Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Shhh Now, Baby.

I thought this lying awake at 4am had gone,
still, here it is, back again.
There's a slight ache in my lower back,
and my right knee feels strained.
The house is quiet.
For an hour, I've been lying here,
telling myself to sleep,
wondering whether to just get up
and get started on the day.

At 4am, things loom large,
and blessings are hard to count.
Minutes that pass, with no sign of sleep,
are counted more easily.
It's already 5 now, and I'm wondering again,
whether to just forget the night,
whether to just get up
extra early for my 6.30 start.

Or can I sink back to sleep?
Find the sinking spot,
where the bed finally feels comfortable again,
the pillow crisp,
aches slip away,
my body a small child now, which
I tell "shhh now - go back to sleep".
Shhhhh now, baby. Shhhhh

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Pubs like The Cherry Arbour don't exist anymore,

Pubs like The Cherry Arbour don't exist anymore,
tucked down a back lane off the Stratford Road,
with a front bar, a back bar, a side bar,
a small lounge which no one ever used,
and a serving hatch to the hallway.
One central bar serving them all,
and the outdoor served through a separate hatch.
Old Bridie sat in the front bar,
from opening time till closing time each night,
and Irish labourers rubbed shoulders with turbaned Sikh's,
who left at 7pm prompt,
while the young Irish men stayed put
until well after closing time.
"Have you no homes to go to", we'd call,
as the landlord poured slops in the slop bucket,
and we put the towels up on the taps.
The juke box played the same song,
no matter what you picked,
and in the back bar George and Sam
played guitar, harmonica and ukelele,
and everyone drank lager, or bitter,
or mild or some mixture of the three
with the odd bottle of Guiness
and once in a while Campari and lemonade,
Or Babycham for the ladies.

When it snowed, the whole pub turned out
to help dig the car out of the snow,
and when the sun shone, the sweet smell of dope blew back in from the garden.
Pubs like The Cherry Arbour don't exist anymore,
It's all gastropubs and fine dining,
Speciality beers and microbreweries.
And young Irish men working in England
don't need to stay all night in pubs,
to avoid their digs and stay warm;
and barmaids don't take half a lager
when they're offered a drink,
or add up the cost of a round for eight people
in their heads. The slops don't go
back in the barrel in the basement,
and the landlord doesn't make
cheese and onion sandwiches
on white bread, with his own hands,
in his kitchen.
It's different days, and different pubs,
and The Cherry Arbour's not there any more,
but the values in Cherry Arbour Court are rising,
and the occupants go to gastropubs
in the city, or drive out to
quaint country pubs,
where no smell of dope blows in from the garden
when the sun shines.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

And still, once a week or so,

And still, once a week or so,
the thought comes to me,
"I'll call my Tata today";
and I remember again,
that it's two full years now,
two full years since he died.

And where is he now?
In these tea towels we use?
The photos that hang on the wall?
The electric corkscrew, the saucepans, the side plates,
the pictures, the lamp or the book?

Is he in the memory of a zip wire,
flying kites from a roofrack,
or digging for worms in the park?
Driving at night, or
driving a Zephyr,
or driving a white Hiace van?

Is he in red wine or white,
Benedictine, Calvados,
Italian restaurant or French?
Avocado, strawberries,
salad with dressing,
Fresh coffee, brown sugar and cream.

Boxes of fruit, apples and oranges,
collecting fresh fish from the market?
Coffee and pastries in Drucker's patisserie,
bistros and candles at night?
Beer in a jug in the heat of the summer,

Is he in the drive to Cornwall and Devon,
to Barmouth through Bala,
to Bristol, and Weston and Bath?
To Ashby La Zouch, and Norwich,
and London, and walking through Soho at night?

Maybe I'll call him, I think.
I can't call him,
but maybe his call's all around.
When I drive, how I drive,
when I speak, how I speak,
even how I shake hands,
even that.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The exhaust fell off just outside Glasgow, and we had to drive into the city to find a garage. After that, it was plain sailing, up the west coast, past Oban, and over the sea to Skye.

We camped by some ruins, high above a village, and caught mackerel, and cooked them on an open fire.

I slept a lot, uncharacteristically, and read, and was happy to laze about by the tent. For provisions, we drove to the small post office, mid way between this village and the next.

After Skye, up and up the west coast, then across and back down the east, and finally to Lindisfarne.

Strange secular pilgrimage. White Volvo estate with a dog gate and two dogs in tow. Intimacy and goodbye. We swam in a tern then back to eat luncheon meat and salad in that weird b&b, and giggled to the disapproving stares. Tasted whisky, smoky, with old men in tiny, loughside pubs. Rowed out to the seals, ate mussels and fish, and all the time, I was saying goodbye.

By the time we came back, there was nothing left to say.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

One Hundred and One

I lie in the bed, mainly alone, in this
room that is my last room. I like
the cot sides up, even though
I barely move now. It's safer.
And I like the tray pushed across
the bed, so I can reach things on it,
even though I don't really need them.
I'm thin, and frail, really just the
remnants of a person now. My arms
like sticks, like willow branches, and
my chest as flat as when I was
five years old.

Still, when Eve comes in, I smile.
She wakes me up (I sleep a lot).
She wakes me gently, and asks me,
would I like to see the dog?
The dog climbs onto a chair, and
pushes it's muzzle into my
useless hands, and I
touch it's head, and I laugh.
I laugh and laugh, and my hollow face
fills out, and for a moment, I'm
five years old again. Then I'm tired.
Times for cot sides up ( it's safer)
and time to sink back to sleep.
I sleep most of the time now.
Like a baby.

Sunday in October

Thursday, 2 October 2014


in his arms
all night
taping a matchstick in the diary
floating high
trouble trouble trouble
dripping down
holding hands
and waiting
for the phone
for the bus
and belonging
at a bus stop
at a party
at home
eating ice cream and jelly
held firm
held fast
first love