Gone

We always welcomed you
loving your wit and style
Though not always here
we missed you even then
and when you made us smile
with humorous words so dry
You often made us laugh
with that twinkle in your eye
Now they say you’re leaving
and it doesn’t make much sense
But something bad has happened

Offence

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How ‘PRIVATE’ can one get?

Oh, that one! Back to the wall type him. Never communicates with anyone as far as I can see. Not one to contribute, just rigidly looking on with that blank expression. Completely aloof and defiantly closed against the world.
It’s a mystery he’s still in that position too. Seems utterly pointless when he doesn’t do anything or perform any useful service or function. Presumably he did once; he obviously had the official title and insignia – but now… All you ever get from him are those crazy notices he displays!

I ask you?  ‘NO COLLECTIONS’ – so neither at 8.30 am nor 2.45pm (NOT SATS) OR 4.45pm (ditto) or even 12.00 noon will one’s correspondence be attended to. Other tantalisingly suggested times of 5.45pm and 8.00pm are also included in this strange curfew; not to mention, tucked in furtively at the bottom of the notice in bold type we are told – ‘SUNDAYS’ – post would definitely NOT be collected nor would there be a collection on Good Friday, Bank Holidays (not Boxing Day) or Christmas Day at 3.30pm.

 

Of the fate those unfortunate letters which may inadvertently have been entrusted to this capricious and errant character, we have no knowledge.

 

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Up-cycling ?

The mirror showed, in starkest terms, a sagging jaw-line and a furrowed field of wrinkles which stretched (or folded) across the entire landscape of her face and neck.

“Who the hell is that?” she screeched at the glass.
“It’s you, you dreamer ” said the little voice on her shoulder.
” Can’t be, I’m not THAT old ! Am I ?”
“Well, when did you last take a good look at yourself – and more to the point, when did anyone else take a good look at you?”

“Oh, shut up, there must be a mistake. I dance and sing. I jog and swim and dig the garden, culture, art and music things; but you’re right, I sometimes feel I am invisible. In the street some folk would just walk through me – step aside, or get mowed down is how I feel out in the town. I just thought it’s ‘young- people-with-no-manners’ again…”

“… Now there’s a refrain from an ‘Oldie Talking’ if ever I heard one !”

“Well, dammit, I refuse to be an ‘Oldie’ as you so inelegantly put it. I shall rebel against it before it’s too late. ‘Look out World – here I come!’ I am, if nothing else, an inventive and creative beast. If, as you say this is old-age on my doorstep, I shall make sure she goes down fighting!”

So saying, she headed for her wardrobe and flung open the doors. Some tired geriatric moths staggered out as she grabbed a handful of beige Crimplene dresses and flung them on the floor. There followed a procession of pastel ‘cardies’, pleated skirts and flesh coloured tights. Soon the bedroom floor was a battlefield of obsolete and moribund attire.

“All this has got to go – NOW! I’m going shopping…”

After dumping several over-stuffed bags of the despised clothes in a Charity shop, she headed for Primark with a renewed determination of purpose. She’d never been there before and was initially stunned by the enormity of it all. What seemed like acres and acres of clothing lined the walls and endless racks and piles of colour met her astonished gaze. Taking a few deep breaths she regained her composure and soon became acclimatised to this ‘alien’ environment. The feverish buzz of her fellow shoppers infected her brain and she set to work filling a large basket.
Now unfazed by the vibrant colours and multitude of designs available, it was poetry in motion;

T-shirts, blouses and cut-off trousies
Skirts and dresses and things for one’s tresses
Coats and jackets and things in packets
that looked like tights but sparkled in the lights
Luckily they came in many sizes
sometimes they fitted, which added surprises.
So three hours later, and still not tired
a whole seasons outfits she’d now acquired
As she paid her money and left the store
catching sight of the shop next door,
her stubbornness completely undiluted
accessories next and then she’s suited.
Hats and scarves and such they sold
none of which you could call ‘old’
Wacky colours, styles and shapes
and arty things in silks and crepes.
They even had a make-up counter
with many things that did astound her
Another hour here of mega-spending
She needed a cab as gravity’s pending.
Home at last with a pile of goodies,
including some red and purple ‘hoodies’
Now at the Hairdresser’s she’d once read
a magazine article that stuck in her head
Make-over’s was what it was all about
and now’s the time to try it out.
Was it clothes, then hair and make-up ?
I think I need a tonsorial shake up –
Her stylist had a free appointment
So straight to town she smartly went
She chose a shade of bright magenta
to emphasise her new persona
It looked amazing they all said
like a vibrant pompom on her head
While she was at it, got her nails done
and the tanning suite to get the ‘sun’

