Not a good year

As my poem ive-not-written-a-poem-since said, 2020 was a bad year for a lot of things, and also my writing suffered badly. Yes I knocked out a novel Codename Wolfhound, but after July my mind had melted. Along with the world. My Grandad Gunn died not long into the first lockdown, so that had me distracted for sometime. He was 91. My nan gave me his pyjamas, she is the same age as him.

I signed up to to a Masters Degree in Novel Writing before all the Covid nonesense strarted. Then when the degree started I wasn't in a writing place. It seems quite pointless now, even though I am still doing the degree.

I have left social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter and I stopped using Google and its products. I really don't trust them, they have questionable business models. So that means I am going to populate this website instead of having it on other people's platforms. Hence this new blog section. The only other place I am is Goodreads.

Hope you enjoy it! All the best, Justin

The Train Rattled

This is the second oldest poem I still have. The rest went to the big dustbin. The event happened in 1995, but I don't know the year I wrote the poem.

The train rattled through the golden green countryside
The sun was washing the colours bright
Of the green leaves and huge golden fields
Nothing felt better than bathing in the joy

Of leaving the city of noise and pollution
Back into the air and sun.
Leaving behind the dead, and living again
The heat of the carriage and the windows wide

Feeling the air rush in
For a moment I was free, escaping
And I would convince myself of freedom
In the beauty of this moment

Heading to walk by the flowers alongside the path
As I would leave the train and the sun drenched station
Feeling joy at the wonder of creation
For a great moment which would soon be over

And I would arrive at my destination
And slowly forget this time in which
I felt I was living more than ever before.

From the book: shatter

Dry Golden

This is the oldest poem I still have of mine. I think it was written 2008, but not sure. Before that I had a terrible habit of throwing away all my work.

Far away I remember the fields,
Dry golden,
Days when the corn was taller than us,
And we trampled the crop to make rooms,
Sometimes naked,
Ah such is life.

And later the fields were gone,
Houses and rooms,
Cars and roads,
And we were not innocent,
The golden dry rooms,
And the sunshine.

And later the desire has gone,
Once we wanted so much.

From the book: Shatter

i’ve not written a poem since

i’ve not written a poem since
july 2020
was holding out until
but xmas night is here
why now?
why here?
why anything?
july 2020
nothing is the same
nothing i write
can be the same
there is a massive
to carry
there is a dark
light over everything
too much has been
too late
now the dark
winter lays ahead
the winds are rising
the jagged edge of the frost
the snow covered mountains
to the heart
the frost permeates all
the dark light
over the entire

From the book: Shatter

In the footsteps of Lawrence of Alexandria

Forget the hippie trail: follow Lawrence Durrell to Alexandria on a literary trail

Taking the bus through the dusty yellow landscape of Egypt from Cairo to Alex couldn’t be more, well, Egyptian. You can forget struggling through the desert to arrive for your ice cold Carlsberg like John Mills in Ice Cold in Alex, today you will take a luxury bus with air conditioning, food and Egyptian coffee. From the window the roads are a snapshot of Egyptian life with camels watching you riding in the back of pickup trucks and a vast assortment of private and commercial vehicles.

Dusty and yellow are the words to describe the view, and it is rather a strain on English eyes used to green and pleasant lands. There’s not a stick of vegetation, not a leaf or sign of green. As you approach Alex the landscape is very industrial, the modern gods of worship in a landscape littered with monolithic machinery and crafted excavations on a larger scale than the pyramids.

Soon this spectacle drops away and the unassuming low lying suburbs of Alex come into view. Your luxury bus stops in a very un-luxurious bus station which stretches a great distance around. A few portacabins make up the only buildings.

Your chosen form of transport takes sometime to reach the Grand Corniche; here the wide strip of road, along the deep blue bay of Alexandria, with its permanent throng of honking six lane traffic; the modern music of Alex: car horns and the call to prayer.

Alexandria: one of the most ancient cities in the world, with the least to show for it. This is where two wonders of the world stood: the great library and the great lighthouse. Of the library, nothing remains, and of the lighthouse, well, if you are a diver you can go and find its stones under the bay. In-fact that is where most of Alexandria’s antiquities lay: under the water, relics from the pharaohs in a watery grave.

Most of Alexandra is modern buildings built on top of the ancient city. There are a few exceptions: a throng of ex-British Victorian hotels line the bay, but to the west of the city, the big attraction, Pompey’s Pillar, a Roman ornate column thrusting its lone triumphal finger to the sky.

Of course in Durrell’s day the bay was full of warships as the black clouds of the Second World War gathered. His masterpiece The Alexandria Quartet is a snapshot of the cosmopolitan city during that time. It is a four volume novel of prose poetry following the life and loves of expatriates in the diverse city during a time of great upheaval.

Here you can take a literary pilgrimage to the last cultural relic ready to go under the new Alex. Be warned: you maybe too late. If you navigate your way into the busy back streets, stepping into the traffic to cross roads, the excepted method in Egypt, you will eventually arrive at a ruin waiting to happen: the crumbing Villa Ambron. This is where Durrell wrote. His study was in the top of the tower on the corner of the Villa. Here he composed notes for the Alexandria Quartet and wrote Prospero’s Cell, which features the tower on the cover. From his window he used to see Pompey’s Pillar. Now, tower blocks obscure the view. The current owner of the Villa is not allowed to demolish it, but he has gutted the interior hoping the building will crumble, after which he will build a tower block.

The house of the famous Alexandrian poet Constantine P. Cavafy is preserved for posterity. The Villa Ambron? Soon maybe you can view it by diving in the bay.

Villa Ambron

The Villa Ambron 2010 - Alexandria - Copyright Justin Tuijl

See an article in the Telegraph by Richard Spencer (yes they used my picture)

Michael Haag: Lawrence Durrell's House in Alexandria
A further post

Sappho’s Moon and Pleiades

Sappho’s Moon and Pleiades poem (Justin Tuijl translations)
On my writing degree we were asked to look at translations of poems.
One such was Sappho's Moon and Pleiades, which was originally in old Greek, so there have been several translations of it. This article talks about it:
Sappho’s Moon and Pleiades

So anyway, here is me messing about with it:

Sappho’s Moon and Pleiades

Original Greek poem:
Δέδυκε μεν ἀ σελάννα
καὶ Πληΐαδεσ, μέσαι δὲ
νύκτεσ πάρα δ᾽ ἔρχετ᾽ ὤρα,
ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω

Google translate version:
Dedyke although a selanna
And Pliiades, through Dec
nyktes too d erchet hour,
I do not own katefdo

Corrected with Word spelling suggestions:
Eddie although a sultana
And Pleiades, through December
nukes too drenched this hour,
I do not own a kite

J Addington Symonds translation:
The Moon has left the sky,
Lost is the Pleiads’ light;
It is midnight,
And time slips by,
But on my couch alone I lie.

J Addington Symonds version in Pirate:
Th' Moon has left th' sky, Lost be th'
Pleiads light; It be midnight,
'n the hour slips by, But on me
couch alone I lie.

J Addington Symonds version in Klingon:
chal mej mas.
vay' chil pleiad tis;
'ej pong slips poh
'ach jawvam niteb jiqot.

Mrs Moon had left Mr Sky
He had deleted her playlist
Now time ships are like pies
And now a new sofa he must buy

Misremembered, confused & stupid:
The frog has left
The pond under Pleedies
Plop on the couch
it lies

Twitter version:
@moon @pleiades #night #bored

This Is Just To Say

There have been many versions of "This Is Just To Say" by William Carlos Williams
This is the original, followed by a Scottish dialect one, and then my take, of the take(!):

William Carlos Williams:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Tom Leonard (Scottish dialect):

Jist ti Let Yi No

ahv drank
thi speshlz
that wurrin
thi frij

n thit
yiwurr probbli
hodn back
furthi pahrti

they wur great
thaht stroang
thaht cawld

Justin Tuijl:

Totally chuffed that

I’ve snorted
yer charly
that yer were
hidin’ in the lav

and what
yer were totally
out on me wiv

Fuck right off
it werra top class
sweet hit
and sick

Here are some more takes on the poem:

