Category Archives: Books

A Moment Like This


A Moment Like This.

By David Milligan-Croft.

.

I picked an old poetry book off the shelf.

It was ‘The Art of Life’, by Paul Durcan.

Something about its spine caught my eye.

I hadn’t read it in years.

.

I flicked through a few pages and a photograph fell out.

It was of my daughter and I when she was a baby.

I’m wearing a front-facing baby harness

And she is strapped to my chest,

.

Wearing a white, winter bunny onesie.

I’m holding up her bunny ears 

and beaming a smile to the camera.

We’re in Dunham Massey, I think.

.

* * *

.

I go to my daughter’s bedroom – she’s 16 now –

And show her the photograph.

She laughs and we reminisce. Well, I do.

She was too young to remember, obviously.

.

As I’m leaving, I say, ‘Do you want it,

Or shall I bin it?’

Without looking up from her phone,

She says, ‘That doesn’t work, Dad.

.

‘I know you would never do that.’ 

Then, she looks at me and smiles.

I don’t know why I put the photo in the book

In the first place. Perhaps to use as a book mark.

.

Or maybe, a moment like this.

.

.

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Lost Love


I met Tom Pow in a Stellenbosch vineyard in South Africa back in the late 90s.

Pretty small world really, as he’s from Scotland and I’m English, but was living in Ireland at the time.

I am fascinated by how people’s paths intersect. Everything that they had to go through prior to that point in time for you to meet. And, perhaps more importantly, why?

One of the things I have carried with me since our meeting, was his poem, ‘Loving, Writing’, from his collection ‘Red Letter Day’.

For me, it encapsulates the beauty and purity of love. Whether or not it lasts is beside the point. The point is that you got to feel that way at all.

Tom Pow

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The Perfect Poetry Antidote


Friday is Library Day for patients on Arden Ward at Stepping Hill Hospital.

And, if you didn’t know already, reading is very good for your mental health. (Probably not if it’s by Piers Morgan or the Tory party manifesto, mind.)

Reading quality literature and poetry, however, is proven to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Quite serendipitously, I came across this collection of poetry by Mary Dickins entitled Happiness FM. I thought her poem, ‘How to administer a poem in an emergency’ was perfectly apt for the group. So, I thought I’d share it with you.

And here is the poem from whence the collection takes its name.

Of course, our visits to the library aren’t just about reading. They’re about social interaction and doing other mindful activities.

While I was writing this post on a rainy Sunday evening in Stockport, a haiku came to mind. So, I’m going to share that with you as well.

The pitter-patter

Of rain outside my window –

Nature’s melody.

Night, night.

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Motes of my Mother


Motes of my Mother.

By David Milligan-Croft.

As I popped open the lid of the cylinder, 

A faint cloud of ash escaped from within. 

Motes of my mother floated in the morning sun. 

Drifting off into the atmosphere to settle who knows where.

Perhaps somewhere sunny, like Tahiti, she’d like that.

Or maybe just the bookshelf.

As I spooned some of her ashes into a small ceramic jar – 

A keepsake for my daughter – 

I felt the sudden urge to sneeze.

I froze momentarily, unsure whether to deposit her remains

Back into the large urn, or continue with my task,

And risk dropping some of her in the sink.

Or, worse still, blowing her onto the window.

I twisted my face to my shoulder

In order to stifle the impending sneeze

And lessen any resulting tremors.

It was while I was looking down

Into the larger urn that I wondered just how much

Of this ash was actually my mother. If, in fact,

Any of it was. How would I know if we had someone else’s ashes?

Would the remnants of her dna still cling to these dusty particles?

And, how much of the ash is human, and how much is coffin?

Do they take the brass fittings off first? Whose job is that?

If I dig deep enough, will I find a piece of shoe, or tooth, or bone?

So many questions.

Then I thought of my mother rolling her eyes and laughing 

And saying, “Silly bugger.” Or something like that.

Then the urge to sneeze disappeared.

