Dumping Santa

This is a work in progress but I wanted to post it in time for Christmas. You’re welcome.  Bah Humbug. 

(This poem doesn’t mention capitalism so it’s legal to read it in a school. *)

So I said to Santa ‘Get out of my house!
You’ve got the sack, now leave.’
I can see right through your little outfit
Let’s just say I no longer believe

You turn up here once a year
Uninvited, with at least six deer
Creep around then disappear
I’m starting to question your choice of career

You’re all over us in October
Raising our expectations
But you’re not man enough for when January’s tough
With the debts and the desperation

You promised things we can’t afford
By Boxing Day the kids are bored
You’ve no idea when you’re not around
What it’s like to live here on the ground

You groom my kids with your adverts
Get them to sit on your knee
And while they’re enthralled in the shopping mall
You implant your philosophy

‘What you want is more stuff
No such thing as enough,
Good children are loaded
It’s the same thing as love’

Well those are not our values
I’ll tell you that for free 
Give me truth and kindness, sleep and sunlight
Peace and equality

The gifts you give don’t even last
Just drop them straight in the landfill as you’re flying past.
It’s all such a waste, throwing so much away
Trashing our planet for the sake of one day

So, No! I don’t want your plastic tat,
I won’t decorate another dying tree
You can keep your grotty grotto
But I’ve set your reindeer free!
And I know who does all the work backstage
Pay those elves restocking shelves a real living wage!

‘Lets calm down’ said Santa ‘and focus on you
Have a chocolate coin or two.
So, individual morality, are you good or bad this year let’s see
You’d have to be brave to get your kids to behave without any help from me’

I’m trying hard to give my children roots and wings
And skills and resilience for whatever life brings
Warmth and encouragement, trips to the swings
I don’t need you to tell me how to give good things

If we’ve got enough to pay the rent,
Some for food and fun, we could be content
We’ve got friends and neighbours, good community support
We need more trees and bees, fresh air, clean seas – things that can’t be bought

Your gut tells me that constant consumption’s not healthy
Your greed is going to cost the earth to benefit the wealthy
In Nature you don’t get unlimited growth
Except when it’s cancer, and it’s killing its host

I want to discuss what’s right and wrong
And how this system can’t last for long
Stop shaking the snow globe! We need something new
But you stop us seeing clearly what we have to do

It’s not in your interest to make us aware,
But I know there are fairer solutions out there
Basic income, Project Drawdown, Donut Economics and Mothers of invention
Citizen’s assemblies with real power, Climate Emergency Bill Legislation

Solutions, creations and innovations,
Restoration beyond that zero carbon goal
You’re no use here if your best idea is
Give every bad kid a lump of coal

Then Santa shows his true colours
His face changes to match his suit.
Filled with rage his fake laughter fades
He raises his voice and puts in the boot

‘I represent the 1%
And they won’t tolerate dissent
Shareholders don’t want sharing, caring and swapping

It’s too late Santagate you’ve been exposed
Get out of here, unless you want to match that deer with a bloody nose.
We were conned by your fluffy white collar crime
You fleeced us all – you should be doing time. 

You are out of control
Go on home to the pole
You’ve lost your moral compass
Take a good look in your soul

Be on your way, get on your sleigh
You’re going to wake the neighbours with your Christmas display
But before you go and silhouette yourself against the dawn
You’d better clean that deer poo off my lawn.


©tamingtheoctopus 2020

* ‘Teaching material calling for end of capitalism banned from schools as ministers brand it ‘extreme’’


All the best poems come with a page of references:

Donut Economics by Kate Raworth  –  Donut Economics Ted Talk

Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill  – www.ceebill.uk

Project Drawdown – www.drawdown.org

Universal Basic Income – Rutger Bregman Universal Basic Income TED Talk

Mothers of Invention podcast – www.mothersofinvention.online

Citizens Assemblies – www.xrcitizensassembly.uk/about-citizens-assemblies/

I’ve always pictured this poem as an animation, on primetime TV,  in between the Christmas adverts.  So if you know anyone who wants to make my Christmas wish come true, get in touch via the contact page …  

Pick your own

There are too many possible titles for this poem and my indecision was preventing me posting it, so please choose for yourself: 

Tooth Fairy
Mental Hygienist
Excuse me, you’ve got something in your teeth

(model uses bamboo dental floss; available from all good zero waste shops)

I walk around looking up
when something hits me
it’s hard to write it down
to ground it
to grind it
to make it digestible
you have to dilute it a bit

I had a dream I had floss in my teeth
I held one end and wound round and round
fishing out something from my gut further down
I didn’t want to lose that thread
to snap and not get to the bottom of it

It was hard work
satisfying and slightly disgusting
the kind of thing you only do in the bathroom
not for public consumption
Pieces of me
that need to come out
for my benefit

A poem is made from all the bits that stay
after the filling’s taken away
other memories yellow and start to decay

At the end of the day it’s
the stuff you really got your teeth into
those things you achieved by the skin of your teeth
It’s what you lied through your teeth about and
who you’d give your eye teeth to see

Extracting poems is like pulling teeth
Except somewonderfultimes
you just put them under your pillow and there’s treasure in the morning

©tamingtheoctopus 2020


Some poems are safety valves for letting off steam, to help relieve the pressure on a working machine.  I’ve now got enough distance from the baby stage to share these archived tales which helped to dissipate my rage.


Missing Peace

My mind’s a murderous maelstrom, and I’m hoovering

Then a rattle brings me back from the abyss

Something big got lost inside this vacuum

I’m hoping it’s not anything I’ll miss


I’m contemplating arson at the playgroup

There really is no need to be alarmed

Give me the peace of an evacuated building

And only trains with faces will be harmed


I’m thinking of absconding from the school run

I don’t want anyone to make a fuss

Procedures will take care of both the children

While I drift off to somewhere silent on the bus



When the children were young, a classic feminist novel was mysteriously delivered to our house…


The postwoman hands you a parcel

You can open it and look at the big picture, share your gift with the woman next door or you can continue to recite your stories..

How you were just on a work call while changing a nappy and the soup boiled over and nobody is dressed yet and there’s a full potty on the doormat

Sort through your day of caring and domestic duties until you recall a point where too many demands came at once.  Save these stories for the telling and call them funny.  It’s all about the juggling and laughing while you’re struggling

There’s a knock on the door while you’re feeding the baby.  As you get up you are simultaneously aware of your piles and your stitches.  Your toddler rushes around you shouting ‘Daddy, Daddy Daddy’.  Not for another three hours will that be a reality

As you reach the door, the baby’s head turns and 100ml, or 60 calories, or 30 minutes of breast milk is coughed up onto your work shoes

The postwoman hands you a parcel.  You can tell your story, or you can open it


©tamingtheoctopus 2020

Our values

More and more I feel the need to pin our values to the wall.  I’ve had some requests from families and groups to use this.  Consider it a template to edit as required… 


You are fine as you are

Just made of dust but it’s dust from a star

Everyone is different and that’s ok

Do your thing in your own way

Everyone is equal

There are no disposable people

You get a fresh start every single day

If you hurt somebody say sorry straight away

Life’s not fair

Don’t forget to share

Dream big dreams and make your mark

Light a candle in the dark

War is good for nothing, use your words, don’t fight

Legal isn’t always right

People are more valuable than money or stuff

But this system that we live in says you’ve never got enough

Tell the truth, don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t fret

Treat other people as you’d like to be tret

Exercise and sleep for your body and your mind

Be smart or strong or funny but best of all be kind

Don’t forget a day of rest, a balanced diet and prayer

Life is very wonderful, take time to stop and stare

Stand up for the earth, we’ve only got one

And we need to face the challenge of the damage that we’ve done

Remember you are loved whatever’s round the bend

And everything is going to be alright in the end.


Harry Potter

My nephews’ rabbit, Harry Potter died recently but it left their family a note…

A final stroke then put me down, I need to hop free,
Thanks for letting me snuffle round your family tree
I know that you all loved me, I could hear your wails and tears,
Right up until the rigor mortis reached my floppy ears

To be honest for a rabbit there are worse ways to go
It could’ve been McGregor in the garden with a hoe
Flopsy, dropsy, tularaemia, fibroma
If a rabbit foot has brought you luck, you aren’t its rightful owner

Could’ve been on the Titanic, Watershipdown,
Bugs Bunny in rabbit season,
Donnie Darko in your town
A Fatal Attraction to the Caramel bunny,
I haven’t seen that film with Harvey but I heard it wasn’t funny

Hare today, gone tomorrow, kids it happens all the time
Got to know when your time’s up doc – gone and spent my last dime
This wabbit kicked the bucket so that’s all folks                                          Remember me with pan pipes and hot cross bunny jokes

I’ll be eternally grateful to the family members who
Supplied me with my carrots and dealt with all the poo.
Making your kids responsible was more than one rabbit could do;
I recommend they find themselves employment at a zoo.

So, time for me to disappear; there’s nothing I regret
We’ve had our magic moments, it’s a spell I won’t forget.
I’m off to meet Paul Daniels but he can’t pull me out of this hat
If you wanted any extra lives you should’ve got a cat.

Harry Potter x


Happy New Year!

There has been a lack of finished poems these last 6 months while I’ve been getting my house in order.  So this is a guest spot by my Dad who has a much wider vocabulary, and a talent for poetic apologies.


In the summer of 2015 I helped a friend take down the old kitchen ceiling in the manse of our local Baptist church. The pastor and his wife were away, and their son hadn’t quite got round to clearing the shelves for us. We draped some dustsheets over everything and carried on…


Plaster and lath – we let you down.


Splint’ring crash leaves dust motes reeling

Oh dear. Adieu. So long, ceiling…


Creation’s workers tireless toiling

Mindless, aid the pair’s despoiling.

Gravity. Her one ambition:

Seek the nadir of the kitchen.

Entropy. His sole intent’s

To maximise disturbulence.

Out of Order. Chaos rises.

Up above, the hammer prises.


When time is done and all is cool

The universe runs out of fuel

And all the little motes of dust

Will do what every such mote must:

Seek out any empty spot, ‘n

Settle there, to lie forgotten.

(This work was started long before

The ceiling kissed the kitchen floor.)


She spends a day of sacrifice

Restoring all to “clean and nice”.

Through gritted teeth and hours of slaving

Diasporate motes are gathered up.

Crock’ry mired in sin, she’s saving:

Smirchéd bowl and dusty cup.


Next time (we think) we’d do it better:

Box and clear the pantry shelves.

Maybe leave a note or letter.

Apologise. Explain ourselves.

Hermetically seal the cupboards.

Seek the help of kitchen elves.


Enough. What’s done is done. We messed up:

Did the job but missed the crown.

All that’s left is just to ‘fess up:

Pastor and lass – we let you down.


Bill Phelps, August 2015


There’s grace on the ground
but you can’t pin it down

I’m getting tired of running and I can’t keep up this pace
You run along beside me and you say ‘It’s not a race’

I’m overworked but I’ll never earn enough
You show me the spaces between my stuff

My patience with my family is wearing very thin
You use my new transparency to let the light in

I search the crowd of faces trying to fit in somewhere new
You shout ‘Hey, join us over here! I’ve always liked you.’

Keeping up with the in-crowd is causing me stress
You introduce me to someone with less

I’m blushing in the public glare
You divert their attention and you strip yourself bare

I smash my anger in your face
You clean it up and it leaves no trace

I’ve gone right off the rails and I’m lying in the dirt
You kneel to help me up again, despite your white shirt

My body’s old and broken and these wounds will never heal
You give me bread to keep me going and prepare a four course meal

I’m exhausted, but my anxious thoughts still run around my head
You let me sleep securely in a king size bed

I’ve not been good this year, they say
You fill my stocking anyway

There is grace, on the ground
But you can’t pin it down


©tamingtheoctopus 2018

This is your love

This is not a conveyor belt wedding day
So I won’t wrap these words in a pink bouquet
Suffocate them in a floral spray
Sugarcoat and mould them in a heart shaped tray


This is your love
Undiluted raw love
Never seen before love,
Not available in store love

Love that’s not an imitation
Love with flaws and limitations
Love that doesn’t need to shout
Love with the benefit of the doubt

Travelled far to find you love
Hold you but not bind you love
Comfortable, secure love
“Leave your baggage at the door, love”

Love that doesn’t snipe or smother
Love where you actually like each other
Love without show or pretence
Love you know just makes sense

Happy where you’re heading love
Goes beyond the wedding love
Not made up or dressed up, no crimes, no dramas
This is love in your pyjamas

(for Beth and Jo’s wedding, 9th September 2017)

©tamingtheoctopus 2017

When I run

I’m naturally disordered, I’ve got chaos at my core
And all day long I fight with time to overcome each chore
I’m buzzy and happy then stressy and flappy
I can wear you out just watching me
I’m a wasp in a revolving door

But when I run I’m completely at ease
And I glide beside the river past the houses and the trees
I’m cool and calm and wild and free
And I’m harnessing the power of my nervous energy
And when I run I’m a metronome
I can tell you quite precisely when I’ll be back home
In terms of endurance I’m the Duracell bunny
But I flow down the hills like a spill of runny honey

‘Wrong attitude for school sports. Doesn’t understand her role’
I was ejected from the netball team for scoring an own-goal!
Rejecting exercise outright I took up ‘anti-sporty spite’

But when I run I experience grace
And my tensions and neurosis all get pummelled into place
And the tangled thoughts that bore into my head
Are now plaits that fly behind me tied with bows of coloured thread
And when I run I’m in control
And its good for my mind and my body and my soul
Even when the running ends the endorphins are my friends
I can leave the house in pieces and I come back whole

I used to watch the joggers sweating buckets by the sea
And I’d feel relief and pity, very glad it wasn’t me
All that effort, all that fuss, just like running for a bus
But it isn’t how it looked and once I tried it I was hooked

Now when I run I do ten minute miles
Irrespective of the hills or the weather or the stiles
I’m a clockwork mouse once I leave my house
And I don’t break my stride for any patronising smiles

So I’m back through the door
And I slide to the floor
Amongst the same chaotic mess but now it somehow matters less
Because when I run I feel completely at one with the street and my own heart beat

©tamingtheoctopus 2017

Creative Outlet

So I’m in a garbage crusher and the walls are closing in
Like that classic scene from Star Wars – ‘Well at least we’ll all die thin!
But this dump is in my kitchen, piles of debris to my chin
And my toddlers are rooting through the contents of the bin

Try to keep on top of the washing up as it swirls beneath my feet
If it did all get compacted it could make the place quite neat
This is not a place for children though they helped create the mess
Need to get us all out quickly, torrent rising with my stress

Then my phone beeps, it’s a message; hope now rises with the tide
It could be another mother who could help us get outside
It says ‘Got no plans this afternoon, I’ve finished all my chores
Too much rain for park again. Shall we all come to yours?’… NO!

The cesspool overwhelms me, any hope has floated on
I wedge my kids up on a ledge and I put my snorkel on. . .
There’s a small creative outlet that I think I could get into; an escape hatch, and a channel for my rage

I leave behind the daily grind and emerge, relieved to find myself right here on this clean and spacious page

©tamingtheoctopus 2017