Thursday, 11 June 2015

Eroica set list building

A little peek into my set list for Eroica Britannina on 20th June,

A minute and a half - if you've ridden short hill climb races or if the pain and exhilaration is new to you then this poem will tell you about all of that, in about a minute and a half, the time it takes to race up one of my favourite climbs at Monsall Head.

Standby - it's not all about cycling and bikes! This one is about modern life and that mad need to be always doing something, always connected and ready for action 24/7.

More to follow over the next few days....

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Shay the poet heads to Eroica Britannia

Just one month to go to the most handsome cycling festival - Eroica Britannia.

Vintage bikes, vintage everything and 30,000 people heading to Bakewell in the Peak District for a fun filled 3 day family adventure on 19, 20 and 21st June


There's music, films, conversation, food, drink and of course loads of old bikes.

And this year there will be poetry, courtesy of yours truly, with a half hour set on the Saturday afternoon.

My set list is almost sorted and although I never really stick to the list there will be a couple of new cycling ones in the set including "A minute and a half" and "I like people riding bikes". There'll be a fair few non cycling ones too and we'll have a great time.

I'll post more on the set as we draw closer.

Friday, 1 May 2015


A couple of years ago I wrote and posted a poem about doping in cycling called Dopers' Lament. More recently I wrote this short poem about the sadness of the young men who died as a result of "doing what had to be done"....


Bike passed to mechanic
Showered, massaged, refuelled
Another day done
Another lesson learned
Doing what has to be done

And he dreams of bigger days
Of Pyrenees and Alps
Of his name on the road
Dreams of glory
Of podium girls
And fast cars

And he drifts off
On a hotel bed
And molten Macadam blood
Seeps through enlarged ventricles

And a young man


I Like people riding bikes

This ought to go on my cycling blog as much as on my poetry blog - maybe it will. I wrote this on the occasion of leaving my job at CTC and it explains why people like me work so hard to encourage more people to ride bikes. My former colleagues had this already but its time to share.....

Oh Yes and here is a gratuitous picture of a tree:

I like people riding bikes

I like people riding bikes
Young ones, old ones and in-betweeners
Thin ones, large ones, tall ones and short ones 
Racers, wannabes and commuters
In Lycra, corduroy or pin-striped suits
Tourists and mountain bikers
B... M... Xers
People that ride with their mates
And even the single speed hipsters
(But preferably with brakes)

I like road bikes, track bikes
Bicycles, tricycles, unicycles
Recumbents and tandems
I like bikes with pedals, with treadles
And those with hand cranks
Folders, mountain bikes, BMX bikes and
Speedway bikes (but not on the road)
I like cargo bikes and trailers
Balance bikes, trikes, kiddie cranks
Tag-alongside and child seats
I even like bikes with electrical assist

I like steel, aluminium, bamboo and carbon
(just a little bit)
I'm not sure about cardboard, manganese
Plywood and plastic
They might have bells or hooters
Saddlebags, bar-bags
Panniers or rucksacks
I like people riding bikes

I'll pedal alone
We'll pedal together
I'll take the road, high or low
I'll take the rough stuff or the smooth stuff
The single track or the velodrome
I'll take cycle lanes and shared lanes
I'll just take the lane
I'll pedal to work and I'll pedal for fun
I'll give or take a croggy or a backie
Or a push on steep hills
Maybe I'll take a tow
I like people riding bikes

I don't like everything
I don't like bad riding
I don't like bad driving
I don't like victim blaming
I don't like hi-vis and I don't like helmets
I don't like safety placebos and mystical rituals
I've seen the Emperors' new clothes
Bright shining yellow
With a polystyrene cap
Hip, hip, hooray
The crowds cheer
As the otherwise invisible
Emperor pedals by

And I do like people riding bikes 


Written for Rochdale's commemoration of Gallipoli this is, like my other war poems, not a celebration of courage and sacrifice (important as those things are) but an indictment of war itself and of the foolishness of the human race.

