In Response To…

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

I’m still working from home full-time and rarely going out. I’m not ready to start socialising in person or doing the tourist thing. So, when I recently took a week off work as holiday, I attended lots of on-line classes for creative writing and poetry. One of the common themes is to ask the delegates to respond to a piece of artwork in the form of a poem or short story. Here follows some of the prompts and my responses. All were written within the 5-6 minutes allocated in class. I think it’s a really fun exercise to do – to write without thinking about it too much, read it aloud and get immediate positive feedback.


The poem, ‘Richard’ by Carol Ann Duffy can be read in full by clicking here.

Grant me the carving of my name.

from ‘Richard’ by Carol Ann Duffy

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

This is my response to that poem.

Richard’s Third and Final Resting Place

Respect at last, gentle peace

you would not recognise this

City’s tribute. You’re home.


The Heart of trees

by Jaume Plensa

This is my response to the sculpture (if you look closely, you can almost see the word, ‘Nicola’ on his body.)

Swept up under the carpet

a quiet protest

the weight on me to remain true

as he scars my name into his flesh

I am just, trust, a mast, ballast

strong like glue.


Photo by Henry Lai on Unsplash

The brief was to write a short story in response to the prompt of an animal overcoming adversity.

I eventually found the hamster stuck in a pipe underneath the sink in the kitchen. How he managed to get out of his cage, I’ll never know. Well, I think I do know because the cat was crouching underneath a dining room chair, ready to pounce, and looked guilty as sin. I daren’t tell him off or I’ll get a scratch. Cats are the moodiest creatures I know – worse than any of my children – and I’ve got 3 teenagers.

You wouldn’t believe it, but there are actual YouTube videos on how to free trapped hamsters! I did it – eventually – by sawing the plastic pipe and pouring olive oil down the sides. It was the extra virgin stuff too. He plopped right out, bum first, into the breach.

Maybe I should have got one of the kids to film me doing it. I reckon it might have got a few hits.


The brief was to write a haibun about a journey or place.


Time is static, shocking, jerking me

I’m a tourist attraction in a glass cage.

Friendly, bored pods glide polite waltzes with lost teddy bears.

Waking up, smelling coffee just a sip or I won’t sleep.

overtired kids

it’s too late to go home now

air smells different.

It feels strange thinking about the time before, when we could travel freely. Maybe one day, I’ll be at the airport again. Is this living nostalgia? A yearning for a life we never appreciated at the time? Rites of passage missed? I feel like I’m thriving right now, so I hope that when we do start living normally again, some things will have changed for the better permanently.

My book of the week recommendation therefore combines the post-pandemic world and an airport. The brilliant ‘Station Eleven’ by Emily St John Mandel, which is soon to be released as a HBO tv series.

“The more you remember, the more you’ve lost.”

Be a lady

Be a gentleman

Be a human

128. Still Be Longing

Photo by Amer Mughawish on Unsplash

The following poems were written in an online writing workshop hosted by the amazing poet Maria Ferguson.

The theme of the session was ‘The Things We Carry’.

I carry the weight of this baggage

and a coffee that’s vile.

Which class am I in?

I see a free seat,

our eyes meet, should I smile?

Whether it’s a bug-out-backpack, a Birkin or tote,

Some seats will always be saved for other folk.

Hate, Lust, Shame and Grief

These are the eyes that scream screw you.

Those were the eyes that did.

These are the eyes so heavy to bear.

These are the eyes that wish you were there.

Here’s a sneak preview of a behind-the-scenes pic of me reading out my bit of a Community Poem. Leicester poet, Mr Shay is directing.

Watch this space for the full video, coming soon!

Photo by Cara Nolan from Curve

127. Nothing Up His Sleeve

Photo by Delaney Dawson on Unsplash

I scrunched up my eyes and tried to pretend to fall asleep in the car so Mummy and Uncle Pete might talk about people I know and swear, but he poked me in my belly and it made me laugh. I asked them why if Jenny could get herself pregnant but didn’t want to keep it, then why didn’t she give the baby to that lady who lost hers? 

Uncle Pete was really good at catching beanbags and said that if I practiced I would never go hungry, even if I had to juggle three jobs for tips. He said that Mummy liked to practice riding her bike before she met my Daddy. Mummy tried to hit him but he held her wrist. She rubbed her arm and said sorry to him. 

A man from Daddy’s work had a heart attack in Tenerife so his wife asked if we could keep Stella. Daddy put her in a box with her name on it as a surprise. I tried to teach her to jump through my hula hoop and run through the play tunnel then catch a bean bag in her mouth. Stella growled at Uncle Pete but he said if he gave her a good bone, she would know he was her master. 

At the party, Uncle Pete picked me up and tried to dance with me but his breath smelled like beer and ciggies. I wiggled my legs, but he wouldn’t put me down until I kissed him. His prickly beard was nearly all white except for some brown bits around his mouth and some spit came out when he laughed. 

When he did the Gangnam Style dance he smacked a lady’s bottom, and then she spilled her drink down her dress. A man asked him if he wanted to go outside, probably for a ciggie, so we didn’t get to do our magic show. My brother was supposed to say that he needed a volunteer, then point at Uncle Pete with his new wand from Olivanders and say you sir. Then he would join us on stage to charm the crowd and find money from behind our ears. He has done time which I think means he can take off people’s watches without them knowing. I heard a man say that you should watch out for his tricks but I didn’t see him do any.

I was crying because I wished that Jenny was there to see me in my Elsa dress as the glamorous assistant before I had to go to bed. I didn’t want Uncle Pete to make Marcus disappear, and then he said that he wouldn’t do that because he wasn’t worth it but that Marcus was inside for a lie down for his own good. He held up his phone and Marcus was inside the phone shouting and banging on the glass. When Marcus gets out he said he will do the right thing, and did I want to be a bridesmaid? 

Uncle Pete tickled me so fast and wouldn’t stop even when I shouted. Then I wet myself. Stella ran over to Mummy and barked at her.

Photo by Luis Desiro on Unsplash

I always thought that if I had a little white scottie dog or a scruffy dog, I’d call her ‘Stella’, so I could holler her name!

Like a lot of people, I’m not my greatest fan of seeing or hearing myself on camera. (The lockdown weight gain and scraggy hair come free of charge) If I was talking to myself, then I’d be all, “get over yourself, woman. No-one gives a fart about what you look like, except you.”

So, here I am, reciting a poem I wrote about My Leicester. It’s called ‘One Hour Six Minutes’ as that’s as long as it takes the train from Leicester, to get to the gorgeous St Pancras station in London.

Thank you to Writing East Midlands for putting on these writing classes for residents of Britain’s most locked-down city. Special thanks to the brilliant tutor, Mahsuda Snaith.

Everyone who knows me knows that I never pass up the opportunity to write a letter, send a card or buy a postcard from the gift shop. I have been known to go to the gift shop and skip the museum. Obviously, I cannot tell you if I scribbled my lockdown secret on a postcard and sent it to Marby & Elm but….

Finally, and by no means least, I was chuffed to hear some new music by Josienne Clarke. ‘Sit Out’ is a banger. I think I called it a “floor-filler” on twitter. Anyway, get your air guitar ready. There’s a new album coming very soon!