More snow and a longer poem


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As snow transforms foliage into icy fingers
the bus crawls caterpillar-like up the hill
the seagulls’ feet thump on our flat bedroom roof
and greenfinches wait in an orderly queue
to swing on bird feeders in our cherry tree
and hymns of the faithful reach a crescendo.

You are propped up on clouds white fluffy pillows
knowing that your life is coming to an end
later we watch shafts of silver light
pirouette over the dark green ribbons of the sea
like a final performance, dancing dancing
to that final bow and rapturous applause.


 from ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ 

This poem was prompted by the wife of a very dear friend, Rosemary, dying soon after we moved down here. Our fondest memory was camping with her and her husband  near the lavender fields in France, a year or so before she died. We all made films and belonged to the Orpington Video and Film Makers Club, Happy Days.

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A tiny bit of snow and a small poem.

A white veil falls
over the face of the world 
slowly freezing time.

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An award winning blog  for a ‘blog that brightens our day’

  Poetry collections ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ and ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’


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Pelham Puppets and making films win the day.

Suddenly decided to get back to putting films on youtube.  Have lots of unedited footage including some to put to my poetry.

But the easiest to start with today are our plays for Pelham Puppets that missed the boat a few years ago.

‘The Cat and the Cauldron’  was an early edit but only went online today. Written in the 50s for children. Does anyone remember performing it?

Editing films is always a challenge but these are really fiddly especially as the films were made with my mother and I operating the puppets and letting the camera run.  But ‘Caterpillar Capers’  went up few years ago and is a favourite with Pelham collectors. I still like it myself!

We had to buy some of the puppets on Ebay ourselves to make the films, because when Bob Pelham asked us to write the plays in the early days, we did not actually own any.

Bob had served in the second world war, where he got his nickname Wonky Donkey, from making little push up puppets. My father had served in the second world war too, so maybe that was the basis of their long lasting friendship. My mother was involved in the early newsletters from Pelpop.

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David Leech has the official Pelham Puppet site  He used to work at Bob Pelham’s factory and continues to produce new puppets too. His book  published in 1998 has details of all the Pelham Puppets produced.

Collecting Pelham Puppets

As far as filming is concerned there is an added complication because to date I can only edit in Adobe 6.1 because it is intuitive.  I have mild discalucular that means that anything that requires calculation including plus and minuses is out of the question. I tend to shove a whole film on the timeline and chop it up by eye and instinct.

I have put lots of films on youtube in the last 15 years or so. There are mini documentaries, art, puppets etc. most of them short and sweet, less than five minutes duration

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Some I made when I was a member of two different film clubs in London but several have been made since I moved to the outskirts of Brighton.

‘Virginia Woolf’ and ‘Monet’s Garden’ are two of the most popular.

I have recently had to change camera and cope with discs rather than tape, which means a change in editing system. It is all  a bit of challenge and I am trying to find the easiest one, But then I still have several  films on tape to finish too

The inevitable question is how long have I got and how do I really want to spend my time? I write a lot anyway and have partner, a family, a garden and an allotment!    But then still hope to improve my poetry and  combine some of them with film.

The link below will take you to all the short films I have already made on all sorts of topics. Most of them are less than 5 minutes long, Some have thousands of hits and others with just a handful. Well you can’t please everyone all the time.  85 films altogether.

Here are a few of the first images to a handful of them.


and of course the The Cat and the Cauldron in all it’s glory.

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Request – please press Like if indeed you did.

If you are a regular reader of this blog please consider buying my book. Puppets and poets live off their wits! Thank you Ann,


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Some friends are irreplaceable

P1100145My orchids carry fond memories of  a dear cousin who has died in California. But I have also had the pleasure of re- reading some of the emails we have exchanged in recent years!

He always started them with ‘My Dear Octopus’  a reference to Dodie Smith’s play of the same name. She was the author of ‘I Capture the Castle’ which was her first novel, written during the Second World War when she and her husband Alec Beesley were living in California.

Cousin John lived in California and had been there for many years, with the woman he once described ‘as the love of my life’ an American called Louise.

John had been close to my mother when they were young and to her delight sent her an orchid for her 70th birthday. It was after my mother died that he started to write to me, he wrote about anything that came to mind and I like to think we gradually became friends.

This is an extract from one of his emails 13/7/07.

