Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.

Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:

My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:

Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:

Visit the writers' development service I co-run at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

About Me

My photo
Leicester, East Midlands
As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring. In addition, I co-run The Writers' Shed, a service for writers, at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sea Lines

Some places just seep into the silt of your imagination ...

Friday 16th November 3pm Low Tide

Sea mists rolling in from a grey horizon - grey skies swallowing the town long before dusk. Dark colours on the beach - strands of wrack livid as purple-black bruises on the green boulders. Gulls squabbling in a cleft above. The shore eerie as a Susan Hill story, desolate even with other beachcombers strolling in the gloom. Far off at the sea's edge, a line of groynes seem a spooky gathering of figures, watchers stilled with their own grave purpose.

Saturday 17th 11am High Tide

The waters just turned, sea mud slathered onto shingle, the waders smacking shells on the pebbles. One gull repeatedly swooping up to drop a hapless mollusc from the air, to hear its crack.

When we return after lunch in unexpected sunshine, the same sound-scape rises of march warblers, sea cacklers, bird calls curling up to haunt the foreshore. We crunch over broken razor shells, the barnacled feeding grounds. Striped and punctured bootprints between the spiky Vs of claw tracks and tiny fingers of sand, casts poked out by the worms below.

I follow silvered rivulets looping and unfurling like yarn in the sand to run into pools of skywater, blue puddles. At the tide-line, we are mesmerised as ever by the sprawling ribs of a wrecked boat, a skeleton that might have been Viking wood or gun-boat metal but is now welded by sea-creatures into their own thing.

As we turn for the harbour, we curve back into the fortified lines of vivid green rocks, the shambles of the cliffs - shattered red and white stone. A thunderous blue is moving across the glittering Wash and we know how quick it changes Hunstanton's skies. Only minutes from this surf-boom lies our retreat, Cori House. Time for afternoon tea and complimentary cookies at our favourite B & B.

Any time of year, this place enchants. Lucky me - this weekend by the sea was my birthday treat.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lost in Space

Space Walk at National Space Centre
For a poet writing about space, what could be more exciting than a day at the National Space Centre? This year, I've swapped derring-do tales of polar exploits for the even more epic story of space travel. Leicester's spectacular museum is packed with real rockets, space suits, lunar samples and a wealth of information. Delivered in well-constructed bite-sized narratives, the displays are both fun and inspirational. Today, for instance, I'm vying with kids to climb inside the replica Mercury capsule and fiddle with the buttons. Or sit on a seat shaking with the simulated tremors of a launch lift-off. But I'm still waiting to talk Yuri Gagarin down from his lone orbit on the control room monitor. Hang in there Yuri!

Exhibitions in the Rocket Tower chimed perfectly with the current poem sequence I'm writing about rocket designers Werner von Braun and SergeiKorolev. There were even parts of von Braun's V-2rocket on display. The complex and often dark context of the Space Race is vividly outlined in a time-line on the walls but you can sit in a replica 60's living-room to listen to the historic lunar landing of 1969. I was particularly delighted to see the story also featured first edition copies of Jules Verne’s' 'Round the Moon' and HG Wells' 'War of the Worlds' - sci-fi classics that inspired a generation of rocket scientists. Fiction often anticipated and suggested features of design that later appeared in real rockets like the three or four stage structure.

In the same way, the Space Centre is very canny about engaging the imaginations of today's children by using the cultural icons of our own time. My husband was quite giddy at being greeted by costumed versions of Star Wars troopers, Dr. Who, Batman, Stargate SG-7 and numerous apes in overalls. Indeed burly blokes of a certain age were queuing alongside toddlers to be photographed with the Dark Lord - 'Cheers Darth!' Hats (and helmets) off to the cast of Movie Mania - the Space Centre's themed weekend, who kept hundreds entertained all day. In the Booster Café, children jostled Planet of the Apes extras to jump up and down under the rocket boosters that blasted off every 5 minutes. Genius!


I particularly admire how this museum keeps tots and space geeks simultaneously enthralled. In the Planetarium, CGI effects dazzled all while serious science about the CERN Particle Collider or astronomical imaging of the Big Bang were deftly explained. In front of a Martian landscape used for testing real probes, a huge interactive 'table' allows you to access up-to-date NASA podcasts on Curiositys current exploration of the Red Planet. This centre is at once a multi-layered theme park and a conduit direct into cutting-edge science.

Personally, I was totally space-hyped by the time I was dragged away. But thanks to a free Annual Pass, I'll be back soon. I don't remember the Space Centre being this cheap - only £13 for an adult's day ticket. And if you book in advance and tick the Gift Aid box, you get upgraded automatically to an Annual Pass. As I start work on my rocket poems, hanging out by the Soyuz spacecraft, the Thor-Able rocket and Vostok simulator will be invaluable. Meanwhile Gagarin is still orbiting patiently in the time-warp that is Level 2. 'Poyekhali Yuri!'

Thursday, 7 June 2012

To Have Our Days Again

Breightmet - named for a bright meadow - is growing a green space where once my old school stood. St Osmund's RC Primary, Long Lane, Bolton. Thicketed by hedges high as a fairytale forest, it hides a broken patch of tarmac stamped by decades of hopscotch and skipping games. Through tangled foliage I glimpse myself at six years old, freckled and foreign, only two days off the boat.

Unable to enter the kingdom today, I trail around its boundary. Rusted railings are welded with lichen. The buildings have all vanished. Where the Big Children's playground should be, buttercups and thistles higher than me rustle. A meadow bright with a half century of children's voices. Running riot through timetables, school bells and orderly queues. Briared with secrets we left behind.

The railings take me along to the Top Playground; the grassy hill we used as slide, the Tree that was my Witch's Den, the Boys Football Pitch, all lost to overgrowth. You can't see where two lions strolled in once among the children, causing an early evacuation from Morning Break. (These beasts - escaped from who-knows-where - still amble occasionally through my dreams.)

I thought I would find rubble or redevelopment but instead it is a whispering wilderness, lush with our sudden summer. This school imprinted itself on my original vellum. It cultivated my first instincts as a writer and storyteller, as a performer and show-off. We staged plays, made music, went on nature walks, fought feuds and filled exercise books. Through long bell-punctuated days, it nurtured learning as a creative world-expanding activity.

Today on a rare visit to childhood territory, I am happy to realise I never truly left it. Let the greening of St Osmund's continue.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Steel and Ice

This morning's walk brought to mind this poem - written on a pre-Christmas visit to the City of Steel one year. Crystallising a certain moment.

Solstice City

a late dawn brings

smudge of yellow

a rim of hill light

breaking the fog

eight o’clock sleep

walkers hooting air

climb warily

a black-iced


then the full beam

winter searchlight

scouring the city


textures of raw frost

pavement pock

marks and brown

spatter, an early

sowing of salt

at the station

men in yellow hats

are blinded by

the stainless steel

water feature

and precinct pagans

torch the afternoon

with bonfire bonanzas

cabled tricks of light

this shortest day

soon spills its shine

in the rush of dusk

a giant wheel

spitting colour

slices the sudden

night with shrieks

invoking gods

and other desires