Go to writLOUD home page


As of July 2010, this site is no longer being maintained. For current writLOUD information, please see the Writers' Hub.

Readings © the individual writers


Act of Faith; Ellipsing, Elapsing

By June the season will be gone
if we don’t write it this minute
we will never write it (Listen)


[podcast not available]

Together, the two of you share other secrets – a tangle of impossible knots - painted in thick coats of oil. Solid. Ours is more fragile. A pencil sketch. We can be erased. But not now. Now, your body next to mine is like oak [podcast not available]

Air and Sea and Salt

Vivienne watches the sea breaking below her against the side of the ship and wonders what it would feel like to step over the railing, to launch herself into the air, arms spread, before being engulfed by the dark, roiling water. (Listen)

A Little Help from My Friends

So I can see him up there, on the cliff top, and I’ve got to admit it’s getting tough now. But he’s made up his mind. (Listen)

All Grown Up

Let’s face it, it isn’t every night you come downstairs to find a burglar in your house who turns out to be an old pupil from school, especially not one like Stevo. (Listen)


. . . he picked up the jar of Allspice and put it in his pocket. He needed an ‘A’ today. He thought it might be lucky. (Listen)

Alter Ego (a Scouser awakes)

The gang of navvies camped around my bed
are hammer-drilling trenches in my head.
Then I recall, in morning-after fog,
shenanigans occurring down the Dog.
It’s coming back now, clear as turpentine:
Big Hamish, proffering a line
as big as seven whales. (Listen)

A Quiet Adjustment - extract from Chapter 2

‘You might have saved me once,’ he said. ‘Now it is too late. I fear very much you will find out you have married a devil.’ (Listen)

A Stone for Your Cairn - opening chapter

The visitor sits down on the bench. He looks up at her as she passes, a jolt of recognition passes over his face and he looks quickly away. (Listen)


Baby Zero - extracts plus Q&A

Baby Zero, listen to the story Leila then told at Christmas dinner. They all listened. You should, too. It is a story that keeps happening. A loop in history. A story I think about. When Leila told the story, she had the power. (Listen)

Battery Boy - extract from Chapter One: Another Day

[podcast not available]

In Battery Boy’s deep red memory cavern were buried the stories Tress had told him about how suddenly the cold blue light had come and cleanly sliced across towns like this. It wasn’t just the buildings that were cut down; she had conjured up for him the images of lonely hips and legs in business-like poses. [podcast not available]

Beneath the Fire

blue, watchin it’s like magic blue, floatin bove chair growin, sucking, spreadin, lickin in rainbow orange, clawin out an blackenin my wall, listenin to its breathin, like it’s living, snappin, poppin, crackin, smellin smoky-warm of mummy and bonfire (Listen)

Black Gold

The first hint of thunder came in from the sea just as he oversailed the apex. Uncut straw in the loading yoke stood up on end in the rush of the wind and the static. He worked on. Transfixed. (Listen)

Black Rock - extract plus Q&A

(with apologies for the glitch in the Black Rock reading at around 2 minutes 20 seconds)

I had never seen a photograph of either of my parents because there weren’t any. But Aunt Tassi said that of course my mother was pretty and when I asked her how pretty she pointed at a pink hibiscus flower sticking out of a bush and said, ‘Pretty like that.’ (Listen)

This Bleeding City - extracts plus Q&A

Cold railings were slick beneath my palms. I lurched, drunk with speed, from side to side as I climbed. Each turn promised to be the last and wasn’t, each door promised to give out onto the lofty and dangerous roof and didn’t, every floor was full of dark shadowy cars. Cars that would have been, if not a safe place to leave a two-year-old-boy, then not a fatal place. (Listen)

Blue Elephant

The crowd is three deep at the bar, and I’m trying to drink slowly as I skirt the back of it, looking for the girl with the sand-dune stomach. If I never see her again then what? Most likely nothing, but you never know what might change your life. (Listen)

Book of Clouds - extracts plus Q&A

The jowly face, the sweeping forehead, the deep-set furnacy eyes, everything seemed horribly familiar and I felt as if I had seen this face before, but in black and white. The more I stared the more certain I was . . . Yes, that it was Hitler, Hitler as an old woman, riding westwards. (Listen)

The Book of Miracles - Chapter One: Daniel

Daniel was having sex with the angel. And he had to admit that so far it was a very pleasurable experience indeed. (Listen)

The Boy - extract

He pulled himself out of the mud as if he were Adam forming out of clay. He stumbled, dropped, stood, fell, fought, his throat gasping, his lungs filling with the clag of the land. (Listen)

Buckshot and the Blonde Coyote

I stand, still as I can, for several minutes, watching the velvet grey of his antlers, the ripple of his shanks, the white ring around his black wet muzzle nibbling at the stalks. And then, with a crack, Memphis Buckshot’s head explodes, sending straw and bits of deerstalker hat into the air. (Listen)

