Storm Coming

Storm Coming

They said a storm was coming,
and not a moment too soon.
The garden drinks thirstily,
the birds, shaken from their roosts,
ride in advance,
their cloaked consorts,
robed in capes
of jackdaw feathers,

swooping first over arid soil
and shrivelled roots,
twisted beneath uniform
country lane hedgerows.

A woman stands at a window,
flinching every time
the current finds voice.

She loses her nerve
and battens down.
The windows rattle
like a dead man's bones.

She is an ogham script,
read from bottom to top.
In the scattered ash,
a dog howls, lost.


©AJM

Mongrel Nation

St. George’s Day again. I tried to reblog my original post that I did on this day, two years ago, but think that I can only reblog a post once? Anyway, the highlighted, following title should take you to it. It is about St.George, St.Aidan, Ancestry, History, DNA, and what it means now for me to be English, or rather, British, or rather, African. Go figure. Mongrel Nation.

UTS (Up The Shakers!)

You guys know I’m a Manchester City fan, right? I think I may have mentioned it once or twice. I’m used to watching a Premier League team, with Premiership players earning Premiership salaries. You can experience the very best in hospitality and food, the very best in entertainment. These days it is a day out for some people, the football is almost an added extra.

Well last night I went to watch another local team: Bury. Recently their match against Southend United was abandoned because of the state of the pitch, due to a sustained downpour.  It was rearranged for last night, and they declared that it would be free admittance for all supporters.

It was a fantastic gesture by a club that not so long ago nearly went out of business due to financial reasons. Life really is a struggle for the clubs at this level (they are three divisions below my City team) to exist and compete, every penny that comes through the turnstiles counts.

Locals responded, the ground was full, and the atmosphere was great (in certain respects, I think my own club has sold its soul, but that’s for another day). Unfortunately the Shakers did not get the result they were looking for, despite a host of first half chances. (They are going for promotion-winning their final three matches would guarantee it.) But much kudos to Bury.

I’ve always said that supporters of smaller clubs, such as those who follow local teams like Bury, Rochdale, and Oldham, who go week in week out in all weathers to watch their team, playing at a much lower standard than what is experienced at Premiership level, sometimes, most of the time, struggling, with few expectations of glory, are real football supporters. They refuse to jump onto the bandwagon of headline-hitting larger neighbours, in this case Manchester City and Manchester United, and remain loyal to their team and true to their hearts, finding their spiritual home in small, ramshackle stadiums of limited facilities but great camaraderie.

They still have the romance.

Good luck Bury, I hope you go up.

UTS !

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Note To Self: Never, Ever, Again

Saturday, and the sun was out. Manchester drew all of us to her with false promises and sales bait.

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My wife, son and I threw ourselves foolishly into the throng. If there was to be any trouble this day, my son had the Arndale covered, patrolling ahead in his army get up. Cute eh? Sure. So far, so good.

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As the day drew on, we decided to split up.

That’s how it all began. Just like one of those movies where a group of youths are being stalked by a homicidal maniac, and they decide to split up as you yell “Stick together for God’s sake, stick together!”

Jen took James with her to buy him some trainers, while I was given free reign to lose myself in Waterstones. An hour later I emerged with a book containing a dialogue between the Pope and a Rabbi. I was curious to see if I got a mention. If you should get yourself a copy, and the subjects are arranged alphabetically, try to remember that Jackdaw comes shortly after Devil.

Now came the tricky part- the time to meet up again. We were both in our home city, both of us with mobiles fully charged and with credit. Easy, yes?

Wanna bet?

The barrage of texts began:

Me: I’m out now. Where are you?

Jen: We are in Subway having a drink. We’ve still to get the trainers yet.

Me: Okay, tell me where you are in about fifteen minutes.

The clock ticked. The Fates chuckled.

Jen: Got trainers. Will meet you at that cafe in the Arndale.

I waited a while. The Fates now eyed my empty apple juice bottle. I moved on.

Jen: Here now. Where are you?

Me: I came out as I finished my drink. I’m in HMV, upstairs, near to where you are.

I foolishly expected her to come up to me.

Jen: I’ll go somewhere else.

Now that makes sense. Later:

Me: Where are you now?

Jen: Debenhams.

Debenhams? Debenhams? Where the Hell was Debenhams? I had to think a minute. It’s outside-yes, definitely. Debenhams was not inside the Arndale. I made my way out onto Market Street, blinking in the bright light. Now-which way? Left or right? I was beginning to get a bit tetchy. I waited a few minutes, calming down while listening to this guy on his pan pipes.

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He drew quite an appreciative audience, until a woman set up some speakers and blew him away with some rap-techno-I’m too old to understand this shit-thing. It was symbolic of my afternoon. The piper packed up.

I wandered further up Market Street, phone still in hand and ready to stab. Then I spotted it: Debenhams. Hallelujah. I wandered in: more than one floor, great. We began the dance again.

Me: I’m in Debenhams. What floor are you on?

Jen: Come back out, I’m outside TK Maxx.

I was seriously starting to get pissed off.

Me: Where’s that?!

No reply straight away. The day grew hotter. Grip on the phone got tighter.

I think I know where that is. I re-emerged onto the street. I trudged up to the corner, dodging the people who seemed set on a collision course with me. Rounded the bend to where the shop was. Sharp intake of breath: THAT’S NOT TK MAXX, THAT’S FUCKING PRIMARK! Cue very fast and hard typing:

Me: Where’s that????

Jen: Out of Debenhams, straight towards the Arndale. It’s on your right.

THIS IS MY BLEEDING HOME CITY WHERE I’VE LIVED ALL MY BLEEDING LIFE!

I moved down. Teeth clenched. Snorting through my nose. No sign.

Jen: I mean the left.

I dropped my bags all dramatically, then picked them up again. It made me feel better. I turned to the left. I saw her, gazing searchingly through the crowds, James looking like he would need reviving  right there on the floor where he was slumped.

I was tempted, really tempted, for one final round:

Me: Meet me near the flats over the road from The Angel pub.

Jen: Whereabouts?

Me: Twelfth floor.

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War And Words

I have just finished reading Goodbye To All That, the autobiography of writer and poet Robert Graves, up to 1929. In it he talks of meeting other writers such as Thomas Hardy, Wilfred Owen, and, in more depth, Siegfried Sassoon. Of most interest, though, is his account of the time he served as an officer in the First World War.

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He speaks of the horrors of war:

“…I went along whistling ‘The Farmer’s Boy’, to keep up my spirits, when suddenly I saw a group bending over a man lying at the bottom of the trench. He was making a snoring noise mixed with animal groans. At my feet lay the cap he had worn, splashed with his brains. I had never seen human brains before; I somehow regarded them as a poetical figment. One can joke with a badly-wounded man and congratulate him on being out of it. One can disregard a dead man. But even a miner can’t make a joke that sounds like a joke over a man who takes three hours to die, after the top part of his head has been taken off by a bullet fired at twenty yard’s range.”

There is also the tragi-comic, such as the soldier who wanted a ‘cushty’ wound that would get him sent back home to England:

“…so he waves his hand above the parapet to catch Fritz’z attention. Nothing doing. He waves his arms about for a couple of minutes. Nothing doing, not a shot. He puts his elbows on the fire-step, hoists his body upside-down, and waves his legs about till he gets blood to the head. Not a shot did old Fritz fire. “Oh,” says the Munster man, “I don’t believe there’s a damn square-head there. Where’s the German army to?”  He has a peek over the top-crack! He gets it in the head. Finee.”

Graves talks of the superstition among the men, and how he himself saw the ghost of a friend who saluted him through a window, who unknown to the author had been killed some time previous. He also tells how Sassoon distinguished himself by single-handedly taking an enemy frontage in daylight, but then instead of signalling for reinforcements, sat down in the German trench and started reading a book of poetry he had taken with him. His furious Commanding Officer said he’d have gotten him a D.S.O (Distinguished Service Order award) if he’d only shown more sense.

This is a good book and a timely read, what with all of the First World War anniversaries occurring around this time.

I have also picked up some more books from the Penguin Modern Classics range: some Capote, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Stegner, to add to those I already have.

Could there be a greater collection of books out there?

Arthur

Andy:

Thought I would reblog this after a discussion on here with another blogger about Arthur.

Originally posted on City Jackdaw:

I love learning about the various legends, myths, folklore and traditions of the British Isles.

No story has endured, or captured the imagination, as that of King Arthur. The image that holds today is the romanticised, medieval invention-the good  King and his chivalrous knights of the round table, based in the fantastical court of Camelot.

I have read a few books about Arthur, and he seems to have been claimed by just about everybody-the Welsh,the English,the Scottish, even the Croatians. It reminds me of how you can read countless books about Jack the Ripper- every learned author goes over the same material and then pushes a different suspect as the final unmasking of the unidentified killer.

I have just finished reading another book on Arthur-Christopher Hibbert’s King Arthur. I agree with his conclusion, shared by many, that the legendary Arthur that we are acquainted with today is based upon a real…

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And The Clock Ticks On

My daughter turned eight years old today. On greeting her and wishing her ‘Happy Birthday’ this morning, she told me that she said a prayer last night in bed:

“Thank you for being seven, and thank you for all my remembers.”

I loved that last bit-thank you for all my remembers. Her way of summing up the past twelve months of her life, all of the memorable moments in the cavalcade of chronological events.

The other day I was watching her younger brother James from the kitchen window. He was out in the garden, studying a bird perched in a tree above him. He was serious and rapt, the hint of the handsome man he will be painted there on his face, and I found myself confessing a sad, wistful thought to myself:

I wish I was younger.

I have four children, and their arrival into the world was spaced out sufficiently enough to allow me to remain young, in outlook and character. My first daughter came along when I was almost twenty-six years old. Another daughter arrived when I was almost thirty. A third girl came into my life when I was thirty-five, and lastly a son when I was thirty eight. My relationship with all four is different in an age-appropriate way, but always having a young child has encouraged me to be daft and playful and juvenile in my behaviour with them.

James is now four years old. Being the youngest, in my moribund flights of fancy I worry about how old he will be when I finally bow out of this life. Putting aside any fears for myself, I hope that he will be well into adulthood by then. He has so much ahead of him. I wonder about the things in his life that I will miss out on.

Always reflective, I look at all four of my children and ask myself “Just what does life hold in store for you?” The good, the bad, the parts I will see, the parts that I won’t. The adults they will become, the descendants yet to arrive. The roots they will lay and the legacies they will found.

I can only hope life treats them well, and gives them many, good, remembers.

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