Tuesday, 20 June 2017


It's been a long time.

It's been many summers. Too many summer nights snufflefree and still.

But they're back! First an oval of shadow on the lawn. Then a shuffle, a ripple of spikiness along the flower borders.

I know they are a pair. One night at the start of the current heatwave, I met the first one on the lawn where it had crept close to observe me as I leaned, steadying my camera against a tree trunk, trying to capture Jupiter's string of moons in the southwestern sky. The other was waiting for me on the patio, smaller, with mischievous eyes. The second one was less interested in a peculiar human stargazing, more in gazing at the goodies the departing birds had left unpecked for the creatures of the night.

Hedgehog numbers are declining on these islands. They are now a rare sight in British gardens. Fewer than a million remain, down from nearer thirty million when I was born at the dawn of the Sixties. A third of that catastrophic loss has been just in this past decade. These little souls are survivors of this long slow bereavement of the English countryside. I feel unutterably blessed.

Once the birds have flown off and the heat of the day has decanted itself down the thermometer into the soft melt of dusk, I wait to lionise them with dried mealworms, crushed sunflower hearts and peanuts. I top up the bird and bee baths as the sun dissolves into pastel glad-rags of coral and titian on the western horizon. Someone else has need of the nocturnal libation.

I wait. I wait, holding my breath to catch the rustle of their coming. Footfalls across the lawns, threading through hedges, triggering security lights, trembling the dreaming heads of daisies.

Then they're here! Noses badged with leaf litter, eyes more accustomed than my own to the gloaming. Above us, bats skip and soar under the trees and out into the crepuscular backcloth of cloudless sky, tiny Pipistrelles skittering through twilight. Their nationwide numbers too are in steep decline. The hedgepiggies and I, below, must celebrate and survive today and hope for tomorrow.

Before my head hits the fridge-cooled pillowcase, they have melted back into the sweltering South Yorkshire nightfall, making unspoken promises to lighten my life again tomorrow night, and the next, promises I hope against hope they will be cherished enough by humankind to be able to keep.

Monday, 19 June 2017


Another outrage.

Another day when love has to be stronger and more creative, wiser and more resilient to show that hate can't win.

Another day when indifference and silence is a mask for complicity, smugness, cynicism.

Today my heart breaks for those families and friends in our country, fellow human beings, innocent citizens who were murderously attacked in the midst of life, terrorised in their community, by blind hatred outside their mosque in Finsbury Park.

I stand with my friends, beloved Muslims with whom I mourn at this latest horror.

I know and love people of every kind, friends rejoicing in a rainbow of colours, beliefs, persuasions, personalities, gifts and orientations. I hold them all precious. Friends of endlessly rich variety, each worth the world to many and to me.

I wish all my beautiful friends the strength to hold on to your unique loveliness.

Those who try to divide us in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways will never win.

Love, respect, empathy and compassion are our best antidote to the toxic tide of hatred that seeks to rip our hope, humanity and peace away.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

THOSE TOMORROWS - in memory of Manchester

You can't unsay one word you've sown
You can't call back the shade you've thrown
Unfling one fragment of shrapnel flown

Can never recoil from the hatred snarled
Or bask in a bubble in a broken world

You can't backpedal once the tree is split
Unspill the milk when you curdle it

You can't retract and you can't retrace
The spiral down from this burning place.

The coward whimpers.

But courage cries:

My broken won't weaken to bitterness
My shattered won't melt into caring less
My outrage won't turn me to hate or hit
This awful day
I will live through it.
I will not be changed by revenge or rage
Nor fold my arms nor turn the page
I won't be diminished by fear or dread
Betray the innocence of the dead.

I will make those tomorrows they can't now see
As full of true love as they'd want them to be.

Link to Fundraiser to support families of those killed and injured in the Manchester Arena attack