Found Titles

Book Titles found poem

Pride and prejudice in cold blood

To kill a mockingbird and one hundred years of solitude

The brave new world of the wide Sargasso sea

The great Gatsby, the go between

The grapes of wrath, 1984

Dracula the lord of the rings

Catch22, the illiad

Death in Venice, the age of innocence

Middlemarch, another country

The wind in the willows, the art of war

Of human bondage- women in love

The castle, bleak house

Lord of the rings, portrait of an artist as a young man

Heart of Darkness, under the volcano

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance -hard Times

Posted in Poems | Leave a comment

Ode to an Autumn Leaf

It is time to let go

I have been clinging on

For too long

The desperation of hanging on

Is released


Only gravity controls my destiny

And I relax my grip

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I struggle with contemporary war poetry. It either seems like imagined images from a distance, or trite nonsense. Jack Henry, the American Poet, has written the best contemporary war poem I have read for some time:

a short Vietnamese lady chats me up

as she cleans my feet,

trims the nails,

finally asks if i want a polish

.i say number 88,

she smiles and says,i like that one too.

we talk about her childhood

in Da Nang province and growing up in a small village

with brothers and sisters,

many cousins, many aunts.

she expresses sorrow about Afghanistan

and i say nothing,

the old, white middle-classed male

frozen in place.

fingers too?

and i smile, faintly,

suddenlyaware of my place,

my ownmortality.

number 88?

very pretty.

Karen’s and various womenstare briefly

the giant man with sparkly blood red finger- and toenails

an anomaly in any situation, shuffles out the front door.

i sit at home, watch Afghanistan collapse,

watch men, women, and children fleefor their lives,

watch people fall to their deaths

from the sides of American transport planes.from under my sink i retrieve a bottle ofnail polish remover,

lock the front door,

watch ghosts hover nearby,

as the imageson my television

never change.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Last Witch Draft

This is a rough, and not for public consumption

The Last Witch Screenplay

It was as if the child had been launched by a giant catapult, tumbling slowly mid-air, a blur of flailing arms, legs and clothes. Jaws dropped, hands covered mouths, heads turned, following the inevitable downward trajectory. A dull thud signalled the end. Followed by an eerie silence. Pierced by a banshee scream and dozens of voices, yells, cries and shouts.
Helen gripped the hand of her little brother Donald tightly, as he whispered:
“You said that was going to happen.”
“I know, I know.”
Came the plaintiff reply.

The wooden table creaked as eight children fought over a tea of bread and jam sandwiches. Archie returned from the early shift at the factory to find the customary bedlam as his children fought, squabbled and ate. His routine was unshakable, a kiss for his wife, then he cleaned and carefully put away his tools. First his slater’s hammer, forged in a single piece, the twelve inch shaft encased in leather handle, its claw for drawing nails, its sheer edge for cutting slate Aa head with a sharp point at one end for punching holes in slate, and a hammer head at the other. Then the Rip, Stake and Zax. Everyone knew that on no account was his tool box ever to be opened, or played with. They were his livelihood, they were their livelihood. The tools of a master slater.

He had to raise his voice to make himself heard to his wife, Isabella.
“ I hear our Nell’s been making a name for herself again.”
“ I don’t know who you have been listening to, but she saved our Jimmy. It was Nell who told him to get off that swing. No sooner had that poor little boy from No 11 taken his place than the anchors on the cross bar gave way and he flew through the air before falling to the ground, knocked unconscious”
Archie straightened his waistcoat , and reflected. It had been only last week that he had been summonsed by Nells class teacher, Miss Carmichael who was very concerned about her pupil. She told her father the story of what had happened the day before. She had written questions on the blackboard for her pupils to write the answers on their slates. Helen had written the numbers of the questions down only, but the rest of the slate was conspicuously empty as Miss Carmichael patrolled the aisles. Yet when she went to collect the slates, all the questions were answered, correctly, but in unfamiliar handwriting. When questioned Nell could offer no explanation other than that she had called, in desperation, for Spirit to help her, and it had.
The previous week, Nell had caused a huge stir. Mr McBride her history teacher had admonished her for failing to learn dates adequately, much to her embarrassment. As Mr McBride had delivered the lesson, Nell started to write “1066” repeatedly on her slate. As, Mr McBride, talking about the Battle of Hastings uttered the number 1066, he collapsed and died of a heart attack.
Archie and Isabella were torn. Archie’s sister and Isabella’s mother both possessed the psychic gift. It had proved to be a blessing, and a curse. A steady stream of the emotionally unstable, bereaved and curious would visit on a Sunday afternoon giving comfort and release. But naysayers accused them of witchcraft and necromancy.

It was nine o’clock before the exhausted couple went to bed.
“Perhaps we should take her to the doctors, Archie? Maybe she is overcome by delusion?”
“Aye, maybe you’re right, Bel”

Dr Dalglish was thorough, or as thorough as you could be in a room blurred by the aftermath of a dozen Woodbine cigarettes.
“The child seems fine to me Mr and Mrs Macfarlane”
“Mammy, can I ask tell the Doctor something?”
Of course you can
“Don’t go out tonight”

