The Catalyst – Short Story Winner!

Thank you so much to Clevedon’s Writers Meet group, for awarding me first place in their 2022 adult short story competition – all made possible by a grant from Clevedon Community Bookshop. I write poems and lifestyle blogs day to day, so it’s lovely to feel encouraged in my flash-fiction endeavours!…

The Catalyst

It’s time. Reggie pulls the heavy, neo-gothic door shut with a decisive click and heads onto Sunnyside Road. He waves to his neighbour watering her geraniums and pats the left, breast pocket of his waistcoat to feel the familiar mould of Cat’s amethyst crystal heart one last time. Eruptions of tiny, mauve flowers garnish rock walls and blackbirds call over treetops, occasionally arcing across the vivid, blue sky in sweeping brushstrokes. 

He supposes if younger and vocal about such things, he’d be called an empath; psychic even but neither title quite suit him. Suit. Now that’s a word he does relate to. A Savile Row career had tailored him the reputation for selecting just the right shade of shirt and cut of a jacket, to ensure customers left his shop feeling their Sunday best. Of course, the Little Voice had often assisted – urging ‘crimson!’ for a cravat or gifting him a mental snapshot of an upcoming wedding, launch or alas, funeral.

He had begun to believe the Little Voice had deserted him when he had deserted London, seeking clear skies and a clear head. But he realises now that, like him – it had simply needed time to adapt. And yesterday, it had spoken again. 

Reggie turns a corner and picks up pace until he sees the Bristol Channel and Victorian drinking fountain set jewel-like, in the grey, stone wall. They’re coming down the path now: a father and a son, who Reggie thinks to be about twelve. With a deft hand, he extracts the pink heart from against his own, places it in the blue-glazed basin and turns. 

He had passed them here yesterday; felt the weight of their broken hearts. He had observed the attentive glances the boy had thrown to the fountain. That was the moment the Little Voice had returned, whispering of a young woman – a mother, dancing in a meadow, petals in her hair and a thousand windchimes chorusing, ‘Please give him your heart…my boy needs your heart.’

But feeling lightheaded, he had floated home, sunk deflated into his armchair and cried. But by late afternoon yesterday, he had concluded that yes, his daughter Cat would agree wholeheartedly that he should relinquish her final gift, though he wished the Little Voice would confirm this. Nevertheless, he had bathed the heart shaped crystal in the kitchen sink and let it dry in the dappled sunlight of the windowsill. 

And now he’s completed what was asked of him. Reggie steps to the pavement edge as the pair stop short a few feet behind.

‘Dad, look! There’s a little crystal heart, right here at Mum’s favourite spot. Remember, she said she’d let me know she was okay?…’ 

Reggie crosses over to the Pier. He’ll walk along the seafront, absorb the sunshine, then cut through the alleyway opposite the Little Harp Inn.

‘I hold your heart in mine Cat,’ he says to the sea. 

In his mind’s eye, his daughter is smiling.

(Deborah Caine 2022)


Personalised Poem Writing: Best Part of the Job?

Photo by Simon Godfrey on Unsplash

When I began writing personalised poems to order, around two and a half years ago, I had no idea what to expect. Since childhood, I had penned poems just for myself, to express how I was feeling. This progressed to scrawled teen dramas (usually involving a boy or dealings with frenemy of the week) – all fused with a spark of creative weirdness. Later still, I wrote poems as part of my studies and then for family celebrations.

But writing commissioned (aka pre-paid) poems to order, for others: real life strangers and often, typically for a third unknown person, was very, very different. I’ll go into the process of this a little more in another post, as here, I want to tell you about the loveliest part of the job…in fact, it really IS the entire gig in a nutshell.

When I get the brief and subsequent content for a custom anniversary poem, personalised birthday poem or bespoke funeral poem, I am trusted with the personal detail of a person or couple I don’t know. I typically receive a lot of information and once the poem has been finalised, feel as if I know the individual or people involved and hope to heaven, that I have produced a bespoke gift poem or personalised speech poem which does justice to their uniqueness, has captured their personality, or the very essence of what makes a couple click.