And I carefully continued spooning the ashes 

Into the ceramic pot and gently closed the lid.

She’ll be safer with my daughter, I thought.

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Blackout poetry – as mindfulness.


What Blackout Poetry actually is, versus what I think it is, could be two completely different things. I could Google a definition of it, but I can’t be arsed.

My interpretation of Blackout Poetry is where you take an original piece of text, then ‘black out’ the majority of the text to create a new piece of text. Kind of like what Mi6 does to official government documents.

I reckon folks got a bit bored of doing this after a while, so they started adding colour and doodling around the highlighted text to add a bit of spice to it.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, the original source material for my Blackout Poetry is a Harry Potter novel by J.K. Rowling. Now, before J.K. fans become apoplectic with rage for desecrating one of her sacred tomes, in my defence, the edition I had was damaged beyond use. (I.E. Some of the pages were waterlogged and were illegible.) Plus we had another copy.

As we all know, books are only meant to be read. Unless it’s a colouring book. In which case, you can, well… colour it in. Or a sketchbook. You can’t really read that either. Or a photography book… Look, the point is, I don’t advocate destroying perfectly readable books for the sake of art. Unless, of course, it was written by Piers Morgan.

The text you leave highlighted – or legible, doesn’t have to make sense if you don’t want it to. The point of this exercise is to practise a bit of mindfulness.

Just pull out a few words that speak to you then doodle around them. You can use felt tips, pencil crayons, watercolours, pastels, collage, acrylics, whatever you like.

You can do abstract shapes, geometric patterns or something more illustrative and representative.

Bit of a cheat this one, as I haven’t really highlighted any text, just used it as a background.

Obviously, actually composing a compelling piece of blackout poetry out of existing text can be quite challenging, but that’s not really the purpose of this exercise. This is to lose yourself in the act of creating something new and different out of something that already exists. A creative springboard if you like.

The original text doesn’t have to be from a book either. You can use a newspaper or magazine. Or your granny’s will. Whatever’s handy.

I’ve done this mindulness exercise with patients at the hospital, adult art groups and children alike.

And remember, don’t worry about the end result, it’s the act of doing that’s important. Losing yourself in the process is the objective.

Now get out there and start ripping up your mam’s latest thriller.

(Top tip: start from the back.)

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The Violence of Silence


This is a new poem I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. It’s not about Black Lives Matter, but it was inspired by it. Or rather, the silence of the white majority to the unfair and unjust treatment of black people and people of colour. The implicit violence that silence can bring.

That is the only connection – silence. And how crushing it can be.

Please be advised that the following poem contains harrowing themes.

The Violence of Silence.

By David Milligan-Croft.

The smirk,

The eyeroll,

The sigh.

The undoing,

The redoing,

The restacking the dishwasher,

The recapping the toothpaste.

The elbow grease on the bath,

The busying of the dishcloth.

The fingertrail in the dust,

The torment,

The subterfuge,

The game.

The song unplayed on the turntable,

The needle stuck in the groove.

The portrait on the wall,

Staring into an unseeable space.

The spent match.

The sheet music on the stand.

The dried paintbrush.

The gagged canvas.

The unwritten manuscript,

Of characters without a story,

Or Motive.

The spoon in the can.

The creeping mould.

The hungry bottle,

The greedy glass.

The torn betting stub.

The baby shoes in their box.

The unworn party dress.

The deflated balloon.

The candle wax on the cake.

The forlorn swing.

The jury’s gaze.

The unwound watch,

Ticking in your head.

The heaving chest,

The eyes cast down,

Searching the floor for an escape route.

The unanswered call.

The empty wardrobe.

The rosary beads on the dresser.

The bulging suitcase.

The silent doorbell.

The ‘closed’ sign on the shop.

Fallen petals on a florist’s floor.

The midnight car lot.

The despondent moon.

The fallen tree in the forest.

The charred embers.

The ripple without a stone.

The starling without a murmuration.

The stalking wolf.

The disused canal.

The stagnant water.

The ghost of a railway line.

