The puppets that went to the Palace and moving to Eastbourne!

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Buckingham Palace

In the early 50s my parents were invited to entertain the Queen, Prince Charles, Princess Anne and their friends. We had clowns, a puppet circus, a white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, a garden ballet, singers, dancers etc. My mother decided that grandpa should go along to pull the curtains as he had fought in the Great War!

It simply wasn’t fair, I had always pulled the curtains, but grandpa met the Queen and had a great time! 💕 My mother told the story of Prince Charles and Princess Anne going behind the scenes on our www.puppethouse.co.uk site which also outlines more of our marionette making and performing history.

Eastbourne

Currently all the marionettes are being packed because we are moving. We have sold our house in Saltdean which is on the edge of Brighton and are in the process of moving to Eastbourne.

I remember Eastbourne fondly. I left school at fifteen for a summer season at the Hippodrome where I performed with dad’s puppets as a double act with Heather Granger.

I stayed with an ancient auntie and got stuck in her lift all night after a show. The milkman rescued me in the morning. But Auntie then threw me out saying theatre people ‘are no better than they should be’. I had a sheltered upbringing and really had no idea what she meant. The rest of the cast laughed when I told them and helped me find new digs.

We all lived in our grandparents’ house and my sister Judy and I were partly brought up by them. Our parents were always busy creating marionettes and new shows. We missed some school when we went with them for summer seasons to various seaside resorts from late May to late September..

Eastbourne was wonderful and a rite of passage for me. I learned to sing and danced in the chorus for the big summer numbers. Half way through the summer Graham Stark, the star comedian, persuaded me to have my hair dyed blonde. However, when my mother saw it she insisted I change it back to brown and it turned an awful shade of green!

Sadly Grandpa died that summer. I adored him and the family all came down to see me after the funeral. In show business people don’t take time off for funerals. I remember I was dressed in cerise satin with white frou frou over skirts sitting with the family, but was due to go on stage in fifteeen minutes for the opening number.

After Eastbourne a reasonably successful solo career in Variety followed. I remember that dad, always the business man, even charged me for the hire of the marionettes!

Placing the marionettes

For several years I have tried to place the marionettes. The V and A in London were interested in 6 out of a 100, so I let the offer lapse.

The Imperial War Museum were interested in taking the marionettes made and performed by us in the feature film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier in 1968. They were going to be sent to their sister museum in the north and there was no gurantee they would be displayed. I declined that offer too as I wanted the family to be able to see them from time to time. The West Pier people were never interested.

Luckily I was asked to display this set in Rottingdean as part of their ‘Cinema By The Sea Exhibition’ for six months. So some of them saw the light of day.

While I can put the whole collection in and out of storage I can still film them and tell their stories.

Our Cookie and Quickie puppets did a TV cookery series for deaf children and might yet flip a pancake on youtube. I still remember our touring show to stately homes, when the original owners were in residence and my sister Judy and my mother did a weekly satire programme for Granada long before the Muppets hit the screen! Then there was Cliff Richard’s Sunday Spectacular (or it could have been Saturday) at the London Palladium and that revolving stage! My sister and I were still doing Cabaret to supplement our grants when we were at Coloma in West Wickham doing teacher training.

I guess this blog has become more like a memoir during the Covid years.

Films on Youtube. Scenes from Alice in Wonderland, The Puppet Circus, Mademoiselle de Paris, Skeletons. I am not a techical whizz kid and for some reason have two youtube sites so have to advise if you want to see my puppet films you will need to type in Ann Perrin and a selection will appear.

‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ is a collection of poetry that followed ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’ which I published four years ago. Both have poems on a range of subjects including puppets. Recommended by John McCullough who says ‘Ann Perrin writes brilliant poems that fizz with originality, satisfying the reader’s heart as well as their head.’ Tim Dooley from The Poetry School says ‘Ann Perrin is an original. Her memories of a world that is almost completely lost are coloured with a vivid eye for detail.’ Both books are available at City Books in Brighton and on Amazon.

Poem in memory of Grandpa

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 talking

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

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.

