Explorer – Daily Prompt


Come in put your feet up

Must you really explore?

You know how much I-adore yer

Come in just shut the damn door.

It’s hard to love an explorer

However much you adore her

For adventure she’ll always clamour.

Why can’t you bloody sit still?

Why can’t the girl just settle?

Constantly travelling still.

She’s always wants to be elsewhere

I’m afraid she always will.


A mother’s day tribute.

1EFE2111-9F9A-44B9-8452-08203822DEA7A tribute to Margaret; my mum, first presented at her funeral service April 2010.

My mum was writing her story. She had been at it for years but could never get beyond the first chapter. It was about her mother Lily who was working as a cook for a family in Brighton and the policeman who regularly took tea at the house and became the father mum never knew.

It was 1939 when to have a baby out of wedlock was seen as a shameful thing and for a single mother to keep her child was out of the question. So mum was fostered out to a family who treated her badly, the children teasing her mercilessly and the parents giving her regulation slices of bread and butter while the rest of the family ate a full tea. It explains perhaps why she turned to comfort eating in later life and could be fiercely protective if she thought her children were being bullied.

It didn’t get better when, rescued from the foster parents, she was sent back to Crookham to live with a strict grandmother who discouraged her from reading, threw her books on the fire and refused to pay her fare to the exam that would have got her into secondary school. So mum left school at fourteen and followed her mother into domestic service working for a General in Aldershot as the children’s nanny.

It was working there that she met our Dad. Mum was seventeen when they married and Dad fourteen years older. I think she must have seen in him the father she never had. The wedding photos show a slim seven stone bride unmistakeable as mum only if you look at the eyes. The marriage lasted fifty years but mum’s waistline didn’t. I remember her being offended when a visitor looking at the picture, said he didn’t know Dad had been married before.

Mum was desperate to start a family but Dad was sent to Malaya leaving the young bride on her own and then it seemed for a while they might not be able to have children. They fostered for a while but five years into their marriage, aged 22, Mum had me. By the time I was six months old we had left Aldershot for Trieste in Italy. Mum and I were evacuated from there. A Pathe News Reel of the time reputedly showed us coming down the gang plank of a ship.

Our lives for the next sixteen years were a succession of moves. Janette was born four years after me in Catterick, Yorkshire and Wendy a year later in Germany. Returning from three years in Germany, Dad was posted to Cyprus. We couldn’t immediately follow and for a while Mum was left with three small children in a Scarborough boarding house. We spent three years in Cyprus returning to a camp in Wiltshire where Sue was born. We moved soon afterwards to Arborfield where we stayed for nearly four years; probably our happiest time together as a family.

Dad was posted one last time to Germany for three years before finally leaving the army in 1968. Adjusting to civilian life was difficult. We were briefly homeless so there was much relief when we got the house in Longfield Road. It wasn’t the house with the ‘Dun Roamin’ name plate we’d fantasised about but for mum and dad it was home and they weren’t going to move anymore.

We each brought mum our share of troubles and she had a few of her own, twice overcoming breast cancer. There’s hardly a member of the family who hasn’t moved in with mum at some difficult period of their life or run back to her with their troubles. She was always there, always accepting, always ready to pick up the pieces. She saw the best in everyone and was often too generous for her own good sometimes extending the open door policy to people she didn’t know who took advantage of her generosity.

Mum worked at Buxted’s and later at M&M Bindings where she made good friends who stuck by her over the years. She gave up work when Dad, a heavy smoker for most of his life, had a stroke and was badly incapacitated. She nursed him loyally through that difficult time until he passed away but, to deal with stress and against all sense, began smoking herself.

Her life closed down to the house, her chair in the living room and the Day Centre where she’ll be remembered for her humour and her jokes. I hope she didn’t tell them the ones she told us but, knowing her, she probably did!

She always told us, “If you’ve got your health you have got everything but she never lived by that advice. She smoked far too much and could sometimes be seen with a cigarette in one hand and an asthma inhaler in the other. She developed diabetes among a string of other ailments but was reckless with her diet and seemed not to care about her health although she hated being in hospital as increasingly often she had to be.

We tried as a family to help in our different ways. Sue did Mum’s running about. Wendy phoned nightly from Scotland and gave up her holidays to stay and Janette pitched in when she could. But it was painful to watch someone you cared for neglecting their health as she did. She could be exasperating we all got cross with her sometimes and I for one visited less often than I should have. We fell out about what was best for mum and weren’t always the family she deserved. Towards the end it was mum’s friends who kept her going. You’ll forgive me if I don’t name you all and will I hope understand why I can’t but I appreciate what you did for mum and know she did too.

Today is a chance to put the failings behind us, to remember mum not as a housebound invalid whose childhood insecurities caught up with her but as she really was; a loving mother and grandmother, a good wife, a loyal friend and a generous spirit.

Margaret’s Story is available available on Amazon as a Paperback or Kindle. I publish extracts daily on Twitter and a sample is available on Wattpad.

Send me your best Mother’s Day poem.

1EFE2111-9F9A-44B9-8452-08203822DEA7Sunday March 11th is Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday in the U.K. Post your best mother’s day poems in the comments below by Friday evening and I’ll republish the best three Mother’s Day poems submitted in my blog on Sunday.

The writers submitting the best three Mother’s Day poems will also receive a free paperback copy of my book Margaret’s Story: a Biography in Verse my mother’s life story in rhyme.


The ‘message’ behind Margaret’s Story

96A385BE-957D-4A44-B581-9D9355A6C123.jpegThere have been some great reviews of Margaret’s Story that clearly picked up on some of the themes: mum’s childhood troubles and later ill health, the constant upheavals of army life but, for me, there was one underlying theme that pulled them all together. The deprivations Margaret suffered were emotional rather than physical. The adults in her life seemingly blamed her for the circumstances of her birth and destroyed her sense of self worth.

‘Family’ was vitally important to Margaret because she grew up without one. She was a loving mother who always put her family first but the one person she couldn’t find it in herself to love was herself. She took to comfort eating and, from being a waif like creature in her youth, became increasingly over-weight. In later life she neglected her health with a cavalier disregard for what was good for her.

While she was a loving mother and would do anything for her children the lack of self-belief was to an extent passed on. Hence, the surprise when I passed my eleven plus, Janette ‘dropping out’ of grammar school because she found the other, pony owning, girls too posh. Mum’s genuine surprise when I talked about people who thought they were better than us. “Aren’t they?!”, she said and she meant it.


She loved everyone except herself

Blame her fate on the cards life dealt.

Stories don’t end they carry on,

She’d left her mark on everyone.

Lack of belief can get passed on,

Cast it aside for love of mum.

I’ve finally done what I wanted to do

Presented Margaret’s tale to you.

They made her feel of little worth

But such as her will rule the earth.


The great Margaret’s Story Twitter experiment.

Drip feeding Margaret’s Story on Twitter was intended to promote the paperback and kindle versions available on Amazon. In those terms it can’t be counted a huge success. If anything it has affected kindle sales and reads on kindle unlimited for the worse. Hopefully some out there will have their curiosity sufficiently piqued or decide they love it enough to buy the paperback but buying an unfamiliar author you’ve not heard of can be a hard sell.

Releasing the story first on Wattpad was a good call and won me early adapters who left enthusiastic, not to say glowing reviews, but equally there were a lot of fans who had already read the book and Wattpadders, often young and hard up, are not big spenders.

So have three times daily posts on Twitter been a failure? The short answer is I don’t really know. I am steadily increasing my Twitter following which will be a boon when I release my next book but is anyone out there following the story? If you are please comment here and let me know.

I tweet daily looking for readers but it’s noticeable some days how many of the ‘followers’ are looking to sell an indie author services rather than sample his or her wares.  So if you are out there, if you are reading, let me know what you think. Meanwhile here’s a poem just for you.

Silent Reader

Why, hello silent reader
I didn’t see you there.
I’m glad that you dropped by here
To take a little peek.

I assume that you’ve passed on now?
Or perhaps you’re hiding still?
You’re not quite sure of what you’ve found
Or if it’s what you seek.

It’s nice that you dropped by here
Though you don’t say a lot.
You’re hiding in the corner
But your visit means a lot.

Every word’s for you friend
Though I don’t know your face
Shame you never stay more.
You’re welcome in this place.


Serialisation: a way to get readers hooked?

Margaret’s Story started life on Wattpad where it appeared as a serial. It was updated daily and each part would end with a hook designed to lure the reader on and pull them into the story.

‘Would things get better? We’ll have to see.
Stay with me and my history.’

It’s generally accepted that poetry is difficult to sell. Given the competing media and our shortened attention spans I don’t completely understand why.  Bite sized posts are the order of the day, so you’d think short concise pieces, well expressed would be popular.

The truth is that to an extent they can be as social media stars like the Instagram Poet Rupi Kaur have proved. Her self published work Milk and Honey, promoted on social media, was picked up by publisher and has become a best seller but is there a market for something longer?

I’m convinced that serialisation is an excellent and underused resource for building an audience. My first experiment on Wattpad was Summer of Sixty Six an account in verse of England’s World Cup win and the frustrations and delights of experiencing it from, of all places, Germany.  It was popular with those who read it but failed perhaps to find it’s target audience.

