Chasing the rabbit…

Decided to take the white rabbit on journey from Brighton to my old home in North London because I am vaguely thinking of making a new film. This was where our rabbit was made and where I spent most of my childhood.

A florist on St Pancras Station was pleased to see him as was a man playing the piano he insisted the rabbit did a a little dance!

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Tufnell Park seemed to be as it always was, but the area half way up Dartmouth Park Hill where our old family house had been has completely changed.

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We walked up to Waterlow Park. When I was young we took bits of bread to feed the ducks but sadly today the surface on the first pond looked rather cloudy.

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We took a bus down Highgate Hill to see if the the stone cat was still there and it was!

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It is said that this is where Dick Whittington heard the bow bells that called him back to London.

At the moment the film is mainly in my head but I am hopeful with some old and some new poems it will happen.

Wonderland

Sprawled on the kitchen table
the Mad Hatter
his top hat
covered in papier-mache
a newsprint
picture of Putin
the March Hare
missing an ear
and Alice her dress
washed and drying
on piece of garden wire
hanging over the sink
The White Rabbit
checking his pocket watch
in the perfect condition
he was 30 year’s ago
has plenty of time.

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All Sorts
Everyone helped on Christmas Eve, the children in the living room
trusted to make neat crosses on sprouts bottoms,
peel potatoes and prod the hot chestnuts

We’d laugh at my mother’s story of corn beef roast during the war.
Now a few years on it was a roast chicken killed by Grandma
out in the garden and hung in the scullery for two days

Grandpa staggered up the hill from the underground at eight
with apples, pears and nuts from our greengrocers in Goodge Street,
gifts from fellow shop keepers, glace fruits being our absolute favourite

Grandmother insisted all through the war there would be no black market;
her Methodist  beliefs could not sanction anything dishonorable.
“Pity”, said Uncle Jack in later years, “we could have had butter, eggs, all sorts.”

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Seems to be competition in my garden

for the last rose of summer

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P1110975  less so for the last spider
P1110995    or the biggest potato      P1120001

Sunday afternoon – sorting out the greenhouse, filling holes in the grass and finishing off a bottle of the wine!

 

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The snail trail – autumn and my one and only poem about cancer…

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Snellie is a tribute to Mrs Ellen Nye Chart, known as Nellie who took over as owner and manager of the Theatre Royal in Brighton in 1875. Among other things she invited 1000 inmates of the workhouse to a free pantomime performance.  Now the snails are raising money for Martlets.

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Well that advice rang a bell, slow down. enjoy the moment and autumn is approaching,  a time of mists and mellow fruitfulness …

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so I picked the veg on allotment and lingered near the pond where I discovered a dragonfly. Now to spend more time with those I love too.

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Losing loved ones is always hard, the snaiI trail led me to thinking about a cousin that died of cancer several years ago.

‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’ was written in the hospital car park on the day she died.

Gwen,  a woman in her fifties so full of life, she had booked ticket to go and see another cousin in California before she discovered she had the illness again. She had had cancer before and survived but this time it was not to be.   But oh how sad and how I loved her vitality and independence. Sadly she did not die in a Hospice.

Don’t Throw Away The Daisies

for Gwen.
 
Thank you for passing the time with me,
It’s so lonely waiting to die.

Can’t tell you how angry I felt
when you first appeared
with fruit and flowers
wittering on about sun and the seasons?

I wanted to scream at you ‘I’m dying.’
Have you got the colouring book?
One of your slightly better ideas.
Silly really but I love doing them,
reminds me of being little,
using every crayon in the box.
Mother and me at the kitchen table.

Now when you do the flowers,
please don’t throw away the daisies,
although I know they are past their best.

Could you do my nails?
I often had a manicure when I was working,
it seems important that God should see
I’ve tried my hardest.

I love the oils, the scent of lavender
challenging that mournful medical smell.

Hold my hand, I’m feeling so very tired.

Deep rhythms overwhelm me
creeping in on every side.

My eyelids are amazing rainbows,
how very strange.

Let’s say goodbye now – softly –
just in case I slip away.

I think it was Cancer Survival day a few days ago…my cousin did not survive but the last days, weeks and months were so important!

 

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You haven’t written anything yet!

says the box that has just flipped up on wordpress.  OK! OK! merely distracted by downloading pics and drifting into thoughts about the meaning of life. Well it’s my birthday this week and by the way there is a poem at the end of this post.

So, for the moment the pics. of my only sunflower, when I know for certain I planted at least 6!

Now come out the snail that was responsible and confess!

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It feels colder today and autumn is not far away, even if the tomatoes are still ripening  and the courgettes turning into marrows overnight.

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This month’s unexpected encounters, include sitting chatting to a woman from Watford that I had just met on the stage at Fabrica one Sunday afternoon.

We were both drawn to climbing up Jo Lathwood’s Getting There,  an installation of stairs. The publicity suggested ‘Getting There’ mirrors a common human personal goal: ‘to get somewhere’. Other worthy ideas about life and death were included in their information but you’ll have to check their site to get the full story!

.P1110572-001We both quickly realised that minor disabilities were against either of us embarking on scaling the heights. Instead we watched braver mortals enjoying the adventure and turned our attention to the Art Club where children were drawing highlights of their lives on tiny folded paper concertinas ready to store inside a matchbox. Brilliant!

I was tempted to start stuffing my entire life into a matchbox, but my companion was not keen on paper folding. Instead I learned about the joys of life in Watford – more interesting than you might imagine – her accommodation and companions at the YMCA and eating fish and chips on the pier.  My contribution was the frustrations of trying to write presentable poetry,  keeping up with new new technology to continue to make my films and growing more than one sunflower!

It was later in the month that my partner and I went to see ‘Loving Vincent’  at the Old Market. What an amazing film – hundreds of artists painting for six years and all the strands of his story put together using his own paintings as source material. A remarkable achievement and a new take on a well known story.

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It was also a timely reminder that Van Gogh is now considered the father of modern art.

My first encounter with his work was seeing a print of  ‘boats on sand’  at primary school where it hung in the corridor.  Someone in that school (around 1948) had the right idea about children having access to art at a young age.  Later on at about 14 I went on a trip to France, visited Arles and learned more about Van Gogh’s life, art and subsequent madness.

I was 30 when I studied art at teacher training college. In those days we could choose a subject to study for ones own development.   I had the brilliant artist Connie Stubbs as a tutor. She thought it was fine to explore links between depression and the motivation to paint. Gradually we become friends and I visited her studio many times.

At that time I was still reeling from becoming a single parent. Luckily my sons were adorable but I had to follow my passion for art by painting late into the night.

I did huge canvasses in oil of marionettes in strange surroundings and finally created an audacious link with Van Gogh by creating a walk-in installation with tissue paper collages in circles that  revolved to the sound of the song ‘Starry Starry Night’.

What was I thinking!

Nevertheless I emerged with a teaching certificate, a distinction in art and a few months later a businessman bought one of these paintings for his office in the City!

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This Poem about The Yellow House was written three years ago and is included in my second collection ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’.

The Yellow House

She turned the corner and there she saw
the green shuttered house, the buttery yellow walls
radiating in the sun, the wind teasing the curtains
the bright blue door.

How she had loved sipping tea in her friend’s apartment,
sharing the drawings her brother had sent,
listening as she read his letters aloud
adding words of concern about his health.

She ordered a grenadine and soda in a nearby cafe
while a young woman, in fashionable dress
the curvaceous figure so favoured by artists
slumped into a chair nearby.

How she wished she was that kind of girl
loud, vivacious, set on filling her belly
ready to be painted, pawed, seduced
to pose in the afterglow of passion.

Then she caught sight of him, no mistaking
his heavy gait, body bent under the weight of his easel.
Slowly his feet walked passed her seat in the cafe
Oh that flaming red hair. Heat filled her cheeks.

(It is not generally acknowleged that Van Gogh had three sisters, the sister referred to in this poem is Willemina).

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Mood unpredictable as is the weather

First a heatwave P1110348then some cooling down and a poem of course.

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Got so tetchy had to stop checking into facebook, if only to avoid the sin of envy.    So many younger people some of whom I barely know prancing about all over the world and/or in Edinburgh, or at poetry festivals or maybe just having a knees up in Margate!

Having said that two of my grandchildren are currently in Japan. One working there for a year and the other on holiday.

Not sure envy is a sin but vaguely remember it might be. My old Granny was a Methodist, my ex-husband a Catholic and I went to Sunday school when I was a child, so such things do hover about in one’s mind.

But when the sun is shining joy can be found closer to home.

Seeing this bird of prey landing nearby on the Marina, maybe waiting to join in Joshie’s (eldest grandson’s) 24th birthday celebrations at Casa Brasil. They do a super duper buffet and wonderful barbie. Image

Josh was 7 when he helped paint this mural with his cousins in our beach hut in Hove. Recently he secured a big promotion in the pharmacy department of a hospital in Eastbourne. Congratulations Joshie!

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When it was too hot jumped into the sea at Saltdean and later met a beachcomber. I hadn’t seen one since I wrote the following poem ten years ago.