‘When limes are really ripe they turn yellow like lemons – full of juice which Louise freezes into lime cubes – which are delicious in cold tea. The limes in the stores here have to be picked green – before they are fully ripe – so you generally can’t buy them when they’re at their best. Our neighbours grow more fruit and vegetables than they can eat – so a lot of it comes our way – peaches plums nectarines peppers tomatoes strawberries – and lots of other stuff.’

He once said

‘Old age isn’t for the faint hearted – Louise has just turned eighty and I have just turned eighty-six.’

On the 30 /10/ 07  an extract from the email following fires in California…

‘Hundreds of homes were lost and thousands of people were evacuated. However – terrible as the Californian fires were – they didn’t even start to compare with the blitz. We lived about five miles from the centre of London and when the whole city was ablaze – the sky was so bright – red and orange – that it was like day and you could have read a newspaper outside of the house. On top of that bombs were falling.’

He sent me copies of extracts from his war time logs. Much later details of how proud he was to receive an award in America seldom given to an Englishman!

Dec 14 Joined HMS Victorious
“ ” Sailed from Greenock Scotland
Jan 1 Arrived Norfolk Virginia USA Via Bermuda

John Herbert's medals

In 2016  he wrote to tell me he had lost Louise and that same year  ‘the French have honoured me for my service in helping to liberate France. I now have Chevalier (Knight) de la Legion D’Honneur.’

I knew that he had lived near us in London when I was a child and had visited us as a young man but I don’t remember him. He and his brothers were also strong singers who sung in a church choir.  But he took great delight in telling me in old age that he could still remember all the street cries/songs of London, including the rude ones!

He often lectured me, but also informed me, sharing  his knowledge of literature and his love of music and of poetry.

He sent me a large hardback volume of poetry for my 70th birthday. He said it was the one that all American children were familiar with.

I am so glad I have kept his emails, I guess we were also a bit like pen pals.

Do you remember thr pen pal era?  That will have to be another blog!











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Pictures from highlights in 2017

Checking my  blog the stats tell me the script for Cinderella, a  pantomime in five minutes, gets the most hits on a  daily basis worldwide!  My old aunty’s chestnut soup recipe (1920) usually comes a close second.

Visits to local landmarks are popular as are posts with pictures linked to my poems.

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Our trip Venice  was well read and we may go again next year.

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People all over the world were also drawn to bluebells at  Emmetts.

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Birmingham Uni. where my youngest grandson studies was good. We went to celebrate his 21st.

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And visiting Ireland for a writing course with Niall Williams, a real adventure and earned some traffic. I went with my friend Maggie who sustained an injury just before we left so it was all a bit traumatic. But we got to Kilmahil at the last minute and I managed to write a poem on the plane on the way home.

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Tending my garden and allotment give me loads to blog about. Quite honestly I am happy if it cheers one or two people along, but in recent months plenty of people tune in which makes it blogging even more worth while.

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On the poetry front I never stop writing but I am not an academic poet and in some respects it would seem poetry is becoming an industry!

But I was poet in residence courtesy of the Poetry School  (Mixed Borders) and  London Open Squares Weekend for the third year running. This  time in Earls Court Square and I was filmed on the spur of the moment for German TV.

Sadly the nearby Grenfell tower had burned down the previous weekend which made it a more sombre occasion but many people seemed to carry on regardless.

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An unexpected pleasure occurred when I was invited to the newly organised Gardening Museum near Lambeth Palace by a lady I met on the bus on the way to the Poetry School.  A real treat.

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hatch partyI’ve just been approached by an organisation that wants one of my poems for children for  educational purposes. Fingers crossed!

I pleased too that after seven years my Pop and write poetry sessions for beginners in a local cafe are still working well.

In retirement I am no longer in the market for expensive courses or festivals.  But one can learn an awful lot by reading and watching/listening to poets on youtube.

John McCullough has however been my main inspiration and sometimes mentor on and off for over ten years, so he has to have a mention in an end of year resume!

Happy New Year to all those lovely people that take time out to view this blog!

An award winning blog  for a ‘blog that brightens our day’

On the eve of All Hallows on Kilmahil Hill 
(for Maggie)

The angel with white wings calls us in.
We enter humbly by the back way,
walk through sturdy brick monuments
with unreadable names,
the recent in black slate with gold lettering.
Bright posies in the light of death.

We wander in silence past the fading momentos
where a fallen angel lies on a bed of pebbles
knocked over by the Irish wind.
We set it to rights, continue
in the shadow of the surviving wall
of a once thriving village church.

