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!

Recent arrivals ....

Sea Swimming

A while before breakfast time

the prom witnesses a convergence,

purposeful, deliberate, enlivened by

a pervading sense of anticipation.


With little fuss the outer layers shed,

conversation is muted, tempered by

a stoic readiness for the water’s shock:

‘How will it be today?’ each thinks.


Today there is no need to fear as

benign summer waves enfold you,

though wintertime might challenge more,

but won’t deter if you’ve made careful preparation.


Though bleary-eyed, I’m proud to hold the gate,

and prouder still when you return damp-haired,

bright-eyed, brim-full of your achievement - 

and ready now to start the day.

Missing the point – for Laura at 41

Artificial Intelligence, the broadcast tells me,

is poised to change our lives.

It will, we’re told, make a better job

of speeches, essays, sermons, stories too –

they claim.


It is a marvel, that’s for sure, and will

eliminate flawed human touch on helplines

and can already organise complex information needs

with ease.


What, then, will be the fate

of writers’ pens or fired imaginations,

of careful research, and nurturing a storyline

until it works?


Before our minds grow slack and under-used,

before imagination is made redundant by

a button push,

keep listening to your heart; don’t lose

the vital threads that weave together people,

places and events…


take hold of facts and make of them

a coloured tale that takes your readers

on a journey, unique and memorable, 

which, unambiguously, bears 

your fingerprints.

Beyond Babel

I try to be a local

the waiter answers me in English

I sip a lager beer

I wouldn't countenance at home.

Conversation at the tables

reflects a European swathe of nations

united by a gently hedonistic enterprise

as sun and sea combine to make us one.


Free wi-fi in the lobby

welds familiar to the foreign

contracts a one-time distance

by so many agile thumbs.

The global becomes local

dissolves the boundaries of vocal

and by technology and opportunity

the catastrophe of Babel is undone.

Slow disclosure

Pity the brazen ones who’ve 

been and seen and done it all 

before their adult lives 

have properly begun.


Tune out from all the tiresome brays

of those with so much noise 

to make, yet really have

not very much to say.


Instead, appreciate the time

there is to take in, not the first,

nor next, but maybe, the third thought

that comes into your mind.


For moments need not be fleeting;

smiles, tastes and rich thoughts

might be savoured for just as long

as might be needed…


… the life that you’ve been given 

need not be a sprint from this place

to the next, when you can choose

to slow your living.


So let the marking of another year 

speak less of progress on a path,

much more the ample filling of another page

within the life-full album which is yours.


Troublesome infiltrator,

maker of mischief;

setting twists and turns

in otherwise straight paths.



subverter of

honest affection.


You take 

an ordered garden of


and good intent,

and confuse it into 

a tangled wilderness of 

disarray and folly.



even as I watch,

your playful, filigree threads

draw me in,

and whilst you may have

some goodness deep,

deep within,

I must choose to keep you

at arm's length,

just the same!


Woodland encounter – for Joe’s twelfth birthday


Joseph and his Mum

take to the woods by bike.


Mum rapidly is left behind as Joseph

swerves around sycamores,

ollies along an oak tree root,

bunny-hops across a fallen birch,

side-slips round a spruce,

broadsides a massive beech,

hurtles past a holly,

makes air beside an ash,

rattles under a rowan …


All the while he gathers speed,

so very nearly pitch-poles into

the policeman, noticed just in time,

standing in his path.

“Out alone?” enquires the copper beech-man.

“Oh, no!” replies whippy sapling Joe,

“Mum’s just behind …”


Minutes pass, the tortoise

catches up the hare, and together,

watched by the not-so-poplar policeman,

the two of them complete 

the woodland trail.




A 38th birthday poem for Laura - a huge fan of JW


Morning Rendezvous

The half hour spent with you each day

has been the bonus of our lockdown way

of being.


Your simple, honest call to spring

and jump and lunge makes my heart sing

each morning.


Your daughter is so cute, but is she real?

For as you leap and laugh and question, she sits more still

than my boys ever did!


Joe Wicks, Joe Wicks, we hear restrictions might be easing

and in so many ways that would be pleasing

and yet, I find


that part of me is happy to continue for a while

for, once we’re back to normal, surely I’ll

still miss


our morning brisk and busy rendezvous – 

the sit-ups, press-ups, burpees inspired by you

won’t be the same.


Till then …


the half hour spent with you each day 

remains the bonus of our lockdown way

of being.


Christmas Day 2015



For a lifetime, until now, the obvious project

has been to marshal skills

and opportunities; to mix in effort

and an eye for the main chance; some

careful listening for the right tune,

the right possibility, the right coincidence

of disparate fragments from which to form



And would that then be an end to searching?

A portal opening onto supercharged performance?

A time for fame and accolade?

A fanfare of arrival or, perhaps, a time to touch the Sun -

and burst into an arc of flame?


Alternatively, this might just be the time

for glancing back over a shoulder; for noticing

the route from birth to here is not

a wondrous highway,  crossing continents and

reaching for the stars, but, rather more a path

of steady circularity, always within touching distance

of where it all began?


Today I fancy that I hear and see and know some folly

behind the driving question: 'Where to now?'

For where we come from, where we go, is only ever



For once all forward motion is suspended in favour

of simply being, here and now. And in this unfamiliar pause

I notice that the anxious screech of life's anxiety fades

while in its place is heard, at last, timeless and unfathomable,

the music of Shalom.


Retracing Steps

So many footfalls have planted, unconsciously,

their mark upon this place.

Their sound - a thud, a scape, a slip,

has triggered a resonance which echoes

within the passing years and makes

a bridge between what was,

what is and what is yet to be.


This day I tread where you

and countless others have stood:

I sense the subtlest tremor in the land,

a strange at-home-ness through the soles

of my feet - a benign familiarity where

(I would have said) I had not previously trod;

an un-remembered kinship with the past.


And, having stood and waited purposefully

in this place, I journey home only to find that

home has been extended and enlarged: the walls

and boundaries are the same but beneath my feet

what once felt solid and unyielding has become porous

and generations past seep insidiously upward permeating

me and mine and all who've yet to come this way.


Pink Buttonholes

In memory the Anniversary Day

would be hot sun that

crackled, somehow.

While yet the grass remained


a scissored choice was made;

a snip, a twist of silver foil,

a pinning-on parade;

the deed was done.


For weeks we had rehearsed

the songs;

“I’ll walk with God; He’ll hold

my hand”;

“We are the Peacemakers!”, youthful

voices sang - though

how the roof might actually be raised,

I couldn’t see.


Now, if I try or work up a pretence

I might recall the scent

of border pinks;

more certainly the taste of

simple, eager expectation

lingers yet;

an ancient song to younger ears,

if heard at all by those who have

so much - much less.


Pink buttonholes, you see, enfold

so many riches -

gathering, anticipation and mutuality,

for three;

and memories of a crowded church

where God was celebrated

in community.






Miss G's Revenge


She had become my enemy

(though she was dearly loved by students whom she'd taught)

for with advancing years

and solitary living her critical eye

had drained resources from a generous view

of other people's actions - mine, for sure.


Consequently, outward civility was undermined

by posted notes outlining my inadequacies and faults,

until the day I bearded her in her den

and faced a choice -

either I dismantled her unjust accusations, one by one,

or I pitied her alone-ness and let her be ...

I chose the latter course and we declared

a truce - uneasily


Later on she offered me a cupboard,

a wooden cube, large and unwieldy.

Politeness led me to accept

and down three decades Miss G's cupboard

has accompanied me from place to place,

never having a proper use, always

a little too large, too deep, too square ....


Until I was presented with the possibility of release:

the cupboard's space was needed - finally it had to go.

And so one windless dusk, full-primed with newsprint

and loaded with cuttings from a hateful tree,

I set the match .... and how the cupboard roared

and flared as flames shot twelve feet in the air

and scorched me with intense heat.


So mighty was the conflagration it did not last for long

and I, well warmed by fire and achievement,

sat back and toasted the departure of the past.


Next morning, just at breakfast time,

the doorbell rang and on the doorstep

stood a neighbour with some words to say.

Suddenly I was ten years old, shuffling nervously

from foot to foot as he berated me for reckless  fire-raising 

and his garden full of ash.

Fulsomely I apologised and he left, his anger vented,

my pounding heart in over-drive, and, in some celestial roost,

Miss G smiled, triumphantly, a quiet smile of victory.



Freedom, Justice, Humanity

A preface to 'Timothy Winters' by Charles Causley and dedicated to the courage, conviction and memory of Kitty and Tom Higdon and the children of the Burston School Strike 1914 - 1939.


Part 1

Tension mounts, the teams assemble;

ideologies are laced tight;

the Sponsor's logo is displayed



This is more than a game;

at stake is life, death and, more importantly,

power, reputation, control and a place in history.

Here is the playing field where

'catch 'em young' can make his mark;

where innocent enthusiasm can be  distorted

to serve unwholesome ends;

where dreams and wonder are replaced by



The outcome of the match will be the raw material

from which your league tables can be ground.


A summoning whistle sounds;

spectators roar their tribal chants;

a ball is placed upon the centre spot -

it bears a child's face.



Part 2

The Children at Chare Ends

I pictured the children

(through His eyes it seemed)

scoop and shape

and mould and cast

and make of crumbly,

slippery randomness

creation’s joy:


and fancied,

on the soft,

sea-scented breeze,

I heard His voice,


'Let the children come ...'

(that they might be themselves)

 'and do not stop them...'

(shovel them or slap them

 into adult bucket shapes)

‘for the kingdom ...'

(glorified in castles, towers

and tunnelled moats;

homeward, teatime wandering

and sandy hand held tight)


(peace, pleasure and

at-home-ness, summer filled)

‘to such as these.'