Poems by Justin Tuijl

Some free poems for you to read:

shatter (2020)

i find a wilderness walk
the size of a steam nozzle,
spurious in the extreme
of halting breath,
a beneficial but moaning discovery,
yes, my church is a type
that few can accept,
zonked as i am
in the frame of your control,
indeed direful,
and a less meaning ghost,
i toss my bright
and habitual coat
for the thrill of the
land vessel that scours
the earth lizards
like the police
of the clothes rail,
aromatic apples
new worlds

the drive back (2019)

we’re half way home
an hour left to drive
the car is old and the steering is vague
a wheel bearing is noisy, the headlights are dim
we have finished the take away coffees
the wet road winds and the wipers flick noisily
the odd car slows to pass on the narrow A road
and as we accelerate again your hand finds mine

i think of the past road
but i don’t want to think of what is ahead
if i could just freeze the moment
there is nothing good ahead

can you burn (2019)

Can’t even write
Can’t even think
Insidious cold
Brown wallpaper
and purple smoke
Fresh air and rainwater
Electric and water
Water and wood
Broken spade,
woodworm handle
Woodlice under buckets
dripping from the roof
Gas heater
monoxide detector
three bars

apples, squashed oranges.
Music, music,
Fire burning,
burning fire

let there be cake (2019)

the sun is falling
below the gravestone,
he made 83
when I was two

i expect the sun
is falling

and none of it
a thing



i expect when i am 83
none of
will still mean a thing

but for the sun

and we did (2016)

And we did dominate nature and with our machines and mud and we did cover the trees with concrete yes and we did fill the air with unbreathable fumes yes we were selfish and we burned all the coal and the oil and we set fire to the fossil fuel to propel our progress and yes we made metal fly and tanks kill and we did pull all the fish from the sea and fill the water with plastic yes and we watched the snow vanishing more each year and loved the sun in January and yes we had cancer and yes we poisoned ourselves and the electric flowed into our machines and made more machines that used electric which was pushed in to the machines with long dead animals and we burned it to make weapons to kill each other and make money by selling more weapons and yes we did fly around the globe watching creatures die and floods and hurricanes and chopping down trees and yes we made money and we moved money about yes the rich had the money and they moved it to the rich and yes the poor had none and less than that and we were selfish and we should have known better and yes we didn’t in the end know better than the soup that we came from

Project Icarus – short story

Project Icarus - free to read story from my book: "What did you put in my coffee?"

I arrived at the secret RAF base somewhere in the heart of England, on a rainy evening in December. The guard looked at my NUJ press permit as my 911 purred at the checkpoint. I surveyed the tall barbed wire high-security electric fences both sides and the giant, hard metal gate ahead. No red and white poles across the gate here, I thought.

“You can’t come in,” said the guard from behind his riot helmet. “We’re on full security lockdown.”

“I know, pre-launch Red Alert lockdown,” I replied. “Air Chief Marshal Strickland will see me.” I was unable to see his face through the riot mask and the heavy armour gave no clue as to his body language.

“I’m sorry but you have to leave,” he said, his hand resting on the holster at his hip.

“Strickland is going to be very cross if you turn me away. We are personal friends.”

The guard was quiet for a moment. I could detect the slightest misgivings: no guard would want to upset Air Chief Marshal Strickland. “Wait there, sir,” he said and returned to the concrete guard box. For a moment I was unable to see him but he returned quickly. “Ok, sir, you are clear to enter.” There was a clanking of bolts and the great security gate started to open.


I drove through and parked the 911 by the low grey bunker. Usually, I would have been escorted but now there was not a soul to be seen. Rain lashed across the old airfield. The heavy clouds hid the moon and the lack of lighting made the dark bunker seem all the more foreboding.

I crossed quickly to the heavy door. There was no shelter here from the rain. I held my hand over my head, stupidly. I had expected someone to be waiting for me. There was no way to alert those inside. No doorbell on a high-security bunker.

