Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Friday, 29 May 2015

BEARD AT BAY

A fleeting visit this week from my good friend and fellow writer, Brighton-based, Peter Kenny, who arrived with his lovely wife, Lorraine, to stay at La Barbarie, a quaint old hotel hidden in the labyrinthine lanes of picturesque St Martin's Parish, where Peter grew up.
As always, we managed to meet for a chinwag, not once but on two occasions, and discussed matters as diverse as poetry, the meaning of life, and my latest passion, baking.
Peter visits the island frequently and has written of it often, both in prose and poetical form.
He and I co-authored a collection of poems, entitled A Guernsey Double, which was published in 2010.
This photograph shows us proudly posing outside one of our local bookshops where the book was on display. How young we both looked then.
Peter is currently sporting an exquisitely-trimmed, silver beard, which gives him a faintly piratical appearance and he looks suitably bard-like as he stands gazing seawards from the rugged cliffs of Icart Point.
You’ll find a selection of Peter’s more recent work in a slim volume called The Nightwork, published by Telltale Press in 2014, but for now, check out the poem below, one of my favourites from A Guernsey Double.





THE BOY WHO FELL UPWARDS

Snatched at by a current from the dark surging sky
far from my house on my island of safety
I catch onto hedgerows, to handfuls of grass,
to the grasshopper kingdoms that might keep me among them.

Grass roots wrench away from the anchoring soil,
their succulent wires cannot earth me forever.
The country lane lurches under my shoes,
even the stone Gran’mere by the graveyard can’t ground me.

Twisted by updrafts, I’m torn up by currents,
a splintering glider all paper and balsa:
above gorse-yellow cliffs I bank and yaw,
hollow-boned orphan, I shriek like a gull in the gale.



PETER KENNY
   

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

JUKEBOX FIVE

Regular readers will be aware that each month I showcase a number of older posts that have proved popular, along the lines of "another chance to see ..." as the BBC tend to refer to their re-runs.
It occurs to me that, whilst I've occasionally, referenced musical tracks, I haven't offered another chance to hear any of them.
To rectify this omission, here, in chronological order, is a selection of five. 
Those of a similar vintage to me will remember with fondness the era of Coffee Bars, where teenagers could idle away hours, shyly watching girls and learning to smoke.
No self-respecting Coffee Bar would have been complete without a jukebox and if you selected the right record you might well find yourself in conversation with the girl of your dreams.
So go ahead, pop your shilling in the slot and choose a record, or better still, play all five for half a crown.


Olivia Chaney (23 April 2015)

 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

RISING SONS

It's said that eventually we all turn into our fathers and mothers, acquiring not only their features, but also many of their foibles. 
I notice this often in myself, in fleeting moments when one's departed parent makes an unexpected reappearance.
Although I may wince at the time, for it's not always a particularly endearing characteristic that manifests itself, nevertheless it's not unpleasing to be reminded that generation after generation lives on in their offspring. 
We have keepsakes and photographs, of course, but often a particular turn of phrase, a smile or frown will somehow bring the loved one back to mind with far greater poignancy.
   












SONS

On a yellowed flyleaf,
half a century ago,
my mother wrote to say
Birthday Wishes
and Mum, that name
that buries self away.

I was her firstborn, 
headstrong, loving,
exuberant, willfully astray.

My childhood fears,
unbidden tears, the small, lost
battles of the day,
she dissipated in her arms.

My daughter
holds her sons that way.


This poem appears in my second collection of poems, Strange Journey. See Publications tab.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

APRIL COME SHE MAY

Time to present the May review of the three most popular posts from the month of April. 
All three featured in a sequence of vignettes that I published on the theme of noir and were as follows:-
Joey, the one about the deluded gambler, then The Fix, about Danny the young contender with a hard choice to make, and finally, The Private Eye, the poem that launched "Noir Week".
The Private Eye and is reprinted below.



THE PRIVATE EYE

I’m drinking whiskey for a cure:
hangover pounding in my head.
She sways in, high-heels, lipstick red.
Dames equals trouble, that’s for sure.

She says she wants her husband found
but pretty soon she’s found my lips.
She pants, she pouts, her grinding hips
revitalize this old bloodhound.

I never find the guy, instead
that sweet dame takes me for a sap.
I end up on a murder rap.
Dames equals trouble, like I said.



PS. The tag-line on this post is another play on a song title, a popular track from 1966. 
Click here to listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYD-DIggB2k



Monday, 18 May 2015

LOSERS AND BOOZERS

My paternal grandfather was an inveterate gambler, whose compulsion resulted in a life of wildly fluctuating fortunes. His great passion was greyhounds, closely followed by horses: two creatures whose speed and courage are much admired by the Irish.
I've never been drawn to the world of gambling myself and was conscious, whilst growing up, that the subject was one to be frowned upon.
My father was quick to remind us that the only person who ever made money following horses was a ploughman and that wagering hard-earned cash on any game of chance was foolish in the extreme.
Grandfather's gambling habit, coupled with alcoholism, led him from boom to bust with his unfortunate family following disconsolately in his wake. 
Departing this life in his nineties, seemingly unrepentant, he left us little other than a few well-thumbed racing guides, a battered bowler-hat and a couple of beautiful walking-sticks which he must have twirled to great effect in his dandyish heyday.



