Solitude

Tonight’s Speakeasy theme at the Park Tavern is “Solitude” and Zoe Quinlan led a well-attended workshop a couple of weeks ago for Macclesfield Creative Writing Group to draw in the crowds with lots of relevant material. Here’s what I’ve written for the theme.

Solitude   

(After “Daffodils”by William Wordsworth)

I wandered lonely in a crowd,

whilst posting thoughts unveiling ills.

I walked along and talked  out loud.

Aren’t earphones great! They’re really brill!

Beside the bank, through shopping malls

whilst still on line with website pals.

 

Continuous as the stars that tweet

or presidents at 4 am

their every thought quite indiscrete.

Oh how I do so envy them!

Ten thousand followers at a glance

each logging on at every chance.

 

My Facebook page where I lay bare

the trivia of each passing day

is where I live or simply stare

or turn to online games and play.

These habits steal my days. They filch,

so social intercourse is zilch!

 

For often on my couch I lie

and nothing much comes on TV,

I sometimes ask myself just why

I am so crap at being me.

But then my heart with pleasure fills

until I get my broad band bills.

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D-Day (Jour-J)

Today is the 73rd. anniversary of the D-Day landings. Here’s a small tribute to those who died and to the survivors, most of whom will be well over 90!

D Day (Jour J)

June the 6th. was D-Day way back in 19 44

when Allied troops disembarked on Europe’s bloody shore

and France’s liberation began the day they call Jour “Jee”

and many a soldier lost his life that day in Normandy.

so whether your name was Hans, my boy, or Jean-Pierre or Tom,

it’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

It’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

 

The five pronged thrust from Neptune was planned to make a breach.

They came from Canada’s wheat belt to die on Juno beach,

whilst Yanks who left the mid-West, home states both near and far,

perished under machinegun fire at Utah and Omaha,

so whether your name was Hans, my boy, or GI Joe or Tom,

it’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

It’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

 

The Brits were asked to play their part at Gold Beach and at Sword

to establish a bridge head in Operation Overlord,

but mothers grieve on both sides having lost their pride and joy

for Lebensraum’s worth nothing when it takes away your boy,

so whether your name was Hans, my boy, or Fritz or Franz or Tom,

it’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

It’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

“Mine” or “O Mine Papa”

Here’s my attempt at a mining folk song.

Mine (or O Mine Papa)                                                                        

When pithead wheels still turned each shift

to drop the cage and then to lift

the colliers from their daily graft,

a mile deep buried down a shaft,

each man was 50 years condemned,

with two short weeks to rest and mend.

 

Chorus:

Repose and convalesce from earning

for the sunlight daily yearning.

Digging coal required no learning,

back when the nation’s home fires burned

and our satanic mill wheels turned

before our mining jobs were spurned.

 

Both my granddads, dad and brother,

all the family save our Mother,

uncles and cousins, neighbours too,

they shovelled coal the whole day through

or all the afternoon or night,

lit by a headlamp’s ray of light.

 

Chorus:

Repose and convalesce from earning

for the sunlight daily yearning etc.

 

Their lungs were clogged up with coal dust.

They sweated cobs and swore and cussed.

Back up on top, they’d wash t’muck off

and smoke a Woodbine, hack and cough,

and breathe the air, so fresh, so sweet

and feel the grass beneath their feet.

 

Chorus:

Repose and convalesce from earning

for the sunlight daily yearning etc.

 

Our sweat shone black for old King Coal.

He had us body, mind and soul,

but for our kids we wanted better.

Education could unfetter.

Down the pit they won’t belong,

just sing about our lives in song.

 

Chorus:

Repose and convalesce from earning

for the sunlight daily yearning.

Digging coal required no learning,

back when the nation’s home fires burned

and our satanic mill wheels turned

before our mining jobs were spurned.

“Mine” (or “O Mine Papa”) and 2 Guest Poet appearances coming up in early June.

I was lucky enough to be at the Dog and Partridge, Bollington, on Friday 26th. May for Bob Fox’s guest singer night. He’s an accomplished guitarist with an excellent voice, very much at home on the stage and  very entertaining and well worth a detour. (He was “The Songman” in “Warhorse” and will be again soon at the Lowry). He’s from a mining village in the North-East which immediately took me back to Mansfield Woodhouse and our local Nottinghamshire pits. Bob is one of “The Pitmen Poets” and reminded me that we’re both the first generation not to “go down t’pit”, though he does earn his living singing about it! It prompted me to have a go at writing a folk song (“The Folk Song with No Tune?”). I’ll post it separately after the commercial break.

As it happens, I’ve a couple of 10 minute slots as Guest Poet coming up myself at 2 open mike events locally. Both are free entry (but a fiver to get out – JOKE!). Come along and read something of your own or by AN Other or just come and listen.

“Poetry and Prose”

at the Petersgate Tap

19, St. Petersgate, Stockport

7-30 pm Wednesday, 7th. June

Open mike free event

Guest Poet: Phil Poyser

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Spoken Word”

at the UBAgene bar

61A, London Road South, Poynton, SK12 1LA

7-30 pm Monday, 12th. June

Open mike free event

Guest Poet: Phil Poyser

Camilla Meets Her Matt-ch

A couple of Sundays ago, Camilla and Matt Burke were quietly celebrating their silver wedding anniversary with lunch and a few drinks amongst close friends and family when there was a knock on the door. The stranger at first claimed to be a work colleague from way back, but after accepting a glass (or two) of wine, stepped out into the sunshine and declaimed to Matt’s surprise, this rather long tribute which Camilla had secretly organised.

Camilla Meets Her Matt-ch (or possibly Game, Sex and Matt-ch?

In case you’re wondering just who I am,

relax, rest assured, I’m no strip-o-gram.

I’m some kind of local poet or worse,

charged with deliv’ring this anniversary verse.

 

Let me tell you the story (and I’ll keep it brief

for Life whizzes by and Time’s such a thief)

of a young girl called Bennett, Camilla by name,

whose Welsh Mountain ponies won gymkhana fame.

With horsey obsession and thick goggle specs,

she failed to attract the opposite sex,

thus missing out on a high school romance

till Fate and a friend gave her a second chance.

 

At school, Matt’s football won out in the yard.

The Hesketh Tavern was where Camilla starred

November 5th., ’85 was a high.

This time the fireworks weren’t all in the sky.

Camilla had doted on “Misty” and “Taffy”.

Now it was Matt’s wit and charm drove her daffy.

The “bee” in her Bennett she dreamed would “bee” Burke

though 7 years would pass until they made it work.

 

As a couple each complemented the other

and enhanced their tastes, but didn’t smother.

Camilla had been dazzled by Luther Vandross.

Now she  liked Prefab Sprout, the Smiths and the Boss.

Nowadays there’s room for Elbow’s CDs

whether played softly or as loud as you please.

Just right to accompany Matt’s carbonara

or “Gone With the Wind” and Scarlet O’Hara.

 

Meanwhile, Life was good, like one long holiday:

Italy, Majorca, you name it, they’d stay.

Then in 19 90, they flew off to Oz.

They needed no reason. They went just “because”.

Uncle Richard lived where the broad Brisbane flowed,

(along with “4X”), so they chose Rainworth Road.

Each found a job in a McDonald Drive-Thru.

At Maccas, the burgers were beef, croc or roo.

 

After 5 months’ hard labour, they were transported,

but by greyhound bus (not as convicts escorted):

The Outback’s stark beauty, its vastness, a shock:

the Great Barrier Reef; the Red Centre (Ayres Rock);

the Aussie crown jewel, Surfers’ Paradise on earth;

and Sydney and Melbourne and Adelaide and Perth;

That’s why a return trip tops their bucket list,

to Down Under’s cities and beaches sun-kissed.

 

So, tinged with regret, their year was soon over,

time to head home for the white cliffs of Dover,

settle down, get married, set the Big Day:

for 19 92, the 15th. of May.

All Saints Parish Church, Cheadle Hulme, was the venue,

then Adlington Hall’s Hunters’ Lodge wedding menu

and two weeks in Majorca as husband and wife,

then back to Macclesfield, jobs and real life.

 

A Ryle Street cottage for Matt and Camilla

was their dream chateau, their palace, their villa.

Of clerical work she’s done more than her stint

and Matt’s in procurement. That’s all I can print.

His McCann Erikson portfolio’s Aldi.

(Had it been for Four Seasons, I’d squeeze in Vivaldi).

In the background, his passion’s photography

and he’d rather do that, between you and me.

 

Their life together was not quite complete.

They longed for that patter of two tiny feet.

Twice they came close, but it wasn’t to be,

so they adopted a way to have family.

First there was Shane, born 5th. of November.

(That date keeps recurring, I’ll have you remember).