Posted in 'The Puppeteer's Daughter' Ann Perrin, Ann Perrin stage name Ann Field, Ann's memoir, Ann's poems, Cheer yourself up on a dull day, Creativity, Life and Times of a New Age Granny, Loss of a loved one, Marionette, Puppethouse mayhem, Rottingdean | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On World Puppetry Day, thinking about the part of my life spent treading the boards.

Despite the doom and gloom, the dreadful war and its consequences, I managed to put a few things on The British Puppet and Model Theatre facebook page and on my own. There was poignancy in being reminded that it was in the despondency of post war Britain in 1945 that our Puppet Company was conceived. Some of the tale has been told on my website, stories written on this blog, two books of poetry written. But the human story, the constant efforts to survive in the arts without grants and living as part of an extended family living in the same house as my grandparent has not been told.

Sometimes it seemed as though my grandparents had barely recovered from the full effects of the Great War. But both were always cheerful and resourceful, despite Grandpa coughing most of the night from the effects of gas and shellshock and Grandma having to fit herself into an enormous corset each day because part of a wall had collapsed on her as she was trying to get the air-raid shelter in the garden.

Taking another look at the draft of my memoir having attended more than one course talking about arcs, points of view etc. But while I can just about see my computer screen due to eyesight problems and have a light shining on the keyboard, I had better get on with it. But for the moment a few highlights in the spirit of World Puppetry Day.

Over the years our company performed Cinderella at The Torch Theatre in London, did weekly satirical shows for Granada TV and made the pilot for the Telegoons. We also performed in Saturday Night at the London Palladium, Cabaret at The Cafe Royal. There were also Summer seasons on piers, the Arcade Theatre in Blackpool and the Spa Scarborough, shows in palaces and stately homes and road safety sessions in London Schools. Our last engagememt as a family was making and performing with the characters in the feature film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier in 1969.

There was always a never-ending stream of making, creating, painting, scriptwriting, poetry, music, voiceovers, choosing fonts, printing brochures and programmes on our wonderful Adana printing machine. We had a brilliant agent, Arnold Stoker, for our stage, and TV performances. 💕

We negotiated Summer seasons and family performances ourselves and, like many entertainers, we were always wondering if we would survive another year! 💕

Website www.puppethouse.co.uk and more stories on annperrin.wordpress.com

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Strange times – celebrations – love – loss and poetry


Thank goodness that the sparkle of light on leaves can still lift my mood. A walk on the beach and sunlight on the sea has the same effect.

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On most mornings we have popped down to the beach, listened to the waves, watched the changing moods of the clouds, walked over the pebbles in the hope that a stone with a hole right through will reveal itself. Some people call them hag stones, we have always called them holy stones.

Luckily we were able to get together at Christmas as a family. Ten people sat round our table tucking into dinner cooked beautifully by my eldest son, assisted by Sheila his partner, who had also made a traditional Christmas pudding!

At last it was a chance to reconnect with everyone, my youngest son, Caroline his wife, all three grown up grandchilden and Meagan my eldest grandson’s partner. We played games, drunk a lot, eat a lot, including one of Caroline’s special trifles. We exchanged gifts from under our version of a tree, which is always branches from my youngest son’s garden, set in the usual pot brought back from a holiday in the 60s at Le Baux in France. Alan and I hang with favourite bits and bobs collected over the years. The most poignant this year was the peg doll santa my sister had made many years ago.

Sadly Judy my dear sister died in November 2021. She was ten months younger than me and for most of our childhood for some reason that we never really understood we were brought up as twins. We had identical plaits tied in bows and identical clothes made by my mother, an excellent seamstress and just one of her many talents.

I was so thankful that Judy’s eldest son and mine had brought her down in her wheelchair in August and her three wishes were granted!

One was to eat fish and chips on the beach, the second to dip her toes in the sea and the third to find one of the holy stones with a hole right through it.

The guys put up a picnic table, uncorked the bubbles, collected the fish and chips and after we had all enjoyed the meal, both boys pulled off their boots and carried Judy over the pebbles so she could dip her toes in the sea.

Suddenly a complete stranger with someone in a wheelchair nearby, rushed down to the sea with a pair of sea shoes and insisted on helping to put them on Judy’s feet. Such is the kindness of strangers.

All magical especially when she suddenly saw a stone with the hole right through where we were sitting.

We walked along the cliff walk from Saltdean to Mollies for coffee and cake. In seconds a guy busy serving stopped and made space for her chair so she had a wonderful view of childen playing and taking dips in the sea.

Naturally since then memories have contined to flood in. As single parents Judy and I both went to college and trained to be teachers. The hours were such that we could pick our chilren up after school. We did art at our own level and we both gained distictions. I painted in oils and Judy did huge collages with machine embroidery. Nevertheless we were still performing with marionettes to subsidise our teaching grants, shows in schools and even some cabaret. Judy went on to teach in a school in Wallington for the rest of her working life. She re-married but in later life suffered from Parkinsons. She was a surviver and I loved her lots.

As children we had often been left to our own devices in seaside resorts while our parents performed with their marionettes in theatres in several seaside locations. The longest was three seasons in Blackpool.

I have written several Judy poems over the years, here are a few.

Blackpool Sands

The beach is a seascape
the wind sings a song in the air,
sand seems to go on for ever
in the distance the pier and the fair.

The thud of the hooves as we canter
our hearts beating faster at speed
faces flushed with exertion
as my sister takes up the lead.

We slow down and splash along shoreline
hands on the reins check the pace
When the journey of life takes us forward
we’ll remember this time and this place.

Our parents shows took place in the Arcade Theatre three times a day. One year they rented a flat overlooking the sea on the main road where Blackpool’s famous illuminations were set up.

Blackpool Iluminations

How can we sleep, sleep with this din
when all that is out there wants to come in.
The windows ajar and the curtains are free
ripples of moonlight dance in the sea.

A huge paddle steamer trundles along
with thousands of lights it moves through the throng.
It comes creeping along on the tracks of the tram
cars all start hooting because there’s a jam.

Songs from the old days are blaring out loud
every so often they’re sung by the crowd.
The brightest of colours red, blue and green
flick on and off to highlight each scene.

An enormous Mad Hatter is pouring the tea
and pirates trap lost boys under a tree.
Witches and Wizards are busy with spells
goblins and fairies are living in wells.

The boat is upon us and dazzles our eyes
we find ourselves falling like kites from the skies.
On a giant helter-skelter we find ourselves slide
we’re twisting and turning enjoying the ride.

On candyfloss mountains we’ll bounce and we’ll jump
on lollypop twisters we’ll land with a thump.
We’ll spin round and round on pink and white twirls
and sail the dark sea on liquorice swirls.

We’ll stop and have tea that the Mad Hatter makes
run after the knave who steals all the cakes.
We’ll follow the piper who gets rid of the rats
stroke the soft fur of the fairyland cats.

The boat trundles on to the end of the track.
It’s lucky for us that it makes it’s way back.
So we leave magic dragons and fish that can talk.
Three little pigs that are out for a walk.

We pass by our window and take a great leap
tired with excitement we soon fall asleep.
Our sheets made of cotton have mud here and there,
to remind us at daybreak we really were there.

The North Pier Blackpool

It’s a small world for our marionettes
three shows a day on the North Pier.

Our parents busy, we take stock-the mighty
black tower, the circus and ballroom.

Donkeys stand in line ready for a ride
trams trundle along the promenade.

Crowds gather on the famous golden mile, kiss me
quick hats, tuppence to see a mermaid.

The man from Mars in bright green jump suit
is surreptitiously eating a big cream bun.

And so the season goes on, families from the mills
the mines and the factories, everyone laughing.

Of course there were times over the years when my sister and I went our separate ways,
times when we fell out, but writing poems often came to the rescue and sometimes she
sent a poem of her own back to me.

I shared the next poem at a writing/retreat in Ireland that I went to with my friend Maggie a few years ago. The following year I was told the organisers had put it up at the end of a retreat in a celebration of words which was lovely.

Reconciliation

Seeds take flight with the softest blow,
on dandelion clocks you know

Forever?

How long can that be?
And who’s in charge of time? Tell me.

Twin spirits drift and sometimes fly,
but cannot separate or die.

Distance is all in the mind,
a word for space I think you’ll find.

Alienation is a choice,
but takes an angry tone of voice.

Despite the walls, the gates, the locks,
think of the seeds around that clock.

They drift, they fly, they find some ground,
and safely grow until they’re found.

This last Judy poem I sent to her last year she wrote back and said she loved it.

Sisters

I loved your bright acqua aura crystal eyes
your high spirits and how you didn’t hesitate
to tuck your frock into your knickers
and climb trees in Highate wood

the way you splashed into muddy
streams on Parliament Hill Fields
caught sticklebacks with your bare hands
sloshed slimy frogspawn into a jar

I loved the way you giggled when our kittens
wouldn’t lie meekly in our dolls pram
the funny face you pulled when mother
insisted you take your daily Virol

your naughtiness your untidyness
your cheerful chatter in such contrast
to my own slow disjointed speech
and your devil-may-care attitude to life

I loved it when you didn’t complain when
Miss Simmonds insisted you dress as a daisy
for the Sunday School play and later take
a boy’s role because you were so thin

I loved you because you let me mother
you when our mother was so preoccupied
and how you just threw ingredients into
a bowl to make all those wobbly cakes

the freedom we shared cantering
over Blackpool sands that last summer
and how clever you were to pass the eleven plus
when I didn’t but how sad I felt years later

when you said how abandoned you had felt
walking that mile to your new school alone.

This year the dandelions and the forget-me-nots in the garden will have even greater significance.

img_20210515_171937Post script – It never rains but it pours so I was not a happy bunny to discover last July I had macular degeneration in one of my eyes. Luckily despite covid I have had monthly injections in it and it is improving. Now I have it to a lesser degree in the second eye so that one is also beng treated.  It all came as a bit of a shock I have been so used to gardening, reading, wriing, painting, editing films and of course blogging. I’ve just had to slow down and pay more attention to the small print! Keep safe. Ann x

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More life and times of ageing puppeteer, writer and poet.

Frankly IMG_20210528_164850the reality of realising that I am still alive came as a bit of a shock. Only recently have we ventured out after nearly two years of remaining pretty close to home.

We were treated to a lovely weekend near Canterbury, Whitstable and finally having a walk along the promenade in Herne Bay. My parents once said they cycled from London to Herne Bay in the 30s soon after they met.  I can imagine their excitement.

Canterbury Cathedral had long queues and could only be booked on line so we just the admired the exterior and found a beautiful church with no queue, a wood carving of pilgrims in a square, a wonderful second hand bookshop and, fortunately, a cafe that was open at 8 a.m! I’d love to spend a week there.

Rain in Whitstable but wonderful oysters!

Finally Herne Bay where there is a beautiful  life-sized bronze of Amy Johnson, the first woman pilot to fly solo to Australia. She died at 37 during World War 2 when the RAF plane she was delivering crashed on the 5th of January 1941 in the Thames Estuary, very near to Herne Bay. The statue is one of two to commemorate the anniversary of this event 75 years after her death.

Poetry workshop – I went to a workshop run by Mandy Pannet for the first time in months. It was held at the beautiful home of a fellow poet Lin, a friend of Mandy, in Climping. I always emerge from these workshops with draft poems to work on.

Eastbourne – We had a posh tea on the pier at Eastbourne, a treat from Joshua, my  eldest grandson, who is an intensive care pharmacist at Eastbourne Hospital, together with his lovely partner Meagan, a staff nurse at the same hospital.

We have had a local celebration for Jamie, our middle grandson who has completed his Masters. Waved goodbye to youngest  grandson Nicky who is off back to work in Morecambe after months of working from home.

Westerham Fair 

We had an entertaining outing last weekend. Westerham is near my eldest son’s cottage in Tatsfield.  We not only had a lovely time at the fair but visited the church and admired the cluster of original cottages nearby. The church was built in 1278.

Punch and Judy – I was delighted to meet an old mate Professor Glyn Edwards setting up to perform his Punch and Judy show. His wonderful wife Mary showed me her Punch marionette. The carved head was far too heavy so they had to make a mould and use other materials.

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I know about the weight of large marionettes from my own performing days.  My mother and I  operated a pair of Can Can girls, each pair having one control.

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Naturally the grass was soon covered with enthusiastic children, ready to join in with Mr Punch’s nonsense, including loud yells when the crocodile stole his sausages.  Yes, there has been loads of criticism of Mr Punch over the years but I believe it is important to remember he came from the Commedia Del Arte tradition of street theatre in Italy.  

More goodies – My son and his partner Sheila were happy to re-acqaint themselves with the Horicultural Society and I think Robin might venture into entering one of his homemade cakes next year or even some blackberry jam! IMG_20210918_144155

Robin and Sheila  have spent some of lockdown playing their guitars and singing but did have several weeks suffering from Covid. My youngest son and his wife are more interested in boating, fishing, growing veg. and hydroponics.

Music is the food of love?

My partner has joined  a jazz band, a wonderful guy called Jay runs it and Alan mangaged a solo on his flute last week. He is also learning the ukulele.  I decided to learn it too, so I can accompany myself and sing the songs I  like! So now I can just about  find the chords and sing along to Rod Stewart’s ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain’. 

The best laid plans …

Most of the summer seems to have been spent in the garden, where we could ignore the uncertainty of whether it was safe to go out, or better to stay in for the rest of our lives.

Of course I had great plans to empty the garage and loft of accumulated junk, rearrange the marionettes languishing in boxes, make new films, clear all the junk out of my tiny art shed. Then I was going to write an award winning pamphlet like most other poets I know! But so far only my art shed has been sorted out. 

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WRITING 

Unwelcome news – six months or so ago I was told that I was going blind in one eye and have had to have monthly injections in it. This has slowed down the loss of sight but has also affected my life in general.  I am getting  new glasses soon that can cope with my computers a lot better.   But not in time to download my pics from my phone easily and effortlessly! 

But still I wonder how successful writers do what they do!  I am convincing myself they all eat out, have cleaners and gardeners and dedicated partners to cope with day to day crap! Though in reality I know competent writers, including those living alone, who just get on with it.

I guess in recent months I’ve spent quite bit of time chasing some friendly company with like-minded interests on zoom. There are some fantastic poetry groups and workshops in other parts of the country. I also love Billy Collins who started giving free readings twice a week during lockdown on facebook and is still at it!

My memoir has ground to a halt again!  I had abandoned two previous attempts, both drafts running to 50,000 + words. Admittedly they were written years ago, one about single parent survival in the 80s, the other, in diary form, about teaching gypsies on a permanent site in South London. This was the one I turned into a play which was performed at the Young Vic. I’ve just read it  again and it has some good points so I think it’s worth re-drafting.

Puppets and poetry – I’ve still got quite a collection of abandoned pieces and poems about my sister and I in the world of our parents puppetry and tales of summer seaside shows etc. The new effort will be a collection of short stories and poetry. I’ve got another three sessions of a memoir course booked on line at the British Libary and a prose poetry course for eight weeks which promises to be brilliant.

I realised that much of the ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ drifted away from the topic a bit too much. But I wrote most of the poems on courses and had good overall mentoring from John McCullough.  Self publishing is still a bit of a no-no in establised poetry circle, but City Books took some and it’s still on sale on Amazon. Last time I checked  I noticed it had two five star reviews!

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

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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.

Ann Perrin slide (617)

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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Posted in 'The Puppeteer's Daughter' Ann Perrin, Ann's memoir, Cheer yourself up on a dull day, Creativity, Famous places, Lockdown, Marionette, Nothing waits a category long, Photography, Puppethouse mayhem, SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder, The Open Art Cafe Rottingdean where Ann often writes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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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Posted in Ann's memoir, Arvon, Becoming a poet, Brighton - out and about, Cheer yourself up on a dull day, Creativity, Gardening, Life and Times of a New Age Granny, Lockdown, Marionette, Photography, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments