Hug a Tree

Re-posting this from May 2013 – seems to have disappeared from archives.  Pseudo-science?  Or is there something to learn from trees – one of the earths oldest remaining forms of life


It’s Spring.
The trees are in leaf,
but beneath that hard exterior
is there a soul?
The trees are in leaf,
feeling the warmth of the sun,
greeting the light,
feeding on its energy
in photosynthetic delight,
if they feel delight,
if they have a soul.
Go hug a tree,
admire its majesty
speak to it,
listen to see if it answers back.
Not the creaking and cracking
as it sways in the wind,
more like the click of your tongue.
The wonder of science.
We’ve listened, we’ve heard
the words of a tree,
beyond the range of the human ear,
the words of a tree in thirst,
the words of a tree in pain perhaps,
praying for rain perhaps,
the ultrasonic pop, pop, pop,
the being of the tree
pleading for water.
Pop, pop, pop.
Feel sympathy.
Feel empathy.
Go hug a tree.

2nd May 2013

Notes: Gasping for a drink: Ultrasonic popping sound made by trees when they are thirsty heard for first time.” Scientists believe they have made the first ever recording of a tree gasping for water. Just as humans make a noise as they desperately try to gulp air, living trees make ultrasonic popping noises as they draw in as much moisture as possible to survive during a drought. The sounds are a hundred times faster than can be heard by the human ear, but a team led by French physicist Philippe Marmottant at Grenoble University believe they have been able to slow the process down sufficiently to be heard during a recent lab experiment.



Looks like old posts disappear.  So here’s a re=post of one that’s gone for friend Shawna:


You don’t have to be mad to work here,
but it helps.
Yelps of consternation sweep the nation
unnerving the world
as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorder is unfurled.

The book on which drug companies thrive.
The psychiatrist’s bible.
If you read it you’re liable
to discover you’re not all there,
madder than the maddest of mad march hares;
mad as an Englishman having fun
out in the midday sun;
barking mad as a rabid dog,
or hopping mad as a box of frogs;
mad as a sandwich short of a picnic,
nutty as a fruit-cake,
crazy as a coot,
just plain old-fashioned lunatic.

In one way or another,
blame it on your father
or maybe on your mother
if you’re hyper, if you’re tired,
if you’re dull or if you’re fired,
if you’re sacked or not been hired,
if you’re a pathologic liar,
if you yearn to be admired,
parade on beaches unattired,
if you’re brain stem’s wrongly wired,
if your sanity’s expired
you have a Mentally Acquired
or you’re MAD in short.
You’re caught in the DSM-5 disorder trap.

Are you compulsively tidy, obsessively neat?
You’ve an order disorder.
Is your hedge the wildest in the street?
You’ve a border disorder.
Are you agnostic or don’t believe?
That’s a Lord disorder.
Do you collect stamps or pressed dried leaves?
You’ve a hoarder disorder.
Does no-one listen to what you say?
That’s a being ignored disorder.
Do you clap persistently to get your way?
An applauder disorder.
Do you want to bring happiness every day?
A rewarder disorder.

One thing is certain,
one thing is true
this is a spiral of catch 22.
But no matter what,
no matter who,
no matter which,
it’s important to be rich
to afford a disorder.
Or maybe join the official list
of those acquainted with matters like this.
Yes train to be a psychiatrist
with your very own
broader disorder disorder.

17th May 2013

Notes:  “New US manual for diagnosing mental disorders published.”  The field of mental health faced its greatest upset in years with the publication of the long-awaited and deeply-controversial US manual for diagnosing mental disorders.  Early drafts of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, have divided medical opinion so firmly that authors of previous editions are among the most prominent critics


janusAlthough I still have a lot of poems from last year’s headlines to publish I’ve decided to call a halt to the Janus project since it’s taking up time which I want to spend on other projects this year.

The most significant of these is “Keats’ Ghost” which is trying to create the spirit of a town through verse, the town being Teignmouth where Keats once lived for a short while.  I hope some of you have had a look already at the growing collection which not only features verse but links through to associated features of the town, its history, its activity.

You can access it through the Pherecrates home page or direct via:

Keats’ Ghost

Meanwhile …….


Sometimes looking forward,
sometimes back,
capturing a snapshot of the time,
the headlines swing and sway,
ruling for a day.

Mayfly transient.
Vanished in the blinking of an eye.
Hopefully they’ve made you think,
smile, laugh, pray, cry,
wonder why.

But most of all,
now last year’s course of verse is run,
I hope you feel enthralled.
I hope you’ve had some fun.

Au Revoir

Inquiry reports on Stafford Hospital deaths scandal

staffordOne year ago today and the public enquiry report was published condemning the standard of care patients had experienced at Stafford hospital over many years.  It pointed to neglect, negligence, lack of compassion and management failure all the way up the chain.


What Went Wrong?

The doctors struggling everywhere
and nurses with compassion gone.
Management who did not care
in a hospital gone wrong.

Where does the diagnostic blame belong?
Were they worried, in despair?
Did they feel so put upon,
the doctors struggling everywhere?

Patients lay and festered there
in beds unchanged for oh so long,
thirsting in Mid Staff’s nightmare
and nurses with compassion gone.

They needed guidance to be strong,
to summon up a strength that’s rare,
to challenge what they felt was wrong –
management who did not care.

The systems were beyond repair;
process not people, the same old song.
So much to do, the facts laid bare,
in a hospital gone wrong.

