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


Archbishop of Canterbury says emulate Nelson Mandela in tackling poverty


So this is the last verse of the Janus Project but the blog continues for a while since it only started in June whilst my warchbishopriting started in January 2013.  So I’ll continue to post verse from the same day last year to complete the blog collection.  For this last verse from the last day of the year I was inspired by the very simple message from Archbishop Justin Welby who advocated a resolution for everyone to change the world just a bit where we are.


Take the First Bite

Archbishop Justin Welby
expressed a message of hope for the New Year
based on a quote that dealing with poverty
is, in fact, not an act of charity
but an act of justice.
A message vehemently expressed from the heart.
A message that started with Nelson Mandela
– one smart fella that –
who was aware that change came from within.
You can change yourself
but only attempt to influence
everyone else.

Question:  How do you eat an elephant?
Answer:  You eat it a bite at a time.

Its size is the deterrent
that repels the idea of change.
So don’t try to change the world.
Start with your neighbourhood,
or even at home.
Start small.
Don’t look too far.
Resolve to be an influence,
to make a difference wherever you are,
to fight against prejudice,
to combat injustice,
to stand up for right,
….. to take that first bite.



31st December 2013 – headline from the Guardian

Notes:  “Archbishop of Canterbury says emulate Nelson Mandela in tackling poverty.”  The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has urged people to adopt a New Year’s resolution of tackling poverty in their own neighbourhoods.  But the archbishop said in his first New Year’s message as head of the Church of England that many people were struggling in spite of many signs of hope.  He recommended taking up a pledge this year to try to “change the world a bit where we are”.  “I want to suggest this year that each of us makes a resolution to try and change the world a bit where we are,” he said in his message.  “Nelson Mandela said that dealing with poverty is not an act of charity, it’s an act of justice, he said every generation has the chance to be a great generation and we can be that great generation.”

Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins

Fugu sashimi : Tessa is sashimi of thin sliced...

Fugu sashimi : Tessa is sashimi of thin sliced puffer fish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Penultimate day of the Janus Project and a bizarre story of dolphins getting high on puffer fish.  I think the puffer fish is the one used in Japanese cooking; it requires very careful preparation and I believe that you have to have some sort of certification to serve it.  The knives used in its preparation can not be used for anything else, such is the strength of the toxin.  I wonder how dolphins discovered the narcotic effects of the puffer fish without themselves being killed in the process!

Daze of the Dolphin

Don’t Bogart that joint,
my fish-eating friend.
Anoint my lips,
pass it over to me.
Give me an end,
I depend on a hit
from that toxic shit
of piscine hallucinogen.

Who could imagine
that dolphins like Flipper
could be double-dippers
of neural toxin,
like sharing a spliff
when they pass round the fish
and gently squeeze
to release ecstasy.

The carefully pressured
juice of the puffer
is treasured by dolphins.
It gives such a high
that they gaze at the skies
and philosophise
on the meaning of life,
wondering why they are here.


30th December 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.”  Dolphins are thought of as one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom – and experts believe they have put their ingenuity to use in the pursuit of getting “high”.  In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.  Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.  Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.

Volgograd train station rocked by suicide bombing

Two days to the end of the Janus Project.

In the mean tivolgogradme something is happening in Russia.  This suicide bombing was followed by another in a trolley bus in Volgograd.  The unrest in Russia doesn’t seem to have made much impact on news here but it is evident that this level of ‘terrorist’ activity has been going on for some time as individual Russian states endeavour to seek their own future.


People milled in Volgograd.
The station buzzed with the rush of bustling crowds,
jostling commuters muscling their way to work,
hassled mothers with children in tow.  Children hushed.

Somebody killed in Volgograd.
A woman with belief in something that transcended life.
An ordinary woman.  Maybe grief betrayed her sense of right.
An ordinary face, ordinary clothes swaddling death beneath.

Blood was spilled in Volgograd.
Sixteen died when ordinariness exploded
and unleashed its angered holocaust of death.
In that instant time stopped, breath stopped in the wrath of suicide.

Something was stilled in Volgograd.
Thoughts.  Thoughts of desperation, of anger, of hate.  Thoughts of why
the waste of life, the ritual rationale of sacrifice
for a blinded cause, a beguiling hope, a misguided aspiration.


29th December 2013 – headline from the Guardian

Notes:  “Volgograd train station rocked by suicide bombing.”  Sixteen people were killed and another 50 injured after a suicide bombing at a railway station in the southern Russian city of Volgograd that highlighted the region’s security vulnerability just six weeks before the Winter Olympics.  Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, is a railway hub on the route connecting European Russia with central Asia. It acts as a gateway to the Caucasus, and is 600 miles from Sochi, the Black Sea city where the Olympics are scheduled to start on 7 February.  The blast ripped through an area between the station entrance and metal frames that had been installed as a precaution against terror attacks.  An early statement by the Russian national anti-terrorist committee said the explosion was presumed to have been caused by a female suicide bomber, a young woman from the Caucasus, as in previous attacks in Russia over the past decade.  One report identified the perpetrator as a Dagestani woman by the name of Oksana Aslanova, widow of a militant.  However, later, news agencies reported that it was a man wearing a rucksack who was behind the attack, though he may not have been acting alone.

Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’

Cover of "Life of Pi"

Cover of Life of Pi

Four days left.  So this study has shown that that book you got for Christmas will provide you with the mental gymnastics that boost the brain.  Looking back on 2013 it’s interesting that there have been many headlines similar to this – i.e. claims for some incredible improvement to the human body based on a statistically insignificant study, in this case 21 students.  Make of it what you will!


Read, Read, Read

Reading a novel a day
enhances the cerebral cortex they say.

Absorbing One Hundred Years of Solitude
stimulates cerebral magnitude,
whilst Quiet Flows the Don
turns the brain on
and the Life of Pi
improves your Chi (or is it Psi?).
Cloud Atlas, Lord Jim, Catch 22
will speed up your synapses too.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-……
sharpens your senses, improving the might
of perceptive powers that comes from reading all hours.

Reading a book is like training with weights,
boosting the brain,
improving the state of your mind
and you find that turning the page of every edition
engages the brain in “grounded cognition”,
honing and toning the mind’s condition,
reaching a peak of erudition.
So read, read, read
to retain and improve the brain that you need.





27th December 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Brain function ‘boosted for days after reading a novel’.”  Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said.  The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.  The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.  Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition – for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

Alternative Christmas Message

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Janus project 6 days to go to completion.  Christmas Day saw the “Alternative Christmas Message” from Edward Snowden on Channel 4 TV.  So I thought an alternative message needed an alternative carol – here are some new words to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”


Alternative Christmas Message

We wish you a Merry Christmas
from somewhere deep in Texas.
On your i-phone, laptop, Nexus
we’ve spied without fear.

We’ve been monitoring
you and your kin.
On your i-phone, laptop, Nexus
we’ve spied without fear.

We ignore people’s privacy,
we abhor human rights, you see,
and adore all the secrecy
that helps us breed fear.

You all know that we’ve been spying.
Now it’s shown that we’ve been lying
and there can be no denying
that we’ve spied without fear.

We’re exposed, yes we’ve been blowed on
by a “traitor”, Edward Snowden.
His revelations have just flowed on
and cracked our veneer.

Final Refrain:
Bad tidings we’re caught
in surveillance we’ve wrought.
The leaks will all connect us
to the scandal of the year.


25th December 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Edward Snowden warns over global threat to privacy during Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message.”  US whistleblower Edward Snowden warned about the global threat to privacy during his Channel 4 Alternative Christmas Message.  Snowden, who was behind the leak of documents revealing mass surveillance programmes, said in the broadcast: “Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.  “A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”

Road project in Iceland delayed to protect ‘hidden’ elves

Middle Earth Elves_P1030159

Middle Earth Elves_P1030159 (Photo credit: hoyasmeg)

8 days left to the Janus project and just managed to squeeze this into a post-prandial gap in Christmas activities.  Strange how Christmas has contorted our view of the ancient Elvish race, reducing them to Santa’s helpers.  Fortunately Tolkien has helped to set the record straight and Icelanders still honour the ancient ways.  Happy Christmas everyone.


Iceland Elves

We don’t do credit to ourselves
when we demean the ancient race of Elves
by flaunting them in Christmas films.
Better by far the Lord of the Rings.

There in the Middle-Earth of Rivendell
Elrond in the Elvish kingdom dwelled
‘til Mordor’s cloying darkness hung,
tentacles of smothering darkness
to shroud and quell the Elvish tongue.

The Elves sailed north to Nordic lands,
fleeing to the grim-beard fjords and volcanic strands.
They melded into Iceland’s mystic geist
of Vulcan spumes, aurora lights
and glacial blue-stone diamond-ice.

And now they drift, kissed by feathered sighs of wind
like spectres in Icelandic mist.
Icelanders honour ancient ways,
their voices raised
against developments that desecrate and taunt
the legendary lore of Elvish haunts.



23rd December 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Road project in Iceland delayed to protect ‘hidden’ elves.”  Humans in Iceland are standing up for the rights of elves – and not because Father Christmas works them too hard.  Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project because it might disturb the creatures’ habitat.  The activists are particularly concerned about an elf church that sits on the potential site.  The proposed highway would offer a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula, where President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer.  But the project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava