Tag Archives: food

Mothering Sunday – a poem

Credit: Silviarita via Pixabay

Today It’s Mothering Sunday in the UK and Ireland, and Summer Time begins. I want to thank Hilary Robinson for letting me share her poem, a gentle homeward journey with rich detail. It also shows how a strong title pulls the reader in. Hilary is the guest poet next month with more poems from her poetry debut Revelation.

Things I Say to my Mum in the Nursing Home

Let’s go to Verdon’s for a quarter of sweets—
American Cream Soda, Rainbow Crystals.
Let me taste the Sarsaparilla Drops,
Fruit Salads, Flying saucers, Cherry Lips.

Walk me up to Marsden’s — I’ll sink
my fingers into dried peas, watch
as butter’s cut and patted into shape;
sugar’s wrapped in rough blue bags.

Take me to the monkey-nut shop
after an hour in Northmoor Library,
breathing in the leather, old-book smell,
where the men scour papers for good news.

Hold my hand, take me to the park
so I can swing high, standing up,
or roly-poly down the slopes,
risk roundabouts, the Wedding Cake.

Take me back to our backyard,
to the tin bath hung on an outside wall,
to my stiff, hard dolls, my teddy bear.
Pass me my square of pink flannelette.

De Kop van de Haven – poem

Credit: R van Lonkhuizen

On Wednesday this week King Willem-Alexander opened the Zeesluis Ijmuiden. These new sea locks, built alongside the existing locks, are the largest in the world: 500 metres long, 70 metres wide and 18 metres deep. The existing locks were nearing the end of their life and becoming too small for the huge vessels heading for Amsterdam.


A major design fault was discovered. This resulted in excess cost of almost three million Euro and the grand opening almost three years overdue. Now ships can pass independently from the tides. But, with the cruise ships entering the locks, so does a lot more salt water… and are those towering liners still wanted?


A splendid view of it all can be had a little further out. The last time I had lunch there was, probably, in 2011 – that Icelandic volcano had closed air space. I managed to get a shared cabin on the ferry to Newcastle and treated my friend to lunch as a thank-you.

De Kop van de Haven, Ijmuiden
for Trieneke


It’s not a pub, it’s not in the UK.
It’s right by the tall chimneys
of the steel works, once Royal
Dutch, now Tata. The canal
to Amsterdam was dug by
unemployed men and now
there’s a gleaming ferry terminal:
Christmas shopping in Newcastle.

Fish is fish is fresh is fresh with
a view of water and waves and
smoke and boats and barges
and ships and liners and the wind.
Outside on the head of the harbour
the bronze fisherman holding
a storm lantern in his right hand.

St Nikolaas

Credit: RvT 1625, via Pixabay

Tomorrow will be his birthday. Traditionally, children were allowed to put a shoe (with a carrot for the horse) by the fire on the night of the 5th. Over time, it has become tradition to celebrate the evening of the 5th. And over time, children put out their shoe earlier and earlier …

Somewhere in a photo album there is a small black-and-white picture, somewhere in a box in storage. Here is the poem, anyway, from my debut collection Another life, Oversteps Books Ltd, 2016.

St Nikolaas, 5 December 1957

We’re crowded in our dining room.
Grandmother has closed her face.
There’s me in pyjamas, smiling.
I’m next to my father’s father.
His heart will give out soon.
I’ve just been given a book:
animal stories with illustrations.

My brother too smiles, because
our mother isn’t there.
She may be in the kitchen
or upstairs, ill, thinking
about walking out on us.
My father has taken this photo.
He too will have closed his face.

On the bright side, there’s always:

Credit: Geralt via Pixabay

This week I’ve been going through my files and folders with poems, deleting old ones that aren’t going anywhere, finding forgotten ones, losing others because I changed the title but not the filename – you get my drift.

Here’s a sort-of-abecedarian list poem. What would be in your alphabet?

On the bright side, there’s always:

avocados and the alphabet, a
bridge over troubled water and
chocolate, Fairtrade or not,
days which travel at their own pace into
evening and other
favourite places like Venice, beaches, the
glorious counter tenor voice of Andreas Scholl,
hairdressers who waited for us,
ink to waste, as the poet has it,
jazz, all that jazz,
kilograms to worry about,
lessons that return until learned,
maria, martini, marina,
nautical miles and naughty but nice.
Oh, let’s stop, there is a
picnic bench with a view, think of
questions, the certainty of death, taxes,
rescuers in anoraks, accompanied by
sniffer dogs, so we’re fit again to
tango, show us a leg or two,
uniformed bouncers taking them off,
victory which will be ours and
whiskey or gin, double measures, that
xtra mile we will go.
Y, the fork in the road and Frost.
ZZZ, a comfy bed for a rest.

Saturday mornings

Maison de Bonneterie, Amsterdam

On Friday I had my second vaccination (Pfizer). I have felt ok, a bit tired and feverish. By way of a treat, a good childhood memory.

The “selling fur coats” took place in Amsterdam, in Maison de Bonneterie: a small chain of high-end fashion stores. The building in Amsterdam was designed by a well-known Dutch architect with an interior in the style of Louis XVI (the Sun King of France), an imposing staircase and a glass roof.

It closed in 2014, after 125 years of uninterrupted service to the elegant public. The Amsterdam store is a national listed building and now used as a location for events.

