Friday, 27 June 2008

An ode to lunch

Finishing the week, with some symmetry, and following on the poetry theme, here is a paean to that time in the day when we put down our tools and briefly run wild: lunchtime.

Well, how sounds the call to arms that dost the luncheon bring?
Can any man amongst thee lay a feast befits a king?
Women tell in hush-ed corners that the sandwiches are near;
While men they rush and falter, just an hour to sup their beer.
Oh the midday hour, and hunger's power, it doth a madness start,
Whence gluttony meets lunacy and pulls one's sense apart.
But me, I stroll oblivious as I pass the gawpers by,
And I shall greet thee, starkers, eating lettuce from a pie.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Lakeland (part three)

Rose stole into her mother’s room and peered about it. The curtains were drawn but daylight seeped about the drapes.
After a moment she could see the strange shape of a figure upon the bed. It was naked and its body bulged in places her mother’s didn’t. Everything was bigger, from the arch of the back to the width of the arms.
Rose’s mouth opened slightly, but she bit her bottom lip and kept herself standing there.
Beneath this mass of flesh writhed her mother. She whimpered, as if she was being crushed against her will but had finally succumbed to the inevitability of oblivion.
Everything about this scene was unrecognisable to Rose. The room had changed from the place she had known. It had never been a joyous place, but it had been a place she recognised and felt safe in. Now it was tainted with strange noises and unfamiliar scents.
Afraid of waking the great beast that was draining the life from her mother, Rose whispered: “Mummy, are you alright?” At no response from either figure she raised her voice so that it became a bizarre croak, a sound unlike any she’d ever emitted before.
Her mother seemed to open her eyes at this point and become aware of the monster, squeezing the vitality from her. But instead of fighting it off and comforting her child, scolding words were issued forth and deities were called upon.
“Oh my god, Rose! Get out of here, get out now,” shouted her mother. The creature atop stirred now, to see what the commotion was all about. Its face lifted to look at her mother and then turned slowly to regard the little girl.
Rose saw the face of a man staring, almost without comprehension, into hers. At this point she let out her scream and darted back through the door.
Her mother called after her as she fled down the stairs: “An hour. An hour was all I asked for, Rose.” The slamming front door separated a mother’s cries from a daughter’s tears.
Rose ran blindly from the house and across between the rows of perfect little cabins until she reached the grassy meadow. Here the wet grass rubbed her face mixing clinging rain water with salty tear drops.
She strove on through the tall grasses, until she fell through the last of the thicket and landed in the shallow stream that runs out into the lake.
In the summer, her and Chester would wade through here chasing brown fish and splashing each other with the cooling water. Today she just sloshed through it, soaking her knee socks and ruining her shoes. She dragged her little legs on through the stream toward the lake, sobbing hard so that it was difficult to catch breath.
Through her bloodshot eyes she saw the great expanse of blue water fanning out in front of her and Rose wanted so much to become a part of that beautiful tranquil scene.
Through her splashing she became aware of another pair of feet crashing through the water, coming towards her. She slowed down and soon felt an arm around her shoulder. She wanted to sink into this person, whoever they were, but she held still and let them turn her around.
It was Chester and as she hugged him there in the stream all her fears and strange thoughts flowed seamlessly away through his arms and into his chest.
Rose’s big brother sat her down on the grass bank of the lake, took her socks and shoes off and rubbed her feet to keep them warm.
She’d stopped crying now, but her voice wavered still. “We have to stay out here a little bit longer,” she said, shivering a little. “We’re not to go back in the house just yet.”
Chester looked into his sister’s eyes and nodded gently. He sat down on the bank too, put his arm around her shoulders and they looked out together across the lake at the boats and the ducks, the green hills and the slowly greying sky.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Lakeland (part two)

