My Second City

My Second City

My second city
Is called the Second City
It’s very different from my first

From date palms
To packaged dates
From cows swishing flies
To a bronze bull
Girls in jeans

I wonder what that word means?

Safe new friends
A school with books
Free bus rides, with unfriendly looks
Sky-high prices
Everything’s sort of clean and neat
Just don’t even think of stepping out in bare feet

A sanctuary with a leaky roof
My shiny blue raincoat drips daily proof
My Second City gives me every little thing I need

Except love

When I think of my first city
I laugh and I laugh and I laugh
Until it hurts

In my Second City
Nothing waits
No-one waits
But we wait and wait and wait and wait
For permission to unpack ourselves and stay
I’m really sure I’d like to stay

Perhaps for a few more days


On my recent trip
To Gujarat

I took
Pretty photographs

Of Modhera
The White Desert

And other pretty places


The image
I can’t delete
From my heart

My hard drive

Is of a ragged street child
At Vastrapur Lake
Who stepped out
From the promenading crowd

His left
Index finger
Into the stifling
Late afternoon


And drew
A rectangle
To take
An imaginary selfie

With me

Back to the Day Job

Somebody once wrote that drink was the scourge of the working classes. Then some joker reversed the polarities and got closer to the truth. Either way, it’s the scourge of the artistic ‘classes’ as well. Today saw me reacquainted with the day job, and this evening sees me with distinctly mixed feelings. As a supply teacher, I can’t say I’m truly suffering for my art. The bills get paid and the hours aren’t that long. Compare to Charles Bukowski, who worked in a postal sorting office for ten years before deciding to ‘quit and starve’ before he went mad. Obviously, countless others have laboured, literally, in order to support their literary labours.

After two months of no income, I’m grateful for the job I’ve got. I’m also grateful for having something to do. Nevertheless, the feeling endures that I really shouldn’t be in teaching. It’s not because I hate it, as I don’t. It’s not because I think it’s beneath me, as I don’t (and would deserve shooting if I did). The point is I’m better at writing, I’m passionate about writing and I’m prepared to put in more than the hours of a full-time job.

Intellectually, I get that writing doesn’t, for the vast majority, pay. But in my heart, there’s a glimmer of hope that one day it will and this is what I deserve. Meanwhile, as JM Coetzee put it, there’s escapism and there’s the real world. Now, which is which?…


Welcome again to the new version of my website. The good news is I’ve sat down to start writing as blog, and this time I mean it. I don’t want to do it, but it’s the way of the world. The bad news is that uploading to the ‘easy’ WordPress doesn’t seem that easy. All I want to do is reproduce a few of poems. However, my new ‘Poems’ page doesn’t seem to have appeared, I can’t copy and paste a poem on to this site, and when I tried to write one, it was impossible to do it with no spacing. All, of course, unless I’ve missed something; which I undoubtedly have done. I guess everything’s easy when you know how, but for the time being, this is dispiriting. The good news is, once I learn how to do it, the poems will be there and I’m proud of them :0)

A Kind Of Biography

I am proud to be mixed race. One set of relatives are from the Black Country, the other is a crowd of Brummies. I was born and raised in Worcestershire, but have lived in Birmingham since 1989. My day job is teaching English, these days as a supply teacher.

At fifteen, my writing first received national attention when I wrote the letter of the week for Record Mirror, suggesting a boycott of the Kiss fan club. Despite this early promise, little was heard until a 1997 appearance as a losing contestant on Countdown.

The new millennium heralded a new burst of creativity. That sounds good, but it isn’t true. Luckily, I’ve got an elephantine memory, so in 2004, when I really started to write, I’d got lots of ideas and things happened quickly. A debut collection, ‘Red’ (Dynamic Press) appeared in 2005. The book is notable for its orange cover, a nod to my colour blindness.

My poetry covers a huge range of subjects, but very little of it is about myself. There are far more interesting things to write about. Some of it is light and fluffy, some of it is deep and very, very dark. I never try to explain my work because I can’t explain it. I know what it means to me, but I don’t know what it means to you.

Around the time ‘Red’ was published, I began performing my work. I quickly became a fixture on the West Midlands poetry scene and have gone on to appear nationally, both on stage and on radio.

In 2010, a second book was published. ‘Once’ (Dynamic Press) is a gritty teen fiction novel set on the mean streets of Smethwick. Critics were kind enough to praise it and I’ve received some wonderful letters from young readers thanking me for a book they can relate to.

At the time of writing, 2013, the performance train keeps rolling and the writing train is going educational. ‘Balancing Acts’ is a collection of online resources combining original poetry with activities for young readers and teaching ideas for colleagues.

2013-5 will be dominated by schools-based workshops and performances. It’s going well so far and it’s all jolly good fun. If you’d like to be involved, please contact me for details.