

Owen x

PS It seems right to credit Jill Wellington for this evening’s photo, too.

2021 Door Twenty-One: Will there be snowballs? (by Liz Duncan)

Will there be snowballs?

Decades under my belt now, knocking on the door of that final age of man.
Traditions stacked together – Christmas Eve veggie curry, mangled old robin on the tree, glass of fizz early in the day.

But I never drank a snowball.
Dusty yellow bottle, glimpsed in the back of other people’s drinks cupboards.
‘Contains egg’ – did that put me off? Ancient magazine ads, smiley party people.

Creamy and frothy, cherry on the top.

Hey friends, can I borrow your tradition?  Write that advocaat on my big list, plus the correct mixers. Dig out the cherries from the baking cupboard.

Search…. ‘how to balance cocktail stick’.

And I’ll raise a new glass to you, my friends around the corner. A new tradition, this is exactly the time, looking forward to the smiley frothy times.


I was beyond delighted to find a poem in my inbox this morning from my lovely friend Liz, who has been reading the Advent Calendar all month and so decided to pour a glass of the poetry vintage for herself. Furthermore, I’m absolutely overjoyed to be publishing what is allegedly her first poem since she was 20! So without further ado, here’s Liz herself for a bit more context…

I wrote this poem early this morning amid all the uncertainty and dread we’re experiencing at the moment. My first poem for many years! Owen’s (and others’) daily poems on this blog have been like little flashes of light reminding me that the arts and creativity aren’t a luxury, but an absolute necessity at all times – good and bad. And it’s humbling and an honour to have wonderfully creative and thoughtful friends in my life. This poem is by way of a little message of fun and hope to Owen and Luci and all their lovely family.

Liz’s words seem especially fitting in the context of yesterday’s Door, bemoaning the Government-sanctioned crumbling of the arts, and I’m especially touched to have these Advent poems described as flashes of light, given that today is the Winter Solstice, and therefore a time to celebrate new light emerging – a rather perfect metaphor for Liz’s return to the world of poetry, I think.

I must say, I’m surprised that Liz has never relented to the pastel yellow wonder that is advocaat before now. We first met as part of the Witney Refugee Action Group, an absolutely beautiful group of people who I’m very lucky to call friends and comrades. A few years ago (a time that seems further away than it probably is) we had our WRAG Christmas do at Liz’s house, and it all got very boozy – in fact, most WRAG Christmas do’s seemed to. There was a genuinely a point when I’d never been to Liz’s house without being sick the next morning, having been there on several occasions. I feel on one such occasion there was a combination of a pitcher of mojito that was just pure rum; a game of penny chuffing where we lost the penny (don’t ask where, if you know you know); and a late-night session on the accordion. It’s possible I’ve misremembered at least one of those things but nothing would surprise me.

Anyway, I digress – Liz is, as I say, one of those friends that Luci and I are truly lucky to have, and on the back of today’s poem we’ve already started arranging a date over the festive period to have a few snowballs together (shambolic Government intransigence permitting) – I’ll certainly drink to that.

Here’s to you Liz. Four days to go…

Owen x

Advocaat photo thanks to Rita E, banner photo courtesy of kristamonique – ta.

2021 Door Twenty: Exeunt

Exeunt

Another wave roars up Shaftesbury Avenue,
As any hope of progress stalls in the stalls.
Theatreland hangs by a thread again,
Is this a lockdown? Oh no it isn’t!
It’s just the West End dying on stage
While the Government watch from the Royal Box,
Preordering their interval cheese and wine.
This pantomime season, we’re all going dark
And the casts are coming off, in tiers.
Fade the spotlight, fall the curtain,
Close those heavy doors to the Soho cold.

And it’s not just London: It’s regional, it’s National,
It’s there in the fringes and the village halls,
In the unlearned lines and unwritten scripts,
The still empty studios and rehearsal rooms…
That sense of dread. It’s behind you.


God, this year’s Advent Calendar really is the most depressing yet, isn’t it? It feels like for every ray of hope we get, there’s an equal and opposite burst of bleakness, and to be honest it’s leaving me a bit angry. Yesterday’s Door felt like a bit of a lightness, a bit of a renaissance of optimism, and yet here we are again, twenty-four hours later, in the slough of despair once more.

For all that I’m the one writing these poems, I think I need to emphasise that to a certain degree, I don’t have control over it – I’m trying to write to reflect my mood, and try as I might, my mood seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut this Christmas. I think it’s knowing how many people are struggling with this shitstorm we’re in the middle of – this week is supposed to be people finalising plans and looking forward to the big day with their loved ones, yet so many people I know are just beset with worry, anxiety, anger and sadness about the prospect of a second Christmas, ruined by something which effectively started in March 2020. March. It’s almost unforgiveable that this long shadow was allowed to fall over Christmas 2020, but for us to still be fumbling in the darkness a full twelve months later is beyond excuse. I wish nothing but ill fortune and unhappiness on the incompetent shower of obnoxious lying idiots that have led this country into the abyss time and time again in the last two years. I wish them each one iota of the misery and pain they have caused so many of their citizens. And I wish they’d just fuck off, too.

