Welcome to my website. I'm pleased you found me and I hope you will stay a while.

I'm a British author of poetry, short stories, memoirs and novels. A number of my poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and I have three published novels.

Instilled at an early age with appreciation of the natural world, it's still immensely important to me and much of my poetry celebrates it, as do my novels. I always write from knowledge and experience. In fact you could probably tell exactly where I've lived from the places I write about. This includes Umbria in central Italy, my home for more than thirteen years.

Italian was a delight as another Romance language after my degree in French and Spanish - and not just the language but also the landscape and culture, which inspired a series of short stories (Tales from Rural Umbria) as well as a novel, The Wolves of Little Mouse Valley.

My novels explore a range of emotions and issues, from loss and evil to self-discovery and altruism. In some, an element of fantasy is interwoven with the realism. But read them and find out for yourself!

I live close to the sea in Scotland, in a small stone bungalow that was once a stable, with the companionship of an Italian rescue dog, a small cocker spaniel of the type used to hunt for truffles.

As an amateur photographer, most of the photographs on the website are my own. The one on this page was taken by my good friend Lorraine Johnston.

My novels "Wild Goose," "Skolthan" and "Queen Anne's Lace" are available on Amazon as e-books and paperbacks.

Outlines and excerpts for all five of my novels can be found after the pages of my published poems.

A little bit about me image
Dog rose

Heart-shaped petals curved like the lip
of a curling shell. A bell with a golden
tassel for a tongue. Cream upon cream
upon berries; swans' wings tucked about dawn.
A forest of radiant buttercups guarding
a hillock of magic lawn. Sunbursts
of rays translucent like water, gleaming
green as dew-drenched blades. Sweetness
of dusky moth-light scattered at noon.
Rebirth of blossom in green-apple time.

The photo poem is available to buy as a poster (£5.00 incl p&p) or postcard (£3.00 for 5 incl p&p). Please contact me in the first instance if you are interested.
Published by Fand Music Press as a Poster Poem image
Still of the night

Outside my lighted house
the darkness waits
with ears pricked.

Trees hold back their breath
and put out feelers.
Black expanses gulp the stillness.

Stones shift, but freeze
as I revolve. The sky
is greyscale bar a single
red planet. There is absolute

silence, until ... a curlew thrills,
and an oystercatcher's taut
stitches pucker the vast
canvas of the night.

Published in Trouvaille Review image
Bumblebee nest destroyed

They were probing
where the soil had swamped
their home, fat bodies

tremulous as newborn
foals, pointed toes
scrabbling at the silver

tilth, wings weighed down
with dust.
Could they hear

sounds in the rubble
Whirs of panic?

How long
before silence?
What would the survivors

do with lives
free of obligation,

itinerant fragments of a scheme
which whole, before,
was perfect?

Published in Dreich image

At night I hear them overhead,
the wild geese, voices
faint as breathing and I long
to mingle in their skein
lifted by their turbulence
arrowed by their knowledge
under the pure moon.

And I'd take my turn in slicing
the wind like a cheese wire,
trailing our collective
wisdom to the goal
of grey dawn marshes
more than half as far again
as if I flew alone.

With thanks to Manfred Antranias Zimmer (via Pixabay) for the photo.
Published in Eye Flash Poetry image

A gull sails
past my winter window.
His fierce eye holds,
like film, coves
of green glass sea,
wind-ruffled thrift atop
sheer cliffs,
rainbows of herring,
curves of coastline mastered
by a single wingbeat.

I go with him,
mount his ivory sides and rise
through smoky mist
hearing his cry,
hearing the sound of space
echo through the room.
Published in Shot Glass Journal image
Lost lamb

She comes upon it crying in the aisle
between two hawthorn hedges,
dazed with abandonment.
Its mother must have wandered on
to browse, oblivious, and so,
between awareness and awareness,
its whole world vanished.
It quietens in her arms, heart
thumping like a disco floor,
and chews the velcro of her jacket.
Its head smells sweeter than shampoo.
She is Security, and will return it
whence it came, but just for this
brief moment it is hers.
Published in The Writers' Magazine Issue 2 image
To a dog on the operating table

I will take you home, my darling,
my angel, my love, when it’s over.
I will take you home to sunshine,
to grass and gravel, to wind
in your fur, to a thousand
smells and a hundred places
to drink, after the rain,
to companionship, to the goal,
the hopeless goal, of catching
fat green lizards under the lavender.

