Birthday stocking-fillers

I seem to remember observing in a post some time ago (probably Christmas 2020) that as I get older, going through a traditional address book is becoming sadder and sadder. You go through your ‘Christmas card list’ (well, I do) and then find you need to delete yet more addresses of friends who have passed on/over.

It’s not just the old address book, either. Facebook goes on reminding me that ‘It’s X or Y’s Birthday today. Send them a message’. Recently it was the birthday of the lovely and talented Shirley McClure who died far too young, in 2016.

You can follow this link to an earlier post if you want to know just how good a poet she was.


Yesterday, my birthday, Facebook suggested that I send a birthday message to Nick Neale who was, in another life, my second in department at Boston Spa Comp in the 80s. A funny, witty, creative man. I sent him a birthday message, Jan 8th, 2021. He’d died in March 2020. Maybe Facebook can find a way of sparing us this. Or maybe we should learn to be more carefully attentive.

Anyway, it was my birthday yesterday. It was a special day. My daughter and her family arrived out of the blue from Broughty Ferry…a 650 mile round trip; that had been a carefully guarded secret! Two eldest sons arrived bearing cakes. It was lovely.

January 8th is a date I share with Elvis, Stephen Hawking, David Bowie, Shirley Bassey….and Nick Neale. Capricorns. Happy birthday to them all, and a couple of stocking-fillers in lieu of cards that would be sent to dead-letter boxes. I’ve been told that one of them contains a phrase people will find offensive. You’ll spot it readily enough. I know. I find it offensive, too. And that’s the point.


January 8th

……….the day Mick Bromley and me were born, 

two hours apart in the Maternity Home 

near the bus station in Batley.


The year before, it was one who would write

a history of time, grow twisted as a caul.

David Bowie won’t arrive for four more years.


Elvis is eight years old. 

It’s Shirley Bassey’s birthday too. 

She is seven. 

Poor white trash.

Tiger Bay nigger.


I’ll light candles for us all.


I guess there’d be no cake

or candles for little Aaron Elvis.

I’ll light a candle for him.

Maybe put on a record.

Love me tender. His ma will like that.

And Blue Suede Shoes

for a boy with no shoes.


Watch him hunch his shoulders, 

watch his small boy’s hips,

see his forelock twitch.


Play Blue Moon of Kentucky.

Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shinin’, shinin’.

See Elvis and his ma, watch them dance together,

see them dream. Try not to think

of how he blew all his candles out.


.Star signs
I don’t set much store by horoscopes;
And yet. Being born in January
makes me a Capricorn. A sign
I think congenial. It’s jaunty,
comes with a tang of salt and cold flung spray;
rumbustious, randy and ebullient;
mad and golden-eyed in racing tumbled surf;
cloven footed moonlight dancer.
All in all, to be a musky Sea-goat’s fine,
and better far than being a sidling Crab,
than being a Water-carrier, and certainly
preferable to being a Ram (too obviously
destined for the sacrificial knife, or desert,
weighed down with others’ ragbag guilt).
Better than unbedded Maid,or ho-hum Scales.
New year. Mid-winter. Good time to be born.
David Bowie, Stephen Hawking
Shirley Bassey, Elvis, me – your standard Capricorn.

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