Bordeaux Bay

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

Friday, 29 July 2016

SUSPENDED SENTENCE

Love, at its best, can a safe refuge. It can also become a prison.















A POEM ABOUT LOVE

The ward is white and clinical:
tiles underfoot, strip-lights above.
The nurses kind but cynical.
This is a poem about love.

One moment all was well, then not,
and since that day, you have not stirred.
They say, have hope, but I cannot.
I speak your name: it goes unheard.

Young nurses come, young nurses fuss:
they check the tubes that give you air,
that wrap you like an octopus
as you lie sleeping, unaware.

This is a poem about love,
how love endures, how love survives
and how, when push turns into shove,
though strength has gone, more strength arrives.

Time stopped for us the dreadful day
you stopped, so now I too mark time
and try to keep despair at bay
with poetry and mumbled rhyme.

A tent of clear, enfolding mesh
cocoons you like a fine lace glove:
I cannot even touch your flesh.
This is a poem about love.

Immobile, comatose you lie,
a captured bird that yearns for flight.
We hang suspended, you and I
like sleepers between night and light.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

FORGETTING ONESELF

As the years pass and I and my peers grow older, we begin to experience memory loss.
First it's names, then faces start to go. Bumping into old acquaintances becomes mildly embarrassing when both parties know that they should recognise the other but are vague about the identity of the other party and certainly don't recall his or her name.
This isn't dementia of course, but simply part of the ageing process but it does worry me that it's a foretaste of the mental state to come, should I live long enough.





















LOST                                                       

He scours the Lost and Found each day,
reads each insertion with due care
but only learns of missing cats
or this and that, found here and there: 
and, as days pass, to his dismay,  
all that turns up is gloves and hats. 

No sign, alas, of what he’s lost,
no mention, no encouragement
to lift his spirits.  Drink your tea,
the nurses tell him. Be content,
they will turn up soon, fingers crossed,
those missing marbles, wait and see.

Friday, 22 July 2016

ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

Animal lovers will be saddened, as I was, to read of the death of Les Stocker, founder of the wildlife hospital, St Tiggywinkles.
I always associate St Tiggywinkles with injured hedgehogs, although its scope nowadays is much more far reaching.

Philip Larkin’s famous poem, The Mower, which is featured below, addresses the fate of one such unlucky creature.
Les Stocker set up his animal rescue centre in a small garden shed in Buckinghamshire back in 1978 and contacted local vets, police and RSPCA to ask them to send wildlife casualties on to him for treatment.
By 1983 his interest had developed into a fully-fledged charity, the Wildlife Hospital Trust, an enterprise which expanded rapidly.
In 1991 a teaching hospital was opened, which now boasts a triage section, operating theatre, x-ray unit, diagnostic lab, nurseries for juvenile birds and mammals, convalescent wards, an intensive care unit for swans and therapy pools for otters, seals and waterbirds.
In 1991 Les Stocker was appointed MBE for services to wildlife.
In 2002 he was made an honorary associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
















THE MOWER

 
The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

FLIGHT OF FANCY

I suppose all earthbound mortals have a fascination with the concept of flight. I certainly remember, as a boy, competing with my peers to design the most effective paper plane, and the various flights of fancy that this involved.
Is it too fanciful to see such efforts as a metaphor for our hopes and dreams as they soar and sadly, very often, crash to earth?





PAPER PLANE

                                
                                 He lets fly a paper plane,                                 
from his window airstrip, high
into gentle light that seems to welcome it.

The folded-foolscap floats and glides.

His bright eyes follow its haphazard flight:
first right then
left,
erratic as a butterfly.

Down, down it drifts,
a pleated page of insubstantial words.

It dips and stalls,
then on warm updrafts, rises again
briefly
like a despairing cry.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

PIZZA TO DIE FOR

A brief report in a national newspaper several years ago triggered the writing of The Fall. 
The story below is an embellished account of an unfortunate domestic occurrence in Italy, that beautiful country where passions burn as fiercely as the sun.
I've changed the location and added pizza as a nod to the story's Italian origin.
 
















