Heaven in Ordinarie www.fosten.com
Heaven in Ordinariewww.fosten.com


Thursday 3 August 2023

Once again much water has flowed under many bridges since last I added to this site. No need for tedious explanations, rather I'll offer this selecion of recent birthday pieces and a couple of re-discoveries linked loosely  to this time of year.


Friday 8 January 2021

Ah, yes, a rather full five years have elapsed since the last update. Way too much to cover in this setting. So I'll just add some pieces from those years and then make it my intention to use and add to the site more often from now on.


3 October 2016

It's been a busy time since the last entry. Here is a piece which captures a few minutes during the Summer. 'Cafe by the Ardeche'.


9 April 2016

Spring has arrived, vigorously ... my new hip is settling in well... and off we go again though never quite as before - se 'The last onion'.

13 January 2016

Having passed 60 at Christmas I'm thinking that it is time to stop worriting on with questions of purpose and mortality, and simply get on with living. 'Re-Calibration' is my attempt to do just that.


20 July 2015

Pastoral church newsletters are not usually considered ground breaking literature, but having sweated over this one I thought  it might be of interest to a wider readership than the Norwich Area churches for whom it is intended.

July 2  2015

A day of hot, crackling sun which reminds me of other days like this from a long time ago. The border pinks from our childhood garden which are now blooming here in Pakefield reinforces that good memory. See 'Pink Buttonholes'.

June 15  2015

After weeks of waiting and willing the peony buds to open out into blooms today seems to be the day!

Also a hand out which accompanied two Praying with clay workshops held last Sarurday at the  URC Eastern Synod day out in Cambridge. No expertise was offered by me or required by the particpants but, rather like the peony, creativity bloomed anyway.

April 27 2015

A new week and a new poem relating how events of some 30 years ago came to an unexpected resolution - see 'Miss G's Revenge'. This is followed by a collection of pieces produced for last year's May Day event at the Seagull Theatre.

April 21 2015

Spring is well under way, the sun shines and a quiet few hours have enabled the website to go live. You will see that it is far from complete but some recent material is now available and other archive stuff will appear soon.

March 24 2015

After many months offline the fosten.com website 'Heaven in Ordinarie' is gradually returning. The new site will grow as and when I acquire some 'how to do it' knowledge and find a few moments in which to post material




If you have always wanted to ask me something, now is the time to go for it!

Poems for the Ferini Gallery Calendar 2014


Sonnet - after George Herbert

Art - a disapproved intrusion into everyday;

money diverted from utility to bling;

a pointless twisting ladder topped with birds -

why shiny metal when the real ones fly around?

Who'll see the lighting when the night time hours

make of the precinct a desolate, empty, windswept place?

Fancy aspirations; money outwitting taste;

an effete affront to a town of honest graft.


Art - a counter-balance to the deadweight drag

of pound shops, eddying litter and too-young pregnancy;

a life-line from a 2-D world of cash and goods;

aspiration breaking free from all that is mundane and dull;

playful, fun, subversive; the spiritual in drag;

something whole and holy: something precious - not quite understood.




Water and pigment flow without boundaries

within a scene where canvas and timber,

mist and tide succumb to the lightest

of breezes and manufacture motion.

As day draws subtly out of night

a contradiction resolves, mystically;

a deadweight of many tons

assumes a fluid character to sounds,

less those of speed or movement,

much more like restless sleep -

a creak, a sigh, soft steadiness of easy breath.


The mist curtain draws clear,

reveals a world of carrying way,

making steerage, offering purchase;

where blocks allow free movement,

where ropes are sheets,

where planks are sheer and

hulls may tumblehome....


And thus this ghost of how once was

affirms the beauty and the promise of today.









The High Light

The High Light

reaches low point

when the time comes

and the keeper goes.


There is money saved

as a trade give way;

a life's work is lost

on account of its cost.


Around the coast of these home nations

runs the tide of automation

as Trinity House ensure

there's nobody at home any more.




When first we met you were weeping,

tears for the painful loss of purpose,

and a wound held open by the

final stages of decline.


Formerly, you had bristled with industry;

the shipyards, the coachworks,

the canning plants, the freight lines,

the tidal flow of bicycling workers ...

and fishing, the heroic icing on

the cake of dignity...


but these have gone and left behind

is a spent core, a vacuum, an aching heart

and heads that shake in grief and disbelief.


If Resurrection is a fine idea

what meaning might it take where

desolation, ghosts and fireweed should prevail?


Look carefully and well. Notice,

against the pink and rose of dawn,

the town rising again in outline;

new life, safe energy, prized heritage,

a beach washed clean, belief and hope

splashed out in water sparkle music

celebrate the newness of the day.



The Smokehouse, Raglan Street

So, here it is,

half-hidden behind planners' blight

and passing traffic blur -

a gem, a place wherein

is practised an ancient art.


