A Bertram In The Hand Is Worth A Brown Parrot In Providencia…

*Cough* years ago I worked at Bertrams The Book wholesalers.

For those of you not aware, the UK’s bookshops are/were (it may have changed) supplied by two Wholesalers—Bertrams (eg the best one) and Gardners. I started in the orders department after finishing university. It was that or a job delivering fish to London restaurants. I took the one that was near books (and because I’m an awful driver) because y’know, what else are you going to do with an English Lit degree.

It felt like I was making the most of it taking orders for 50 copies of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, or explaining to the UK bookshops that there was no difference between Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone or HP & The Philosopher’s Stone…only that it was called the former in the US.

Poetry connection, orders for poetry were quite rare, but I remember being told one Saturday shift that Birthday Letters was going to be announced and to expect lots of orders. Exciting times. Christ, all of this is dating things…

After a while, I moved to the Special Orders team, aka BABS (Bertrams Any Book Service). That was fun, trying to track down obscure books for folks. I used to love finding books when a customer had gone to their local bookshop and asked for a book they remembered that had a “blue cover”, but they couldn’t remember anything else other than the subject matter…

We used to order loads of copies of Julian Cope’s Head On – a book I absolutely revere…it was always proud moment when we’d order them by post, filling out order forms and sending off specially raised cheques. One day, I’ll remember to write down my intro to Julian Cope story. It involves a man called Alan, milk and acid…

This was all very. such in the early stages on the internet. We’d send orders to the US via dial-up modems…Archaic, man…

Anyhoo, while this was all lovely, the main joy was the staff bookshop. Its was run by a quite fearsome Scottish lady – her name escapes me now, but she ran that place with a military precision. The shop allowed you to come in and either order new books at a lovely discount – circa 50% – or you could buy damaged books from the warehouse at 90% discount. This could mean it had a dint in the cover, a small tear, a missing back cover, etc, but anything that meant it couldn’t be sold went to the shop. I used to love popping down every few days (when I wasn’t popping to the Jubilee pub) to see what was on the shelves, you never knew what would be there – it was all over the shop (so to speak), no genres, etc…

I have so many books still on my shelf from that time… but three of them sprang to mind earlier this week.

Ah yes, a point – I do have one…

Earlier in the week I happened to see a tweet conversation between Jane Commane, Rishi Dastidar and Will Eaves.

Jane was explaining a lovely way to start the day…I plan to steal this idea.

Will replied and mentioned Fergus Allen

This is where I come in…

It led me back to the books you see above. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never really read them. I tried back in the day, but didn’t feel clever enough, or know enough to “get it”. I’ve carried them round in every house move I’ve made since I left Norwich and they’ve not come down from any of the shelves they’ve found a home on. Until this week. I flicked back through them and found these two poems.

Fergus Allen, from Mrs Power Looks Over The Bay
Fergus Allen, also From Mrs Power…

Both of these poems seem like things I will love forever and also quite apt for the world around us at present.

Arsene Wenger used to say a player returning from long term injury was like “a new signing. I thought of that as I took these down from the shelf. These three books feel like “new purchases”, despite being second hand *cough years ago*. That feels like a small moment of joy in a week of utter weirdness…

Dreich Your Eyes, Mate

I suppose I could wang on about working from this week, and how that’s gone. How Rachael and I have managed to get a rhythm going in terms of making cups of tea while she’s in her office and I’ve colonised the kitchen table, but that seems really dull. Duller than my Bertrams origin story, even…

However, what has been nice is being at home when the post arrives and finding lovely things addressed to me.

The nicest of which was the arrival of Dreich #2 – containing 3 poems by me and also 3 poems by Matthew Stewart. It’s always lovely to share a magazine with a good friend, and this is the first time Matthew and I have shared ink together. Pints, yes, but never ink until now. We had a near miss in the Glasgow Review of Books last year, but now we’ve slipped between the covers of a lovely looking magazine. We almost shared a page, but Marilyn Longstaff came between us. GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER!!