The Bus from the Hospital

"Do you know what he said to me, when he was diagnosed? 'You'll have her for yourselves now.' That's what he said. I said I didn't know what he meant." (Listen)

Bus Ticket Revisited

The story is true. Every word. Well, not quite every word. You see, the conductor wasn’t a he but a she. Which somehow makes it different and somehow doesn’t. (Listen)


Cards and Lorries

[podcast not available]

[extract not available]

Cherry and the Quake

‘If you don’t die,’ he said, ‘you just have to live. Let’s go out.’ (Listen)

Cherry Blossoms

[podcast not available]

After I come, I swear to a god I don’t believe in that I will cut off my hands before I do this again. [podcast not available]

Confessions of a Fuzzy Man - extract

I haven’t always looked like this - a heat haze, a trick of the eye. Once upon a time before the war I was as crisply cut and definite as the next man. (Listen)

The Confidence Trick

Mama pequena, little momma,’ she’d cooed in a voice bright as a broken bottle. ‘No one will suspect a pregnant woman! Much safer than inside a suitcase.’ (Listen)


I look at them for a moment, gleaming white capsules sitting amongst the dirt. Perfectly white. Like pearls. Or spider’s eggs. (Listen)

Crazy Horse and the Berlin Murders

Life and death lie in the hands of the ignorant. That’s the way of things. Crazy Horse deserved better. (Listen)

Crusaders - extracts

But Stevie was blazingly content, for truly he had felt it - the rush of hormones from the adrenals, his fear turning to propulsive hate, hate that even now overrode the raw burning pulse in his knuckles. (Listen)

Cut It Out

In my shoulder. A new and unprecedented orifice, medium-size, one-inch deep, a hole in a spot the study of anatomy denies them, two-inches wide and bloodless, tissue-less, a hole with no “in” and no “out”, not a flap-sided hole, or a hole bordered by gristle, but an empty, evacuated, and obviously unfilled space beneath the skin; thing-less, lurid, and top-to-bottom wrong. (Listen)


The Dance

At thirteen minutes past seven, soon after the cemetery gates had opened, two indistinct figures stood in silence by the famous grave. Facing one another, mere inches apart, the couple seemed frozen, mid-step, in a dance. (Listen)

The Dark Inside - Chapter 1

‘Search him out or let him go Lander,’ Sukie breathes out sending incense and dreams clouding over me, rolling up and back into my nostrils. Her hand closes down gentle over mine taking me out onto an expanse of scorched Sunny Isles beach filled with driftwood and the lazy smell of a turned tide, where once I laid me down with this most dazzling of girls. (Listen)

Dead Body

Men hover in loud shirts with louder laughs, smoking thin cigarettes and talking about money while thinking dirty thoughts about each other’s wives (Listen)

Dead Daffodils

[podcast not available]

You would think
That it would take
More than dead daffodils
To make my father cry. [podcast not available]

Dead Sonnet

His cock is shrinking away, like a mollusc contracting into its shell. From where she lies, with her back to him, she can’t picture him, but imagines instead some kind of geloid alien with slimy flesh. When she was seventeen she thought him Marc Antony to her Cleopatra. (Listen)

Death by Scrabble

As I’m picking new letters from the bag, I find myself thinking - the letters will tell me what to do. If they spell out KILL, or STAB, or her name, or anything, I’ll do it right now. I’ll finish her off.
My rack spells MIUZPA. Plus the H in my mouth. Damn. (Listen)

Death Knock - Chapter 1 of work in progress

‘The death knock is when a reporter knocks on the door of a relative of someone who has recently died, the more tragic the death the better, to extract as much information as he can.’ Tony’s words from my first day at the office come back to me. ‘Everyone on the paper wants the death knock. It’s guaranteed to make the front page.’ (Listen)

Deloume Road - extracts

She sighed and heard herself. In Hangul there was a word for it. The unravelling and softening of memory and pain. But she couldn’t think of it, her Korean shrinking as her belly grew. (Listen)

The Dream That Kicks

I told her about Stanley Matthews who’d beaten Bolton on his own, practically, to win the FA Cup, though Stan Mortensen had helped a bit, and how they were the best footballers in the world, and no one could beat them at Wembley, and no one could get past Billy Wright and if they did no one could get past Alf Ramsey, and I believed this until November 25th, when England lost. Six Hungarian goals, three in the first fifteen minutes. Six-three. (Listen)

The Drum

A genie? I’ve seen the films, yeah. Since when weren’t that good news? (Listen)


El Salvador del Rey

I never thought my tent had room for two. We zip down flaps and lie beneath a spread-out sleeping bag. I think of outer space. That if Aaron and I just hold tight we’ll fly to some distant star. Two salty-rich releases are our final dose. I am loose. I am sharp. I am happy. (Listen)

Estrella Damn - Chapter 10

I felt guilty. This man, my friend, was not meant to see bad things. Chasing kids in the Trocadero or following shoplifters was what he did for me, not peering through windows and being frightened. (Listen)