The following morning Shuna woke up ill, Bel hurried to the surgery with her to get an appointment
“I am afraid Dr Dalglish is not in today. His car skidded off the road in the snowstorm and he is in Stirling general hospital”
At church that Sunday Rev Gemmill , who had heard news of Helen’s prediction accused her of consorting with the devil
Born 1897
Married 1916
Isabelle was mortified. The Church bound everything together in Callendar. She had faithfully defended Helen’s corner for years, indulging her psychic idiosyncrasies but this put her in an impossible position. Helen was leaving school, there was no work in the village, and the house was too small for her family which was growing in size, and its abilities to devour family resources. Something had to give. Helen had to go. It was 1913.
Dundee was known as Juteopolis, the world centre for the production of Jute, half the population of Dundee was employed in the trade and she found work in it soon enough at NSF Dundee 51-63 Mains Road. But the tide was starting to turn against the city as Bengal which had once supplied raw Jute to the city now began to finish it itself. Thirty shillings a week did not go far, and so she began to offer psychic readings as a medium to supplement her earnings. The overwhelmingly female work force, making sacks, provided her with a ready supply of custom. A year later King George 5th and Queen Mary, Princess Mary, visited the city on the 10th July 1914, Helen was mesmerised. Eighteen days later the city, the country, the World, was at war and the Jute Mill was converted from making sacks to making munitions within a year, 18-pdr. and 2.75in shells, forgings and burster containers. The pay doubled for work which was dirty and dangerous. There she met on the production lines a woman who was to be her friend for life, Jean Duncan.
It was not long before the casualties of War began to return home and demand for nursing care began to outstrip demand for munitions. Helen swapped cordite yellow stained fingers, for neatly pressed white sheets, it paid less, but was much safer, and met her empathetic needs in a way that a production line could not. One day, Jean invited Helen home for tea, and while she was there, she met her brother, Henry.
Henry’s first words to Helen were, “So we meet at last.”
Helen was dumbstruck, the man who she saw before her was the man she had imagined in her dreams, slender, medium build with a moustache and swept back hair. It was as if she had known him for years. The connection was instant, yet it was not a connection. It was a reconnection. Later on she became convinced that they had shared past lives together. He too had experienced visions of her before they met. He too had an interest in the supernatural and occult. Instead of being shunned for her gifts as she had been by the Rev Gemmill, instead Henry was intrigued by them, and encouraged them.
It was to be a whirlwind courtship. In 1916, the couple married. Henry had volunteered for the Black Watch but been subsequently invalided out of the army after rheumatic fever caused heart damage. A resourceful, industrious man he became a cabinet maker. Helen fell pregnant eight times, with six children surviviong; Bella, Nan, Lillian, Henry, Peter and Gena . With money tight, Helen’s income from her Mediumship work grew from being pin money into a vital income stream for the family as well as repairing and washing bed sheets and shirts for one penny an item and working part time in a bleach mill. Both worked hard to make ends meet, one day Helen had a premonition that Henry was seriously ill. It caused her to rush to his workshop where she found him incapacitated following a heart-attack. Although she managed to get him the help he needed to save his life, his overall health suffered terribly. In turn this caused Helen to expand her mediumship work still further. With Henry’s help she began to explore clairvoyance, clairaudience, psychometry and precognition. Her psychometry work drew increasing numbers to see her and she started to perform platform demonstrations at local Spiritual Churches.
The First World War saw a surge in people seeking mediumistic help. Dundonian men joined the 4th (City of Dundee) Battalion, The Black Watch and fought in the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915 during which Over two hundred men from Dundee’s Own were killed or injured . Inevitably bereaved relatives sought Helen’s help in contacting those who were lost, increasing still further the demands upon Helen and growing her reputation. Meetings at local churches became packed, increasing her earnings. As she was working she increasingly found herself entering into a trance like state, and began speaking in an assumed voice when delivering her messages from the Spirit World. Initially, Henry thought it was Glossolia, speaking in tongues, something which Edward Irving had explored when setting up the Scottish Apostolic Church a hundred years previously. But Henry was wary, firstly an endorsement was unlikely to do Helen any favours with the Presbyterian Church which had condemned her in Callander, secondly amongst disbelievers it had a historic association with Witchcraft.
Yet it became a feature of her platform performances. Not only would she assume a voice from the Spirit world to provide messages from the other side, she also began to receive messages personally from a Dr Williams who invoked her to seek to physically materialize spirits.
Helen wasn’t sure. What had started as a quirky childhood gift had changed. That moment when Rev Gemmill had thrown her out of his Church had thrown her into something bigger. Much bigger. Bigger than she had anticipated, bigger than she had intended. The odd child in the family. The quiet one on the weaving line. The reliable one on the fuse line. The caring one in the wards. The one no-one noticed. Except now they did. And whatever she did they seemed to want more. The Church invitations had increased, first around Dundee, then Arbroath and Perth, then Stirling and Glenrothes, and biggest of all Edinburgh. Not bad for a wee lass from Callendar.
She had been confident as a medium. She didn’t have to work at it. People called it a gift, it certainly wasn’t something she thought that she had earned. Listening to people, being empathetic, reading people, intuitively understanding, that was what everyone did wasn’t it? She had been surprised when she was invited to her first Church appearance, even more surprised when people turned up, then more people at the next and the next. At first she had just been given a shilling for her trouble, then a florin to cover her expenses, then half a crown, then the proceeds from a hat passed around . It was when she made ten shillings that she realised how much thing had changed. She could make in one evening what it took her two days to earn in the Jute factory. Now the invites were coming in the post every day. The transition from mediumship to trance had been accidental, not planned.
Henry was always by her side. She practiced with friends and neighbours . The results were erratic, but something always came, invariably Dr Williams. It had scared her. He had scared her. A Church President had taught her how to create a protective force field around her to contain the forces which were conjured, Dr Williams himself helped and as the weeks went by, so her confidence grew. As did Henry’s. The halls she performed in had been growing larger. He had started to introduce her to the crowds, as an MC would. The larger the crowds grew so the proportion who received messages reduced. There was only so much time . The money was becoming a vital part of their income. They needed to grow that, they needed to grow their income , they needed to create a show.
As a child Henry had been fascinated by Punch and Judy. The puppet figures, the exaggerated showmanship, the stage. The box.
That was what it was. As a carpenter and cabinet maker he was just making a giant box. A wooden cupboard with curtains on the front, but large enough for a person to sit in. For Helen to sit in. For the energies of Spirit to be amplified, for a portal to the other side to be created, for the black curtains to be drawn back to reveal her, for the lights to shine on her stage, for the curtains to be drawn at the finale. It would create drama, interest and mystery. Provide a focal point beyond a person, to a performance.
Inspired by Dr Williams, and her box, which Henry set up in their front room, Helen, progressed from trance and vocalisation, to producing ectoplasm from her mouth and nostrils akin to a white mist that glowed. Although the spirit voice of Dr. Williams warned Henry that no light must ever be shone on the ectoplasm, as it would endanger Helen. Henry took to using a dim red light for dramatic effect, and to allow the audience to see what was happening. The sessions always drained Helen mentally, emotionally and physically inducing her to eat immediately afterwards. Over time this significantly increased her weight.
The more she practised, the more the ectoplasm became a regular feature of her seances, as did the spirit voice of Dr. Williams. During one session he announced that Helen’s ‘spirit guide’ could now form from the ectoplasm and would look after Helen from then on.To the audiences amazement, the ectoplasm swirled into the shape of an elderly but distinguished man over six foot tall who had an upright stature and an educated voice with a trace of an Australian accent. Always polite and with a sense of humour, he announced his arrival with a request for those present not to be alarmed at the sight of him and introducing himself as Albert Stewart who had been born in Scotland but had emigrated to Australia where he had drowned in 1913. ‘Uncle Albert’ as he became known, became the Master of Ceremonies at séances. He announced to sitters what spirit was about to come out of the cabinet. Sometimes Helen had another spirit guide – a young girl called Peggy who would skip around the room singing songs.
This was the Golden Age of Spiritualism, with international luminaries including politicians and scientists within the movement, as well as Scotland’s own Sir Arthur Connan Doyle. Spiritual Churches abounded, and numbered in the several hundreds. All had a voracious appetite for speakers, mediums and performers. Helen’s reputation spread quickly as materialization mediums were rare, her talent became in great demand.
The word that Helen had developed from a clairvoyant to a materialization medium quickly spread and by the mid 1920’s, Helen’s talent was much in demand, in Scotland, and throughout the United Kingdom. Henry had to deal with mountains of post everyday from individuals and organisations requesting her services. Her rising income enabled her to make local charitable donations increasing her standing further. But success brings problems of its own, as she would come to discover.
The Scottish Spiritualist Society in Edinburgh invited Helen to give regular séances to their members who were impressed and astonished at what they witnessed. So much so, that they presented her with a certificate endorsing her talent. However, when Helen and Henry learned how much the door money was compared to how little they were paid, they refused further engagements.This was the first rift with Spiritualist organisations that continued on and off throughout Helen’s life.