My enormous thanks to Jack Caradoc for accepting the poems – Human Torch, Waking Up and Flint.

The front of Dreich
The back – it’s a lovely line up

I should also really talk about ALCS, but let’s save that for next week.


51k running – It’s very much a case of getting out while I still can. I feel bad, I probably shouldn’t be going out, but I’m staying away from people. The Ultra-Marathon has yet to be postponed or cancelled, so I feel like I have to keep training until the inevitable happens.

1 Poem worked on. – Cod Psychology. All this time at home hasn’t been as productive as I expected, but I’m hoping to get a routine in place ASAP. It will make cock all difference, but at least I’ll have the time in place.

1 2.5 hour trip to Tescos Very much not panic buying, but Christ that was hard work.

2 days without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 review sent and ready to go

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green



  1. Jumping The Gin


Basically bugger all, but glanced at Simon Armitage’s new poem and his Sandettie book

True Detective S3, E1-3
Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway

Listened to: 

It’s been a good week for going back through old albums…via iTunes to avoid killing the wifi while streaming.

Four Tet, Sixteen Oceans
Booker T & The Mgs – The Booker T Set & Soul Limbo
Peter, Bjorn & John – Endless Dream
Therapy? – Greatest Hits 2020
Bridget St. John – Jumblequeen, Ask Me No Questions and BBC Sessions
Sundrugs – Perfect Cure for Hallucinations
Minnie Ripperton – Stay In Love
Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Dancer With Bruised Knees
Greg Dulli – Random Desires
Lanterns On The Lake – Spook The Herd
John Cale – Cuts
Candi Staton – Chance
Pete Molinari – Just Like Achilles
Caitlin Rose – Dead Flowers
Lou Reed – The Bells
Marina & The Diamonds – The Family Jewels
Martha Wainwright – S/T
Natacha Atlas – Myriad Road
The National – High Violet
Nice As Fuck – S/T
Nick Heyward – Woodland Echoes
Sugarplum Fairies – Chinese Leftovers & Country International Records
Swami John Reiss & The Blind Shake – Modern Surf Classics
Tapes N’ Tapes – The Loon
Tarantel – Ephemera
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Apart
They Came From The Stars I Saw Them – We Are All In The Gutter
Yorkston, Thorne, Khan – Navasara

and of course, The Archers…(It’s very good at the moment)

Every now and Fen

It seems trivial at the moment, given everything that is happening around us, but I was very pleased to receive my contributors copy of Fenland Poetry Journal on Thursday. It’s always nice to get copies of poetry magazines through the door, but it’s even nicer when you know you’re in them.

And look at it, isn’t it a beauty. And as for that line up, well…it’s awesome (even allowing for me being on the list.)

Fenland Poetry Journal
Fenland Poetry Journal, the back

I’ve not had a chance to sit and read it yet as we were off to Norfolk on Friday night – my copy actually started glowing as we travelled close to that neck of the woods – but that’s my plan later on this evening. Soon as I finish this…


45k running – A run to work, and 25K round the back roads of near where I grew up. The longest I’ve ever run in one go.

1 Poem worked on. – Cod Psychology.

700* shells collected at Cley beach

2 days without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 review written and sent

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green



  1. Johnny Big Hood


Claire Walker, Collision

The Outsider E10
Sex, Chips & Rock n’Roll: 50 years of the Mersey sound

Listened to: 
Four Tet, Sixteen Oceans
Julian Cope, Presents The Unruly Imagination
Rita Graham, Vibrations
The House of Love, Days Run Away
Helen Mort’s R4 series about Apologies , ep3-5
About 6 eps of The Boring Podcasts

and of course, The Archers…(It’s very good at the moment)

We didn’t go to Happisburgh, but I did mention it in the car at some point this weekend

Wash Your Hands

I’d said I’d try and blog every week, but that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t manage. It doesn’t, but oh look, I have managed it.

