Tales from the Tachograph, Gaia Holmes and Winston PlowesThis is a poor reproduction of the jacket so on screen the text is actually hard to read. However, the cover is A5 and bright blue. All text is white and left justified. The title is right at the top and fills nearly a whole line in lowercase italics (Minion, I think). The names of the two authors are in italics, a little smaller roughly in the middle of the jacket. In the bottom right hand corner there is a publisher's logo.

Calder Valley Poetry,  2017   £7.00

Highways and Byways

This collection from Holmes and Plowes features a number of poems that focus on the experience of driving on motorways, high roads and side roads of the UK. In other pieces, the roads provide a setting for a human story told economically and with emotional insight.

Some texts are the work of Gaia Holmes, others the work of Winston Plowes, with ‘Eastbound / Westbound’ a joint project.

‘Osmosis’ is a cheerful look at one of the delights of travel — passing a regular favourite, an Italian bakery: 

that little chunk of Italy
squeezed between the church
and Bargain Booze

Here the ‘coppery old man’ spins the dough while his wife dusts statuettes of the Virgin Mary. The traveller recognises that ‘their world [seems] slower, / brighter, much richer than the rest’. And coming through the window on summer days are the sounds of ‘the crackle / of opera on vinyl’ and the ‘woman’s brittle humming / as she [polishes] Jesus.’

‘Cream’ takes a different view, seeing the road system as a nightmare, highlighting the hellish reality of ‘the stink and roar of traffic’, and reflecting that

the cream of our days
are the dawns we stand in the garden
breathing in the clean air
before the stink and roar of traffic thickens

But now the road, the travel and the alienation that goes with it are

a dual carriageway
running between your side of the bed
and mine.

Most moving of all, to me, is ‘Access’, which tells the story of a mother handing over an unwilling child to its biological father, as if describing luggage. The child is

roughly handled,
strapped in the back of an old blue Volvo
screaming out its lungs.

The child leaves

a trail of love crumbs
the mother knew
she was forbidden to follow.

Tales from the Tachograph brings out the way travelling can alienate us from our own reality and pressurise us in ways we hadn’t expected.

Rennie Halstead