Mary McGinlay maid

  1. The newsroom was the usual hubbub of office gossip, football rivalry, and political titbits. The Jam Tarts continued to do well, but not well enough to challenge the Old Firm. Ramsay McDonald, the Scots lad made good wasn’t anymore. Once lauded he was now a figure of ridicule and derision. The Scotsman had championed him, now they could do little more than chart his tailspin to oblivion as the Great Depression sapped the life out of the country. Archie had joined the paper the week of the Invergordon Mutiny, he had known some of the families. The exhilaration he had felt, with a byline, made him certain he had picked the right career then. As time went on, costs were cut, staff were shed, and obituaries, the stuff of cub reporters in normal times, became his usual task. Editor George Waters had held the chair for a decade, he did so with humour, professionalism and an iron fist. He read out the tasks for the day.
    “Archie, the stiffs, and count yourself lucky I won’t be asking for any quotes”
    Archie flicked through the death notices, Jimmy McCleod, Northumberland St. Community benefactor, local industrialist, survived by a wife and three children, and it was just under a mile’s walk from the office. From the Old Town, across Princess Street, to the New Town. He would claim the price of the bus fare anyway.
    Isla McCleod answered the door, late middle aged, prim, trim with a meticulously maintained grey bob, white blouse, plaid skirt, and sensible brogue shoes. She ushered Archie into the drawing room where she offered him morning tea and began to reminisce about her late husband. It was routine stuff, Archie made scribbled shorthand notes in his notebook. In truth he could have written a generic obituary in advance now, and just cut and pasted the crucial bits
    “Of course I knew he was going to die that night”
    “Nellie Duncan told me”
    Archie stopped scribbling notes as if by remote command
    “Nellie Duncan? The clairvoyant?”
    Her name had swirled around the newsroom over the past years, a fringe figure, a figure of fun, but when a few column inches needed filling she seemed to pop up. In 1926 she developed from clairvoyant to physical medium by offering séances in which she claimed to be able to permit the spirits of recently deceased persons to materialise, by emitting ectoplasm from her mouth.

In 1928 the photographer Harvey Metcalfe attended a series of séances at the house of Duncan. During a séance he took various flash photographs of Duncan and her alleged “materialization” spirits including her spirit guide “Peggy”.[6] The photographs that were taken reveal the spirits to be fraudulently produced, such as a doll made from a painted papier-mâché mask draped in an old sheet.[7]

In 1931, the London Spiritualist Alliance (LSA) examined Duncan’s method. It was observed that upon opening her mouth, the ectoplasm gradually began to be formed on the tip of the tongue until it resembled a cherry. It then swelled up, sometimes to the extent of covering the medium’s body. When the ectoplasm retreated into the mouth, it diminished at the tip of the tongue into the likeness of a cherry, as it first appeared. None of the substance appeared at any time in the pharynx, disproving the idea that the ectoplasm was regurgitated cheesecloth, which is a cotton cloth.[8] The latter hypothesis was put forward by the psychical researcher Harry Price, who examined her at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research (NLPR). Because of this accusation, she was persuaded by Harry Price to swallow a tablet of methylene blue before one of her séances to rule out any chance of this trick being performed. Contrary results of this experiment have been recorded. One account stated that no ectoplasm appeared.[9] The investigation report concluded that the “material was swallowed by Mrs Duncan at some time previous to the sitting and subsequently regurgitated by her for the purpose of exhibition.”[10] The other account stated that she still produced clean, white ectoplasm.[11]

A piece of ectoplasm from one of Duncan’s early séances was obtained and secured in a bottle of distilled water. It was given to Harry Price, who was originally enthusiastic about the sample. However, when he gave the sample to a chemist for analysis it was discovered to be made from egg white mixed with chemicals. Price later duplicated Duncan’s ectoplasm with similar substances.[12]

Duncan with fake ectoplasm made of cheesecloth and a cut out face from a magazine.
In 1931 Price paid Duncan £50 to perform a number of test séances. She was suspected of swallowing cheesecloth which was then regurgitated as “ectoplasm”.[4][13] Price had proven through analysis of a sample of ectoplasm produced by Duncan that it was made of cheesecloth.[14] She reacted violently at attempts to X-ray her, running from the laboratory and making a scene in the street, where her husband had to restrain her, destroying the controlled nature of the test. According to Price in a report of the mediumship of Duncan:[12]

At the conclusion of the fourth seance we led the medium to a settee and called for the apparatus. At the sight of it, the lady promptly went into a trance. She recovered, but refused to be X-rayed. Her husband went up to her and told her it was painless. She jumped up and gave him a smashing blow on the face which sent him reeling. Then she went for Dr. William Brown who was present. He dodged the blow. Mrs. Duncan, without the slightest warning, dashed out into the street, had an attack of hysteria and began to tear her seance garment to pieces. She clutched the railings and screamed and screamed. Her husband tried to pacify her. It was useless. I leave the reader to visualize the scene. A seventeen-stone woman, clad in black sateen tights, locked to the railings, screaming at the top of her voice. A crowd collected and the police arrived. The medical men with us explained the position and prevented them from fetching the ambulance. We got her back into the Laboratory and at once she demanded to be X-rayed. In reply, Dr. William Brown turned to Mr. Duncan and asked him to turn out his pockets. He refused and would not allow us to search him. There is no question that his wife had passed him the cheese-cloth in the street. However, they gave us another seance and the “control’ said we could cut off a piece of “teleplasm” when it appeared. The sight of half-a-dozen men, each with a pair of scissors waiting for the word, was amusing. It came and we all jumped. One of the doctors got hold of the stuff and secured a piece. The medium screamed and the rest of the “teleplasm” went down her throat. This time it wasn’t cheese-cloth. It proved to be paper, soaked in white of egg, and folded into a flattened tube… Could anything be more infantile than a group of grown-up men wasting time, money, and energy on the antics of a fat female crook.

Price in his report published photographs of Duncan in his laboratory that revealed fake ectoplasm made from cheesecloth, rubber gloves and cut-out heads from magazine covers which she pretended to her audiences were spirits.[10][15] Psychologist William McDougall, who attended two of the séances, pronounced her “whole performance fraudulent” in an appendix to the report.[16]

Following the report written by Price, Duncan’s former maid Mary McGinlay confessed in detail to having aided Duncan in her mediumship tricks, and Duncan’s husband admitted that the ectoplasm materializations were the result of regurgitation.[10][17]

In a séance on 6 January 1933 in Edinburgh, a little girl called Peggy emerged in the séance room. A sitter named Esson Maule grabbed her and the lights were turned on and the spirit was revealed to be made from a stockinette undervest.[12]

Ian Flemming organises investigation

Theatre critic gives evidence.

My client stands before you in the dock at your mercy, her future in your hands, her mere appearance in this place a travesty.
The legislation under which she faces these unnatural charges dates back almost two hundred years, to the reign of George 11, under a parliament presided over by Prime minister Henry Pelham, before the Americas even sought independence, let alone won it, before the Boston Tea Party, yet today they stand on our shores, not as foes, but as comrades in arms against a common enemy.
In 1753 the Witchcraft act made it a crime for a person to claim that any human being had magical powers or was guilty of practising witchcraft, today in 1944, our newspapers, newspapers which the jury will read every day, carry astrological guidance which so many call upon to guide their daily lives. No newspaper owner stands before us as a purveyor of persons possessing magical powers or witch craft.
As a child in remote Callender ,Scotland she was happy to tend the animals, and look after the children of neighbours.. As a mother of six she has devoted her life to nurturing and protecting. Those attributes, those instincts, drew others to her, others who saw her offering insights and wisdom. Some saw her as gifted, in the same way that millions have their favourite astrologers in the Daily Sketch or Daily Mail newspapers.
Yet with those gifts come other things. Suspicion, hate, envy, jealousy, aspects of the human condition which are anathema to everything Mrs Duncan stands for. She began to receive invites for her wisdom for her gifts, first from further afield in Scotland, then from its fine cities, and then from the towns and villages of England.
As our great country stands, once alone, now with our allies, facing down the Nazi Tyranny we are united. United in our resolve, united in our efforts, united in our commitment and determination, and sadly, and all too often united in our human losses, the price that has to be paid for freedom, for our ultimate victory.
There will not be a single man or woman on the jury who has not been touched by this. The pride in the contributions being made by friend, family and townsfolk, the pain of loss as some suffer the most grievous injuries in our cause, and others pay the ultimate price, with their lives. But their memories live on, their deeds endure, and is it not understandable that some, that many, seek a connection with those who have left us, for those that have departed for that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns? Would we deny anyone their right to seek such comfort, would we deny the right of anyone who could offer such comfort to do so?
My client is the victim of the most outrageous injustice. One night, in Portsmouth, she was invited by those whose loved ones, even now, are keeping our shores safe, and our seas free of Nazi predators stalking our brave boys. When she told of the loss of HMS Barham she did so in sorrow, not malevolence, imparting her gift.
Some have accused her of being a Nazi spy, in which case she should be tried as such. Others, as in here, have accused her of witchcraft. What nonsense.
Does this person stand before you a demon? Does she have a cauldron? Does she draw upon Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake;Eye of newt and toe of frog,Wool of bat and tongue of dog,Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing, AAFor a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble? Or is she merely a woman who people turn to in their hour of need ? Someone who far from frightening others brings comfort?
Does she look like a Nazi spy whose mission is to betray her country to a ruthless, heartless enemy? Or is her mission somewhat more benign, to draw the souls of the living and dead closer together.
Now what you may care to believe about such claims is immaterial. All that does matter is that some seek out comfort, freely, and without coercion, my client offers it, without obligation. For this she faces seven punishable counts: two of conspiracy to contravene the Witchcraft Act, two of obtaining money by false pretences, and three of public mischief.
At a time of great national peril from without, and unscrupulous profiteering from within, you may wish to ask yourself what purpose is served by members of His Majesty’s constabulary addressing themselves to her work?
When Mrs Duncan agreed to serve relatives in the homeport of the Royal Navy fleet, Portsmouth on the evening of January 19 1944,it was a dangerous place to hold any meeting – such was the German Luftwaffe’s intent on reducing Portsmouth to rubble and disable Britain’s ships. But the real danger lay not in a hail of enemy bombs but with the ignorance of the police, For that night, a plain-clothes policeman, who had infiltrated the evening following a tip off, launched a raid to disrupt her seance.
Thus Helen Duncan, together with three of her innocent sitters, were dragged before Portsmouth magistrates and charged with Vagrancy on the basis that she was begging. But how can a woman who was placing herself in mortal danger by visiting the port, who was invited there, and was being paid to attend possibly be begging?
Why was she refused bail? What repeat offence was feared, or danger to the public anticipated? Instead she was sent to London and forced to spend four days in the notorious Holloway women’s prison. It was this same Victorian goal where suffragettes had been forced fed by prison warders, and I put it to you that Mrs Duncan too is a similar such martyr. It is also where the grisly gallows waited for all female murderers, spies and traitors in whose company her detractors sought to place her.
My client was assumed to be a dangerous war criminal . The charge was mooted to be Conspiracy, which, carried the ultimate sentence of death, by hanging, a charge which understandably created great distress. Yet when the absurdity of this fell on the War Office the alternative has proved to be no less bizarre. It is today’s charge of witchcraft , that Mrs Duncan and three of her equally innocent sitters are accused of pretending ‘to exercise or use human conjuration that through the agency of Helen Duncan spirits of deceased dead persons should appear to be present’. And that under the Larceny Act, she stand s accused her of taking money ‘ by falsely pretending she was in a position to bring about the appearances of these spirits of deceased persons’.
You have heard testimony from distinguished members of London Society vouching for Mrs Duncan’s bona fides. You have learned of her celebrity, yet still she finds herself facing these preposterous allegations.