I have carefully considered which details to best include, to convey my client’s sentiments in a manner that matches them and the relationship. At times, I might soften a joke or story a little, to ensure the recipient reads their poem with a big smile on their face and frequently, I’m told, with a (happy!) tear.

And as well as learning that a particular person has a penchant for salt ‘n’ vinegar crisps, or that a wedding couple will dance to Ed Sheeran, I am consistently sent tales and anecdotes which showcase the VERY best in people!

Time after time, I hear ‘kind, caring, thoughtful’ used to describe childhood friends, partners, parents and even colleagues. And every day this lifts me up a little and reminds me (to paraphrase that famous 90s hit), that despite all the bad stuff going on in the world and the fall outs we have – love really is, all around.

And this is especially evident when I am asked to write a personalised funeral reading or custom memorial poem. Every single time, I feel utterly privileged to play a small part in essentially a stranger’s earthly farewell and so, put my heart and soul into producing just the right choice of words as a final, public tribute. As well as my client’s wishes, I try to get a sense of the person who has passed and consider how they may like to be remembered.

None of us is perfect and I may get the vibe that though much-loved, someone could be stubborn or tactless for example, but in my line of work at least, these traits are always, far outweighed by other aspects of their personality…their off-beat sense of humour, love of life, the chocolate cakes they baked the grandchildren, their daily hillside walks, how they ensured no one ever ate alone on Christmas Day or the care shown, nursing a beloved animal.

So the best part of the job? Being privy to people’s hearts and thoughts and consequently, the gems of unique, beautiful detail which make up a person. I’m forever reminded of the light in people, of our interconnectedness and yes, yes, it may be cheesy…but the endurance of love! Seriously, how good is that? ❤️


Enjoying the View

View from near the top!

So I’m writing this post from bed. It’s a cold, grey day here in North Somerset but our new home is elevated from the street and from here, I can see the pretty stone church opposite and beyond the rooftops of the Victorian houses…a glimpse of the sea!

We moved here from Colchester, Essex over the summer. We rented a flat by the water while our house purchase was going through and the boys spent their school holidays splashing about in the Marine Lake, paddle boarding and ferrying friends around in their orange, blow-up boat.

I had various health issues around this time and more recently, which meant not writing as much as I would have liked during the second half of last year and generally feeling a bit miserable on and off. But nothing stays the same and this year is looking much brighter.

The boys have settled in well to their new schools, the house renovations are a-go and I’m enjoying getting to know the local area. It really is a beautiful, green part of England and the quieter life is slowly helping to quiet my overactive mind. Perhaps like me, you can totally relate to that meme that was circulated a while ago, which read along the lines of, ‘My mind is like a computer: nineteen tabs open; thirteen have crashed and where’s that music coming from?’… (source unknown).

Well from our house, I recently discovered there’s an easy walk to the top of the town, where all the huge, super-stylish houses sit amidst amazing panoramic views. I was feeling grumpy for some reason or other one tea-time, so took myself out the house for a trot and up the hill. From the summit – though that’s probably too generous a word seeing as it was quite a short walk and I was wearing fashion boots rather than hiking boots – I could see the the entire town below, the ‘proper’ hills in the distance and the sea (well, Bristol Estuary). It was sunset and so obviously, I tried to capture the moment with my phone, without doing it much justice at all. So instead, I stopped at various vantage spots along the way to simply enjoy the view first-hand as presented in that wondrous but transient moment…the clear skies, the trees silhouetted against the fast-fading light and the brushstrokes of silvery water running down along one side.

And as I gazed outwards, I felt a renewed sense of gratitude and magical possibility. Spirits lifted, I zig-zagged back down through the town and headed home happy.

Now I’m no spiritual guru and so am fully aware that these lovely feelings can get trampled down after a time with busy lives and overstimulated minds. So my note to self? Stop more often to enjoy the view.


Five Random Things I Love

white candle on black table
Photo: Hanna Balan on Unsplash

Well over here in the UK, (as in much of the world), the c-word continues to all-consume our daily lives in so many different ways and things now look set to get worse, before they get better. I’m sure by now, it’s obvious we each have different opinions on how the situation should be handled, often boiling down to our core values, experiences and life circumstances and therefore own subjective perspective. Let’s face it…we’re never going to fully agree, so I don’t want to talk about that now. No, no nooooooo…

But quite frankly, that did leave me pondering what on earth to write about. After all, despite having written blog posts, online and magazine articles for other publications, I find the prospect of writing posts on my own site just a little bit cringey and self-promotey (new buzz word right there). Hence to date, I’ve failed to post on a regular basis.

I digress. Rather than talk about my ‘wonderful’ personalised poems (ha!), I thought I would randomly mention a few of my own, personal favourite things which keep me semi-sane. We all have our own coping mechanisms (or hopefully do), for the tough times and our own set of worries and/or illnesses to contend with. These are some of the little things I love…

(Disclaimer alert: my family and friends are obviously in their own other-wordly category, along with writing, music and my own eclectic sense of spiritual stuff. This list is purely for the randoms and as such, listed in random order)…

1. Baths: Love ’em. Always have, always will. When we lived in hotter climbs, showers were usually more practical and far more refreshing. But back in chillier blighty, nothing quite beats a hot bubble bath on a cold day. And if I’m feeling indulgent, I serve it up with a book and glass of red (unless it’s morning, then tea’s generally the wiser choice).

2. Cheese, Chocolate and Wine: Throw in a loaf (and maybe some water), and I could happily live off this combo…maybe teamed with avocado and a handful of tomatoes or slice of pineapple say. Pears are nice, though only ever in season for an hour a year and I always miss that memo.

3. Getting Outside, Pilates and Sport: Anywhere outside really – though the less busy, the better. If I need a moment to escape the house, clear my head or re-connect to the universe or wider world; a trot round pretty streets or flowery fields does me the world of good. My eldest son often comes out with me nowadays and during the festive period, we enjoyed walking through the posher, genteel streets on the other side of the main road to ours. As it’s getting dark is our favourite time and we loved to spy all the golden-lit Christmas trees adorning the bay-fronted windows of the period homes we passed. Just beautiful.

I go to Pilates at a studio near my house (when it’s open), which I love. I’ve been going for quite some time and my teacher is fab. I’m not really very good but I have definitely improved over the course. The relaxation part at the end, where we get to lie down and drift away for a few moments is heaven.

More recently, we’ve been playing tennis as a family, following my eldest son’s tennis lesson uptake. I had forgotten how much I actually like playing sport and it’s lovely to have something fun we can all do together, particularly when like most people…we can’t really see anyone or do much else. Hmmm. I wonder if the tennis courts will have to shut again…

I would also like to look into joining a ‘back to netball’ team, whenever that kind of thing is back on. Not to be in a league or anything scary; just for fun. Again, this is something I’ve not played since school, but as my lovely mum in law once told me – as we get older we often find our way back to those pursuits we loved as kids. Just hope I don’t break a hip!

4. Spooky Tales & Historical Fiction: Oh my goodness. Books should really be higher up, but as I did say…this list is in no particular order. In a nutshell, books have been my thing since I was little. A couple of early favourites alongside my huge library of ghost stories, was Helen Cresswell’s, ‘The Secret World of Polly Flint,’ and Roald Dahl’s ‘The Witches.’ Magic. I was a very imaginative child and anything spooky or mysterious intrigued me. Still does. I read Daphne Du Maurier’s classic, ‘Jamaica Inn’ this time last year. It’s set in the remote west country and was perfect winter night reading.

These days, I also love a bit of crime drama as well as any of Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction books. She was the author of, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl.’ I don’t know why, but that era with all of its royal drama just really, really fascinates me. Perhaps I was there in a past life? Maybe one of them threw me a coin or a maggoty apple as they passed by or something…

5. Candles and Fairy Lights: I light a candle pretty much every night and love a string of fairy lights. In fact, I’ve always had a strange thing about dim lighting in general, whether it be at home or out in a restaurant. My husband often complains he can’t see anything in our house due to the minimal amount of lighting I use. But what can I say; I just like an atmosphere.

So there you have it. What random things keep you going?

Deborah xx


What’s trending @ Poem Bespoke?

person holding clear martini glass
Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

So the boys are back at school and can you believe here in the Northern hemisphere, Autumn is upon us – eeeek. That said, I hope everyone UK-side is enjoying the glorious, clear and sunny skies!

With the current restrictions, many summer weddings were unfortunately postponed or vastly down-sized. Poem Bespoke still received a fair few wedding related enquiries over the period however and these continue to grow each week. As well as personalised wedding ceremony readings and wedding speech poems, Morning of the Wedding poem gifts are right on-trend at the moment here at Poem Bespoke HQ. I adore creating these personalised love poems and sending them off all gift-ready for their surprise appearance on the special day.

I’ve had lots of BIG birthday and gift poems to write as well. Many clients who contact me want to perform the poem to their special someone at a family dinner per say, but also receive a prettied-up, printed version in the post, ready to gift either framed or unframed (depending on whether the recipient might like to choose their own frame). On occasion, I’m asked to write a personalised family poem ‘voiced’ by a treasured child, or much-missed loved one…and yep, I’m open to pen poems from pets!

As Christmas approaches (too soon?), I envisage that gift poems for entire families will make a seasonal splash. These personalised gift poems incorporate a few lines about each family member as well as special holidays, memories and major milestones – a beautiful keepsake to frame and display at home, (in fact, I’ll add some poem examples onto my website soon here). https://poembespoke.com/gift-poems/

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

Deborah x

Lockdown Poem Aired on BBC Essex

Prosecco please! (photo by me).

Hello. I hope you are going as well as can be in these tricky times. Who would’ve believed all this would happen, even a few months ago? Well, I’ve been pretty busy (ahem) home-schooling the boys and remembering how bad I am at maths and how much I dislike it. Luckily for me, the boys find it easier. And who knew my lovely, decorative bell (starring above) would one day double-up to signal ‘end-of-playtime’ to the boys during their home-school day?!

There has been some snatched-time for creativity. Recently, I wrote a little poem based upon my own family experience here in the UK during this time. I realise we will all come out of this period having had a different experience, depending on whether we are living with others or alone, working or not and having endured our own set of worries. But to paraphrase something I read the other day, ‘No, we’re not in the same boat right now…but we are in the same storm.’ We remain connected as a society and one day this will be over!

Anyway, for those I’ve not already told (ha), my topical poem was aired on BBC Essex, (a recording read by moi) and I then went on to chat with the lovely presenter live on air which was very scary indeed. Hopefully I didn’t come across as too much of a fool (fine line!). Here’s the poem and much love to everyone…


Our Family Life: An Easter Snapshot

Not quite so raw, the start of week 4,
each day replicating the one before.
Feeling two-dimensional, unintentional,
Dig out my sketch pad and start to draw.

Morning fix: coffee, Jo Wicks,
Planks, bunny hops and high kicks.
Exercising, endorphins rising,
Shaking off and energising.

Break from home-schooling; (who am I fooling?),
Tell you what is fun; no school-run.
But failing call to action; subtraction,
Transpires, I still can’t fathom a fraction.

A bike ride, walk, yes – it’s still okay to talk.
Rainbow windows, paths with chalk.
Yes, it’s fine to smile, say hi…all the while,
Moving aside, united in this trial.

Backyard games, football, swing ball,
Doing our bit to curb the footfall.
What to make, yet another cake?
Banana bread or flourless bake?

As a nation, showing appreciation,
For workers, serving with dedication.
Clapping hands, banging pans,
Gratitude echoing across the lands.

When the boys, toys, tucked up in bed,
Seeking distraction to fill our head,
We settle in with a grin, to Jo Exotic,
And realise our lives aren’t that chaotic.

Though we wait for the date; use our time,
Phone calls, emails and chats online,
Eating smarties, planning parties we’ll host,
The places we’ll travel: country and coast.

The meetings, greetings with those we’re missing,
With unprecedented displays of hugging, kissing.
And the world’s still turning; sun’s still burning,
Each of us: solving; evolving; learning.

This crazy period; now part of our story,
The good, the bad, the heartbeat glory.
For now, I’ll place my dreams; take power,
Within love, art, the birds and flowers.

Deborah Caine (2020)

Poem Bespoke on ‘An Essex Wedding Magazine’

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is photo-1548765015-1e047ff5c9e9.jpg
Photo by Vitor Pinto on Unsplash

Hello! It’s been a little while (yes, ages) since my last post, though I’ve been pretty busy doing such very important CEO stuff behind the scenes here at Essex’s Poem Bespoke HQ.

Yes, I’ve penned some fabulous poems (obvs) but still a lot of my time is spent trying to get the word out there about my little personalised poems for weddings, funerals and gifts. Oh it’s a tedious and long old process it seems! I hadn’t quite realised the amount of time I would be spending social marketing Poem Bespoke, as oppose to actually penning the poems in my lovely turquoise notebook, sat in some arty café overlooking a cottage-garden, americano and pastry to hand…

But hey-ho, guess that’s the world we live in and I have to remind myself that though at times, I feel like a doorstop-sales-person with my social posts; since I have no actual, real-life, tangible shop-front to capture passing traffic, then it is what it is. Turns out, I need to put in the time and work even on the parts of my little poem writing service which I don’t enjoy so much. Who would have thought?

Slowly and surely though, I feel word is getting out there. I’ve had 100% positive feedback so far, which is lovely and according to my overly-frequent checks, Poem Bespoke does seem to be crawling, yes crawling up those pesky Google rankings, though to be fair, this is probably helped by the seo company I worked with short-term.

Anyway, as you may know…I do also LOVE to write articles and so recently put that side of my writing to good use for marketing purposes. Below, I have linked to my little article just published on a well-known UK wedding magazine’s site, detailing the ways a personalised poem can add a poignant or practical touch to your wedding day: personalised wedding poems, personalised wedding speeches (handy for those who don’t want to stand and speak for long), poem favours and so on.

So if your wedding day is coming up (congrats!) and you have a couple of minutes spare, grab a cuppa and take a look. 🙂


What’s New This Year? Making Things Happen.

Lady boss goals!
Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

Hope everyone has the new year off to a positive and productive start. So, aside from my usual goal renewal – namely lose a few pounds, cut out the mid-week wine and work on becoming more spiritual on a practical level- eg do a mediation every day, take up reiki etc, I’ve been having a good old think about what else I should change this year in order to be where I want to be.

And the main goal I have right now revolves around making this little personalised poem website of mine more productive. To do that, I need to work on the key thing it currently lacks and which quite frankly I’ve been side-stepping, as it’s just not as fun. But I realise now I need to sort it.

Make a Business Plan

Poem Bespoke is a pretty new venture and the creative side of it, namely penning lovely, personalised poems for fantastic people, comes easily to me. And though I’ve had success with gift poems penned thus far and wonderful feedback (sorry to boast ha), I do need to generate more traffic to the site organically without forking out for advertising all the time. And it’s all well and dandy to sit-around waiting for the next enquiry or (here’s hoping) flood of enquiries to come rushing in, but now I fully realise the need to be a little more pro-active to become consistently busy as a real, live business.

How hard can it be? I’ve worked in many-a-business over the years – just none in the past decade. Gulp. But I did once work in business development, so best pull up my socks and again, try to think outside the box.

So I’ve called a board meeting and first thing tomorrow, me, myself and I are finally going to sit-down around the kitchen table, throw around some ideas (gosh, I might even buy a little flipchart and coloured marker pens) and thrash out some set, achievable and realistic business goals for the coming year. By the way, does anyone else remember that corporate SMART acronym from way back when…or just me?

To avoid any further procrastination, this will be done when the kids are at school, the dishwasher’s been unpacked, I am facing away from the window and I arrive equipped with a full mug of coffee-to-hand and maybe a small snack just incase.

Wish me luck. I’ll keep you briefed. 🙂

Remembering to look up!

Photo by Andre Ouellet on Unsplash

Recently I’ve been noticing a running theme in my life.  When I’ve been feeling low, negative or starting to get caught up in my own little world of worry (frequent)…the universe sends me a little sign from Mother Nature to pull me up out of myself. And though I’ve no doubt such flags have been waved my way since forever, these days, I seem to notice them more often – now that I’m getting older and wiser perhaps. 😉

Anyway, I’m certainly no spiritual Guru (easy, Deepak) but I’ve started to think of these little signs from the ether as gentle reminders that no, the world doesn’t actually start and end with me, myself and I. And yes, though I am indeed a small part of it (as I believe we all are), it’s so much more expansive, and all–encompassing than my little brain can comprehend. It’s more than careers, money, cancer, debt, families, friends, pets, politics, religion, Netflix, dinners, arguments, love, fear, the future, past mistakes and death. For me, it symbolises hope and I find that comforting.

Below I’ll share some of the little gems Mother Nature has hit me over the head with of late…

Winter Sunset

So, the other day, I was waiting for my son to finish his after-school club. It was freezing, night was coming and I was feeling quite negative about something or other. But when I looked up, I saw a beautiful panoramic winter sunset, which had painted the entire sky in stunning mauves, lilacs and pinks. It was such a timely little reminder, to remember to stop looking down and notice the beauty that’s around me.

Morning Moon

A few days earlier, I had woken up ridiculously early – at the unearthly hour of 4.30am. I just couldn’t sleep and as usual, the sheep I tried to count kept running off. Feeling groggy and grumpy I skulked downstairs into the darkness of the kitchen with the reluctant goal of doing something semi-productive before the boys woke up (and they wake early every day, let me tell you).

Anyway, as I like to do first thing of a morning, I flung open my back door just to feel the morning air and was stunned to see the most magnificent, full round moon low and white in the sky opposite. Because it was early morning I assume, it loomed much larger than usual and emitted such a powerful, magnetic vibe that I just stared at it for a little while feeling grateful to bear witness.

After a moment, I moved away to switch the kettle on and make my first, lovely morning coffee and when I looked again, the moon had slipped away behind the horizon leaving just an ethereal, silver glow in its wake.

Rainbow House

Not sure if it’s the continual grey skies and damp weather of late but I’ll say it again – I’ve been worrying about things a little more than usual. Anyway one afternoon last week, I drove round the curve of my street en route back to our house which sits tucked away into the corner of our cul-de-sac. There in wait, arched overhead a vibrant rainbow, which due to the angle I was coming from made it seem to curve right over the top of my house! The unexpected sight cheered me up no end.

Anyway, so what am I trying to take from all of these signs Mother Nature’s sending my way?  I’m trying to remember that whenever I’m feeling down or sinking into my own thoughts a little too deeply – to just ‘look up’ and take notice of the wonderful, wider world around me. And it helps.

What magical signs do you get when you need them?

Autumn Vibes

With yesterday’s Autumn Equinox and the sudden-farewell of Summer, here at Poem Bespoke HQ, I do try to embrace all of the seasons (though even I shudder at the impending doom of those miserable months aka January and February).

But when it comes to writing personalised poems and even article writing, I do find the darker nights and cooler weather serve as a catalyst to start looking inwards that little bit more and typically, it’s at this time of year that I find it easiest to reconnect with my spiritual side.

Yes, Autumn comes with its own perks…pretty colours…crisp mornings to wake-me up on the school-run and still, that exciting, timeless feeling of change, coupled with new possibilities, first-felt during my primary ‘back-to-school’ years, whenever my fabulous new, grey pixie boots got their first outing.

So, I recommend we settle into the season by lighting a candle, grabbing a hot cuppa (or if you’re like me, simply making the seasonal switch from a glass of white wine to red) and cosy up with an atmospheric novel….or podcast! As a relatively new-podcast listener, it was only recently I learnt what a big deal podcasts had become and the scope of listening opportunities out there.

And to tie this little post up, I thought I would share an article below which I recently penned for Soul & Spirit magazine, covering some of the best spiritual podcasts out there at the moment. Angels, meditations and spooky stories…if that’s your thing: listen in (rhyme non-intentional).

Deborah x