Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Sunday, 15 July 2018

NO DAVID BAILEY

I'm no photographer: such talent as I have is solely with the written word. Nevertheless I click away and later wonder how all those clever, arty shots that I planned have evolved into such bland and lifeless images when viewed on screen. 
The joy of digital photography is that it allows people like me to delete naff pictures in much the same way as doctors are able to bury their mistakes. 
Back in the old pre-digital era, we waited days for our snaps to be developed then marvelled that we'd managed to capture any likenessess at all.
My family photos rarely ended up in albums. Instead, they were consigned to a series of biscuit-tins and stored under the bed or in the attic, not to be revisited unless I was prepared for the sad recognition that the past really is a different country.





 













SNAPS

The tin is packed full to the brim,
with photographs in musty layers
like autumn leaves and, on a whim,
I pick it up and go downstairs,
begin to sift through and unearth
my other selves, six decades worth. 

Child, adult, parent, here am I,
alarming hair, bell-bottom jeans,
wide suit-lapels, a kipper tie:
the faux pas of my middle-teens,
while, further back, in monochrome,
an infant with a hairless dome.

How sad these vanished, other selves:
the awkward kids, the dapper chaps,
that lie exposed when someone delves
into this box of fading snaps.
In every photograph I see
my unimportant history.

Monday, 9 July 2018

LEST WE FORGET

The village of Ramsden is located in Oxfordshire, mid-way between Woodstock and Burford, and lies in a picturesque valley on the south-eastern edge of the Cotswolds, one of the most 'quintessentially' English parts of the country.
Ramsden comprises a collection of lovingly-maintained old stone houses, a village school, sadly no longer operational, and a parish church and churchyard with yew trees and ancient stones.
In the centre of all this stands an impressive War Memorial.
Turquoise Sky, from my Stone Witness collection, is a tribute to the brave men who sacrificed their lives in 'the war to end all wars'. 






TURQUOISE SKY

The child's eyes are full of fear. He sees
light subtly altered, fields pulsating red.
Be a brave soldier, his mother soothes
and tucks him back in bed.

His father's eyes are full of fear. He yells,
Get ready, Men! Men tremble in the pit
then go over the top, following his shout:
soldiers in dirty khaki kit.

No time for words or thoughts of home.
Only a moment to glance upwards and spy
something silver falling towards him
out of a turquoise sky.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

HIGH FLIER

Our stay in Monmouthshire has been a happy one, with breathtaking scenery, constant sunshine and endlessly blue skies. 
These skies are home to the Red Kite, a magnificent bird once regarded as threatened, whose recovery and regeneration is a credit to Welsh conservationists. Made for the air, the Kite is a joy to watch. I can understand how Dedalus and his son, Icarus, might have sought to emulate it.




ICARUS

I am falling from high
but they do not notice.

The air, through wings
that promised much,
keens like a mourner.

Creeping ants below
evolve
to shepherd, plowman, angler.

I fall unseen.

Someone
will dream it later.

I have no time
to scream.

The water is
hard as stone.

 

Sunday, 24 June 2018

HWYL AR FEICIAU

Since I'm currently visiting Abergavenny in sunny Wales and since my visit happens to coincide with the start of the 2018 Abergavenny Festival of Cycling, I've decided to feature this poem from my recently-published collection, Stone Witness.






















CYCLE

The living world sails by, complete:
strange images engulf her; sounds
pour into her; she is caressed
by air, safe in the old bike seat
behind her father, the firm mounds
of his buttocks against her chest.

A young child, perched like a nestling,
in the metal-framed basket-seat:
his firstborn.  A small miracle,
the proud father thinks his offspring,
and to him, in the noisy street,
she clings, tight as a barnacle.

He pedals hard, pursued by time:
like roulette wheels, the bike-wheels whirl.
A breeze, around her soft hair, sings
with lyrical, unreasoned rhyme.
Euphoria engulfs the girl:
her arms reach out like stubby wings.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST

I find it interesting and disturbing, in equal measure, that two people’s memories of the same events can be totally different, so much so that the very notion of objective history is flawed.


 MACKEY'S SISTER
 
You must be? She said my surname. Her voice, low and sweet. I answered, Yes, and thought, she looks just like him.
Jimmy Mackey was my brother, she told me. You know that he died? 

I know, I heard, I mumbled. So sorry for your loss.
He thought the world of you, she told me with a smile. This damn school brought him so much grief but you saved him from the worst of it. He really was in awe of you: his truest friend ... Her words tailed off.
I pictured him: the crooked specs and wounded stare, the pallid, vulnerable skin, already marked for victimhood. Fourteen years old with four more years of hell stretching out before him. Wee Mackey. A kid with Hurt Me printed on his puny chest.
I bullied him. We all did that. I was less harsh than most and once even intervened to save him from the worst of it, but I was never friend to him: lads like that were soft as shite and no one ever chose them as a friend.
We stood together in the old Assembly Hall, his sister and I. Waiters flickered to and fro, like white bats, navigating among the crowd of Old Boys and their families by means of high, inaudible squeaks.
I bet you two had roaring times? She said and looked at me expectantly. I almost answered, but held my tongue instead.




Wednesday, 13 June 2018

NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING

This piece of Flash Fiction emerged from the ruins of a failed poem on a similar subject: a paean to the animalistic power of the sea and the almost-ecstasy of almost letting go.  

SWIMMER

They’ve been walking for over an hour and the heat has become oppressive. Patrick leads the way, as always, Jill and Roger at his heels while she, grown bored and weary, begins to fall behind. The group make their way round Bordeaux bay and follow the footpath along a stretch of water between the coast and the small outcrop of Houmet Paradis, enjoying the view of Herm and the smaller islands in the distance. She pauses, seduced by the notion of cool water on her skin. The others have gone ahead but, recklessly, she finds herself drawn to the water and, within moments, she’s removed her boots and socks, then shed her top and hiking-shorts and, dressed only in bra and knickers, begun to wade in. The temperature is shocking at first but moments after she’s dived it’s become tolerable and the sensation invigorates her. She breast-strokes out from the rocky shore and feels shock as the current captures her. She attempts to turn back but finds her rudimentary swimming strokes inadequate. The waves, moving ceaselessly, envelop her: ice cold, it numbs then swallows her effortlessly. It draws her down and she succumbs. To struggle would be futile so she surrenders to the undertow which drags her deep through mists of seaweed that sway and swirl about her like her own dark hair. Eyes wide open, she pays no heed to the bead-bright, sea-bed stones that loom like mountains beneath her. The pressure on her lungs intensifies and she becomes aware that she is drowning. No past-life flashes before her, however: rather, an awareness of a future life that now will not be lived. She kicks out wildly, outraged at the thought of it and suddenly her head bursts through the water’s surface and she’s breathing fresh, sweet air. The sky, blue beyond imagination, seems immense. A wave carries her to shore. As she struggles over gravel, she’s aware that some numinous force, present there below, had taken possession of her, assessed her, then let her go.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

POSTMAN POET

Whilst visiting Devon, Jane and I travelled to the church of St Augustine in Heanton to seek out the grave of Edward Capern, the postman poet, known locally as The Devonshire Burns.
Born in 1819, Edward worked in the lace industry until failing eyesight forced him to seek alternative employment with the Post Office as a letter-carrier. His route lay between Bideford and Appledore and the job required him to make a return trip between the towns with a wait of two hours, to allow time for people to reply to letters he had just delivered because there were no post-boxes in those days. It was during this time that he began writing poems, often on the backs of the envelopes he would later deliver.
Edward Capern became a regular contributor to the 'Poet's Corner' of the North Devon Journal and his submissions became so popular that in 1856 a group of subscribers, including Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens, and Charles Kingsley, enabled him to publish his first collection of poems: an early example of crowd funding.
The following year the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston granted him a Civil List pension and the Postman Poet went on to publish several other popular collections including a book of ballads and songs.


Edward Capern died on 4 June 1894, and was awarded a state funeral. 
He is buried beside his wife, Jane, in the churchyard at Heanton Hill, overlooking the beautiful Vale of Torridge. 
His postman’s hand-bell was placed in a niche in the gravestone and this verse by Alfred Austin, the then Poet Laureate, is inscribed below.  

O lark-like poet, carol on,
Lost in dim light and unseen trill.
We in the heaven where you are gone
Find you no more, but feel you still.