Margaret’s Story, now available as a paperback or for kindle from Amazon, was I think more successful and certainly more ambitious. Summer of Sixty Six was free verse whereas Margaret’s Story is Sixty pages of rhymed couplets.

Dickens famously delivered all of his novels in serial form. I can’t help speculating how he would have taken to social media. I think he’d have had to adapt his style a bit. There’s no space for meandering description however gifted a writer you are.

I’d love you to buy my book  but if you want to sample first the first few chapters are still on Wattpad, it’s available, if you are signed up,  on Kindle Unlimited where you can read for free but still earn me a few pennies. Or, if you are interested in the serialisation on social media idea, follow me on Twitter where I’m sharing drip sized bits three times a day.

Hopefully, you are gripped by the content and will want to follow. Watch this space for the next gripping instalment.

What is a verse biography?

Simply put a verse biography is a biography written in verse. If you google you’ll find more complicated ‘explanations’ but that’s basically what it is.

The academics writing about verse biography compare it to the verse novel or talk about how writing in verse impacts on the truth, or as they would put it the verisimilitude, of a biography written this way.

These were arguments that passed me by. I’d determined to finally produce Margaret’s Story, had experimented with longer form verse on Wattpad and in a moment of realisation determined this was the way I wanted to go.

More erudite Poets, I’m thinking of John Betjeman and Summoned by Bells, might frame theirs in blank verse but, inspired by Wendy Cope’s Teacher’s Tale, I determined, perhaps rashly, it would be in rhymed couplets.

The risk was obviously that I’d trivialise the story but, in point of fact,  I found I could ‘cut to the chase’, eliminate waffle and keep up the pace of the narrative.

At the same time I hoped the difficult parts of story could be light enough to be entertaining. Despite the challenges of her life my mother was irrepressibly cheerful and would have approved.

The result, as I now appreciate, is a form, the verse biography, that is unfamiliar to many and so difficult to categorise or promote. Nevertheless those who’ve gone with it seemed really to appreciate it. Just hoping more readers will give it a go.

Margaret’s Name

There are a few things I didn’t bring out in the verse biography that you might find interesting. Aside from being born out of wedlock, a circumstance viewed far more harshly then than it would be now, Margaret was born on Friday 13th.

This is viewed as an inauspicious birthday for it’s associations with Good Friday and Jesus crucifixion and the number of people present at the last supper. Margaret’s family were somewhat superstitious so something was needed to offset the perceived bad luck.

The story is they needed two more unlucky things to off-set the ill fortune associated with Friday 13th. Three I guess is associated with the Holy Trinity. Anyway, Margaret’s name was chosen because ‘M’ was the thirteenth letter of the alphabet and with her surname being Smith her name would have thirteen letters. She wasn’t given a middle name because that would have spoiled things.

Fortunately, by marrying a Green, she kept her name at thirteen letters. Whether they were successful in warding off ill fortune you can judge if you read Margaret’s Story.

Margaret’s Story

I’m excited to relate that my book Margaret’s Story is now available as a paperback or Kindle version on the Amazon web site. Mum always talked about writing her story but could never get beyond the first chapter about the circumstances of her birth. Born in 1930s Brighton to an unmarried domestic servant she suffered at the hands of cruel foster parents and an unsympathetic grandmother.

Her education interrupted by World War Two; air raids and knitting socks for sailors, she left school at fourteen and entered domestic service herself. She married young, just seventeen, and embarked on the life of an army wife, following my Dad, Will to postings in different parts of the UK, to Trieste, Northern Italy, from where she was evacuated to Germany twice and to newly independent Cyprus.

A loving mother to four children, she cared for everyone except herself. Haunted by her beginnings she neglected her health, put on weight and became increasingly unwell. She remained cheerful through life’s crisis and looked after my Dad when he too became unwell. She was a friend to many and the cornerstone of our family. She never got round to writing the book but here, at last, is Margaret’s Story.

Part One – Birth

Brighton, Sussex, 1930

This is the story of Margaret who
You’ll get to know before we’re through.
Poor Margaret never knew her dad.
Which made her childhood hard and sad.

Back then they used to blame the kid
For what it was their parents did.
Sad to tell poor Margaret’s mother
Fell for a man who’d wed another.

He took advantage then forsook;
Margaret’s mother; family cook.
Domestic servant; left with child,
Abandoned woman, blamed, reviled.

She couldn’t keep both baby and job
Was left to weep, to cry, to sob.
The child was fostered, given away,
Her mother given little say.

The child was my mother, I’m her son.

To know what’s next you must read on.