Bald Barber’s going to carve up your fantasies,
Bald Barber has you down for the chop.
He’s jealous of your haircut,
He wants your lovely locks.
Bald Barber is up to trimming your love,
Bald Barber is at your ear.
He’s covetous of your flowing dreams,
He needs to tie your feelings up.
Bald Barber is afraid of your stare.
Bald Barber is in your way.
He’s trampling on your curls.
He’s touching your mutton chop burns.
Bald Barber is seeking your waves,
Bald Barber isn’t keen on your looks.
He wants your hair in his eyes,
He’d love to comb it like you.
Bald Barber is fed up to the skin,
Bald Barber has his eye on you.
He aims to make a splash,
He’s going to cramp your style.
Bald Barber will nab your crown,
Bald Barber wants to scissor you up.
He’s dying to swim in your stream,
He’s after that long last parting.
Bald Barber is giving you the snip,
Bald Barber’s got a tip.
He’s found something for the weekend,
He’s cut you out of your will.



‘Our paths may cross again, they may not. But I wish you success for the future. I don’t think you are a person who is easily defeated through life as you are by nature a peacock which shows at times its beautiful feathers.’               
(Margaretha den Broeden)

In the Department of Poetry something is stirring:
it is a rare bird shitting on a heap of certificates.
He bears the beautiful plumage of a rebel,
flying through the rigid corridors,
the stifling pall of academic twaddle.
He pecks at the Masters’ eggheads, 
scratches pretty patterns along the cold walls of poetic power.
He cares not a jot for their fancy Awards,
their sycophantic perambulations,
degrees of literary incest.
These trophies for nepotism 
pass this peculiar bird by
as he soars
above the paper quadrangle,
circling over the dying Heads of Culture,
singing sweet revolutionary songs, 
showing off
his brilliant wings
that fly him
into the ecstasy
of a poem.



sing of my home city
sing of a true geordie heart
sing of a river swell in me
sing of a sea of the canny
sing of the newcastle day

sing of a history of poetry
sing of the pudding chare rain
sing of the puddles and clarts
sing of the bodies of sailors
sing of the golden sea

sing of our childrens’ laughter
sing of the boats in our eyes
sing of the bridges in sunshine
sing of the fish in the tyne
sing of the lost yards and the pits

sing of the high level railway
sing of the love in my face
sing of the garths and the castle
sing of the screaming lasses
sing of the sad on the side

sing of the battles’ remains
sing of the walls round our dreams
sing of the scribblers and dribblers
sing of the scratchers of livings
sing of the quayside night
sing of the kicks and the kisses
sing of the strays and the chancers
sing of the swiggers of ale
sing of the hammer of memory
sing of the welders’ revenge

sing of a battered townscape
sing of a song underground
sing of a powerless wasteland
sing of a buried bard
sing of the bones of tom spence

sing of the cocky bastards
sing of a black and white tide
sing of the ferry boat leaving
sing of cathedral bells crying
sing of the tyneside skies

sing of my mother and father
sing of my sister’s kindness
sing of the hope in my stride
sing of a people’s passion
sing of the strength of the wind


(as featured on BBC Radio 4) 

"I heard the broadcast. You should be congratulated on your contribution. It was certainly more enjoyable than a man describing the photographs he'd taken on the wireless." (Brian Bennison, North East Laboury History Society).




There is always a night in Katwijk,
Forever a moon in the daylight.
And its rain belts down just the same,
Pouring our loves down the drain.

And the darkness can last forever
Like the mist in a cold September.
The sea sails along in the winds
That batter our Katwijk blinds.

And yet this Katwijk will stay
Forever and a livelong day,
Reminding us of gulls on the swell
And larks in the sound of church bells.

We danced in the Katwijk streets,
Her eyes alight in dark sheets.
I thought she would never die
In the rolling of her thighs.

These little avenues reel
To the clatter of her high heels.
And it will always be the rain
That soaks me through to the brain.

So let us put Katwijk on maps
To honour the love that it mocks.
There’s a joy to be felt in its trees
Alongside the pains in its seas.






The whisky’s on my breath again,
Deacon Brodie.
The High Street’s soaked in sunshine gin,
Deacon Brodie.
I’ve forgotten what it is to pray,
Deacon Brodie.
I’ve pilfered more sad lines today,
Deacon Brodie.
Why does she touch my heart that way?
Deacon Brodie.
I thought I’d thrown her love away,
Deacon Brodie.
The moon scoffs at my life tonight,
Deacon Brodie.
I’ve lost my way in this fading light,
Deacon Brodie.
Thrown away the keys to fortune,
Deacon Brodie.
Lost the gift of a brilliant tune,
Deacon Brodie.
It’s dark in this infested room,
Deacon Brodie.
Each night I sleep in a cold museum,
Deacon Brodie.
I’m looking for a lifting swagger,
Deacon Brodie.
Somewhere to stick a nation’s dagger,
Deacon Brodie.
It’s a stab town we’re living in,
Deacon Brodie.
Can’t catch the truth in my begging tin,
Deacon Brodie.
Oh what’s the point of a lifetime’s pain?
Deacon Brodie.
All it leaves is a useless stain,
Deacon Brodie.
Whatever the heartache they track you down,
Deacon Brodie,
Tear the shreds from your fancy gown,
Deacon Brodie.
Catch you with a lovely flame,
Deacon Brodie.
In an electric chair or Amsterdam,
Deacon Brodie.
We’ve missed the ship to Freedomsville,
Deacon Brodie.
We’re drowning in this poetry swill,
Deacon Brodie.
On the streets of bloody Europe,
Deacon Brodie.
Running away from the hangman’s rope,
Deacon Brodie.
Dead or alive it’s stuck in history,
Deacon Brodie.
Whistling away in Edinburgh’s mystery,
Deacon Brodie.
How can we hide the dark inside?
Deacon Brodie.
We need the thrill of one last ride,
Deacon Brodie.
And what lurks within that smile?
Deacon Brodie.
I see stars dying for many a mile,
Deacon Brodie.
Aye, and pay the price the very next time,
Deacon Brodie.
It’s still a crazy pantomime,
Deacon Brodie.


Our tavern is named after William Brodie, one of the inspirations for Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde. Born in 1741 Brodie was a deacon of the Guild of Wrights. By day, he was a respectable citizen, a member of the town council but by night, he consorted with lowlife; gambling and drinking. His dark side meant he had to take to burglary to pay his gambling debts, leading to his hanging in 1788.




Ever since the sixth form,
when I found you, 
a kindred Novocastrian
in a library book,
I seem to have followed in your steps,
stumbled after you 
in rain soaked lanes,
knocked on doors
in search of your stories.
For over forty years,
I have tracked
the movement of your pen
in streets you walked
and on cross country trains
from your own Newcastle
to Warrington
Newport Pagnell,
and back again.
I have given talks about you,
supped in your pubs,
strode along your paragraphs 
and river paths
to try to find
that urge in you
to write 
out of your veins
what you thought of things,
what made you tick
and your loved ones 
laugh and cry.
I tried to reach you in a thesis,
to see you as a lad in Heaton,
but I could never catch your breath
because I didn’t get to meet you
face to face,
could only guess
that you were like me:
a kind of kindly 
socialist writer
in a world
too cruel for words.


Peter Common Well said Keith!

Dear kindly socialist writer - this is great - thanks a lot for sending it





(in honour of Adrian Mitchell)

Drank too much of Goodnight Vienna,
fell from the top of a lighthouse.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Took the knickers off a Polish maid,
ended up facedown in The End of the World.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Turned up drunk for my poetry class,
ended up cockeyed in the Corner House.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Heckled Uncle Tom on the saxophone,
felt the tits of a lesbian.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Laughed at the straight man
and slashed on a comic.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Twanged the suspenders of an actress,
kissed the hard nipples of a Sunderland girl.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Stood to attention at a sit-in,
sat on the face of a stand-up.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Jumped off the bridge at a Coronation,
swam in a river of whisky.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Swore blind at a military policeman,
shot poems in the back of a priest.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Danced on the table at a Chinese,
acted myself on a train.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Rolled in the hay with the lass next door,
flew in the face of reality.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Balanced my shoes on my head,
threw my socks at the band.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Stole the case of a businessman,
fell asleep in a play.
Well I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Dreamt all day,
and wrote all night.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Woke up in the arms of an orangutan,
leapt from a bar on the top of a mountain.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Split my lip in a Durham gutter,
got fixed up with an NHS stutter.
Well I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Got pissed with a physiotherapist,
let her fingers ease the pain in my head.
Well I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Took a tumble in a fall of rain,
saw all my words pour down the drain.
Well I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Slagged off another man’s trousers,
got called a rabble rouser.
Well I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Refused to join the Socialist Party,
hurled a Trot from the upstairs room.
Wel I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Ended up in a padded cell,
read my poems in East Berlin.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.
Drank the City of Edinburgh dry,
scoffed the whole of your Humble Pie.
Well, I’m sorry about that,
I’m sorry about that.





'I thought the Cuthbert poems were very powerful...Do go on writing and performing like that.' (John Mapplebeck, Bewick Films).


I wouldn’t trust Saints,
goody goody two shoe Christians,
they wouldn’t pull me out of the mire
with their do-gooding ways.
I do my praying in the trough,
sweaty trotters grubbing together,
not in anyone’s heaven
but rooting in the soil
for bread.
Don’t get me wrong,
I like a drop of wine
with me nosh,
and I can put the fear of God
in me neighbours
to keep them off me land;
shoot them stone-dead if I have to.
They can go to Hell
for all I care,
whole lot of them: 
Poets and Peasants,
Pipers and Plovers.
I just get on with growing me crops,
no time for preaching Love and Hate.
This Northumbrian sun is all I know,
and the gannets swooping over me.
What I can’t touch or feel or smell or taste
is no good to me:
you can’t eat hymns
but I can catch rabbits.


The bones of Prophets
rot in this sacred land.
Cuthbert’s spirit soars with the gulls
over the ancient ground.
North Country hearts
beat with the songs and ballads
of missing centuries;
lyrics in the rough wind,
notes in the margins.
The Saints and the Scholars
scribble down the years -
but who can make sense of it all?
Bind up the volumes
of human endeavour
in this vast universe,
let the dust of our thoughts
feed the insects.
Northumberland is in truth
a bleak land
held together by dreams,
fantasies of us all being Saints:
an open slate,
still wet with the drizzle
of the scribe’s pen.


This burning beam
that did for Aidan,
Bamburgh’s finest
fallen King of Northumbria
in ashes.
Palaces of Pretence,
Gefrin on a summer’s afternoon,
basking by the Glen
where Paulinus
baptised us with pelting sleet,
and where the late Josephine Butler
spread her kind smile
for the welfare of wor women folk,
for the goodness of touch.

Oh Edwin oh Oswald,
oh Ida oh Hussa,
carry my head in your hands.
My mighty warriors of Christ,
is that you in the curlew’s cry?
Is that you in the breeze on my face?

Cuthbert’s a hermit crab,
a ‘Wonder-worker of England’,
and I am an empty shell of a man,
talking to birds
because they make more sense of my life.

Listen to me Bede, I’m the Universal Soldier,
I have rubbed ointment
on Cuthbert’s sore knee,
ridden with him across the sheep-snow hills,
and bathed his suppurating ulcer
in red wine.
Light a torch for me
for I am no Saint.
Yet I speak
the Gospel Truth:

Grant to me, Lord Christ, for this pilgrim journey through life,
Your ready hand to guide me, your light to go before me,
Your protection to guard me from evil,
Your peace to rest within me, your love to sustain me,
That through all the joys and sorrows that meet me
I may know the promise of your abiding strength,
Until I reach my final homecoming with you forever.

commissioned by berwick museum 2007

the jingling geordie

My photo
whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur