Monday, 16 May 2022

My Contented Cat - A Haiku by Susie Field

 


My bundle of fur

Relaxed and softly purring

Warm and so content.

 

Logs burn and crackle

She savours every moment

Basking in the warmth.

 

Stretching lazily

Without a care in the world

A life to envy.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Come on Mother’s Washing Day by Vivien Teasdale

 kitchen utensils on stone washing station

The past couple of years have changed so much in our world: the way we readily don masks in crowded places, keep our distance or use hand wipes and gel. Many work from home and families are often doing more activities together than before. People moan about not being able to do this or that, about price rises that mean no more Netflix or days out in the car. It made me think of how life used to be, particularly for women.

    Back in the days when marriage meant the immediate loss of a job and the expectation that a wife would stay at home to became the ‘homemaker’ or simply a housewife, they always had a plan. Not a plan to escape or paint the town red some day (though I expect many did just that) but a practical, no-nonsense Yorkshire woman’s plan for the week.

    Come rain or shine, Monday was washing day. Shine was no problem. Just get it done, outside and blowing in the wind; in the yard if possible, but often across the street, just as all the neighbours did. But rain meant every room, every potential hanging surface was called into play for all those little, unimportant things like the husband’s shirts.

    Everything else went on the creel, hoisted like Nelson’s colours above the fire to dry. What didn’t fit there had to be displayed on chair backs, turned to face the fire so visitors sat watching themselves in the mirror or staring at the three ducks flying forever across the wall. Kitchens and living rooms were damp and smelt of soap, washing blue and starch.

    Tuesday meant ironing. The well-brought-up ladies sprinkled water on the iron to check the temperature; lesser folk simply spat at the plate and watched the bubbles sizzle. Once electricity came along, irons could be plugged, very dangerously, into the light socket, the lead hanging down above the ironing board. Everything came off the creel to be tortured with the instrument and everything went back up to air until it was folded into the relevant drawers.

    Wednesday was cleaning, scattering water over the carpets to keep the dust down before sweeping up. Anything small enough had the dirt loosened by being shaken vigorously, larger items such as rugs would be hung over a rope outside and beaten with a wicker bat.

    Thursday meant baking, stretching whatever food was left in the house into meat and vegetable puddings or hedgerow pies (which got their name from the collection of herbs and vegetation out of the hedgerow to provide extra taste) for tea. For many, it was case of bread and jam or the delights of bread and dripping. Tripe or blocks of cold, cooked rice dipped in batter and fried might be their only sustenance on this dreadful day of the week.

    Friday was pay day! Sitting in the counting house to decide whether Peter or Paul should be paid this week and dividing up the coins into labelled tins, ready for the rentman to arrive or perhaps the man from the Pru to collect the meagre premiums that might produce a small bonus one day.

    The weekend was marginally easier. Shopping on Saturday for a good Sunday lunch. A joint, bought as late in the day as possible, because then the price would be reduced to clear the butcher’s stock. Of course, few houses had refrigerators in those days so couldn’t keep meat for long anyway. There was just a cold slab of marble or stone in the pantry to help the meat remain edible until needed. Then there were the eggs and milk for the inevitable Yorkshire pudding, eaten before, with or after the main meal according to taste, and, if you were lucky, a fruit sponge and custard for tea on Sunday.

    Not one day of rest for the ‘angel in the house’. And then it all started again, like a fairground roundabout. We have such a lot to be thankful for, these days.

Monday, 2 May 2022

Canalside - Part 1 by Dave Rigby


A wisp of smoke from the barge chimney, soon lost in the mist above. Frost-scarred windows. The boat’s name partly obscured by the rime.

On the roof, a bike that’s seen better days, a stack of roughly-chopped logs, two solar panels, dead plants in red pots, coils of rope.

The young man’s fleece is far too thin for the cold early morning. He shivers. But if you’d asked him, he’d have told you it wasn’t the temperature that was giving him the shakes. The sight had affected him much more than he could have imagined. After all, wasn’t he supposed to be a hard nut? And with his record, going to the police wasn’t an option.

Hands deep in pockets, he crosses the old stone bridge and walks briskly away from the waterway.

Every winter Harrison wonders why he stays on the barge. Even with the blackened stove roaring, it’s difficult to keep warm. But he knows perfectly well there are no other options. And the life has two great advantages. It’s cheap and … as long as speed is not a requirement … he can move on at a moment’s notice.

Out with the dog, he tries running to generate some warmth, but the dodgy knee plays up again. Even brisk walking is difficult. The dog is pleased, hates moving at anything faster than a slow amble punctuated by frequent favourite-aroma stops.

But today, one of the dog’s calling points is covered… by a body.

Harrison almost decides to walk on. If he makes the phone call, he’ll be tied up for ages – might even be under suspicion! He hesitates and rubs his arms vigorously. Staring distractedly towards the opposite bank, his gaze is met by a heron, statuesque in the shallow water. With lazy movements the bird takes off and flies languorously towards the next lock.

Watching its flight, Harrison comes to a decision and searches for his very un-smart phone. Combat trousers and jacket present him with far too many choices of pocket. He’s almost disappointed when he finds it. Three digits. He tells the police about the body. They ask him to wait where he is. In the cold.

Two hours later, they finally leave him to thaw out in the Lock 7 café, hands clamped to a large Americano, the bacon roll a fleeting pleasure, the best bits of rasher snaffled by the dog.

Belligerent. That’s the word. A half-hearted attempt to cast him as a suspect. The DC worse than the DS. Trying to earn his spurs perhaps. Word in the café is that the dead man was in his fifties, had been lying there overnight, no obvious cause of death, no ID. Although the body has now been removed, Harrison knows he won’t be walking that way again for a while.

He'd told the coppers that, apart from the dead man, he’d seen nothing, heard nothing, knew nothing. But that wasn’t quite right, was it? When he’d peered through the half-frosted barge window at first light – there’d been that lad. He’d forgotten all about him. Should he tell the police? No! They would think he’d been trying to hide something. Best keep it under his hat. It’s not as if he’d be able to give them much of a description. Late teens, medium height, medium build, dark clothing, a hoodie. Only a few hundred of them around locally.

A visit to May’s corner shop. Must be ninety if she’s a day, hairnet, housecoat, slippers, permanent cough. Stocks a bit of everything, over and under the counter. He puts the newspaper, the loaf and the soup tins into his rucksack and the medicinal-use-only substance into a zipped pocket.

It seems to have warmed up a bit and back on the barge the stove is coping well with the heat challenge. A bowl of tomato soup, two slices of toast and marg and a flick through the local rag. A pot of tea to follow. He can’t stand the teabag-in-the-mug routine.

Harrison looks up from the quick crossword, pen rattling against his teeth. A movement beyond the window catches his eye. That lad is back! How does he know it’s him out of a few hundred? Well, there’s something distinctive about the way he walks, a lope and a swinging of the arms.

Moving rapidly, Harrison puts on his own hoodie, the old biker jacket over the top, cap pulled firmly down and sets off in pursuit along the canalside, the dog on a tight lead.

Concentrating hard and struggling to keep up, he doesn’t notice the man in the grey overcoat following in his footsteps.

Monday, 25 April 2022

The Drill Sergeant's Lament by Owen Townend


She

left right

left right

left right

away.

 

I don’t know but I’ve been told

I’m rough, not ready

to be good as gold.

 

One, two.

Sound off.

Three, four.

Sound off.

Five, six.

I miss the

sound of her voice.

 

Lift your hands up to the sky

she drilled the heart of this GI.

 

If I should die in this camp,

bury me beside that tramp.

 

Her

company halts.

Monday, 18 April 2022

This, Our Country by Chris Lloyd

 


in its tiny global space
surrounded by wet
fueled by greed
of the big boys
as ordinary people
need help
support
plagued by isms
disparity of citizens
law and order
corrupt

bottom heavy
top light
an anachronism
of itself
a whale floundering
a ship grounding

what glorious
past?
its young men
conned
time
and
again
heroic lions
dead
driven to battle
into slaughter
no
they did
not stop
they died instead
what pride
but
what a price
to
pay
for land grab
by those who sat at
long tables
with strong liquor
and fat cigars
and yet those like them
still
rule
our
very existence

so
what prayer to say
to a god
that cannot hear
what futile war
will be next
prayers won’t help
they
never help reality
get a grip
we do not want
do not need
any more

Monday, 11 April 2022

Top Twenty Tunes by Dave Rigby



Eight of us standing on a suspended walkway

Staring down at the swirling waters below.

A riverside walk, followed by a canalside walk,

Followed by a couple of pints in the sunshine.

Talk of this and that.

Someone says – why don’t we each make a list of our top ten tunes?

Ten’s not enough, somebody else says. Make it twenty.

In time for the next meet-up.

It’s agreed.

We only get together every three months, so there’s bags of time.

Back home, pen and paper. Don’t overthink it. Just jot down what comes into your head first.

Good progress.

Apache by The Shadows – the first single I ever bought.

All or Nothing, Small Faces. What a voice!

I Heard it Through the Grapevine. How can you not dance to it?

Before I know it, there’s a list of thirty on my piece of paper.

And I’m not even out of the 80’s yet.

OK. A bit of pruning needed. Maybe even a lot of pruning.

That’s better. Twenty five. And now there’s even some 21st century tracks!

Tinariwen … Camelphat … that’ll show ‘em.

But hang on! What about Bob Dylan? And what was that great B52s track?

More pruning.

Then a check of the CD shelves and that box of old singles, to see what else I might have missed.

Werewolves of London!

Hong Kong Garden?

The list is re-written for the third time.

A reserve list springs out of nowhere.

Forget about don’t overthink?

I’m going to need the full three months to finalise this.

… and seconds after the list is released to critical gaze …

… there’ll be that thought …

… how could I have missed off …?

Monday, 4 April 2022

Are You Suffering from Uhtceare? by Vivien Teasdale

 

 

    Probably the answer is ‘yes’, even if you don’t know it. In fact, we’ve all suffered from it, probably since the Stone Age. It was the Old English, as against the old English person who is writing this blog, who not only suffered from it, but named it. It means ‘dawn-care’; those moments when you wake up at dawn and can’t get back to sleep because you are too busy worrying about all the things that do worry us at that time in the morning, like not being able to sleep.

    And what about that lovely word Golopshus? No, I hadn’t heard of it either, but if we lived near Norwich, we’d probably be using it all the time. “What a golopshus day it is today?”, “We had such a golopshus meal at that new restaurant last night”, and, provided the person doesn’t overhear or you know them very well, you could say, “cor, he (or she) is rather golopshus!” They might (possibly) thank you for it. It’s an old East Anglian word for luscious, delicious or splendid.

    Of course, as well as complimenting people, we could insult them by calling them a Rantipole, a Rattlecap, a Spoffy type who mixes with the Rag, Tag and Bobtail of society. No, not the cute little animals we watched with Mother (Brownie points if anyone can remember what each animal was – without Googling it!)

    In these cases, you may end up having judgement here since you would be calling your antagonist a wild, noisy fellow, a low tattered wretch, a busy-body who mixes with a crowd of low people. Definitely a court-case in the offing.

    So let’s turn to food and drink. Would we enter the portals of a restaurant that offered us Chitterlings? Not unless you have a fancy for fried entrails, which can include such delicacies as the lungs, the heart, and the organs of the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems of a sheep or pig.

    But if you did enjoy that, your next visit might make you plucky enough to try the Pluck that’s on the menu. That’s the bits that are plucked out of the chest – heart, liver and lungs. Actually, ‘lights’ is the word often used for lungs – as a child, I used to be sent off to the butchers to buy them to cook for the dog.

    Alternatively, why not try Field-lane Duck, straight from the “low London thoroughfare” of Clerkenwell. Not a bird, but a baked sheep’s head. You could follow any of these meals with a night-time glass of White Satin, otherwise known as gin. If that’s not your tipple, try some Bingo (brandy), Bottled-earthquake (Whisky), or Whitewash (Sherry). Too much, though, may leave you All Mops and Brooms, Bright in the eye or Chirping-merry.

    So many of these old words sound much more fun than modern ones. Perhaps we should bring them back, dropping them nonchalantly into our conversation: ‘I like the dress, but it’s a little Tofficky, don’t you think?’ (dressy, showy). ‘I consider all politicians are Quockerwodgers at heart.’ (politicians, whose strings of action are pulled by somebody else).

    We could also introduce it into our writing. Here’s a challenge for you. Try using any of the above – or look up new ones online, in a slang dictionary or do as I did, get a free download of “John Camden Hotten. A Dictionary of Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words / Used at the Present Day in the Streets of London; the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge; the Houses of Parliament; the Dens of St. Giles; and the Palaces of St. James” from:

     https://www.gutenberg.org/      

and browse that. Especially useful for those uhtceare moments.

Pick one or more words and produce a blog/story/poem etc for YWL based around your favourite discoveries.

  But I bag “Slantindicular”, which may well appear in my next blog. It means oblique, awry and is the opposite of perpendicular. Especially useful to know when you’ve had too much Red Fustian and are feeling decidedly Elephant’s-trunk.