THE GAMBLER

Two walking-sticks with greyhounds' heads
embellished by a silver band,
were all he left us, nothing more.

Fortunes, though he had won a score,
vanished, slipped from his careless hand:
all lost on tardy thoroughbreds.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

VERSATILE VERSE


Just a reminder, for Guernsey-based readers of this blog, that an Open Mic Poetry event will take place, 8pm tomorrow evening, 18th May, at La Villette Hotel in St Martin’s.

All are welcome to attend, whether to participate or simply make up the audience. 


As with any event of this kind, quality of material and performance varies, but the atmosphere is always friendly and supportive.


Admission is free, although a small donation is requested to cover hire of the venue.  

Refreshments are available from the hotel bar. 


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

BIRD GIRL

The subject of loneliness is one that intrigues me. 
It probably affects all of us at one time or another, whether as a result of imposed or elected solitude or, as can often be the case, in consequence of finding oneself alone in an unhappy relationship or a crowded room.
Sylvia Plath wrote: So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them. 
Here's a short vignette about isolation and loneliness.
















BIRDSONG

This guy I knew back then, he hurt me, but when he left he gave me singing birds, two of them: beauties, real pretty. I named them for my folks, Jim and Em. 
They’re both long gone, my Mom and Dad: died when I was young, but I remember them. Good Christian folk who probably got their own wings now, up there in Heaven with the Lord.
They sing to me, my pretty birds, and I sing back to them: songs without proper words, just crazy tunes that come into my head.
I don’t go out these days. I stay indoors to feed my birds, clean out their cage, and some days I sit all day long and watch them while they preen and groom each other. Jim and Em: my pretty birds that never fight or squabble.
Nobody comes to visit now and I avoid neighbors. With nosy folk, I disengage, back off, then shut the door. 

It’s best that way, just me and the birds.
Here I reside. Five floors above the sidewalk in a nest of sky: me and these flightless birds that sing so sweet and never say a word about my face, the scars, my sightless eye.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

NIGHT FLIGHT

Some years ago, before moving to the coast at Bordeaux Bay, I lived in the Parish of St Peters, one of the few remaining rural parishes on the island.
My Border terriers, Rufus and Holly, were then young, energetic and always eager to be out and about, and many's an evening, after dark, we'd head out together to explore the fields and green lanes of the area.
There is a heady sense of freedom and exhilaration to be had in being out with dogs by moonlight, rejoicing in the rich night scents and reveling in the sense of space and solitude that darkness affords. 
I miss that now.
Sadly, Rufus was laid to rest three years ago and my lovely Holly, now almost seventeen years of age, is far too old for such pursuits.
I see the owl, that silent bringer of death, as a metaphor for that which awaits us all.





OWL

In a green lane in St Peter’s
near midnight, under a full moon,
a pale owl
flies across my path, silently,
then low
over dark fields to the tree-line, hunting.

I turn
to watch his tireless sweep
over dumb ground, mist spreading like a shroud,
till I lose sight of him,
and coldness, creeping,
turns my leaden footsteps home.

In bed, near daybreak,
I jerk awake, heart pounding,
mindful of accelerating time, moments eaten up,
of golden, soundless wings,
a questing eye;
sharp talons reaching for my heart.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

GRUMPY OLD MAN



You’ll be hard pressed to find a copy of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page in any of Guernsey’s bookshops and seeking what has been described as one of the finest novels of the Twentieth Century in Guernsey’s many tourist outlets can also prove to be a fruitless exercise.

How can it be that this modern masterpiece written by a native Guernseyman, the late Gerald B Edwards, has become all but invisible on the island of his birth?
 


New York Review Books described the novel as: “A triumph of the storyteller’s art that conjures up the extraordinary voice of a living man.” 

Praise of the book has been echoed by literary critics across the globe, yet in Guernsey this memorable book is virtually ignored.

I was introduced to The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by my wife, Jane, who has campaigned tirelessly to promote recognition of both the novel and its author, G B Edwards.

I read it, struggling, as many do, with the early chapters, and found myself immersed in a truly amazing tale, set on the small island of Guernsey, yet having a universal appeal.

The narrator, elderly, cantankerous Ebenezer Le Page, recounts the story of his life and passions in a voice that grows ever more familiar and full of humanity with each passing page and, while doing so, introduces the reader to a cast of characters that are totally believable and absolutely full of life.

A long-awaited biography of G B Edwards, written by Professor Edward Chaney, is due to be launched later this year by Blue Ormer Publications.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC

Last spring my wife, Jane, and I drove down to Tuscany and rented a small house in San Giovanni alla Vena, which, by virtue of its unique location, provided us with the best of both worlds: on the one hand, the simplicity of village life, and on the other, the enjoyment of our landlord's magnificent garden, to which we were given daily access.
In late spring, as temperatures increased, hosts of fireflies began to appear at night among the trees and along the avenue of Oleanders that lined the path to the villa.
It became our evening ritual to venture out to watch them dance in the darkness like soundless music notes. 





LUCCIOLE

We went to the garden after dark
to watch fireflies, like hopeful prayers,
gather about us. Each small spark,
minute, adrift on warm night airs.

On the flat surface of the night,
they seemed to dance at our behest:
we thrilled to their courageous light,
felt graced, uplifted, almost blessed.