The first section, Gloss, is concerned with ‘the trade’, from dry rot in the bathroom ‘how deep, how far the hungry threads have gone’ through ‘the kinked, ballooning pipes’ of old lead water systems, to the heady fumes of VOCs in gloss paint in Escape from Colditz, and the molecular structure of paint, ‘the fish scales of an aluminium primer’.
We meet the poet as Ragged-trousered Philanthropist and then imagining himself working alongside the artist Georges Braque (he also trained as a decorator). The more fragile second section, Eggshell, looks at a troubled childhood, divorce, and death, often through the medium of decorating.
"They are some of the most distinctive poems it's been my pleasure to read since Tony Harrison's sonnets opened that elite form to working-class life." — Malcolm Povey