This poem by James Simmons perfectly describes the ageing delusion and our sentimental feelings.

When I look in the mirror there is some young fellow lurking in my familiar features who bears no relation to the harsh reality of photography.

Art and Reality by James Simmons

From twenty yards I saw my old love
Locking up her car.
She smiled and waved, as lovely still
As girls of twenty are.
That cloud of auburn hair that bursts
Like sunrise round her head,
The smile that made me smile
At ordinary things she said.
But twenty years have gone and flesh
Is perishable stuff;
Can art and exercise and diet
Ever be enough
To save the tiny facial muscles
And keep taut the skin,
And have the waist, in middle-age,
Still curving firmly in?
Beauty invites me to approach,
And lies make truth seem hard
As my old love assumes her age,
A year for every yard.


Why football is for wimps

The World Cup should be the showcase for soccer skills and teamwork. Instead we have the embarrassing spectacle of grown men feigning injury to secure penalties and free kicks.

A great game between Spain and Portugal was spoiled by prima Donnas making a sucker out of the referee.

If rugby players acted liked that, they would be laughed off the pitch. Head injury assessments have had to be introduced partially to stop rugby players from playing on despite being concussed.

Start sin binning soccer players for feigning injury or arguing with the referee and the beautiful game might be less like a game for wimps.


Theseus didn’t know whose body it was

The interrogation was old school: desk, chair,  and a bright desk lamp turned on the suspect’s face. Theseus was being sweated by two burly detectives.

Detective 1:  We know you disposed of the body, Theseus, so stop wasting our time and spill the beans.

Theseus:  I keep telling you, there was no body. You’ve got the wrong guy!

Detective 2:  Tell that to our lab guys. They’ve got what we call evidence, and it’s not looking good for you right now.

Detective 1:  They got skin cells and some stuff called DNA that will uniquely identify the stiff.

Theseus:  I don’t care what you’ve got, I never killed nobody!


Dawn came, the detective switched off the lamp and they left Theseus alone. His thoughts turned philosophical. What is a person, what makes me really me and that old chestnut how does the mind interact with the body?

Our bodies are constantly renewing biological cells without us being aware of it. Skin, hair, and nails are a bit more obviously renewable, but fresh blood and brain cells are produced in their millions with no outward indication of the changes.

What if a brain could be connected by electrodes to a computer that delivered all the information that is normally presented to the brain by our sensory organs and nerve cells? How would we know if we were experiencing the real world or some demon’s trickery? For that matter, how did Theseus know that his interrogation was not part of that trickery? How could he be sure that the world he was experiencing was really there?

Theseus jumped as the door slammed behind the detectives re-entering the room.

Detective 1:  So, are you gonna co-operate?

Theseus nodded as the detective swabbed the inside of his mouth.

He had the room to himself again and started to wonder about the materialist proposition that we don’t need a supernatural component to explain consciousness and thought processing. Our DNA determined our unique biological characteristics, but did that coding predetermine our life choices and judgment?

If Theseus had killed somebody, could it be argued that he was not responsible because of the lack of control he had over his own DNA and therefore his capacity for self-determination?

This time the door was opened wide as the detectives came in with a scrawny guy in a lab coat.

Detective 1:  Okay, what are you trying to pull? The lab results show that the skin cells back at the crime scene have the same DNA as the swab sample we just took from you.

Theseus:  So are you saying I killed myself?

Detective 2:  Don’t try and be smart. Our lab guy is gonna take another sample and then we’ll see what’s what.

Theseus:  Did it ever occur to you that human beings shed millions of skin cells in our lifetime? Some might even argue that there’s a tipping point when we cease to be who we once were, having replaced the majority of our birth cells. I might no longer be Theseus.

Detective 1: That’s enough of that baloney, just give us the name of the guy you offed!




Heidegger’s cat vs Schrödinger’s

Heidegger’s cat, called H, had been strangely aware of unusual feelings that had been troubling his soul. He realised that he had forgotten to notice that he was alive. But had he really forgotten? or had he never really had a sense of himself? Consciousness rarely bothered him, and where the hell had he got the idea of a cat’s soul?


As he pondered these new mysteries, a furry intruder crept around the corner. Schrödinger’s cat, curiously also called H, and known as H2, was a bloody nuisance and frequently appeared to be in two places at once. This thought jarred with H’s feeling that everything was somehow connected. Obviously, everything around H had to be appreciated, but how could you do that if a cat was adopting some weird quantum superposition?

H had often thought that fate had dealt him a dodgy hand. Having been thrown into a world where things could exist and not exist at the same time, he struggled to overcome feelings of alienation. His struggle to be truly free and live for himself made him question the norms and social values he was saddled with at birth. But a more universal perspective eluded him.