Our daily papers have recorded each day of this trial, selling hundreds of thousands of copies extra as a result. Is that the sign of a vagrant? Do the public support traitors and spies? Members of the Jury we live in a modern age. An age where no ocean cannot be crossed, no wilderness remains untamed, no challenge is to great for our scientists and engineers, and no enemy so powerful that they cannot be subjugated by our wit, resourcefulness and skill. An age which hitherto, we will all have believed that the days of witches and broomsticks, cauldrons and spells, witch hunters and the stake were in the dim distant past.
Yet we were mistaken, the prosecution has fallen back two hundred years to charge my client, but has failed to return to the twentieth century thereafter. We live in an age in which Helena Blavatsky and Annie Beasant, great Spiritualists, have had the ear of monarchs, and Heads of State. In which our finest writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have engaged the world with their thoughts of, and connections to, the next world. Where astronomers such as Claude Flammarion, scientists like William Crookes and Nobel Prize Winners Richet test the world with their beliefs, their intellect and their propositions. But the prosecution are still in the age of the ducking stool, the scolds bridle, and the stake surrounded by tinder.
Members of the jury, do not hold a flame to this bonfire of absurdity, instead it is my earnest hope that you will let justice, and common sense, prevail by acquitting my client.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Darren Stanton

The Human Lie Detector – Darren Stanton, Nottingham Antenna Theatre, 24/8/21

Darren Is an ubiquitous presence  on television, from breakfast television to investigative reporting. His skill is in body language and rooting out lies from  both the famous, and notorious. In this show he introduced basic lie detecting skills in the first half, then demonstrated them using library news footage in the second

His career in the police  working  for Nottinghamshire Constabulary and then later Derbyshire Constabulary gave him plenty of practice in dealing with people whose personal best interests were not best served by telling the truth to the police . Having studied neuro-linguistic programming, hypnotism, body language and psychology, he  then put all that theoretical and practical knowledge and experience  to use by pursuing a media career in 2009.

His work as a celebrity observer for the media inevitably elicits numerous fascinating anecdotes on the likes of Prince Andrew, Price Harry, Meghan Markle,  Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. His insights have been shared by news organisations worldwide. But this night focussed on notorious crime stories, specifically Ian Huntley, Kate and Gerry McCann, Mick and Mairead Philpott, the Derby murderers, and an American familicide.Many of us love being armchair sleuths, hence the popularity of television crime dramas, and detective novels. Darren shows us that we are using more than just our intuition in determining the innocent and guilty, and how the professionals use particular skills to assist them looking at nonverbal and verbal indicators of innocence and guilt. The Philpott murders happened in nearby Derby, the McCanns come from Leicester, similarly close by, so there was a sense of immediacy and proximity to the stories. The Philpott murders were clear cut, both he and his wife were convicted, as was Ian Huntley offering clear examples of devious behaviour?

The McCanns, are merely the parents of a missing child, charged with, and found guilty of, no crime. Yet there is voluminous interview footage of them providing plenty of material for both the professional and amateur to pore over. To Stanton’s credit he made no judgement, and  offered only questions, on a crime mystery which has intrigued the world for over a decade. His objective was not for him, or us to act as judge or jury but instead to watch as newly taught observers. Were we watching the innocent or guilty. Did their Medical training enable them to postulate alternatives ( as in medical diagnoses) convincingly?

This one off stage show, which was interactive and engaging, was his first post Covid restrictions outing and was warmly received, and confidently and amusingly delivered. He is embarking on a murder mystery, dinner tour in the new year at which he will be joined by other crime professionals as the audience seeks to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the innocent from the guilty. They are sure to be hugely enjoyable events. For more details on Darren and his upcoming appearances :

Posted in Behind the Arras Reviews | Leave a comment

Poems 2021

Upon seeing a matryoshka doll

On Arbat Street

At the back of the shop

It was tight to twist

 vaguely fragile

Perhaps her name was Svetlana

Wearing the dust as an extra layer

Each sharp turn revealing a hidden frame.

Each cadaver was slightly less imposing

Better than photographs

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Siouxsie & The Banshees / The Human League, London Rainbow Theatre, 7th April, 1979

Shows which are anticipated as Events rarely live up to expectations. This was an exception. Siouxsie was playing the gig as a benefit for the mental health charity Mencap. Raw punk had long since disappeared into the ether, in its place, the more interesting New Wave had taken hold, diverse, adventurous, and bold.

