strong tower


Christ in Majesty by Christopher Whall, c.1902 | St Mark, Claughton


Now held by the London Stained Glass Repository

Oh you were razed
years ago strong tower
felled and your silenced
bell ignominiously
topping a pile of rubble

I gazed upon you
disconsolately softly
holding the raised hand
of an adored still tiny

Daddy! I’ve never
seen you cry before –
and grateful for
her watchful
presence I told her

of the silence and the
call within your
hallowed walls long
years before
still tiny too then

I lifted my own
watchful eyes to
stained glass throne
and glory and the song

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Dominus Deus Omnipotens

Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord God Almighty

Strong Tower raised there
in beeswax-scented silence




layer upon layer
of pressed down history
aeons of experience

within the eternal Sound
and softly beautifying
touch of oceans

what coming together
wrought integrated
colour patterns

when was the first heat
its settling and cooling
and were these repeated

and how came you
seated here and now
in my heart and

soul and mind and the
palm of my gratefully
open hand?



Warmly caressed here
by the sound of the Sound
I can only imagine
beloved Iona
how they decided together
upon the gift for you
of such a glorious name

William, flight lieutenant
was a pathfinder who
found a way to Margaret’s
heart, and perhaps they
heard the sound of the Sound
here as they dreamed of you
beloved Iona

Perhaps the sunlight touched
and warmed his tweed collar
and her specially chosen
holiday dress and maybe
you’ll have heard the
soaring cry of the gull
before your newly arrived breath

Over years and years
I shouldn’t wonder –
their returnings here and
joy in home from home
and scented, salted, smiling
silence until, oh yes
and no, and no and yes

their departing, thankful
last breathing and your
generous recollection of
their listening, watching
and waiting here. Their
loving engraved in oak that
we now may sit here in awe

pathfinding, beloved Iona


click photo once or twice to enlarge

Lovely trip north today – once past the Glasgow traffic the roads quietened very quickly and the drive was easy and varied. Glorious physical scenery is further beautified by weather changes almost by the minute. One moment brightest sunshine, the next the mountains and lochs – sometimes mirror-like, sometimes quite choppy, can be shrouded in atmospheric mist. A picnic and ice cream stop in Inverary afforded an admiring view of the Duke of Argyll’s imposing castle and a photo-op with the little fishing puffer Vital Spark I’d remembered enjoying back in 2010. Our home for the night in Oban provides a grandstand view of ferries coming and going between Hebridean islands, and the call of Iona and meeting up with fellow contemplatives and writers there tomorrow makes for peaceful evening hours

set in form


It may be said that we inherited poetry from the universe. Creation was set in form and framed in rhythm long before mankind became part of it

Louis Untermeyer
The Pursuit of Poetry

I’ve been gazing at a pebble. A treasured – often steadying – gift from a friend. It will travel with me in the coming week, some of which will be spent in company with fellow writers on the island from which it came to me: Iona.

Described as a ‘thin place’, off the southwest coast of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, one where the division between earth and heaven is very slender indeed, St Columba travelled to Iona long ago, and other pilgrims and poets through many generations have contemplated there dearly and deeply.

For me, as for the pebble in my pocket, this visit will be a returning. And I shall once again reflect deeply on Louis Untermeyer’s ‘Creation was set in form and framed in rhythm long before mankind became part of it.’

Where has my pebble travelled in the past? Whose the pockets before (and after) mine? And whence the creation, the form and the rhythm, the sustainer, the pattern, the bedrock of time?

coming home


click photo once or twice to enlarge

Maryport harbour in Cumbria, where we watched this tiny fishing vessel coming home through the Solway Firth, engine straining a bit against the current.

Cloud patterns throughout the day’s cycling trip – along the ancient Roman fortress route from Maryport to Allonby and Silloth, and eventually on to Carlisle – were as spectacular as those pictured here.

There’s a particularly special quality of light around the Solway Firth, whether looking across it from Cumbria to Scotland or vice versa. The lighthouse in this scene adds to the emotional power of the scene for me

calm at eventide


click photo once or twice to enlarge

Derwentwater in the early evening is one of the loveliest spots in the English Lake District. The more distant fells become almost translucent and standing in the midst of majesty par excellence there’s calm evening mellowness. On this occasion we dined just a few yards away from where this photograph was made, and went on to see a production of Richard Sheridan’s The Rivals at the famed Theatre by the Lake immediately afterwards