Beachcombing

Where a solitary seagull flew
hopeful of an unexpected catch,
an old man moved along
the deserted seashore
glancing upwards
as if to ward off new invaders.

He kept his gaze low,
pausing then pouncing,
hands sifting piles of slippery pebbles,
“Makes a good walk” he called,
digging to retrieve his bounty
two battered 20p coins.

“Like poetry?”
he called. I nodded,
so with one hand cupped
to the side of his mouth,
warding of competition
from the roar os the wind
on the incoming tide,
he launched into a sonnet.

His words swooped, soared,
glided past present reality
and far out to sea.
I clapped respectfully
as he continued to work the beach
as any showman might,
reaping his due rewards for such
a powerful performance.

from my collection ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’

Last week read two new poems and one poem from ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ at The Poetry School in London compered by Paul Crane. There were some brilliant poets and what a lively lot they are on a Thursday afternoon.

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White rabbits for July and other bits and bobs.

P1040516It’s tradition to say out loud white rabbits upon waking on the first day of the month, because doing so will ensure good luck. So I had better remember!  My white rabbit came to two of my poetry readings last month and I believe may have got more attention than I did!

But they say never perform with children or animals!

P1110293-001I have lived here for ten years now and it has been far from easy to settle. I just loved London, so much going on and I could get to most of it  P1110040easily, effortlessly and even cheaply with my freedom pass!

Retirement at the best of time just makes one think one is becoming an old person. God forbid! We joined a series of different things but it was still not easy to ‘fit in’. But in the end I guess we have just about found our feet.

Last week I came back from London by train and for the first time when I then got off the bus I thought well this is it! This is home, and it felt OK.

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Had been up and down in terms of health so thought about giving up my allotment (I have been tempted two years running) but this time I wrote a new poem about it. By the time I had re-read it, I was so full of good vibes I couldn’t give it up after all. So now I am stuck with the joys of weeding, planting and watering all over again!

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Have had a few outings up to London. The cost of going is off putting as are the endless delays on the trains but Kings College London Poetry Fest was brilliant.

A celebration of poetry hosted by the Centre for Life-Writing Research. A constellation of poets curated by Ruth O’Callaghan. A workshop run by poet Katherine Lockton, great readers including Fleur Adcock, an open mic session and all free.

I had a second visit to the Royal Academy and attended the SWWJ summer tea party at the Liberal Club in Whitehall. P1110300Just love walking up this grand staircase and then there is a chance to meet up with old friends and some new members.

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A posh tea and a talk by Anita Marie Sackett who is a poet and very enterprising, she also gives talks to about living in the 50s, Victorian Christmas etc.

The SWWJ are struggling as are other writing organisations, not least because older members pass on.  Personally I believe the days of writing full time particularly novels can only be for the lucky few in this day and age.  But the SWWJ is about journalism, drama. poetry too and so far does attract new members.

I was accepted as a member many moons ago when I was a freelance journalist and had my play ‘Travelling Nowhere’ put on at the Young Vic. Writing poetry came later.

Went up to Earls Court again. I was a poet in residence for a weekend in Earls Court Square last year. I just loved Brompton Road Cemetery which is nearby and it’s even better than Highgate Cemetery (which was near where I spent much of my childhood..) My mother once took me to where my great grandmother had been buried. Not far from the Swains Lane entrance where ordinary people could be buried.

Brompton Road Cemetary has many famous people buried there. It is also a haven for wild life and was built partly on a market garden.   One can still find wild artichokes in between the gravestones.  It is such a tranquil place like a huge park. I love to wander and read the gravestones, obviously plenty of scope for new poems.

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Last week John McCullough’s Advanced Poetry Course at New Writing South finished for another year.  A fantastic crowd of poets one of whom won a competition and another had work published by the end of the three terms.

Another last night for Pighog too because their poetry readings stop for the summer!

P1110047-001Spent all today with Alan pruning and dead heading roses in the garden. All the hedges had gone bananas!

I tend to get carried away with planting veg. I just love picking stuff from the garden or the allotment that is so so fresh.  Had my share of raspberries already and looking forward to the artichokes and tomatoes.
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There is always the debate about going away on holiday but quite honestly we are very lucky and now we live at the seaside there is a lot going for staying put.

Although I am a bit of a gypsy at heart and the need to escape for a bit is very compelling not least because I love French and Spanish food. Maybe I should just learn to to make tapas and create even more of a holiday illusion.

An older allotment poem, a white rabbit poem and two seaside poems for good measure.

Miss Lottie’s Last Chance.

