The English Bramble - Poem Part I


Dedicated to lovers of Albion


It’s a cool morning

The light breeze has

            Blown away the thin dawn mist


Near the old river

            Rises a bank of dull green brambles


Stop a moment. The two tone green

            Is flecked with flowers


From the full foliage

Stretch strong stems

                        Rich with buds

Reaching beyond the rest


Each rounded pentagonal bomb

Ready to burst

                        And display its pale pink crumpled petals


Untidy, unshowy,

Hosting a mass of tiny stamen

            Their brain seed pods

                        Placed on fine white filigree


The pretty petals soon flutter away

The stamen shrivel brown


And through that temporary generation

            Thrust bright green berry babies


Waiting, waiting,

            For the precious English sun


24 June 2005

© Richard Pantlin

#MaDASC quote #2: Participatory Leadership – Dee Hock

The second extract of inspiring quotes for #socialcare #leadership, so badly needed for the post-Covid emergency world.

These are all taken from my book "Making a Difference in Adult Social Care - Release your leadership ambitions" published in 2014 and still relevant. It makes clear that you can demonstrate leadership now, today, whatever your formal role in your organisation or community. It is full of stories of past and current leaders in their fields.

This extract tells of how I came across the inspirational writings of Dee Hock:

Dee Hock

By chance, during the writing of this book, I was invited to join a training course outside Harare on The Art of Participatory Leadership, where I met many inspiring young black Zimbabwean civil society activists – positive and enthusiastic despite some of them having suffered wrongful arrest and beatings for their activities. The teachings are sometimes called The Art of Hosting, defined as an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges. (

One of the authors recommended was Dee Hock, founder of VISA, which I discovered was created as and remains a network of member organisations – despite its huge presence globally and the trillions of pounds, dollars, euros, etc transacted through its systems. His book One From Many – VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization(Berrett-Koehler, 2005) is well worth a read. To paraphrase, he says that the priorities for a manager come in this order:

  • It is a never-ending, difficult, oft-shunned task. It is ignored precisely because it is incredibly more difficult than prescribing and controlling the behaviour of others.”
  • Without their respect and confidence, little can be accomplished. Peers can make a small heaven or hell of our life.”
  • Select people of good character, introduce them to the concept, go before and show them how to practice it. If those over whom you have authority properly manage themselves, manage you, manage their peers and replicate the process with those they employ, what is there to do but see they are properly recognized, rewarded and stay out of their way?”

He summarises:

Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers, employ good people and free them to do the same. All else is trivia.”

19/3/20 - Today's haiku:

Birdsong getting strong

Spring? Or do they celebrate?

Walking boots are on


As I go out to the garden in the mornings for my yoga practice, I notice that the birdsong has been getting louder these last days. Is this just because spring is coming or are they celebrating that the air is cleaner and fresher due to the reduction in traffic from the coronavirus travel restrictions?

As for me, I’ve got on my stout walking boots and am ready to go out and connect (carefully and safely) with my neighbours, fellow citizens and local small business people to hear their reactions and intentions regarding their Covid-19 response, so that I can join the fight – not directly against the virus but for the maintenance of hope, social cohesion, care for the vulnerable and local democracy.

I’m also reminded of when I attended Oxford City’s Citizens Assembly on the climate emergency and there is one positive thing that all such gatherings of ordinary people look forward to the most when they imagine a future world without carbon emissions pollution: that’s birdsong.

I’m also very conscious that the two places that have had the highest number of Covid-19 deaths, Wuhan and Northern Italy, are areas that HAD very high levels of air pollution eg nitrogen dioxide which is known to cause respiratory sickness.

#MaDASC quote #1: True Leadership - Graça Machel

This is the first extract of inspiring quotes for #socialcare #leadership, so badly needed for the post-Covid emergency world.

These are all taken from my book "Making a Difference in Adult Social Care - Release your leadership ambitions" published in 2014 and still relevant. It makes clear that you can demonstrate leadership now, today, whatever your formal role in your organisation or community. It is full of stories of past and current leaders in their fields.

This first one makes clear the importance of inclusivity, values and rights.

Madame Graca Machel.jpg

Graça Machel is a Mozambican politician and humanitarian. She is the third wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela and the widow of Mozambican president Samora Machel. She is an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights and in 1997 was made a British dame for her humanitarian work.

She was Minister of Education and Culture in Mozambique 1975–89. With Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and others she founded The Elders, a group of world leaders committed to promoting peace and development – see

Here is what she wrote, on 1 November 2013, to supporters of The Elders:

“Dear friends,

I am writing to you from Cape Town where my fellow Elders and I have been discussing the meaning of ‘ethical leadership’ this week during one of our biannual meetings.

There is always a moment in your private life, in your organisation, in your community, and in society in general when you ask: what is the right thing to do? A time when you look for a voice to Iead and guide you. Someone who has the insight and the wisdom to say the right thing, at the right place, at the right moment, and inspires us to live our lives with integrity. More importantly, someone who speaks and resonates with our highest aspirations, and ignites our motivation to live up to our full potential. It is not by chance that when Madiba [Nelson Mandela] founded The Elders in 2007, he turned to Desmond Tutu to lead our group. Archbishop Tutu truly embodies ethical leadership. He speaks truth to power, as well as empowering the disenfranchised, the vulnerable and the marginalised. He is larger than life yet he remains simple and humble, and that is the ethical leadership we wish to emulate. Like him we must stand against injustice, motivated by a compassion that embraces every person and makes every single one feel they matter.

Though Archbishop Tutu has stepped down as Chair and is now an Honorary Elder, we will keep on knocking at his door to ask for guidance on the intractable issues we are bound to tackle. As Elders, we will strive to use our collective clout to bring people together, amplify the space to give voice to the voiceless, and catalyse action. We understand true leadership as that of service, leadership which promotes equity and dignity for all. Of course, it is not just up to the Elders to define the nature of ethical leadership. What does it mean to you? Who are the ethical leaders that inspire you today? And how can we encourage and foster leaders who put common human values first?”


As of today, I shall start to use this blog page for publishing my haikus and notes of explanation. Drop me an email or tweet me if any comment.

Bright, sky-high airplanes

Leave a Cross of dawn steam trails.

Europe’s old symbol.

Walking out for my early morning garden yoga practice, I saw a huge cross in the sky. At that liminal time, I am always looking out for signs from nature / the outside world onto which I can project meaning and this was a pretty big sign. It set me thinking.

A cross is such a powerful symbol. First of all, a symbol of Christianity and what power that holds for millions and millions of people. It gives them that most valuable commodity: Faith. Before the mass of people could write, they would make their mark with a simple X. It's a good and powerful thing this X (and by the way, you know that historically it is much more likely that Jesus was crucified on an X shaped structure than a T shape...).

Christianity is also so strongly associated with Europe. And during the Brexit referendum, there was a not-so-subtle message that the EU would dilute English Christianity by allowing many (Muslim) Turks to come here - a centuries old European fear.

Historically, England, centuries ago, found its own form of Protestantism to separate itself off from the rest of Christian mainland Europe (actually so that our monarch could get divorced and assume greater power - perhaps this is the historic parallel that we should compare Brexit to!!)

So what does my last line in the haiku mean? For many of us in England, it conjures up a sadness that Brexit is separating us from a shared (Christian?) European identity. Of course, it also references the old power of Europe, which was so tied up with Christianity and was abusive through colonialism to so much of the rest of the non-Christian world.

And finally, this question of the old leads us to think of the new and the future and to question whether the airplanes that created the cross are not also symbolic of European power that must be left in the past because of their globally disastrous effect on carbon emissions. This is what I love about haikus - their ability to conjure up so many meanings in just three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables.