Henry Normal, co-writer of award-winning TV and film shows such as The Royle Family, The Mrs Merton Show, The Parole Officer, Coogan’s Run, Paul Calf, and producer of Gavin and Stacey, Moone Boy, Uncle and Alan Partridge, among many others, has shared some more of his brilliant poems exclusively with Northern Soul.


Like comic timing

old graves

bedded well in hard ground

sit easy in glib abstract


With assurance of place

haircuts grown out

beside mourners long since rejoined

our great grandfathers 

surrender their individuality


In the grandeur of their anonymity

we grieve more for humanity 

than our own mortality


Then we come upon God’s latest crop

Fresh mounds of loose earth

soft like a hand on your brow

A scar still pink before the skin hardens


There’s something disturbing

about the grouping of these

well tended plots at the edge of the gate


The unweathered granite

the unworn epitaphs

like first year kids in their new uniforms

The soil as rich and brown as a new satchel


Anxious like their mother

we hesitate at the railings


On the far side of the high street

there’s a choice of undertakers

and a discreet distance down the road 

you can buy flowers



I once set myself adrift at a jumble sale

watching pregnant craving in frenzy


And I have no wish to pretend I am in London

I have no desire to be at the centre of things


When I couldn’t afford to buy

these windows intimidated


Today they are like Christmas trimmings

left up too long


Once I turn the corner onto Cross Street

I am back in Manchester


The ratio of stone to glass

suggesting a reflection of substance



Permanently at a crossroads

I glory in my window seat


The goldfish outside

don’t realise the irony of the screenplay for

today I am Richard Baseheart


Schools of buses

migrate towards Piccadilly Gardens

as I chart a course for the rest of my life


People with bigger fish to fry

circle the glass

their faces mouthing in silence


Yesterday I was mistaken for Bergman

in Panoramic Cinemascope

austere against a backdrop of grey and white


but no….I was on top of a bus

front seat

bound for Skegness


Then 2000 years later that afternoon

on the bridge of the Enterprise

I was left in control of the console


the red alert button

resembling a buttered scone

screen on


Spock dead

my ship infested with aliens

my finger poised over a protruding sultana


But today

my body feels as heavy as a shipwreck

I am safe in the deep of my third cuppa


periscope down

listening for sonar

avoiding the sharks and the mermaids


Henry Normal will be at The Lowry in Salford on January 25, 2020. For more information, click here