We see the ghosts of old traditions,
the coffin rocking gently on the cart,
the mourners walking slowly in a long line behind.
Rows on rows of gravestones like an army
of forgotton souls, turn right and here is the
all-forgiving figure of the sacred heart of Jesus

He guides us past the elaborate sculptures,
The pale pastel colours softening the way
of the Stations of the Cross.
Oh, unbeliever that I am, are you not moved?
The winged healer at the Holy Well,
the blue and white Archangel Michael.

The story of the travelling pony,
miracles and revelations, a  bed of roses
with just one tiny audacious deep pink
thistle hiding in the neatly cut grass.

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Teaching gypsies – lessons learned and a poem or two.

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Memories of teaching gypsies on a permanent site in South London in the 70s have never left me. I did it for four years and it was one of the best jobs I ever had. They were so resourceful and not at all like the negative way in which they were often portrayed.

I have just found these sketches I did at Appleby Horse Fair when clearing out for the New Year.

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I was once invited to join go their annual break to the fair where they would trade their horses and do a bit of dealing. It was such a unique experience I went back several times over the years.

However the people that still lived in these traditional caravans were usually from the north where they still travelled from place to place attending fairs and trying to keep their traditional way of life.

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I kept a diary about my experiences at the time and turned it into a book called  ‘Swop a Horse and Cart for a CSE’ but was told it would have limited appeal when I tried to get it  published. Later I modified it and gave it a new title ‘Travelling Nowhere’ but still no luck.

Finally I was asked to turn it into play which was performed at the Young Vic in London for three weeks and then went on tour. Some of the travellers I taught came to the opening night and loved it.

I have also just found the original manuscript of the book how lucky is that? I’ll know I’ll enjoy reading it again and who knows in this computer age I may yet publish it myself.

If there is a moral to this tale it has to be that I used to be more resourceful which could be a timely reminder for the New Year.

The one or two poems written in the last couple of years.


swept the floor
all morning
for something to do.
Janey Jones
fed the baby goat,
her folk out calling.

Paul, a tall dark kid
rode horses bareback.
Jakey tried to train
a hawk, Danny whittled
wood and Frankie
sang sad songs.

Old man Smith banged
the trailer door
with his stick. “Ann”
he called “get those kids
a learning.”

When they burned
her caravan, she only took
her granny’s sewing scissors.


I’ve not flown to New York
but I’ve taught gypsies to read
and watched Rosie bottle-feed
a new born goat.

I’ve not gone on a cruise,
been seated at the captain’s table
but I’ve crossed the Channel in a tiny
yacht with some two bit actors
who promised they could sail.

I’ve not run barefoot over hot coals
But I’ve wandered the Argonne Forest
dodging unspent ammunition
giving thanks for simply being alive.
Life lines

The old flower seller
at Waterloo
threw a posy into
the Prince of Wales
got arrested
but then a pardon
from the Queen.
She tied it to her
flower basket
for the rest
of the life.


Teaching gypsies
Tracy once told me
her granny was
a flower seller
at Waterloo.
One day she said
she never came home.

These poems were included in the   ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’

Happy New Year to everyone and many thanks to those that continue to read my posts.

An award winning blog  for a ‘blog that brightens our day’


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Burning the clocks in Brighton

Little bit late in posting but then as Burning the Clocks is an antidote to the excesses of the commercial Christmas maybe its even more appropriate.

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The winter solstice is on December 21 and is the “shortest” day of the year and marks the start of the winter period.

In Brighton we have  the Burning of the Clocks which is a winter solstice festival run by artist-led charity Same Sky. Many local community organisations, schools and anyone else interested participate in the event.

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The first Burning the Clocks festival was in 1993. The lantern makers become part of the show as they invest the lanterns with their wishes, hopes, and fears and then pass them into the fire.

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I think the Co-op were the first sponsors. The publicity stresses that local people make their own lanterns but these days they have to purchase a kit. This year it was £28 (which makes 2) which sadly makes it seem a bit commercial.

The event in 2008 was my favourite one, there were wonderful wobbly clocks and waves of impromptu dancing. The music also became more mystical as lantern bearers were allowed on to the beach right up to the fire to hand their lanterns over for burning! Think health and safety may have stepped in since!


2012 was pretty good too!

Nevertheless a spectacular event this year and after all ‘what you haven’t had you don’t miss.’

I did film this year’s but have new editing arrangements to sort!



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