Homing

When he bought the first birds
home, and left them gently cooing
in a cage in our living room
mum was livid –
‘better not make a mess on my carpet’

He held one, passive in his hefty hands,
smoothing down the feathers
with his thumb. He passed it to me like a prize.
It was light and soft as sponge cake.

He cut up a cupboard to make a loft.
Replacing the roses in the garden.
Painted dove in that grey town,
It stood out like a tanner in a sweeps ear’ole’,
as dad would say.

We ferried the birds to their palatial home,
where the sun pearled their feathers,
and through the grill
they could watch the sky
and hear the taunts of the thieving sparrows.

Our fleet grew,
and on Saturdays they raced and flew
for miles, and almost always
found their way home because
of my determined rattle of a tin of grain.

I would watch the flock
circle as they spied their palace
between the dull bricks of London.
Dad won rosettes, well, his pigeons did.
Displayed them on the living room wall.

Mum complained about them
gathering dust. More often I had her to myself
and we snuggled on the sofa watching
Corrie on the telly before bed.

While at the pigeon club in the pub
Dad spent the evening getting drunk
and softly cooing at the barmaid,
holding the bird in his hefty hands.

Before long, those homing pigeons were gone.

And so was dad.

The Mother Ship

I was the vessel
that ferried them to this world.
They travelled in economy,

limbs contorted,
while I billowed through the months,
growing my curious cargo.

Wedged inside the hold
they didn’t want to leave.
Wouldn’t disembark.

They saw first light
through a porthole carved
in that cramped cabin.

Then were hauled out,
two pink slippery shrimp
complaining loudly.

My bow adrift
I bled a galaxy of tears,
while alien life lay mewling in my harbour.

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.

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.

Dolling up Grand Aunt Mary

When she came
we painted her eyes
with shadows.
We pinched her cheeks
until they ripened,
and slicked on a clown smile
with a bright honeyed stick.

We wove black ribbons
through her grey red hair,
and sharpened her nails
with the roughest emery.
We draped feathers around that
withering neck
and told her she looked like a film star
from the forties.

She endured our ministrations
with tight lipped patience.
Too gracious to grumble,
too refined to complain.
Afterwards she’d nibble biscuits
and sip sweet tea
through the cockles of her
clown mouth.
Then, wiping crumbs away, would say
‘Now children, go and play.

Moving

How do you weigh a house?
The bricks and mortar, tiles and chimneys?
No doubt those guards are weighty.
Surely include the landscaped garden,
its drooping flowers,
and heavy seed heads?
The shrubs, the herbs in pots?
The ponds?
The lolly stick crosses of long missed pets?

The contents are substantial.
Soft sofas and chairs
Imprinted with cosy evenings,
tables laden with feasts,
wardrobes full of outdated fashion,
beds crumpled with comfortable passion.

Oh, and the books. The shelves,
and shelves, of books.

How do you weigh a house,
where thoughts expanded,
where children left their giggles in corners,
where the halls still echo with the stamps
and slamming doors of angry love?
Where images of daily living in the living room
never fade?

A house where you can still find pine needles
In the carpets of Christmas pasts,
and there are still stars on the ceiling,
stuck there on a little girl’s whim.
Where hugs and waves and tears
tarnished the front door
after you said ‘I’ll be back soon’.

How do you weigh a house
that is at once so empty
and yet
so full?

A Simple bit of Nostalgia

Still struggling with time management here, not least because I spend half of it procrastinating, but hey ho.  It’s made much worse this week because we are having a new kitchen fitted very soon.  In fact they are coming to gut the current one on Friday, so I’ve had to start emptying it out and packing up.

I find it quite incredible how much kitchen related stuff we have accumulated over the years.  Like everyone else, we have umpteen used-just-the-once gadgets tucked at the back of cupboards – a potato peeler, a spiralizer, a waffle maker… you know the sort of thing, the sort that seemed a good idea at the time.  I’ve also got bowls and pots my mother gave me when she was clearing out, and which I can’t believe I have some sort of sentimental feelings over – for goodness sake, they’re just stuff!  But I did find a glass dishy type thing (I have no idea what to call it) which was used to display cucumber slices at Sunday tea-time when I was a kid.  Gosh it did bring back some memories!

Our Sunday teas were sit down at the table affairs, and most weeks would consist of sea food and salad.  Dad would have picked up the sea food from the stall outside the pub when he went for his Sunday lunchtime beer(s). There were always prawns, winkles, cockles and sometimes fresh scampi, which I have never seen since those days. The salads were different then too. Not the mixed up colourful affairs of today, oh nooo.  The cucumber had its own dish, the celery would be standing sentry like in a vase, the lettuce would be in one bowl, the tomatoes in another, and we’d pile our plates with the individual bits and pieces, and no, of course there was no fancy dressings just a splosh of salad cream if we were feeling fancy.

While we were eating ‘Sing Something Simple’ would be on the radio (I should point out this was the year of the Beatles White Album which my sister and I would have much preferred to have been listening to (actually I lie, I would have preferred to be listening to the Monkees :/))Of course, when I recalled that I just had to look it up on youtube (what can’t you find on youtube??)  So now you can grab yourself a boring salad, find a pin to winkle out your winkles (if you don’t know what I mean I expect you can find that on youtube too) settle down, relax, and join me listening to some old tunes from 1968!  There’s no meaningless chatting, no ads, no callers, just a bit of harmonising… quite soothing in the current mad climate!  Enjoy 🙂

Teeunes on Teeuesday

Yes, I’m in a music mood today. Although not sure this entirely counts as music.  They were talking about this record on the radio this morning and I hadn’t heard it for absolutely ages. So I gave it a listen on youtube and found it to be still completely relevant. Ok, I’m not in the class of ’97 but most of this advice is spot-on.

Actually, we have an unexpected scorcher of a day here today, so it’s even more apt!  Have a listen and you’ll see… oh, and always wear sunscreen…  Have a lovely day x 🙂

The age gap?

We had my brother-in-law and his family over on Sunday.  They don’t come very often, and it is lovely to see them, but we do have to brace ourselves a bit for our big, boisterous, and loud eight year old nephew’s visits.

His sister, who turned twelve on Saturday (happy birthday to the fabulous Miss V) tends to sit and stare at her laptop with her earphones on for most of the time.  Goodness knows how addicted she’ll be in a couple of years time, but as my brother-in-law once commented ‘you shouldn’t poke a sleeping tiger.’

Anyhoo, my nephew’s energy levels are something to behold, in fact, I think he got Miss V’s share. He bounces around begging us to play with him.  Anything physical, it doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s by his rules. He is in the school rugby team and likes nothing better than a ‘bundle’.  Sunday was a hot ‘un and really not conducive to running around much, but despite his endless complaints about the heat, it didn’t stop him.

By tea time we’d all had a go at tennis, or cricket, or throwing balls, or chasing, tickling, whatev’s and were fairly tired of it. The dog had hidden.

Bored by our needing to replenish with tea and cake, he begged his dad to play with him.

‘I’m tired, I’m too old.’ Said my brother-in-law.

Now, I was the oldest adult there, by several years. I am positively ancient, but one thing I will not tolerate myself saying is ‘I’m too old’. I absolutely and completely refuse to be too old to do anything. I believe once you get in that mind set you can never crawl your sad old way out of it.

My body might not be quite what it used to be (actually it’s considerably more than it used to be, but that’s another matter…) but I still can’t quite get to grips in my head that I’m supposed to be grown up… a pensioner even, a senior citizen, a twirly (we had a bus driver friend who called all pensioners ‘twirly’s because they were always turning up with their bus passes before they were allowed to use them and asking ‘am I tooearly’ (twirly). It’s stuck!)

In my head I’m still silly me. I’m still up for adventure, having fun, adrenaline rushes, and yes, just running about and being daft and having water fights. I still want to dance wildly and sing loudly and out of tune. I want to wear clothes from young folk shops, and laugh…. laugh lots and lots.

To this end I try and keep myself a bit fit, the dancing around the kitchen helps, as does my daily walk with the dog, and of course, yoga. I also try to eat well, and enjoy food and drink without pickiness or guilt. Do you know, despite being the elder by some years, I was the only adult there on Sunday not on medication for anything, so something’s working. Maybe I’m just lucky and have good genes. 

So I advised my young nephew never to accept ‘I’m too old’ as an excuse from anybody, he’d be doing them a favour. Neither my brother-in-law, or his wife (who is some eighteen years younger than me) agreed, so aaarrgghhh…. Of course, it was me who had to get up and go run about again.

It took me most of Monday to recover 😊