H2, was having no such inner turmoil. His life was a blur of possibilities, but paradoxically he was never in two minds about living for himself, ignoring the chatter of others and confronting the prospect of unbeing full on. Which was just as well, because H pounced with a deadly swipe of his claws and nearly caught H2, with a fatal blow.

The power of words

Propaganda is a powerful tool in the suppression of truth. But truth will out eventually. Hitler, Stalin and Mao are the obvious fans of propaganda. But the newspapers and television have their own political favourites, Fox for rabid Republicans, the Daily Mail for little Englanders and Conservative voters and the Guardian for right on liberal socialists.

We the receivers of news have to be vigilant for the deception. Our daily experiences should inform our distrust of news that seems dodgy. Statistics produced by governments are rife with deceptions. Taking people out of unemployment statistics if they are on zero hours contracts and are not even making enough to live on, just one example. The more dictatorial the government, the bigger the lies.

Poetry has the power to hold up a mirror and make us think about stuff we rarely consider: how we are living our lives and what it is like to experience the emotions of others. Ther pain of living under an authoritarian regime can be explosively described in a condensed way by those used to describing our world with brevity.

James Simmons, a poet in the Belfast Group, was stopped and questioned by police during the Troubles when he described the contents of his car as revolutionary. He was referring to the poetry of Heaney, Langley, himself and others within the Belfast Group.  As editor of the Honest Ulsterman, Simmons brought modern literature and poetry from local writers to a readership numbed by the daily dose of violence on their streets.

Writers can give us pause and make us question the status quo. A dangerous thorn in the side of dictatorial government or a weather vane for those open to new thinking.

NZ poet on tour – Hera Lindsay Bird

I want to get high my whole life with you

i feel it in my leather hotpant pockets
i feel it in my anime wind blowing through an alpine tennis resort overcome with wildflowers
i feel it in my ironic valley girl hairflip
I feel it in my admittedly limited knowledge of the Roman mythologies
i feel it in my biopic about a corrupt alcoholic educational resource salesman advertising increasingly less and less educational resources
i want to get high my whole life with you
i feel it in my anime wind blowing through an alpine tennis resort overcome with wildflowers AGAIN, and the poem isn’t even halfway over yet
so what if my blood is the wind
so what if I love you so much I am becoming stupid
my heart melting like red candles on Satan’s birthday cake

I want to get high with you at an industrial carpet outlet store
i want to get high with you at the top of the Grand Canyon and pretend like you are going to push me into and scream and pretend to try not to get pushed in even though i know you pushing me in is the last thing you want because if you did that I’d die and you don’t want me to die
I love you so much I tell you about it
I love you so much I have already picked out my grave and written your name on it
when you laugh in the dark
it fills up the corners of the room with a thousand upside-down cartoon bats

how dare you be the kind of person I would immediately fall completely in love with and be devastated if you left
how dare you come and do that
your eyes
like two black cats
licking their assholes
in the hot morning sun of my face

O this feeling has drenched my bones
and turned my skeleton pink
with you i feel my mind changing
with you i feel my blood changing
i want to get really good at woodwork…………
I want to get really good at woodwork
and go into the forest
and cut up some logs
and make you a beautiful house to live in

Hera Lindsay Bird, 2018

Still selling off the family silver

I thought governments had learnt from the economic disasters of the 1980s. Obviously not. Selling off British Rail piecemeal has done nothing for the travelling public, except put up fares and reduce services.

The next mistake will be to privatise the property arm of Network Rail. In other words, the small businesses who rent railway arches will be facing imminent rent hikes and may have to cease trading. Hedge funds will be keen to snap up anything with guaranteed income at a time when profits and interest rates are low.

The MOD sold off a lot of property that had been earmarked for service personnel’s families. The squeeze on budgets has led to a dwindling military workforce. The new owners wanted to knock down the properties develop the sites and make a killing on new houses. Unfortunately, under the terms of their deal with the MOD they were prevented from doing so.

With some creative legal thinking, they lifted the roofs up by crane and put in new walls. A batch of houses were sold off cheaply and people camped out to be first in the queue. If you had rented the house from the MOD for your family, tough luck. They had to repaint all their walls the original magnolia, vacate the premises and queue up like everyone else if they wanted to buy their own homes.

The new owners soon realised that they could trade the rental income side of the business and retain ownership.

If private investment companies can see the merit of retaining ownership of income earning assets, why can’t the government? Here’s the full story

Our care homes were sold off in a similar attempt to slim down government and council budgets, resulting in some care homes being so poorly maintained that they were shut down by inspectors. More wrangling by investors and creditors is described here.

The asset stripping portrayed by the character Gordon Gecko in Wall Street has been replaced by a more sophisticated way of exploiting the wealth and income-earning potential of publicly owned assets.

Rail companies don’t have to be subsidised to make a profit. Here’s how the Japanese do it.