Then spree

Website of Nia Davies, poet, editor, writer, performer

Tag: city

Have yourself a melancholy Christmas…

Cities with a certain wintry hüzün, poverty-stricken children’s book characters, Roddy Lumsden’s grumpy thesp in Terrific Melancholy and how to survive Christmas by the radiator (books!) – a post from me on the New Welsh Review blog  (originally published in the Western Mail last year) is now available to read online at

Merry Christmas, Ernest and Celestine by Gabriel Vincent

Istanbul diary – late May

Rubbish collectors, Karaköy

Vertiginous place of twists. The vertigo in walking, loosing the way. Giant swifts cruise from the pipes.  Strait of worlds. Worlds of moving folk. For-dreamed, for-Babelled.

In Beyoğlu, under the squawk and racket of the forked-tailed birds, the human hum: parading youths, Palestinian rubbish collectors, melancholy fiddlers, beggar children armed with kazus, the neck-craned tourists. Boho meets business meets cats and geese in the bar.

That famous dilapidated colour: the overgrown greens and pinks in the rubble of ottoman chic. On the bridges tiny pieces of silver – migrating sprats – are pulled thrice a minute. Men wash before kneeling. Sonorous air, full of the calls to prayer echoing back and forth over the big blue strait.

The gardeners in Yildiz park are too sunned and skinny. Furiously planting marigolds in rapid-spreading rashes of orange, the beds freshly coloured. Too fresh. They sling their crates in the back of the van and speed off to the next star-shaped border. A sweating glasshouse; shambled and overgrown with bird of paradise plants. Through the dim cypress and pine the Bosphorus’s live blue. Peace is maintained by the police guard at the entrance.

Beneath Yildiz, Istanbul Modern is also policed. No art ushers, only G4S security guards. Guarding art, keeping out the chaos of live cultures: bodies, enzymes, fumes of food and motors, the noisy hum and lap of boat-driven waves.



I have three new poems in Birdbook I – an anthology by Sidekick Books featuring poems on British birds edited by Kirsty Irvine and Jon Stone. This edition covers towns, parks, gardens and woodland. Look out for the Siskin, Red Kite and Wood Warbler!

birdbook Buy a copy here

Vauxhall, London. October

These streets are is heavy with berry and pod. This squatter’s paradise, Bonnington Square, is an inner-city riotous jungle of trees and plants. Tiny plots outside the Victorian housesBonnington Square are bright and green with rowan, birch, fig and the more exotic: banksias and plenty of unidentified rosey, honeying bushes and foliage I have never seen before. Huge palms spike out of the pavement. In the Harleyford Road Community Gardens roles of turf are stacked like lime and chocolate Swiss roles.

Langley LaneA gardener tells me that in this patch they planted a meadow but the nettles and other flagrant leafy bullies moved in and terrorized all the other plants out. So they are replanting. Not to make a prim and trimmed lawn; it will be sown with wild flower seeds to become a luscious little zen-ringed patch tucked in to one of London’s most secret and delightful corners.

The thick and muggy mist has cleared over the city. People sit outside Italo deli in the yellowing autumn sun. A couple try to climb the silver birch in the square. I’ve seen siskinds and goldfinches here.

Bonnington Square, on former WW2 bomb site.

Bonnington Square community Gardens, planted on the site of a WW2 bomb site.

This is my lunchtime oasis from the office: a green

hideout, tucked away behind fumey, clanking piss-streaked Vauxhallwith its screaming gyratory, the subterranean rumble of trains and the chain cafes that seem to sprout lattes and boxed salads into the rare spaces between the buses and the MI6 spy cameras.

Developers plan to build another monstrous building, a river-side glass and steel tower that will eclipse the sun and blot out the sky over Vauxhall. But Bonnington square has a long rebellious history of community activism and so they are raging

back, fighting for our refuges and wild spaces in the midst of growing cheap developments, sprung-up overnight, unlike mushrooms.

Rage! Resist! Plant!

Langley lane

Bonnington Square Gardens

Dalston diary

It’s a Sunday afternoon. I lean out of my door. I wish I had a camera for this. There are yellow and green flags, a portrait of a moustachioed man waving above a procession heading up Kingsland road. And so out I go. In the electric air there are crackling shouts from a modest crowd, ‘Turkey! Terrorist!’. It’s a Kurdish protest against ‘Turkish atrocities’. This is Turkish Dalston and they are entering Turkish Stoke Newington. A few people look on with straight faces.

I love the atmosphere of a protest; people and passions colliding in peace. Soon everything is back to normal and the usual populations jostle around the empty market space. The familiar smells of both raw and barbequed meat pass in succession. The dragging work of TFL continues. With the new train line comes an extension of the City. We must all eventually circle the orbit of the gherkin like a game of swing-ball. For now Dalston is still raucous, scab-ended and bright with life.