POETRY PLEASE

This post is another about favourite poems, Jan Cunningham shares some of her favourites and a fond memory.

Pam Ayres
Pam Ayres website Pam Ayres (picture credit Pam Ayres Website)

 

My go to Poet (ess? who knows these days) is Pam Ayres.

When the black dog visits, when I wished I’d never got up that day, when everything goes wrong, when I keep dropping things to the point I’m screaming —-sitting down and reading a few of her poems soon has me  smiling, then giggling, often  laughing out loud and I’m cured—- for now.

Her poems are down to earth, about the every day, the small things in life, she is observant, witty and poignant. I cannot choose just a single poem, so I’ve picked two which I think demonstrates her range:

 

CASHED AT THE CASH POINT

 

My Grannie was coshed at the cash point

She had only just entered her pin

When out came the dosh

And down came the cosh!

But Gran, not a gal to give in …

 

Turned round and kneed her attacker,

Saying,” Buster, you’re  making me nervous!”

The machine on the wall,

Having witnessed it all,

Said: “Thank you for using our service”.

 

7Am Procession

Poor  old babies, row on row,

In the day care joint they go,

Strangers tend them, fill their tummies,

Tuck them in instead of mummies.

 

There is one particular poem, whilst not being a favourite, haunted  me for years because of the childhood memory it evoked and because I could only remember the first four lines. This poem my Dad would recite to me when he was shaving. I would curl up in his big armchair with wooden arms and he would have his shaving mug on the mantle piece above the black lead stove and looking in the half moon mirror would lather his face and begin reciting:

 

The Sands of Dee

By Charles Kingsley

O Mary, go and call the cattle home,

And call the cattle home

and call the cattle home

Across the sands of Dee

The western wind was wild and dark with foam,

And all alone went she.

 

The western tide crept up along the sand,

And o’er and o’er the sand

And round and round the sand,

As far as eye could see,

The rolling mist came down and hid the land:

And never home came she.

 

‘O is it weed, or fish, or floating hair –

A tress of golden hair

A drowned maiden’s hair

Above the nets at sea?

Was never salmon yet that shone so fair

Among the stakes of  Dee.

 

They row’d her in across the rolling foam,

The cruel crawling foam,

The cruel hungry foam,

To her grave beside the sea,

But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home,

Across the sands of Dee,

 

I sat mesmerised.

 

Jan Cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favourite Poems

A month or so back members of the Wordsmiths shared their favourite poems with the group. As an occasional feature we will publish their individual pieces, this one is by Val Chapman.

Not so much a song but more a poem

There wasn’t one particular poem that I could claim to be a favourite, so I decided to do a bit of research and still couldn’t come up with one that I enjoyed above all others.

It was when I was singing along to myself, as I do, that it occurred to me that songs were, for the most part, poems, set to music.

As I am one of those boring people who like their poetry to rhyme, otherwise it’s prose, this naturally opened up a lot more availability, which I am not altogether sure was a good thing, as I am hopeless at making decisions.

 

However, these two struck a chord (if you pardon the pun) for different reasons.

 

“It would never have worked,” I like as it seems to be taking the reader down one path, then veering off down another unexpected one, and finally, down yet another.

 

“Love song,” I can barely get through without a lump in my throat. I am sure this resonates with so many of our, though perhaps more so, the previous generations when feelings were often hard to express.

— Just a quick note,   I don’t know whether it is just a northern expression, but the words “I was tight” indicates a somewhat over-enjoyment of an alcoholic nature! —–

This one in particular came as a bit of a surprise, as they were both written by the same very talented writer, known more for her humour, and this poem is an unexpected offering from her I think.

 

They were written in 1978 (love song)

1987 (It would never have worked)

By the wonderful Victoria Wood.

Victoria Wood.jpg

Victoria Wood (Photo Credit Wikipedia)

 

IT WOULD NEVER HAVE WORKED

 

It’s over,

We missed the bus,

Nice idea, but not for us,

We didn’t click, let’s make it quick and say goodbye,

Don’t hold my hand,

And don’t demand a reason why.

No loving looks, no fond regards,

Tonight was always on the cards.

 

I wanted champagne and roses,  ’cause that’s the way I am,

You gave me vimto,

Tinned carrots,

And spam.

 

I wanted love to come and knock our blocks off,

But even Venus takes her cards and clocks off.

Your idea of foreplay was to take your socks off.

Things would never have worked

 

Rapport is a thing you just can’t manufacture,

You had your pin up girl, I couldn’t match her,

I didn’t want to, it was Margaret Thatcher.

Things would never have worked.

 

I wanted moonlight, romance and all that silly tosh,

You wanted gerbils,

A whippet,

A wash.

 

I wanted love songs but you wouldn’t write them,

My earlobe nibbled, but you wouldn’t  bite them,

You’d only fart and then attempt to light them,

Things would never have worked.

 

We’re not compatible,  let’s not get blue here,

At least we see each other’s point of view dear,

I like big, hunky men and so do you dear,

Things would never have worked.

 

LOVE SONG

 

Made your breakfast this morning,

Like any old day,

Then I remembered and I threw it away

 

I found an old photo,

In a kitchen drawer.

You by the seaside,  during the war.

You were laughing at something,

With the wind in your hair,

You were ever so slim then, and your hair was still fair.

 

And I wanted to kiss you,

But you always laughed,

And I wanted to tell you,

But I felt daft.

 

Still, we got married,

I was tight,

We both got embarrassed, played rummy all night

 

I remember the baby, and it’s sticky out ears,

But I can’t single out things,

Over the years.

 

On Woman’s surgical, sat by your bed,

I knew that I loved you,

But I never said.

 

I brought you Black Magic,

And they said you’d died,

I had a cup of tea there,

Came home and cried.

 

Got to go back to the hospital to collect your things,

Your nightie, your glasses, your wedding ring

 

Made your breakfast this morning,

Like any old day,

Then I remembered  and I threw it away.

 

Thank you Val, I find that every time I read Love Song I get something in my eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas past

The Memory of Christmas past
Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on Pexels.com

This post is by Val Chapman a reminiscance of her childhood Christmas.

It was never going to be the same again. My father had died suddenly just 3 months ago and although the festive season was upon us, I was feeling somewhat less than cheery.

It made matters worse that it was his birthday on Christmas Eve, and so it seemed that I had been dealt a double blow. The shops seemed to be full of things that dad would have loved to have received. Usually it was a struggle to find suitable gifts for my dad, after all, what do you get the man who has everything?  Knowing my dad would appreciate the joke, one year I found the answer to that question and gave him a bottle of antibiotics!

Of course it wasn’t just me.

My mum was understandably devastated and although she put on a brave face, she had little to no interest in anything.

My children, her grandchildren, were a godsend to us both on those dark days, and made us both realise that life does indeed go on.

I am now at the same age my mother was when she was widowed, and I took some ‘me time’ for a little reminiscing.

“It’s ok, I’ve got my gloves. Let’s get going.”

I looked up at my dad and took his hand.

“See you later mam”

We both gave her a kiss and she shushed us out of the house before turning back to busy herself with the Christmas dinner preparation.

This was our usual routine on Christmas morning. My mum sending us off to my Nana’s house, while she peeled potatoes, chopped carrots, made Yorkshire puddings and did everything that made for a perfect Christmas dinner.

I found out years later that mum had always regretted that decision, declaring that “children should not be taken away from their toys at Christmas”. One reason why she never let me bring my children to visit at Christmas. Oh it would have been very different if we had lived close to one another, and could have just popped round for a couple of hours, but as it was it was a 6-7 hour round trip, it meant at least one night’s stay.

A trip we did every 2-3 months, except at Christmas. The very time when families are supposed to be together. So why didn’t they come to us?

Well, mum once again declared that ” you would all have a much better time without us getting in the way”.

I can’t deny it hurt a little at the time, but she was a bit of a ‘home-bird’ and hated travelling. Nor can I deny that actually, she did have a point!

So, there we were, dad and I walking the two miles or so to my grandparents house. Dad didn’t drive, probably couldn’t have afforded a car even if he did, and of course, there were no busses on Christmas day.

I never minded, it always seemed to be snowing, but that is probably just my wishful thinking, and I was spending time with my dad.

I was definitely a ‘daddy’s girl’, and he in turn adored me.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mum too. She was amazing, wonderful and a credit to her firm but fair miners daughter upbringing.

We walked down the path which runs alongside the semi-detached houses, and borders the playing field. Looking across this field we could see the sea, grey and threatening as it usually was at this time of year..

Before long we were at the main road. There were a few people about, often children who had just had a new bike from Santa, determined to ride despite the snow.

We walked beside the road for about a mile until we reached the railway crossing.

It was a place my father knew well. For all of his working life he had been at the docks and spent part of that time riding on the wagons which transported coal from one of the local pits to the docks where it was loaded onto ships to end up who knew where.

Crossing over the line, it was a fairly easy walk to my Nana’s house, past the Londonderry Arms where they were probably getting ready for another busy Christmas, and then turning right, with our destination straight ahead, just before the local working men’s club. A place where later my grandad, at the age of 97, and the oldest member, would be the guest of honour at its re-opening.

There were already some cousins there and we children delighted each other with stories of what Santa had left for us, and handing out presents for my Nana and grandad.

We didn’t seem to have been there for very long before we had to leave for home, with a promise that I would be good for my mum. We always took home a box of liquorice all-sorts, a gift to my dad from his in-laws.

Dad was the only son-in-law who was handed a present at Christmas. It was given by way of a “thank you” for the little jobs he did for them, fixing the toaster, putting up shelves, plumbing in a washing machine when the old twin tub gave up the ghost, that sort of thing.

As the ‘favoured’ son-in-law, my dad was also given the job of ‘first foot’ on New year’s Eve, being ushered out of the house before midnight and with a lump of coal for luck in his hand ready to re-enter once the church bells had struck. So whilst the rest of us were laughing and celebrating in the warmth, poor dad was outside, freezing cold and on his own.

Dad checked that I had fastened my coat up properly and we said our goodbyes and set off for home.

The terraced houses lining our route, normally blackened thanks to the coal dust which settled on the walls, took on a beautiful festive look with glittery snow settling on the tops of garden gates and privet hedges.

Getting back to the warmth of home and the welcoming smell of Christmas, the celebrations could start properly for our little family. Playing, eating, watching television. More or less just as I do today.

I often wonder what my Nana would think if she could see the piles of presents my grandchildren woke up to on Christmas morning. Would she be proud that her family were doing so well that they could afford all of these gifts, or horrified at the expense and ‘show’? I have no way of knowing obviously, but I suspect it would be the latter.

 

So yes, in a way, Christmas isn’t the same. But in many ways, thanks to children and grandchildren, it hasn’t changed very much, and I still love it, almost as much

 

Val Chapman