Lakeland Estate was a grouping of twenty-four log cabins, set on the shores of one of the Lake District’s favourite stretches of water.
Many of these cabins were sold as holiday homes or timeshare properties, but Rose, Chester and their mother lived there all year round.
It was often a very lonely experience, especially in the winter when few people visited. It was cold too. Their mother felt the cold bitterly.
In summer it was better. There were always other children to play with, though they rarely stayed longer than a week at a time. Rose and Chester formed more firm friendships over the course of one summer season than many children managed in their entire youths.
Sometimes, when Rose grew tired of gazing at the bobbing boats or the dabbling drakes, she would turn around and stare at the grouping of the cabins, laid out perfectly before her. Each cabin had been placed in a spot an exact distance from the next, and that pattern was repeated on the row behind, going back up the hillside. Each cabin was offset to the side of the one in front of it, so that each had a forward view of the lake. It was all of a pleasing fit.
And then the cabins themselves, they too were made to an exacting design. From a distance it almost seemed like they couldn’t or shouldn’t possibly be able to stand up, without the tree trunks buckling and falling apart, scattering the insides of the house all over the front lawn.
But these too interlocked and joined in a perfect design, as if nature had decreed it so. The strange 3-D jigsaw of a genius giant.
It was their house, the fifth property (the first cabin to the left on the second row of properties) that Rose now approached, and her eyes flicked about the front windows for signs of life. She saw no movement.
Gingerly, she stepped up the single metal step outside and tugged ever so gently at the door so that it made almost no sound as she clicked it open.
Looking at the clock Rose could tell that she’d been outside for just over half an hour. That would just have to do.
On the kitchen table she spied a familiar sight. An empty bottle of red wine lay on its side there, its last drops spilled like holy tears. Upstairs she heard music playing.
At once, Rose was struck by some unfamiliar feelings. She felt uneasy in her own house, as if the rules of normality had ceased or at least been changed. She had an urge to go upstairs and see if her drunken mother was alright. But the blood froze in her veins as she thought about mounting the first step on the staircase to her mother’s bedroom.
She hesitated and held there, one brown shoe seemingly nailed to the stair carpet. Her ears, her entire body strained to hear movement or a voice up in the room, her mother’s room. While by no means off bounds to her, Rose didn’t like to go near her mother’s bedroom when she was drinking.
After what seemed like ten minutes, there on the stair (it had really been just two), the little girl began her climb in steady earnest.
Deftly and with some experience she avoided the creaking stair. The music, blaring from the radio, got louder with every step.
Outside her mother’s open bedroom door she hesitated. Looking past it, down the landing, she could see the door to her safe, pretty room standing slightly ajar, beckoning and welcoming her.
Rose proudly ignored the lure, the temptation to run, and listened for noise in the room. She heard the rustling of the bed sheets and the sound of laboured breathing from within. Fighting her cold blood once again, the girl stepped into her mother’s room. be continued...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


A blur of blue and white, the two children in their very best clothes ran down to the shoreline.
There, they picked out stones and pebbles, the flattest ones all the better for skimming the furthest.
The two siblings, Rose and Chester battled furiously. Each strained to flick their arms quicker, harder, stronger than the other.
Chester caught a good one. Two, three, four, five, six. His broken piece of slate hopped the small waves breaking on the lakeside and whizzed on like a rotor blade toward the horizon.
Rose managed just a couple of small leaps before her stone sploshed into the clear shallows at the side of Derwent Water.
Chester was buoyed by his skimming success. “Maybe I can hit one of the boats out in the middle?” he cried, jumping with excitement.
Rose turned and walked to the grass bank at the edge of the small pebbled beach. She plonked herself down and looked up at the afternoon sky, scudded with cirrus, scraping the day clean.
“How long will mummy be?” she asked Chester, with the hint of a whine. “I’m bored already.”
Her older brother let out a brisk ‘tsk’ noise. “She said to play out for an hour or so,” he replied. “Come and throw some more stones.”
Chester was trusting of his mother, and happy to play out at the lakeside and in the nearby woods until the sun began to make its first dip beyond the Cumbrian hills. But Rose was not an child spirited by the idea of adventures into the hills, climbing the tall trees or swimming in the lake, come summer. She sought the comfort of her favourite chair, her books and her bedroom.
“I’m going to the meadow to pick flowers,” Rose said with a sniff, turned her back on her brother and began to march in the direction of the wild unkempt grasses growing to the side of Lakeland Estate.
She knelt and the long plants bowed under her weight, protecting her knees from the wet ground. It had rained earlier and the spring leaves were dappled-down with sunlit dew. Rose watched one of these leaves for five minutes, until she witnessed one of the water droplets successfully detaching itself and falling into the thick undergrowth below.
Nature fascinated her. She loved to collect frogspawn and watch the tadpoles grow. She would stare from her bedroom window with wide-eyed fascination as lightning flashed across the lake during a summer storm, while poor old Chester quivered beneath his covers.
She liked to look at it, but she hadn’t learned to love it yet. She grew quickly tired of being outside, she was cold and bored now. It was time to head home. be continued...

Monday, 23 June 2008

Ode to a shop girl

Another poem-tale for you verse fans...

Oh lovely
Is the girl,
Who sits upon the till,
She fights the out of
Circulation coinage
We use still.
She has kind freckles
And a smile that nibbles
Sweetly at her cheeks,
Her blouse encases
Freshly ripened bosoms -
Unclimbed peaks!
I imagine her
Getting ready,
She's late for work some mornings;
When she arrives
They've stocked the shelves
And opened all the awnings.
Yet her hair
Carries the breeze
And managers forget the time,
Imagining spending
The night with her
In bed with poppies and red wine.
But me, I gaze
With thoughts resting
On her secret ways,
And I'll sleep with
Her vision burnt there
Until autumn days.

Dedicated to the pretty girl in Boots who serves me during lunch...