Canakkale Savasi
Where victory is no sweeter than defeat
A battlefield between the high ground
And the moral high ground
The beach and the hills
The gulf of belief between them
A stubborn separation of ideologies
Oceans or continents apart
Stripped-bare lands, smouldering and smoking
Drenched in blood

Where victory is no sweeter than defeat
Defeat the only exit
A battlefield of slow contrition
And lives wasting day by day
Where a quick death becomes preferable
To a slow-dying, slow-starving, forced-walk
Towards an impossible exile
And the victors loose the one thing that mattered
And with humanity destroyed, what was left?

Where victory is no sweeter than defeat
Where new countries emerge
With foundations of blood built on suffering
Again the blood flows from the high ground
With new hatred, new wars and new causes
And the pain echoes across another century
No celebrations nor commemorations
Nor pomp nor ceremony disguise
The days humanity faded

Where victory is no sweeter than defeat
A battleground, named by the defeated
Remembered for butchery, for death
Defeat the only exit
Victory a lingering defeat
Surely no pride, only sadness
And a perpetual warning; ignored
Through blood soaked centuries

To humanity's peril

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Creative Busy - Busy Creative

The last few weeks have been particularly busy and varied on the creative working front:
  • Writing new poems
  • Preparing and delivering 20 minute guest poet set
  • Writing and scripting a new on-line workshop
  • Judging a photography competition
  • Compering a poetry event
  • Leading a bike ride with poetry along the way
  • Board meeting for Rochdale ideas and literature festival
And events over the next week or so include:
  • Writing a book review
  • Judging a poetry competition
  • Slot on radio show
It's been great fun, a reminder that this stuff matters and that I should keep on keeping on and get these blogs of mine back up off the ground.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Connect2poetry celebration event

Two groups of cyclists, a group,of walkers and lots of people to make up an audience enjoyed the special celebration at Healey Dell on 5th October 2013.

How many other poetry events have 10 attendees arriving by bicycle?

The event held in the Songsmith Solar Marquee saw live music and performances by 13 poets to celebrate the completion of a project which has seen a total of 40 poems installed on the Connect2 network throughout the borough of Rochdale. Enormous thanks to everyone who attended and to all the performers who were;

Sam Fisher, Robin Parker, Norman Warwick, Eileen Earnshaw, myself, Dave Davis, Lorraine Charlseworth, Marilyn, Cath Coward, Joe (Rochdale Ranter), Phil Hulme, John Leach and Yasir.

Thanks also to Andy Wiggins who came on the bike ride and wrote a short piece which I, as compere, had the privilege of reading on his behalf.

The event was organised by Cartwheel Arts and the Connect2Poetry project has been a collaboration between, Catwheel Arts, Rochdale Libraries Maskew Collection and CTC.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Caravan of Love

She stared across the sand
Watching the caravan disappear
Out of earshot
Out of reach, out of thought
A rose once so bright
A dried petal drifting down
Caught on life's thorn
Snagged and shook with a start
Out of reach, out of thought

Darkness creeps in
Fading light the reagent
Of love and hate
Of happy and sad
Of fear and courage
The collected emotions
Scattered and abandoned

Life's gyroscope flipped
Sea to desert
Life to death
Love to hate

The heart's concubines, the soul
Ripped and torn
Watching the caravan disappear
Out of reach, out of thought
Beneath bilious grey skies
She cried

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Curse

This poem is about dementia - not a specific condition but the general loss of memory and confusion that afflicts sufferers.

Memories glisten like a million stars
A million memories
She knows every single one
Recalls them at will
Polishes and refines them
A million secrets
Hopes and dreams

Today the panic grows
More fading stars falling
Unique fragile snowflakes
Melting into the ground

And the strange people
Tell her not to worry
She just wants to go home
The strangers tell her
You are home
She doesn't think so
Not any more

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Dopers Lament

Doping in sport has been around for a long time. In cycling the first death attributable to doping was back in Arthur Linton back in 1896. He was trained by Chopper Warburton from Haslingden (just up the road from here) who trained three champion cyclists all of whom died before 40. The use of performance enhancing drugs wasn't banned until 1965!

At a time we are looking at the cheating side of drugs in sport I find myself thinking of the harm it has done to some many over the years. It's not just unfair it is genuinely tragic.

To be legends of dream, heroes
No way to win without the dope
They fuel the myth, recruit the young
The only way, the only hope

From strychnine to amphetamine
EPO, steroids, cortisone
Blood transfusions, needles and pills
HGH human growth hormone

The end of innocence came
Eighteen Ninety Six Linton died
Nineteen seventy’s new rules fell
Too late to turn this drug-fueled tide

As Tommy passed on Ventoux’ slopes
The pirate taken by cocaine
And fit young men died in their sleep
The knew the risks, we saw the pain

Fallen Heroes, battered beaten
Nowhere to go, nowhere to hide
Reputations gone, lives destroyed
The cost of greed the cost of pride

Thursday, 4 October 2012

National Poetry Day 2012

Today is National Poetry Day and that serves as a good prompt to get back to my blogs which have been sadly neglected for quite a time. Although not blogging I've still been writing so for my first post back I'm posting a group of 5 recent poems.

I was one of seven poets commissioned to write poems inspired by Rochdale's Connect2 network as part of the Connect2 project. You'll be able to read more about the project on the Connect2Rochdale blog soon. So for my post tonight here are my five commissioned poems. They relate to the area around Milnrow, Kingsway Business Park through to Broad lane with a reference to Rochdale town centre in the last poem.


Water lily pads fringe dark deep water
The heron stands
By the tall bulrushes
Statue still
A knife blade splash
Languid ripples radiate
Slow wing-beats loft high
And the motorway rumbles
The long grass rustles
And the songbirds break through


High hedges hide the secret places
Between nature and men’s meddling
Quiet places beside
Ivy clad cottages
Leading to
Victorian terraces and
Batch-built estates
And a present-day traveller
Traces history’s footsteps


Weavers’ cottages and
Ellenroad’s tall smoking stack
Overlook the hidden entrance
As walkers, cyclists and horses
Pass under fast traffic
Frequent frustrated queues
Heading North, South, East and West
The motorway rumbles
The long grass rustles
And the songbirds break through

The Larks

Skylarks soar their vertical columns
Echoing chimneys long gone
Yellow machines move earth
Tall cranes lower preformed concrete
And industry is reborn
In a northern town
Seat of a co-operative revolution
And the motorway rumbles
The long grass rustles
And the songbirds always break through

Seven Guardians

White turbines churning, lazy
On dark Peninne hills
While seven sisters guard the valley
Where weavers in 1844
Pioneered equity
Now East and West bound
Traffic doesn’t see
The motorway rumbles
The long grass still rustles
And the songbirds break through

Thursday, 12 July 2012


I Live in a broken world
Where men never were equal
Where wealth never was shared
Where hunger never will end

Where politicians’ promises
Are not kept
Where lies are denied
Where money doesn’t just talk
It argues
It persuades
It rules
Generating wealth
Or generating greed

We no longer live
We consume
We no longer need
We want
While costs soar
And values fall
Where real lives
Real problems
Real pain
And real poverty
Are zero-rated
For interest

Where celebrity equals credibility
Where rich men feel poorer
As house prices fall
Though their roof
Still keeps the rain out

Where a man’s worth
Is defined
By possessions
Where a man’s words
Outweigh his actions
Where impressions
Supersede reality

Yes I live in a broken world
And if I let it
It would suck me in
And I’d be broken too

I am of this world
A cog, integral
A part
But this part
Is not broken
Mens’ spirits are hard to break
Some are impossible