Monday, November 3, 2014


Kids, back in 2010, when Robert Lloyd first opened the doors of Poets United, Paul Andrew Russell was one of the first people to hop aboard. He has been away for a while, accomplishing a huge move back across the pond from Canada to his home turf in England, and how our hearts lifted when he resurfaced recently and began posting again in the Pantry. So I asked him if he'd like to give us an update on where his life has taken him since we last heard from him. Draw your chairs in close, as this is a man who, as a lad, played in castle ruins. I'll be sure to revisit that story!! And the photos he has provided are a visual treat for we armchair travelers.......Enjoy!

Sherry: Paul, I am so happy to be doing this interview, to get caught up with where your life has taken you.  After some years in Canada, you moved back home to England in 2012. Tell us about the joys of that move.

Paul at the Kaust Museum of Science 
and Technology in Islam

Paul: It was wonderful,  if somewhat strange, to move back home after nine years of living in another country, Sherry. The first thing I noticed was the birdsong. I couldn’t believe how melodic, and loud,  it was. Oh, and how green England is in the Spring;  it is  a beautiful country. Of course, I’m biased.

When I saw my family again, it was as if I’d never left. They were all so good to me. I felt so blessed to be welcomed home with so much love.

Sherry: It is always wonderful to return home, to the people who have loved us forever! Tell us about your family, your mother and kids.  After being long away, it must be lovely to be living in close proximity once again.

Paul: I spent a couple of weeks with my brother and his family before I moved back ‘up north’. Then my mother let me have a room in her home until I got back on my feet. She has been so good to me. I must say the first time I saw my children, I couldn’t believe how much they’d grown; they were only teenagers when I left, adults when I returned. My son found it easier to forgive me for leaving, but my daughter didn’t let me off the hook so easily. I don’t blame her; I messed up. However, all is well now.

I was lucky enough to be there when both my children got married; something I’m eternally grateful for. I do get to see them, but not as much as I’d like, due to us all having very busy work lives. Hopefully that will change when I eventually get a different job; travelling all over the country, and world, no longer appeals to me.  I’ve definitely gotten over my wanderlust.

Sherry: What a blessing to be there for both weddings. Yay! Give us a bird’s eye view of yourself as a young lad, playing among the castles and collieries of Derbyshire. It sounds a fantastic place to grow up.

Paul: I was very lucky as a child. I grew up in a beautiful part of the country;  it was industrial and pastoral in equal measure.  I got to play in a castle, in green fields and down by the local (small) river. 

Houses where I grew up

We had much more freedom to roam the countryside in those days; there didn’t seem to be as many dangers around. I spent the entire summer break from school playing outside. Every hour of every day was filled with new adventures and discoveries; I loved it.

Bolsover Castle in fog

We’d make swings in the trees down in the woods, dam the local river and play in the pool we’d created, play down the local dump where we’d build bonfires and throw aerosol cans on the top and then spend hours watching them explode; not very smart but great fun.

Sherry: Yikes! Your mother would have had the horrors, if she had known about the fires. Wait till she reads this! You'll be in trouble! I found a cool clip of the interior of the castle, so we could have a look at the marvelous playhouse you had as a child. (Smiles.) 

This film was made by Simon Nottm. Sigh. I loved this.

I recently came across your poem, Hill, which really speaks to me. I’d love to include it here. I can see the man climbing the hill he played on as a boy, and the image is so poignant.

Bolsover Castle
a medieval fortress dating back to 1612

Paul: I think I just associate that hill with happy times. It’s actually the hilly meadow below the castle. It could also be a metaphor for my life, most people’s lives, really, continually feeling as though we’re climbing a hill and never quite reaching the top. Whichever, it’s a good place for me, and there’s the castle on the top, which can’t be bad.


there is a hill not far from here
where all my worries disappear
summers I remember there
when I was naively unaware
of wars and sadness, corruption, lies
while gazing up at skylark skies
now when I’m feeling down at heart
and the darkest curtains will not part
I wander off and up that hill
to once more take the sweetest pill
for nothing else can ease my pain
like stepping back up there again

Sherry: I love this poem. Is that your shadow on the right, taking the photo? I make my interviewees work so hard, asking you to climb the hill to get the photo! But thanks, LOL.

Your new job involves long hours and travel. What is it that you do, Paul? What are some of the places  you have traveled to? 

Camels in Dubai

Paul: I work for a company that cleans and services computer data centres. Obviously I can’t elaborate too much because of restrictions like the data protection act and official secrets act. It’s not quite as interesting as it may sound, but it has given me the chance to travel extensively. This year I’ve spent time in Dubai (a beautiful place and a great holiday destination), Saudi Arabia (not so beautiful but an experience) and Finland (much like the east coast of Canada). I’ve also visited nearly every city in the United Kingdom; some many times over.

Kymi River, Finland

Sherry: Wow! That is a lot of traveling. What do you find out about places considered political hotbeds, when you are there in person? 

Paul: Dubai is incredibly clean and everything looks brand new; most of it is. It’s very cosmopolitan and there’s a sense of freedom of dress and acceptance of the western lifestyle that is definitely not the case in Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, the women are covered from head to toe, with only their eyes showing. I found it a very closed, strictly regimented society, and one which definitely does subjugate women. However, I never felt unsafe there at all, something I didn't expect. The people were very friendly and extremely patient with us non-Arabic speaking foreigners.

Tourist visas are not issued by the Saudis, so I felt very privileged to be allowed to go there, even though it was for work. We were there during Ramadan, and whenever there’s a call to prayer during Ramadan everything stops, everything closes. There were occasions, when we were eating in restaurants, where the doors were locked, the shutters closed and we had to wait until prayer time was over before we were let out of the establishment. The first time that happened it was a little disconcerting; afterwards it just became the norm. The call to prayer at four clock in the morning was a definite down side though, as there were public address speakers right outside the hotel window. It was a tiring time.

A mosque

Flying there and back, we were the only white people on the plane and we were treated with the utmost respect, and when we were stuck in the queue at passport control in Jeddah, I had a long and interesting conversation with a Muslim guy from Luton who was making the pilgrimage to Mecca with a group of friends. 

I can honestly say I had a great time in Saudi Arabia. Which, considering how the western world is constantly meddling (warranted or unwarranted) in Middle Eastern affairs, is testament to the Arab  world’s capacity for friendship and tolerance towards us. They are, after all, just people like us, and most people just want to live in peace.

Sherry: I completely agree, Paul. Given the travel and the long hours, how do you fit writing into your schedule? Especially as I keep you so busy taking pictures - there you are again, on High Street.

Bolsover High Street

Paul: Unfortunately, writing has taken a back seat to work. In fact, I have hardly done any writing over the past year. Sixty to eighty hour weeks and constant travelling have given me the excuse not to write; and it is an excuse. I could have written but I just haven’t done it.  For a while now though, we have been experiencing short-time working so I have  started writing again; hence my reappearance on Poets United. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back into it again.

Sherry: And we are delighted to have you back! I hope you find work where you are able to be home more. Do you have a poem you especially like that we might include here?

Paul: Most of my poetry is from my years in Newfoundland, and seems pretty ancient now, so I’ll just go with one of my newer ones which is on my blog; it’s called ‘Poetry’. It’s basically a simple homage to the poets I grew up reading. Poetry has been the one constant in my life, right from my childhood.

When I was young I Marvelled at
the beauty of Andrew’s mistress
and became a Lord walking
beside beauty in the night,
and while wandering amongst daffodils
began to realise what a Word’s Worth.
I heard the Inchcape bell
while voyaging on Southey’s seas
and met an old Mariner
who’d traversed a Cold Ridge
to meet a soldier by a Brook
who, If he’d taken Rudy’s advice
maybe would have lived a better life.

Sherry: Clever, Paul! I love the alternative lives we live while we're between the covers of a book. While you were re-establishing yourself, your blog went silent for a time. I was so happy  when you popped back up again. What drew you back to the blogging world? 

Paul: Well, even though I’d not written  much on my blog for quite a time, I’d kept visiting the Poets United website, even though I rarely left comments;  so many new names and so much new content. It feels like my online home, I’ve been a part of it for so long.

Me, Eileen and Gerry

And I meet up with Eileen O'Neill, My Poetic Parlance, every now and then for lunch, and we talk of poetry, Poets United and all manner of literary stuff;  she has been a great friend and encouragement to me to keep writing. It all helps to keep me connected to the great poetry community that has been built over the past few years.  I have met and corresponded with some lovely people through Poets United.
Sherry: Wow, I envy you meeting with Eileen. So lovely to meet online friends in person. You and Eileen were both with Poets United in its very earliest days.  You are both treasured members.

What do you do in your spare time, Paul? Is there a favourite old pub, or local gathering place you like to go to? Everything English seems so exotic and interesting to those of us who live elsewhere, so lay it on thick, the moors, the walking stick, the peaked cap, the fish 'n chips............LOL.

Paul: Mmmm, spare time?  I’m quite content with my life being pretty boring at the moment, it suits me. I read when I can, listen to music, not all of it good but it’s to my taste. I visit family whenever I get the chance. I drove into Chesterfield this morning to have breakfast with my son in a local pub; no drinking involved.

I must say, I do enjoy being alone a lot and just relaxing in my little apartment. I sometimes go out on my mountain bike with friends from work; get all muddy and generally have a laugh. And I have indulged my mid life crisis and bought a ‘boy-racer’ car, a bright orange beast that I probably look ridiculous driving but I don’t care. :-) One of the freedoms that come with age is the fact I really don’t care what people think. I don’t hurt anyone, they don’t pay my bills, so  I’m enjoying my fifties. Oh, and I love fish, chips and mushy peas!

Boy Racer

Sherry: The car makes me particularly happy, Paul. She is a beauty! 

You have three books out: 

[Both are also available as eBook downloads.]

Compare the joys and satisfaction of each:  poetry?  Flash fiction?

Paul: I absolutely love poetry, writing and reading it. Only someone who  loves poetry can understand the following  statement: I can almost ‘feel’ the words; the emotion in the writing affects me deeply. It sounds crazy to someone who isn’t creative. People look at us as though we’re insane, but you know what I mean, Sherry. It’s the same way a beautiful sunset, a painting or Chopin’s Scherzo No 3 in C sharp minor affect me.

Flash fiction is hard work and something I’m not sure I’m particularly accomplished at. I like the fact it’s varied and short; I can write one thing and then move on to the next before I get bored. I find it very hard work.
Sherry: What hopes do you have for your writing going forward?

Paul: I hope to actually accomplish more than I have over the last two years. I’m currently looking for another job, as this one isn’t conducive to having any spare time. I’m too old to be working eighty hour weeks. All the traveling may sound like fun but it’s just hard work with travel thrown in. I’ve been lucky, but I need to settle down into some kind of ‘life’. 

My work is my life at the moment, and that’s never a good position to be in. I need to have time to pursue my outside interests: like writing, visiting the theatre, going to talks by writers etc. Hopefully when I have more stable free periods I will do more writing. That’s the plan.

Sherry: Sounds like a wise plan, and we look forward to watching your writing progress in the years to come. When you were in Canada, you had two novels on the go. What stage are they at? Any plans to dust them off and complete them? 

Paul: I’ve already resumed writing on one of them but my progress has been slow. It’s about half finished but the other one is only at the third or fourth chapter stage. Interestingly, I have a bet with a friend at work; I’ve said I’ll finish the one I’m working on by the new year, he says I won’t; we’ll see...

Sherry: I'm betting on you! Is there anything else you’d like to share with us, Paul? Anything you’d like to say to Poets United? 

Paul: I have met many wonderful people through Poets United, Sherry. We all share a love of the written word, and it’s lovely to have a place to meet and discuss poetry. In my everyday life I work with a bunch of guys who think I’m a bit odd because I write poetry (working class men (still) don’t do that), so it’s lovely to be able to write and show my work to others who are the same as me; literary and proud. The support I have gotten from the friends I’ve made at Poets United has been amazing. And to see how the community has grown is wonderful. 

This community of ours is a world wide thing and some of us, even though we’ve never met, have become friends for life. I’ve met Eileen and her husband in the flesh and they’ve become wonderful friends whom I cherish.
Though we’re all spread far and wide, we are able to reach out and touch each other in ways we can never truly know. I have experienced times when I never thought I’d smile again; my friends here at Poets United and my family back here in England have proven that wasn’t true; I am living again.

Sherry: I am so happy to hear that, my friend.  And living stylishly , too, in your beautiful orange car! I can't tell you how stoked we are to have you back at Poets United!

Cool update on our friend Paul, is it not, kids? I forgot to ask him if he wears one of those checkered peaked caps when he drives the Orange Dynamo. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! (Warning: some photography might be involved, LOL.)


  1. I've been waiting so long for today's(actually tonight's here) interview and a lovely one Sherry & Paul...and what a pleasant surprise to see Eileen in the photo...really enjoyed this lively chat with interesting details...

  2. What a lovely piece, Sherry. It's always a pleasure talking with you.

    The video was a lovely surprise. It triggered so many childhood memories for me. One in particular; my friends and I were playing in the castle grounds one day, when the caretaker (Mr White) caught us while patrolling with his very large Alsation dog. We thought we were sure to be in trouble. However, he took us round the castle while he locked up, and we were allowed into parts visitors never went.He was such a kind man. I felt so privileged I never climbed over the walls again. It's surprising how one adult's act of tolerance and kindness can affect a child's life.

    And yes, the shadows in the photos are mine. Every time I climb that hill I realise how old I am; no longer that energetic child.

    Oh, and I scared myself half to death when I put my foot down in that car! :-)

    Thank you Sherry, for the lovely interview and for being a friend.

    1. I am laughing at you scaring yourself to death when flooring the Orange Dynamo. Cackle. Too funny!!!!! What a gorgeous story about the caretaker being so kind. I am so relieved the video worked, I had some nervous moments over it! It has been a privilege to put this together. We are only too happy to have you back among us. You were missed! Drive safely, my friend!!

  3. I'm happy to meet you, Paul, and very glad you are back with PU. Love seeing all the pics and especially the one with Eileen--proof positive that poets meet each other beyond the internet. Thank you, thank you, Sherry. Thanks for including the video which led to Paul's comment. He was one lucky young boy!

  4. How good to meet up with a wandering British poet. Being an ex-pat Brit myself your account of Bolsover reminded me of how full of history every town in England is. I really loved both of your featured poems.

    1. Kids, here is a sneak peek - Old Egg has graciously agreed to an interview, and we will be featuring his very interesting life in mid-November. Hint: there is a beautiful love story!

  5. I enjoyed reading your views of each country. Many of can only dream of travel. I've seeing places through your eyes.

    Another wonderful interview, Sherry.

  6. Paul, what a wonderful catching up interview. I do remember you from the 'good old days' when Poets United just got off the ground. You were one of the cornerstones. I had not realized you had moved back to England, but you sound happy and contented there. How wonderful that you were able to be at your children's weddings! And meeting Eileen,what a wonderful treat! I am so glad you found your way back to Poets United again and really enjoyed the update. Thanks, Sherry and Paul!

  7. Very interesting interview. Love that orange car!!! Good luck with your endeavors Paul.
    Sherry thanks so much for this interview. It's always nice to read about the life of living poets.

  8. What a marvelous conversation! Loved eavesdropping on you two, Sherry and Paul, and hearing about your life's journey. Of course it speaks thru your poetry - so enjoyed reading these and look forward to more.

  9. As always, the pleasure is all mine, my friends. Mondays shine brightly for me, coming in to hear the support and appreciation our community holds for each other. I've watched the video several times, it is set to one of my favourite pieces of classical music, and the history held within the castle walls, , the art work, the sculpture and those old hallways where feet have trodden for hundreds of years, just mesmerizes me. Paul, thank you so much for agreeing to the update - it has been a delight.

  10. beautiful interview Sherry..nice to meet you Paul..and a surprise to see Eileen in the picture..Thanks Sherry once again for a marvelous job..

  11. Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments. From old friends to new, I appreciate each one of you.

    Through the wonders of the internet, and the members of our on-line community, I have travelled to places I could never have dreamed of when I was that little boy playing on a grassy hill above my childhood home.

    I feel truly blessed to have met so many wonderful people who all share a love of poetry.

    Thank you all for keeping the spirit of the Poets United community alive and kicking, and for welcoming me back with such kindness.

  12. Sherry and Paul,

    It was a wonderful treat to find that Sherry had invited Paul back for another very interesting chat. Loved seeing the young Paul in that photograph, with a most mischievous grin!!
    Of course, I have always admired Paul's poetry and short stories, from the very first time I came across his Blog at Poets United. I liked his sincere, observational and witty style of writing. His work is of both a personal and photographic nature, generally. His recent world travel has allowed him to extend his world of experiences and to share those with this writing community.
    I have made a wonderful new friend in Paul, as has my husband Gerry and my family. The first time we met, we felt an immediate affinity with each other. He is an easy and hounourable friend to have.
    I admire his resilience after the many challenges he has encountered over the past few years.
    Writing has enabled Paul to maintain his connection with a pastime he likes, as well as keeping his contact with a most faithful group of friends, world-wide at Poets United.
    Thank you Sherry for this very enjoyable Poet Interview,

    1. And what a nice photo of you, Eileen, and your husband Gerry. Wonderful that Paul has become a friend of your entire family....and thanks for YOUR perspective as well.

    2. How lovely to read your words, Eileen. You and Paul and Mary are all PU members right from the beginning. You are so lucky to have connected in real time. Thanks for your generous comments, and your continued loyalty to Poets United.

  13. Welcome back Paul and want to wish you the best with your future writing endeavors.

  14. Being new here it was great to meet a founding member of Poetry United. I loved hearing about Paul's journey. My childhood memories came flooding castles but forts and hills and creeks. Thanks Sherry for this wonderful comprehensive interview. Great to meet you Paul!


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