A headliner at the Rainbow was a big deal, with the band’s first album, The Scream, shipping silver at no 12, and single “Hong Kong Garden” making No 7 in the charts. Siouxsie and the Banshees had arrived. The gig had quickly sold out and was eagerly anticipated

Siouxsie had a vision for the band, and was a glorious vision herself. Steve Severin was an inspired arranger and musician. John Mckay was lauded as one of the best, unorthodox guitarists of the era. Kenny Morris on drums just had to keep time. It was a moment when female singers found their voice, Poly Styrene of Xray Spex, Pauline Murray of Penetration, The Slits, and Patti Smith amongst the vanguard. But Siouxsie was in a league of her own.

Support was provided by the Human League, who had supported Siouxsie before, and who would go on to be feted by David Bowie and tour with Iggy Pop. Punk and New Wave had inspired them, they were not New Romantics, more Futurists in the mould of Kraftwerk, and Bowie’s “Low”. NME and John Peel had championed them, and their unusual synthesiser sound gave them an immediate identity.

The audience was an unholy mix of hardcore punk from the early gigs at the 100 Club and the Greyhound, new fans who had bought “The Scream” and “Hong Kong Garden” and the curious drawn by an eclectic bill.

When the house lights came down, and the band appeared on stage to chug into “Being Boiled” the initial reaction was bewilderment and curiosity. The band stood static behind synthesisers, dressed in black playing to an animated backdrop of images and movement supplied by Phillip Adrian Wright as Director of Visuals – no other band had one of those.

The sound was most easily associated with Kraftwerk and Bowie’s “Heroes” and “Low” albums, but with a more left field, psychedelic lyrical content.

Inevitably the lack of visceral energy onstage irritated some, and static figures make ideal targets for missiles which sporadically came their way. But for the overwhelming majority it was a sophisticated, intriguing, beguiling, performance whose highlight was a cover of “You’ve lost that loving feeling”, the best I had heard live, and have heard since. Unquestionably all the ingredients were there, the music, the sublime vocals from Ware and Oakey, and a distinctive identity. The thing that was missing was a self- penned catchy hit single, something which contemporary Gary Numan seized upon within the emerging electro-pop movement, until the Human League mk2 snatched it back with “Dare’s” irresistible pop singles.

The set list comes from a scrawled bit of paper from the day, and an imperfect memory, making it accurate in terms of what was played, but incomplete, and not necessarily in the right order.

Set List

Dance Like A Star
Almost Medeival
Being Boiled
Rock n Roll ( Gary Glitter)
Circus of Death
Empire State Human
Dignity of Labour 1-4
I Don’t Depend on You
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling ( Righteous Bros)
Blind Youth
The Path of Least Resistance

The counterpoint as Siouxsie exploded onto the stage at 9.30pm could not have been greater. A blinding maelstrom of light, sound and kinetic energy as they launched into “Jigsaw Feeling”. The crowd went berserk, a heaving mass, surging over the stalls seats to the front, drawn by her mesmerising force. Huge black spiked hair, frilled neck and cuff white blouse, open battle dress jacket with black trousers and boots she looked fabulous, orchestrating, but barely controlling, the adoring masses in front of her. Spontaneously the stalls seating was torn out, a mixture of the mass surges towards the stage, and wilful vandalism, wiping out the donation to charity with the repair bill.

It was the perfect time to see the band. The set combined the best of their original punk material,  with the best of “The Scream”, and a smattering from the forthcoming “Join Hands”.

The whole set was a triumph. Three singles demonstrated their grasp of a hit tune, “Switch” and “Placebo Effect” showcased McKay’s guitar, “Overground” s staccato rhythm steadied the pace before a majestic debut for “Icon”, and glorious finale of the anarchic “Lord’s Prayer” a staple of their live act since their inception.

Set List

Jigsaw Feeling
Playground Twist
Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)
The Staircase (Mystery)
Placebo Effect
Regal Zone
Hong Kong Garden
Premature Burial
Suburban Relapse
Icon (Live debut)
The Lord’s Prayer
Helter Skelter

After a frenetic “Helter Skelter” we spilled out into the cool air of a Finsbury Park evening knowing that we had witnessed something special. We didn’t know that Morris and McKay would have left the band by September, and that this would be the last major London gig of that line up. Nor did we know how the band would metamorphose several times again, gaining strength as they did so.

Equally, we could not have guessed that the Human League would split the following year. As with Siouxsie and the Banshees, it would strengthen them, unlike them, the departing musicians would go on to considerable commercial and critical success as Heaven 17.

What united them both was a vibrant creative force and energy which would lead to far greater success as their respective careers progressed.

Posted in Classic Gigs | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Far East Cruise

And so the adventure begins at Birmingham airport.

brum airport

And then, 13 hours later, U-Tapao airport Thailand.


The Ship




Relaxing on board, somewhere in the China Sea.

Red Dress 1

Red Dress 2


at sea

at sea relaxing

at sea g&J

at sea G&J2

having funHaving fun 2


At sea in the restaurant where we always had our breakfast:

at sea restaurant

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The approach

cam bridge

cam city1





cam beach 3





The Beach at Sihanoukville where all needs are catered for

Cam 5 beachcam6

cam beach


Vietnam was such a treat



Restaurant for lunch.


saigon flower

The streets of Saigon

Saigon War Museum

The magnificent and troubling war museum in Ho Chi Minh City

Viet WM





The Tower









penang j



Visiting The Mah  Meri, Malaysia




The Approach



Out and About


Bay Gardens






Captain of the Ship










Langkawi boatjl3jhandlang6lang7

Koh Samui








Posted in Blog | Leave a comment

Sacred Sites Tarot Cards – Barbara Micklejohn Free and Flavia Kate Peters

sacred sites


I read Past Lives Tarot cards. My own deck was created by Doreen Virtue and Brian Weiss. I read them intuitively. They have no specific independent meaning. They are simply a bridge between myself and the client. I have dabbled with using other cards, but never entirely satisfactorily. That deck simply works for me, and my clients.

When I chanced upon the “Sacred Sites” deck by Barbara Micklejohn Free and Flavia Kate Peters in their shop in Buxton, Arnemetia I sensed that I may have found a companion Past Lives deck. I was right.

Past Lives is an all- embracing umbrella term. It takes in reincarnation, universal knowledge and animism. Many friends, associates, and acquaintances are initially sceptical of the ideas, but when explored more fully, their interest invariably increases, rather than decreases.