The forbidden tunnel.

Fragments of a life unlived;

Or lived.

Who knows?

Or cares.

The drop of the body,

From the bridge.

Falling

Into the darkness.

Silence.

The stoic rocks.

Then violence.

The relevance of the cello piece? I adore the cello and I thought the subject matter of the poem suited the haunting and melancholy sound. If you are familiar with the lyrics of Chandelier by Sia, you’ll see why I chose it as an accompaniment.

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Parr Excellence.


Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Martin Parr would probably groan in pun-staking agony at that headline.

Oh well, you’re here now.

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s greatest photographers. Actually, make that ‘the World’s’.

He manages to capture the zeitgeist of working-class life in all its gaudy technicolour, wherever he goes. Whether that be Barnsley or Brazil.

He’s known for his satirical and ironic documentary-style images that look at our insatiable rapaciousness for consumerism. That, and people eating chips.

Martin Parr

I’m not here to write his biography, just show you some of his brilliant work. If you’d like to know a bit more about him, his life, his work, his foundation and his legacy, click here. But if you just want to see more photos of people eating chips, scroll down.

Ireland.
USA. Kentucky Derby. 2015.
ITALY. Capri. Marina Piccola. 2014.
Sexy Beast, anyone?
Uruguay.
Barry Island. 1996.
WALES. Glamorgan. Tower Colliery. 1993.
Wales. Tenby. 2018.

If you want to have a look at some of his most recent projects, have a look here. You won’t be disappointed.

GB. England. Kent. Margate. 1986.
GB. England. Bristol. Pride. 2019.

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Liberty – Paul Eluard


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Paul & Nusch Eluard

When I first read ‘Liberty’ by French poet Paul Eluard I thought it was a love poem to his wife Nusch. Silly me.

After doing a bit of research (Googling) I learned that it was, in fact, about the Nazi occupation of his beloved France during the Second World War.

In my defence, I still think it reads like a love poem. Just love of one’s country, I guess.

It reminded me of ‘The Causes’ by Jorge Luis Borges. Another epic poem about love.

 

Liberty

By Paul Eluard

Translation by Guy Tiphane

 

On my school notebooks

On my school desk and the trees

On the sand on the snow

I write your name

 

On all the pages read

On all the blank pages

Stone blood paper or ash

I write your name

 

On the golden images

On the warriors’ arms

On the kings’ crown

I write your name

 

On the jungle and the desert

On the nests on the brooms[1]

On the echo of my childhood

I write your name

 

On the wonders of the nights

On the white bread of the days

On the seasons engaged[2]

I write your name

 

On all my rags[3] of azure

On the pond mildewed sun

On the lake live moon

I write your name

 

On the fields on the horizon

On the wings of the birds

And on the mill of the shadows

I write your name

 

On every puff of dawn

On the sea on the boats

On the mad mountain

I write your name

 

On the foam of the clouds

On the sweat of the storm

On the thick and dull rain

I write your name

 

On the scintillating figure

On the bells[4] of the colors

On the physical truth

I write your name

 

On the paths awake

On the roads unfurled

On the squares overflowing

I write your name

 

On the lamp that comes alight[5]

On the lamp that dies out[6]

On my houses combined

I write your name

 

On the fruit cut in halves

Of the mirror and of my room

On my empty shell bed[7]

I write your name

 

On my gourmand and tender dog

On his pricked up ears

On his clumsy paw

I write your name

 

On the springboard of my door

On the familiar objects

On the flood of the blessed fire

I write your name

 

On any[8] granted flesh

On my friends’ brow

On every hand held out

I write your name

 

On the window of the surprises

On the attentive lips

Well above the silence

I write your name

 

On my destroyed shelters

On my crumbled beacons

On the walls of my boredom

I write your name

 

On the absence without desire

On the bare solitude

On the steps of death

I write your name

 

On the health returned

On the risk disappeared

On hope without remembrance

I write your name

 

And by the power of a word

I start my life again

I was born to know you

To name you

 

Liberty.