Part 3

'Timothy Winters'  by  Charles Causley


'Timothy Winters'

Timothy Winters comes to school

With eyes as wide as a football-pool,

Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:

A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.


His belly is white, his neck is dark,

And his hair is an exclamation-mark.

His clothes are enough to scare a crow

And through his britches the blue winds blow.


When teacher talks he won't hear a word

And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,

He licks the pattern off his plate

And he's not even heard of the Welfare State.


Timothy Winters has bloody feet

And he lives in a house on Suez Street,

He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor

And they say there aren't boys like him anymore.


Old Man Winters likes his beer

And his missus ran off with a bombardier,

Grandma sits in the grate with a gin

And Timothy's dosed with an aspirin.


The welfare Worker lies awake

But the law's as tricky as a ten-foot snake,

So Timothy Winters drinks his cup

And slowly goes on growing up.


At Morning Prayers the Master helves

for children less fortunate than ourselves,

And the loudest response in the room is when

Timothy Winters roars "Amen!"


So come one angel, come on ten

Timothy Winters says "Amen

Amen amen amen amen."

Timothy Winters, Lord. Amen


                                                    Charles Causley






Cafe by the Ardeche


As a new day quietly forms

I leave my family asleep

and slip into the village

to buy bread.


The boulangerie is also a cafe

and, with uncommitted time to spend

I settle down for criossants dipped

in cafe au lait..


Despite this early hour, the local butcher

is deep in earnest conversation

with the village policemen and the man

who's just set up his market stall.


And, even though I can't unpick their words,

I feel the vital energy of their conversation,

as all the while the sun climbs high enough

to resurrect the river, the bridge, the day.


This listening, watching time draws to a close,

and so I settle up and set off homeward

carrying bread to share from where bread and life

have already, memorably, been blessed and broken open.


The Last Onion


Today is the day they usually

made and shared a curry. And

in this limbo land of alone-ness,

and for the sake of continuity,

she assembles the ingredients

like before, and before, and before ...


She reaches into the basket

and finds the onion, the last onion,

the final, tangible evidence of his

labour, nurture and careful storing.

Her fingers close around the

dry outer skin - as he had so

taken, twisted and prepared it

not so very long ago.


She pauses, caught between

today's brave task of making the most,

and yesterday's bright eyes beneath

a jauntily angled cap, the smell of earth

and annual provision.  Through tears,

twice prompted, she takes the onion,

cooks the meal and endures,

for all that is not lost, the taste

of unfamiliarity.

<< New text box >>

<< New text box >>

Pakefield cliffs by St Margaret and All Saints Church

Overheard on Pakefield Cliffs


It was a chanced upon conversation

held as darkness on the cliff top fell,

voices falling and rising in measured animation,

vibrant, yet benign as beach and swell converged.


Uneven, yet genuinely composite,

it seemed a rhythm might be set

only to quicken, then subside

as question, response and thoughtful silence met


and sought the wisdom of this shingle shore.

Toppling waves worked through a day's accumulation

of tide and weather and draw

of a waxen, waxing moon which held it's station


low above the roof tops and the church's tower.

You told me of this breaking conversation, said,

were you a poet you'd conserve this hour. And so,

because I love you all the more for listening to the waves,

I did.



Washed by moonlight near Matignon


An untimely brightness beckoned me;

my watch said sleep and darkness;

deep, regular breathing from the others

confirmed this view.

but the steady light gently shook me,

'Now, while you won't be missed;

It'll cost you nothing - give you much!'

The whisper convinced me that

the time was now - and might

not come again until, until ...


I dressed and left my sleeping loves

to re-charge in their chosen way then

took to the silent road, alone.

I cycled through the town until the trees thinned

to an open place where stubble fields

and distant woodland framed the moon

and let it shine full and unimpeded.


For moments, minutes, time enough

I stood and let this light

(which is much more than that)

cleanse and lighten my thinking and my feeling,

my living and my loving

and fix me once again in who I am.



Holiday Beer

Having a beer is (in effect)

the inverting of an hour glass

the allocation of just this much

space and time apart


Having a beer is (in effect)

an oasis, a sanctuary,

a portion set aside

for waiting, and listening,

a measured segment of


when the present comprises

solely of the now


Having a beer is (in effect)

not open-ended for

this moment is bounded

by glass and contents


the fullness reduces by

drops and grains

becomes a pool,

a mound,

it empties from above -

fills from below



Time that is loaned

must be called in


the glass drains,

final moments of

refreshment are savoured


and I must settle

la cuenta and

move on....

The Ghost Pirate Captain

Who is this ghostly pirate chief?

He’s shrieking like a bat;

he has a skull upon his flag

and one beneath his hat.


With swirling, rustling dustbin cloak,

a hook where once was hand,

he’ll make us walk the plank, for sure,

unless … let’s look … it’s just our Dan!

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