Posted by: Postordinandy | July 8, 2016

The world is weeping…

The world is weeping.

She watches mute as her children tear each other apart.


Black men afraid to be stopped by police,

41 shots no longer unusual

Police afraid to be in public, ‘lest sniper fire burns them.

Countries turn their back on allies,

And step into the unprepared unknowable.

Bombs, and bullets, and bricks, and barriers fly,

Kids in the street are blown to pieces while playing football,

Doctors lose their lives as they fight to save others,


Suspicion of the other drives greater distance than geography,

Casual racism pushes hope to the margins,

And fear, claws sharpened, points at ‘them’ and whispers:

they have come for your jobs, your children, your lives…


We each have 206 bones in our frail bodies,

The minute data held in our 23 pairs of chromosomes is all that differs,

Skin colour is just pigment,

Height and weight and strength and talent should not divide.


Culture is the water we swim in,

And we praise and protect our little slow-flowing streams,

Never realising they are connected to beautiful oceans.


Our lives are dots on the great map of history,

Brief moments of captured time,

That flicker on and off as if fairy lights,

Leaving faint echoes for a while, perhaps,

But not as significant as we might imagine or hope.


The time has come for us to raise up our arms,

Not in aggression or anger,

Not even in protest,

No, the time has come to raise our hands in action,

And in peace.

To actively resist fear and hatred,

To restore the possibility of hope and togetherness.


“If you believe in Peace,

Time to go to work.

Can’t be waving your head no more.

Go to work.”


It’s a little known fact,


if you hold a poppy to your ear,

you can hear the echoes of shells exploding.


The collected experience of muddy and tired men,

Screams and dull thuds as bodies fall,

Crumpled onto French fields.


And we, a full Century later now,

honour the memories of those who fought for freedom,

men who – but a few short months before

had wanted nothing more than food on plate,

and roof over head.


We stand with our ankles in the same mud of conflict,

ducking the shells of political argument,

and the bullets of fear of the other.


The poppies grow in Flanders field,

the land around the Somme bears deep scars still,

and the buried cry out,

begging us to listen and learn,

that those who want freedom will pay a steep price,

the reward costly but valuable beyond measure.


It’s a little known fact,


if you hold a poppy to your ear,

you can hear the echoes of shells exploding.



(picture from Telegraph story on the 100th anniversary of the Somme)
Posted by: Postordinandy | November 11, 2015

Remembering The Fallen

When I attended the recent Remembrance Day service in Walthamstow, I was reminded a post I wrote 4 years ago, about how Remembrance Day and Poppy wearing (or not) is fraught for me.
I think “4 year ago me” and myself remain in agreement [summary – it’s tricky, people get quite cross about it, and war remains stupid].

I spoke to my girls on the way to the service – I’ll be honest, I was only really attending as each of them had been asked to attend as part of their membership of Rainbows/Brownies/ Guides. My almost-6 year old didn’t really have a clue what the day was about, my 7 year old knew it was something about war and dead, my 10 year old and I had a nice discussion about the fact that it’s complicated. The march from a local park to the Town hall made me a little uncomfortable, but not as much as I was expecting. One friend noted my ‘brave non-conformism’ in that I was not wearing a poppy myself (although each of my girls were proudly donning one on their nice clean uniforms). I didn’t want to say that it was simply that I had only managed to find stick-on poppies this year, and that mine had fallen off. To be fair, I don’t wear Red poppies if I can help it – for some of the reasons noted here – and was too nervous (and dis-organised, again) to wear a white poppy at such an event (despite what some think, I am not into confrontation for the sake of it, and have been made to feel very uncomfortable about wearing the white poppy in certain circles, as has a certain Mr Corbyn it seems).

The service was long – especially for the many children present. Too much talking, a couple of hymns. The priest did a good job (in my opinion) of navigating the route between ‘we remember’ and ‘peace is better than war’. There was representation from 3 faiths and from the Humanist Association. I particularly appreciated the way the priest softly stated a couple of times something along the lines of “respect and honour the memory of all who have fallen as a result of conflict” which may have been a gentle rebuttal to any tempted to focus unhealthily on a “Glorious Dead” angle of things.

I still struggle with it all.

Walking home, the girls and I chatted again about the service. “Did you understand what was going on?” I asked. The replies were muted and mixed – a little focussed on how long it was. My 7 year old summed it up like this: “I think that war is a bad thing, people seemed sad that other people had died, and I think that’s a shame“. I think she’s said it better than I could.


Here’s a poem called 1914-2014 I wrote when we started thinking about the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1:

In Flanders field

The poppies weep in frozen disbelief:

Heavy tears hanging their petals to the ground,

Like old beggars under sacks, perhaps?


For the dead they remember increase in number by the hour:

No longer filmed in sepia tones,

Captured images from torn and faded photographs,

But resplendent in violent hues of shrapnel red.


We few, we happy few majority,

Who can mute the echoing cries of anguish with the casual flick of a switch,

Dull our minds to the disposable departed –

Their images replaced by dancing kittens.