Saturday mornings


We’ve been waiting in silence.
It’s just the three of us.
Mother’s away in a city, selling fur coats.
The radio crackles, but here comes father
with blue beakers, hot chocolate,
curled cream on top, and the bread
he has baked on his day off.

Tomorrow he’ll be on the balcony
playing the organ; we’ll be below.
Today he is the son of a master baker.
We’ll have the bread with butter
and jam, red strawberries,
shiny against the golden crust.

Eating a Croissant in a Graveyard

St Mary’s, Totnes in Devon

For Easter Sunday I have chosen this poem by my friend Kathleen Kummer. The title is intriguing, the details are precise: we sense they are based on the poet’s own experience. Then there is the reference to that well-known Stanley Spencer painting of the Resurrection. You can see it here

I asked Kathleen about the graveyard. It’s part of St. Mary’s Church, a Grade I listed building in the centre of Totnes, Devon. Perhaps, I could have worked it out for myself: the poem mentions the iconic ‘steep hill’ in Totnes. Kathleen and I have walked up and down it many times, and hope we can do so again soon. Easter Greetings to you all!

Eating a Croissant in a Graveyard

I’m eating a croissant in a graveyard, grassed over.
People come here to rest, eat a sandwich.
(I wish I’d bought something less flighty, like
a scone or an Eccles cake.) The graves
are few and not recent. There’s a table-top tomb,
ideal for a picnic, but respect is shown:
low voices, no chirrup from a mobile phone;
people sit on the wall or the grass. I’m expecting
that Labrador to cock his leg, but he doesn’t.

Across the street, the bustle of the market
just reaches us, and I think of the dead
around me, of how this town was theirs,
that they walked up the steep hill, stopping
to speak to their friends about their simple,
complicated lives. When I close my eyes,
I see them clambering out of their graves,
as in that Resurrection painting
by Stanley Spencer, looking dazed,
but as if their discomfiture won’t last long,
with the green hills they knew around them,
the sky blue and summery. And surely
the warm-hearted townsfolk will welcome the dead.

It’s as if I’ve banished them by opening my eyes.
The place is empty, but for two men
in wheelchairs, parked with their backs to the view.

High Street, Totnes in Devon

Grapefruit – a poem

Credit via Pixabay: Jill Wellington

Such a strange fruit: many children don’t like it. I didn’t. Many years later I acquired a curved knife and I found it a tricky and time-consuming job to properly prepare the fruit. Here is Kathleen Kummer’s poem. It doesn’t specify who the people are, but I imagine it’s a mother, watched by children, that “he” is the husband. It’s an understated poem, but those details are precise and poignant.

Preparing grapefruit

Did she peel it – I don’t remember –
as though it were an orange? Or cut it
in half and make the usual precise
incisions, holding back the pith
like flaps of skin to extract the pulp?

Our eyes were on her hands as she worked
to unravel the strands from each segment of flesh
before it tumbled into the bowl.
Some fell apart, translucent droplets
shaped like tears. How many spoonfuls

would the sick body take of this butterfly food?
Would he sleep? I remember the light from the fire,
its warmth on our faces, in the drawing room
where now the double bed rode at anchor,
before the voyage out.

Father’s Day

 

40th Wedding Anniversary
The picture shows me and my parents at a dinner to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in 1984. At Christmas 1988 I became the scapegoat for the difficult circumstances around my sister leaving her husband. My father, my brother and that husband were all called Theo. My sister was living with someone else by then.

So, one Theo told me off for keeping in touch with that Theo and the third Theo collected me from my parents’ flat and took me to the airport. My father and I became estranged. Late September 1990 my father was taken to hospital after a suspected heart attack. He was doing okay, my brother told me, no need to rush and book a flight. Two days later my father died in hospital, instantly, after a large heart attack.

 

Almuerzo con mi padre

My father’s eyes behind the spectacles sparkle.
There’s wisdom in his moustache,
and dreams of fino sherry, chilled in a thin glass.

There would be time to wait and wander,
criss-cross a square, look at people,
the statue of a famous general on his horse.

The dead will be around us on the hills that hold the city.
My father claps his hands, decides where we will eat.

He’s learned his Spanish from reel-to-reel Linguaphone.
I’m online with Duolingo: Vino tinto, pan, conejo.

My father would have found it hard to choose
between the crema catalana and helada.
His moustache would have selected ice cream.

Strawberries

 

strawberries-1452717_1280

Photo credit: congerdesign on Pixabay

The first June weekend here in Holland is wet and windy: a perfect time to remember strawberries. My local supermarket has them on special offer this week, along with discounts on raspberries and watermelon.

During my childhood I lived in a small town further north, a couple of miles from the beach, and also close to the chimneys of the steelworks. Walking home from school my friend Nellie I and would take the long route, along the small harbour. We would pass the rear entrance to the covered market. I have a vivid image of a line of small horse-drawn carts, loaded with punnets, punnets full of strawberries …

The poem is from my second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous (Indigo Dreams Publishing Ltd, 2019).

 
Strawberries

The strawberries of my childhood
were like my favourite grandmother,
soft, a rosy smell, a taste that stayed
with you on the way to school.
Those strawberries were red,
not like the winter swedes
which are a red stone,
are purple with anger.

Strawberries entered our home
first in paper bags, then as June grew
in oblong wicker punnets. Then we ate
them for breakfast and for lunch, pressing
them with a fork on sliced white bread.
You could stroke the strawberries
of my childhood. They were company,
like cats, purring gently even when asleep.
Small green stalks their whiskers, and warm.