Today’s news seems to have been dominated by yet another illegal gathering in Downing Street, this time in May, but also by the news of dozens of theatre productions cancelling performances (including the play I was going to take Luci to for Christmas, which is doubly depressing). This is another potential deathknell for an industry on its knees, and the Tories singularly do not care. The creative industry is the last British industry still working, and under their watch it’s going to go the same way as all the others – mining, shipbuilding, manufacturing, you name it. The so-called ‘party of business’ is piling another sector on the pyre and scrapheap and laughing while they do so.

My heart breaks for all the actors, writers, directors, stage managers, and other creatives that I know (two of whom have written for this blog this Advent) who are facing another year of untold uncertainty and insecurity. Although I always wanted to be a playwright or a poet, I ended up (despite best intentions) never having the guts to stake my career on it, so now I watch from my bus depot and school office while those that were brave enough to do so are dealt injustice and hardship after injustice and hardship. It’s soul-destroying. To my wonderful, courageous, creative friends – I’m so sorry.

I was supposed to be excitedly plugging this tonight – an evening of poetry on Facebook Live as I read my favourite poems from this year’s Advent Calendar – but it feels a bit wrong to do so, when we’re somehow back to a position where soon streamed plays and empty stadiums are going to be the norm again. How has this happened?

The sad thing is, up until I tried to start writing tonight, I’d had a really Christmassy evening, doing the big Christmas shop and raiding Lidl for all the sausagemeat under the sun. In a parallel universe, we’d have a competent Prime Minister and this blog would be full of joyful poems about meat and Advocaat, instead of downbeat broadsides about a pandemic we should’ve left behind and an ideology that should have been drowned at birth.

Anyway – if I don’t stop ranting soon it’ll be the 21st. The solstice tomorrow – maybe it really will bring some brightness with it. God, I hope so.

What a bleak midwinter. Five days to go…

Owen x

(Image copyright Helen Murray/Almeida Theatre)

2021 Door Nineteen: Sunday Afternoon

Sunday Afternoon

Lying in the living room with a booster jab headache,
It’s total darkness but for the Christmas tree behind me,
Cycling through its settings, according to the silhouettes,
And for the lights from the LED icicles on the front of the house,
With the glow of 5Live on the telly, Spurs-Liverpool, contributing also.

My arm hurts and I’m knackered, I’m waiting for Luci to get back from the JR,
And as I start typing poetry on my phone, each previous line is obscured
By the pinging of Whatsapp notifications speculating on lockdown,
The commentary on the telly isn’t bringing much festive cheer either,
But as I lie here, waiting to know what I’m writing, I’m finding comfort
In the warmth of the lights against the evening’s encroaching darkness.


With apologies to Small Faces, although I wasn’t really lazing so much as laying, and I’d had a relatively productive morning, in my defence. “Taking stock”, as Luci calls it, working out the last few lines on the Christmas Shopping list, and generally pottering about the house doing a semi-decent job of making it look semi-tidy.

I think subconsciously this was an attempt to emulate Billy Collins, one of my favourite poets although unfortunately no relation. If you’ve had a hard couple of weeks, buy yourself a Billy Collins poetry book as a Christmas present to yourself – he’s at once mystical and totally ordinary, and as a result his poetry is rooted in the everyday mundanity while being somehow being a sort-of portal to a higher plain of consciousness. Or that’s how I’d put it, anyway, feel free to disagree. But give him a go.

On the back of that praise, I realise today’s Door probably isn’t anything like Billy Collins after all, but I wanted to write something that, despite everything, offered some sort of peacefulness, a sense of serenity in opposition to that lingering dread that I mentioned last night.

Also, something really lovely that happened today that I want to tell you about: I wrote on this blog a few days ago about the poem I scrawled on the side of Welbeck Street Car Park before it was demolished, as a guerrilla elegy-cum-epitaph for this fantastic building. Well, today I had a conversation with the son of Michael Blampied, the architect who designed Welbeck Street, and he told me that Michael had died several weeks ago, but that his family had read my poem at his funeral service. I was simultaneously taken aback, speechless, and beyond honoured, and I’m so grateful and touched that those words meant enough to the Blampied family to be used on that occasion.

So here’s to Michael Blampied and his family; and here’s to Emma Raducanu, who’s been named BBC Sports Personality of the Year since I started typing this blog – it’s sort of tradition for me to mention it on here; and here’s to all the sources of light that are shining on us as we creep towards the shortest day.

Shine on. Six days to go…

Owen x

2021 Door Eighteen: Final Group Dance

Final Group Dance

Whether it’s all the liars and wrongdoers
Eternally escaping for what they’ve done to us
Or the ones we loved who brought us here
And stay with us, in hopes and dreams
Or those besequinned dancing fifteen,
Sometimes it just hits you clearly:

Nobody ever leaves us. Not really.


Another Door, and somehow I’ve still not left myself enough time to write anything properly today. I’m trying to remember if it was always like this, or if I’m doing worse this year. I seem to remember most of them would be post-11pm in 2019, and I’m sure in 2014 I was often sat up late after getting back from work at the National, trying to write, but then I also remember drinking Yakima Red in the Green Room with Skipper and Katie up until the last train most evenings, so maybe not. The mind is foggy. All that Yakima Red, probably.

