Forgotten Fragments #2

from my poetry blog

Coronets For Ghosts

This period of lockdown has given me an opportunity to have a clear out, and going through old cupboards I’ve discovered scraps of paper with old lines and verses scribbled on, words either rejected at the time or forgotten. I’ve decided to share them here for posterity. Some are years old and fragmentary, some are more developed, though still rough drafts.

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Walk On, Dear Sibling

We’ve been blessed with great weather during this lockdown, For those of us that have gardens, being able to sit outside in the sunshine does help to raise the spirits. But you’ve got to feel for those people living in flats, especially high-rise flats, allowed one form of exercise a day.

This is our daily walk. My two daughters walk on ahead as my son makes it his intention to catch them up.

Sometimes it gets quite competitive. On one particular day I may walk with Millie, armed with a stopwatch, on the next with James, as they both try to beat each other’s personal best. Another day, Courtney and Millie will set off in one direction, James and I the other, and, with the route one large circular road, we end up passing each other along the way, spurring each other on with a wave and accusations of cheating.

And, if a wasp or a bee should come along, the girls end up breaking the land speed record.

Echoes Of Tears On King Street

I’ve just finished reading The Last Time I Saw Paris, which is a biography of a Parisian Street, rue de la Huchete, running from the early ’20’s to the time of World War Two. Featuring a wide cast of characters, though it’s non-fiction it reads like a novel, and I can’t remember the last time I read a book where the final words moved me so.

Anyway. There was a passage in it that reminded me of something else:

There were, in those days, certain grey-blue postcards that meant someone had been wounded or missing, and some black-rimmed white ones that spelled dark death. The women at the far end of streets would, if they saw the postman’s pouch contained no black-rimmed messages, wave and sometimes cheer with an edge of fear diminishing in their voices, and up and down the street the watchers would relax. Very often no such reassurance was forthcoming, and everyone had to wait, breath caught, nerves throbbing, until someone let out a shriek, or turned wordlessly away or dropped in her tracks and the postman wiped away a tear from his eye with the back of his hand before continuing.

I was a postman for ten years, and one of my rounds was in Cheapside, one of the oldest parts of Middleton. One of the streets there was King Street. In this photo you can see King Street, viewed from behind the cottage on Idler’s Corner, Rochdale Road, climbing ahead. If that pub on the hill is The Beehive, then this was taken before 1919, when it closed. The cottages were gone by 1925.

(Incidentally, Idler’s Corner was so called because weary travellers would stop to rest against the large York stone slabs, ‘idling’ for a time. It was directly opposite King Street.

Of course, this was well before my Royal Mail days. As was the following photograph, which lists the streets running off King Street.

This next photo, though, shows King Street as I know it.

There were no longer any houses lining the road for me to deliver to, I used it just to reach the flats that await at the top of its crest, just the odd business drop along the way.

When I used to walk up there, occasionally I would recall a story, recorded some years ago by an older resident, about a postman that had long preceded me. He was tasked, unenviably, like that postman in Paris at the beginning of this post, to deliver similar telegrams during the First World War.

Each morning, as he navigated the street, women and children would watch from behind net curtains, fearfully, waiting to see who would be the latest recipient, summoned to answer that fateful knock at the door.

Filled with a combination of dread, is he coming here?

then relief, he’s going to Maisie’s

then sadness, poor, poor Maisie

The witness told how one day the postman, having broken under the strain of this daily burden, was sat on the kerbside, sobbing, a woman from one of these houses sat silently beside him, arm around his shoulders in consolation.

I can no longer recall where it was I read this, but sometimes I would remember the story as I followed in that long-gone postman’s footsteps, climbing the hill and feeling the connection of that man and the place in which we both lived, echoes of people and homes now lost to time.

Long Black Train

Loved this. Evocative writing that deserves to be read.

HannahLearnsGrace

Trains have been a bit of a theme in my life. When I was fifteen years old, it was the first time it really became my own personal thing to feel and think about. My Dad had transformed the attic, open wooden rafters with shingle dust pouring in. Cracks in the ceiling where water drops dropped. He took it from unfinished, to a teenage girls safe haven. That’s what I called it, my safe haven. Sea-foam green walls, tapestries painted with rainbow tie-dye and the moon and the sun and the stars hanging from the ceiling. Taking turns flickering on and off throughout my teenage years were several white halo ceiling lights that were probably incorrectly wired. Speaking to my Dad’s intention to do everything he could with the very little he had. Alone in my own world of longings and wonderment, I would open up the window at night…

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33 Crows

My morning observations so far:

crow bullies jackdaw;

jackdaw bullies magpie;

magpie takes it out on any living thing in sight.

This lovely weather allows me to sit outside and watch all of this, but nobody takes it in better than my dog, Bryn, who stands on his rear haunches like one of those meerkats that grabs his attention on the tv. I think this position adds to his delusion that he can somehow reach them, that they are just extra toys with which he can play.

Watching all of these corvid shenanigans has put me in mind of 33 Crows by Kula Shaker. I was a fan of them in all their 90’s psychedelic pomp, but this is a more stripped back track, though, from their 2016 album K2.0.

You can skip the ad, if you want to, of course. Now I’m off to placate Bryn.

The Noose Tightens

This Coronavirus is no respecter of status, reputation or wealth.

The other day I heard of the death of Eddie Large, he of the famed Little and Large double-act in the 80’s. Then, this morning, I saw that Lee Fierro, who played Mrs Kintner in my favourite film, Jaws, had died.

This afternoon I was in the back garden when my wife came out to tell me that the mother of Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager, had succumbed to the virus.

And now the breaking news is that Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, has been moved to intensive care after his symptoms had tonight worsened, with Dominic Raab, the First Secretary of State, deputising. In all intents and purposes, though the government won’t label him so, he’s now the acting PM in this time of crisis.

These are all notable figures, far removed from me. But, as the situation grows, the casualty list has crept ever closer within the last two weeks.

The sister of my next door neighbour, both parents of a child from my son’s school, and several people from my wife’s workplace, have all caught the virus. Also two people known to me, (not closely, I must add), have sadly died. And a couple, again, from my wife’s place of work, have also sadly passed away.

From this new and remote illness that we were first becoming aware of several weeks ago, we’ve now reached the point where a lot of us know someone who has suffered with it.

It is a diminishing circle that, with time, in our imposed isolation, we will break. It is horrible to hear of people dying alone, away from their families because of the nature of this pandemic and the required separating of loved ones. The thirteen-year old lad who both died alone and was buried alone; the elderly woman who said goodbye to her husband through a window as the hearse stopped outside her home on its way to his last resting place; people saying goodbye to loved ones as nurses hold a phone.

My lockdown in regard to these cases holds no comparison.

Listening to the Queen’s call for self-discipline yesterday, we should hold onto the part where she echoed Vera Lynne’s popular song from the wartime 40’s:

We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.