My poem translated into Italian – Bluebells – Garden – Memoir.

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An unexpected  email arrived from  journalist and poet Lavinia Collodel, an art historian living in Rome. She was writing about green spaces for an Italian magazine and included Postman’s Park in London. Apparently she had discovered my blog and a podcast of my poems and wanted to include ‘A formal Lawn’ in her article. A real highlight in my day.

Il prato rasato 

Sebastian misura, meticoloso
la rete arancione acceso
come un artista con la sua tela.

Pieno di arnesi
una carriola in piedi
forche, vanghe, spazzole e paletti.

Il suo compagno e in ginocchio all’angolo
setacciando terra, spatolando bordi, con cura
il capo chino, intento alla perfezione.

The formal lawn

Sebastian methodically measures
bright orange netting like an artist
marking out his canvas

Full of tools
one wheelbarrow stands
forks spades brushes stakes

His mate kneels at one corner
carefully sifting soil, trowelling edges
his head bent, intent on perfection.

A third man brings in a barrow
rich green turf, all three
in harmony, finely tuned

I was glad Lavinia had chosen that poem as I wrote it as soon as I walked through the gates and watched Sebastian, the gardener, laying the lawn. 

Postman’s Park is well known for the plaques that were put up by George Frederick Watts, painter and sculptor, in memory of ordinary people who had died undertaking  heroic deeds such as saving someone from drowning or rescuing them from a burning building.

A wonderful bee and wild garden lady that came from Manchester with a display said we were Yes people and made things happen! Like to think that is true.

May Bluebells

In May popped down to Kent to visit my eldest son’s cottage  and there it was, a vast natural bluebell wood right opposite, vast swathes of blue, the birds singing.

June

The roses have been prolific but I’m growing a lot more veg. in an ancient greenhouse and mix artichokes and runner beans in flower beds.

Memoir

Lockdown and uncertainty for twelve months have given me time to unearth boxes of papers that I had not unpacked since we moved here twelve years ago. A small pile of air letters to my mother, tied in a bow, sent by a young man serving overseas during the Second World War.  I read some of them and believe they must have loved one another. He was killed in action.

There were programmes and band parts in my father’s file and information about his service in the Royal Signals in North Africa and Italy. We all knew he started a successful band to entertain the troops and that he fell in love with a French girl who sang with the band. His band was featured on Radio Milan every week.  I have written poems about some of this in the past. ‘Music from another room’.

He had been posted overseas when we were babies and came back when my sister was five and I was six. It must have been a shock to return to the austerity of post war Britain.

So plenty to ponder and perhaps becoming marionette makers, make believe and comedy was my parents’ way of coping with life after the war.  Much later when I was about seventeen touring in Variety my father produced similar band parts to the ones I have just found for the orchestra pit as it was called

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Back to Brighton

I was waiting for my campervan last week and  wrote the following piece on the spur of the moment and popped it on my facebook page, so I’ll leave you with this thought!

Ann was sitting on a bank when the last caterpillar in Moulsecoomb crawled close by her. “Excuse me” said Ann ” do you know why they are turning this part of Brighton into a huge wall of concrete?” The caterpillar paused “Everyone knows that, they are building hundreds of homes for students.” “Oh!” said Ann “what will they be studying?” “Politics, poetry and saving the environment”, drawled the caterpillar …”But before he could say any more the last blackbird in Brighton flew down and bit off his head.

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March – another month is flying by…

Strange times but nature has a way of creating its own magic.

Dappled sun on paths
white pussy willow fallen
wood pigeons calling

 

Ashdown Forest – Kings Standing

Just for fun – this must be Eeyore’s house (Tatsfield)

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Emerging from the chaos of 2020 inevitably older but wiser?

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During lockdown I think my life has taken even more of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality, with a few chunks of ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ for good measure.

The Mad Hatter is of course unaware that mercury is responsible for his and all the other old hatters demise, whilst the March Hare, still preoccupied with riddles, cannot be surprised that some of us feel like the dormouse and are seriously contemplating sleeping in a teapot for ever.

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I can sympathize with him after months of lockdown. I often struggle to remember what day of the week it is and just snuggle under the duvet again. My diary is empty of real events, life has lost its rhythm and rhyme. It has sometimes felt that some of the reason for living has flown out of the window.

