Friday, 26 August 2011

A trip to the Smoke


I've just returned from a visit to London. It was our 15th anniversary, so we decided we'd push the boat out and go and see a play in the West End.

A while ago, there was a programme on TV about the making of the play "Warhorse" , from a book written by Michael Morpurgo. The TV programme showed how the play was enacted, not using real horses, but full-sized puppets, each of which was operated by  3 people, 2 inside it and one holding the head. It was obvious that the operators had really spent some time studying horses to get all the movements right, and I was fascinated by it.

The story is about the life of a horse that raised from a colt, and was then sold to be used as a cavalry horse in the First World War, and his young owner's search to find the horse out in the battlefields of France and Belgium.

The play was brilliantly done, with good acting, and the puppetry, if that is how you would describe it, was fantastic. The horses movements were incredibly lifelike, and there were quite a few extra surprises in the play it self.
The theatre - the New London Theatre was also an excellent venue, with suberb vision from all seats

If  there were any downsides to it, I found the passages spoken in German a bit tedious, and not altogether self explanatory, and some of the West Country accents were a bit over the top, but otherwise, the standing ovation at the final curtain was very well deserved.

The show was almost stolen by a goose puppet which appeared now and then, and was extremely life-like in it's activity, caused great hilarity, and was superbly operated by one man. Any one who has kept geese, as I have, would know exactly how good this was.

While we were in London, we took the opportunity to have a look around and visit some of the tourist attractions. It was good for me to see them again, as I've not been a tourist in London for 30 something years.
The National gallery was a treat, as ever. The London Eye was interesting to see, although we decided it wasn't worth queueing for, as it was raining hard, and visibility was severely resticted.

The River Thames was also a pleasant surprise. I remember it being a black, oily, dirty, foul-smelling stretch of water, but it is now clean and green, and We saw a chap taking a fair sized eel from it at The Embankment

The Tate Modern, which was a gallery I'd set my heart on seeing, was totally underwhelming. Of course there were some good pieces in there, particularly of Pollock, and Giacommetti, 2 of my favourites,  but there was very little there, other than the space itself,  that inspired me at all. As Julie so rightly said, there was more art in the brickwork that the place was built from than there was inside, and I'm inclined to agree with her.
In my humble opinion, art is not only about the perception of the artist, but has to include the perception of the viewer, or it has failed.

There was an exhibition of work by Joan MirĂ³, but we decided that it wasn't for us. I have seen some of his work, and it does little for me.

Chinatown was different, as I remember that area being very seedy in the 60's, all sex shops and sleazy dives. Now it is a huge Emporium of all things Chinese.

Carnaby street and Oxford street were a waste of time - could have been anywhere in any town in Britain, but was glad to see that Piccadilly still had kept its class.

Covent Garden, and Spitalfields market were very much as I expected them to be, with some nice gear being sold alongside some tourist tat.

 One excellent find we made was a chain of shops called Patisserie Valerie  who sold the most gorgeous cakes and pastries I've ever seen, or tasted. it was difficult not to visit every branch we happened upon.

There were also some good things happening on the streets, such as this lovely water feature which was on Connaught street, near Grosvenor Square, I believe. It was put together so well that the water poured over the edge all round it, with no breaks in the fall. the chap who was working on it also said that each of the circles lit up as well, so i expect it was really magnificent at night.

The Royal Parks were lovely, and we spent quite a bit of time walking in them. The Tree-rats (squirrels) were so tame that they came when you squeaked them up, thinkng they'd get fed.

I'm afraid I went to London with the expectation of not enjoying it very much, but on the whole I really did enjoy it. It was cleaner than I remember, there was far less traffic, and many more cycles than I remember too. This really struck a chord with me, as I used to cycle into the City regularly in the late 60s, and it was dangerous to say the least, but not so now, although a cabby that I spoke to said many cyclists had neither road sense nor manners, and having observed for myself, I believe him to be right.