Estrella Damn - extracts from Chapters 17 and 25

Thick Neck pulled me out of the back seat with one paw. I didn’t struggle. I was tired and he could kick me to bits in the street easily enough even if I’d had eight hours and a bowl of muesli. (Listen)

Estrella Damn - Chapter 24

The window was a tight squeeze. Whoever said that if you can fit your shoulders through then the rest will follow had not reckoned on what a few years of beer-drinking will do. (Listen)

The Ex-Factor

I was just
trawling the Net
and there you were! (Listen)

Extraordinary Chambers - extract

[podcast not available]

Later in the hotel’s marble toilet, she wiped my tears and showed me the money. Five hundred dollars. She said that kind of price only came once and she had worked hard to get it. She said the money could feed Duong and Ma for a long time. I couldn’t stop crying. Nye said, ‘Hanh. It’s only your body. Forget it. Think of your family.’ [podcast not available]


The Farewell Tour

[podcast not available]

She slips free, grains of her sticking to my fingers, but mostly free. The sea inhales her until her grey is the grey of the three seas. Now she will go to places she didn’t even know she wanted to. [podcast not available]

Felicity Swims

Felicity prefers to swim in a pool. There are no disruptive waves, no itchy sand and she can see to the bottom of the water and knows what’s there. No nasty surprises. (Listen)

Fifty Ways to Haunt Your Lover - extract from Chapter 1

I’d been taken to my first séance when I was six, and I’d seen the way Aggie Simpson, a woman in her fifties who wore her greying hair in a chignon and kept a bottle of Scotch in her handbag, summoned the departed by playing “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes” on the harmonium. (Listen)

Found Wanting; Quickening

You ask me what I want,
And I go bounding after your question,
Eye bright, tail held high. (Listen)


Georgetown Girl, Fruit Cake and This Sky

[podcast not available]

I carry this all the way from Guyana
Damn cake. I been protecting it like is gold,
minding people and careful. It’s just a fruit cake
From my grandmother. She made me fetch it. [podcast not available]

Ghosts of the Real Leather Jacket

It was only a second-hand leather jacket he’d picked up from the local charity shop to keep him warm in winter but it made him do bad things. (Listen)

Gods Behaving Badly - extracts

  ‘Hello,’ said Artemis again.
  ‘Are you talking to me?’ said the tree. It had a faint Australian accent.
  ‘Yes,’ said Artemis. ‘I am Artemis.’ If the tree experienced any recognition, it didn't show it. ‘I’m the goddess of hunting and chastity,’ said Artemis.
  Another silence. Then the tree said, ‘I’m Kate. I work in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs.’ (Listen)

The Good Dancing Partner - extract: The Day of the Dead

She feels hot and clammy, fighting the desperate urge to turn around and see if Dan is following her. She passes an alcove with an illuminated Dia de los Muertos shrine. On an impulse she can’t explain, she takes a sugar skull, a basket of marigold flowers, and a candle in a glass. (Listen)

The Good Dancing Partner - extract: Hollywood Forever Cemetery

‘I won’t give you up that easily. There are forces at work here that you can’t ignore.’ His voice was strained and grating. ‘Listen to me, Belle; it isn’t up to either one of us to decide it’s over.’ (Listen)

Goose Flesh - Chapter 7

‘Strippers, drink and drugs.’ Lady’s voice had the shield and lance ready in hand. ‘You have been a busy boy.’
‘Don’t forget the Roman love poems, darling. It’s not all hard work.’ (Listen)

Goose Flesh - Chapter 15

Lady’s eyes were slits, like those on newborn cats. The skin above and below the eyes was a mixture of blue, red and brown and puffed up at the edges like the brows on an old boxer. (Listen)

Goose Flesh - Chapter 26

I wasn’t an expert but he seemed to me to fit many of the symptomatic categories that would get a head-shrinker reaching for the prescription pad and the Largactyl. Whether that made him a harmless candle-lighting eccentric or something a whole lot nastier I couldn’t tell, not least because he hadn’t said anything that made any sense at all. (Listen)

Goose Flesh - Chapter 27

The flame tickled my nose and I heard a crackle, followed by the smell of burnt hair. I moved my head back. “I had a facial last week, thanks all the same.” (Listen)


Hearts and Minds - extracts plus Q&A

“Is it for this that Shakespeare penned his immortal plays, Smith developed his economic theories and Berners-Lee invented the internet: so that your strawberries can be picked by Eastern Europeans, your streets swept by Serbs, your laundry ironed by Pakistanis, and your garden manicured by an Italian?” Yes: but by far the most important is Iryna, who works twenty-five hours per week for seventy pounds, not counting baby-sitting or the school holidays. (Listen)

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

A man singing along to the Smiths is one thing, but a naked man singing along to the Smiths - that would be funny. (Listen)

Hip-Hop Picasso

Strapped around my waist like I’m going to heaven any minute now, are six cans of ass-kicking heavy-duty spray paint. I’m going to paint a wall. (Listen)

Home - extract

I tried to scream. My lips were stiff and would not shape the breath that burst them apart. Though my jaw moved and my mouth was open, the sound that came out was a broken bleat. (Listen)

Homing Pigeons

Sam didn’t know what to do. Talking wasn’t much in his line, conversation not being what made their friendship, if that was the right name for the shared park bench and the flask of tea, the pleasure of watching pigeons and people. (Listen)

Homo Erectus Catches the Northern Line Home and other poems

[podcast not available]

All that matters is that you are here,
travelling faster than your species ever dreamed
through dark echoing tunnels, over stern iron bridges,
among this gathering of tiredness and apathy. [podcast not available]

How Michael Stays Young

In Michael’s house, the lights go off downstairs, then on, then off, upstairs. The blackness makes the moon look dazzling, makes it into a bright, shiny, storybook moon against the sky. (Listen)

How to Stop Smoking in Nine Easy Dreams

And for a while I just enjoyed smoking in the dreams. I’d go to sleep, happily anticipating a night of risk-free smoking and wake up a happy man – no cough, no phlegm, no worries. Sometimes, when I was alone, I’d even go to bed early, a little guiltily, in anticipation. (Listen)


The Ice Lovers - extracts

The weather changed so quickly. She only had time to perceive a gleam of albedo before the sun was shuttered by cloud. Then a dark, unnaturally fast, as in an eclipse: the chrome edge of a blizzard. (Listen)


It was an accident of course. Smacking a Muslim holy man in the face with a softball is not the sort of thing they do in Britain. It happened right after one of the girls discovered semen in a baseball glove, just when it seemed like things couldn't get worse. (Listen)

In a Place Like This

Dad’s cassette player churns out guitars and vocals and drum beats that end our breakfast together. A thunderstorm has come into the kitchen and it’s pouring hailstones into the perfect glossy eggs and it’s making the chips turn from golden to black in their fat. (Listen)

In Bloom - Chapter 8

Telegraph wires cut across the sky – zebra stripes. But are the white stripes on black or black stripes on white, and if you peel the black is it white underneath or dripping flesh and what if its internal organs fell out through the gashes where the stripes had been? It’s possible the stripes are a lattice that hold the whole animal together. (Listen)

In Bloom - Chapter 20

I am in a room at the police station . . . It is called a ‘rape suite’, which is a good name, like a ‘honeymoon suite’ but more forceful and messy. (Listen)

In Seka's Country

Dimness works for me just fine. That’s the time of day I’m ready to go out into this kingdom of bone-sucking dogs. (Listen)

In Transit

There’s a place I go in my head called ‘in transit’. It’s an airport lounge with rows of plastic yellow chairs screwed down to the floor. I sit on one of them cross-legged and focus on the reflection of myself in the window and try very hard to feel my own skin. If I don’t move, it might happen. (Listen)

In Transition - poems about change

let me read you
(like a father, mother to a daughter)
stories that you’ll feel inside
are true. All happy ever afters,
ending with a goodnight kiss
that tells you I’m still me
and you’re still you. (Listen)

I Wanna Be Your Dog - extract

The dog’s fur became matted and damp with sweat from the strain and still it kept coughing and coughing until there was a loud crack like the dry snap of kindling and everything became suddenly calm. (Listen)



The big salmon-pink-lined crest feathers on top of his head fit softly against her palm. He shifts his balance, croons to her, moves in a trampling circle on her lap, pushing her hands with his broad grey beak, trying to tuck them both underneath him. (Listen)


The Kilburn Social Club - extracts plus Q&A

Calum honestly had set off hoping that writing about the Socialists (and wasn’t that a smug little label for a bunch of self-satisfied, over-paid narcissists?) would be a perfect opportunity to skewer the football hype. (Listen)

Killing Mildred

Her smile was broken and ugly and smelled of old grass, but she was so carefree it always made me feel better. (Listen)

King Death - extract plus Q&A

The next thing I remember is the heart. I saw it sliding down the incline of the roof until it touched the lead guttering and was out of sight. (Listen)


Ladybird - Chapter Four

He pictures her tugging at the threads on the underside of a great sheet of what must have been muslin, a moon of material from where he used to sit reading his book beneath her, leaning back against her legs as she clucked and hummed and stitched, as she drew the silk – scarlet, purple, orange and gold – through the material with the thick silver needle she kept with the others in the ladybird pin-cushion with the shiny silver sides. (Listen)


[podcast not available]

In an office where one would expect as a matter of decorum no faeces, there was (and no doubt about it) faeces. A lot of faeces, or: stool. Shit. On the carpet with a little brown banana trail where some of it had started to soak in due to the humidity. [podcast not available]

The Last Weekend - extract plus Q&A

All I know is we were pushing and pulling, with me trying to pinion his arms while he tried to escape, until I grabbed his left ear between my forefinger and thumb, something I could remember teachers of mine doing. The move was surprisingly effective. Despite having both his arms and legs free, he immediately wilted. ‘Tough guy, eh?’ I said, breathing heavily, as I led him, by the ear, across the playground. (Listen)

Learning to Bowl

[podcast not available]

My father applies the language of cricket to all things. For him existentialism is ‘time spent in the middle’. [podcast not available]

Let Me Tell You What I Know plus Q&A

‘Now why is it I get the feeling,’ he whined, ‘that you’re - uh - how shall we say? - quite handy at the old Triv?’ I shrugged as innocently as I could, my extremities starting to go numb with anticipation, and it was then that Nigel uttered those fateful words. ‘Why don’t you - how shall we say? - pool your resources with Jadwiga?’ (Listen)

The Letter

Letters from his village were few and far between, and on the rare occasion something did arrive it was usually to herald a marriage, or mourn a relative’s demise. However, today he instinctively felt the information that was concealed within this sliver of paper was of a very different nature. (Listen)

Little Jackie - Chapter Three

It was that time of day when stoves were being lit and husbands were coming home, when children played in the yard and cats and dogs returned to be fed, when mosquitos began to seek out lamps and the gazanias closed their blooms for the night, when the rubbish lorry had already passed and the Main Road took on the stillness of a ghost town. Ma looked out and saw no one. (Listen)

The Longest Time

Heels clicking over a stone floor. Step, step, step, step. Somewhere below me a door opens and closes, and then I hear the steps again. The door opens, closes. And once more, the walker crosses the floor. The soft sound repeats over and over, lapping at the edge of my consciousness. (Listen)

Lord of Dyfed - extract

A sound of slate shards clicking; the deer turned its beautiful neck. Pwyll heard the dog before he saw it - a bark like a violently snapped branch. A brown-freckled ridgeback came off the ground at speed, drooling and snarling, and fell upon the stag, engorging itself. The stag screamed.The scream had no end and was heartbreaking to hear. (Listen)


The Maintenance of Headway - extracts plus Q&A

“The fact is it’s almost impossible to run a proper bus service in this city. The forces ranged against success are just too numerous.” (Listen)

The Manicure

Watching a programme one afternoon about about how to be sucessful in interviews, she switched off after the presenter said, "Try not to talk with your hands." Jackie’s hands didn’t talk; they cried. (Listen)


After sunset, a hundred thousand torches, like stars reflected in a shimmering sea, illuminate me. I am aware only of my heart, tremulous as a cat’s; and the night, expectant as a prayer. (Listen)

Mother Love

She can feel tears starting to well. It would be such a relief to cry. Mother Meena gives her a little squeeze, kisses her forehead and pushes her away. Yes, definitely, it is gentle, but without doubt, a push. (Listen)

Mr Bonner’s Dream the Night Before His Execution

The pictorial, which appeared in the Illustrated Police News the day after the execution, bore hardly any resemblance to what William Bonner actually dreamed about the night before he died. (Listen)

Mucky Puddles, Literal, Red Shoes and Miscarriage

[podcast no longer available]

You had wrapped each shoe
in white tissue paper -
the white a contrast to the dirty red.
The shoes did not deserve that kind of care,
they were not a work of art. [podcast no longer available]

Mummy’s Boy

He looked at me for a second as though we’d never met. I felt despairing, as though I’d tried to botch him a thicker skin at the last minute, out of a stupid cereal packet, some sticky-backed plastic and a couple of rubber bands. (Listen)

My Brother, the Soldier

When Ben came back, after basic training, I laughed at the way he folded his clothes. It was such a cliché, how they lay there, side by perfect side. (Listen)

My Revolutions - extract

I know what will be the most terrible thing: the look on her face, the gradual opening of the abyss. Everything she’s known or believed about me - her lover, her partner for fifteen years, the man who’s been a step-father to her daughter - is untrue. (Listen)


Next Door

The man and the woman next door are having sex. Not wild, urgent, heady sex, but weary, grinding, heavy sex. She listens to the woman grunting with every thrust. He lies next to her, also listening, although neither of them has admitted as much to each other yet. (Listen)

Notes of Experiments on Mice and Other Mammals

[The podcast is no longer available, but you can read the story in Issue 6 of The Mechanics' Institute Review, published September 2009.]

I let Graham limp around the empty bath while I chewed the tiny leg. It was a bit crunchy, like chewing a toenail or the end of a chicken wing, only with fur. Salty, too, from the blood, and warm. [The podcast is no longer available, but you can read the story in Issue 6 of The Mechanics' Institute Review, published September 2009.]


