What do we say to our children?

What did you do daddy?

when the butchers

knocked at the door

sharpening their knives

to cut with their smiles

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

when the thieves

in grey striped suits

sat at the cabinet table

ready to cut with their knives.

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

when the nurses and doctors

worked too many hours

and had no more time

to look after us or you.

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

when all the teachers

working too many hours

had no more time

to teach your children.

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

when all those liars

with their crocodile smiles

did what they did

and wanted to do anyway.

What did you do daddy?


What did you do daddy?

When all the taxes you paid

bank-rolled the bankers,

the liars who thieved our Services

and skinned them to the bone

What did you do daddy?


What will you do daddy?

Now the services are gone

and the rich get richer

and the poor get sicker

and no one’s listening to you.

What will you do now daddy?


What will you do daddy?

When Covid-19

Is killing the old and the young

And all the others in between

And the nurses and doctors

Have no protective kit

Have no masks to shield them

And there’s no tests

Cos everythings run to the ground

Are you clapping daddy?

What are you clapping for?



First published in Rob Cullen’s collection “Uncertain Times” 2016 with update.

The year of magical thinking…

Rereading a review by Hilary Mantel of CS Lewis’s writing on grief – Guardian Saturday 24th December 2014 I came across a quote from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking…which led me to another…

“This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself. I have been a writer my entire life. As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish. The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is a case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself.”

― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking


“How often, I thought to myself, had I lain thus in a hotel room, in Vienna  or Frankfurt or Brussels, with my hands clasped under my head, listening not to the stillness, as in Venice, but to the roar of the traffic, with a mounting sense of panic. That then, I thought on such occasions, is the new ocean. Ceaselessly, in great surges, the waves roll in over the length and breadth of our cities, rising higher and higher, breaking in a kind of frenzy when the roar reaches its peak and then discharging across the stones and asphalt even as the next onrush is being released from where it was held by traffic lights. For some time now I have been convinced that is out of this din that the life is being born which will come after us and will spell our gradual destruction, just as we have been gradually destroying what was there long before us.”



  1. G. Sebald Vertigo. P63

Storm Song of the Hawthorn



Storm song of the Hawthorn


Gales come and gales blow

Its winter out on the hill

Gales come and gales go

Streams and rivers filled

The land flooded and full

Rainwater has nowhere to flow

And we hope for the lull

But still the storms blow.


And the Hawthorn still sings


Tribute to Astrid Lindgren’s “The Fox and the Tomten”.


Paola Deffendi is still waiting.



Paola Deffendi is still waiting.


Paola Deffendi is waiting.

Giulio Regeni her son lies buried under a line of cypress trees.

her son’s gravestone is just a plain marble slab.

unadorned except for flowers, devotional candles and a small photograph

his face open and earnest.


Paola Deffendi is waiting.

‘It’s all over the happiness of our family was so short.’’

she waits for justice to be done and for truth to be told.

Veritas for Giulio Regeni.

and love will triumph, love for a child will not be out done.

his face open and earnest.


Paola Deffendi is waiting.

Nagy said – ‘‘We will just have to wait. Inshallah, something will come of it.’’

And the secrecy of darkness enfolds always playing for time,

hoping people will forget, and we and the world will stop watching.

and Giulio Regeni lies buried under a line of cypress trees

his gravestone a plain marble slab.


Paola Deffendi is waiting.

for the real truth and not the convenient truth to be revealed

those at the top In Egypt know – they hide secrets in the darkness of their hearts

Giulio Regini’s broken and violated body was left propped up.

Waiting to be found. But they’d found it already

It was in plain view. And they knew, they knew.


Paola Deffendi is waiting.

A mother honours the child she brought into this world,

the son she loved and watched as any mother would.

A child who grew into manhood with brilliance and compassion,

and the intense inquisitiveness that showed his humanity,

and now Giulio Regeni lies buried under a line of cypress trees.



“But we will not stop until we find an answer. We owe it to his mother.”