Island Man – Grace Nicholls

Island life seems idyllic and peaceful to Western eyes; a lifestyle that is exotic and specifically tranquil, but in reality, a lot of island folk find that their economy is such that life is harsh. Poverty exists in an island setting and therefore, islanders find themselves forced to migrate to where the work exists to be able to fill the hungry stomachs of their family members.

One such island man is detailed in Grace Nicholls’ poem of the same title. It is a short poem that shows a man, in his dreams, waking from his sleep as if he is still dreaming of the island he came from, in this instance, Guyana in the Caribbean. The man wakes to the sound of the surf but the reader finds that this is “in his head” which shares the image of the man waking and hearing sounds reminiscent of waves crashing on a sandy beach. But the phrase “in his head” is deliberately filled with ambiguity because we are left to assume it is either in a dream state, that moment where you emerge from sleep into reality and everything seems misty and faded, muffled by the half conscious state, or just the fact that he misses his island that much that it is playing tricks on his mind.

The man wakes up and hears the sound of the sea and the sand and then realises that the “roar” that he is hearing is in fact, the “dull” roar of the “North Circular” traffic, the ring road that circles the city of London. As he wakes, he imagines himself back on the sandy beaches of Guyana and almost sees himself there before reality comes crashing in and normality takes over his waking thoughts. The words “groggily, groggily” when repeated on the same line together give the reader a sense of him waking slowly, as if he almost does not want to get out of bed, as if the “soar” that he hears transports him back to a superior existence, a better time in his past. And then, when he is awake, he simply sees that he is in for “another London day.”

Nicholls has written here a very clever little poem in Free Verse, using no punctuation at all, but by using enjambment at the end of lines, she allows the reader to build a sense of pace, rather akin to the poem “Nothing’s Changed” by Tatamkhulu Afrika where he repeats the word “and” in an effort to share his rage, but in this poem, Nicholls is expressing a different emotion, that of regret. This, coupled with love for his homeland, brings an image in the mind of the reader of someone who thinks back to the island with fondness, however harsh life there might have been. The man now lives in north London, has possibly done so since the Emperor Windrush brought him here in the late 1940s and sees London as his home, but the true nature of the man is one that “still wakes to the sound” of that tropical island in his head and in his heart. To him, he is an islander first and foremost, but his sense of being British is evident as well as he exists from day to day, pulling himself out of bed as he “heaves” himself into his western life with its “dull metallic” lifestyle.

In essence, what Nicholls is trying to do here is make the reader think about notions of identity; that thing that defines us, that makes us think we are British, or Guyanan, or indeed, whatever nationality. In doing so, she sees the migration of this man as a necessary thing when it occurred, but the true nature of the man as being one borne of experience. Her experience is one of feeling as though she has one foot in British cultural life whilst at the same time having the other in the Guyanan existence. In writing this poem then, she offers an insight into what it must feel like to live such a lifestyle far away from the beauty of home. 





Tatamkhulu Afrika is a white South African man who associates himself with the downtrodden black, indigenous communities of the land. He writes this poem to express his anger, resentment and pure outrage as to how nothing has changed since the abolition of Apartheid in his homeland.

            After years of separation from “District Six,” the area he used to reside in, a part of the landscape where there were only black people allowed to live and congregate, he returns to find the harshness of his former landscape has not changed and although the rules of separation and apartheid have gone, the poverty of the working classes, eating their “bunny chows” is contrasted with those people of more wealth who eat in the “whites only inn” in comparative luxury. They have their “haute cuisine” meals and a “guard at the gate post” to protect their privacy, while the aging man presses his mouth and nose to the pane of glass that still separates him from the “linen falls” and the “single red rose” on the tables in the “up market” restaurant.

            Because of this, his anger is first expressed in short, single word comments such as “small” and “round” and “hard” on the first line, to evoke the growing sense of outrage he feels. When delivered slowly, the anger is allowed to be shared with the reader or hearer [poetry is recited often]. These words in the first line make the reader visualise someone who is slowly, angrily, letting the words appear and as the reader goes through the rest of the poem, the intensity of this emotion increases.