It’s been one of “those” weeks, lots going on at work, so no time to pay much attention to anything else – not even the news, really, but I notice we’re all being told to wash our hands and it reminded me of this poem by Mr Armitage…NB I promise not to mention him on here again this year. I do read other poets.

However, this poem seems apt for the current goings on in the world, even if it had a different context when it was “written”.

Taken from Tyrannosaurus Rex versus the Corduroy Kid

Nothing else to add other than the news that I’ve just had a poem accepted by a mag that I’ve been keen to get into for a while now, so I’m very happy to have got in with a poem that I’d only sent out for the first time to this magazine…Win.

Now, if those mags that have had poems for over 4 months now could just pull their fingers out.


54k running – A run to work, a half marathon distance yesterday and a v.hungover 10K today.

3 Poem worked on. – Kiddie Rides, Cod Psychology and Phantom Settlements.

1 of those is now finished, I think.

1 poem accepted.

1 days without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 gig by The Hold Steady. By Jove, they were good.

1 review written and sent

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


  1. Elf Cobblers
  2. Wash Your Hands
  3. My Random Word Generator Suggested Random Word Generator 
  4. Default Settings
  5. Alan Is Morrissey, Etc


Lenni Sanders, Poacher
Started this article about free pianos

Claire Walker, Collision

The Outsider E9, Better Call Saul S5, E3. Win The Wilderness E1

Listened to: 
Carole King, Rhymes & Reasons and The Legendary Demos
British Sea Power, From The Sea To The Land and Man of Aran
Ryley Walker, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
The Clash, The Clash
The Hold Steady, Boys & Girls In America and Separation Sunday and Teeth Dreams and Thrashing Through The Passion
The National, I Am Easy To Find
Nadia Reid, Out of my Province
Broads & Milly Hurst, Ollust (Thanks to Jack Underwood for the recommendation)
Cornershop, England Is A Garden
J Mascis & The Fog, More Light
Mura Masa, R.Y.C
Mogwai, Come On, Die Young
Helen Mort’s R4 series about Apologies , ep2

and of course, The Archers…

This is a banger

Apologies for Noogies

Last week I published a review of Paul Waring’s pamphlet, Quotidian, over at Sphinx reviews. I enjoyed reading the book and writing the review. And it made Paul happy too. It was his first review…no pressure, but he liked it, so *Makes W sign with both thumbs together*

In that review I used the word ‘Noogie’. Do you know it?

If you don’t a ‘Noogie’ is, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, ‘ the act of rubbing one’s knuckles on a person’s head so as to produce a mildly painful sensation‘. Now you know what I mean. We’ve all done it, surely…either to a friend, a sibling, a grandparent, etc.

However, what I’m interested in is the word you might use to describe this action. When I was writing the review I wanted to call it a ‘Woody’ as that is the term used when and where I was a lad, but I couldn’t find any reference to it online to confirm that it would be understood. To be fair, ‘Woody’ also had a rude meaning too. It means I can never watch Woody Woodpecker again with a straight face.*

I knew of ‘noogie’ as an alternative for it, but thought of it as an American version of the word, but it at least allowed me to know that it was searchable. As it is, Nell ended up linking to a definition when she edited the review.

Given my recent post about references and the like from a couple of weeks ago, I think I was pondering more about the validity of using such a word. I suspect I’m over and under-thinking it all.

There’s also the question of why that word or the word/ action sprang into my head during the writing of the review, but we’ll gloss over that as I genuinely have no idea. It felt like absolutely the right thing to say, but I’ve not used the word ‘woody’ in that context for the best part of *sticks finger in the air* 20 years, I reckon. I’m quite interested in working out where that came from, but I guess it’s one of things that if you could answer it you’d do it all the time. Is it like trying to work out where the poetry comes from?

