Tales from the Tachograph

I am proud to present Tales From The Tachograph, a poetic collaboration between me and Winston Plowes published by Calder Valley Poetry.


A tachograph is a card for those in the driving industry that records information about driving time, speed and distance. They’re used to make sure drivers and employers follow the rules on drivers’ hours.

The poems in Tales From The Tachograph are all linked together by the roads and motorways of Great Britain. They deal with break downs, service stations, lusty French fries, A9 selkies, car parks and the sweet green respite of motorway hedgerows.


Here’s what poets Julia Deakin and Michael Brown say about the pamphlet:


From the lore and lexis of motorway travel, a subtext emerges – by turns surreal, sensuous, apocalyptic and transcendent. Service stations, Travelodge bedrooms and Shropshire B-roads acquire significant new auras in the hands of this hyper-talented duo. As a metaphor for twenty-first century transience, these poems speak not only to each other but to us all. Julia Deakin


This cohesive collection manages to leaven the anonymity of Britain’s “beautiful and strange” motorway system with the deft touch of those who have inhabited and been affected by these superficially nondescript settings. The deeply felt work leaves its impression in its strength of imagery. “We are all nameless travellers on the edge of leaving.” Michael Brown.


We were also very lucky to have been in communication with Margaret Calvert who kindly wrote this for the back of our pamphlet:


Not having a way with words makes me appreciate, all the more, these beautifully crafted poems inspired by travelling on Britain’s motorways, relieved only by pauses to refuel both body and soul. Margaret Calvert


Margaret Calvert made a significant contribution to the birth of the country’s motorway system. She and her colleague Jock Kinneir, both typographers and graphic designers, created many of the road signs used throughout the United Kingdom. Their system has become a model for modern road signage. Background to the whole fascinating process can be found at http://www.britishroadsignproject.co.uk/jock-kinneir-margaret-calvert/


You might also be interested to know that the blue of our pamphlet’s cover has been colour matched to Motorway Blue (CMK code C100 M44 YO KO), the colour of motorway signage.


Here are 2 poems from the collection.


Albino Love Box

M5 and M6 Southbound


Lying beside you,

my pale forearms delicately

lithographed with grass stems,

I turn your handles,

watch your legs slowly unfurl

as you exhale the dark

winterised months of storage;

an oversized music box

playing its silent tune.


You are a Swift dappling the mantle,

a hook-up Symphony dripping through the skylight,

the Champagne Pageant of light rain on your roof,

a Firestorm of sweet condensation.


But that was then and this is now

and I’m drifting off

to the comforting sounds

of Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire

as your hand-painted glass ashtray

slowly fills up with rain

and a fag end floats like a compass needle

always pointing home.


Words in italics are makes or models of caravans noted during motorway queues


By Winston Plowes


Self-portrait as a Shropshire B-road


I’m the beautiful but dangerous kind –

all potholes and hairpin bends,

mossy, damp and thick with shadows

even in July.

Some parts of me have never tasted sunlight.

In the flood season

I become a gush,

a waterfall

carrying run-off and frogs,

forgetting I’m a road,

waiting for salmon.


Boy racers love me.

Cautious drivers breathe in

and trickle along me

as slow as old honey

on a cold spoon.

Ignore what the signs say.

You won’t know where I’m taking you

until you’re there.


By Gaia Holmes

‘Tales from the Tachograph’ can be purchased via the Calder Valley Poetry website



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