There was a significant change in the people too. I remember Londoners being rather reserved - even surly on the whole, but everybody that I spoke to returned my conversation quite cheerily, which made me feel more at home, as if I was still in Norwich. Of course, there were far more foreigners than I remember too, but I think their attitude is very welcoming.
Some things seemed shockingly expensive - eg Left luggage at the station, which was £8.50 per item, and entrance to St Pauls being £14 per person, which I refused to pay; whereas a cab ride cost little more than, and was much more convenient than the equivalent tube ride.
It was also good for me to stay in a cheap Hotel in Bloomsbury, the area I worked in when I was an Electrician working on the building of the new Imperial Hotel, Russel Square. It brought back some nice memories of 40+ years ago.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


"What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies". - Aristotle

 You know how it is when you find a new friend, and you really hit it off?

 It's not something that happens often in our lives, but these are the friendships that you know are going to last a long time - the friendships that are to die for. 

I'm very lucky. I've made a lot of friends in my lifetime. Although they are all good people, and I'm really fond of them, time and circumstance have an erosive effect, and gradually you are in touch with them less and less, until you reach a point where you feel you have not enough in common to stay in contact, and you allow them to drift off your page. 

But then, every now and again, there just comes that someone who you know will always be there.  You could even call it a different form of love if you wish, but it doesn't have to be the all-consuming love that requires passion and fertility. This is something different - 
the love between Soulmates. 


She didn't have to answer me, and offer her advice,
she didn't even have to talk, but she was rather nice
about the things I mentioned, and she responded in a trice, and I'm really pleased she did
because I liked her.

We talked of this and that, and how and why, with all things covered
and before we knew, we'd talked of things we'd only just discovered
about ourselves, each other and some subjects that we'd smothered
from our former lives.

We spoke for many hours, re-living lives we'd lived before
and we chattered on and off about the ever open door
that we'd found between ourselves, and we went off to explore
the space between us.

Although there was no possibility of life fruition
we spoke of depth of friendship, and she gave me her permission
to stay forever in her life, and that would be my mission
to care for her.

I'm happy that she sees me as a friend that she can trust,
someone who really cares for her, but doesn't need the lust
that lovers need to keep themselves from later going bust
my Soulmate

Thursday, 18 August 2011

mind picture

Me, Barry, Sue, and Judith (from downstairs) on our landing  

Growing up in the fifties. I've recently taken to writing as much as I can remember about my childhood, as I thought it might be interesting to some of the younger generation.
The following is a short extract about our garden and its environs, which at an early age, was our entire world.                                                                                
  .........That concludes our tour of the flat, so we'll now take a step outside the back door onto the concrete landing, which was shared with our next door neighbour, Mrs Dawson. From this landing ran a flight of concrete stairs down to ground level and perpendicular to the block.  Where the back stairs touched the ground was the end of the downstairs flat's gardens, and the start of my tiny out door world of “the Alleys”. These alleyways were no more than concrete paths with a 3 foot high chain link fence on either side, and gates in to the various gardens.The gates were all of a type, being angle-iron and chain-link with big sliding iron bolts that went “thunk” when you closed them hard. They were great for swinging on, but heaven help you if you were caught swinging on one that wasn't yours. You might well imagine the thoughts in our tiny heads as we gradually expanded our world  by exploring a new and uncharted alleyway, only to find that it lead to yet more alleyways. I can remember feeling a bit panicky about not being on home ground on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, coupled with the fact that we were at the bottom of a little used  cul-de-sac, and there was very little traffic as no-one we knew could afford even a second hand car, our tiny world was an extremely safe place to be, despite the pirates, and the Indians and the enemy out there.
Directly opposite the bottom of the stairs and behind the fence was the hedge that divided our garden from Mrs Dawson's  garden. Our garden was an irregular shaped piece of land that ran away to a sharp point at the bottom end. It bordered an alleyway and four other gardens, two of which weren't accessible from the Close. So a lost ball often meant exactly that, particularly if it was lost over Mrs Harding's  hedge. The fact that all the gardens were bordered by chain-link fence and privet hedges meant that there was no quick nip over the fence to retrieve a ball, you had to go the long way round and through the garden gates, but seeing as all these gardens belonged to the upstairs flats, they were constantly overlooked, and our activities were monitored both by our parents and by anyone who was building up a ball collection.
Our garden nearly always looked like a bomb had hit it. My Dad made various attempts to cultivate it, but because of the job that he did , and I suspect , a certain lack of real interest, never really got it together in the face of the onslaught it took from us kids and the friends who came round to climb our Apple tree.
The apple tree was my spiritual home from the age of five to the age of eleven when we left Thorne Close. If I had any real artistic ability, I think I could reproduce that tree, limb and twig, from memory. I spent so many hours nestled in it's branches, it was like a second home to me. As a fruit tree, it was a useless lump of vegetation. I can't actually remember it bearing any useful fruit, though I dare say that it did at sometime. My main interest in it was as a viewing platform, a crow's nest, a safe haven, a launch pad from which to leap into the privet hedge, and just a general hidey hole. The tree itself consisted of two main stems, one of which was completely useless to a ragamuffin of my ilk. It was unscaleable, and even if you could climb it, there was nothing for you when you got there.
The other trunk, on the other hand was perfect. It was pitched at about 60 degrees from horizontal, and had a couple of footholds in the right places. When you got to the top of that part there was a sort of nest/platform made of crossed branches in/from which you could curl up/stand/ sit/ launch, or climb up to stage two, which was another couple of feet higher and a much more precarious perch, but from which you could claim “King of the castle” with no fear of denial.
I expect that in reality the topmost branch was no more than 10 feet from the ground, but there is no doubt whatsoever that it was a tree that was the envy of every lad who would dare to climb for quite some couple of hundred yards around. It certainly gave us some kudos."

mind picture

days and years pass
sun warms memories
everything comes clearer
childhood days,
long as forever
each its own eternity
wrapped in a smile

black iron gate
portal to eden
jungle of safety
unkempt beds
where leggy flowers lie
unable to rise
to meet the day

privet hedges long since gone
developers dream erased
chain link fences
apple tree
new people warren
new sunny days
launchpad for another
generations memory

Monday, 15 August 2011

Living my life backwards

In my darker moments I have often wondered if it might be nicer to live our lives the other way round, 
starting with all the knowledge we will ever need, and slowly moving back toward blissful ignorance. 

Or would it?

Living my life backwards

Coming out of the brightest light into the darkest tunnel
the journey takes me back into the room
with mournful relatives standing round.
I breathe my last, first.

Looking at their solemn faces, I smile weakly.
They wander off, and in a week or two
I’m back to feeling myself again
my tumour shrinking.

The visit to the specialist results in a clean bill of health,
so it’s back to work for me.
I already know everything I ever will know
so I must spend some time unlearning.

It takes me forty eight years to shed the shackles
of industry and business, of life and love and family,
of position and promotion, of marriage, child-raising,
and home-making

With the slow dissipation of my knowledge
grows the gradual bliss of ignorance.
The days are longer, brighter, kinder
And my world is shrinking

The days get so long I have to sleep twice or more.
I now know so few people, I can count them
on the fingers of both hands, but it isn’t long before
I need only one hand, but by then I’ve forgotten numbers.

I cry, I’m fed, I’m changed, I sleep.
I feel the pain of birth, but I don’t know it
It is warm, immersed in this belly
My heart beats its first, last.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Under Lock and Key

I wrote this after yet another episode of "Anyone seen my keys?"

Under Lock and Key

If just one wish were given me
That I might change the fate of man,
I’d wish to lose the lock and key,
For that is where mistrust began

No secrets hidden by locked doors,
nor jangling bunch my pockets tear,
no valued things inside locked drawers;
Perhaps we’d learn again to share.

When first into the world we came
We carried nothing; even breath
Was given up for use again
And so it is upon our death

Let gates and doors be left undone
Let strangers come and step inside
Respect and trust each mother’s son
For what on Earth have we to hide

For all the things we think we own
We fool ourselves to think we need
in truth belong to everyone;
the only thing we own is greed

Old Love

This is a poem  wrote about how I see a perfect lifetime. Of course, it's rarely as perfect as this, but we can dream, can't we? 

Old Love                                                                                     
Old Tom and Millie sat with their backs
to the draught that cut under the door.
The flames in the fireplace danced on the logs;
Tom and Millie were happy, though poor.
They'd lived out their lives in the simplest of ways,
they'd gathered and scraped what they could,
Millie raising a family of three fine young lads
while Tom was at work in the woods.
Gently rocking while knitting some warm woollen socks
Millie dreamed of the summers, long gone,
when the boys would play out in the fields roundabout
and she'd stood at the sink with a song
that her mother had taught her when she was a girl;
the song of the cuckoo and wren,
and with no further prompting, her lips formed the words
and she started to sing it again.
Old Tom looked up, his face red from trying
to out-stare the eyes of the fire,
and he looked at his Millie, saw the young girl he'd courted,
and his heart filled again with desire.
Forty seven long summers and winters had passed
since they'd married and moved to this bower
of love and contentment, and striving, and hardship
and he thought, if he'd only the power
to relive his life, then he'd change not a thing;
he'd go through it all as before,
and his memories unfolded, in his mind youth returned;
he was strong, and a woodsman once more.
Felling great Oaks and Beeches with Daniel and Ben,
wielding cross-cut, and axes, and froe,
cutting Hazel and Ash for the hurdles and gates;
planting young trees, and watching them grow.
Those trees were now tall, but by no means mature;
they'd outlive both him and boy Jack,
and his grandson as well, and yet more generations,
before they succumbed to the axe
His two younger boys had both left the land,
but boy Jack had taken his job
when he'd hung up his axe for the very last time,
and taken his place by the hob.
With his memories fading, he returned to the husk
of his body, once supple and fair,
and the room was now silent, apart from the clicking
of needles and creak of the chair.
The fire was just embers, the clock chimed out ten,
and Tom eased himself out of his seat,
and he sought out the key from the vase on the mantel;
wound the clock, and turned, shuffling his feet.
“Well Millie”  he said “I'm away to me bed”
“I'm now coming , my Love,” she replied
as she finished the turn of the heel of the sock
and laid her knitting aside.
She rose, quite unsteady, and reached for his hand
and she squeezed it, and kissed him , and said
“you're a handsome old chap, Tom; the love of my life,
Come on now lad -  take me to bed”

Thursday, 11 August 2011

My first poem

I was first inspired to write a poem not long after beginning to learn the craft of Basketmaking, some 20 years ago. I was so smitten with the work, that I felt the need to write about it, and this was the result:-

For the love of basket-making, or Just One More

He sat, his back against the wall, his legs stretched out before;
half-finished basket on his lap.
He peered out through the door
from gloom within to glare without,
and with neither smile nor sigh,
snatched photographic glimpses
of the people passing by.
Upsett – slew – border – brew;
the pattern of his day
unbroken as for centuries;
there is no other way
to make a basket. Engineers
might work with all their skill
to make machines to do the job
but he knows they never will.
Pulling out another rod
from his pile of mellowed stuff
he weaves it in, and then two more
then measures – that's enough.
A three rod wale, and beat it down,
his iron polished bright
by his palm, and palms before his own;
he beats it level – tight.
A common five-rod border now
laid more by touch than sight;
checking, smiling, trimming up,
Yes, that one looks just right.
Plain roped handle – not long now
(the kettle quietly steaming)
his thoughts turn inwards, glazed his eyes,
he settles into dreaming
for a minute, ‘til the kettle boils
and brings him back once more,
and he rises, creaking,
from his polished plank upon the floor.
With mug in hand he idly stands
in sunlight in the doorway,
soaking up enough supplies
to see him through one more day
Sorting out tomorrow's work
he puts stuff in the tank
to soak, then turning back inside,
he settles on his plank;
picks up his knife and rods, he slypes
sending chips across the floor
and smiling, says "I think there's time,
yeah - time for just one more”

I hope you enjoyed that - Twigger