            In Stanza [verse] two, the words on each line begin to get longer, as the poet expresses more anger. He says that “there is no board” to tell  him this is District Six, where he was brought up, but his “hands” and his “feet” and his “lungs” know where he is and it paints a picture of a man growing in his pain and misery at what he is seeing. The repetition of the word “and” at the beginning of each line adds to his frustration as if he is finding it difficult to keep calm. The pain of separation as he observes this dilemma is palpable. His sense of indignation grows as he shares that he is transported back in time to when he was a boy “leaving small mean O” on the pane of glass in the stylish whites only inn, looking inside with anguish. It comes as no surprise therefore, that his final words are ones that reflect what he would like to do next; to find “a stone, a bomb, to shiver down the glass” and destroy what for him, represents the continuation of separateness and segregation between the blacks and the whites in his homeland.

            Clearly, here is a man who is angry and emotional at his return to his homeland. Seeing the black community so poor and downtrodden turns his anger into words and as his levels of pain and frustration grow and increase, his disdain at recent cultural history in South Africa is at the forefront of his writing and in this instance, he is extremely effective at sharing his emotions. The contrast between the “amiable weeds” that represent the black South African communities is made with the way the new restaurant “squats” in the wasteland of weeds, as if it does not belong there. It is evident therefore, that he is making the point that the people of the land, the ones who deserve to own and work the land are the amiable, friendly, black communities. The ones that are “incipient” with their “Port Jackson trees” that are new to the landscape are intruders in a foreign land.

            Tatamkhulu Afrika, in such a short space of time, creates a pedagogical message for all who would choose to read it, in the aim of showing that nothing has changed since the abolition of Apartheid!

The Soundtrack of My Life

When I grew up in the 1960s there was an essence of musical revolution in the air, with the flower power movement breaking into new and exciting ventures in the music industry, but as was the case back then, anything that I wanted to listen to when I was a child was considered taboo due to a father who was dominant both with his mouth and with his fists. As a result, I was left to my own secret devices, listening to music that was around at the time, like the children’s television show, The Monkees. It was there that I heard my first really influential song, a song I still sing today to my wife, nearly fifty years on from those days. “I’m A Believer” is one of those songs that stick in the mind of the listener and although it has been covered many different times, most recently in the film Shrek, it remains my earliest recollection of my young musical taste.

As the 1960s gave way to the 1970s, I grew and began to listen to more diverse music, being fabulously obsessed with Slade and the Glam Rock movement in music, hearing Marc Bolan and T-Rex for the first time on Magpie of all places and thinking “Ride a White Swan” was the best thing yet. But that was about to change as I began to run a disco in my local YMCA one evening a week. There I played all sorts from Earth, Wind and Fire to The Sex Pistols. I remember listening to “Pretty Vacant” for the first time and thinking “oh my God, what is this?” I simply could not get over the anger and resentment that surged out of Johnny Rotten and the Pistols. Their anthem “God Save The Queen,” with its next and most famous line, seemed to light a fire under me. Perhaps it was the resentment at being bullied by children at school and then at home by my father that made me so angry, but this was my outlet, my bit of cathartic anger management at the time and this has stayed with me to this day. When I want to let off steam, on go the headphones and I search Youtube for live versions of the classic Pistols tracks.

But as is always the case, the older you get, the more you mature and as I entered the 1980s, I began training, or more precisely, bodybuilding, trying to reshape this slightly overweight form from the age of sixteen into something more aesthetically handsome. I did it for me and for no-one else and there is one track that springs to mind from my days in the gym in the early 1980s. It is “Eye Of The Tiger” by Survivor. The world first heard this when the first Rocky film hit the cinemas and I first heard it whilst bench pressing and it got under my skin so much that it made me use heavier weights and be more aggressive at the bar each time I heard it. In essence, it was the song that allowed me to get so much of the angst out of myself and for that, I can only be thankful to those who sang it.

But, as we mellow and age, more balladic songs come to mind that define me, songs like “Angels” by Robbie Williams, which for me, sums up my beliefs now and that for this person of faith, my belief in such things never wavers, but increases in its tenacity each day. And as the 1990s gave way to the euphemistically termed “naughties” I heard a song that has forever been a song that defines how I feel after a major family breakdown, where the pain and suffering that we endured caused so much “Hurt” that simply recovering from it has taken years. That one track by Johnny Cash, has for me, become a song that I can relate so much to in my life.

There have been so many more musical tracks in my life, but these are the ones that define me. These are the ones that shape me and make me into the person I am today. These are the ones that will remain with me until the day I die and then, when they are saying goodbye to me, there is one last track that needs to be played and that is Glenn Kaiser’s “Most of All.” Look it up on Youtube and you will see what I mean. That will be my final track and it is to be so because it is the one song that sums up my entire life.

776 words




Adjective A word which describes and gives more information about a noun or pronoun, e.g. it was a hot summer, he is ugly.

Adverb A word which gives more information about a verb, e.g. The man skipped childishly. The girl ran quickly. Adverbs can tell us about manner (childishly), time (yesterday) and place (here).

Allegory An extended metaphor where characters, events and locations represent or symbolise other things.

Alliteration The term used to describe a series of words next to or near each other, which all begin with the same sound/letter. This creates particular sound effects, e.g. hairy hand, the luscious, leaves, the gutter gargled.

Ambiguity Words, phrases or texts which are open to different interpretations, having several or unclear meanings.

Assonance The repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds in neighbouring words. It is distinct from rhyme in that the consonants differ while the vowels match e.g. Shark, breathing beneath the sea. The crumbling thunder.

Bias Putting across an unfair or unbalanced opinion. If you are biased you are emotionally involved or hold an opinion on a matter.

Caesura A pause in the middle of a line of poetry.

Climax A moment of great or culminating intensity in a narrative or drama, especially the conclusion of a crisis.

Connectives Also known as connecting words, linking words, conjunctions, or discourse markers. These are words that help you link paragraphs together.

When you want to add to your argument or emphasize a statement use: … moreover, further ,indeed, furthermore, in addition, additionally, next, secondly, thirdly…

 When you want to make comparisons use: …similarly, likewise, in the same way, equally.

 When you want to highlight contrast use: …although, for all that, however, on the contrary, conversely, otherwise, yet, but, even so, despite.

 When you want to show differences or similarities use: …yet, even so, despite, notwithstanding.

 When providing reasons use: …for this reason, to this end, for this purpose, because, since, so that.

 When explaining results use: …as, as a consequence, as a result, hence, therefore, thus, inevitably, so.

 When providing examples use: …for example, for instance, in other words, by way of illustration, such as, this demonstrates.

 When drawing conclusions use: …as has been noted, finally, in brief, in short, to summarize, consequently, therefore, in conclusion, so, in other words, accordingly.

Dramatic Irony When the audience knows something that the characters on stage do not.

Emotive Language Language that provokes a strong emotional response.

Enjambement Where lines of poetry are not stopped at the end, either by sense or punctuation, and run into the next line/stanza.

Fact A fact is something that can be proved to be true.

First Person Refers to text written from the point of view of ‘I’.

Foreboding A strong feeling that something bad is about to happen.

Foreshadowing An advance sign or indication of something to come

Free Verse Poetry which seems to have no set pattern, stanzas or rhyme scheme.

Genre A kind or style of writing.

Hyperbole Exaggeration for the sake of emphasis, but without intending to deceive, E.g. A thousand, thousand thanks.

Iambic Pentameter A line of poetry made up of ten syllables with alternating light or heavy beats, e.g. ‘Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?’ Most of Shakespeare’s plays were written in this style.

Imagery Words used to create a picture, or image, in the mind, through the use of descriptive language.

Imperative A command. The form of a verb used to give an order, e.g. Leave now!

Irony A relationship of inconsistency or contrast between what is actually said and what is meant.

Juxtaposition Putting two things side by side in order to show a relationship between them and create a contrast.

