Monthly Archives: February 2022

Driving Licence


If the United Kingdom was still in the EU, I could have carried on driving on my British licence for another five years here in NL. I discovered recently I only have a few weeks left to convert the UK licence into a Dutch one!

Because of my age, I need a medical. Getting booked in with a local GP would have taken too long. Online I found ‘Rijbewijsdokter.nl’ and I and got myself an appointment for yesterday morning at a hotel in Leiden. The regional bus from The Hague stops right in front. The hotel has a great location: by the side of the Old Rhine river, close to Leiden station.


Eyes ok, blood pressure ok, urine ok. The medic did the form online after I left. It’s an automated process, a few hours later the confirmation came that I’m fit to drive. I’ve put in a request with the Town Hall for an urgent appointment to sort out the paperwork.

Totem

Three years since I gave away the blue hatchback for a pile of dirty £20 notes.

I made sure I removed it from its space behind the handbrake where it had kept me safe on motorways, on narrow lanes in Cornwall, Devon, Suffolk, on roundabouts in Holland with their shark’s teeth. Kept me safe for almost thirty years.

A bunny from Liberty’s in King Street (long since gone). Fluffy ears, tiny brown boots, denim trousers.

Outside, the Box – poems

I am delighted to introduce this month’s guest poet Sue Kindon. We met on Zoom during lockdown 1, through a mutual poet friend.


Sue Kindon lives and writes in the French Pyrenees. An enthusiastic member of the local slam team, her greatest achievement to date is an award for a poem in French. 


Kindon was Runner Up in the 2021 Ginkgo Prize (for Eco-poetry); and has two pamphlets to her name – She who pays the piper (Three Drops Press, 2017) and Outside, the Box (4Word Press, 2019). The poems in the latter were sparked by the box moth plague that devastated the landscape a few years ago.


I’ve selected five poems from Outside, the Box, to give you a taste of the range and humanity of Sue’s poems.

Box Moth (Cydalima perspectalis)

white moths haunt each hedge
all summer their larvae gorge
on our ancient ways

The House of Running Water

We’re so far off the mains, I cross myself,
or is it my reflection? Our drinking water
isn’t purified, sobbing in glugs
from a faery underworld
just beyond the spring line.
Boils, frogs, plagues of grass snakes
are there none. The kitchen tap
dispenses an incessant stream
in spite of some newly-converted saint
bottled up in supermarket plastic.
Every day an elven-prince
strikes rock with his divining rod
and sets loose unchlorinated magic:
we drink deep, until our inner walls
cascade with the stuff.

I could never return, now my mind
is clean as the washing on the line.
Townsfolk have forgotten
how the old world flows.
It must be something in the water.

Bernadette

I thought of you as a sister
from the start.
You were the one who insisted
I worked in the shade, you saw
that my fair skin reddened
in the southern sun trap
of the presbytery walls.
Your straight larkspur back
bent for hours as you laboured
to remove chiendent and petty spurge.

You would go missing
for a quick smoke
outside the tall grey gates
of our temporary eden, and I felt
the loss, sure as the last petals
falling from the climbing rose.
Then you’d be back,
tending the last geranium
and offering a kind word
I might not understand.

So much more I wanted to say:
and now I’m gaining confidence
with the language, it’s already
winter, and the gates are shut.

On Safari

Death came to me as a zebra
crossing my path. I’m not ready yet,
I said, and he stepped aside.

As I passed by, I admired
the pull of perfect stripes,
the kiss of dark mane

and I was nearly fooled
by his op-art trompe-l’oeil invitation
to step into his black-and-white-wash skin

and set down my bright sorrow.
I was dazzled by the glow
of skeletal zebra ribs

until I saw the shadow
of famished lion at the tunnel mouth
and smelt the jitter of my blood on parted lips.

Jardin de Curé – Damage Limitation

Our prayers have kept the moth at bay –
and careful spraying – chemicals
have underplayed their part.

The volunteers have withered up
or died. A few stalwarts
welcome late summer visitors
but when it comes to weeding,
they pull the flax
and leave the nipplewort.

Nettles flourish by the chapel wall.
Self-seeded marjoram
annexes the cabbage plot.

At least the box hedge is intact.
Our prayers have kept the moth at bay.

Two cats on a Valentine’s card – poem

Credit: mihailfeciorunature on Piaxabay

A big ‘thank you’ to Ramona Herdman for today’s poem. It’s from her wonderful pamphlet A Warm and Snouting Thing published in 2019 by Emma Press. Ramona will be guest poet later this year, after her collection with Nine Arches Press has appeared in print.

Two cats on a Valentine’s card

For one bribed instant, they sat
in a heart shape: double-tail-curled
rumps the heart’s bumps,
heads close enough to bite.
You can see they don’t fool
each other an inch, don’t try.

This is one split-second’s flicker
in a ticker tape of sniff,
cuff, hiss, hysterical arching,
pantomime affront, huff off,
real pinching hate,
play-fight, indignant alliance.

Everyone in on this –
the animal-handler,
photographer, graphic artist,
printer, shop assistant –
knows it as cheap con, nothing
like the on and on of coupledom.

If you buy it, fool, do it
knowingly. Write I am the cat
who walks by himself. Some nights
I choose to curl close. That’s it. You want
my heart? OK. My heart’s
like that.

Blossoming and Abundance – poetry

Credit: Watercolour by Prawny on PIxabay

The 10th edition of Poëzieweek (Poetry Week) has just ended. Over 120 activities happened in The Netherlands and Vlaanderen (the Northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). Some of these will continue during the year.


The theme this time was Nature. During any year there are a several ‘book’ weeks in The Netherlands and readers can claim a free book when they purchase up to a given amount. As poetry books are expensive here, the sum of Euro 12,50 was easily reached!

The Dutch-Palestinian author and actor Ramsey Nasr was commissioned to write the poetry gift this year. He is well-known, as he was the Dichter des Vaderlands (the unofficial title for poet laureate) during 2009 – 2012.


The pamphlet with 10 poems is well produced on quality paper. It’s based on the hundreds of letters Van Gogh wrote from his youth until his death in 1890. Under the motto Blossoming and Abundance, the poet has selected and re-arranged Van Gogh’s words. The two blue horizontal lines on the cover indicate caesuras. These return in the text as thin blue vertical lines, showing where Nasr has deleted a word or several phrases from the original text.


I love how Ramsey Nasr has distilled the essence of Van Gogh. It is a very interesting way of using found material. Here are my translations of a few parts of some of his poems.


(3)
let us | find a task
that forces us to quietly | sit
busy with work that is simpler
than | tasks that | are useful

(4)

i am no better than another |
am not like a street pump | from stone | or iron |

(6)

i send you | the night |
the moon | cypresses |

(5)

it cannot | remain like it is now |
burn rather than choke |
a door must be open or closed
something in-between i do not understand

(10)

the mediterranean has a colour like | mackerel |
you don’t know | if it is green or purple
you don’t know | if it is blue for a second later
the constantly changing reflection has
taken on a pink or grey tinge |