As Brian Patten writes about John Clare in his ‘A Fallible Lecture’ at the end of ‘Storm Damage’

…John Clare, a Norfolk
peasant who was incarcerated in lunatic
asulyms for 28 years after a doctor decided
he was insane through ‘ years addicted to
poetic prosings’ After his death it was
rumoured that a group of doctors wanted to
procure his corpse in order to open his brain
and find out where the poetry came from
Clare already knew where I came from:
from clods of earth and from watching
raindrops glittering on the backs of frogs

Actually, everyone knows it comes from 95% graft, 1% inspiration and 8% stealing. Yes, I have double-checked the science here, and while the maths isn’t right, the science is. I’m sorry if you disagree.

Now, that reminds me. I started listening to this this week. It’s Helen Mort discussing her relationship with the word Sorry and apologies. I’ve only listened to the first ep so far, but I really enjoyed what I heard. I was at the end of a long week at work and on a bus ride home after a diverted train journey, so I apologise to Helen for needing to go back to it to fill in some gaps before finishing the series.

It did get me thinking back to a draft of a poem I wrote a couple of years ago called ‘Tiny Sorries’. I was looking at all the small apologies I find myself making. I often apologise, under my breath, if I make some deviate from their course, even by an inch, when walking along the street, or for not holding a door open far enough, for not being fast enough at the water fountain at work, even when I can do nothing about it…

The idea was that it would start there, build up to taking responsibility for not doing enough to stop something we are all collectively responsible for and then…and then…Well, I didn’t know where to go with it, or if it was even worth trying to find out. I think the answer is that it isn’t worth pursuing. However, it was on my mind before seeing that the show was on air. I think it, the poem, pops back into my head daily because of something that happens when commuting or in the office, etc.

Thankfully, what I do know from listening to Helen’s show is that there are plenty of poems about saying sorry, apologising, contrition, etc, so perhaps I don’t need to worry about adding mine to the pile.

Sorry, you’ve been witness to me working stuff out as I go.

* Woody Woodpecker made my piss boil anyway, so this is no great loss.


36k running – Quite the leap backwards from last week, basically swapping the digits around, but two 18K runs is plenty. I’ve had a cold in the middle of the week and there just wasn’t anything in the tank this morning when I’d planned to do another 18-20K. Better to not get injured, I reckon.

1 Poem worked on. Once – Had another bash at Kiddie Rides. Kissed goodbye to a few lines I’ve held onto since the start and it’s much better, but of, the wailing and gnashing of teeth…

3 poems accepted. My first acceptance of the year, and all done and accepted inside 24 hours. Take note, ye mags that are still dithering after 4 months…

1 day on the sofa feeling sorry for myself- A stinking cold took over me after getting wet last Sunday and Tuesday.

1 car accident for my friend Jon, although I’m very happy to know that he’s ok.

3 days without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 meeting involving Ruth Davidson

1 review published (see above)

1 review written

1 review written and sent

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


  1. Nephilim Club
  2. Mailing The World’s Last Postage Stamp (NB I may want to use this later, but let me know if you get there first…)
  3. Cuts & Browsers
  4. Hippocratic Oats
  5. Idyllic Postmen


Lenni Sanders, Poacher
Started this article about free pianos

Clare Best, Each Other
Jennifer Wong, Letters Home

Endeavour S5, S6 and S7, E1 – The benefit of a sick day and a Britbox subscription

Listened to: 
Magic Hour, No Excess Is Absurd
Josh Rouse, Dressed Up Like Nebraska & Country Mouse; City House
Laura Veirs, Carbon Glacier
Agnes Obel, Myopia
The Orielles, Disco Volador
Toshiko Akiyoshi, Her Trio, Her Quartet
Tresspasser’s William, Different Stars
Greg Dulli, Random Desire
Cornershop, Judy Sucks A Lemon
Mazzy Star, She Hangs Brightly
Hope Sandoval, Bavarian Fruit Bread
Caspian, The Four Trees

and of course, The Archers…

And finally

Subscribe to Robin Houghton’s list of submission opportunities here

What title would you put here?

