Monday, 30 November 2015

To make bread by Andrew Shephard

Bend for the mixing bowl
patterned like our mothers’.
Fetch the wooden spoon
darkened by a thousand dhals.
Slide bees-work into water, add yeast
and watch a muddy puddle
spring to life. Keep warm.

Wait. Wash hands, splash face, brush teeth.

Add fragrant flour
gifted by the summer sun
and salt from the earth and sea.
Beat, beat, beat the batter
Til your arm says ‘no more’.

First rising. Slow movement, stretch, balance.

Add more flour for a sticky,
glutinous gloop.
Push, fold, push, fold.
until the dough submits.
Place a damp towel on its swelling crown.

Second rising. Up the hill through autumn leaves and mist.

Oil tins, light oven
form a trinity of loaves
smooth, round and sensuous
ready for the fire.

Third rising. Let thoughts arise.

Put the pieces in the kiln.
Set the timer, let the fire do its work.
Meditate, dog curled tired at your feet.

When the loaves sound like drums,
and smell of heaven,
turn out on a rack.
Cooling, cooling


Monday, 23 November 2015

November Rain by Annabel Howarth

November Rain

Umbrella, closed, in hand,
I stood in the therapy of November rain,
It pierced my repentant skin with devil's nails,
And rinsed the lines from my crumpled heart.

The circles of solitude spun in deep puddles,
Each drop suspended, untimely, before the fall,
It ran rings of memory around my past,
And quenched the thirst of my present anguish.

I felt alone on that spot,
Looked up at the black star filled sky,
Into the shower of darting lights,
Cascades closed the doors of my eyes.

When the emptiness was all washed out,
I shook the tears from my dripping hair,
And, smiling, with umbrella up,
Turned my back, forever, on that spot

.... and walked home.

by Annabel Howarth

Monday, 16 November 2015

Yarn by Emma Harding

                         the thread slips 
                          through my fingers.
                          stitch after stitch, loop joining loop, 
                          entwining to form rows, those rows
                          lining up, taking shape, becoming material. 

                          my mind wanders, following the trail of yarn,
                          spinning back over millennia.

                          back to an age of thunder, the bellow of vast machines,
                          grinding lives and land into miles of cloth,
                          enough to build an empire.

                          further back to when the loom’s rhythmic crack and knock
                          sung loud from bright-eyed Yorkshire cottages,
                          that illuminate the weaver’s intricate craft.

                          and thence to a world made of wool,
                          churches and grand houses built on its trade,
                          wars financed and kingdoms secured.

                          the yarn twists into myth, telling tales of ingenuity and magic:
                          of Penelope, stringing suitors along on unspun thread,
                          and Ariadne, unravelling the labyrinth to guide Theseus through,

                          of Arachne, whose prowess led to an eternity of web making,
                          and a beautiful princess, spinning-wheel-spiked to a century of sleep,
                          and the Lady of Shalott, doomed to weave a world to see by.

                          is this what we as storytellers do?
                          stitch by stitch, we spin our yarns,
                          fabricating worlds to see them more clearly?

                                                              back in my fingertips
                                                                            the needles click,
                                                                                     the ball jumps,
                                                                                       a pattern emerges.

Monday, 9 November 2015

A Visitor by Dave Rigby

The end of September. My birthday in a week.

The sun’s shining through the window. It’s Saturday morning and no school. I dress quickly. My vest, shirt and jumper are all still slotted inside each other from last night, so it makes things even quicker. A brief stop in the bathroom and down for breakfast.

Mum and Dad are already in the kitchen and there are fry-ups on the go. As usual my brother’s nowhere to be seen. Two eggs, two rashers, sausage and beans followed by tea and toast.

Dad’s on the phone to the chimney sweep, fixing for him to come next week. The sweep’s a small man with a big moustache and a bald head, although he wears a cap nearly all the time. He must wash but maybe it’s difficult for him to get the soot out of his skin. He works slowly. He told me last year he likes to do everything by the book. I don’t suppose I’ll see him this year. No school holidays next week.

As I clear the table, I hear this strange noise coming from the chimney, a bit like a chicken, except it can’t be. The noise gets louder and louder, a squawking sound. Something is coming down the chimney! Luckily we don’t light the fire until October. There’s a screen in front of the grate. It’s got a woodland scene on it, a big stag with antlers. It’s not really like any wood around here. The squawking noise is replaced by a flapping noise. When I move the screen this bird is staring at me. It’s black but I can’t tell whether it really is or whether it’s just the soot. There are twigs and bits of grass – black not green – in the hearth.

Suddenly the bird takes off and launches itself at the kitchen window. It hits the glass and falls onto the sofa beneath. I think it’s stunned at first, but then it begins to move again, doing little flaps with its wings, along the sofa, a jump onto the dresser and back to the sofa.

I don’t know where Mum and Dad have got to. I creep out of the room, close the door and shout for them. I have to explain what’s happened. Dad says the bird must have been listening to his phone call to the sweep. He tells me he has a plan to catch the bird and goes upstairs. I decide to stay out of the kitchen until he comes back.

I assume the man coming down the stairs is my dad. He’s wearing a boiler suit. It’s got oil stains on it from when he services the old Volvo and smears of green paint from when he decorated the utility room. He’s got a beret on his head. I’ve not seen this before. I didn’t even know he had one. But best of all is the ski goggles he’s wearing. He only ever went once, with a friend of his. He told us he spent all week falling over and never went again. He puts on his boots and then looks in the hall cupboard for his motorbike gloves – gauntlets he calls them. Mum is hooting with laughter and tells him to stand still while she takes a photo. I stand next to him, grinning like a Cheshire cat as Mum would say.

Dad says it’s time for action and goes into the kitchen. He’s just about to close the door behind him when I ask him if I can come in. I don’t want to miss the action. I stand in the corner by the standard lamp.

Dad starts talking to the bird, calls it Chief for some reason. He’s talking to it like it’s a person. Chief puts his head to one side, as if he’s taking it all in. There are black bird-foot marks all over the sofa and something else that must be bird poo. It’s kind of soothing what Dad is saying, something about the weather being nice outside, too good to be stuck indoors and sorry about the nest collapsing. He’s good at this. Maybe he’s done it before.

He gradually creeps forward nearer and nearer to Chief, talking all the time, until he’s within reach. The bird doesn’t move an inch, just sits there with his green eyes looking at Dad. The gauntlets close around him and he’s carried out to the back door. Dad signals to me to open it, as he’s got his hands full. Out in the yard he lets go and Chief soars up to the beech trees beyond the garden.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Impossible Journey by Virginia Hainsworth

I have always wanted to be a time traveller.  To fly backwards across the centuries and peep into the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people.  To eavesdrop on their conversations, to touch their clothes, their lives.  To see through their eyes.

I would first go for afternoon tea with Charles II.  I know that afternoon tea hadn’t been invented then, but hey, I’m making the rules in this journey of journeys.  I want to see for myself if he’s as charming, suave, intelligent and witty as history reports.

I would peer into The Tower, where the princes are sleeping and wait to see who comes to take their lives, asking at whose bidding they come.  Time travellers cannot change the past, much as I would want to save those little boys.

I would gaze into the fire with stone age men and women, so I could return to my junior school and bring history projects to life with sights, sounds, smells and fireside tales.
I would slip back into the lives of loved ones who are no longer here, to spend one last day with them.  To tell them I love them.  And to kiss them farewell.

I would sail on The Beagle with Charles Darwin to witness his excitement about new discoveries and to ask him if he foresaw the storm of controversy that his theories would bring about.

I would spend some time in the 1920’s.  Firstly to New York to listen to George Gerschwin playing Rhapsody in Blue Just for me.  And whilst there, I would buy a tasselled dress and dance the Charleston.  Then I would don warmer clothes and sit atop Mount Everest in 1924 to look for George Mallory.  Did he reach that far, I wonder.

I would visit Charles Dickens and ask for a lesson or two in creative writing.  And from Jane Austen, too.

I would swim in the sea off Taormina, Sicily in the years before tourists arrived.  Then eat spaghetti vongole with the locals.

I would go back to my French class when I was 11 years old and pay more attention.  Then perhaps I would find learning the language again much easier, many years later.

I would dine in a hunting lodge in Tsavo, Kenya with Karen Blixen and Denys Finch-Hatton.  And go on  safari with them.  To shoot photos, not animals.

But wherever I went, I would always want to return to the here and now.  For to be in the present moment is all there is.

So….where would you go?