The casualties of war, those for whom the Bell Tolls,

Are not – we insist – kindred souls: we see no empathy with

Those who, but for a twist of geographic and ethnic fate

Would have been our neighbours, our family, our colleagues and friends.


If I should die, think only this of me:

That my life is worth no more, no less,

Than that of the torn corpses on news channels and magazine copy.

As Edwin intoned: what is it good for?


I leave with words constructed far better than I could manage… There is much prolonged scholarly debate about the central thrust of Owen’s poem [it may not be as anti-war as people often think it is, but is fairly clear on the dangers and costs of whipping up militarism in younger people… it is also, apparently, one of David Cameron’s favourites, according to the Daily Fail(!)]

I’ve always liked it – a combination of an enthusiastic (and slightly batty) English teacher, and a fondness for The Damned

Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.
—Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori*.
[credited to the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”]
Posted by: Postordinandy | October 10, 2015

A poem for World Mental Health Day (Oct 10th)

Today I silently screamed around the supermarket:

Wrestling with doubt as I tried to decide which brand of beans to purchase,

The dread tsunami of terror ever rising in my chest.

Not butterflies these – but great armoured beasts –

Trampling with ugly booted hatred on the fragile confidence I fake,

Until the shell of me wandered on automatic pilot into the frozen food aisle,

Picking up Petits Pois even as scattered chunks of my soul remained in “Canned Vegetables and Pasta”.

And then the tiredness – the brain-dead, body-wasted, emotionally-drainedness of it all,

The voices, rabid in their persistence,

“you are a life-sucker, a burden to those you love, a freak to everyone else”.

And so I wear my peace as a shattered mask,

Hoping that the mantra of “I’m fine” will metamorphose into something solid and true.

And sometimes it does.

And sometimes it won’t.

And sometimes it remains caught between reality and falsehood,

And my tired mental bones rise once more from the bed,

And a bark back at the Dog until he cowers behind the sofa,

Or I throw him a big enough stick that he loses interest in my psyche:

For an hour, a day, a week or more.

Perhaps never to return, perhaps silently present.

And I stumble into the self-service lane,

Swipe my goods, present my card,

And wander back into the world, both dead and alive.

All of me present, and

Most of me well.


Links and that:

For more info on the day, and the issues around it, please see here

As ever, I recommend the two videos below as fantastic initial resources for you if you a) suffer from depression and/or b) love or care for someone who does – [It’s well worth getting the books the videos are based on too!]

I’d also like to add Matt Haig‘s excellent “Reasons To Stay Alive

Posted by: Postordinandy | October 8, 2015

A poem for National Poetry Day

It is a truth universally acknowledged:

The absence of noise created in a space,

By children peacefully sleeping,

– Their bedclothes wrapped like warming snakes,

Chests gently raising against the weight of your world –

Can calm the roughest parental seas,

And remind us of the love that burns deep within us.

Posted by: Postordinandy | August 18, 2015


Charlie Johnson and I mulched together a game today while at a youth work session. It was pretty enjoyable, so I thought I’d share it.

Items needed to play:

A minimum of 2 players and no maximum number (although we suggest that more than 10 will result in complete chaos)

One ball – preferably a basketball or football.

2 basketball hoops, ideally with back board.

The basic rules:

Fastketball is played in a basketball court, players take it in turn to shoot for the hoop from where they stopped it moving.

Once the player has the ball in hand, they are not allowed to move in any direction, but must shoot from where they stand.

Basic scoring system:

Each player begins the game with 5 points – 1 points is lost if they miss the hoop or backboard with their shot, 1 point is gained for each successful basket.

Any player who ends up with zero points is out of the game, the game ends when one player reaches 10 points.


Additional playing rules:

Kick-off one player stands on the three-point line to start the game. This player is not awarded any points for a successful basket, but does lose a point if they miss the hoop or board.

Boundaries – There are few! If the ball is gathered behind the board, the player must shoot from there (however, it is legal to hit the back of the board).

However, if the ball leaves the agreed playing area (over the fence, etc.) they the player who last shot the ball loses 2 points and the next person due to play performs a Restart (see below).

FoulsFastketball is, theoretically, a non-contact sport – so any player pushing over, kicking or otherwise fouling another will also concede a free kick and lose a point. Players will also lose a point if they are deemed to have deliberately blocked the travel of a ball – in this case a Restart will be taken by the next player due to participate.

The player fouled can take a shot from the three-point line, and baskets are scored if successful.

Restart option – if a player has missed the target, the following player has the choice to play the ball from where they gather it (in which case the player who missed loses a point as usual) or take a restart from the three-point line (in which case the preceding player does not lose a point). Points cannot be scored from a restart.

Posted by: Postordinandy | August 18, 2015


AndyBall is a game that was invented while I was a youth worker for St Mary’s church, Walthamstow, way back in 1999.

It is designed to be as inclusive as possible, and many who were not necessarily good at football found they excelled. Non able-bodied participants may be able to play, with consideration from other players.

Items needed to play:

2 teams of roughly equal numbers – minimum players on each team are 2, maximum will depend on the size of the playing area.

plastic footballOne ‘air ball’ – those cheap plastic footballs (this is the great leveller as those with better football skills may find the ball responds quite differently).