I liked the idea of Sacred Sites. Landscapes fascinate me. How some landscapes that we have never seen before can seem familiar, reassuring, or threatening. Their mere appearance seemingly portentous.

They feature strongly when I conduct past life readings.

Four years ago I visited the Callanish Stones on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. It was a profoundly spiritual experience. Not only did the standing stones cast a spell, but crucially, the landscape around is wholly undeveloped and unpopulated.

What I was seeing was what the people who built the stones saw. No-one knows exactly why they were built, when they were built (probably around 5000 years ago), or what they were for. That only added to the sense of place and mystery. A mystery coloured by numerous myths and legends.

One of our deepest needs is for a sense of identity and belonging. We can find that identity in landscape and place. How many times have you heard someone say “I belong here”?

Landscape therefore is not simply what we see, but a way of seeing: we see it with our eye, but interpret it with our mind and ascribe values to landscape for intangible – spiritual – reasons.

Landscape should not be looked on as simply a pretty picture: rather it is part of a process by which identities are formed.

The connections, therefore, between landscape, identity, memory, thought, and comprehension, are fundamental to our understanding of landscape and a human sense of place.
But memory of landscape is not always associated with pleasure. It can be associated sometimes with loss, with pain, with social fracture and a sense of belonging lost, although the memory remains. The Welsh have a word, hiraeth, for which there is no direct English equivalent. It is used to describe a sense of homesickness and nostalgia for a place, experienced as an earnest longing or desire, tinged with a sense of regret of not being in that place. The Cornish and Breton equivalents are ‘hireth’ and ‘hiraezh’. How such a wonderful word does not exist in modern English I do not know.

The past lives on in art and memory, it shifts and changes as the present throws its shadow backwards. Landscape also changes , but far more slowly; it is a living link between what we were, and what we have become. This is one of the reasons why we feel such profound anguish when a loved landscape is altered out of recognition; we lose not only a place, but ourselves, a continuity between the shifting phases of our life.

Landscapes are the repository of intangible values and human meanings that nurture our very existence. This is why landscape, and memory, are inseparable, because landscape is the nerve centre of our personal and collective memories.

We are familiar with relic and fossil landscapes. But cultural landscapes are living landscapes where changes over time result in a montage effect in front of our eyes, or a series of vertical layers, each layer able to tell the human story and relationships between people, and natural processes. Photography and film, in the past paintings best reflect that.

I am very fond of the Heights of Abraham , Matlock, Derbyshire, hills which have been mined for 2000 years and worked methodically since Roman times. When you visit there, you also visit the history of England. Landscape and identity are inherent components of our culture.

A few years ago I visited Welshpool castle with my young grandchildren, the youngest, Jacob, of whom was three. Three is an interesting age, a child is relatively articulate, but unable to read or be influenced by the media. They say what they see and experience. Children love castles, they are big, physical places to be enjoyed, and explored, combining open spaces with mysterious nooks and crannies. Jacob was loving it, until we began to enter a hall which looked no different from any other we had visited before. He scampered up me, holding me around my neck, pressed tight .

“I am not going in there,” he declared.

”Why not?”

“It’s scary.”

I gave him to my partner, and ventured inside. It featured displays of torture and punishment from the dungeons. He had no possible way of knowing this – yet he knew.

This demonstrates that a sense of landscapes, and buildings, holding memories is with us from a very early age. It was described by Sir Edward Tylor as animism in 1871, who recognised it as one of anthropology’s earliest concepts, a belief found in tribes and ancient civilisations around the world.

So, do landscapes have memories?

They certainly hold the memories of what has gone before. The rocks in their strata, the soil in its layers, the polar ice in its water content. When we remember past lives, past landscapes are an essential part of that. Often providing a connection between the past, and the present.

The deck comprises some fifty- three cards, loosely divided into North, South East and West, each with their own spiritual bias. I have physically visited several of these locations. What surprised me was that the companion notes for those sites I knew, or thought I knew, each offered new information and guidance. It has been meticulously researched. The card artwork is eclectic, laden with meaning, and divided into three sectors, or worlds. The lower represents the past, the middle the present, the upper the future. Each is rich in meaning and guidance.


Past Life Regressionist Jane Osborne at the Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis

For the reader the cards are multifunctional. Firstly, they facilitate a past present and future reading. But secondly, they offer inspiration for site visits with the potential for some cards to have a particular calling. By splitting the deck to incorporate only the geographical area, North perhaps if you are British, of the client, the chances of them being able to visit that site are also increased. In the UK, Stonehenge, Glastonbury and the Callanish Stones are included as well as several European sites including the Vatican and Mont St- Michel.

mont st

Mont St Michel

I found that they worked particularly well in conjunction with the Doreen Virtue Past Lives Oracle cards and highly recommend this deck not only for its beautiful presentation, art work, and spiritual integrity, but also for the unusually well written companion notes.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Boomtown Rats – Leeds, 1977



The Boomtown Rats Oct 17th, ,1977 Leeds Poly
The summer of 77 unleashed a tsunami of Punk and New Wave debut albums, singles and tours. It was difficult to keep up. It seemed that every week there was something new and exciting happening. Amongst this activity, the Boomtown Rats were front runners for live shows. Over the past five decades later, they have faded in the punk story. That is unjust. They were very good live, far better than the opening salvoes live from The Clash and The Jam. Their first gigs as the Boomtown Rats were in London in the summer of 76.


Probably only the Stranglers hit the ground running live as strongly. Curiously, both had a previous history as showbands, playing covers at weddings and functions.
We relied upon the music press back then, NME, MM and Sounds, and the John Peel Radio 1 late night show. NME could sell up to 250,000 copies a week, that is twice as many now as the Guardian per issue, more than the Financial Times, and almost as much as the Daily Express. The Boomtown Rats, from Dublin were outsiders to a scene dominated by London,and influenced by New York. The early reviews were strong. They had something. That something was Bob Geldof.


Yet Geldof, while being the mouthy fulcrum of the band, was not its sole asset. As a showband they had honed an R&B sound, showcased by their cover of the 1965 Robert Parker stomper “Barefootin” which was a staple of their early punk shows, their debt to the sound and stage presence of Dr Feelgood openly acknowledged. The band collaboratively wrote the songs, Johnny Fingers on keyboards gave a more rounded fuller sound than most ( see the Stranglers again). Geldof’s lyrics were sharp and tapped into the times perfectly. The first album, the eponymous Boomtown Rats, had a far stronger range of songs than any of their contemporaries, and crucially, they were written for, and worked well with, live performance.


Hit single “Mary of the Fourth Form” had a riff lifted from Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” and a lyric featuring a coquettish schoolgirl that would struggle to make a playlist today, but was lapped up by schoolboys of exactly the same age who were buying the records. Great shows need great openers and “Close as You’ll Ever Be” fitted the bill, the punks surging around the front of stage monitors, Geldof leaning forwards over them taunting them that they were as close as they would ever be to him amidst a grinding, hypnotic riff.


The Springsteen influence was apparent, first with “Joey Is On The Street Again”, but most obviously with “Rat Trap”, even down to the sax solo. It is also an indicator of both Geldof’s ambition, and his talent. Contemporaneously Graham Parker & The Rumour worked with Springsteen, and his pianist Roy Bittan, on the up Escalator”, but failed to emulate him as Geldof did. Listen to Springsteen’s “Backstreets”, “Jungleland” and “Incident on 57th St”, then listen to “Joey” and “Rat Trap”. Ray Davies of the Kinks captured English life and youth culture, but without the bombast that the E Street band offered. Geldof captures British life with the sharp observation of Davies, but the romanticism and bigger sound of Springsteen.


For a few years they were icons in Eire, with Bono watching them from the audience before forming U2, and Phil Lynnot a huge fan insisting they join them on a Thin Lizzy show as support. In an economically depressed country, Geldof’s songs and attitude resonated, but they themselves were standard bearers for local boys made good. I saw U2 on their first tour of the UK, I saw Thin Lizzy on their Live and Dangerous tour. The Rats in the first couple of years were better than both.


They blew away a capacity five hundred sell out audience with Geldof memorably taunting: “I’m going to be more famous than any of you will ever be” – he was right. The energy from the show could have powered the entire city, in the student bars in the days afterwards the one question that had to be asked of any stranger, “Were you there?”


Set List
Close as You’ll Ever Be
Never Bite the Hand That Feeds
Neon Heart
So Strange
I Can Make It If You Can
Joey’s on the Street Again
(She’s Gonna) Do You In
Its All the Rage
Do the Rat
Mary of the 4th Form
Looking After No.1

Dec 12th Leeds uni


Bob forgetting where the audience is

Barely two months later, they were back in Leeds again. This time playing to a 2000 capacity audience, supported by The Yachts who went on to support the Who and Joe Jackson, a measure of their proficiency live. The Yachts were terrific, the farfisa organ driven “Suffice to Say” the highlight, followed very closely by a wonderful cover of “There’s a Ghost In My House”. It was power pop, it was fun. Musical polymath Henry Priestman here on vocals and keyboards went on to enjoy a distinguished career working in and with the Christians, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Mark Owen and Mel C.


The Rats? They put on one of the best rock shows I have ever seen. I was at the front of a boiling, surging, ecstatic throng as the pulsing, hypnotic chords to “Close As You Will Ever Be” rang out, and the show never let up. The pivotal moment in a 75 minute musical epiphany was “Kicks”, and its refrain, ‘ I get my kicks from you’. Geldof pointed manically to the fans, the fans as one pointed back. Both meant it.

Set List

Close as You’ll Ever be
Neon Heart
Me and Howard Hughes
Don’t Believe What You Read
Joey’s on the Street Again
Living In an Island
(She’s Gonna) Do You In
Like Clockwork
Do the Rat
Mary of the Fourth Form
She’s So Modern
Looking After No. 1
So Strange
Never Bite the Hand That feeds

Hammersmith Odeon, Dec 7th 1978


Just a year later. “Rat Trap” was No 1, this was the big London show, booked before the success of the single could have been anticipated. Sold out,it was an odd gig. Firstly, it was seated, sapping the energy essential to a Rats performance. But secondly, previously it was Geldof who played the part of a pop star, now they all thought they were ( they were). The songs were great, the performance was fine, “Rat Trap” even drew applause from the bouncers, but somehow the magic, the magic which connected the band to their erstwhile fans was missing. As I walked away after, instead of the elation I had experienced after the first two shows, I felt a sense of dejection. It was never going to be the same again.

Set List

Blind Date
(I Never Loved) Eva Braun
Me and Howard Hughes
Close As You’ll Ever Be
Neon Heart
(She’s Gonna) Do You In
Rat Trap
Joey’s on the Street Again
She’s So Modern
Don’t Believe What You Read
Like Clockwork
Do the Rat
Looking After No. 1
Mary of the Fourth Form
Never Bite the Hand That Feeds

Hitchin Regal , 1984
I went with a friend. It was the “ In the Long Grass” tour. It was like watching a pantomime, with each actor reading from a different script. The original fans were mostly long gone. “Rat Trap” still sounded good, but “ Mondays” highlighted their problem. It is a great pop song. A crossover piece, mainstream, AOR, shopping mall stuff. But it doesn’t sound like anything else they have ever done. Geldof’s trademark vocal is the only link. And the new fans won’t like the old stuff and the old fans didn’t like the new stuff.


The band appeared at Live Aid. “Mondays” was one of the entire show’s highlights. But it wasn’t enough to save a band whose RnB origins had long since disappeared.


The Fab Four 2008


I saw that they were playing at the Robin 2, Bilston , Wolverhampton. Garry Roberts and Simon Crowe with Alan Perman (ex Herman’s Hermits) and Peter Barton. I expected nothing, but was surprised. The songs sounded great, and the two guitar, bass and drums line up had a stripped back quality, no Johnny Fingers, no keyboards. A great sound.
The Fab Four eventually led to a Rats reunion and a number of subsequent tours. They may not have the kudos of the Clash, Jam and Stranglers, now – but, wow, back then…



Posted in Classic Gigs | Leave a comment