 

Thanks to @chimesatmidnight on Instagram for first introducing me to the poem.

 

F.LEGER_

 

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Unleash your inner Tempest


Addendum.

Unfortunately, the Shakespeare exhibition and all workshops have been cancelled until further notice due to the coronavirus.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

 

Fancy contributing to an exhibition based around Shakespeare’s The Tempest?

I’m facilitating an exhibition for Arc in collaboration with Stockport Libraries as part of Shakespeare Week.

The theme for the exhibition is to bring the great bard’s classic play to life visually.

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Here’s one we prepared earlier…

Who can get involved?

Well, there are two groups of people that can take part – locals, and non-locals.

If you’re local to Stockport, you can come along to one of our group sessions at The Heatons and Brinnington libraries. They are on Tuesday 17th March and Friday 20th March respectively.

There are two sessions at each library. 10.30 am – 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm – 3.30 pm.

You can pop along for one, or both sessions. (There’ll be different activities in the morning and afternoon.) Stay for 10 minutes or two hours.

For non-locals who fancy having a go, simply email me a pdf of your piece (or post it if you have time) and I’ll print it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Vermont or Verona, just pick up your pencils and paintbrushes and wear your heart on your sleeve.

It’s quite simple really. I’m asking people to draw or paint on top of The Tempest text, as in the example above. Artwork can be A5, A4 or A3 portrait or landscape and can be in any medium.

Sometimes called Humuments or Black-out poetry. You can use the text as part of a background, or highlight certain parts of the text to make a completely different piece of prose or poetry, which doesn’t have to relate to The Tempest at all.

See examples above and below.

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The exhibition opens on Saturday 28th March at the Arc Centre Gallery Cafe, Hat Works in Stockport at 11 am – 4 pm.

That doesn’t given you long if you’re not local and would like to submit a piece. We’ll be putting the exhibition together w/c 23rd March, so ideally, we would like email/postal submissions by Saturday 21st March please. I’ll be waiting with baited breath.

Email me at thereisnocavalry@icloud.com for more details or my postal address.

Good luck, the world is your oyster.

 

 

 

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The era-defining legacy of Tish Murtha.


Patricia ‘Tish’ Murtha is another photographer I’ve been wanting to write a post about for quite some time. And, like my previous post about Saul Leiter’s early work in New York, Tish Murtha captured the essence of working class Northern England during the late 70s and 80s under Thatcher.

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Tish Murtha 14/3/1956 – 13/3/2013. © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Unlike Leiter, Murtha’s work focuses predominantly on the socially deprived. One of the reasons I love her work so much is that I can empathise with a lot of the shots. I can see myself in them as a kid growing up in Batley in the 60s and 70s.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Her images also remind me of the early social documentary work of legends like Bill Brandt and Don McCullin. The sort of work we don’t see enough of. That’s because people don’t like to look at it. Because it tells us the truth about the society in which we live.

Local Boys in Bradford 1972

Don McCullin

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Bill Brandt

One of the things a great photographer does is make the viewer ask questions. Like, who are they? What are they doing now? In this case, who started the fire? Did they start it? Why are they unconcerned? What are they looking at?

Tish Murtha doesn’t just capture images of the economically deprived in our society, she captures joy and despair. Fear and determination. Hope and uncertainty. Perhaps most importantly – love and kinship.

 

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Tish Murtha would have been have been 64 next month. Sadly, she died at the tender age of 56 in 2013 of a sudden brain aneurysm.

The legacy of Tish Murtha is carried on by her daughter Ella who has kindly given me permission to publisher her mother’s work, and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

Ella posthumously published collections of her mum’s work in the books Youth Unemployment and Elswick Kids which you can find here.

You can also get exhibition prints here.

I could continue this post with Tish Murtha’s work for as many Google pages there are showing it. But that would leave you with nothing to do. To find out more about her era-defining work – and how she saved the lives of four women through organ donation – why not explore her life and work here.

Happy birthday Tish.

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