Wandering around with words for Remembrance Sunday


Minding Grandpa

Grandpa sits in silence twisting threads on a white
wooden frame with rows of neat nails on each side

weaving patterns with silky thread recovering
from the Great War and comrades lost on the Somme

forbidden by Grandma from talkingp1060251-001
of gas, madness or months of recuperation.

Memories fall into the safety of the sitting room
shiny bodkins glint in the sun like bayonets

his fingers unroll a length of gold as tales of the dead
suddenly return and his eyes fill with tears.

He whispers to me about a hospital ship blown to pieces
and jabs a line of blue twine into the emerging mat.DSC08209

A screech from his green parrot breaks his sombre mood.
He smiles and ties a golden knot in triumph.

Polly pads along his arm, sings ‘Roll out the barrel’.
I gather up Grandpa’s wayward threads.


Although Grandpa survived the Great War, he had to recover from a period of insanity as a result of being gassed and shell shocked, first in hospital and then in a convalescence home. He and Grandma exchanged letters every week for two years. I still have  them in the wooden box I found them in.

Eventually he was strong enough to return to his family fruit shop in Goodge Street in London, going to market everyday to buy the fruit. But I suspect this was partly due to Stan their ever faithful van driver who did all the driving and enabled Grandpa to keep his role as the eldest son in the business. When his younger brothers eventually bought him out he was devastated.

Whep1060256n dad returned from the Second World War he had to live under the same roof as Grandpa’s argumentative parrot. How he hated birds in the house including Grandma’s budgies that were sometimes allowed to fly freely. Dad  had to leave the room as he said they brought back memories of dodging plagues of locusts in North Africa!

At Grandpa’s  request dad did however rig up a frame under his instructions so that Grandpa could try and make the same mats as he had done years previously as part of occupational therapy. This was when he and  I, as  a child, had secret conversations.

Minding Grandpa  is from my new collection ‘The Puppeteer’s DaughterPoems about artists, Brighton, nature, eccentrics and of course the complexities of life as a puppeteers daughter!

This entry was posted in Ann's memoir, Brighton - out and about, Cheer yourself up on a dull day, Photography, Poetry readings - London - Brighton and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Wandering around with words for Remembrance Sunday

  1. Helen Goodman says:

    I read your current messages. How emotional I felt. Memories are strong – they come so readily with mind pictures never to be forgotten. I, too, can still hear the treadle machine pumping out something new. I read letters from the Burma Railway and wonder how these men were able to laugh and smile again. Their memories had actual pictures. I look forward to reading your writings and although I don’t respond they give me much to think about whether it is your allotment, puppets, art, poetry or any of the other many and varied interests you have.

    • ann perrin says:

      That is a really touching response and so beautifully written. .Sometimes one wonders if anyone is out there. blogging is a strange affair You made my day. Thank you ann x

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