2 basketball hoops, with back board. (You could play it without the boards, but the scoring will be slower).


The game works best in a sports hall or similar indoor space – a low ceiling is fine. If played in the open or somewhere without walls the game will need to be adapted slightly and there will be a lot more stoppages.

The basic rules:

AndyBall is played in a similar way to football – players can kick or head the ball, but any handling results in a free kick to the opposing team (there are no keepers).

Players try to kick or head the ball onto the back board or into the basket, and successfully doing so will result in a range of points.

Basic scoring system:

Kicking the ball against the backboard = 1 point.

Heading the ball against the backboard = 2 points.

Kicking the ball against the hoop (and/or net, if included) = 3 points.

Heading the ball against the hoop and/or net = 4 points.

Kicking the ball into the hoop (from above or below) = 5 points.

Heading the ball into the hoop (from above or below) = 10 points.

A game is either played for an agreed amount of time or ends when an agreed amount of points are scored by one team (agreed before kick-off)


Additional playing rules:

Kick-off one player from one team holds the ball while standing under their own goal. They then drop it so it bounces at least once, and then kick the ball into play.

Points can be scored straight from kick-off.

Once a point is scored, the opposing team have kick-off.

Boundaries – if played indoors, the walls and ceiling are part of the playable-arena, so there are no ‘outs’. If played outdoors, teams must agree pitch sizes and mark the edges appropriately.

Where boundaries are in operation, a player from the opposing team to that which played the ball out takes a kick-in (bounce and kick as above) from where the ball left play. Points can be scored directly from a kick-in.

FoulsAndyBall is, theoretically, a non-contact sport – so any player pushing over, kicking or otherwise fouling another will also concede a free kick. Free kicks have the same methodology as kick-offs (bounce and kick), but are taken from where the foul was committed. Points can be scored directly from a free kick.

Time outs – players who are deemed to have deliberately handled the ball, or fouled another player are removed from the game until the next point is scored by either team.

Posted by: Postordinandy | August 18, 2015

When the Black Dog barks…

When the Black Dog barks…

I don’t want you to know, and you’ll never guess.


When the Black Dog barks…

I tell everyone and anyone: I just don’t shut up about it,

I am the last one to know he is there.


When the Black Dog barks…

I bark at other people,

I turn up the music loud!

I can’t hear a word you are saying.


When the Black Dog barks…

I can’t wake up,

I can’t get to sleep,

I can’t get out of bed,

I can’t read, can’t even concentrate on the TV,

I work too hard,

I don’t work at all.


When the Black Dog barks…

I think myself out of the situation,

I throw him a stick,

I bark back at him ‘til he cowers,

I flinch and hide behind a cushion.


When the Black Dog barks…

I can’t feel my thoughts,

I can’t turn my brain off,

I can’t get it to start.


When the Black Dog barks…

I drink too much alcohol,

I eat too much cake.


When the Black Dog barks…

I forget to eat at all,

While the dishes pile up in the sink.


When the Black Dog barks…

I exercise hard,

I eat well and think positive thoughts,

I pull those socks up and snap out of it,

I sit in my pants on the sofa in the dark.


When the Black Dog barks…

I look at the glass full of potential,

I look at the glass draining away,

I only see shattered fragments of glass on the floor.


When the Black Dog barks…

I find refuge in the laughter of my children,

I revel in the comfort of friends.

I let my daughters watch DVDs all day,

I ‘forget’ to answer texts or meet you in the pub.


When the Black Dog barks…

Sometimes I control how I respond,

Sometimes I am overwhelmed.


When the Black Dog barks…

Posted by: Postordinandy | May 11, 2015

Waiting for, working for justice

This was written as participation in the “Lament, pray, create, and give” event organised by Richard Passmore on Facebook as a response to the fears that some have post UK election 2015.


The mighty river that seems dammed behind bureaucracy
and damned by calloused hearts,
Will yet flow, unstoppable, through our streets and lives.
The darkness can never swallow the light:
Though our eyes are drawn to the shadows,
There will always be bright rays shining through the walls of despair,
And we are each called to walk in the ways of hope,
Never tiring to lift those who are unable to carry themselves,
Never trapped by the shackles of fear,
Never beaten by the tools of the totalitarian,
Exhausted, but spurring each other on,
Hungry, but offering from our meagre store cupboards,
Trusting in the flow of the river,
And in the Source of all things.

Posted by: Postordinandy | May 7, 2015

I wanna be elected!

Vote for me, vote for us,

(Just don’t vote for those others!)

Vote for hope or hangman’s rope,

Or protecting homeless mothers.


Vote for us – we’ll protect you

From the starving heathen hordes,

(At least we might get around to it

Once we’ve paid of all our Lords).


Vote for transparency, vote for truth,

Vote for a new moral majority,

Vote for us to gain the power, but

Remember it’s you who has authority.


Vote for policies, not personalities

Vote for what we promise you we’ll do,

Vote believing we can do it,

And then hope we follow through.


Vote for us, and remember,

You participate not in a game.

For the government we get will be,

The one we later blame.


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