Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Sunday, 23 September 2018

PET-SIT HEAVEN

Walking with our borrowed dog, Wilbur, in the tree-lined gardens of The Royal Crescent, it's no longer possible to ignore the fact that autumn has arrived.


The paths are littered with fallen leaves and an abundance of horse-chestnuts. 
My days of playing conkers are long past but I still delight in their glorious texture and colour.  

Due to the recent storms the leaf-fall has been less gradual than normal at this time of year.
A limitless ocean of auburn and gold spreads out before us as we walk and seems to whisper as we paddle our way through it. 


Wilbur, pictured here, is one of more than a dozen pets we've taken care of this year. A gentle, obedient fellow with a charismatic personality, he's one of our favourites.  

 
 


AUTUMN WALK

Two sets of boots displace dead leaves,
two pairs of eyes inspect bare trees,
two hands, ungloved, create a bridge:
across it warm affection flows
and, once again, I recognise
that this is love, a love that grows,
unchecked, though autumn lays its hand
on everything, on light, on bough;
that this, in its simplicity.
is everything that I desire. 

All love before was counterfeit.
Life, till you came, was incomplete.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

GENTRY DOES IT

I've been visiting a number of National Trust properties during my travels in England this year. One former stately-home inspired this piece of verse.



















ENDANGERED SPECIES

A walnut table dominates
the panelled room, dark as a scowl,
where gloomy stags stare, glassy-eyed,
from rosewood mounts with dull brass plates.

We gather round the genteel Guide
to gaze at oils where foxhounds howl
in hunting scenes as, endlessly,
red-coated men hurrah and bray,
sup stirrup-cups, slap riding crops,
while, over meadows, foxes flee.

On mantlepiece and sideboard tops
old photographs are on display
of tweedy chaps, posed ankle-deep
in broken birds, caps raised in cheers,   
or coltish girls in evening dress,
their eyes as innocent as sheep,
all champagne, laughter and largesse,
dead now, it must be fifty years.

We stand there, pale suburbanites,
and marvel at the upper class,
strange creatures from a world long gone.
Those peers, the debs, the gartered knights
against the odds, they linger on
like cut-flowers wilting in a glass.



Friday, 14 September 2018

BULLET POINTS

As Autumn closes in about us, here's a bit of fun to lighten up the day.


BRAND NEW HAT

I wander into Kevin’s Bar. Scotch-rocks, I ask for, then kick back. I drink there for about an hour, maybe a couple. I lose track.
I wear my brand new Stetson hat. My watch-chain fob hangs on my vest. I fill that vest but I ain’t fat. I’m one smart cat, you might of guessed.
I watch the game and drink some more. Those goddam Redskins sure have form. I get confused, forget the score. Kevin’s is cool but over-warm.
Behind the barkeep, hangs a mirror. Reflected in it is the door. What happens next is just a blur. A guy bursts in, emits a roar.
I know his face: a dame I see, called Maymee, has his photograph. He’s sweet Maymee’s new fee-on-see. Guess he don’t want my autograph.
I think it circumspect to split. Maymee is one amazing chick, but I’m no hero I’ll admit. I gulp my Scotch and exit quick,
dart down the alley out at back, the goddam guy in hot pursuit. I got no gun: I never pack. He’s leaded up and sure to shoot.
I’m in the alley, moving fast, as agile as an alley-cat. A trashcan spins, I hear a blast. A bullet smacks my brand new hat.
I run like crazy. Bullets fly. This bozo sure is mad at me. A sleeping drunk trips up the guy, who tumbles like a fallen tree.
I make the corner, spot a cop, who’s looking elsewhere, shoulders squared. I walk real fast. No time to stop. Just gotta get this hat repaired.



Tuesday, 11 September 2018

A MOMENT IN TIME

On 11 September 2001 the United States suffered a devastating blow from the jihadi forces of militant Islam when hi-jacked airliners were employed as improvised bombs to target the World Trade Centre in New York.

Around 3,000 people died that day and, overnight, America’s attitude to terrorism was transformed. US financial and emotional support for the IRA was immediately and drastically reduced, leading to a downturn in violence in Ulster and the British mainland.
 

Sadly, the new era of global terrorism, ushered in by the events of that grim September day, is one that continues to affect us all. 



REWIND

Wind Time back.

Reel Time in
so that the struck towers
rise from dust, reassemble themselves:
all their glass, their concrete,
a huge jigsaw,
locked together, complete again.

Thousands of keyboards blink to life,
telephones ring, lights come back on, vending machines cough,
eject fresh coffee into plastic cups, air-conditioning sighs
then restarts,
elevators descend, ascend, video conferencing re-commences,
work-stations reconstruct themselves,
conversations resume mid-sentence, emails beep,
digital clocks flicker like quick, green lizards ...


Restart time
as though it had never ended.

All the scattered particles
of mothers, fathers, daughters, sons,
fly back together:
fingers, lips, eyes, soft faces, scorched cinder-black
or blown to bloody shreds: these are re-made.
Lost shoes, lost handbags, mobiles, neck-ties,
day-dreams, expectations, plans, engagements:
all these un-melt, re-form,
resume their shapes.


The terrible, unearthly screams
die down
and down
and down
to whispers.

Wind Time back. Reel Time in.

Backwards
the soft clouds drift.

Birds fly in reverse.

Those grim death-planes,
stiletto-silver in the morning sun,
glide backwards,
withdrawn
like daggers from the shattered towers,
whose twin
glass skins,
pristine again, shimmer
like smooth, un-rippled water.
 



 


Thursday, 6 September 2018

HUNGRY SOULS

It's a long time since I've heard anyone saying grace but it was a daily occurrence when I was growing up in Presbyterian Belfast all those years ago. 
My father was an Old Testament-style believer whose stern adherence to his faith, together with his deafness, tended to distance him from his impish and impious brood.
On those occasions nowadays, when I find myself dining in Christian company, the ritual of those simple words evokes in me a powerful sense of nostalgia.




UNBELIEVERS

With steepled hands, Father would pray:
Dear Lord, we thank you for this food,
and we would sit with downcast eyes,
as though we cared or understood
this piety upon display.
We would devour our Ulster fries:
black pudding, bacon, sausage, eggs,
mopped up with salty soda bread,
and roll our eyes, inwardly groan,
while Father sat at table-head,
firm in his faith and supped the dregs
of tea grown cold, austere, alone. 


Sunday, 2 September 2018

A SAUMAREZ DAY

We don't have an overabundance of parks in Guernsey: three at most, and only one of those has a lake.
Saumarez Park, with its ducks and waterfowl, is an ever-popular venue on a summery day for parents, children and, inevitably, for lovers . 

Photo by B Eckert


















IN SAUMAREZ PARK

A bag of bread and some stale cake
was what we brought that afternoon
to feed the tame ducks on the lake.
They gathered round us. Pretty soon,
in force, the noisy gulls arrived,
their beaks like weapons as they dived.

We scattered food, retreated then
and left them to their argument;
strolled through the park. You saw a wren.
It hardly seemed like time misspent
nor mattered that the day was cool,
for you were mine and beautiful.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

WRITER BLOKE

Anyone who’s read Philip Larkin’s excellent poem, Mr Bleaney, will be acquainted with that eponymous elderly gent who ended his days, a lodger, in a tiny upstairs room of a stranger’s house. 
Sadly, there’s many a poor soul who’s finished up that way.
Back in the early 1990s my friend, the late Terry O’Brien, was one such individual: a man in his early sixties who’d lost his home, savings and status as a consequence of a disastrous late marriage.
While I was writing this poem, Terry's ghost lingered in my peripheral vision but my real focus was on G B Edwards, the enigmatic author of one of the Twentieth Century’s finest novels, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page.
Gerald’s final years were spent as a lodger in a house just outside Weymouth in Dorset. 
Whilst the poem isn’t based upon G B Edwards’ actual circumstances*, it was certainly influenced by them.



THE LODGER

He could be short-tempered and cold.
He’d say, Too dear at seven quid,
and other times she would be told,
I’m leaving! But he never did.
At times he seemed to rule the house.
Lodger from Hell, she’d tell her spouse.

An old man, elderly, she’d say
a writer, something of that sort.
Is it a novel or a play?
My bloody masterpiece! He’d snort.
The manuscript on ruled foolscap,
some days he’d call a load of crap.

He was an inconsistent man:
one moment charmer, next a boor.
A solitary, without a clan,
with old-school manners, but piss-poor.
He’d leave his light on half the night,
brew pots of tea and write and write.

But all of that was years ago.
He’s dead and buried with his debts.
His book is in the shops, although
it doesn’t sell well, she regrets.
A book’s no substitute for life.
He’d have been better with a wife.