The Health Authority head moved on
to lead the NHS, and we despair.
Is that where Nicholson belongs,
management who did not care?


6th February 2013 – headline from the BBC

Notes:  “Inquiry reports on Stafford Hospital deaths scandal”.  Upto an estimated 1200 patients died as a result of poor care between January 2005 and March 2009 at Stafford hospital.  The often horrifying evidence that has emerged means “Mid Staffs” has become a byword for NHS care at its most negligent.  A full public inquiryreport, produced by Robert Francis QC, was scathing and cited a litany of failings in the care of patients. “For many patients the most basic elements of care were neglected,” he said. Some patients needing pain relief either got it late or not at all. Others were left unwashed for up to a month. “Food and drinks were left out of the reach of patients and many were forced to rely on family members for help with feeding.” Too many patients were sent home before they were ready to go, and ended up back in hospital soon afterwards. “The standards of hygiene were at times awful, with families forced to remove used bandages and dressings from public areas and clean toilets themselves for fear of catching infections.” Patients’ calls for help to use the toilet were ignored, with the result that they were left in soiled sheeting or sitting on commodes for hours “often feeling ashamed and afraid”.  Misdiagnosis was common.  The appalling care and neglect uncovered at Stafford Hospital did not develop overnight. Warning signs had been in evidence for years but were ignored or overlooked by every organisation responsible for regulating the NHS, up to and including the Department of Health.  NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson has also come in for criticism as previous head of the health authority.  In his evidence to the inquiry he said he did not think Stafford represented a systematic failure as it had been the only case uncovered on such a scale.

A Moral Trilogy

magdalenOne year ago yesterday and three moral issues were in the headlines: the vote in favour of the Marriage Bill (same sex couples); the acceptance, at last , of guilt by the Irish government in the scandal of the Magdalene laundries; and the revelation of the conspiracy of cooperation with the CIA in its ‘rendition’ programme.


A Moral Trilogy

Let’s implore
the House today
to change the law.
Let’s pray.

catholic, austere,
stripping, whipping, unforgiving.
No sisters of mercy here,
just slavery.

cowardly, false;
watering, electrocuting, torturing.
Morality, humanity is lost
in perdition.

Betrayed, enslaved,
crying, weeping, dying.
At last someone has heard.

Oh boy,
marriage legal now.
Let’s celebrate with pride
and joy.

5th February 2013

Notes:  Three ‘moral issue’ headlines today: “Gay marriage: MPs back legislation”.  The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, at the end of a full day’s debate.  The Prime Minister described the move as “an important step forward” that strengthens society.  About 140 Conservative MPs are thought to have voted against the plans.

Magdalene laundries: Ireland accepts state guilt in scandal”.  Following the McAleese report Ireland has officially recognised the state’s guilt in the “enslavement” of more than 30,000 women, the “Maggies”.  They were sent against their will to the Magdalene laundries, run by various orders of nuns, where they received no pay, no pension and no social protection, serving in some cases “life sentences” simply for being unmarried mothers or regarded as morally wayward.  The inquiry into the Magdalene scandal was finally prompted by a report from the UN committee against torture in June 2011. Magdalene laundry victims are commemorated with a memorial in Glasnevin cemetery.

“Rendition: How 54 nations – and ‘Axis of Evil’ – cooperated with CIA in wake of 9/11”More than a quarter of the world’s countries provided covert assistance to the United States in its extraordinary rendition programme in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, including some branded by Washington at the time as members of the ‘Axis of Evil’, a human rights group has claimed in its report “Globalising Torture”.

Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king’s

richard iii

Battle of Bosworth (in Blackpool Town Hall)

One year ago today and it was confirmed that bones discovered in a Leicester car park were those of Richard III.  Was he a monster, as portrayed by writers throughout history?  Or was he much maligned with a story shaped by the political convenience of the time?  Here’s a view with thanks to Shakespeare for borrowed quotations within the poem, some altered to fit the context.


No Chance to Live So Long

In this our winter of discontent
it’s been confirmed.
In battle slain, in death uncrowned
the king’s been found.
Beneath a Leicester car-park site
the scoliotic bones of crookback Dick
have come to light.

No horse, a kingdom lost and then a life.
A mutilated body,
pierced by spear, dagger, sword and knife,
un-kingly dragged from Bosworth field,
sealed un-coffined in a simple earthy grave,
in Greyfriars church he lay.
So wise, so young they say
do rarely live so long.

The Tudors took the chance to spin
and weave a tale that much maligned
that hunchback king.
They went to every length
to desecrate that tower of strength,
the last of House of York,
Richard, crookback Dick, the third.
They spread the word.
Two princes in the tower dead.
Off with his head!
His evil deeds,
the twists and turns that history believed.
How much is history really worth?
The world had grown so bad
that wrens made prey
where eagles dared not perch.

Conscience is a word that cowards use
devised at first to keep the strong in awe.
But history has a conscience too
and truth will out
the inconvenient truth that will reveal
that what we once believed
we can believe no more.
Richard the Third,
no longer much maligned,
will now be nobly re-interred,
consigned to lie within a holy place
fitting for a king to grace.
A king so wise, so young
who had no chance to live so long.

4th February 2013 – headlines from the BBC

Notes:  “Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king’s”.  A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III.  Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.  Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: “Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.”  Richard, killed in battle in 1485, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.