New Work

This page features new poems and photographs either created in the Ferry Tales Workshops or via our Facebook page at

Thanks for this new poem (via our Facebook page) to Liz Neal, who joined us at the Square Tower, Portsmouth, on May 21st.

With trepidation
I board the ferry –
one last voyage
into the unknown.

As she casts off
she becomes Darwin’s Beagle
on a journey of discovery
to uncharted lands
and far-flung islands.

While at her stern,
rising from the Solent
Neptune’s trident monoliths,
the henge of Spithead,
guard my island home.

I take a final selfie and watch
as Portsmouth becomes Lego Land,
while its square and round towers
shrink like Alice in Wonderland.

And now
I am Tennyson
crossing his bar.




From a Ferry Tales workshop in Portsmouth with Maggie Sawkins:

All of me.

I have always loved him

despite his neglect

so when I stepped out onto the sea

he bore my full weight, everything:

All those times I had ventured in

and they had laughed

at my frantic back stroking

and butterflying like a frog.

My woollen costume

expanding in the water

corrugating, like elephant skin

uncovering yards of goose flesh.

He took all of me.


The sea laid himself flat, calm.

Cradled me, gently nudging

until I obliged and turned on my back.

Floating weightless, untethered

drifting away from myself.

He let me have all of him;

Sometimes with waves as high

as my neck could crane

swirling me up in a whirlpool

then down to the ghost wrecks below.

Other times rocking me asleep

in the grey mist.


When he at last grew tired of our games

he beached me at my home port

gave me back to the land-

to my family.

I sat silent till the lights blossomed

in the black, just beyond the threshold

of the town.

I sat with the whole expanse of him

still echoing in my head

and with the tidal moon

still lapping at my blood.

Helen Larham




I have been told here is a good place
for a poet to find inspiration . . .

But, the noise!
I can’t believe how busy it is.
People, traffic, rushing everywhere.

I stepped off the ferry, determined to
look as if I knew where I was going.
“No chance,” as they say here.

A few attempts at asking directions
from speeding pedestrians
drew disinterested looks, and
barked replies of threatening indifference.

After I nearly somersaulted over
the buggy she was pushing,
a hurrying mother, saying nothing
pointed me this way.

I have never eaten fish with chips before.
Across the road is a shop with a painting of them on the window.
I step out, but how can I get over this river of chaos before me?
Cars, coaches, buses and bicycles.
It’s like my hometown was,
before the wars.

I will try to cross it, over there,
in front of that statue of the two children
up to their knees, sinking into mud.
Maybe that’s why all these people are charging around,
they’re worried that if they stand still
that will happen to them?

Hold on . . .
What does the poster by that pair of big wooden gates say?
I’ll be able to read it when there’s a break in the snake
of tourists walking out through them.

“No 6 Cinema:
Le Bonheur et dans le Pre.”
To me, that translates as,
“The good day is there in the meadow.”

It’s showing, in less than hour’s time.
I can hide in there.

Gareth Toms


I thought she said ‘fairies’,
conjured up filigree wings
and gossamer clad limbs
tripping across the water,
wondered how she would fare
with urban time-travellers
borne by ship
as souls across the Solent
asking day-trippers to
tell their tales
of such ephemeral folk.
Would she lead them
across the Lethe to spill
their all, conjure up memories
of fairy songs?
And then I caught it.
Other fish were being trawled –
tales, yes, of comings and goings –
flight from the mainland
to this Mythical Vectensian Isle,
but the carriers were flightless,
ferries not fairies,
fleet of steel
powering to cliffs of chalk and clay.



Today the sea looks sad.
Leaving port is a sometimes a poignant feeling,
I’m leaving behind a friend who is grieving
for his dear wife who has just died.
I want to go home and I want to stay,
I listen to the heartbeat of the ferry,
the steady throb below the hum of voices
the faint clanks, the echoes of an older ship.

Today the sea shimmers, the sun shines down,
the ferry pulls away, I leave it all behind.
What’s on the other side? Essex, here we come!
Up and down, up and down,
home and beyond, home and beyond.
Back to civilization and the real world,
but what would it feel like if I never went back to the Island?

Today the sea is bright and dreamy,
softly humped like a duvet.
I listen to the tooting of the horns, the rocking of the waves,
the music of car alarms which sing in harmony.
I leave behind grey skies and the troubles of work,
on the ferry I relax, I ponder life’s mystery,
lullaby, lullaby, up and down, up and down.
I shall do nothing but sit and think,
feel the wide open space of sea and sky.

Today the sea looks cold and green,
passing sailboats lean into the wind.
I’m leaving behind my dear mother,
our lovely mum lost very suddenly,
I’m leaving behind my dad, a lost soul without her.
I listen to the waves and the gulls.

Today sunlight sparkles on the water,
phenomenal clouds sail across a changing sky.
I’m leaving behind my miniature Schnautzer and a sleepless night,
I’m going to float like a dog’s dream over the water,
lullaby, lullaby, up and down,
the journey a page in my imaginary scrapbook.
Other passengers peer into their mobile phones,
I’m writing a poem inspired by the ferry’s heartbeat.

Lydia Fulleylove and Ferry Travellers


I’m leaving behind Essex, being doing this for more than forty years.
The first ferry was so small they had to chain the cars down in bad weather …
and for 5/- they washed your car!

In the middle of the Solent I am looking on my mobile, having a bet,
watching the world go by, while the other passengers sit chatting.
In the middle of the Solent I am neither here nor there.

I’m leaving behind family after my brother in law’s funeral.
I’m going to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight where I have lived for over 10 years,
In the middle of the Solent I’m enjoying the lovely sunshine & view of Ryde where I live.

In the middle of the Solent I am travelling when I see the sea… I see the sea.
The other passengers are all busy writing.
The other passengers are other passengers and not me.

I’m leaving behind our mobile home at Southsea.
I’m going to our home on the Isle of Wight.

Being on a ferry lets me sleep.
I am soothed by the calmness of the engine.

I’m leaving behind Croyden Tramlink. I’m a tram driver.
I’m going to St Helens, Bembridge for some peace and quiet.

What a day we had – two hours on the train,
To travel on the ferry to see the sights of the Isle of Wight.
Tired and hungry we’ll arrive, but worth it.

My favourite ferry sounds are crashing of waves and the engines.
My favourite ferry things are the toot of the horns and looking for fish.

Today the sea looks cold and calm with big shadows approaching in the distance.
Every time I travel I hope that the journey is safe and we are not late.

I’m leaving behind a busy mainland full of stress.
I’m going to a tranquil island where you can truly relax.

In the middle of the Solent I am feeling free.
The other passengers are enjoying the view,
footballers and families and many different cultures.
In the middle of the Solent I am happy to be going home.

I’m leaving behind the madding crowd.
I’m going to peace & sanity.

Lydia Fulleylove and Ferry Travellers


I have a person by my side.
He’s always there, never hides.
I tell him all my fears, my doubt.
He smiles and says, go on work it out.
He gives me strength, he gives me hope.
With his help, I know I’ll cope.
He’s my friend, my faithful guide.
When he is there, my eyes open wide
He travelled with me here today,
It was a ferry tale all the way

Diane Ashman


Ascends like a big yellow balloon
Half of the moon is a yellow lagoon
The other dusty as desert,
Nothing in sight, not even inflight
Except, for some shiny old metal.

Diane Ashman


When I saw the shore
My mind became an open door,
My heart began to miss a beat.
At last I saw peace, a calm retreat
Inspiration will be found,
Ideas thoughts will abound.
When I saw the shore
I knew, I would learn even more.
Because I had been here once before.
As I stand on the shore, sea crashing with a roar.
I am at one, I am at peace, I feel that I can soar.
All these things have happened every time,
When I saw the shore.

Diane Ashman


When I looked back, the door had closed.
The old man stood there so composed.
Had disappeared, without a trace.
I glanced toward the window, was that a face.
I knocked the door, it creaked ajar,
On the air, a smell of damp coal tar.
A voice from behind , made me jump,
Wellies landing, with a thump.
You won’t find anyone in there,
The voice, it loudly did, declare
He passed away, some weeks ago.
The house is empty, don’t you know.
Embarrassed, red face a glow,
The passer by, went on his way,
But, I knew the old man, was there today.

Diane Ashman

Departures and Arrivals 1915 -1994

Liverpool April 1915,

The Victorian leaves for Quebec:

on deck Emma Barber,

intended immigrant.

Vancouver August 1915,

Emma returns to England,

herself a vessel hiding an egg

like shells in sand.

December 1915,

arrival of Marian Betty Barber,

born like a lamb

on a secluded farm.

Waves roar in twenties

on Dover Ferry – schoolgirl

en route to Belgium:

‘Look after her’ for half a crown.

Pleasure boat to Flamborough.

    Boat badges sold by the concertina man

for half a crown. Dad takes a travel rug:

Mum stays in town.

Wearing her sailor uniform with panache,

or seaside summer dress with style,

flags flutter from masts overhead

like a picture we saw in the Tate.

Frilly-layered ladies lounge in

‘The Ball on Shipboard’,

heading for

Cowes, Isle of Wight.

Weather set fair 1994,

slowly undertaking

her final voyage, Marian Betty Barber

glides through the channel into light.

Marianne Barber


Why did you Come? Why did you Stay?

(Questions asked of Quarr Abbey Monks)

Because I’m lost inside

the ferry’s heartbeat.

Because the sea outside

reminds me

of my father’s eyes.

Because I’m returning

to where my baby heart

was set in motion.

Because the sea balances

the ferry in the palm of its hand,

carries me, its trembling cargo

from here to there.

Because when the time comes

I will do as I’m told: look out

for green and white signs,

locate the life jacket’s whistle,

and blow.

Because I know now

it’s wrong to step outside

during the hours of darkness.

It’s wrong to throw lit matches

over the side of the deck.

I stay because I no longer want to go.

I stay because each day is better

than the last.

Maggie Sawkins

Ferry Tale Poems


The sea never sleeps

but juggles

skiffs, fast-cats and car ferries.

It rolls along,

cradles the broken sloops

and wherry-boats below.


I watch the ferries

cat’s-cradle across the sea –

white-looping the waves

When I stepped

onto the ferry

I tasted the tang of salt-spray,

felt the wind whiffling my hair,

watched the scorpion-sting

of the wagging white-tailed wake,

listened to the nagging song

of the seagull,

smelt the thin mizzle of rain

falling from the stormy sky.

From the Hot Walls Café

I see the wind crimping the waves,

listen to the susurration of the sea

on the shingle, shushing, shushing…

The car ferry is coming in broadside.

If I blink – there she blows

like an old square rigger

tacking into the wind, sails unfurled,

sailing into Sally Port…

blink again and I see

a sleek Wightlink vessel

following in Victory’s wake.

Denise Bennett

From Freshwater Bay to Pompey

Gulls mew and shriek, glide round the Ferry’s spray;

the engine gives a kick, we plunge away.

The Spinnaker says ‘look at me, my views amaze’.

The dockyard has old ships to see on other days.

For now I want to see this city, learn its ways.

Its byways, pubs and clubs, find favourite cafés.

In Albert Road the girls are out.

Groups of young men, joke and shout.

In pubs and bars, music is pulsing harder.

Laughter and loud talk, need another lager.

The night takes on an adult air.

Is there a sense of danger? Do I care?

It’s black and damp in Victoria Park;

an entranced couple, couple, have a lark.

A necklace of light, trickles from the station,

bearing its cargo to a London destination.

A bunch of heavies can’t resist a fight.

A man vomits by ‘Boots’, says he feels shite.

The flip-flop givers move from place to place;

the concerned elder with her mature face.

A dog with face on paws, has one eye peeped.

His friend in tattered bedding tries to sleep.

At last the tired city goes to bed;

To my student quarters I quietly tread.

Suzanne Toogood   October 2016

Mother Sea

I didn’t just give life to you
As giving life is what I do
You came from me in days of old
And many stories can be told
Of when the earth had just begun
And with the help of Father Sun
We worked and worked with helping hand
Of building blocks within the land
To bring that spark
From space so dark
Today I’m pleased you came to me
Your ever loving Mother Sea

Neville Chase January 2017 (via Facebook)


Last Day on Planet Portsmouth

Anderson sips a cuppa in the Café in the Clouds.

Peirce paraglides from Portsdown Hill.

Clayton sifts the stones for evidence of past lives.

Todd dances, toes wet, sipping a gin-cocktail.

saving one for the ferry man

saving one for the ferry man

Last Day on Planet Portsmouth

Goodall preps posh picnics on the pebbles.

Phyall buys a 911 from the Porsche Garage.

Collier combs the beach for flotsam and jetsam:

East tames a fire to cook the last pork sausage.

saving one for the ferry man

saving one for the ferry man

Devine dives into icy water from the desolate old pier.

Hanna runs the Common so fast she burns her feet.

Eagle rolls along the splendour of South Parade Pier.

Zhou zooms into silence like an apple that’s lost its red.

(Musical Break)

Firth sips her pint in the Phoenix garden.

Sawkins at The Hard, she plays I Spy.

Phyall gathers blooms from The Rose Garden,

Sutton squanders 2 ps in Clarence Pier Cascades,

saving one for the ferry man

saving one for the ferry man

Last Day on Planet Portsmouth

Last Day on Planet Portsmouth

Last Day on Planet Portsmouth

Collaborative poem by Maggie’s Portsmouth workshop group:

recorded and sung by Will Sutton at:



You’d barely know we were moving, were it not

for the cat-like vibration, a baritone

sensation trawling the depths of the hull

and the slow, so slow realisation

of the harbour and town slinking away

into dusk. Lights puncture eyes in the concrete

dissolving like sky into sea into night.  

No land it would seem now on the horizon –

promenade lamps look more like deck lights,

a ship in the distance, strung mast to mast.

About face, a new constellation appears

to grow out of the dark, tiers of exposures

wobble on water – a sister ship’s broken

away from the mainland, drawing

towards us as we’re drawn towards her.

The land behind seems as far away now

as the city ahead, the pitch

of the sea in between unfathomable.  

At some point these ships are bound to pass

and no one on board will know that I’m travelling

back as I go on – back to this morning

in sun, hopes of you growing towards me

as I grow towards you, my heart singing

of friendship.  We are connected by masts

and a cloud – internet, mobiles and email

exchange – the routes of intimacy run on

invisible lines.  I’m buoyed by the current

and wordless waves, my course set by compass –

magnetic, internal – that leaves

no more trace than these tracks on the incoming tide.

Lorna Dowell, January 2017


There and back and there and back again

I’m sitting in the cafe
braving the wind in my face
caused by the rush
from the emptying space.

Blinded by the shining sun
ricocheting off the waves,
people are chatting, working, reading;
engines warming, water wheeling

surrounded by so many mast twigs
sticking up to greet the day.
They wail the wind their eerie answer
as we sail away.

We zig-zag through the channel
slipping round the sandbars,
safe between the lines
avoiding shallow climes.

The departure  lounge spirals empty
as if a plug has been pulled.
The remnants of the passenger list
swirl down and away.

People arrive more lively than the last –
the influence of the island? Could be:
it’s easy, after all, to be bigger somewhere small.
Moving faster out from Yarmouth,
we seem to speed away,
a noisy crowd who can’t hear
the Captain’s  message play.

More children on the way home.
Seagulls pinned overhead
mistake our bark for fishier fare
or maybe floating bread?
Watching the mainland re-appear,
Wight Sun forge ahead,
I would not feel safer
were I at home in bed.

I had hoped for rougher waters
and waves, it must be said.
As I make my way back,
by excitement I am led,
though my onward  safe delivery
will have to do instead.

David Burns, January 2017



Because he is not human, he is kept with the cars below decks,
A mechanical snake on the Channel, riding each crash, each apex.
Just twice we’re allowed to visit the alarm-filled bowel of this whale –
The stern open to the horizon: the bristling grey skin of a seal.

Because he is not human, he is alone with the grumbling sea
While our limbs seek purchase in the gift shop, for plastic solidity.
And we smile at how we flounder, how the corridors are slinking;
We chortle in pale-eyed disbelief, with the portholes blinking.

Because they are not human, the dogs stay down in the hull
With the white sky, the viridian sea and the dark decree of the gulls
And they don’t even know to ask if they are on the passenger list,
They can’t even count the hours, as the chains and the nations drift.

Caleb Parkin

*Collins online dictionary defines this as, “the condition or qualities of a dog”.

Going Under

They’re talking about a tunnel to Gozo.
This little footnote in the Mediterranean’s
tail, where cumulus churches levitate
on great limestone hills and the sea
breathes in though luminous creaks.
Where Calypso reclines in every cave
whispering the words in the waves:
Stay, stay, stay…

All this will become a flippant day-trip,
a gimmick, something ticked off
on the Maltese To-Do List. “We’ve done
Gozo,” the OAPs will crow, showing off.
“You can do it in a day now, easy.”

But how different to commit
to the queue; be swallowed whole
by the push-me-pull-you ships.
To see returners cross through
the sun’s breaststrokes.
To be an Odyssey, hourly.
Not to go under, but to float.

Caleb Parkin

From the Ferry Tales Workshops with Robyn Bolam and Dom Prag  (Lymington)


On days when light is low and heart is sore

my refuge is the shingle beach at Lepe.

There’s constancy in waves that tongue the shore.

I listen to their chant of seawise lore;

sometimes a gentle babble at the neap

on days when light is low and heart is sore.

I tell them how I miss you more and more;

their whisper almost lulls me into sleep.

There’s constancy in waves that tongue the shore.

When winds of grief shake reason to the core

it’s hard to see ahead, my love to keep,

on days when light is low and heart is sore;

then sea-foam batters stones with raging roar

and drenching droplets give me leave to weep.

There’s constancy in waves that tongue the shore

and share with me that ever-turning store

of comfort from the wisdom of the deep.

On days when light is low and heart is sore

there’s constancy in waves that beat onshore.

Sylvia Oldroyd, November 2016

A Door is Closed

Shut the door and turn the key

to leave for pastures new

for now I part to go to sea.


I look out there one final time,

perhaps one more glance for seasons new,

so shut that door and turn the key.


For now, I pass to you what’s mine,

that sunlit, moonlit, glorious view,

because I must leave and take to sea.


Wings in water, please be kind.

To green trees and fields I say adieu

as I close the door and use the key.


One last request to keep in mind:

treasure those thoughts; keep them true,

for here I turn and go to sea.


I beg, be kind, oh friend of mine.

Remember me though, us, time will undo.

Can I close the door and turn that key

and leave, alone, for pastures new?


Sue Burns, November 2016


On a roll

On the quay off the quay, in the rain
in the boat off the boat, in the car and dry again.
At the cafe looking out to sea
we enjoy our lunch and tea.
The clatter and clank of the cutlery
seagulls shrieking echoes
reflecting off the sea
on the quay off the quay, in the rain
on the boat off the boat, in the car and dry again.
Engines churning rhythmically with hypnotic frequency,
sounds and smells, clanging bells,
crewmen working like machines.
Passengers’ excitement mounts to hear
the clash of metal meshing with itself.
On the quay off the quay, in the rain
in the boat off the boat in the car and dry again.
The noise of other people’s business masking all
preempts the frenzied travellers’ dismount,
impatient to alight, it seems to me.
There is no time to lose as they roar out.
On the quay off the quay in the rain,
in the boat off the boat in the car and dry again .
They rush to their cars
to get off the boat
on to the quay
and higher she floats.

David Burns, November 2016

Dawn Sailing

Pale sunlight, early morning.

Too early for those exploring.

Rose clouds in the sky do float

Reflected in seas beyond the boat.

     Pink sunlight early morning

     Fine weather at day’s dawning

Perfect sunlight, early morning.

A fine day that needs no warning.

Nobody sees new waves at birth

Constant movement back and forth.

     Pink sunlight early morning

     Fine weather at day’s dawning

Pallid sunlight, early morning.

People quiet, people yawning.

Wishing they were still abed

Not heading to the dock ahead.

     Pink sunlight early morning

     Fine weather at day’s dawning

Chris Wykes, November 2016

Safe Arrival

Angry waves against the sides

driven on by wind and tides

had rolled the ferry through the night

wallowing left, and then to the right.

Parents soothed with lowered tone

anxious children, wanting to go home.

Angry waves against the sides

driven on by wind and tides.

The old ferry pushed on through the waves

pale crewmen forgetting to look brave.

Tired faces, lacking sleep,

looked for the shore across the deep.

Angry waves against the sides

driven on by wind and tides.

And then a river, a guiding light

the glow of a dock a welcome sight.

Worry, discomfort now in the past

as the boat slipped in to rest at last.

Chris Wykes, November 2016

The Outing

Sliding into Yarmouth, many years ago,

small boats bobbed in the rivers’ mouth.

The ferry towered over all

except the ancient castle.

Excited children, and I was one,

saw ropes thrown up to wooden piers.

At last, time to climb aboard the coach.

Engines starting up, waiting for the off.

The ramp dropping – oh, so slowly,

until a final clang said we were there.

Green downs rose up behind the port

but our road led on to sandy beaches.

Chris Wykes, November 2016


Ferry-Tale Weather


This is the weather the passenger likes

Though the sailors sigh;

When the air is clear and the sky is bright

And the mood rides high

When children play on the slow-rolling ship

And teenagers preen with each slight roll and dip

While their parents sit peacefully, hip against hip

And fair-weather flags fly.


This is the day every passenger dreads

Though the sailors tease;

When the weather is dark and the atmosphere chill

With a heady unease

When the storm is encroaching with menacing threat

As the rain trickles first between collar and neck

Then lashes with force on the glistening deck

And the wind-rocked seas.

Louise van Wingerden, November 2016


The Solent Shuffle

Steady and slow, to and fro,

You could wear your slippers

On the Red Funnel Ferry

To dance the Solent Shuffle

While the boat

Charts its course,

Bridging the gap.

There might be a change of partner now and again

A quick shake up of the who, why and when

But mostly it’s the same familiar faces

Leaving, then returning to the old familiar places

While the boat

Charts its course

Bridging the gap.

The ferry is our link

Between island and mainland

It sets us free and lets us drift

Then eases our way home, when we are ready

And, while the boat charts its course

Bridging the gap between island and mainland

We take our places, once more

Dancing the Solent Shuffle.

Louise van Wingerden, November 2016



Over the water, it’s easy to be

whatever you want other people to see

Far from your home and the people you know:

it’s easier to change, the further you go

(Far from your home and the people you know:

it’s easier to change, the further you go)

Among other travellers, every one’s free

to choose for themselves just how they want to be

So you forge new alliances, make easy friends:

as you follow new ways and establish new trends

Arriving at overseas ports, you are warm

and accepting, so fresh drifter families form

And no-one can fathom the depths of your fear:

you have left it behind, you are truly new here

Among fellow travellers, each of you free

to be for each other whatever they see

And now you are reborn, you don’t turn away

you don’t imprint old memories on every new day

Because over the water, it’s easy to be

Whatever you want other people to see

Away from your past and the people you knew

You were able to change and at last became you…

(Away from your past and the people you knew

You were able to change and at last became you).

Louise van Wingerden, November 2016


Sailing away from yesterday,

Sailing towards an unknown shore;

Focus on now, the lilt of waves

Under the bow

Washing the past away.

Destination is another day.

Gull hanging over the wake

Flying towards a dreaming shore,

Thrills to the lift of wind over wing,

Filling the sails,

Blowing the past away.

Destination is another day.

Voyaging on to freedom’s land,

Moving towards a misty shore,

We are nowhere and everywhere,

Releasing time,

Letting the past fall away.

Destination is another day.

Sylvia Oldroyd, November 2016

Pass the Parcel

When I’m on a ferry, I think, as you do,

just where are they hiding this invisible crew?

Back then, the top level was shaped like a T.

We’d just left the river and taken to sea

when, out on the Solent, we shrieked with surprise

as a second huge ferry came hard alongside.

This sea-going drama was all for the crew

to play ‘pass the parcel’ up high, quite in view.

Then, we slipped into Yarmouth, the castle port-side,

but I’m still mulling over what that parcel might hide!

Isobel Smith, November 2016


Santander Crossing

When it’s warm enough to move your hands

Forget the dampness in the bones.

Remember water’s friendly way –

Just grab a line before she goes.

Climb up from the bottom deck

So low, portholes could not be had

And take your time to walk the planks.

Pray do not slip, my plucky lad.

The rushing wind’s about your head.

She’s bobbing like a cork today

Upon the briny’s rolling spume.

Seems like a year since we saw land.

At last, at last, our fairground spin

Is over with a lurching thud,

Against the side, the fenders squeezed

of every drop of salty sludge.

Sea now becalmed as if to mock us

Clinging to the jetty side –

Mere mortals battling nature’s power,

Still quaking from our noisome ride.

David Burns, November 2016


                          Waverly Waltz

Churning water, a white path behind the boat

Floating back across the bay as paddle wheels turn.

The sound of a waltz floats from the saloon;

He holds out his hand, ‘Care to dance?’

Button boots slide on the polished deck

Cotton skirts play out as she twirls around

Curious gulls hover in the wind

Their yellow eyes following every step.

Out of breath but smiling, leaning on a rail.

Through the swirling race they pass

Sentinels guarding the channel entrance

Waiting for the darkness.

The great wheels clank and strain

Slowing as they slide towards the pier.

Jarring noise and bustle smothers Edwardian calm.

Excited children waiting to disembark.

She blinks and looks around her

Surprised to see jeans and backpacks.

‘Come on sleepy head’, he holds out his hand.

‘You’ve missed the best bits’, but no, she hadn’t missed a beat.

Chris Wykes,   October 2016


The Silent Watcher

 An owl on a rail

Watching cars drive down the ramp

Boarding the ferry

Still he sits, never blinking

Never moving, a calm vigil

Crew pass, all is noise

Now almost ready to set sail

Yet silent he sits

Gulls wheel in the mist above

Not seeing his wooden heart

Chris Wykes, 2016


Doing a Freddy

Young boys race across the deck
Doing a “Freddy”, mucho unsteady,
Rolling with the swell, just directed by the waves.
It’s choppy today, across the bay,
Unhindered by the tide
Two foxtrotters gently glide
Flowing gracefully past our port side
While we, with hand-clapping
Finger-snapping staccato trill
Indulge for all, a fiery, ferry flamenco,
A fandango if you will.
It’s choppy today, across the bay,
But safer to ride on the leeward side
So I’ll sit in the bar
Watching all from afar
Till we dock, safely tied .

David Burns,   October 2016

A Ferry Dance

Take my hand

and dance a sarabande

or a minuet for two;

over seashells, sea swells;

no need of a sickness

pill for you.

I’ve dressed my best

in a cockle shell vest

and you have a mussel shell shoe.

We can dance in the day or under

the stars with a beautiful

Red Funnel View.

Marianne Barber, October 2016


Leaving This Island City

Inspired by Mark Lanigan’s photographs for the Ferry Tales Writing Workshop with Maggie Sawkins (Portsmouth)

Silver, gold clouds gild the still water,

the April sun dips into dusk.

Dark-bellied Brent geese fly East,

and the sandbank sleeps.

Wintered on eelgrass, they fly to Siberia,

then to the Arctic,

arriving as the thaw begins in June.

Their stop along the Baltic Coast,

a distant memory

as the breeding season starts.  

Two months nested on Arctic tundra;

two months to raise a family.

Silver, gold clouds gild the still water,

The October sun dips into dusk.

Dark-bellied Brent geese fly West,

and the sandbank wakes.  

 Sue Shipp


From the Ferry Tales Writing Workshops with Maggie Sawkins (Portsmouth)


Sitting, remembering the first time she’d made the journey,

she watched children excited at the thought

of holidays. Not contemplating holidays now though.

Persuaded by well meaning daughters, she was

making the crossing to view an apartment, which

would be more suitable than the rambling family house.

What makes them think I want suitable instead of loved

she thought, knowing her knees complained every time

she climbed the stairs and that the large rooms were

difficult to clean and keep warm. All her memories

were there, and yet wasn’t she remembering now

on this ferry; the distant happy days were in her head.

Not within walls which, if she didn’t dare

to leave now,  could form a lonely prison in the future.

Eileen Phyall, October 2016


 Lost Dreams

You are ashes floating in the wind.

My dreams just a bitter taste of what may have been.

Passengers around me drink coffee from paper cups,

talk excitedly into phones. Anticipate holidays,

just as we did, never realising it would end so soon.

I see the land approaching, the sea is deep.

I swallow hard to stop the tears from falling

Eileen Phyall, October 2016


First Ferry to Ryde

Oh, I’m so excited soon we’ll be on the beach,

A sandy beach, just perfect for sand castles.

I am sitting still Mummy it’s just my feet dancing.

Can’t make them still I’m so excited.

How much longer? I am being good

Oh look, there’s a sailing boat, are we

going to bump into it, look, look the man is waving.

I’m not being silly I’m just excited.

Can I have ice cream when we go to the beach?

Eileen Phyall, October 2016


Day’s end

Sky lit by the dying sun

Reflected in a receding sea

Geese on their noisy way

Across the Solent

Eileen Phyall, October 2016



In shadow, by the shallows,

a gull has taken stand:

to look beyond the tidal scope,

where glimmer holds

the eye

in hope,

across the strait,

for other lands.

Amanda Garrie, October 2016


Looking Back

The decoy bird

fixes its early eye on me.

Avoiding the interrogation,

I drink coffee from a paper cup

and look back towards Ryde.

The churn of the water,

removes me;

the wake cries my angst,

plunders the screams

of the seagulls,

lets it sink.

And the surface twists,

white, like the screw

of the sheets of your bed.

Soft tides, lost

on the ebb of a promise.

Amanda Garrie, October 2016


6th August

Will St Faith help?
The slipway car-park is almost full.
Patron saint of pilgrims, it’s her feast day –
it’s the day for hoards of holidaymakers
and me.
I drive my jam-packed car
onto the ship and make my way up the steps,
grab a Costa coffee and sit on the sun deck –
the farewell, look-back deck.

I can hear the rattling of chains,
thump of the car-park ramp,
the engine’s throb.
Creaks and cracks tell me
that this bulldog of a ship
has had her collar slipped.

St Faith starts to glide
away from Fishbourne
to the edge of the Solent,
that amniotic lake where
my Isle of Wight umbilical cord will stretch
and eventually tear.

There’s no turning back now –
it’s a one-way trip.
Walking Vectis Isle’s plank
apprehensive and excited,
I watch familiar landmarks
shrink to toy-like size
as the distant clumps of high-rise
mini New York buildings of Portsmouth
creep closer.

Sea wind brushes my face,
a tender farewell touch,
the same breath of air
shared by my Wight Isle
and a city metropolis
that I will soon call home.

John Pearson,  October 2016


I am leaving at night

when the bright lights litter

in strings and bows, a coastline

of houses, of restaurants, of roads.

Coruscated, a word I like;

a coruscated edge of land.

Goodbye, a word I do not like.

It feels like the tide shoved shred

of barnacles on a tender skin.

What is this goodbye to you

with your round world, pebble stone


You never cry.

The farewell is but a brief wave

as you walk away

muttering about parking, tickets and fines.

But then, I am leaving you,

you, with my heart in your trust,

while you know you are a stone wall,

a fortress, a castle keep,

from which this frail maiden leaps

to the stark white of a ferry in the night.

Being carried away in the cold seas.

Margaret Jennings

Driving Off the Ferry in an Unknown Land

 As I drive off the ferry the world is full of men and women waving their arms as if conducting unheard music. I hear the blast of ships’ horns. The hard tarmac is trammelled into pits of puddles that try for careful reflections in rainbows of oil, surrounded by smells of engines and unwashed travellers trying to fathom this language of arms,

The drivers are trying to divine the position of land from the treacherous potential of a fall into the sea and a drowning in the thick ink. A slow glug that will mean never reaching the warm hug of a hotel bed.

                                                                   Margaret Jennings

Misheard Quote Misheard

 ‘What state is your love life in?’

‘It’s in its third draft.

I already know the ending

after a good beginning.’


This in a theatre where act follows act.

Empty now, laughter and applause still haunt

the corners and baffle the silence.


‘What state is your love life in?’

‘It’s in its third draft.

I already know the ending

after a good beginning.’


We are all at sea

but the curtains will come up

on a new tide.

Act will follow act.

                                                  Margaret Jennings

Three Lorries/ Three Poems

 Three fat lorries waiting in queues

bumper to bumper waiting to cruise.

A crust of Portsmouth roof in a crack,

a flightless sky, a lamp like a tack.


A wheel trim like the top jelly tier

buttoned with bolts, tyre a liquorice smear,

and then the light and then the roof

beyond the sea, holding the truth.


Snub nose lorries sniff butts,

men sleep in cabs like huts.

Above, the spectral lighting pole

haunts both lorries and fish that shoal.

                                                              Margaret Jennings

 from Denise Bennett via the Website 5 October 2016

Car Ferry

Portsmouth to Fishbourne

Alone on the crossing
I step into the memory,
take your small hand –

there’s me and you
dancing on the deck of the ferry
to the swell of the uppy-downy waves.

You are three years old,
wearing your blue aeroplane shirt,
clutching your bucket and spade.

The hooter sends you skittering…
We wave –Bye, bye home.
Hello Island.

In the salt silence
there are needles in my eyes
when I think of me and you

holding on –
dancing on the deck of the ferry
to the swell of the uppy-downy waves.

                                                     Denise Bennett 

Workshop at The Kings Theatre, Southsea, 17 September 2016

To Old Fears

 I shall not be needing you
No longer rule my mind.
I have space for freedom
And good new thoughts to find.
My memories no longer feel
Trapped by all your lies
Out of the darkness
Now into light, I’ll rise.
The ferry shall take me soon
Adventures now embraced
With strength to step away from fears
Thanks to our Lord’s grace.
                                                             Katie Anderson

Leaving Portsmouth

We’re leaving behind the Spinnaker Tower,

the beautiful views from the Still and West.

We’re leaving behind gridlocks on match days,

the roar of the crowd, stony beaches and cheap crazy golf.

We’re leaving behind Hot Walls and Pie and Vinyl,

prickly lettuce and sea cabbages on Eastney Beach.

We’re leaving behind the house where Dickens was born,

foxes dozing on hot shed roofs.

We’re leaving behind meals at the Bombay Balti,

the Guildhall clock and Pompey Chimes.

We’re leaving behind nail bars & tattoo parlours,

the sound of shingle on windy day walks.

Leaving behind high rises and the model village,

sheltering under South Parade Pier.

We’re leaving behind the Ships’ Graveyard on the M27,

three railways stations and closeness to London.

Yes, we’ll leave behind the roar of the crowd!

Leaving behind rows of houses and rows of cars,

trips to the seaside on the Hayling Ferry.

We’re leaving behind bobbing at the Bandstand

on Sundays, Victorious Festival and DANGER SLIPPERY SLOPES.

Yes, we’re leaving, we’re leaving behind.

Denise, Amanda, Liz, John, Sue, Sue, Marianne, Joy, Gareth, Margaret, Maggie

Last Day on Planet Portsmouth

Anderson sips a cuppa in The Café in the clouds.

Goodall prepares a posh picnic on the pebbles.

Peirce paraglides from Portsdown Hill.

Firth sips a pint in the Phoenix garden.

Todd dances, toes wet, sipping a last gin cocktail.

Eagle rolls the splendour of South Parade Pier.

Sutton squanders 2 pences in Clarence Pier Cascades,

saving one for the ferry man.

Devine dives into icy water from the desolate pier.

Zhou zooms into maximum silence like an apple that’s lost its red.

Collier combs the beach for flotsam and jetsam.

Phyall 1 gathers an armful of roses from the Rock Garden.

Phyall 2 buys a 911 from the Porches Garage.

East tames a fire and cooks the last pork sausage.

Hannah runs along Southsea Common so fast she burns her feet.

Clayton sifts through the stones for evidence of past lives.

Sawkins waits down by The Hard playing I Spy.


from FERRY TALES   WRITING FOR WELL BEING WORKSHOPS  Newport, Isle of Wight (led by Lydia Fulleylove)


I am leaving behind

I am leaving behind the place of my birth,

the fields of my youth, naivety and learning,

oblivious to fear and danger,

swinging from a tree off Buckbury Lane.

I am leaving behind Ventnor,

the golden sunset off the cliff edges,

the chime of the bells of St Wilfred’s.

I am leaving behind the steep sides of Compton,

the tantalizing gateway to somewhere else,

the promise of wave after wave and a smooth ride in.

I am leaving behind a precious place of silence and stillness,

a place made of ancient stones and quiet water;

the purple sunset and the peace of the place settle into my soul,

taking the tensions away as a little boat

sails down the channel and out to sea.

I am leaving behind my cliff top walks above Sandown beach,

the long reach of the pier, relic from a bygone age,

the nods and hellos of strangers passing by.

I am leaving behind the colder winters of the north,

the buzz of a forever moving city,

the familiar accents, the hugs from my family I still crave.

I am leaving behind Headon Warren where the kites hover

and the rabbits flash white, scudding down their holes,

hoping not to be too late.

I am leaving behind the long dappled grass of memory.

I am leaving behind angry, salty air from the sea,

I am closing the huge wooden gate

down the house-path behind me.

I am leaving behind the Island,

huddled in an overcoat of fog,

a blur between the imagined sea

and the imagined sky.

David, Scott, Liz, Lisa, Jackie, Roselyn, Shona, Pela, Mark, Lester
(Workshop 1)

Leaving Port

Leaving port is leaving behind

the ground-in- grime that blinds my mind.

Leaving port is leaving behind

thirty four years of my life,

making a journey, saying goodbye.

Leaving port is a Blue Peter flag flying

in the wind of hopes and dreams;

it’s always fun on a summer morn,

pink light before the dawn.

Leaving port is exciting, not looking behind,

looking forward into the wind,

an adventure not just in mind.

Leaving port is watching the wake

write its own name.

Leaving port is white hankies waving,

fare thee well dear friends, precious cat,

will I ever find my way back?


Warily walking on wooden decks,

White wonders where he is going.

Mordey makes mellifluous mandarin music,

mixing metaphors magically,

masticating mouth-watering melons.

Macdonald mendaciously marches,

making marvellous mischievous marks.

Tayler thinks – my guitar, some strings –

no I haven’t forgotten anything.

Williams wears woolly socks

with handy holes for peeping toes.

Fulleylove fills a flask of frothy coffee,

Conroy carries a Corona icy drink, a collie dog, a comb and a compass.

Scott, Shona, Roselyn, David, Mark, Lester, Lydia (Workshop 2)

Point to Point

Inside in that which isn’t there
Between in us we aren’t two
Fast in the time into which we go forwards ahead
stretched into nothing
Chosen to advance on
to link when I was to the point in the distance
Much I stand next to
because he is there and she was
because we will be in a minute or two

But how long until we arrive?

What if it never was there in a which way is up kind of way
Must it play in our space
for we need to play with it
as it consumes are bodies
our playful desires

What if we have a future in a mad opening in a door of corners
Pop in the poles and attach then stretch over what we have here
For stretching is like the tension in a wound up room for me to pull you to pull us all to wind ourselves up in the wound up thing that goes in and out and round and stops and nothing.

Nothing but what is there in between.

So we balance between entrance and exit, so we let our bodies give in this way and that.
Because in the corner is on that we want.

It is there that it will happen that bit that place that spot of fah fah farward faraway
In the there we deem it to be beyond my nothingness.

So tomorrow will have an opening.

I like lines I like starts and stops and breaks and connections.

That is the way I like it.

Share my bit of blandness.

Nothing is something because my space likes the place.

Place it there.

That’s the remedy for the white
point to point to point to point
travel the points down the direction of my path of points of places of stops and starts.

I am not mad to see the shapes we see and not shapes but segments of connections of points of boundaries and lines and figures.
Figures of the imagination.

For nothing gets anywhere if it doesn’t leave that point.

How long until we arrive?
Will you be there.

Are you heading along the route of your choice or are you powered by a force of direction of intention of routine paths and routes pre-programmed.
How much is really your own decision to go, stop, reverse rewind, to fall to that point.

Because points are planned, points are practised.


Point to point to point to point.

Steph Kemp


In this workshop our ferry sailed onwards across the Solent.  We looked at Mark’s photographs and talked about the details which catch our attention when travelling by ferry and the feelings we have on being mid channel.  The collaborative poem, That bit in the middle emerged from this and we enjoyed reading it aloud in stanzas with everyone joining in the chorus.


The sea, never the same, always on the move,

shifting shades, shifting sounds,

green waves, blue waves, waves whipped white,

rough, smooth, all sliced apart by the ferry

then there’s that bit in the middle

the chatter of tones, pitches and accents entwining,

but for this hour of the ferry journey we are all the same,

full of hope for a happy holiday or begrudging our return,

the people around us, the water around them and the creatures in and above it,

then there’s that bit in the middle

an old man with patched knees, a flower garden of children,

the sense of the unknown – will we arrive safely, will we come to harm?

To see the shore recede, finally reaching the other shore?

I’m no sea lover, but to get to North Island, you need to swim, fly or float,

then there’s that bit in the middle

Suspended between now and then, no choice but to live

within the heart-beat of the moment,

for a brief while, passengers and crew are locked in

on a passage of time together.

then there’s that bit in the middle

 David, Jackie, Jayne, Liz, Roselyn, Scott, Malcolm, Mark, Lisa, Lester, Linda

We also thought about ferry rhythms and whittled down our ideas to a second collaborative poem:


A ferry rhythm is……

a flexible feast,

a humming engine determined to take you to shore,

in-and-out, in-and-out, like a breath,

a soothing sound of seething sea,

a throb, throb, throb, a clank, clank, clank,

a puff, puff, puff and a blow,

back and forth, low tide, high tide, never ending,

like a heartbeat.

 David, Jackie, Jayne, Liz, Roselyn, Scott, Malcolm, Mark, Lisa, Lester, Linda

After the workshop, David wrote Final Ferry, which takes us through a voyage from departure to arrival.

Final Ferry

The ship slips away wreathed in starlight

Sails set, for the land of Khemeem

Travelling far on the one night

When terrors turn into sweet dream

The Captain is Donald the elder

He stands on the bridge near the wheel

He steers the ship on to the border

Of lands where all old wounds can heal

The passengers stand on the foredeck

Dressed in white and looking ahead.

Fearing no turmoil or shipwreck

Leaving the land that they dread.

The ship hurries on across waters

All sparkling in starlight and green.

Parents, the sons and the daughters

Forget all the hate they have seen

The dawn brings a new day of sunlight

The ship steers right into the bay

They welcome the coming of daylight

The dawn of a wondrous new day

The crew berth the ship at the dockside

While passengers hasten to leave

Behind, all the hurts at the wayside,

To suffer no more, or to grieve

The ship now is empty and silent

Old Donald he turns now for home

He looks at the sun in his sextant

And waits for the whitening foam

The ship sails away ‘cross the ocean

Its sails now are gleaming and bright

Old Donald he calls to the Bo ‘sun

That all things are perfectly right

David J White


As we drew closer to port, we looked back and talked about our memories and associations with ferry crossings, flow-writing from the line:

Ferries remind us of

a cradle which will rock me back and forth,

a vessel filled with people who love the sound of the sea,

tearful goodbyes and excited hellos

as you try to spot your relative in the crowd,

my mother waving from the deck,

me waving from the quay,

or the day our cat nearly escaped on the car deck,

and I grabbed him by his tail.

Ferries remind us of

the first time

we sailed to the Island,

so long ago we can’t remember

more than the smell of the salt

and the hot breath of diesel

in a sheltered place on deck


saving sweets for the voyage in a tin for weeks,

arriving long ago in Yarmouth,

a place more mysterious than Zanzibar,

the sense of wonder of going where I’ve never been.

And we found ourselves looking backwards and forwards to our hopes for future voyages:

Every time I travel I hope

that the sun shines on my body,

as we sail out from the Island

and every stress is chased away,

that I’ll see the dogs being shepherded

to their place on the dog deck,

that I’ll arrive safe and sound,

that eventually I’ll be homeward bound,

home to my marmalade cat,

that one day I’ll make the journey alone,

no one to care for but me,

to arrive calm, free from responsibility.

that a space will open in my head

as endless as sea and sky

and a poem will saunter in.

Scott, Lisa, Linda, Jayne, Shona, Lester, Lydia

Having created some ships of the imagination, (‘Curious Craft’) in our first session, we began to think of writing about real ships, taking Helen Dunmore’s poem, The Bones of the Vasa, and one of Mark’s photos of a ferry as starting points.  More of these to follow later.

We see the ferry sailing

nose up, tail up

flushed with evening sun,

nudging the flat calm,

leaving behind the long low lines of the Island hills,

slipping away, slipping away

towards the saltmarsh channel –

or is she sailing home?

Using William Allingham’s poem Four Ducks on a Pond as a model, we each chose a photograph and tried taking ourselves on an eye journey from near to mid distance to far…

Four ducks on a pond,

A green bank beyond,

A blue sky of spring,

White clouds on the wing.                              William Allingham

Here is an ‘eye journey’ in response to Mark’s wonderful photograph, which includes reflections of clouds – The Cloud Fish – though he may not recognize it as such!

Homepage image-15

a cloud trying to be a fish

drifting among wisps of cloud-weeds

a strip of saltmarsh,

a glimpse of silvery mud

a ferry flushed with sunset

below a sky-fish-cloud

In the last part of the workshop our ferry sailed into port.  We thought about the moment of arrival and then about significant times of arrivals in our lives.  Perhaps Tennyson’s poem Crossing the Bar, about the beautiful Yarmouth to Lymington crossing, influenced our sense of beginnings and endings and led to our collaborative poem:


I am arriving at the beginning of my story,

the day I moved to the Isle of Wight,

with Eve, Kate and Gary.

It’s a ferry story… or a fairy story,

we don’t know if there’ll be a happy ending,

the middle’s what counts.

I am arriving at a time when my head is a fuzz,

sleeping, drifting, daydreaming,

sober and solvent,

lonely and smoking,

getting to know myself.

I am arriving at Going Nowhere Station,

there’s not much to say about my location.

I am arriving at the loss of a loved landscape,

the banishment of barn owls and bats,

the scalping and spraying of wicked wild flowers.

I am arriving at the conclusion of my brief time on earth.

Will anyone note my passing?

Will anyone note my death?

I loved my life, did many things,

my going will be no surprise.

I am arriving at the crossroads in my life,

wondering what to do,

at least be kind and don’t hurt anyone.

Where are you going?

I’m arriving…

Scott, Lisa, Linda, Jayne, Shona, Lester


The Boat Made of Music

it sings and it chants

sails soaring like a string section

the melody haunting

the lyrics enchanting

the soloist is in tune

as she reaches for the high notes

the boat ploughs over the audience

they sit there amazed

a boat made of music

is a grand thing indeed

a thing to be cherished

a thing full of seed



Leaving port is easy

like letting go of the past.

Now is where I am

with the gulls, terns and tide

travelling away from the land

wishing and washing away from


Leaving port is part excitement, part reluctance,

making a voyage of trust, a journey fuelled with hope.

It’s a bags packed, time borrowed kind of experience.

Leaving port is never without anxiety.

Leaving port is a sort of death,

or a sort of life beginning.

When you leave, if only for a day,

what took place back there is past,

lost except for what remains

in memory or habit.  But what awaits

is the possibility of futures

if only for a day.

 High Tide Poets, Margaret, Linda, Joan, Robin