My second date with Julie. March 1996. A car journey from Carmarthen to Llansteffan Castle.  

Llansteffan Castle

On the second date she wasn’t drunk. Her eyes were clear. Green and clear. Her eyes were clear but shy and unsure.

     She opened the door. She got in. I got in. We drove.

     The sky was grey. Grey and white. There were no leaves on the trees. She didn’t speak. I didn’t speak. She turned her head and looked outside. At the leafless trees and grey and white sky, she looked outside.

     The roads were winding, and I continued to drive. I continued to drive until I saw the castle. I mentioned this. She murmured something back. But I didn’t hear. I pretended I heard and kept on driving.

     Her hands were moving as she looked outside. Moving and fidgeting as I continued to drive.

      I found a place to park. I parked. She turned round. I looked away. I opened the door. She opened the door. I got out. She got out. I looked around. I saw the castle. I saw the beach. I saw the leafless trees and the grey and white sky.

     And I saw the wind play at her hair. And I looked at her. At her clear green eyes. And she looked at me. I smiled. And she smiled. And we walked. And as we walked we were beneath the castle, beside the beach and the leafless trees, and under the grey and white sky.  

     And I smiled. And she smiled.

     And we walked.


The war in Ukraine against pro-Russian opposition; the world, sat on sofas, watching the ‘story’ unfold on the news; the Ukrainian team of Shakhtar Donetsk – funded by Russian owners – its purpose built stadium devastated by shell-fire; the Champions League – sponsored by Russian-owned Gazprom; political positioning and football.   A poem:

Donbass Arena

Spectators to a Game

Steel pipes protrude from ceiling and floor, like  a

crowd of surrendering arms.

As a small girl walks amongst the fallen debris

a sheet of glass drops and the world looks on; like

spectators to a game.


The Donbass Arena; Shakhtar’s gleaming stadium

built for millions –

teeters amongst the destruction of a war-torn Donetsk;

a champion’s trophy for

an iron fist seeking former glories.  

And as grey debris blankets the wintry stands,

like neatly placed shards of snow,

far to the West,

away from the stench of bodies and rubble and

burning oil,

the game plays on;

in bars and behind oak tables.


Bankrolled by a twisted mother

the rebels alight

to a foreign land.

And, watched with beers and bullets,

to the anthem of the Champions League

in Munich and London and Lviv,

and amongst promises of ceasefires and

adverts for Gazprom,


the team kick off

and are played well.