Rule of Three A structure used in rhetoric to persuade and make an argument more effective, involving giving three examples, e.g. ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’.

Metaphor In metaphor, one thing is compared to another without using the linking words like or as, so it is more direct than a simile. One thing is actually said to be the other, e.g. Mr brother is a pig.

Monologue A long continuous speech by one person.

Narrative Verse Poems, including ballads, which tell stories.

Noun A word which names a person, thing or idea. There are four types of noun:

1. Common noun: train, pizza, dogs.

2. Proper noun: Pepsi, China, Rebecca.

3. Abstract noun: life, sorrow, freedom.

4. Collective noun: pride of lions, herd of cattle.

Onomatopoeia Where words sound like the things they describe, e.g. hiss, crash, buzz, creak, murmur, bang.

Opinion An opinion is something that somebody else might disagree about.

Oxymoron A figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms, e.g. bitter sweet, living death, wise fool.

Pathetic Fallacy The description of a natural phenomenon, for example, the weather or the sea, as if it could feel emotion and is in sympathy with the mood of the poet or the characters.

Personification A form of figurative language in which animals, inanimate objects and abstract ideas area addressed or described as if they were human, e.g. The breeze whispered gently. The trees waved their branches welcomingly.

Pronoun A word which can be used in place of a noun, e.g. “The Mayor visited today. Did you see him?” In persuasive writing, words like you and I can be used to involve the reader in the argument.

Pun A play on words, often for a humorous effect, in which two different meanings are suggested either by the same word, or two similar sounding words. For example: “you can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish. Unless of course, you play bass.” (Shakespeare uses many puns. In ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the dying Mercutio says, ‘Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man’… grave also means serious).

Repetition The action of repeating something that has already been said or written.

Rhetorical Question A question asked only in order to emphasize a point of view and to persuade the reader to agree, not as a real request for information, e.g. Do we really want to encourage young people to smoke?

Rhyme Rhyme is often used in poetry to create patterns of similar sounds. Words are said to rhyme when their end sounds match, or sound the same.

Semi-colon A punctuation mark (;) indicating a long pause. It provides a stronger division than a comma but not as final a break as a full stop, e.g. I like to eat cows; they don’t like to be eaten by me.

Sentences To get good marks in your writing assignments you will need to vary your sentences.

Syntactical Parallelism Using a series of similar sentences for effect – a kind of repetition. Remember Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…” speech: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up… I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

Declarative. A statement – most of your sentences will be declaratives. E.g. – The sky is blue. Milk comes from cows. I am hungry.

Interrogative. A question… think of the word interrogate. Can you write a question? Where will you write it?

Comparative. When you compare two things, usually using the word “than”. My sentence is better than yours but your exercise book is neater than mine.

Imperative. A command. An imperative is when you tell someone to do things – not ask, but tell. Clean my car! Eat your dinner! Others ways that you can vary sentences involve the way you start sentences.

Synonym A word which has a similar meaning to another word. Synonyms for fire include: blaze, flames, inferno, conflagration. One way to improve your writing is to use synonyms like “wondrous” or majestic” instead of just duller words like “good” or “nice.”

End Rhyme When the last word in a line of poetry rhymes with the last word in another line.

Full Rhyme When two words rhyme completely. E.g. cry and dry, heaven and Devon.

Internal Rhyme When a word in the middle of a line rhymes with a word at the end of the line.

Rhyming Couplet A rhyme scheme where one line of poetry rhymes with the Following, e.g. ‘And moveless fish by the water gleam / By silver reeds in a silver stream.’ 

Slight Rhyme Where two words look from their spelling as if they should rhyme, but in fact the sounds of the words do not rhyme, e.g. love and move, cost and post.

Rhyme Scheme The pattern in which rhyming lines occur in a poem is called its rhyme scheme. To describe a poem’s rhyme scheme, letters of the alphabet are often used to show which lines rhyme with which others. Each different rhyming word is given a different letter.

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud (a)

That floats on high o’er vales and hills (b)

When all at once I saw a crowd (a)

A host of golden daffodils (b)

Beside the lake, beneath the trees (c)

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (c)

Second Person Refers to text addressed to ‘you’.