On the Bus

He had an open face and a nice smile, and was the sort of little boy that you could imagine taking home with you. (Listen)

On the Rocks and In the Sands

“It’s like this right,” says Millie, blowing out a jet of smoke. “You’re born, you’re a girl, and life goes downhill from there. It’s the worst thing that can happen in this dump.” (Listen)

One for Sorrow

[podcast not available]

[extract not available]

Out of a Clear Sky - extract

We were joined together, just for a moment, in the curious one-sided intimacy of the telescope. But then something spooked the whole flock of them, and first the godwit and then every other bird in the harbour rose with a cacophony of alarm calls. (Listen)



The rubber egg in the doctor’s hand vibrates and he adjusts a dial with a frown of expert concentration. After the initial shock, Eleanor relaxes slightly, almost smiles. There is something absurd about the doctor’s quaking box. She wonders what her husband can have been thinking. (Listen)

Passing the Leek

We must have at least 150 presents, each wrapped in cheap Christmas paper. It’s like a fire sale from a defunct Father Christmas. (Listen)

Phosphorus - extract from Chapter 1

In Waheeda’s memory it had always been there. On her first visit to her stepfather’s office, when she was six, she’d been offered lollipops from that bowl. But now she questioned her recollection. In her later memory, it had always lain empty, apart from the occasions when those ominous white triangles appeared. (Listen)

Picture This

Now, finally, picture this. Standing on the other side of the table, Sue. In her right hand, the bread knife. One of those quite expensive knives you get called Kitchen Devils, one side with sort of wavy serrations, very sharp, good for cutting things like meat. Surgical steel, made in Sheffield. You know the sort. And in her left hand? Nothing. Nothing at all. Just blood. (Listen)

Poems - Terracotta; Three Days You Were Gone; Fine White Pieces

You meet between the rank and file
amidst the quiet hrmph of the horses
clinking their ghost-bronze bridles (Listen)

Poems - To Michael Field; If this is a man; John and Helen; Love Positions

To Michael Field (Listen)

Potassium Man

When he looks back at the woman, he sees her staring at him and her face seems so alive that he knows this is it. The moment he can choose whether to leave the room, or to stay and experience what might happen. (Listen)


Rain All Night

It rains all night, hailstones
Pelt the windows
Desperate to gain access (Listen)

The Rain Before It Falls - extract

‘I repeat, I never laid a finger on her.’ There was such a strong emphasis on the personal pronoun that I immediately caught her drift, and not for the first time that day found myself astounded and horrified beyond words. (Listen)

The Red Shoes

They are the type of shoes that look good on the first day back to school when the summer sun has layered the legs with a gorgeous grubbiness, and the red shoes glisten like jewels against white ankle socks. (Listen)

The Return

But he wanted her to admit the truth that she didn’t want to come home, that she secretly resented having to leave. He wanted her to admit it for the both of them. And he wanted to feel the Amazon canopy of her hair and the rivers of her skin cascading down her body. (Listen)

The Runaway Tree

So there I was, sitting on my husband’s motorcycle driven by my uninsured neighbour watching my dog and my Christmas tree drive off in my car while two very grumpy police officers tried to do a three point turn in a country lane behind me. We hit the road again. (Listen)



[podcast not available]

Below us pebbles rattle and scrape in the pushy waves. Cold wind jumps off the sea, and as she clasps her DullBlack handbag to her middle the PaperWhite light reflects in her wet eyes. ‘Is small, the sea,’ she says. ‘I thought it would be bigger.’ [podcast not available]

Seizure - extract

The hunter was very good at standing still . . . In his stillness he would become invisible . . . That’s how he stood now, with a sound in his ears that wasn’t the call of a bird, or the bark and howl of a wolf, or any noise he’d ever heard before in the wood or at sea. It was the sound of a woman singing. (Listen)

Selected Poems plus Q&A

[Extract coming shortly] (Listen)

Sexual History

‘It wasn’t rape,’ my mother said years later, ‘you were both too young.’
I nodded. (Listen)

The Shed

Carla looked over at the food she’d prepared, picked up the dish holding the crudités she’d painstakingly shaped into flowers and leaves so that they resembled a garden. With a steady hand, she hurled it with all her force against the back door. (Listen)

The Short Day Dying - extract

If I live as old as him I will wither similarly I will grow weak and look hazy eyed and broken to my youth and will not even have the comforts that are afforded him a wife a home and the sea in his eyes. I thought then that I would die alone. (Listen)

Six Pitches

All those hours, days, on the climbing wall, working on technique. I was easily a 6-plus climber and she did the pitch as if it was nothing. All those hours, and never anyone to turn to me with their face soft, and pleasure in their eyes. (Listen)

Six Poems - Being You, Oradour, Row K, Birches, Ghost Shroud, Lesson One: Simple Greetings

Life cycle, latex O,
omega but never alpha:
round full-stop to all of that. (Listen)

Sophie’s Angel

‘Hello. Who’s this?’ A feminine voice, as soft and round as the letter ‘o’, an obvious kindness shrouded only by a haze of concern. This voice belonged to a good person. I could feel it. (Listen)

Spring: six poems written through the dark this winter - At the Awards, Wasting Time, Bastard Baby, Love Song, The Weariness of Trains, Irregular Rhythm

I saw Peter Porter piss tonight. No, I almost did. Held the door
to let his parting thank you out while other Published Poets,
(marked with backstage passes) eased their arses, steadied legs,
looked up, performed. I waited, watching their backs. (Listen)

Stay God - extract

There’s been a murder. Someone stabbed the sun. (Listen)

Stink Toad

The toad regarded her solemnly for a moment as though it had been waiting a long time for her to come and open the fridge door, then it opened its mouth and unfolded a quite shockingly long tongue. Not quickly as though it was snapping up flies, but rudely and obscenely as though it had a point to make. (Listen)

Story of My Life plus Q&A

In a reasonable world my personality would give rise to my true beak, would nurture it, my proper fit: parrot, hummingbird, bullfinch, albatross. And through it I’d express myself, be jauntily apparent, fulfilled, really start going somewhere with my appearance, somewhere free from teeth, somewhere other than the dentist. Story of my life, maybe, going to the dentist. (Listen)


Tail of the Blue Bird - extracts plus Q&A

I wanted to tell him that you do not light a fire under a fruit-bearing tree, but these young people think they invented knowledge so I ignored him. (Listen)

Ten Seconds from the Sun - extract

I went about my life in a permanent state of self-absorption, only free of it when working. Navigation is a defence against self-absorption. The river persuades you into its way of thinking. Motion is a state of optimism and everything about the river lives in the present. Off the river the past catches up with you again. (Listen)

Ten Storey Love Song - extracts plus Q&A

Georgie loves her boyfriend and she loves him getting back on his arty-farty feet again, and the two of them roll around in the sweeties and the paint and they knock over Bobby’s water pot and the two of them are a mess and all. (Listen)

That Still Counts As Eating, You Know

She looked at the sweet in her hand and then tugged on the twisted ends of the wrapper, revealing a glutinous brown mass. It stuck to the paper, rather - had been in Lizzie’s pocket, pressed against her hot little thigh all through her breakfast of tea and toast and margarine - but Cecilia Margaret pulled it free, popped it into her mouth and sucked on each of her fingers in turn with great relish. Saliva welled up, sweet and juicy. (Listen)


She undulates her shoulder
blades; then tightens the enormous
muscles that run across her back. Out shoot two splendid
wings: as broad as an albratross;
as black as a carrion crow. (Listen)

Those Who Can

The Upper Sixth are all there when I arrive. There is something on my desk. A small white pair of girls’ knickers, with a heart stitched into one corner. (Listen)

Three Sacred Poems

Sweet Jesus Christ
words worn to threads by men
who never knew his smell his taste
the touch of his hands the look
in his eyes the power of his arms (Listen)

Tidings - extract from a novel in progress

From behind us someone whispered. “It’s coming.” And out of view a dragon rumbled, and rolled and spat and roared, and then rushed around the river bend churning underwater cities and throwing them to the sky. (Listen)

The Toffee Man - Chapter Three: The Morning After

Everything would get broken if you didn’t have rules, and I can see that. I like to make rules about the spoons, and I like them to be shiny. (Listen)

The Toffee Man - Chapter Nine: Sunday School

It was funny to hear her voice in our house. Different sounds make you notice different things. Dad coughed behind the paper. My mum stared down and chopped the onions into tiny, tiny squares. (Listen)

The Toffee Man - Chapter Eighteen: What the Eyes Don’t See

The match bursts like a star in her hands and she breathes deeply, quickly and puffs out a smoke ring. I like that! BANG! She slapped my ear really hard. It hurts. I can’t think. (Listen)

Tough Instead of Brave

Maybe he knows something we don’t. Maybe you can love, leave and survive - be all right - you know? (Listen)

To Whom It May Concern

When I was with my old pals we used to look at each other and say, at least we have our wits about us. We found that highly amusing, but gradually all the old boys have gone and I find myself just one lone wit, and now, I suppose, I’m a wit only half the time, a halfwit. (Listen)

Tozza Ascendant

The other thing we know about Tozza, and rather wish that we didn’t, is that he likes to do impersonations. Every so often, he’ll haul himself up from the pub table, and stand in front of us ‘preparing himself’ as he calls it, his head bowed, his hands clenched by his sides, breathing wheezily. It’s not exactly Stanislavski, more like a gorilla about to break wind. (Listen)

Turn Back

The train came into view just as Lila mirrored her sister’s position on the opposite side of the tracks. As she pressed a finger against her own penny the vibrations from the train jangled the bones in her arm and tickled the nerves in her elbow. The train whistled loudly and she caught Danny’s gaze, bright and wild. (Listen)

Turn the Porn On

[podcast not available]

Don’t let me die now, not just yet, five minutes more - no ten, make it a whole hour, just time enough to remember what flesh is like. [podcast not available]


Ugly Wife

Where are you, wife?
Stop your sulking
Come, I want to rest my head
between your sagging breasts
And rub my face in your
wrinkled belly (Listen)

Untitled novel-in-progress - Chapter One

So here’s the only Thing you need to know about me: when I was eight years old I was the sole survivor of a plane crash that wiped out my family, killed an additional one hundred and fifty-two people on board, plus an elderly couple who were asleep in their farm cottage, which was entirely demolished by a creaking shard of flying engine. (Listen)

Up at a Villa

‘Look,’ whispered Tina, as a man came walking toward the baby and its mother. ‘Look. They’re English. He’s wearing socks.’ (Listen)

The Urge Purged

The whole thing seemed extremely dodgy to me but if Geoff wanted to take an extended cold shower by plugging himself into the mains that was his business; he’d always struck me as the sort of person who thought excitement was a Hornby limited edition ‘Flying Scotsman’. (Listen)


The Vanishing Act

At the pinnacle of neuromuscular euphoria, the acme of physical ecstasy, Liam cried out, shuddered, and opened his eyes wide to find, beyond all reason, the sun appeared to have risen, a gale-force wind had whipped up around him, and he was no longer installed amid the girlie clutter of Nerys’s inner sanctum but was, in fact, in free fall above a verdant, undulating rainforest. (Listen)

Vinegar Alley and Love Walk

[podcast not available]

And my walk changes. I walk with a skip in my step. I walk with pebbles weighing in my pockets. Pebbles from a long beach that had tunnels running beneath it. Smugglers’ tunnels. Where the vagabonds found golden feathers and chocolate to transport. [podcast not available]


Walking with Lucy

‘Who are we to say that I am the first?’ she said, grinning like a queen. ‘Why, Mr Darwin’s ape-ladies might have galloped up for picnics on Sundays.’ (Listen)

The Wanderer

Mabel and Alice and I were playing cribbage. Mabel hates playing three-handed - ‘Neither one thing nor the other,’ she says, with her mouth pulled in like a cat’s behind. She was the first to spot George and I swear her bosom grew even larger as she beckoned him over. (Listen)

We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire

Me, I’m seeing it all stretched out in front of me an’ tryin’ to work out who to call, tryin’ to figure out what’s gonna happen if Carla struts in there and takes a Cheetah’s old lady, an’ what if it kicks off like a full-on war and who’s gonna side with who if it does, and like who’s gonna win. And whoever wins, who’s gonna get wasted ’cos although it ought to amount to the same thing, it never does. (Listen)

We Have Come for Mr Magenta - extract

‘I had it all bottled up. My father, he was not a good man. I dreaded the holidays.’ Beaumont was gazing at the wine rack behind the bar, as if it contained the very receptacles that contained whatever it was he’d bottled up a decade before. (Listen)

When Your Mother Dies

He makes an art out of unpegging the clothes. His big hands reach up and while his left rests on the line, the other releases the pressure from a peg as delicately as if he were picking strawberries. You watch him put a shirt, a pair of sheets, socks, into a basket. Gingerly, he touches the skirt and leaves it sobbing on the line. (Listen)

White Flag

I took the old woman’s mouth,
sagging and frayed,
from the face of the person
it once was (Listen)

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle - extracts plus Q&A

I watched the green mountains all around. Voluptuous, the undulating hills of a woman. I saw her everywhere, this green woman. Her hips, her breasts, her enticing curves. Shoulders, belly. She encircled us. She laughed at us when it rained, shaking her hair. (Listen)

Winds of Harmattan - extract

A ball as big as the earth comes down from the sky with rain and lightning and thunder, and it hits the ground. (Listen)

Wintering - extract

When he awoke it was to a thrilling, reverberant sound. The bells of the cathedral were ringing. But this was no ordinary bell-ringing: it was an intricate music, full of complex harmonies. It seemed to go on for ever, oceanic, washing over him. When it ended he sat up, collected his things, and began to walk slowly back to the shop. He felt utterly stranded. (Listen)

Wise Up! - extract plus Q&A

‘Martin, what have you done?’
He was overwhelmed with an urge to laugh at this question. The absurdity of it. What had he done? And what do you do? And how do you do what you do? He thought this last question to be rather profound, and tried to fumble in his pocket for a piece of paper to write it on, except his hand just encountered the ground, and a pool of sticky residue. (Listen)

The Wish

Duck turned away from the windscreen and slowly swept his wings up and down in the rain. Swish swish went the windscreen wipers. Swish wish went Duck’s wings, and then he lifted off and flew out into a sweeping arc. (Listen)

Work in progress

Guarded eyes checked him out through slats of fringe. The eyes were his: flint grey, wary. They knew one another from the eyes. (Listen)



The baby stopped crying and stared glassily at Julia’s face, his eyes liquid with salty tears. She looked at his blotchy skin, the streams of snot from his nose joining the dribble from his mouth and wiped it as gently as she was able, with her sleeve. (Listen)

You’re Listening to Paul Power - extract

My trusty playlist here says I am currently not playing ‘More Than A Woman’ by the Bee Gees. How appropriate; if it weren’t for that song, I might not even be here now, digging a grave for Paul Power. (Listen)


Oxfam charity number: 202918