You will sit, again, and wait for me
by the garden door, and bark
to the dog across the valley,
and corner the neighbour’s cat
in an apple tree. You will carve
your space among legs, and occupy
the aisle beside my bed. You will sleep
and live with us, eat, breathe …
I will take you home, my darling,
when all of this is over.
Published in Shorts Magazine image
Where fire has been

snarling, leaping at trees
till groaning they turn
to black torsos
twisted limbs:
over the bleak scene
a breeze now blows
cloudlets of seeds.

Rich ash feeds
green embryos
pushes shoots skyward
opens leaves and finally
these flowers
fierce pink as sundown
bright as flames
rosebay willowherb


Published in Minnow Literary Magazine image

If I should drop my golden ring
While swimming in the sea today,
The shrimps would think the wind had sucked
The centre of the sun away.

Then they would wonder why it fell,
And with what purpose it was sent,
And generations would be raised
To theories of what it meant.

Published in Snakeskin image
Blooming gorse  (a villanelle)

"When the gorse is not in bloom then kissing is out of fashion."

I cannot see the gorse in bloom.
Is kissing therefore out of fashion
Due to lockdown in my room?

The News conveys our global doom.
Because excursions are on ration
I cannot see the gorse in bloom.

Nothing penetrates the gloom.
My eyes are dull, my skin is ashen
Due to lockdown in my room.

No bride-to-be can kiss her groom
But likewise I deserve compassion:
I cannot see the gorse in bloom.

I cannot smell the sweet perfume
Of gorse (do you not share my passion?)
Due to lockdown in my room.

When normal living can resume,
Kissing will be back in fashion.
I will see the gorse in bloom
Released from lockdown in my room.

Published in Poetry Kit's Poetry in the Plague Year Anthology image

Let me drink my fill of Summer.

Bees, fat bees, and sponges
Of dewy roses, grasses
In flower, cows in mist,
The shape of things, the roundness,
Smoothness, fullness, spill of things,
Saucers of elder blossom,
Cups of light in nooks and dells
Of walls and boughs, and leaves
Against leaves against light, and calls
Of cuckoo, and chaffinch, and larks
Sitting on spirals of song, and clouds
Bulging and swelling, blurring and melting
Like waves and like ripples, like shadows,
And the thickness of things, the plushness
Of grass and corn, and the sun on them,
Dew on them, mist and morning,
Colour and secrets in grass and lane,
Bright leaf, bright petal, fallen or frail,
Speedwell, silverweed, poppy, and light
Through glass-thin colours and shell-thin
Blades, and the chomp and chew
Of a breathy cow, and scents
Birthless and aimless on sudden winds,
And trunks and branches in stipple, and cows
In dapple and clover and knee-deep
Buttercups wrapping like ripples of weed
Through runnelling water, and tunnels of shade,
And flickers of swallow through towers of cloud …

Let me drink my fill of Summer;
Drink and breathe to store and save
Against darkness, against the darkness
Of soul that has no season.
Published in the Anglo-Welsh Review image

Grassy banks on either side
And marshy patches where kingcups grow.
A steep little path that winds and wanders
And drops at last to the beach below.
A shimmering waterfall; jasper stones
That shine like jewels in all the streams;
Sun-warmed rocks that the waves wash over…
I go there still in my dreams.
Published in Dragon, UCW, Aberystwyth image

I took
My own small world
Down to the shore with me today,
My rucksack on my back, with the water-
Bottle echoing the slap of the sea, and my tools
For netting beauty neatly packed in buckled pockets.
Stones, shells, flowers and leaves, wave-worn bones, pieces
Of broken pots, glass, jewels of man’s making that earth has made her
Own, smoothing them, embedding them in her soft flesh:
All went to build the little home I carried, which
Seemed to stretch outwards to the blue
Of sky and sea, the green of hills.
And over all, like the lofty
Apex of a cupola,
Sang a lark.

'Caracol' is the Spanish for snail.
Published in Dragon, UCW, Aberystwyth image
There is a world inside my head

There is a world inside my head
Where no-one goes but I:
An island world surrounded by
Blue sea and bluer sky.

On gorse-grown slopes the rocks are white
As moonlight all the day,
And in the night the shadows
Cannot take their warmth away.

Great leafy trees hang over streams
That through green gullies run,
And these are cool as wind
Because they never see the sun.

Here is no plant without a flower,
No bird without a song;
The cuckoo calls and bees hum
All the year and all day long.

In quiet moments I can dip
My feet into those streams,
Or plunge my naked self
Into the blue sea of my dreams.
Published in Scheherazade, Cambridge Literary Magazine image
Eden after

Myths of golden ages magnify
To cosmic scale our own experience.
Childhood like a magic castle lifts
Its drawbridge on our heels, and sends us forth
With such after-taste of bliss that all of life
Is spent seeking that lost paradise.

Children have a world within our world:
A microcosm busy and secure
As bees in cushioned fastnesses of flowers.
Days are their coinage: weeks, months, years
Mean nothing more than do the sun’s dimensions.

Summer meadows are their forests; trees
Make caves for them, and leaves to flounder through,
While high boughs could be painted on the sky.
Butterflies alight at nose-tip level;
Pimpernel half-hidden in the grass
Is more a treat than daffodil or rose.

But would we change our power for their peace?
Do frogs regret the shedding of a tail?
Perhaps we polish over-much the past:
Like antique furniture it gains a shine
When use has worn the texture all away.

Published in Scheherazade, Cambridge Literary Magazine image
The forgotten village of Vortigern's Glen 

I plunged down the steeply twisting track
Between the weather-pitted boulders
And the pine trees that the wind bends back
From the sea, while over my shoulders
The mist-enveloped mountain peaks seemed
To hang, brooding. Then the path swung round
And the sea, like a fish’s scales, gleamed
Silver before me, and I had found

The village. A few huddled houses
It was, with grass down the tiny street
Where stealthily the stray sheep browses,
And treads the rubble with cautious feet.
In the blank, grey walls the windows gaped
Likes sightless sockets. Elder trees clung
By the doorways, stunted and storm-shaped,
Bowed as if old, when they were still young.

Those wind-scoured dwellings breathed disaster;
The blind windows spoke of tragedy;
And so I left, and climbed up faster
Than I had come, and it seemed to me
That the stream’s faint, murmuring laughter
Mocked me, and the gliding gull’s harsh screams
Were of a ghost that followed after,
And for nights it crept into my dreams.
Published in Catch, Pembroke College, Cambridge image
'Wild Goose' is the story of Jemima, a bright, serious and sensitive girl who has been brought up by her grandparents in the countryside. She goes to live with her father Leonard when her grandfather dies and her grandmother remarries.

Leonard, a possessive although not uncaring father, attempts to model her in his image as a student of English Literature. Jemima's own inclinations are towards Natural History but her resources aren't sufficient to combat Leonard's influence.

Following a desperate cry for help, other relatives rally to find her the support she needs and a solution begins to take shape.

It's a novel about a well-meaning adolescent who fears rejection, and a blinkered parent. It reminds us how much children can be affected by the vicarious ambition of the grown-ups in their lives, and how their individuality should be sacrosanct.

As Colin Firth says in an interview, discussing the film 'When did you last see your father': "There's something quite narcissistic about ... family love. I want to love you the way I want to. I want to own you. Be like me ... so I can understand you."
About "Wild Goose" image

When Jemima is small, Leonard manages to be on her level, and often responds intuitively to her feelings.

They are walking in a wood when she spots a Keeper's Larder with various grisly carcasses hung on a strand of barbed wire. Her eye is caught by the patch of bright blue plumage on a jay's wing and Leonard responds telepathically to her appreciation of the colour.

Leonard stepped forward, plucked one of the stripy blue feathers and laid it in the palm of her hand. She walked all the rest of the way holding it out in front of her like a tiny Olympic flame.
Excerpt 1 from Wild Goose image
When Jemima is older, Leonard begins to attempt to impose his own values on her. He has become more fastidious and less appreciative of her interests.

When she goes to live with him, he gives her a cabinet to put treasures in, but they each have different ideas about what is suitable. She produces what she thinks of as natural history specimens but he sees it as rubbish and makes her throw it away.

As a gesture of rebellion she later took the bag out of the bin and hid it under her bed. Not only that; she added further objects to the collection as she found them: rabbit and bird skulls, feathers, leaf skeletons, pine cones gnawed this time by squirrels (a different pattern), hazel nuts opened by mice, conkers, more fungi.
Excerpt 2 from Wild Goose image
'Skolthan' is a novel with a core of fantasy based around the notion that a portal exists to a fragment of the one-time Garden of Eden, called Skolthan, through an offshore island. The way through is the province of only a handful of people, unknown to each other, but these guardians must band together to deny access to evil forces which, once in control, would subvert the world.

The story has brutal elements including attempted child sacrifice and a description of the burning of a witch, but also portrayed are courage, companionship and loyalty among apparently ordinary village folk, and finally selfless devotion to a helpless young woman who has become sick of mind.

The setting, based on the wild North Norfolk coast in all seasons, is a strong element pervading the whole book.
About "Skolthan" image
Hilda revels in the dew-drenched flowers of the early morning near her seaside cottage.

I gathered an armful of flowers: feathery melilot, some white, some pale yellow; bushes of purple tufted vetch; campion; hawkweed. I even broke off a spray of dog roses from the hedge, wetting my nose in the dew held by the shell-pink petals.

Excerpt 1 from Skolthan image
Abigail is growing up more akin to her father, foreshadowing the estrangement from her mother, Hilda.

She was always a ‘Daddy’s girl’, riding on Josh’s shoulders down the sea wall, patting down the sand he dug for castles, bringing him the biggest shells and the brightest pebbles, creeping under his blanket to shelter from a thunderstorm.

Excerpt 2 from Skolthan image
'Queen Anne's Lace' is the story of how a family copes following the death of James, the husband and father. It follows Isabel's path, as the new widow, from bewilderment, through clutching at a false certainty, to finding renewed happiness.

At the same time, her three children's own lives are evolving: the blunt, practical Kate marries so that she will be giving birth to her baby in wedlock; clever, handsome Angus comes to know the strengths and weaknesses of his confident society girlfriend; and the artistic Violet lets go of one version of herself in order to catch hold of another.

Isabel and Violet are the peacemakers in the family's frequent spats and misunderstandings, but even they are faced with the ultimate challenge in the person of Kate's father-in-law, the deliberately tactless and offensive Derek.

This is a novel that explores the foibles of humankind with gentle humour and warmth, set against a backdrop of rural landscapes and in particular the family's cottage which is 'just close enough to the sea to give a sea feeling'.
About "Queen Anne's Lace" image
Isabel the protagonist becomes better acquainted with the disabled Colin when they attend her daughter's wedding.

“What’s all that white?” Colin asked.

“That’s Queen Anne’s lace,” Isabel told him, and then they were among it. The wheelchair could hardly find the path through the crowding stems. All around, white flowers thrust and nodded, rank upon rank of them, massing to create the effect of snow. Tiny white petals fell all over Colin’s knees and shoulders and even his head. It was like pushing through froth, or getting caught up in a bride’s veil. He laughed, and stopped to push the plants aside with his hands.

“We’re in fairyland,” he said. “We really are. We must have said the magic word.”
Excerpt 1 from Queen Anne's Lace image
Kate's father-in-law Derek is careless of the feelings of others and has a black sense of humour. He is the cause of much embarrassment at the christening which he has just attended.

Kate and Mike, just behind her, were shepherding Derek along as if he were a small, laggardly boy. Given half a chance, as Kate explained in an aside to Violet, he would be off round the churchyard hunting for the most cryptic and affection-less epitaph that he could find, because that sort of thing amused him.
Excerpt 2 from Queen Anne's Lace image
'The Wolves of Little Mouse Valley' is set in mountainous and forested Umbria, central Italy. It reflects the way of life of a rural community which prizes truffles, olive oil, home-grown vegetables, hardy women and fidelity. It contains an element of fantasy in its depiction of a powerful population of wolves.

The wolves control the wild boar which in turn are a danger to the valued truffle harvest. They have a long-standing relationship with the family at the core of the story, having created an unbroken chain of wolf boys who are initiated into the ways of the wolves once they are a certain age, or when they reach a point of danger in their lives at which the wolves' help is needed.

The latter is the case of orphans in a notorious monastery which the wolves are instrumental in overturning as being corrupt and cruel even in its apparent blandishments. The wolves are moral beings which arrive on the scene as a force for good, and melt away when they are no longer needed.

'Little Mouse Valley' is the literal English translation of 'Valtopina', the village which, fictionalised, serves as the backdrop for much of the story.

With thanks to Peter Fischer - Papafox (via Pixabay) for the photo.

About "The Wolves of Little Mouse Valley" image
This passage is the very opening of the book. The photo shows an apricot tree laden with fruit.

Leonora always said it was a shame that the house she’d inherited wasn’t anywhere near as good as the land it was on. They had a large patch of mountainside to call their own, but the stone house on its exposed ridge with its clumsy brick repairs, its leaking windows, its year-long smudges of mould and its smoky hearth were inconvenient to say the least. And then there was that outside staircase, wide open to the elements.

“Look on the bright side,” Ernesto her husband said once. “You can pick apricots from the top step.”

All very well for him to see it that way, seeing as he was disabled and it was never his job to venture up the stairs, slipping on the treacherous ice on a winter's night and being blown inside-out by the wind. Being able to reach apricots in summer was hardly a priority anyway when one year in two there weren't any, and the other year there was a glut they could scarcely cope with. The ancient trees would have swallowed the house if they hadn't been pruned savagely back so as not to obscure the view.

Excerpt 1 from The Wolves of Little Mouse Valley image
The passage is from the very end of the book.

They were also unaware that on the steep face of the higher mountain where the snow was a white curtain blotting everything from view, the wolves had gathered in a mass of darkness. It was a company of companies, a flock of flocks, and they had a great deal to communicate. It would be the stuff of wolf legend.

Not all of them had emerged unscathed from their mission. Between the pads of a paw, here and there, was a tiny sliver of red, blue or golden-yellow glass that had fallen from one of the bright pictures in the chapel windows. These pieces would need to be extracted, by tongue and teeth, because left where they were, they could make a wolf lame, and a lame wolf was slow and liable to succumb in the winter.

With thanks to InspiredImages (via Pixabay) for the photo.
Excerpt 2 from The Wolves of Little Mouse Valley image
Fairy Rock is a mythical offshore island (based on Ailsa Craig, a real island whose name means Fairy Rock in Scottish Gaelic) where six people lead a primitive life almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. The novel tells the story of how discovery of gold on the island leads to invasion and a re-shuffle of the inhabitants' relationships.

Tragedy ensues, the gold being in large part responsible, but from what might have been the wreck of the island's own brand of civilization, there emerges a strong partnership which ultimately overcomes all difficulties and gives hope for the future.

The first 3,000 words of this novel won First Prize in a competition run by Ayr Writers' Club to which I owe a great deal for encouragement and support in my writing.

The photo is of the real Ailsa Craig.
About "The Gold of Fairy Rock" image
The passage is from the very beginning of the novel. The heroine has climbed up the cliff in order to take seabirds' eggs.

Clodie’s fingers were dug securely into a crevice of the cliff so she permitted herself a quick downward glance at the sea. It was swollen, opaque, heaving menacingly right up against the rock face. What made it green like that, though? It made her think of one of those bright green shiny bags that washed up sometimes, but in this case with a monster inside, struggling feebly. Or a big fish in its death throes.

But there was a job to do. She had to do it quickly and efficiently because no-one must ever know how much it cost her in terms of sheer nerve and plucked-up courage or they would deem her incapable and start expecting her to do other things, and then she would be lost. She was Clodie the Cliff. That’s who she was and people always lived up to their epithets. It was how they were.
Excerpt 1 from The Gold of Fairy Rock image
The passage is from the very end of the novel when the hero and heroine are leaving the island.

“Do we need to have identities in order to be together?”

“You mean from now on? Only if we want to be officially married.”

“Does it matter whether we are or not?”

“I don’t see why. But the one gold coin I managed to chip off could make us wedding rings, if you like.”

“You said it was fairy gold, and we’re not angels ..." Then, almost accusingly, "I didn’t know you’d managed to chip any gold off.”

“I wanted to surprise you. And I don't think the fairies will begrudge us just one coin out of it all.”
Excerpt 2 from the Gold of Fairy Rock image