Category Archives: News

After midnight …

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A few days ago I learned that Stuart Quine died in hospital of Covid-19.  His haiku were featured on my blog in September last year, under the heading A glint of wolf. You can read them here

Stuart himself provided the biographical notes and he made the selection of one-line haiku.

Here in the caravan in the Netherlands I found a copy of Presence from July 2019 with the one-line haiku below.  I am grateful to have known him.

after midnight firelight playing the accordion keys

Here I am walking …

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Photo credit: Digwen on Pixabay

 

These are my neighbours. Yes, camping Duinhorst backs onto a racecourse. Duindigt opened in 1906. Most of the races held are trotting races, with the jockeys sitting on a sulky as in the picture. Some days I can hear the faint sounds of commentary, or a national anthem at the end of a race. And, very often when I’m out and about I come across horses being exercised. That is where the writing started.  It is the second poem in my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous.

I was going to fly to Holland on 5 April, but things are serious and dangerous. I managed to get a flight out on Wednesday 18 March from Manchester to Schiphol in the Netherlands, and went straight to my caravan. You know from following my blog that I am a Dutch national, long-term resident in the UK. Faced with “social distancing” and a possible four-month’ quarantine, I felt it would be easier in the caravan. It has a small garden and I can go for a bike ride, or a short walk in the nearby dunes – as long as I keep my distance.

 

Here I am walking …

 
Here I am walking with a small horse.
I found it on the path to the supermarket
where it stood, eyes closed, by yellow gorse.

All this happened a long time ago,
before I was born, before the war,
and the rope in my hand smells of horse.

We can turn to the right, walk over
the dual carriageway, head for the dunes,
four bronze crosses to remember

the war dead and we’ll arrive,
place our feet on the beach
where it’ll soon be night.

Chaos

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Photo credit: oho725 on Pixabay

Poetry readings and workshops have been cancelled. People are panic-buying pasta and toilet paper. A few friends have cancelled lunch dates: I have an empty diary.  So, I have started packing boxes for my move later this year, while listening to the radio. My flight is booked on 5th of April and I hope that the borders are still open by then. I can blog over in the Netherlands just as I can here: I have Wifi inside the caravan. If I become ill, it’s easier to self-isolate over there.

Meanwhile, here is a short poem about chaos. It first appeared in The North magazine and was later published in my debut collection Another life. Look after yourself, keep safe and look out for those around you.

 
On the town

In the time it took to buy a birthday card, a special
80th birthday card, they had arrived in a long, black limousine,
jumped out, set fire to the hotel and released wicker
baskets. The flying baskets with wicker wings chopped
tops of trees, trees falling on traffic lights – chaos everywhere
and in the middle of it the small bronze statue.
A smiling woman holding doves covered in bird shit.
The wind howling, sirens crying like the end of the world had come.
And me and that card that had cost me £2.99 and nowhere
to buy stamps, no letter box to post it.

Ferry crossing

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The Departure, book and me (Photo: copyright Sophie J Brown)

 
Here I am with my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous at the launch, held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester on the 3rd of March. It was a wonderful occasion, made very special by Graham Kingsley Brown’s painting The Departure being there too.

His daughter Sophie Brown (herself a talented artist) designed this website. Visit www.grahamkingsleybrown.com and click on the Curator’s Diary for her account of the launch and to read what the meaning of the painting may be (entry 28 November 2019).

Below is the first poem of the book. This may well be the ferry from Harwich, UK to Hook of Holland, the Netherlands. A ferry crossing is a departure of a kind …

 

Ferry crossing

Two people sit at a table by an oblong picture window.
Sun lights up their hands which are curled round coffee cups.

The window is made of safety glass. There have been announcements:
location of lifebelts, life rafts, long and short blast of a horn.

While words are hidden at the obscure side of imagination,
other people are queuing for lunch or buying alcohol in the shop.

The folded hands are the back of playing cards, The Queen of Spades,                                    operas, novellas, the shortest of short stories.

It is not strange to see these cards turn into sea gulls.
A white ferry is a city where nothing is permanent.

Celebrating …

Dublin photo

North Earl Street, Dublin, 1904

I am celebrating! Just two working days after I applied, the Home Office emailed me confirmation of my “settled status” in the UK. Hence a post with a food poem …

This stew combines two foods known since the earliest Irish literature. Bacon (tinne or senshaille) is mentioned many times in the medieval Vision of MacConglinne, as are sausages, particularly called Maróc, and another called Indrechtán. Leeks and oatmeal were no doubt used in the earliest form of Coddle, but since the eighteenth century, potatoes and onion have supplanted them.

The recipe for Dublin Coddle is in my copy of A Taste of Ireland in Food and in Pictures by Theodora Fitzgibbon. The magnificent black-and-white pictures (some of them well over a hundred years old) had been found “heaven knows where – by Miss Fitzgibbon’s husband, George Morrison, creator of the Gael-Linn films on 1916 and the civil war”. The book was published in 1968 and, having married a Dublin man, and believing that saying about the “way to a man’s heart” I bought it shortly after we married in 1973.

The poem was included in Sweet Tongues: Crocus book of food poems, published by Commonword in 2013.

 
Dublin Coddle

Saturday supper is a savoury stew.
Sausages, and slices of bacon.
Potatoes and onion supplanted
the oatmeal and leek. Enough stock

to barely cover, season to taste,
simmer slowly, let the liquid reduce.
Tears run down the steamy window.
Chopping parsley holds the pain.

One of us poured a steady Guinness;
the other already lost in the black
and salty taste of waiting.
Between us the open cookery book:

a small black and white picture,
North Earl Street, Dublin, 1904.
Blurred images of men in coats
and caps, horse-drawn cart, a sunny day.

A couple crosses the tramlines.
He carries bags in both hands.
She, to the right of him,
looks down to safely place her feet.

 

Ambulance Ride

 

Carole B

 
Many of the poems in the pamphlet Sodium 136 were written in Hull Royal Infirmary where Carole Bromley had pituitary surgery in 2018. I first met Carole on a writing week in 2004. It is a privilege to feature four of the poems. The pamphlet was produced and published by Calder Valley Press in 2019 and a donation from every copy sold will be made to The Pituitary Foundation. Many of the poems had already been published in magazines, and several have been commended or placed in competitions.

The testimonial by the poet Clare Shaw: “If poetry’s work is to speak to the universal through the particular, then Sodium 136 is a triumph. With the profound insight of personal experience, Carole Bromley captures the complex experience of serious illness, affording equal worth to the mundane and terrible with a beautiful and uncompromising directness. This is not just a record of physical suffering – it is a powerful and profoundly intelligent exploration of grief, gratitude, fear, love, and joy. Poetry at its best.”

 
Ambulance Ride

My Poetry Society bag is on my lap,
Take if you must this little bag of dreams;
the drip hung from a hook. A jolt
as the gurney hits the hoist, that blast of air.
We’ll soon get you warmed up. They ask me
which route I would take. The driver says
he thinks he’ll put the flasher on but not the siren.
After three minutes the siren goes on too.
I can’t be doing with traffic jams!
I watch as we go through every red light.
The ambulance man gives me a sick bowl,
apologises for the bumpiness of the ride,
holds the gurney steady with his foot,
fills in a pink form, gives me a pain killer,
tells me about his earlier calls, the RTA,
the one-year-old he drew a face on a glove for,
says he and his wife wanted kids but it never happened.
When we arrive on the ward I feel lost.
A man walks up and down like a zombie,
his spine and head held up in a cage.
In my bay two women with bandaged scalps
vomit in cardboard bowls. I tell the nurse
I feel like bolting. She says I know it’s not
as nice as York. The ambulance man points
That’s why I could never be a patient.
How do you sleep with one pillow?

 

Consent Form

The registrar reminds me of the dangers,
scaring me all over again.
Blindness, stroke, death is the gist.
He’s not anxious to proceed
on his own decision-making;
he needs to patient to do the hard part.

With the consultant it’s different.
He’s so young his baby’s only two weeks old
and so handsome he cuts a dash on the ward round.
He weighs up the pros and cons when the posse
of students have moved on with their clip boards,
their crack-of-dawn observation of the sick.

I’m not good at decisions at the best of times
and this is not the best of times
so I say What would you advise me
if I was your wife? He says
You could lose your sight. I’d go ahead.
I say Give me the pen.

 

Sodium 136
Visiting Time

In here everyone talks to the dead.
Some speak aloud, Barry calls to his son;
Enid, who, after having her hip done
broke the other one getting out of bed,
talks to her late husband, telling him
This is the worst pain and I’m not joking
and I, inside my head, talk to my mum
which is ironic as we barely spoke.

I’m sorry I didn’t buy you the dressed
crab that awful lunchtime. You guessed,
as I did not, that it would be your last,
afterwards you’d eat little and then less
then not even sips out of a beaker,
just me wielding the sponge on a stick.

 

Sodium 136

A new form of torture
to raise my sodium level
which is dangerously low.
They measure out five glasses
of water into my jug
to last me till midnight,
write 1 litre fluid restriction
on the board over my bed
so the tea trolley passes me by,
the milk-shake woman doesn’t come,
the pourer of custard shakes her head.
Slowly the level creeps up.
After five days I’m fantasising
about gulping cartons of juice.
I have a tug of war with a nurse,
will not let go of the jug
which she wants to remove,
tell her if I wanted to cheat
I could put my head under the tap
and drink. I win, the jug stays.
The tea lady leaves me half a cup
and whispers I won’t tell them, love.
I do not touch it. 117, 118,
123, 124 and then, overnight,
SODIUM 136. I weep with joy.
They rub out the notice.
I gulp down glass after ice-cold glass.

Haiku calendars

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I bought extra copies of the 2020 Haiku Calendar to give as presents. This small desk calendar shows one haiku each month, with three or four more on the back.

Twelfth Night –
lobster pots
shouldered with snow
(Sheila K. Barksdale – England)

The haiku presented in the calendar are the winners and runners-up of the annual competition. The competition for the 2021 calendar is open until the 31st of January. Guidelines are on http://www.snapshotpress.co.uk

Twelfth Night was last Sunday when I was taking down Christmas decorations and carefully removing Christmas cards from the display on the kitchen door. And I was also thinking about the other haiku calendar – a present from a friend who lives in Japan. One of these calendars I’m going to take with me to my caravan in the Netherlands. No need to decide yet: my first trip there is early April!

snow scene

 

The images in the large calendar are all from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Miyajima in the Snow is by Tsuchiya Koitsu (1937), wood cut on paper.

oyuki ya
yuki o mi ni yuku
tokoro nashi

 
So much snow – but
a place for snow viewing?
There is nowhere to go!

(Anonymous, 18th century)