2020 vision…



Did we learn?

Did we listen to the deep rumblings

In the ground beneath our clay feet?

Or are we unteachable, even

By the old year passing?


They say that hindsight

Is always twenty-twenty, but

What if they were wrong?


What if, when eventually unlocked

We carry on regardless, as if

The plastic pot we feed from will

Always cost nothing, as if

That last Advent candle

Will burn on forever?


Can collective stupidity of this kind

Have any hope of vaccination?

It is as if the only infestation

That matters on this planet is human

Perhaps the pandemic is not sickness after all

It is a cure

TFT Christmas card (part 2)…

After yesterday’s rather dark offering, I feel that I owe you some seasonal joy.

TFT style of course, so don’t expect tinsel or anything…

This is a picture of some mushrooms shooting up in a fresh pile of woodchips on our driveway.

Think about that- mushrooms are perhaps best understood as the ‘flowers’ of fungal mycota. That means that this pile of fresh woodchip (chipped no more than a couple of weeks before this) mechanically destroyed to almost-pulp, had already become seeded with spores which had time to spread through the chips and then pop out these lovely ink-cap mushrooms like magic.

Like joy.

Joy seems to me to be like that. It comes to our very core like a total suprise, even in the darkest times. Perhaps particularly in the darkest times.

In part one of this Christmas card, I was trying to desribe the desolation some of us feel at this time of year, and particularly THIS year. I thought it was important to acknowledge this experience because I know that I am far from alone.

For all sorts of reasons (not least, thinking about my late sister Katharine who died this year) I have been very tearful this Christmas. It took almost nothing to reduce me to tears- of course, the usual films and music could do this, but once I found myself bawling whilst on my own in the house for no apparent reason. But the strange thing was that this did not make me in any way immune to joy. In fact, it meant that when those moments came, they were like an explosion of light.

So, whatever you situation, cherish those moments.

Let them cherish you.

Joy 2


Joy is not a bauble

Not a bubble, too soon burst

Never manufactured cost effectively

It is not bought or sold

It is not gold


Joy is not a jacket

You pick from a handy peg, it is

Never something worn externally

It is always a surprise

Like sunrise


Joy requires no skill

Its practice is not taught

It is not being ‘happy’ or content

It is just being open, to the

Beautiful and broken


Joy is an ambush

Hidden in plain sight

Wrapped up in the most unlikely things

It often comes with grief, not even

Promising relief


Joy is a squirrel

Transcending a tree

It is music played directly on the spine

You do not need to look, because

It stabs you the gut

TFT Christmas card 2020 (part 1)…

For the first time since I started this blog, I am posting this after Christmas. Perhaps, given the strange disrupted times we are in, this is no suprise.

Perhaps too, given the poem I am about to post, hiding behind a calendar cushion is not bad thing either.

This year’s ‘card’ comes with a warning. If you are needing bells and tinsel and rosy-cheeked cheer, then perhaps it is not for you right now.

Not because I do not wish you all the very best for this season and the year to come. Lord knows we need some good news, right? But when I started this blog, I was determined to be as honest as I could be, even if this was sometimes ugly. For many of us, this Christmas has been painfully hard.

My mother, on her own, struggling with a cancer diagnosis.

My nephews and neices having the first Christmas without their mum.

My friend who had been longing to meet with her son and daughter only to be cut off from them by the fluctuations of coronovirus rules.

By comparison, I count my blessings. I managed to see my kids. I am blessed with the best companion that anyone could wish for.

And yet…

Increasingly, I find myself broken by some of the contradictions we live with, and never more so then now. The excess of our celebrations feel false and obscene, even as I partcipate. The plastic. The false bonhomie filling the air waves. The tokenistic attention given to ‘the spirit of Christmas’.

I long for change, both in myself and in the world I am part of.

Sometimes it feels as though I know where to look for hope. At other times not, as if the icons and ideas behind Christmas have lain neglected so long as to become rusty and meaningless.

So, here is part one of my Christmas offerings.


Bleak midwinter


What can I give him, wealthy as I am?

Does he need an i-phone, or a well-aged Parma ham?

Should I bring new trainers, a pair of brand-new jeans?

Or Halo for the X-box (whatever that all means)


In a tower block in Camden, a woman breaks her heart

Her credit score is hopeless, her marriage fell apart

Her cupboards all lie empty, her clothes are wafer thin

Her kids can thank the food bank for turkey from a tin


If I were a kind man, I would bring good cheer

I would house the homeless, if for only once a year

I’d buy my cards from Oxfam, for virtue is no sin

I’d send some Christmas pudding to poor old Tiny Tim


In the bleak midwinter, frosty winds still moan

And Mr Wilson’s waited ages to get the council on the phone

He’s worried cos his boiler has given up the ghost

And since Mabel got dementia, she feels cold more than most


If I were a wise man, I would do my part

I’d sell that gold and incense and invest it for a start

In gilt-edged annuities or solid pension schemes

For without good fiscal planning, what can ever be redeemed?


In a lock-up by the roadside a bastard-child is born

To another teenage mother whose future looks forlorn

A host of heavenly angels up high in star-strewn sky

Sing blue-scale hallelujahs as lorries thunder by

The Christmas we almost had…

Dear friends, what can we wish for this Christmas. What hope can we carry?

We have lost so much in our lockdown -some of us have even lost loved ones – but for all of us, pack animals as we are, the enforced seperation has been hard. Perhaps it is even getting harder.

During that first sun-lit lockdown, despite the looming apocalypse, there were some strong indications that we might learn some good things along with the bad. People were rediscovering the semi-wild outdoors on their doorsteps and a sense of community sprang up everywhere as people began to look out for their neighbours. There was much talk (including on this blog) of how the disruption of the pandemic might actually become a pivot point for much needed change in relation to huge issues like climate change and widening inequality and empty populists like Trump and Johnson might be revealed as Emperors without clothes.

This time around, even though these things might still be true, it feels harder to be optimistic. Perhaps that is partly because of the almost-Christmas that never was; the one that probably should never have happened in the first place, but the loss of which felt all the more cruel because it came so close. Perhaps too the combination of winter and wearyness weigh heavy on us all. Perhaps it is about failed leadership as well – in the UK, we have a Prime Minister who seemed determined to make the same mistake over and over. In the US, the so-called Leader of the Free World is a lying bafoon with fascistic tendencies. Even the arrival of potental salvation in the form of vaccines is second-guessed, as if we can not quite trust anything, not even science.

Meanwhile, conspiracy theories proliferate exponentially, like the virus itself. They take hold of people and become the truth through which they view the world, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The rest of us don’t know what to believe any more.

So, once again, in the midst of this particular Christmas season, where can we find hope?

I think that is the point – we first have to go out and look for it.

Sometimes it might be a little more obvious. In times of pain and loneliness, kindness can be like choir of heavenly angels, but for the most part, the hope we seek is more subtle. It can be hard to see amongst the straw.

Even in winter, life is all around us. Here, red squirrels are visible everywhere in the bare branches, collecting food for the months to come. The seasons are changing, reminding us that we are lving in the great circle. We have been here before and this too will pass.

There is still the real possibility that we will learn important things from this – the virus is shining a light on things we have ignored for too long. The widening inequality, for instance, and how the highest infection rates of the pandemic have mapped themselves perfectly on to the areas of highest poverty and deprivation in our societies. It has shown us too that large scale multi-national and multi-lateral action in service of a common goal is possible again- something we had forgotten since the last world war, despite the looming threat of climate change.

On a smaller scale, it has shown us that some things are simply more important. Families split apart are unlikely to take the next Christmas together for granted.

The hands we will hold

The bodies we will pull close

The breath we will feel on our faces

These are our treasure

Because we carry the Christ within us

You will be my messiah

And I yours

Open the sky and let some light in…

We live in a seemingly perpetual Advent. Not just because of all the early Christmas decorating, but because we are all still waiting; for vaccines, for ‘normality’, for release, for and end to isolation and for the possibility of touch. Strange then that the actual season of Advent is now fully upon us.

I find myself remembering an old project, birthed by Si Smith, called ‘We who still wait’. It was a collaboration of photography (Steve Broadway), meditations (Ian Adams) and my poetry. (It is still available, here.)

I wrote the poems quickly, over a short period of time. Some felt ‘forced’, others arrived with tears, which may seem strange to some, until you realise that poetry is essentially about opening a vein and what comes out can be unexpected and overwhelming. Writing these poems forced me to fully engage not only with my own fragility, but also with those aspects of faith that still remain. Sometimes it seemed as if faith had been removed along with my religion, but at other times entirely the reverse, that only through losing religion was it possible to rediscover something deeper and more true.

Anyway, I offer you one of the poems from ‘We who still wait”. It says as much as I can say today.


Open the sky


Open the sky and let some light in

Let this night be night no longer

Let stars shine down in shafts of love

Illuminating ordinary things

All down with dirt and common use


Let donkeys laugh out loud

For even basest things

Are silvered up with grace

Lubricated in kindness

He is coming


Not to penthouses, to plump up cushions of comfort

Not to stroke the fragile ego of celebrity

Not to strengthen the hands of the powerful

Or expand their empty empires


Not to shape new cathedrals from seductive certainty

Or even to doctor our old doctrines

He comes not to the exclusive few

But to you


The mess of you

All your brokenness, all your failures

He comes in the certain knowledge that

You will fail again


So, open the sky and

let some light in