I tend to be optimistic by nature, maybe just have a strong survival streak due to fact that I was born with a damaged mouth in the blitz in 1940. It took years of struggle to breath properly, pronounce many words etc all of which has had an impact on my whole life. Strangely, my mother did not tell me about this until I was 30, I wish she’d mentioned it earlier. Perhaps that’s what turned me into a reluctant clown in an effort to survive.

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My younger sister was very clever and passed the eleven plus but still had endless problems due to the fact we were the daughters of puppeteers and destined never to fit in! But on the bright side we had the advantage for many years of what might be considered home schooling. We lived in a house of creativity which belonged to our grandparents, who had barely recovered from the impact of the Great War let alone the second.

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Granny was always taking people in, one or two ended up living with us for many years, others became somewhat irregular childminders for my sister and I. After the war father was unable to settle into civilian life so we led a life of constant insecurity, but with the advantage of learning about modelling marionette heads, creating a fairyland of characters. My mother wrote scripts and dressed marionettes. In the early years they created a real theatre in our front room with tip-up seats and a paying audience on Sundays.

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We used scenes from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ a lot and left the world of school and its discipline for summer seasons in seaside resorts. So a Cheshire cat could appear and disappear, a white rabbit have all the right cards up his sleeve and, to my mind, still does! Thank goodness I was always aware that the tale ends with that pack of cards cascading down on the courtroom and Alice emerging, like me sane, sensible.

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I guess fear of getting the illness so late in life and a creeping sort of loneliness has been the scourge of covid for me. But I still managed to transfer a poetry group I had been running in a local cafe for ten years to zoom. I am proud of that!

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It has not been easy that my partner has health issues, so we are even more cautious about going out, but he plays several musical instruments and can happily practice for long periods, while I shut myself away in the chaos of our spare room writing poems and attempting to edit my old films etc.

Most of all I miss those off peak rail trips up to the galleries, the Summer Exhibition at the RA, a visit to the Tate or the South Bank, the Poetry SchooL.. It all seems like a lifetime away. How I miss London stations, St. Pancras, Victoria, the magic of the station clocks, a chance to pop into Paperchase, search for a notebook or a card, always finding something reduced! Anne Marie-Fyfe’s poetry workshops at The Troubadour.

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How I loved catching the train to Victoria, the bus to Brompton Road so I could see all those wonderful shops, the glamour of Harrods, the stately architecture of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The buzz, the music, the wine, the company, the drama, listening to invited poets and from time to time even reading a poem myself at the Troubadour. Rushing for my bus at 10pm, grabbing a Chinese takeaway to eat on the train going home.

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I started life trying to keep safe. I am lucky to have a home and a garden but it still seems very strange. I stopped watching the news months ago. Friends have lost loved ones and the distress of old people in care homes without visitors makes grim reading in the papers that I also currently avoid. I know a bit about care homes, when I was unable to care for my granny, she went into one. I got used to hiring a wheelchair at weekends to to take her to the park.

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In my lifetime I have been at the bedside of three members of the family in their last hours, in very sad circumstances, but at least I was there for them.

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So counting ones blessings! Food, kind neighbours, friends, grown up grandchildren in different parts of the country, one in the medical profession. I have sons and daughter sin law who were in various tiers and visited when allowed. I get regular long distance technical support from Robin my eldest son, so have edited two very short films with new editing system.

If you type in ‘Ann Perrin’ and the following titles, you can see these on youtube

1. Paris 1948 and Poem – Music From Another Room – from “The Puppeteer’s Daughter” by Ann Perrin

2. Poetry from Postman’s Park in London

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My little poetry group have written poems all through the last lockdown and Maggie, one or the poets asked for two poems from each person and produced a handmade anthology. What a wonderful gesture!

It was a tough old year I had to give up my allotment, I need my eyes tested and yes there have been a few days when I have just stayed in bed all day. but the spring will come, I’ll be back in the garden.

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Now I have started again I’ll be back writing my blog, after all it’s about 12 years old and in December I had hundreds of people reading old posts on a daily basis. So guess I am doing something right!

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Telegoons – based on The Goon show – their role in my downfall!