Anyway, what is today’s – or increasingly tonight’s – poem about? Sort of everything. It was the Strictly final this evening, my favourite bit of which is always the group dance from all the earlier-eliminated contestants; while that was happening, Lord Frost and possibly a few more rats deserted Boris Johnson’s sinking ship (or England, as it’s also known); and I’ve had a few dreams lately featuring people who have died. And in the dreams, it’s accepted knowledge that they’re dead, but they’re still alive, if that makes sense? I know it doesn’t, but do you know what I mean.

I’m not sure if it’s Strictly, which was genuinely quite weepy and lovely tonight, or if I’m generally just a bit emotional at the moment. Being totally frank, I’ve got a lingering sense of dread about Omicron, and what it will mean for 2022, and on top of everything else that’s happened and is happening, not to mention Christmas, I feel a tad drained. And I’m one of the lucky ones.

Still, hope springs eternal, I guess? And the point is that for every horrible bastard we just can’t seem to get rid of, we’re followed through life by the people we love, even if they can’t be there with us for long stretches of it. And that’s something to hold on to tonight, I reckon.

Forgive the unusually, and somewhat unexpectedly, emotive nature of tonight’s blog but here we are. And here’s to John, Rose, Johannes and Giovanni too – what a final that was. Not a dry eye in the house.

Keep dancing. Seven days to go…

Owen x

2021 Door Seventeen: Pavement Tree

Pavement Tree

At some point tomorrow,
Someone will find the tree left on the pavement,
Propped against the fence,
Outside the school,
And someone will lift it over their shoulder
Removing the A4 sheet of paper
That says Free To A Good Home
(Merry Christmas)
And they’ll take it home
And make somebody’s Christmas.


Ordinarily I would try and make Door Seventeen in some way linked to my brother’s birthday, which is today (Happy Birthday broseph), but not only have I already written one poem about him on this blog – and indeed, so have numerous others – but I’m running out of time this Friday, partially because I’ve been round his all evening, eating pizza and generally have a fine old time.

If I hadn’t been, I may have produced a better poem for today (we’ll never know) but in a way, this rather rushed effort is its own tribute to the night of jollity I’ve had. It’s inspired by the Christmas tree from the Reception class at the primary school I work at, which we offered to parents to take home with them at the end of term. It was an offer nobody took us up on, so at half past four today, after the term had broken up and the children had gone home for Christmas, I lugged this poor forgotten pine into the lay-by out front and sellotaped a handwritten sign to its top.

I felt kind of sad, that this tree still had a lot of life and love and light to give, and yet here it was, a full week before Christmas, as good as abandoned by the side of the road. I wanted to take it home with me, bring it into our home for the festive season and let it achieve its full potential. But we’ve got a tree, and we don’t have enough decorations or space in the house for a second, so I had to leave it there as night fell.

I confided in Luci about how guilty I felt, and she pointed out that someone tomorrow will find it there, free of charge, and will feel like the sun has suddenly shined on them. Someone somewhere will have a box of decorations that they’ve kept for years but for whatever reason won’t yet have a tree to hang them on. Perhaps someone will have children whose eyes will light up like Christmas itself at the sudden surprise of the tree, stood in their living room. And that made me feel a lot better about it.

It’s possibly still there now, so if you’re in Witney and require a bushy, decent-sized and instantly well-loved Christmas tree, get yourself down the A4095 and its yours.

As I say, not a great poem today (again) but a decent context. Thanks to Luci for making me feel better about it, and thanks to Joe for a top night, and a pretty good thirty-three years so far. Even if I’ve not been here for all of them.

School’s out for winter. Eight days to go…

Owen x

2021 Door Sixteen: Public Safety Villanelle

Public Safety Villanelle

Although the Government’s bloody useless
Try not to become dejected –
Get your Covid vaccine boosters;

Through these slim R-rate reducers
Fresh hope still can be injected
Although the Government’s bloody useless;

Plan B is weak and pretty toothless –
To keep your Christmas unaffected
Get your Covid vaccine boosters.

Unless exempt, save your excuses
Make sure your family are protected
(The Government won’t, they’re bloody useless)

Ignore the anti-vaccine truthers:
Conspiracy theories must be rejected.
So get your Covid vaccine boosters;

Exercise some kind astuteness
Remember we are all connected.
Although the Government’s fucking useless
Get your Covid vaccine boosters.


I’ve not got much time to write about this one, but I think it pretty much speaks for itself. Thanks to ronstik for the photo and sorry to Mum for the swearing – but looking at the news the last few weeks, I think it’s justifiable…

The pandemic is about to get worse before it gets better and like most people, I’m starting to get a bit scared again. Whatever you’re doing in the next nine days, please do it safely – despite what a lot of the worse people will tell you, we do have a responsibility beyond ourselves, not only to our friends and loved ones but to society as a whole.

So unless you genuinely can’t, please get your jabs and, in spite of almost-genocidal Tory intransigence, we might one day soon see the back of this damn virus once and for all.

Time to roll our sleeves up. Nine days to go…

Owen x