THE FALL

When Robert Frobisher hurled himself from his third-floor balcony, he wanted to die. He wasn’t seeking revenge but he got it, along with two broken legs and a dislocated pelvis. 
The day had started well for Robert. He’d kissed his lovely wife, Paula, slipped behind the wheel of his red Porche Boxter and roared away from his luxury ocean-front apartment to begin another day of financial shenanigans at Morton Whitworth, a leading firm of tax consultants. 
One phone-call can change your life and the call Robert answered mid-morning changed his.  
Truly sorry, Bob.
It’s been great, but, hey, ‘Corporate Downsizing’ and all that. 
C’mon, cheer up, man. Shit happens! 
Minutes later, Robert Frobisher was climbing back into the red Porche, which seemed suddenly less a status symbol, more a quagmire of exorbitant repayments.
The drive home was a blur, as Robert replayed the conversation with Walt Whitworth, muttering the things he ought to have told the old bastard. Dread crushed him like a great fist as he thought of the gigantic mortgage he could no longer pay and wondered how he’d break the news to Paula. Paula, his heart’s desire: sexy, vivacious, but not, he reflected, tolerant of failure. What the Hell could he tell her?
Arriving home, Robert took the elevator to his third-floor apartment and turned to stone. There was Paula, his perfect Paula, half-naked in the arms of a pizza delivery man. Uttering a howl of disbelief, Robert launched himself at the couple, who popped apart like two halves of a cracker, Pizza Man making a bee-line for the stairs.
Robert, never a violent man, felt his whole body convulse. It was as though every drop of blood in his sixteen-stone frame had turned to ice. Job, car, mortgage and now this. What was the bloody point? Something in him snapped. The door to the balcony stood open: beyond it, endlessly, the wide blue sea. All at once, Death seemed his perfect friend. Charging the balcony rail, Robert Frobisher jumped.
Pizza Man, exiting the apartment block, paused to fasten the zip on his jeans. Damn close call, he thought, as Robert landed on him like a meteor.   

Saturday, 9 July 2016

SOLDERING ON

Everybody remembers their first car, as they do their first lover, but not always with unalloyed pleasure.
This one's probably best read aloud.

Bard at Bay is taking a short break. Online activity will resume on Sunday 17th July.


















THE UNKNOWN SOLDER

Nineteen-Sixties, bought my first car.
Independent, just turned twenty.
Didn’t want advice from Father.
Had my wits about me, plenty
Good Used Cars, the signboard told me.
A green Ford, the salesman sold me.

A Ford Anglia, so shiny,
caught and held my rapt attention:
Dealer sang its praises highly
but some things he failed to mention.
I was foolish and besotted:
simply glad that I had got it.

Second-hand, but what a bargain.
Paid my money, roared off proudly
down the road to nearby Bangor,
the exhaust-pipe popping loudly,
thick black smoke where no smoke should be,
and the engine farting rudely.

Such excitement, revving madly.
Great wide road, and I was on it.
Something underneath was banging:
something underneath the bonnet.
A dodgy motor? Never mind:
I loved that car, and love is blind.

What matter if the Ford was noisy
it looked superb but sounded ill
like an old man with bronchitis.
I was oblivious until,
with the sound of tarmac hissing,
I saw half the floor was missing.

Even then, still in denial,
I trundled down the Bangor road
smiling, singing, honking wildly,
for all the world like Mr Toad,
ignoring all the twitching ganglia
within the corpse of my Ford Anglia.

Then a sort of small explosion
made the Ford begin to shudder,
swerve from here to there at random
like a boat without a rudder.
Suddenly a sinking feeling:
engine died, I was freewheeling.

At the kerb I sat despondent.
Bits of car lay all around me.
I sat down and started moaning:
that is where the AA found me.
The Patrol-man checked the car
and was surprised I’d got this far.

Soldered bits and soldered pieces,
objects glued to other objects
and a slap of paint and filler
camouflaged a hundred defects.
I had been taken for a ride:
this was the Fall that follows Pride.

The Anglia went to the scrapyard
and as I watched it towed away
I bit my lip and I thought hard
on what my Father had to say:
Now that you’re broke, Son, you might like
to fix the puncture on your bike.




and now, a Bonus Track, still on the subject of cars ...

FERRARI RUSHER
(A Cautionary Tale)

He exited the Singles Bar,
jumped into his red, sexy car,
took off at speed: RAR, RAR, RAR, RAR.
Alas, he didn't get that far.
At Ninety-Three he hit a tree
(a Silly B, most would agree).
Now see, he's in the mort-u-ree.   
 







 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

WINGED MESSENGER

People have mixed feelings about owls and indeed European folklore offers two very differing views of this feathered fellow. 
The Wise Old Owl is a familiar character in numerous children's stories but there is another, less benign, owl persona that occurs again and again in fireside tales the world over.
It's this latter type of creature that appears in my first poetry collection (The Man Who Landed (2010)) where it is presented as a bird of ill-omen, a harbinger of approaching death.





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.


Monday, 4 July 2016

THIRD TIME LOCKIE?

Here's a little tale I wrote some time ago, in part, based on  a story related by an Irish Peer, Lord Dufferin, to a party of close friends. 
I've taken Dufferin's account as a starting point and developed it into a slightly macabre short story. 
Maybe I should have saved it for Halloween? 


LUCKY LOCKIE?             

Andrew Lockie was a cautious man so when the lift gates clanked open on the fifth floor and he saw the lift’s sole occupant, he turned away and fumbled with the straps of his valise until the doors closed again and the lift began its ascent. Andrew Lockie was a lucky man because moments later the lift-cable snapped and the metal cage plummeted to the basement.
Andrew had refused to board the doomed lift because the night before he had dreamed himself in a gloomy churchyard observing a grave being violated. The grave-robber, a wiry, hunched man, had turned to glare at Andrew. His face, illuminated by moonlight, had a grotesque appearance, ape-like and malevolent. The lift attendant, whose appearance had caused Andrew to shy away from the doomed lift, had looked uncannily like the simian creature of his dream.
Later that day, Andrew Lockie made his way to Southampton docks to begin his journey to America.  This being a maiden voyage, the embarkation area was a hubbub of festivities. Steerage class had already boarded and the First Class passengers were making their way to the gangplanks with great ceremony. As a press reporter on assignment, Andrew was in no hurry to board but preferred to watch this parade of aristocratic finery. His eye was arrested by a figure at the guard rail: one of the crew, judging from his uniform. There was something familiar about the man and Andrew put his eyeglasses on the better to see him. He seemed to stare directly at Andrew, who recoiled with a shock of recognition.  It was the sinister man from the lift, the brutish grave-robber from his dream. Andrew stumbled away from the great ship and struggled through the crowd. He would not step aboard this vessel but would instead make some excuse: tell his employers he had been taken ill. Shaken, he hurried into a dockside bar and ordered a large whiskey then another and another. Some time later, emboldened by the liquor, Andrew made his way back to the quayside to watch the great ship’s departure. The decks were awash with brightly-dressed passengers and the sinister man was nowhere to be seen. A massive cheer went up from the well-wishers on the quay and Andrew joined in as the Titanic began its epic journey to America.
Walking back to his hotel, Andrew felt drained of energy as the effects of the liquor began to wear off.  He hailed a motor-cab and climbed in behind the driver, who was hunched over the wheel. Giving his address, Andrew sat back in the plush leather seat and closed his eyes. When he opened them again the cab was hurtling along, recklessly fast. He was flung against the door when the vehicle took a sharp corner at breakneck speed, the tyres protesting. Andrew Lockie stared at the hunched driver, who turned his grotesque, ape-like head triumphantly towards him and smiled his brutal smile.


 
Read the original story here: http://awesomeghoststories.blogspot.com

Friday, 1 July 2016

BLOODY MADNESS

One hundred years ago today, on Saturday 1st July 1916, the Battle of the Somme began.
At 7.30am whistles blew and 120,000 British and Empire troops began an assault on 16 miles of multilayered German defences.
Men, carrying kit weighing almost 7o pounds, were ordered to march towards German machine gun entrenchments with the inevitable result.
Casualties among the attacking force on Day 1 numbered 57,470 (including 19,240 killed), just under half the total number of soldiers who took part.
Fighting continued for a further 140 days. 
Day 1 was, and still is, the bloodiest day in British Army history. 


 




















LETTER HOME 

The trenches are awash with mud.
We share this hell with rats and dead
while mortar shells scream overhead
and all the world is choked with blood.


We came as boys: some never aged
but died with childhood in their eyes.
Should we grow old, their fearful cries
will haunt us.  So, like scapegoats caged


before a hungry tiger’s eye,
we wait for them, the bloody foe,
to charge with bayonets and know
what we must do, but never why.


This futile madness makes me weep.
Such sacrifice for little gain.
Fear only quelled by fearful pain.
Let death be but an endless sleep.





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.