Goons2.jpgInvited to give a talk about the Telegoons for The  Goon Show Preservation Society  many moons ago, naturally it developed into a performance! Here is the transcript of the talk I have also transferred a film of the event to digital. I will pop it on Youtube later. There were films of the rehearsal with my son Robin that I dreamed up for the event that I think are funnier than the end result.

I came from what I think they call a dysfunctional family!
Unaccustomed as I am to speaking in public, as a person rather than as a puppet, I would like to thank you for inviting me. Even if it did take you 40 years!
In the last 3 years I have been happily living in Puppethouse home of my wonderful website, decrepit marionettes, and the spirit of lost and abandoned telegoons.

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I hear the sound of Bloodnok in the attic planning a military campaign to overthrow London’s mayor, to reinstate chaos in Trafalgar Square and stop congestion charges reaching Balham, gateway to the South. The gentle murmurs of Min and Crun happily harvesting opium in the garden, the groans of Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty on community service and clearing the shed, the excited cries of Bluebottle and Eccles making bonfires in the shrubbery and the gentle splashing of Neddie bathing in the Japanese water feature.

But suddenly our peace is shattered, Neddie’s mobile rings incessantly. It appears this guy in the States, with no idea of time or place, by the name of Alistair, is asking for a full and frank account of the life and times of the Telegoons – and no doubt their part in my downfall. And all for a fiver in used monopoly money!


Well Neddie, full of optimism and an eye for a quick buck as usual, has visions of fame and fortune, hip replacements and expensive plastic surgery – the world is his oyster. He wrecks the place, turning over old diaries, ancient scripts, patents and pictures. Endless emails and sleepless nights ensue, until, seven months later, he has captured every detail – real and imagined – of Telegoon history, and transported it
page by page to somewhere in Oregon. Oblivious to all my efforts to earn a living, Neddie squanders his fiver on a pint of beer and a plate of whelks. 

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And by now, my old mate John Dudley Esquire of Devon appears on the scene. He has apparently been searching for me for 5 years. How lovely still to be wanted! But looking back, one realises, what a privilege it was to have been part of the Goon era.

My father Ron Field died 10 years ago, and I still miss him, but it is only over the last 3 years, while reviewing my long association with puppets that I discovered that my father and Spike Milligan had experiences in common as young men. They both served in the Second World War and had been in the landings at Naples. My father, like Spike, had his own dance band and entertained fellow servicemen. Ron also had a regular slot on Radio Milan and composed his own music. Later, as a comedian in his own right, he shared top billing with Norman Vaughan in Variety. Spike and my father had had  a lot in common so may be that was the reason he gave the original drawings of the Telegoons to my dad. 

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Perhaps the sheer insanity and camaraderie of the war years heightened awareness of the totally ridiculous, and is why there will never be another generation of such luminaries in terms of entertainers, comedians and perhaps puppeteers! 

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My son Robin as a child also remembers Spike. He took his grandmother to hear Spike read his poetry at London Zoo on the site of the chimpanzees’ tea party – typical Spike.
Peter Sellers also played a part in our family history. We often entertained his children with our marionette theatre, usually at the Dorchester. Peter loved the show and always sat in the front row. Later we joined in with the party, meeting many of his famous friends.

So name dropping ruthlessly I moved to my own career in variety, where at 16, with  cabaret marionettes, I appeared in a Summer Show at the Royal Hippodrome Eastbourne with another comedian who had goon connections topping the bill – Graham Stark (remember him?  Later I shared the same bill as Max Miller and
Morecambe and Wise to name but a few. In those days the stars of the shows shared the same cafes as the rest of us. I met Graham, years later, at a beach in Bournemouth. He recognised me playing with my children, and came over to spend a happy half an hour building sandcastles.

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But back to Telegoons who we are here to acknowledge and celebrate. John Dudley tells me we first met in a dustbin – which seems a perfectly normal place to hold a conversation. We got on really well, and although several other puppeteers were involved with the series John and I worked together quite a lot.


My experience in TV, commercials and my own family’s  TV pilot films also meant I knew the importance of getting a shot in ‘one take’ essential to a company on a small budget… so now…Tony Young. He was the Telegoons director who approached my parents about actually making the Telegoon characters. At the time my father had developed a lip-synch system with Chris Meader an engineer and close friend, applied for a patent. This kind of puppetry was in its infancy and Gerry Anderson, unbeknown to us, was also working on similar technology.

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Tony was a visionary but with a very low budget who wanted everything done for next to nothing, or less. And although we gave what time we could and shared much of our puppet film expertise, we still had to eat on a daily basis. But Tony always held out the possibility of being part of the film company.

Despite all this, it was my father who convinced Tony that we would need two sets of characters – rod as well as marionettes – which initially he had tried to avoid. He also became a regular visitor to our workshop in Highgate, where we made rubber heads for our own film characters. It was here we produced rubber hands and the prototype for Telegoon boots – and all for gratis, and, for nothing.

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Apparently Tony’s father, brother and others were also drawn into various developments; which is why there are so many ‘grey areas’ about who made what. It is a pity however that Tony did not commission Ron to pour the Telegoon heads as our rubber heads have lasted 50 years while the Telegoon rubber was not properly cured and the heads have disintegrated over the years. 

The dastardly rubber experience is perhaps one best forgotten. We did it in a minute kitchen at the back of our studios. I can still recall the smell of it baking, the fumes – probably toxic – explains a lot. Joan Field, my mother, endlessly advised and altered puppet costumes. Bloodnok arrived at our studios in a uniform beautifully tailored but so thick and stiff he could hardly move! Joan sorted out this and other such problems; but again it was a labour of love. Eventually everything was ready to film and at this
stage my family were the only puppeteers involved. We worked all day, and after that, into the night! But it was this PILOT that sold the series to the BBC!!

Spike did call in on the set, but filming only ever stopped for a short tea break. The Goons had had to re-record the scripts as they were too fast for the puppets and although Spike liked the puppets he felt the company itself was trying to cut corners.

In reality a puppeteer is a master of puppet manipulation – an actor of sorts – which is why many of them were also members of Equity. Puppetry has its roots in Greek and Italian theatrical traditions and John said to put on a mask is to change identity, a marionette is a manifestation of that tradition.

So to the Telegoons again. We actually became the characters, which was indeed quite stressful by the end. I was the only puppeteer in our family to be given a properly paid contract. But on with the motley, the paint and the powder! As previously mentioned, I met John in the dustbins belonging to the Shanghai Borough Council,

Scene 9, Exterior wall, night, rod puppets; or so he tells me. And then followed a life of being whizzed around day after day, hanging onto a camera dolly, with my hand up Neddie’s jumper.Not an experience one cares to recall. Puppet films require scenes with wind machines, dust and spider-web sprays, smoke and water. Seldom does anyone give a thought to the person with the rod or at the end of a marionette string.

Most directors even talked to the puppets and gave them directions as though they were on their own. Of course the whole crew became besotted with Goonery, we all mimicked their voices in cafes, pubs and in taxis when we went to see the rushes in London.

Other anecdotes come from notes on my scripts. Apparently I made a scarf for Neddie for the Canal scene, helped to paint  Grytepipe-thynne as a werewolf,  dressed Neddie in a damp nightshirt after his fell into  the canal and many other riveting events. 

Sadly, however, although my dad’s lip sync system was used it was never paid for and in the circumstances I left after 15 episodes.

Our whole family  went on to even greater things making and performing with the marionettes for the feature film ‘ Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier where we were directed personally by ‘Dickie’ now Lord Attenborough. But that is another story.P1090174

Now you all know that famous gatherings are now plagued with imposters and the Goon Society is no exception. So, if you’ll gently whisper 4 lines of the Ying Tong song we now have a small demonstration especially constructed for you. One character was made by my father 50 years ago.  The other one was made by me 3 weeks ago for this event. I wonder if you will be able to tell the difference, and who is impersonating whom.

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Creativity – lockdown – but everything is the garden is lovely!

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We created a courtyard at the front of the house,  with chairs, a table, a trough full of flowers and a bird feeder. It was partly in an attempt to ensure we could have two or three friends round and be suitably socially distanced. But now even that advice has changed!

But I can at least see sparrows competing for seeds, through the  gaps in the window blind..

In our re-designed front garden neighbours and dog walkers stop to say hello and when the sun moves from the back garden to the front about teatime my partner and I sometimes have a glass of wine watching the sunset.

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But how I miss family and friends! Shopping trips, walks, meeting fellow poets in the Library, our group was called Grasshoppers. All those trips up to London to galleries.  Visits to Jean and Mado on their farm near Toulouse.  Memories come flooding back especially of the time we all came across an abandoned charcoal burners site.

A few years later at Arvon I wanted to write a poem about the drama of those people walking so far from home and living and working as they did at the time of the Great War. I was very much a novice poet and Ian Duhig was one of the tutors.  He challenged  me to try a sonnet. I wasn’t at all sure but when I took a draft to his tutorial feeling very out of my depth he just kept saying “so what do you want to say?”   I read my poem line by line. and he suggested one or two changes.  I found the notes he made the other day and still treasure them.  He popped up in the Guardian recently about writing for The Irish Times.

I know I have put this poem up  before but finding the notes prompted me to do it  again and to treasure his wisdom  “So what do you really want to say?”

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I love London Drawing, I don’t subscribe to their wonderful ongoing courses on everything from portraits to botany but love their one off workshops. Very good too  that they require a donation instead of a set fee. So far I have done one theatre workshop, where the models were constantly moving and engaging with drapes and fabrics.  The second one was about a traditional method of drawing from India. The Zoom was in fact in India, with the artist/tutor happily chatting and sharing. She  demonstrated the main features of the designs. She showed us how to draw a fish but this was tip of the iceberg and thoroughly enjoyable.

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I have recently linked father’s original film footage to one of my poems and put it on youtube  Paris 1948 and Poem – Music From Another Room  lasts three minutes.

Click here for link  

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The visit to Paris came about thanks to Grandpa. He had returned from the Great War having been gassed and shell shocked and despite two years of hospitalisation he  returned to the family fruit shop in Goodge Street where he worked part – time.  Much later after the Second World War he gave each of his children a modest lump sum for house deposits.  Auntie Joyce and family headed to Potters Bar.  Uncle Dick took his young family to Hayes and father took us to Paris!  My mother was the youngest of the three and it seemed possible we were destined to live in our grandparents’ house for some years not least in a caring capacity.

Still struggling with film of Appleby Fair in the 80’s! At least completed transferring it from tape to digital and have found some old traditional songs. It will be the next one  to be finished, but in the end its all about staying motivated!

Back in the garden just in time for Autumn colours, Virginia Creeper reminds me of decorating baskets for displays of fruit for the local church each year. After a Harvest Festival service ours and the contributions of others would be distributed to the elderly. We were lucky Grandpa worked in the family greengrocers because we often had fruit, especially bruised apples and pears that could not be sold.

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Trying to work out which variety will produce the very last rose of summer.

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Just before the lockdown started all over again managed to get to my beach hut and swam in the sea a few times!   Then few weeks ago fell down the stairs which was not too clever!  Luckily only pulled a tendon or two, but had to stay rested for a couple of weeks. Fine now, so back to whatever life comes up with!

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Nearly resorted to getting my butterfly tapestry out. I’ve only completed one butterfly in 30 years. It’s a sort of emergency desperation activity. When my mother saw I had it out she used to say “Oh dear now we are in for trouble.” Not for long, hence only one butterfly!

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Talking to myself – pictures – poems

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Occasionally its been enough effort to get up, let alone write. But I’ve got a garden and lots of unfinished projects like repainting the shed! But I’ve managed to re-draft a few poems and written a bit more of my memoir. I try to share something positive on my story on facebook every 24 hrs, partly in an effort to cheer myself along!  It’s a disturbing time, scary, will we catch the virus, what can we do to keep safe or even sane? So here I am again just sharing a few tales.

The guy and his unicycle.

I’ll always remember him, avoiding eye contact, thin, unshaven, in his mid twenties, a unicyclist and freelance entertainer from Covent Garden.

He said he had always enjoyed the bustle of bars and cafes, music, fellow artists strutting their stuff, magicians, fire eaters, the crowds, the jingle of coins in his hat. He had made friends and enough dosh to muddle through.

I was a therapist at the time, I worked freelance for Primary Care Trusts and charities, but how does one get a guy back on his unicycle?

I don’t even know how he discovered me, but there he was, plodding along to my house near Ashburton Park from East Croydon Station.

At first he’d sit with head in hands talking life and depression, but gradually we worked on visualising some of the good stuff again! The third time he came he brought his unicycle with him, pushing it along Morland Road like a  buggy. He had started caring for it again, cleaning it, oiling the wheels or whatever one does to befriend a unicycle.

After a few weeks he told me he could get up on top of it again, at first for a few minutes, then a bit longer and finally trying out his whole performance! He called me up from London “Hey Ann, you’ve got to get up here” so naturally I did.

Passing the time.

I’ve re-strung a few of my marionettes. discovered a 3 minute film  marionettes in the loft from 2008 on an old memory stick, so I popped it on Youtube with a few lines from Weaving Spells for the sound track.  So for better or worse here it is.

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I’ve moved furniture about, cleared out boxes, catalogued photographs, hurt my back,  my leg,  got a cold, recovered etc.

Sleep does not come easily. Last night I awoke at 2.am from a dream about serving canapes in a black frock and tiny white apron at a reception at an embassy near Trafalgar Square! This really happened! I once worked part-time for the June Hicks agency that sent us out to do promotions. I remember giving away tiny pieces of edam cheese, dressed as a Dutch girl, in the food hall at Selfridges, Hula hooping on a bandstand during a musical interval. Cooking paella at the Food Fair at Olympia when the pan full of chicken wings caught fire, when all I ever wanted was to be the model draped over the Alfa Romeo!

The garden

My partner and I jog along with reasonable good humour.  He practices his music and we have two gardens one front and one back, so plenty to do.

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The one at the back we created ourselves, so change it about, admire the roses, check on the frog pond, grown a few more veg.

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The Campervan

The campervan sits motionless on the front drive, so  I opened it up, sip a cool drink and imagine I’m on holiday!

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It has taken us on some brilliant places especially to see our friends near Toulouse.

Eating Apricots in France
for Jean and Mado

Under the sun umbrella
on the terrace
old friends meet.

Watching the mist on mountains
listening to the call of the cowman
urging his herd to milking.

Eating apricots, sipping wine,
a gentle informality
born of shared memories.

Discovering the remains of  charcoal burners camp near Toulouse.  

A forest near Toulouse

The mist of mountains bring in tears of rain
Where charcoal burners sought to set up home
The forest floor is thick with fern again
Their labours lost, their bodies buried bone.
Strong men cut trees to feed the furnace mound
The smaller boughs formed shelters where they slept
As darkness fell their families gathered round
So far from home in Florence, women wept.
Young men reap death on fields they did not sow
In Ypres, Verdun the slaughtered sons of France
The migrants had no choice of where to go,
But played their part when love then stood no chance.
In silent tribute to the dead we stand
Where ghosts are working still this unclaimed land.

The van was the the first and only new vehicle I have ever owned, and the money to buy it came from an unexpected contract.

Just as I was thinking of retirement and was keeping an eye on my mother who had moved to live nearby,  I was offered a 12 month contract to support residents and staff at The Star and Garter Home on Richmond Hill. The home was going to be sold  and residents, all of whom who had served in the armed forces, and the staff were to be moved to smaller homes around the country.  It was an incredibly responsible role, one that brought both joy and sorrow for everyone involved.

Films

I’ve learned a new editing system. So now I can transfer old tapes to digital and then edit them.  I once taught gypsies on a permantent site in Soutth London and went to Appleby Horse Fair regularly. The films run to six tapes!

These are stills of my first attempt with one tape taken with my phone.

Nice things can just happen…

A child who lives nearby, suitably masked and gloved like me, sometimes comes to play with my small collection of Pelham puppets either in the garden or the garage, with the door wide open. Last time she decided to draw scenes and improvise the story of Hansel and Gretel

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If it is really sunny, she comes and sits outside the van door and reads me a story.

Yesterday it was time to celebrate 76 years of the NHS.  

These memories seem appropriate.

I discovered the receipt  for the 12/6 my mother paid for my keep in 1940 a few months after I was born in Middlesex Hospital in London.img_20200507_220327

I was born with a cleft palate and the the surgeon treating me was also treating wards of injured soldiers. He noticed my ready smile and asked my mother if I could visit his wards and cheer them along. It was a gift that he promised my mother that he would perform the operation to repair my mouth himself if she took me back a few months later, which he did.


Blitz
On a warm sunny Sunday I slipped from my mother’s womb
greeted by the buzz of bombs.
London in the middle of a war, a baby with green grey eyes
and a cleft palate
But my smile soothed the souls of burned and bandaged soldiers.
talking only with their eyes.

My mother sought lodgings in Wales
near father’s barracks, alien territory to say goodby
before his active service.
In forlorn kitchens on grimy stoves she heated milk.
I coughed and choked as she poured warm waves of it
from a tiny spoon.
Poor mother, a girl caught on tenuous threads of life.

Later, curled up together our mutual dependency
slumbered in the silence of the night.

Zooming I’m lucky to have a partner with his own interests and I decided early on to tackle Zoom. So now I can still run my cafe writers group and also attend a poetry group that used to meet in the library.

Arvon, The Poetry Business, The Poetry School and Poetry Society all run events on zoom and some readings are free. A few can seem a bit like school, with rules such as no one is allowed to see each other or speak until the end, but hey ho!

Brighton has a friendly Stanza group ran by a guy called Jobe, New Writing South has discussions,  Mister Tom still runs his open mic at Poetry Cafe in Eastbourne and Pier Poets are back in September, all on zoom.

Kindly neighbours bring our shopping, My two sons and daughters-in-law live further away,  but both parties have come over separately with things we need and recently we have had socially distanced cups of tea in the front garden.

My eldest grandson works in the NHS and video calls me from time to time. The middle grandson has just arrived home from three years in Japan with intriguing stories and thoughtful presents for both of us. The youngest has  just gone of to Lancaster to his first full time job.

I’ve only been out three times and would really like to go to my tiny allotment in Hove, but can’t face my neglect of it and am still worried about travelling anywhere ever!

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Many of my age have effectively been locked in their flats, lonely and without family support. It must feel a bit like house arrest and its a scandal that so many old people have died, some in care homes. It’s such a mess and we are left to make our own decisions against a muddle of information.

I am lucky to have a family and friends and am grateful for everything! But sometimes when I do get low, and I do. I like to think of that guy and wonder how exactly he managed to get back on his unicycle!

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Old family photographs

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Early summer in the garden. Pictures -puppet – poems

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The frog pond 

translucent wings hover
newts wiggle under waterlilies
nearby bees fills socks with pollen
midges dance in fading light.

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Hive

Despite honey stocks and bee fondant
wind rain and snow penetrated
the sturdy wooden hive

Now they lie like tiny cocoons
clustered around their queen
a valiant brood.

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Worm

On the path
I just avoid
stepping on a
brown worm.
I place him
on rain sodden earth
After all, anyone
can take the wrong direction.

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Marionette

She’s got the set and the sun
but the story line is vague
and not sure that any self respecting
film maker would make an epic
about the life of an ageing marionette
who missed both fame and fortune
with no one to pull the strings
and filming it all on a mobile?

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Memories – VE day in Balmore Street London N.19 and poetry.

I guess we must have been a patriotic lot in London in 1945. I was only 4 and a half but I think I had picked up on my mother’s terror, the bombs, the constant need of escape and the lack of food. Her sister in law’s new house in the suburbs was bombed and she went to try and comfort her.  We lived in our grandmother’s  house whose methodist beliefs, her own background and kindly disposition meant she often took in people affected by the bombing. Sometimes the house seemed full of strangers.
After the war many women who had lost their husbands were left to bring up children on their own. There was rationing and lack of housing but despite poverty most people helped each other out.
I came across a tiny folder of pictures of Balmore Street’s VE party the other day.  They were tucked in a little leather folder that grandma kept with her even in a nursing home at the end of her life.
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Grandpa worked part time as he had been gassed and shell shocked in the Great War and had spent two years in hospital. He loved to tell us he was the only sane person in the family because he had a certificate to prove it.  I think both grandparents had barely recovered from the full impact of the Great War before the Second World War was upon them, their son called up, their eldest daughter doing war work. My mother was the youngest and worked in a factory making gas masks, where she met my father before he joined the Royal Signals and was sent abroad.
I had something to celebrate in 1945. I had made it into the world with a cleft palate in the middle of the Blitz in 1940.   A leading plastic surgeon working with burned soldiers offered to mend my mouth, but my mother had to keep me from crying as it could affect the chance of a successful operation. I had to be fed from a spoon. The other day I found the card my mother was given with the name of the surgeon on it and a slip of paper the receipt for 12 shillings for my keep. This was the army allowance for one child and there was no National Health Service. Many years later there was speech therapy for children with this condition but we just muddled through.

Blitz Baby

On a warm sunny Sunday she slipped from her mother’s womb,
greeted by the crash of bombs.
London in the middle of a war, a baby with blue eyes
and a cleft palate.
But her smile soothed the souls of burned and bandaged soldiers,
talking only with their eyes.

Her mother sought lodgings in Wales
near father’s barracks, alien territory, to say goodbye
before his active service overseas
In forlorn kitchens on grimy stoves she heated milk.
her baby coughed and choked as her mother poured warm
waves of milk from a tiny spoon.

Poor mother, a girl caught on tenuous threads of life.
Later, curled up together, their mutual dependency
slumbered in the silence of the night.

My grandmother often talked about the war damage to the house which continued to cause endless problems over the years.  My mother told me about her war  experiences when I was about thirty I think she had been too busy living life to reflect on the past.
But young mothers had had a pretty tough time. We stayed in London for most of the war, my sister,  11 months younger than me, was always traumatised as an adult by firework night, picking up on my mother’s fear of buzz bombs during the war.
A wall in our house in Dartmouth Park Hill, opposite Balmore Street, partially collapsed during an air raid. It damaged grandmother’s back as she tired to escape to the shelter.  She had to wear a huge ungainly corset for the rest of her life.

Granny’s Corset

Push open the door and enter her room
with heavy beige wallpaper
and brown gloss paint.

Grandma, propped up with pillows,
crisp white sheet,
pure silk eiderdown,
raises a frail hand in greeting.

Time to cram her into her corset,
I stagger from chair to bed
with the well washed cotton contraption.
I am eight and grown up.

I fasten the buckles, thread tapes,
tug at cords, clip on suspenders,
under her orderly instructions.
I help her into her flowery frock,
brush her hair, dab on some powder,
pass her a mirror for her approval.

A bomb damaged Grandma’s back
but mother says she is indomitable.
She glides downstairs ready
to organise the rest of the house.

Whilst, sadly, many men and women did not come back from the war,  those who did  were often irrevocably changed.  I remember  my mother once saying that my father went away a boy and came back a man she barely knew.
What he and many others had experienced had been horrific, but after the jubilation that it was over,  many found the world they returned to was no picnic.  Many people don’t realise that rationing went on until 1953 and even when there were sweets in the shops many could not afford them.
Grandma put these flags across the house on VE day!
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The flags were never abandoned just pushed into a bag and have gone from one member of the family to another.
A young mother on VE Day
Emotions ripple like a flag in the wind
red white and blue can it be true
relief floats past like a parachute
drifting into a safer environment
anticipation creamy sweet like biting
into a long forgotten block of chocolate.
excitement bouncing  like brightly
coloured balloons.
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Note – sorry original post had several typos.

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Happy Easter

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These are Washi eggs that I made on a course at Dulwich Art Gallery. many years ago. First blow the eggs!  The egg is covered with one piece of paper cut in a traditional fan shape that overlaps to cover the egg.

 

In these difficult days I hope this cheers someone along xxx

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The way the brain may cope with self isolation –

The current coronavirus crisis creates fears that are similar to those of bereavement.

1. Shock and Denial (disbelief..it hasn’t happened.)

2. Pain and Guilt (life feels chaotic.)

3. Anger and Bargaining (blame others / if only I had done this or that.)

4.Depression and/or Isolation (not clinical depression more sadness. Sometimes best to listen…not talk someone out of it.)

5. Gradual acceptance…

6. Starting to seek solutions to your changed circumstances.

7. Resolution (becoming more optimistic, even carefree.

There is no set timescale to these stages and some people may miss out a stage completely.

Life at the moment is changing daily which seems all the more reason to to keep going, to be as creative as possible.

At the moment ways of coping might include taking up a new activity or returning to a hobby enjoyed in the past.   Art galleries and museums are offering virtual tours. Plenty of free activities are springing up on the internet, cookery, crafts, art and many others.

I am lucky that I am retired and have taken up painting again. This time I am trying acrylic rather than watercolour.  I am also doing a lot of gardening and making a more sustained effort with my writing.

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My partner used to play the recorder. More recently he took up the violin again and has started to learn to play the madolin.

It is important to keep optimistic

Please note the spacing on this page has gone wrong and currently am trying to find out why.

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