Five years later, came William, October 2nd.

A warm, loving family environment beckoned.

 

Where two had been cosy, there were now four of them.

They moved to a bigger house close to the “crem.”

West Brook Drive was their haven. It was and is still

for Matt and Camilla and second son, Will.

Did I mention labradors, Inka and Tess,

cats, Tallulah and Leo, live at this address?

They line up for breakfast at 8 am sharp.

For 6 o’clock tea, they miaow, bark and parp.

 

There’d been other pets: black cats, Minstrel and Sooty

and Scooby the dog in whose paws they were putty.

Way back Matt’s tortoise was Fausto Coppi by name,

but a menagerie like this just isn’t the same.

Scooby a mongrel was Heinz 57.

Sadly, aged 17, she went up to dog heaven.

At home the bosses are Tallulah and C.,

a mat-riarchy (spelled with only one “t”).

 

Who’d play M and C in the film of their Life?

Eric Morecambe for Matt, Julie Walters his wife.

He’d have specs on his head. She’d do C’s mimic’s voice,

For the script, Alan Bennett’s the obvious choice.

Man City (not Luton) would have a big role,

the theme tune “Blue Moon”. In the park it’s a stroll.

Somehow Shane’s support’s for those devils in red

(and I’m a fan too, but that’s quite enough said).

 

There’s lots more to tell you, but I’ll draw to a close.

If a poem’s soporific, there’s a risk that you’ll doze.

It’s 20 17, wed 25 years,

it’s time for some bubbly and good wines and beers.

It’s speech which is silver, though Silence is golden.

Camilla and Matt, this occasion embolden.

Let’s raise glasses high to the next 25

with good wishes echoing round West Brook Drive.

“CAMILLA and MATT, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!”

 

“River, Wound, Kiss” and “Getting My Act Together”

After a month of drought comes a deluge of rain. It’s been like that with my writing: a barren April, followed by a torrent of frantic scribbling in May. This has included 2 very different poems: a commission (a first!) for a silver wedding anniversary (“Camilla Meets her Matt-ch”); and a short reaction to the death of the Moors murderer, Ian Brady, both of which I may share later. In the meantime, on Saturday, Cheshire poet, John Lindley, ran a very successful and stimulating free workshop at the Lion Salt Works near Northwich. A score of enthusiasts came up with an impressive range of reactions to John’s themes. The warm-up took the form of 3 prompts, followed by writing on something which has always puzzled us.

Look out for opportunities to join John in a workshop or a “Poets and Pints” (The next one is at the Red Lion, Goostrey on Wednesday, 7th. June).

River, Wound, Kiss

From the gash, the Life blood flowed,

ebbing away what breath bestowed.

Red river seeping from the wound,

an end to what had been cocooned.

And what was gone no-one would miss

except the one who shared that kiss.

Getting My Act Together

I watch James May dismantle

the turntable with a mixture

of childish wonder and dis-may.

The myriad, intricate entrails

lie exposed in orderly patterns, dismembered,

like with like, ready to reassemble

in a precise, logical way I know is beyond me.

 

My inner D-I-Y-er “d-i-y-ed”, still born,

miscarried, ectopic, unnourished,

the three ply wires, green and yellow, brown and blue,

an umbilical cord strangling the nascent desire

to get back in the groove,

to see a Phoenix rise,

to hear music rattle the rafters.

 

Bang to Rights: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

Here’s a little more detail about the ageing head-banger’s accident.

Best wishes to everyone on May Day (This is the kind of “poling” day I prefer).

Bang to Rights: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday

Each of us lives a reality soap

and daily we follow the script.

We stride right along a treacherous slope

in which misadventures are slipped.

 

There’s one of these tales that I want to relate.

You may think that I’ve lost the plot.

It happened in March (I’ve forgotten the date)

after into hot water I got.

 

At the allotment. I’d worked up a sweat.

To come clean, I needed that shower.

Whilst I’m not the sprucest that you’ve ever met,

still “Cometh the Man, comes the hour”.

 

I’d washed and I’d rinsed and was ready to go.

I’d scrubbed up gleaming, right proper.

I was drying the walls so fungi don’t grow.

It was then that I came a cropper.

 

I reached to my left. My feet slid to the right.

I must have leant over too far.

A bike on black ice is a similar plight

– though not ending under a car.

 

My head struck the side of the bath with a bang.

A right blinking wallop it gave me.

I didn’t see stars, but bells echoing rang;

no chance to put hands out to save me.

 

It’s had some ad-verse effects, you might say.

My eyesight has deteriorated,

but for a whole month, with words I couldn’t play,

which folk may think should be fêted.

 

It’s said that each cloud has a lining “argent”.

From each mishap we ought to learn.

But what lesson there is from a head with a dent,

I’m buggered if I can discern!

Lifelines

March and April may have seen the resurgence of Life from its winter sleep, but they have also produced a sudden crop of 5 funerals: 3 ex-colleagues (Brian Newbould, Tony Platt and Norman Elmore); Joan Kensdale (the mother of Mady’s ex); and Wendy Mellor, a friend from my Nottinghamshire adolescence.

Tony’s funeral was on March 7th, which coincided with the date my Dad died in 1978. It gave rise to “Lifelines”, which is also the working title of an embryonic, third collection of poems, though I seem to have entered a writing “man-o-pause” after a fall in the bath (yes, I do) towards the end of March. And I thought head-banging went out with punk or heavy metal.

NB. The first round of the French Presidential elections is tomorrow and June 8th. will be on us before we can say, “Oh, no!” Remember the old saying, “Cast not a clout until May’s out.” (Some hope, but fingers tightly crossed for both!).

Lifelines: Crossing Words with Death

Dedicated to the memory of John Anthony “Tony” Platt (“Platty”)

24th. September, 1944 to 24th. February, 2017

 

I stand at the back of the chapel,

peering over the heads of those filling the pews,

your soberly clad family and friends, neighbours and workmates.

I’m fascinated by the splendid, eco-friendly isolation

of your lily-laden, wicker coffin.

 

Here I am saying my goodbyes,

39 years to the day, since my Dad’s departure.

Thoughts turn past images of picnic hampers,

past laundry days to those distant, steam-powered

journeys his pigeons made in their baskets,

cooing their fear from crops, rhythmically nodding

from dowling barred apertures.

How apt it would have been to send Dad off

on his final chuck in one made to measure.

 

In the cellar, one of his pigeon baskets waits, ready.

Germinal: March 21st.

Way, way back in the mists of Time, somewhere between the Age of the Dinosaurs and the Early Beatles Years were the late 1950s when, in response to an English homework, I wrote my first line of poetry:

“Spring is the first season of the year”.

60 years later, I’m still at it.

Germinal: March 21st.

There’s a spring in my step, a sparkle in my eye.

Spare me half a minute and I’ll tell you just why.

I’m not the sort of bloke who yearly goes bonkers

for Autumn’s mellow yellows with chestnuts and conkers.

I might warm to the flame that fresh snow engenders

but it soon turns to slush, so I turn to “East Enders”.

 

I can just about cope with heat waves ‘cos they’re rare,

but not livid pink of that sun-scorched flesh bare.

With that, like today, back to March 21st.

If you’re still bearing with me, you’re over the worst,

for the gleam in my eye and the bounce in my gait

are caused by these wonders I’m about to relate:

 

Spring’s herald, the snow drop, first snaps into focus,

is very soon followed by gaudy, brash crocus.

Then tall, jaunty daff and self-conscious narcissus,

each nods its head skywards in frustrated kisses.

The catkins, precocious, lets dangle lambs’ tails

which toss to and fro in the blustering gales,

 

whilst shy pussy willows its pollen provides

to impoverished bees as they search the hedge-sides.

In neighbouring fields, frisky lambs in their pairs

bleat, run up to suckle once Mum’s checked they are hers.

It’s too soon for the round-bellied cows to give birth,

but it won’t be long now from the size of their girth.

 

The hawthorns are budding. There’s a faint haze of green.

Through the brown of the ploughed fields, winter corns not yet seen.

The dawn chorus is strengthened by migrants’ return,

yet deep in our hearts for the swallows we yearn.

One more week, now Spring’s here, we’ll put forward the clocks

and roll out a green carpet for vernal equinox!

Thank You, Phil

Stu’s a dab hand with rhyming couplets. Here’s his quick fire response to the above tribute:-

Thank You, Phil

Yes, still batting on, but been dropped twice

(Butterfingers paid the price)

And I’ve survived shouts of “Howzat?”,

Though some were plumb and missed the bat.

I could have been out for a duck,

but we all need a little luck.

That luck has to be wearing thin

and now the weather’s closing in.

So what I intend to do is

pin my hopes on Duckworth Lewis.