“What a day, I feel outrageous
all this excitement is quite contagious
What’s needed is a cup of tea…
no, wait this is the brand new me !
Once that would’ve been just been fine,
but I think I’ll have a glass of wine –
a toast to celebrate my splendid spree ”
… to ‘Carrying on rebelliously’

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HEATWAVE HAIKU

 

Summer heat, can’t sleep

Ice-cream vans with enormous queues

Parched gardens droop

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Uncommon Toad

I met a toothless, tailless toad just walking blithely down the road and when accosted by two enquiring lads who’d never seen a toad before – as they were city boys whose main delight was at the floodlit skateboard park each night; in fact it was from there they just had come and so surprised by meeting such a lumpy but emphatic gent who ambled with such a firm intent; they stopped me to inquire what manner of beast was this which met their eye.

Familiar as I was with things amphibian I could see this was indeed a common toad and though they’d thought to see him hop as does his cous’ the frog whose nature is both like and similar; Mr Toad prefers to walk which may be easier with his portly bulk which had not deterred him from his evening stroll – Though maybe he’s not headed for that famous ‘hole’ ( in which a more culinary toad is rumoured to reside,) but something more appropriate to his kind. A shady garden fern or damp, dark corner; or a pot with overhanging lugs – some place where dinner waits in the form of slugs !

‘I have the very thing right here ‘ I cried, ‘ and there are others of his kind in my back garden where they hide.’ So said I, and prompt picked up the unexpected guest. ‘Wow’ screeched the lads, ‘we thought it was a pest!’

They squirmed a bit but then I showed a closer view of Mr Toad whose dignified and lugubrious stare quite surprised that young pair. ‘Hey it’s really cool’ said one, ‘like an Alien with little hands and a big fat tum.’

‘He’ll be quite happy in a gloomy garden nook, much safer there than on the street away from cars and clumping feet, and passers by with curious dogs who may incline too take too close a look.’

‘That’s great’ they said as they went on their way, ‘we’ve learned a bit about an animal today.’ I said goodbye and gently carried Mr Toad to introduce him to his new abode. So in my garden now reside a little group of frogs and toads, my greatest hope of eco-problem solving – that of slugs, of which there’s loads and loads!

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The Ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ferry

Late train and rain and
cows on the line detain us.
The ferry’s missed and so we sit
waiting for the replacement bus.
Forget the estimated times of leaving
just doubts about our tickets and seating.
Now needs changes to our destination
so we board the bus outside the station.
On the motorway heading into town,
our replacement bus has broken down.

Disbelief’s left in the shade

and frantic hasty phone calls made

for another bus, to rescue us.

Stunned and tired we await it’s arrival

with exhausted senses of survival.

Later at the dock we soon define
our ‘would be’ ferry making up good time.
Though anxious leaden seas which heave
and grey skies scowl down as we leave.
The engines throb and speed a-crossing,
thankfully calm, no waves and tossing.
Not heading for the place that’s usual
but the port that’s much more helpful.
Light to moderate is what we’ll be today,
or so the tannoy then would say.

 

 

Image of Holyhead Breakwater, courtesy of Gail Johnson -dreamstime.com

DREAMSTIME  Credits Image:  www.freeimages.co.uk

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Nighthawks

The dark city lurks

Hooded in it’s shadows
In empty streets
Islands of light

Isolate solitary people
Framed together
Without touching

Almost taste the darkness
Smell the lurking night
The Diner’s bitter coffee

In the distant highway buzz
Only the sirens speak
The audience awaits

 

After Edward Hopper’s painting – ‘Nighthawks’ 1942

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The Hygienists Double Act

I’m checked in by the hasty ‘no time to smile’ receptionist.
“We’re still at lunch, there’s the waiting room, it won’t be long…”

Twenty minutes after the appointed time the new Hygienist appears;
“We met at the door didn’t we ?” she says, wiping crumbs from her chin and ushering me into her room; the locum nurse, a big, flapping girl, galumphs across to the computer.
“Can’t turn it on – oh yes here it is…” she giggles.
“Where’s Ruth?” I ask anxiously, really wishing her here instead.
” Funeral I think,” comes the flat reply.
“Oh, date of birth? Ooops, nearly forgot – Just checking. Yes they’re all there, upper, lower… Oh no, sorry, start again…”

My confidence had just gone running out the door; This is not a comforting experience, but by now they’re leaning in to the task, chatting and giggling about their domestic goings on all the while.
” I missed my lunch,” said the nurse. “All I had was two slices of bread – forgot the tin of beans ! My kids distracted me…”
“You’ll maybe lose a bit of weight then?”
“Oh I wish! ”

” Are you electric or manual?” inquires the hygienist. “I brought a brioche and an egg for the microwave… You’ve got some evidence of gum disease here – pocketing at the back… Shame I had to rush it though; I usually I get something from Lidl, they’re really good.”
“Yes, me too. When I was working in Oxford, the chef there always recommended their wines and the meat.”
” I like their cheese selection too, but the veg go off quickly so you’re best to avoid those… Open wide and I’ll have a tickle round with the polish… Right, all done then.”

She looks down at me as if she’s seeing me for the first time, while I’m deciding this is definitely the last as I leave the clowns to their gossip.

 

 

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CYCLICAL HAIKU

After the biting beast
Had shocked the buds and bulbs
Spring shone across the park

Warming muddy fields
At last the promised sunshine
Cheered the birds to song

Children clustered ponds
Lined in khaki coloured mud
Searching signs of life

Hazy swirling ooze
Tiny newts flick through the murk
Squeals of excitement

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Holding on

It was a late autumn evening. Dark, damp, heavy-coat weather, but strangely changeable. The day had been unusually mild though, even sunny that afternoon. The train was packed, people stood crushed together – each trying to preserve their individual personal space in the cramped carriage.
“Innit great eh?” asked a slightly tipsy young man in the middle of the crush.
“Look at all these people…they look really glum.” He waved his plastic glass of wine around to demonstrate his point. He swayed somewhat and his friend grabbed gently at his sleeve.
“ Hold on Dan,” he advised and Dan smiled benignly at him.
The aisle was full of disgruntled passengers standing shoulder to shoulder in the ‘cattle truck ‘ that passes for a railway carriage these days. A silent clump of uncomfortable humanity, eyes down, phones on, avoiding contact of any kind as far as possible in that inhuman space. One passenger had looked up and caught the young man’s eye. He looked so gentle and happy, she felt compelled to respond.
“Yes, it’s grim isn’t it?” she’d remarked.
Somewhat encouraged, Dan asked her where she’d been that day.
“Just up to Town.”
“Oh, have you ?” he replied in an exaggeration of surprise, “and where are you going now?”
“To the end of the line…” she answered, a little warily now.
“Well,” remarked Dan delightedly, “That’s what I like about you. You really go for it…” The train lurched and Dan made an ill judged grab at a hanging strap.
“Do hold on Dan,” his friend reminded him in the hope of distracting him from the conversation. Dan had already turned back to the woman though,
” …and where is that then ?”
“Well we’re going all the way to Brighton,” she chanced, looking at her husband for support.
“Oh wow! – I’m going to Riddlesdown, but I’ve had a lovely day. Been to watch the cricket at Lords…” he saluted the assembled carriage with his glass and smiled at his friend. “Didn’t we…?”
“Yes, but remember we have to change at East Croydon Dan”
“So you had good weather for it then,” added the woman.
“Yes, until it was rained off. Dunno what happened though…”
“England won,” interceded his friend.
“Oh great. England won…Had a lovely day. What did all these people do I wonder ?” He beamed delightedly at the immediate group around him.
“They look as if they all need a hug. ‘Free Hugs’…he announced, opening his arms and offering his services to his fellow passengers who had all hoped to ignore him. Then his gaze lit on a young man leaning by the opposite door who was quietly smiling to himself.

“Hello,” said Dan hopefully, “What do you do?”
“I’m a carer” responded the young man.
“Oooh, a Carer ! ” enthused Dan, smiling benevolently as he took him in.
“I bet you’d be good at hugs.”
The atmosphere in the carriage had lightened a little now as people were quietly listening in to see the outcome of this exchange.
“Would you like a free a hug?” asked Dan
“OK, I’ll have a hug…” and to everyone’s surprise the young man stepped across and duly received his ‘Free Hug ‘ and a gentle kiss on the cheek.
“Oh, I knew you’d be a great carer. ‘ Free hugs ‘ everybody…” said Dan addressing the whole crowd, many of whom were smiling and laughing now. Delighted by this initial success, Dan turned to another passenger nearby.
“Hey, I bet you’d give free hugs too. Hugs are good…”
Before he can offer another one though, he noticed a young girl who’d carefully moved away from him and was concentrating hard on her phone.
“Look, she’s turned her back on me – doesn’t want a free hug…”
“I think it could be quite intimidating for a girl travelling alone,” remarked the woman.
“Yes, very well put I think,” said his friend – “now do hold on Dan.”
“Oh but you’re not intimidated though, are you ?”
“Well, I’m not on my own am I ?”

Dan smiled, doe-eyed and with arms open wide approached her – a hug now seemed inevitable and had to be exchanged. An amused chorus of “Aah’s” and good natured laughter circulated that section of the train. Thoroughly delighted and further encouraged, Dan, now on a roll proceeded to give and receive free hugs with anyone in reach. His success rate was quite surprising too. Then he noticed some other people further on and headed towards them. His friend was unable to prevent him approaching a rather stiff, older gent in a Fairisle sweater who stood disapprovingly looking on and grumbling to himself in the next section.

‘Damned 10.56 late again of course and the previous one cancelled. Packed like sardines in this bloody short train. Suppose I’ll have to stand all the way, squashed up against these damned people eating their stinking take-aways and chips. Shouldn’t be allowed, smells like a cheap greasy spoon in here. Let’s hope a lot of ’em get off at East Croydon and perhaps I’ll be able to breathe. The whole journey’s been a nightmare, not even room to read my paper; I’d just put it away when I noticed a young man looking a bit the worse for drink. Oh God yes, here he is. He’s got a plastic glass of wine in one hand and an idiotic smile on his face. There’d been some noise and commotion coming from further down the carriage and I guessed this must be one of the perpetrators.
When I’d caught a glimpse of him earlier, he was standing in the middle of a crowd of perfectly respectable passengers, swaying about and making ludicrous comments to people. Some such rubbish about the miserable state of things, and everyone needing a hug would you believe ? Hah ! Well blow me if some of the gullible idiots fell for it too. I actually saw him hug one chap. Bloody outrageous on public transport. He oughta be put away. Pity we don’t have conscription any more, that’d sort him out.’

“There’s love and joy in this carriage,” Dan announced as he progressed round the standing passengers, many of whom had responded to his offer;
but much to the gent’s annoyance, Dan had arrived in front of him and tried to engage him in conversation. His initial pitch being the offer of a free hug of course. Naturally, disgusted at being accosted in this manner the gent strongly objected to such outrageous and unexpected gregariousness.
Dan, unperturbed continued to offer hugs, and when rebuffed again admired the splendid Fairisle sweater. This somehow contrived to instigate an extended but slightly taut exchange on the quality of Scottish woollens. Somewhere along the line the subject of cricket and Dan’s enjoyable day at Lords ensued and to his surprise, cricket being an irresistible topic of interest to him, the old gent found himself drawn in to the discussion. This only ended as Dan was gently lured away to change trains, but not without having finally achieved a hug with his reluctant ‘victim.’

Cricket, the value of hugs and the quality of sweaters had been thoroughly discussed, and ‘Mr No-thanks’ finally having found a seat at Croydon, could barely express his astonishment.

“I’m still reeling from being kissed by a complete stranger,” he complained to his fellow passengers. He did, however talk animatedly for the next half hour about ‘Young people today’, and ‘Cricket isn’t as good as it used to be…etc, etc.’ all the way to his stop. His journey had been enlivened tremendously and he’d spoken to four or five people who he never would have engaged with before. Was he holding on, or was he letting go ?

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