The atmosphere is of place

yet not of time;

this could be any point from now

to back, back, back beyond our knowing;

any moment when fish

was taken, dressed with skill,

preserved against the hungry months.


Within more recent times the town

has seen huge segments of

industrial worth dismantled,

drained and lost.  Famous names

and trades and dignity were

spun and carried off by progress,

only to disappear like

guttered leaves of Autumn.


Though not everything is lost -

for here, smoked and scented

by the ancient sacredness of oak,

persists and flourishes

a trade, a way of life,

a staple and a delicacy -

a timeless intermingling of

salt and air and fire

and sea.


The Great Lowestoft Beach Robbery

Years before I'd come to where

a safe, sandy, sunny corner had

supplied a happy hour beside the sea.


Now I returned to walk again

the safe, sandy, sunny corner by

the sea and found it - gone!


Even at low tide, though the sun still shone,

safety had been breached, no sand remained,

just rocky remnants and a menacing wall.


Who had delivered this blow?

Who had pulled off this shameful heist?

What vehicle could remove a million tons of sand?


The council workmen scratch their heads,

the police have crises elsewhere to attend,

meanwhile, the local Poirots have their thoughts ...


To know how a beachful of sand can be mugged

just watch how the beach huts extend ever south,

and notice how Pakefield's suspiciously smug.



A significant Lowestoft building - not built by Morton Peto

Comely, she looks

in the low light of this winter's afternoon;

positioned carefully between the land and the sea.

She is a tethered island; a safe

and steady haven for sleek racing craft

and serious ocean voyagers alike.

George Skipper of Norwich set her style;

pragmatic, country house vernacular,

spacious, homely, purposefully glazed.

Without pretension she combines

angled pantile pitches, rugged rendered blocks,

appropriately tasteful piercings and a copper dome.

Her presence is within the town

but neither confined by nor dependent on it;

belonging here and, confidently, elsewhere too.


Where Peto stands full-square Italianate, rooted, fixed

and bristling with pigeon spikes,

Skipper's lady effortlessly unfurls her sails

in readiness to catch each passing breeze.



The Lowestoft Seafront Air Show

Who killed the Air Show?

'Not I',

 said the weather - all I set was a challenge

'Not I',

 said the council - though we mess up some, this was not one of ours

'Not I',

 said the volunteers who steward the event, direct the cars, shake the buckets and inject enthusiasm into the pulse

'Not I',

 said the pilots who steered around the cumulus then flipped and rolled and, one time, ended in the drink

'Not I',

 said the enthusiasts who gripped binoculars, studied programmes, listened to the tannoy's tinny commentary on events


'No reply',

 said the tight wads, the feckless, the cheats, the shallow men

and women, boys and girls who ride in other people's slipstream,

who drain the fun, steal community of substance, and only live

to take and take and take and take ...

and never give.



Fell Runners of the Eastern Flatlands

The Start


Head buzzing

feet cold

tummy tight

likewise muscles

and breathing

then ...


Rhythm, rhythm

focus on the rhythm

balance effort with breath

effort with breath

rhythm, rhythm,

focus on the rhythm

dig into the gradient,

gravity restrains,

pace, pace


balance effort
with breath

rhythm, rhythm

focus on the rhythm

ease back on the downhill,

gravity pulls,

balance, cushion,

absorb the shockwaves

pretend this is a free wheel

spring, cushion,

balance the effort with breath,

rhythm, rhythm,

focus on the rhythm

up - rhythm

down - rhythm

again - rhythm

balance - rhythm

breathing - rhythm

effort - rhythm


The Finish Line


Head bursting

tummy forgotten



and feet

on fire.






An old shop in the High Street, Lowestoft


'Being an artist is to be in the business of taking notice ... '


For years I've known this former shop front -

not intimately

but in a glancing, tangential

sort of way - glimpsed in passing or

as a backdrop for a parking place.


But now the artist arrests

my progress, demands

that I stand still and watch and see -

a piece of history, a relic of

a time that was,

an endangered species captured

by eye and brush before

it slips away beyond recall?


This High Street shop goes back

a long way, they say,

it runs deep, too, and

carries in its frame so many

characters and stories;

merchants and their businesses,

traders and their families;

even the helpless crones accused

of witchcraft at the Bury Assize.


For centuries this place has clung

tenaciously to where the cliff

falls away, sharply, as,

building by building, street by street

the town has shifted southwards.

A front door on the street,

a back door watching the fishing come

and go and with it a village and

a way of life washed away

by time and storm surge tide

and planners' choice.


So here the shop front stands

empty of goods but not of soul;

a quiet, private place where

a gentle beauty holds itself

until it is appreciated, savoured

and presented by the one who,

with his brush in hand,

takes notice.








Planning: a case study

An idea may look good on paper

yet not be successful on the street;

to separate the traffic from the people

sounds tidy but in practise isn't neat.


'Clear', 'safe', 'free-flowing' serve Utility;

'mingle and 'impediment' may delay

so these invisible threads of community

weren't valued and Utility won out that day.


And we turned the street into a pavement

and walled in a road between homes;

we separated Precinct from High Street,

cut ribbons, patted backs, said 'Well done!'


Each evening the Precinct's a funnel

for wind and litter and those

with no life, no trade and no purpose,

with no hope and nowhere to go.


So study this painting, you planners,

be humble and learn from mistakes;

deal in lifeblood not lines on a drawing

and bring hope to this town once again.




Advent in the Precinct – after Sir John Betjeman

'... and lamp-oil light across the night

Has caught the streaks of winter rain

In many a stained-glass window sheen

From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.'

The bells of waiting cash tills ring,

the Xmas musak plays again,

with lips drawn tight

and knuckles white

the Christmas husbands flit and flee

from cosmetics on to lingerie.


And as the East Coast sea fret swirls

hooded youths and scarce clad girls,

anacronyms in tweed and pearls,

rest wearily by winter flowers

in pigeon-shatted concrete bowers.


Then lads unplug their iPod bungs,

as do the girls and teenage mums,

and Sally Ann led carollers call ‘Come!’

even to shifty ones who’d rather dwell

snug by the fire at the Carlton Bell.


And is it true? And is there value

in this frenetic Winter fest? Seen in

a wind blown shopping mall, God

slipping in amongst us all? For

if that’s so, then do not tend

to grumble at the cards you send,

begrudge your family and friends,

or panic at your overspend,

but listen out, among the throng,

for that sweet sound: the Angel Song.




Notes on the poems

January  : Painting 'Towards Lowestoft Town Centre' - Geoff Harmer

Sonnet When the steel sculpture of flying birds was erected there was a predictably negative response. This poem, which borrows its form from George Herbert's  wonderful poem, 'Prayer' hears the negatives and attempts to move them on. The phrase 'spirituality in drag' was quoted by Grayson Perry in the 2013 Reith Lectures.


February : Painting   'Misty Departure, Lowestoft (Excelsior)' - Adrian Wincup

Ghosting attempts to capture the near mystical moment as a large wooden sailing vessel gets underway.


March : Painting  'Lowestoft Lighthouse' - Trevor Osborn

The High Light is, as the name suggests, the higher of the two original lighthouses in North Lowestoft - the other being, not surprisingly, the Low Light.


April : Painting  'Lowestoft Silhouettes' - David Buck

Resurrection. Lowestoft, in common with so many other towns, lost almost all of its historic industry in the second half of the 20th Century. What does the future hold?


May : Painting  'Smokehouse, Raglan Street' - Claire Louise Dowson

The Smokehouse, Raglan Street adds another optimistic note to the answer given in Resurrection.


June : Painting  'Towards Lowestoft' -  Stephen Higton

The Great Lowestoft Beach Robbery observes that the scene shown by Stephen's painting pre-dates significant erosion of the northern end of Lowestoft's south beach.


July : Painting  'The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, Lowestoft' - Dick Wolsey

A significant Lowestoft building not by Morton Peto. Peto was the entrepreneur largely responsible for the development and extension of Lowestoft during the 19th century.  His  Italianate style buildings (including the Town Hall, Post Office, Station and properties on Marine Parade) dominate the town's architectural landscape. George Skipper, who practised mainly in Norwich (the Royal Arcade,  Jarrold's store and Norwich Union, Surrey St.) introduces a refreshingly different style with his Yacht Club (1903).


August : Painting  'Lowestoft Airshow' - Doreen Abel

The Lowestoft Seafront Airshow has been a Summer highlight for a number of years. If spectators at this free event had been more generous with donations the planes would be flying yet.


September : Painting  'Lowestoft Scores' - Sam Capps

Fell running in the Eastern Flatlands attempts to capture from the inside what it is like to be a runner in the gruelling annual 'Scores Race'.


October : Painting  'No. 36 High Street' - Richard Dack

An old shop front in the High Street, Lowestoft. The town of Lowestoft was originally clustered around what is now a rather lost and sometimes forlorn backwater at the north end of the present day shopping centre. The quotation was either coined or quoted by Grayson Perry in the 2013 Reith Lectures.


November : Painting  'The Odeon' - Lowestoft - Ian McKenzie

Planning ; A Case Study recognises that so many planning decisions in Britain during the 1960s and 70's prioritised traffic flow and uncritically assumed that separating pedestrians and vehicles was always a good idea. Hindsight reveals the massive damage done to community and town centre vibrancy by this policy.


December : Painting  'Angel Clouds over Christchurch, Lowestoft' - Mark Burrell

Advent in the Precinct is a homage to Betjeman's benchmark poem 'Christmas'.



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