Jacarandas, Jasmine and Geraniums

Jacarandas & Geraniums-Malvern

Jacarandas & Geraniums-Malvern

This time of year in Adelaide means, the Jacarandas and Geraniums are in full flower. If you’re lucky, the scent of jasmine may pervade your garden as well. Jacaranda are all around the suburb where I live.  They burst into bloom, and then shower flowers onto the roads and pavements, giving a sort of ‘purple mirror’ effect.  If Jimi Hendrix was still around, he’d write a song about them.

I first saw Jacaranda in Zimbabwe.  In full bloom, they take your breath away. Photographs don’t do them justice somehow. They were prevalent in Harare and its suburbs. The best display was in what used to be called Cecil Square (named after Cecil Rhodes), now called African Unity Square. Here are a couple of shots from outside our house in Adelaide, and then one from Cecil / African Unity Square.

They are native to South America, but now you’ll find them in warmer climates all over the world: Africa, India and Australia.

Anyone spotted Jacaranda in unexpected places?

Jacarandas in Malvern

Jacarandas in Malvern

Harare Jacarandas

Harare Jacarandas (Cecil / African Unity Square)


I was out having a curry last night with some friends, in Adelaide, and the subject of Zimbabwe came up.

I lived in Zimbabwe (and Malawi) for four years in the early 80s.  This was just after Mugabe came to power.  It’s hard to believe now, but in those days Mugabe was, at least in words, pro-reconciliation with the remaining white population of the country. He seemed to see the need to keep the white farmers and their expertise, to provide some economic stability to the country.

I was house-sitting for a while.  One Saturday morning, the African cook and gardener of the house were going off to a ZANU-PF rally where Mugabe was going to speak. I tagged along with them. Not many white faces in the crowd, but it was a good-natured rally, and I felt perfectly safe.  Here are a few pics, of the crowd, and of the ZANU-PF ‘boys’ arriving.

ZANU-PF rally in Harare

ZANU-PF rally in Harare

ZANU-PF Boys arriving at Mugabe rally in Harare

Nowadays of course, such a rally would have an entirely different atmosphere.  You wouldn’t want to be a white person or a Morgan Tsvangirai supporter amongst them.  Pure thuggery would be the order of the day.

But when I was there it was a mostly peaceful place, especially considering the recency of the civil war.  The infrastructure was good, the economy was spluttering along not too badly, the people were friendly and open, the wildlife and the national parks were sensational, tourists were relatively scarce.  I used to go on long walks in remote places with the mountaineering / bush walking club, and saw all sorts of animals at close quarters.  Sometimes too close for comfort.  All in all, it was just a fantastic time to live there.

I have a few poems about those days.  This one recounts an incident when doing a long 4-5 day walk along a remote part of the Zambezi, sleeping on the ground at whatever spot we found ourselves at the end of the day.  On this particular day, we saw two lions running off from the spot where we were going to sleep the night:

Banks of the Zambezi

We didn’t think too much of it. Until…..

On the Banks of the Zambezi

We cowered by the fire

banging billies

cursing the dark

the dark where now and then

on both sides

hot coal eyes burned

blinked, disappeared

then a mounting roar

a foul smell of urine on the night breeze

intended to make us panic and run

into the maw of the she-lion downwind

we fed the fire, huddled closer

cursed louder, banged harder

minute by minute

hour by hour

dawn approached

the lions tired of the game

leaving their sleepless playthings

to smouldering cursing hysteria

© Mike Hopkins 2011. A version of this poem was published in Friendly Street New Poets 16, 2011

crossing the street in India

Mumbai traffic

Mumbai traffic

I was in India for a few weeks in 2010.  I kept a sort of journal most of the time, but have not done much with the material.  So I’ve dug out this entry about the madness of city traffic in India.  Plus a few pics I took whilst crossing the street in Mumbai, and foolishly trying to get somewhere in a Mumbai taxi cab.

crossing the street in India

The safest way to cross the street in India

is to shelter downstream of a cow

the onrushing traffic will miraculously part

flowing either side of the  sacred animal

and reforming into a single mad rush a few yards further on

leaving you and the beast intact

the only problem with this strategy

is that the cow may remain in the middle of the street for some hours

If you are in more of a hurry to reach the other side

the next best strategy is to find a grey haired old woman

who is going the same way as you

Indian drivers respect the elderly nearly as much as cows

so you will probably make it to the other  side

by keeping the old woman between you and the traffic

If you  become impatient, and decide to forsake the old woman

in a mad dash to the kerb

whatever you do, don’t look back

Mumbai taxi cabs

Mumbai taxi cabs

What’s accountancy got do with poetry?

Believe it or not, there are some poetic moments in accounting, or so I’m told.

At the launch of my collection Mistaken for a Real Poet as part of New Poets 16, Steve Evans heard me read my poem Caution: This Office May Damage Your Health.  Steve is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Flinders University. He is also poetry editor of the journal  Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal (London).  Steve liked the poem and will be publishing it in the journal in the coming months.

The poem was also Poem of the Month for the Friendly Street meeting in Goolwa in April 2010, and published in the Friendly Street Reader 35

Caution – This Office May Damage Your Health

It’s the tea room gossip that irks ya

It stings and blinds ya

With its he said and she said

And you’ll never guess and the bloody

Oh my God! Oh my God!

What was she thinking?

You thought at first they were all dull and grey

But it turns out the place is like a Bangkok brothel

It’s the tea room gossip that irks ya



It’s the mobile phone ring tones that needles ya

They frazzles and dulls your brain

Bleating from unattended desks

Tinny tones of the latest TV soap theme

Or over and over again some comedy show catch phrase

Possibly mildly amusing the first time

Irritating the second and then increasingly exasperating

Until you swear you’ll bring a sledgehammer in tomorrow

And smash the bloody thing to smithereens

It’s the mobile phone ring tones that needles ya



It’s the meetings that drives ya to distraction

They numbs and deadens ya

The ‘purely for decorative purposes’ agenda

The action items never to be actioned

The head spinning pointless Powerpoints

With ballistic bullets and apoplectic arrows

Meaningless as a mission statement

And sleep inducing presenters talking to the wall

It’s the meetings that drives ya to distraction



But it’s the clichés that finally does ya head in

They blisters and rips ya

As you’re listening to a heads up about world’s best practice

Getting incentivized to leap from behind the 8 ball

Through a 24 by 7 window of opportunity

Into a whole new ball game on a level playing field

Moving forward, at the end of the day

In this rapidly changing globalised environment

Yes it’s the clichés that finally does ya head in

© Mike Hopkins 2011

What’s football got to do with poetry?

Craven Cottage

Craven Cottage

Quite a lot, sometimes, especially if you spent large parts of your teenage years standing on the cold, concrete terraces of a struggling football club in London in the 1960s.

The poem was published in New Poets 16, and recently in There’s Only One F in Fulham, the club’s fanzine run by David Lloyd.

The Wind off the Thames

Winter Saturday afternoon 1960s London
the tube to Hammersmith station
electric magnetic acrid ozone
escalate from underground below the flyover
two miles walking redbrick backstreets
two shillings entry to

struggling Fulham football club
the riverside stand terraced with men
in solitary union, a fug of damp overcoats
sweat, cigarette smoke, Brylcreemed heads
sweet scalding tea, steak and kidney pies
fortify against the wind cutting off the water

another loss to a better team, in my despond
spill from a desolate stadium to trudge
the lonely drag back home
envy others starting out early evening
more human, rewarding, alliances, affinities
than devotion to a football team

40 years later on the far side of the world
unable to sleep I rise to watch
an internet stream a pixellated view
an all seater covered stadium
smoking forbidden, pomaded hair passé
but the same disappointment

I return to a bed as cold
as the chill wind off the Thames

© Mike Hopkins 2011

Incident at Brownhill Creek I

This poem won second prize at Salisbury Writers’ Week in 2010.  It recounts an incident I observed at Brownhill Creek, a lovely little reserve not far from where I live. Alongside the road which runs through the reserve are a few hobby farms.

Incident at Brownhill Creek

On the hobby farm

the man looks fondly on his flock

the dog looks up to the man

the dog looks down on the flock

the man crouches next to one of the sheep

runs his hands through its fleece

the sheep likes this

the dog thinks this is not quite right, growls disapproval

the man playfully pushes the sheep from side to side

the sheep likes this

rolls over, much like a dog

the man is amused

the dog thinks this inappropriate, barks displeasure

the man pats the sheep’s stomach

the sheep likes this

throws its head back, wriggles with joy

the man is delighted

the dog thinks this is outrageous, runs around yelping his fury

the man comes to his senses

looks at the dog sheepishly

the dog looks at the man sternly, nips the ankle of the sheep

steers it back to the flock, returns to sit by the man’s heel

looks up to the man

order is restored

© Mike Hopkins 2011

Mistaken for a Real Poet

Is a blog by Mike Hopkins, who was, once, mistaken for that famous Australian poet, Mike Ladd, and whose poem, “Being Mike Ladd”, is included in the collection recently published (April 2011) by Wakefield Press, in the Friendly Street New Poets series:

Friendly Street New Poets 16

Friendly Street New Poets 16

Here is the poem:


Being Mike Ladd

“Are you Mike?”, said the lady organiser of the poetry gathering, as I walked through the door

“Yes” I replied, slightly puzzled as to how she knew my name

“Oh I AM an admirer of your poetry” she gushed

I struggled to place her, was sure I had not met her before

My work must have been circulating spontaneously

Maybe it’s something to do with the internet.

Half finished poems on my C drive slithering their way to the modem

And working their way around Adelaide, seeking out like minded poetic souls

And saying “Here I am, the work of an underrated, undiscovered talent”

Being read without my knowledge at open readings

Performed at poetry slams by voluptuous women who sigh at the beauty of my words

And dream of meeting the author

Or maybe an acquaintance covertly compiled a slim compendium of my works

And submitted it to Faber and Faber

Who eagerly accepted it and printed a first run of 1,000 copies

Of which only a few remain on the shelves of Angus and Robertson

Having been sold out at Borders

I wonder when I will receive my royalty cheque

And my invitation to Writers’ Week?

My reverie was broken by a stir in the doorway behind me

A man of similar build, but a touch younger, a tad more hair, a far more poetic bearing

A bevy of admirers surrounded him

The lady organiser looked at me accusingly

Marked me down as an impostor

Never again will I be mistaken for a real poet.

©Mike Hopkins 2011