Simile In a simile, one thing is compared to another using the linking words like or as, e.g. as big as a giant, he smoked like a chimney.

Soliloquy A dramatic convention allowing a character to speak directly to the audience as if thinking aloud their thoughts and feelings. No other character is able to hear the speech.

Stanza One of the sections into which a poem is divided, consisting of a number of lines – also known as verse.

Symbolism Objects / ideas which are used to represent something else, E.g. a flag symbolises its country, a dove symbolised peace.

Theme The main idea or topic that a piece of writing is about; a recurrent idea or image.

Third Person Refers to text written from the point of view of ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’.

Tone The mood or atmosphere created by the poet / writer. 

Tragic Hero A protagonist who begins as a great character and is destroyed.


A LOT – Two words! Hopefully, you won’t have to allot (meaning share out) a lot of time to this problem.

ITS/IT’S – The apostrophe marks a contraction of “it is.”

RHYME – Actually, “rime” was the correct spelling until 1650.

SEPARATE – there’s a rat in separate.

THEIR/THEY’RE/THERE – They’re all pronounced the same but spelled differently. Possessive is “their” and the contraction of “they are” is “they’re.” Everywhere else, it is “there.”

UNTIL – I will never stop until this word is spelled with an extra [l] for the last time.

WEATHER – Whether you like the weather or not, you have to write the [a] after the [e] when you spell it.


according, accommodation, across, against, although, ancient, apologise, beautiful, beginning, believe, build, business, caught, category, certain, chemist, complete, cough, conscious, conscience, disguise, difference, embarrass, enough, especially, example, excite, exercise, experience, familiar, famous, finish, forest, guest, guarantee, guilty, government, halve, happened, height, information, interest, immediately, independent, instead, jewel, juice, knowledge, language, listen, league, maintenance, mountain, machine, measure, meant, necessary, neither, nuisance occasion, ocean, once, opposite, original, paragraph, parallel, phrase, possible, pressure, purpose, quite, quiet, queue, receipt, receive, region, remember, sentence, separate, sergeant, sincerely, soldier, succeed, thousands, therefore, temperature, thorough, tomorrow, theatre, unfortunately, until, usually, vacuum, variety, various, vary, vehicle, weight, written, whose, weird. 


We will be analysing this later in the week…

We made our way up the rough driveway to Collingwood House, through the thick bushes, to a collection of ramshackle buildings surrounded by towering oak and silver birch trees. The main farmhouse was little more than a hundred years old. Bright blue paint along the rafters failed to cover up the fact that they and almost everything else were deeply rotten. The whole place seemed like a vision, and my parents were both starry-eyed the second they saw it.

Mum and Dad took up the management of the place more in the way of a lifestyle than just a home. They planted an enormous vegetable patch, and embarked on the impossible task of rebuilding the dilapidated buildings. After a few months, our first rescue animal arrived, an asthmatic donkey called Barney, and after that the floodgates opened. We collected all sorts: dogs, goats, floppy-eared rabbits, two intimidating geese called Victoria and Albert, and an Exmoor pony called Walnut who deliberately headed for low-hanging branches to try and forcibly remove anyone daft enough to try and ride him.

All the animals were much more pets than they were farm animals. We used to play hide-and-seek with the goats, running off into the bracken when they weren’t looking, then sitting quietly waiting. Just minutes later, a wet nose would nuzzle into your ear. It was my job to milk the goats before going to school each day, and it was a lot harder than it looked. If it was a warm day at school, I’d end up stinking of curdled milk.

Even as a child I valued my own space, and the woods were my retreat. Wondrous ancient woodlands of conifer and broadleaf, dappled sunlight, the scent of pines, the scurry of squirrels. I knew the location of every fox earth and badger sett, stalked red deer to see how close I could get, and cried when one of the stable girls set light to a clutch of grass snake eggs found in a manure heap. For the rest of my life, no matter where I go or how much I make my current house my own, Collingwood will always be my home.