Midnight Mass isn’t really my tradition. I was brought up a Quaker, and while my ex-Anglican parents would occasionally take us to a hymn service at Christmas, I much prefered being tucked up in a duvet on the sofa listening to Twas The Night Before Christmas, read to us from a little red book with a sellotaped spine. Christmas was also pink grapefruit with brown sugar for breakfast, a Terry’s chocolate orange, a snowy walk in the Saskatchewan prairies, then home to the traditional feast served on a pink and orange tablecloth. After my parents’ divorce my mother’s staunch commitment to the decadance of the holiday became more apparent: while my budget doesn’t stretch to a shopping trolley full of speciality alcohol, and my own taste in decorations runs to pine-cone hedgehogs and felt robins, I always pick up a box of liqueur-filled chocolates in her memory, and adore tinsel-dripping…

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          Here we are once more, gearing up for the annual winter whirl of gift-giving, soul-searching & future-facing. If you’re looking for an unusual present for the person who has everything, I am offering Tarot Card Reading gift certificates this year. Sensitive and compassionate, my readings are intended as opportunities for the querent to pause and reflect on their journey through life. Each purchase comes with a free signed copy of my pamphlet Red Hot & Bothered – a spicy stocking stuffer, or collectible little treat for you, the weary online shopper! Price: £20 – includes a Gift Certificate for a 1/2 hr Tarot reading at my flat in Kemp Town (easily accessible by bus from Brighton Station or seafront walk from the pier) or my summer stall on East St (weekends only from April); plus a copy of Red Hot & Bothered, signed and posted…

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A poem that emerged from a memory cloud as I dashed through St Pancras Station – the first draft was typed into my phone on the Underground and read an hour later at my National Poetry Day gig. As I was Tweeting about the pianos a fortnight ago, it seems fitting to publish it online. (And if anyone can explain how to get rid of the double-spacing in WordPress, please feel free to comment!)    The St Pancras Pianos for Paul   Who knew there were two blue uprights at the station? While you caressed the ivories beneath the Eurostar escalier, I was opposite Cath Kidston listening to a bald bruiser with tats and a gay dungeon beard: boogie-woogie jazz sonatas, impromptu ragtime rhapsodies, pouring from his fingers on and on for half hour.   I didn’t SMS because you’d be on the Tube, I didn’t want to nag, and…

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On Advising a Young Man from Galway To Do a Second MA in Biodiversity And evening full of the linnet’s wings — WB Yeats Not sparrows, not dusty summer robins — linnets. Her tidy brown self; His Nibs, top-nobbing the fence posts in puffy pink vest, white epaulettes. Linnets. Not the slender, moth-grey echoes of Inishfree and Jenny Lind I’ve smuggled to Mayo in the rickety cage of my mind, but barefoot ballad mongers, ha’penny paper sellers, three-walnut-shells-and-a-pea players; fancy lads and freckled lasses on a Kilmainham council estate, shadowing a stranger, then like laughter snatched by the wind, whisking away in a riffle of reshuffled cards, the purring flight-path of an arrow. Strutting little linnet, you take a flattering interest in us but we’ve hardly returned the favour: not made you a greeting card icon, just a fleeting emblem of the orchestral Irish air. So, young man at the…

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