Horse

I was only young,
eleven, twelve,
when the old brown horse
turned up on some bombed-out land near home,
its big soft snout snuffling
over the fence searching for sugar.

I lived in a brown town
punctuated by red buses,
not a place for country creatures.
No sweet greens,
just scratchy weedy, unknown things
to graze. No dapples, just
blocks of shade.

Skipping to school with sticky hands
I stopped each day at that wasted land
where the horse shone
and softly took the treat,
then thanked me with a stroke
of his conker coat.

Until we knew each other.
He always waited and watched
at the right o’clock
and greeted me,
delighted,
I named him ‘Horse’.
He knew me as ‘sugar lump girl’

One day the land was waste no more.
The builders came and built some flats
where old Horse once stood
and waited,
waited.

Genes

There’s mum grinning
in the meringue dress
that was kept in a box in the attic,
until it turned as yellow
as this old photo.

Dad stands rigid beside her
in someone else’s Sunday suit.
The bridal party
smile, captured in sepia.

Four full ranks of youthful family
shoulder to shoulder,
staring into the timeless lens.
Yet time took them.

Now all those happy folk
are a confetti of dust,
fertilising the flowers
with their boney minerals.

A blood bouquet,
bound with apron strings,
to be thrown to the next generation
for use in marriage.

Drama Queen

I met my husband at an amateur dramatics group nearly 40 years ago.  We fell in love during a production of Charley’s Aunt, got engaged while rehearsing for Middle Age Spread, and got married post What the Butler Saw.  This was over the course of three or four years, and including these plays, we were doing at least two productions a year – mostly performing, but sometimes working backstage. Working alongside a group of like-minded folk to produce something entertaining, and as top-notch as am-dram can be, was, I remember, fun, but also, hard work, frustrating and nerve-jangling,

When I got pregnant with twins we decided, quite rightly, that we couldn’t commit to gruelling rehearsals and set building any longer and hung up our make-up bags.  Neither of us have acted since.

Well, that’s changing.  You may know we moved, nearly a year ago now, and have begun building a new life some 200 miles away from the old one.  We left lots of good friends behind who we miss terribly.  We belonged to various groups: art group; poetry group; writers group, yoga class…. (gosh we sound a bit dull… but they were all fun… honestly!) and now we’ve lost all that.  So we had to go out and find some new way of belonging, and the best fit for us locally seemed to be the local amdram group.

‘It’ll be fun’ we said

‘like the old days’ we said

So we joined.

The people in the group are lovely and we’ve been attending the socials and readings and have now been given parts in a one act play which is part of the next production.

Aaaaggghhh……. I don’t think I thought this through….   I’ve only got a small part, but there are lines to learn, cues, and remembering to be in the right place at the right time.  My brain is forty years older.  I can’t even remember how to remember lines.  And….. and wait for it…. I have to sing! Alright, the character is not supposed to be a good singer (I can do that bit), but I’ve never had to sing on stage before, and it has to be a song from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the one blooming musical in the world that I’ve never seen! (I’ve been watching bits on youtube… my goodness its dire!)

Dear god, what am I thinking!  Currently we’re rehearsing twice a week, and yes, it is fun, and the play is funny (well, makes me laugh).  But I do feel a bit like the weakest link.

Lets get this straight, I’m not, and have never been, a talented actress. Not naturally talented, I have to work, think it through. I am rubbish at accents. It takes time for me to get it right.  My husband on the other hand has a natural talent that everyone recognises (hence his immediate leading role!). He can employ any accent at the drop of a hat.   

I know my limitations.  But 40 years ago I was getting leading roles, and my nerves didn’t get the better of me (not too often anyway) and I enjoyed the challenge.   Now, I must get over this inner panic, put my big girl pants on, stop being a drama queen, and learn to love the spotlight again.  So I’m off to learn my lines, and exercise my vocal chords…..  ‘Oh the banyard is busy, in a regular tizzy…………….’

Cast of Middle Age Spread, Ashtead Players, circa 1983
Me and Him, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Polesden Lacey Open Air Theatre, 1984
Time and the Conways, Ashtead Players, circa 1985
Me and Him as Arthur and Sybil in Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, Ashtead Players, circa 1985

Knitting

I grew up to the sound of needles
click clacking through my childhood
like nanna’s loose teeth.
My mother’s fast fingers
manipulated wool,
turning it from a wayward ball
into scratchy sweaters
far from the cosy swaddle
of soft baby blankets.

She fashioned me a swimsuit
in blush pink
which the North Sea sucked at
while I paddled
and splashed and squealed.
I emerged almost bare
initially unaware that the wool,
heavy with brine,
sagged around my skinny knees.

Tears laddered my face
like dropped stitches.
Sniggering kids
in their 10 bob nylon suits
pointed, while mum tiptoed
across the sticks and stones
of Brighton Beach
to shield me in betowelled arms.

My protests never stopped her knitting
lace garters for my wedding day,
blankets for nuptial nights,
and bonnets for new babies.

Now here I am,
alone, in silence,
sifting through a box
full of sixties models
smiling from the dog-eared
patterns of memories.

Picture the Taj Mahal

My apologies.
When I took the photo
I didn’t notice the dusty
bare rump of the beggar boy
squatting in the left-hand corner.

I was busy looking at the view.
The pearly light reflecting
from the white marble
at sunrise
is quite something.

Of course, there are hordes
of tourists at that time of day.
Tiny people with cameras
all gaping up at the magnificence
through their lenses.

Me, I crossed the river
to get a better picture.
Get the whole thing in.
But, don’t worry,

I’ll cut the kid.
Photoshop him out.

Learn to Fly in Four Easy Steps

After ‘Gravity is the Thing’ by Jaclyn Moriarty

Step 1 – Start small.
Just jump over a small obstacle,
no more than a few inches above the ground.

Maybe you don’t see that as flying
But as long as your feet leave the earth
it’s a start. I wouldn’t recommend flapping
your arms, it draws attention.

It’s mainly the landing you need to master.
Absorb the impact.

Step 2 – Once you have gained confidence
you could try jumping up from a chair.
Now you need more focus, look for the currents.

Watch birds on thermals, see how they
glide, sliding easily through the air, relaxed
and fearless.

You may not think it necessary
to concentrate at this point. After all, jumping
from a chair is child’s play. But beware of uneven ground
it can cause a crash.

Step 3 – Don’t forget to fill your lungs
With good clean air, it will help with lift.

Study the branches of the nearest tree.
See how even the smallest leaves sway
in the merest breeze.
Sway to that same rhythm.

Remember how birthday balloons catch the air and float away.
Imagine how it feels to float and view the earth
from a great height.

Balance.
Let your arms rise.
Try and touch a cloud.

Step 4 – Now lay on freshly mown grass.
Gaze up at the vastness and fill your senses
With the wonders of the sky.

Close your eyes.
Breathe in freshness
Feel the earth beneath you.
Become aware of the lightness of you.

Let yourself go.

Fly.