I stood wondering what to do when I heard the tiniest noise from the great slab of the door. Then the bolts thumped back and the door started to hum open on electric motors. Gradually the space beyond was revealed. Fluorescent light spilt out. A figure stood inside.

The figure was not what I had been expecting during a high-security lockdown. He wore a white lab coat, held a clipboard and perched on his face were almost comical bottle top glasses. A perfect example of a scientist, I thought.

“Hello,” he said. “Strickland sent me along to get you. I’m Rupert Feynman, hum, Professor. I’m Chief Scientist for Project Icarus.” He held out his hand.


Feynman and I walked along the dim concrete corridors. I asked him about the project. He stopped and turned to look at me, gripping his clipboard. For a few moments he was unable to speak, clearly an inner struggle was happening. “I really shouldn’t say this,” he finally ground out, “but they are crazy. Strickland, the World President, Project Icarus, it’s complete madness.” Then he went quiet and a worried frown suggested he thought he’d said too much.

“Anything you say to me will be in strictest confidence.”

“Oh yeah, you and your readership.”


“I don’t care anymore,” he said recklessly. “I’ve been locked up alone with Strickland and it’s driving me mad.”

“What about the World President?”

“Yes, they are constantly talking over video conference.”

“The World President is still in America?”

“Yes, he’s in the White Towers, I-”

The Tannoy boomed, cutting him off. I recognised Strickland’s voice. “Will Professor Feynman and the visitor report to me immediately?”

Feynman turned his anguished eyes to me. “We’d better hurry.”


The lift dropped like a stone down into the bunker. There were no floor numbers on the control panel, just up and down. My heart was left far behind as we seemed to drop miles into the ground. Finally, it stopped and brought up so quickly that I felt faint. Feynman just stood there unconcerned, with his worried frown; the drop had meant nothing to him.

We hurried along more drab concrete corridors and then arrived at some gold plated doors. Feynman punched a code into a keypad by the side and the doors slid open to reveal a plush office. Strickland was standing behind a fine mahogany desk, staring at us.

“About time too,” she said. “You’re late.”

“Sorry,” I said. “Security wouldn’t let me in.”

“Don’t make excuses. I needed you here.”

“It won’t happen again.”

“No, it won’t.”

Little did I know then how prophetic this was.

Strickland wore an RAF uniform with a row of ribbons on her chest. The Air Chief Marshal uniform left one in no doubt as to how important she was. Her desk was amazingly clear; in fact, there was nothing on it at all. The right-hand wall contained a huge screen. The main picture was of another desk, which I recognised as the World President’s desk, empty. There were also three floating video feed windows. One showed the vast Project Icarus silo, the second the Project Icarus spacecraft command cockpit and the third was from the screen’s own webcam showing the office we stood in. On the cockpit feed there were several space pilots engaged in launch preparations. On our feed: we three looking at the screen. I looked again at the silo feed; vast space rockets ranged underground as far as the eye could see.

Strickland turned to me and saw my gaze resting on the screen. “Project Icarus: the greatest project known to humankind,” she said.

Feynman stirred and looked from me to the screen, to Strickland and back to me. His mouth opened and closed a few times as if he desperately wanted to say something but dare not. I said it for him.

“I have heard that Project Icarus could be our biggest folly ever.” I felt Feynman stiffen; the atmosphere in the room became brittle.

“Nonsense!” she spat. “You know the World President’s stance ‘There are no problems.’ This is what we live by.”

“I have heard,” I persisted, “that the launch of Project Icarus could be humankind’s ultimate blunder. Catastrophic environmental repercussions; everyone knows the World President’s views on the environment. The experimental and untested fuel, who knows what it could do?”

“Enough. I have brought you here to report on the launch, not to question it. Project Icarus is in line with policy. We are reaching for the stars, not pandering to these unfounded environmental concerns. There are no problems. Deep space exploration is the most important mission to humankind.”

At that moment a different voice entered the room. Strickland looked at the big screen. The World President was sitting in his chair. “There are no problems I hope, Strickland?”

“No sir, the launch is going ahead as planned. There are no problems.”

“Good, I would hate to think anyone was stupid enough to think Project Icarus wasn’t mankind’s ultimate undertaking.” He raised both of his thumbs, his favourite gesture.

“Of course not, Mr President,” said Strickland.

The President kept his eyes on Strickland, ignoring us completely. “How long until launch countdown?”

“Whenever you are ready, Mr President.”

“Good. Now is the moment.” There was a launch panel on his desk and the President turned to it.

“Mr President,” I said. Strickland and Feynman turned to me in horror but the President carried on as if he had heard nothing. “Please, Mr President, this is-”

Pain shot through my body and I went completely rigid. I was unable to talk. My muscles spasmed wildly. Vaguely I was aware of seeing the President pressing the launch button. Then the pain stopped and I dropped to the floor. Feynman tried to catch me.


“T minus five minutes,” boomed a robotic voice.

Feynman lowered me onto a soft couch. My body ached unbearably. He pulled the darts from under my chest connected to the wires from the TASER that Strickland had now put down on the desk. “It’s too late,” he said. “The launch countdown has started. Strickland TASERED you to shut you up.”

“Can’t you do something? You are the chief scientist.”

“There are no problems,” he said, a glazed look on his face.

“Come on man, that’s not what you said to me before.”

He looked down at me, his magnified eyes blinking like a confused owl. Strickland and the President were talking excitedly over the video link. Feynman looked at the screen and Strickland and to me.

“Isn’t there a way to override the launch?” I persisted.

“Yes, yes there is. I’ll be hard pushed to get there in time.”

“This isn’t about you and me, Feynman. Humankind, all life is at stake. It’s in your hands.”

He looked at me a moment longer, then quite suddenly seemed to arrive at a decision and left through the gold plated doors without a word. Strickland snatched a glance to the doors as they thumped closed, then turned back to the President.

“Don’t worry about him,” she said. “He can’t do anything.”

“There are no problems,” he returned.

“There are problems,” I said. They both ignored me.


Despite her dismissive attitude to Feynman, Strickland switched on another insert on her screen. This showed Feynman hurrying down a series of corridors over the security cameras. The feed tracked him.

“T minus four minutes.”

Gradually my senses were coming back. I kept an eye on Strickland, as I wanted to avoid another TASER shock.

“This is insane.”

Strickland turned to me. “You are here to report, not comment.”

“Report on what? The end of the world?”

“It’s not the end, it’s a new beginning. The stars are our destiny!”

I watched the screen. Feynman was running to the launch silo. The astronauts were busy with launch preparation and strapping in one by one. Smoke was building in the great launch silo. The President sat there holding his thumbs up as he watched his own video feeds.

“Strickland, we’re all going to die.”

“Nonsense, there are no problems.”

I sat up on the couch and looked closely at the screen.

“T minus three minutes.”

Feynman had reached the door to the rocket silo and was fiddling with the keypad. Strickland watched intently. The astronauts all sat immobile in their seats. The President continued to hold up his thumbs as if he could hold the pose all day. Flames started to lick from the bottom of the great rockets. I felt the floor start to shudder.

“Strickland,” I said, standing shakily.

“Be quiet.”

“T minus two minutes.”

Feynman had opened the door and was clearly shocked by the heat coming from the silo. He ran to a control panel and started to press buttons. Strickland, the President and the astronauts were all immobile like dummies.

“Project Icarus will incinerate the Earth,” I said desperately, now the panic seized me.

“T minus one minute.”

Flames started to fill the silo and Feynman battled with the control panel; he looked very hot.

“T minus thirty seconds.”

Finally I knew then that this was the end and that I was going to die. I looked at the feed on the screen but the walls had started to shake and I had to sit down or fall down. The screen looked blurred. I could no longer tell what anyone was doing. Everything felt hot. My head was thundering. Everything was shaking and bending and melting. Everything looked blurred.


I hoped Feynman was still going to stop it. I hoped he hadn’t burnt to death already.


I hoped that nine seconds was enough to save the earth.

I really couldn’t tell what seconds were anymore.

The End

This is from my book Justin Tuijl: What did you put in my coffee?