I’m back from a week’s holiday near Salisbury. In order to let the boy child (seven months old) get his night time crying out of his system we stayed in a long house where the two main bedrooms were separated by, essentially, another house. This place had started life as three cottages but had been knocked together. What this meant to us was that one parent and child could sleep without hearing the other child. J and I swapped nights with Jude so at least one of us would get a chance of a night’s uninterrupted sleep.

It seems to have worked, sort of. Jude slept through his first night at home and seems to have given up on long protracted crying sessions. Hurray!

One of the other benefits in staying where we did was that Freya’s best friend lived just a few minutes away. These two don’t see much of each other since our friends moved down Salisbury way and we (well, Freya) had visions of sleepovers and much larking about. So, you can imagine the general air of disappointment when Freya caught chickenpox on our first full day there.

Despite the pox, and the unrelenting rain we had a good time. Our pals were lovely as always and we took the time to visit Old Sarum, Salisbury, Shaftesbury and the Mr Fry the Butcher in Broad Chalke.

Once I got home I found a chance to listen to Sid Smith’s latest Podcast From the Yellow Room, which introduced me to yet more music I had never known existed. Favourites were the Unthanks and a Finnish band called Karuna. Lovely stuff.


One more sestina for the road, please

One of the things I do in my strange little world of creative crop rotation is to write poems. Unlike music and photography I don’t have any wish to let what I write out to a bigger audience. In fact, most of the appeal of writing poetry, for me, is the challenge of working within certain poetic structures. Currently I’ve been working on the sestina.

A sestina features six, six line stanzas and a three line stanza at the end. The complexity comes from having to use the six words featured at the end of each line in the first stanza again, at the ends of the next five stanzas. This is made more interesting by having the order different every time so that each word ends a different line in each stanza. In the three line verse all six words need to appear again; two in each line.

The pattern goes like this.


And in the three line stanza at the end the first line uses words 6 & 2, the second 1 & 4 and the third 5 & 3.

So, if you used the words Bob, size, sandwich, tree, again and truth as the words that ended you first six lines, they would appear in the next stanza as truth, Bob, again, size, tree and sandwich at the end of the second stanza’s lines.


It helps if you chose you end words carefully, so they have some flexibility.

Writing a sestina that obeys these rules is hard. Writing a sestina that obeys these rules and is any good… well, maybe that’s where the subjective element of poetry comes in. In the years I’ve been working at them I think I’ve written one good sestina. Feel free to try out the form and post it in the comments section.

Now, back to bass playing.



Originally uploaded by WJCruttenden
Jude is now six months old. He has just started crawling and gets extremely excited when I put a guitar or piano in front of him. What's most interesting to me is how different he is to his sister. There's a lot of interesting times ahead.


The King's Pencil

The King's Pencil
Originally uploaded by WJCruttenden
I have a box of old pencils, inherited from my late uncle. This one cropped up the other day. It was made to celebrate King George VI's coronation but it features the dates for all the previous kings and queens. I like to image my uncle using this in school, especially in history lessons.

Cookie Diary Part Two

Cookie Diary Part Two
Originally uploaded by WJCruttenden
After a break because of illness and just being busy, here we are with the latest batch of biscuits. These are from the lemon biscuit recipe by Rachel Allen. You're only seeing the one biscuit because they were delicious and the bulk of them formed part of my mum's 85th birthday present.



The trees outside my classroom window tell me it's winter still. They wag their thousand knobbly fingers and remind me that it was -5 degrees this morning. The light and rare patches of blue sky say that spring is coming soon. It feels about time.