She sets the brim of her straw hat
at what she hopes is a rakish angle
brushes bits of twig from her brown
cotton skirt, pulls the arms of her holey
cardie closer like a hopeful hug.

She climbs on a stool and places
bits of stray string into a rusty tin,
wipes secateurs with an oily rag,
seals half-opened seed packets, placing
them into an obliging array of jars.

She takes a swig of a brandy from a bottle
marked for emergencies, while a grumpy owl
painted on a shopping bag glares.
She makes short shrift of him shaking the bag
upside down to dislodge lurking spiders.

From the corner of her eye she catches
sight of her old black wellies, blushes
at the memory of sitting, only yesterday
on her bench, near to tears, her limbs
too soggy with fatigue to pull them off.

How lucky that an old gent on his bike
was passing and joined in the tussle.
Today she slips out of her old gardening shoes,
watches a flock of rogue cockatiels
spreading their wings and taking flight.

Wonderland

Sprawled on the kitchen table
the Mad Hatter
his top hat
covered in papier-mache
a newsprint
picture of Putin,
the March Hare
missing an ear,

Alice in
her victorian
lace knickers
awaits her dress
washed and drying
on garden wire
hanging over the sink.

The White Rabbit,
checking his pocket watch
in the perfect condition
he was 30 years ago,
has plenty of time.

(from ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’)

Day Trippers

Here they come streaming out of the station
and down to the sea
where squawky seagulls herald their arrival.

Ignoring stripy deckchairs at wind breaks
they settle for their beach mats and
home-grown towels.

Barefoot children brave the pebbles
to meet the chill of the sea,
throw stones to skim the waves.

Kites flutter with over optimistic gaze
ice creams melt,
tea in paper cups turns cold.

Too soon the fun comes to an end
and nervous crabs in buckets
await their fate.

But all is well,
everything is packed
children sent to discharge their captives.
(from ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’)

The North Pier Blackpool

‘It’s a small world’ for our marionettes,
three shows daily 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 a 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.

(from ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’)

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Jumping about in June – the RA – Tenerife

 

P1110047The garden exploded into action when I was away for a few days, typical! Now it’s still roses, roses everywhere and with loads of deadheading to be done. P1110046

I’ve sorted out the greenhouse yet again with raised beds and planted the tomatoes, all of which took forever.

My garden could be described as unruly, even a clump of  daisies the gardener gave me at the Ted Hughes Arvon Centre P1110043three years ago have established themselves in a crack in the step from the house. We have to walk round them as best we can.

P1110062So moving swiftly on…

Last week we visited the the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition on friends day.   This is a family tradition. I took my mother there for over 20 years.

This year it is described as the most colourful exhibition to date and  Grayson PerryP1110116 and his committee of fellow artists handpicked over 1,300 artworks in an array of mediums.

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The choice included art by people such as David Hockney and Joana Vasconcelos, Tracey Emin etc. but there was a tiny space for a painting by my daughter-in-law’s sister Maura which was a first for her!

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P1110079  Maura with her owl.

P1110096   P1110099  P1110095 This is a wonderful entry with handmade books, pictures and conversations about the art of bell ringing! (Sorry need to check her name!)

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All loads of fun – do go along if you can.

 

Other distractions in London that day.

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An unexpected holiday two weeks ago with eldest son and daughter-in-law who took us off to Tenerife.  All very relaxing.

Highlights including an intriguing shepherd’s cottage on the road to Mount Teide. A road builder had taken up residence when the road up into the mountains had been completed and lived there with his family. Much later he was on his own and reliant on goats, honey etc.  I love innovation and small places like sheds, campervans, homes in caves!P1100897

 

But also pyramids and the sea and sun, of course.

 

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Other small spaces nearer to home that I love   P1100773 my shed.

The allotment shed P1100727

Nearer to home again

Alan has been busy with his music and playing in Brighton’s Mandolin Orchestra

P1100829-001 P1100830 Here is the concert which included playing with the New American Mandolin Ensemble at St Georges!

Juliet at The Open Art Cafe in Rottingdean has gone overboard with her flower display this year and also has special summer menus.

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Good news for ‘The Hole in the Wall’

My illustrated poem for children ‘The Hole in the Wall’ that has been published by  The Dry Stone Walling Association has really taken off. I have just been asked if someone can read and sell them at a Dry Stone Walling event. Answer has to be yes!

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New Poems

Have several poems in the pipeline but making an effort to get a few more published. If they go on this blog they are considered published so its a bit of a dilemma!

But this worm has been around for a bit and is more than happy to appear again – such an exhibitionist!

The 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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