Last week’s post seemed to reach a few new people, which is pleasing, and generated a few interesting comments. However, the crowning glory was a reply on Twitter from the actual folks at Jewson’s.

It’s been quite the week at work, with barely a chance to do anything other than think about work. The projects are piling up, time seems to be contracting and so I can only apologise to anyone that’s arrived here this week (or any other week for that matter) off the back of Dave Bonta’s post on Twitter

I’d like to say I promise the standard will be better next week, but I really have no idea.

Let’s move on from that, I’m pretty gutted that I didn’t make it the Free Verse Poetry Fair yesterday at Conway Hall. I’d have loved to be there to pick up some books and meet up with friends and new folks. I suspect my wife, and my bank-manager would have been furious though. Next year, I will deffo go. Please have a look at Robin Houghton’s write up of her experience there.

I love Conway Hall for hosting this fair and always-excellent Boring Conference. That reminds me, when are tickets out for this year???? While we wait, I recommend a listen to The Boring Talks Podcast. NB I may have done this before.

I’d also like to draw your attention to an excellent review of an excellent book. Nice one, Matthew. Well deserved.


63k running – Quite the leap on last week, but an 18k into work on Tuesday, a 22k run on Saturday – I wanted to break the 21K barrier, and 16K today all helped. Let’s see if I can walk tomorrow.

1 Poems worked on. Twice – Had another bash at Kiddie Rides.

1 lovely evening (and day) out with the lovely folks at YouGov for a belated Xmas lunch. Hmmm, Espresso Martinis….

1 wonderful bit of news from my friends Mafalda and Alex…Looking forward to an Alston Nipper at the end of the year.

1 Podcast up and available – The mighty Grandbag’s Funeral on films with War Crimes in

3 days without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 review written and sent

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


  1. Photonbooth (thanks to a typo earlier)
  2. Captain Ergotron
  3. Captain Ergotron Rides Again
  4. The Continuing Story of Captain Ergotron
  5. Captain Ergotron: The Next Generation


Paul Waring, Quotidian
Rialto, Issue 93

Love Island, The Outsider

Listened to: 
Beth Orton, Comfort of Strangers
Pale Saints, The Comforts of Madness
Julian Cope, Rite Bastard
Agnes Obel, Myopia
Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady
Caspian, On Circles
Greg Dulli, Random Desire

and of course, The Archers…

I realise it was Dave Bonta, but this is still a solid gold tune.

The Jewson Lot

I found myself wondering about the use of contemporary references and all because of an email—which in itself is a contemporary reference, possibly.

I wrote to a colleague to say I was sending them some topline findings from a research project as a) I didn’t think they needed it all and b) they didn’t need “the Jewson Lot”.

I don’t how I managed to drag a reference to an advert from the 1980’s out of the dark recesses of my brain. It was only after I pressed send that I wondered if the recipients would even know what I was banging on about*. After all, why would two people at least 10 years younger than me have a clue about something that may well have been off air before they were born?

* To be fair this is nothing new.

If for some reason you’re not familiar with it please watch this

The Jewson Lot

I did ask a colleague who has a couple of years on me and he remembered it, and a question on Twitter yielded at least 5 answers in the affirmative. Obviously the market researcher in me isn’t happy with the sample sizes at work here, but I’ll take it.

But it did get me thinking about the half life of these popular culture references. How much distance is too much distance? Is it too obscure? Does that matter if it works for the poem? Can you cover it all off with notes? Should you need to use notes?

Is a reference to a Jewson’s ad from the 80s and better or worse than say a reference to an obscure character from The Iliad. I don’t know the answer here, I’m more thinking out loud. My degree taught me that a text was a text was a text and that a text could be anything really – a Britney Spears song, The Wasteland, a painting, a chocolate bar wrapper, and so on…

I came back to these questions when I had my first initial scan of the latest issue of Rialto. I found a reference to Dr Martens in the first poem, Hannah Lowe’s ‘Pink Hummingbird’ and old school rave events like “Rain Dance, World Party, Fantasia” in ‘ ’89’, and “Marlborough (SIC??) Lights” in ‘Love’.

Each of these references work as a way of dating the time they are evoking, elsewhere in the mag Tom Paine’s excellent ‘Harmonium’ contains the line

‘Give everyone an orange popsicle, an iPhone, a garden,
and let’s go shoot some hoops? You won monopoly, okay?’

You couldn’t ask for a more contemporary set of references…well, you could, but hopefully you see what I mean. While I’m still trying to work out what’s going on in the poem, the iPhone dates it to within the last decade or so and therefore gives me some frame of reference.

What am I saying here? I don’t think I’m saying anything, I’m asking something.

I guess I’m asking what we, as writers, are thinking when we include these contemporary references in poems? Do we have half an eye on the now and half an eye on the future—both near and more distant? What will readers in eg 2120 make of a reference to iPhones or Jewsons? Should we even care?


39k running – Bumped into an erstwhile colleague at yesterday’s Parkrun. She was doing that as part of a 19 mile run…Eek!!! Managed to get out this evening, despite Storm Dennis.

0 Poems worked on – although, actually wrote notes for something brand new midweek and one line for something else. Feels like a long time since I’ve even managed that. Just busy at work, then running and life, so poetry is taking a back seat – for now.

1 lovely evening at Kings Place for the Poetry London event with Rishi Dastidar, Emily Hasler, Martha Kapos and Joe Dunthorne. All 4 were excellent.

1 Podcast up and available – The mighty Grandbag’s Funeral on films with War Crimes in

3 days without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 review published

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


  1. Six Degrees of Strawmen
  2. Trust Exercise


Helena Nelson, Plot and Counterplot
Rialto, Issue 93

Love Island, Endeavour S4, E3.

Listened to: 
Nadia Reid, Preservation
Laura Veirs, Year of Meteors
Neko Case, Hell On
Bjork, Utopia
and of course, The Archers…

Jamie And The Human Torch

What’s that, poets releasing songs over ambient post-rock backgrounds you say…?

This was an old poem, the current version of which is out somewhere, so I can’t share it, but my friend Steve wrote the music for this at least 12 years ago…

Just saying’.

All jocularity aside, I’m very pleased for our laureate*. And this is a great song. I look forward to the album, having previously enjoyed The Scaremongers.

I can’t** imagine Ted Hughes banging out an album of glambient floor fillers with beats built from the caws of crows. There’s those bloody birds again.

* He’ll be relieved, I know.
** I can

Also, please go and look up A Sunbleached Industry…My dear friend Simon has made some awesome music.


54.3k running – The 0.3 is very important. A lot for this week thanks to 14K yesterday and 15 more today – fuck you, Storm Ciara…

0 Poems worked on – Not a blooming’ sausage..What a busy week at work, but

1 lovely meeting with Matthew Paul

1 lovely meeting with Mark Anthony Owen

1 Podcast recorded

3 days without cigarettes.

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green


  1. What You Talkin’ About Incey Wincey Willis?
  2. Well My Legs Are Fucking Trembling, How About You?
  3. Sometimes Only A Monster Will Do
  4. AI Can Tell You What A Postage Stamp Is And Does, But It Can’t Lick It



The Masked Singer, Love Island, The Lighthouse.

Listened to: 
Joni Mitchell, Heijra
10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas, Sunday At Devil Dirt
Isobel Campbell, There Is No Other
Supergrass, Road to Rouen, In It For The Money
Tycho, Awake, Weather
Kristen Hersh, Hips & Makers
and of course, The Archers…