Monday, 29 June 2009

Shotgun & Herons

Is it poetry? Is it serendipity? Is it chance? Is it the Great Architect of the Universe telling us that nothing occurs randomly, but that there is a great and changeless symmetry, a universal pattern; if only we could stand back far enough and see and understand? Or is it just poultry?

Take Wednesday July 14th. Several seemingly unconnected incidents came together in glorious concert to provide a talking point and a cause for smiles and genteel laughter for months to come. It was a pivotal moment in history; in personal history. Many there were who used that day as a benchmark:

“It was the day after…”

“Where were you on the day that…?”

We had been experiencing the most dreadful invasion of feral pigeons. They were squatting on the roof in colonies and their constant crooning and moaning was driving us to distraction; the pigeon droppings were defacing the portico above the main entrance. The Secondary Building with its fine eighteenth century battlements was showing the effects of a great deal of nesting pigeons also. Then there would be the tumultuous roar when some silly bird felt the need to fly, and the whole colony would ascend with a great flapping of noisy, creaky wings; the noisy clapping sound of a less than well bred audience at a second-class concert hall; only to make a couple of circuits above the main drive before returning to their roosts, and resume their incessant soft coo-coo-cooing.

Tom Mould, our Head Gardener, had come into the dining room on that particular morning during breakfast, muttering and grinding his teeth and complaining that it appeared that there were fewer giant carp in the Virginia Woolf Ornamental Lake than he thought there should have been. His eyes raked the assembled Residents as if he expected some, or all of them, to be secreting a giant carp or two about her or his person.

Raj, the Gardener’s Lad, came in behind him and stood by his side; it was patently clear that he had important information to convey. Raj was fidgeting; Raj always fidgeted when he had something to say:

“It’s herons, Innit”, said Raj, “Dey’s eatin' da fish, Innit”. And then, as an afterthought, he added, “Nowah Amin”.

Very few of the assembled Residents had even noticed this little interchange, but Maude, ever the observer, thought she had heard Tom Mould mutter under his breath, “First it’s bleeding pigeons shitting on the roof and now it’s herons…Bastards!” Absent mindedly Tom scooped a handful of bread rolls from the table he was passing as he left the dining room. Raj followed him, explaining as he went that he had seen a heron on the roof, eyeing the Virginia Woolf Ornamental Lake in a suspicious manner.

“Dey do dat,” he explained, darkly. “Herons is like that”. Raj expressed his anger that almost half of the chicken feed he was buying for his Black Orpington hens seemed to ending up in the crops of the marauding pigeons. They made their way together to Tom’s Hideaway where Betty would, no doubt, be waiting to offer him consolation. Betty, his constant companion: Betty, the light of Tom’s life; Betty, to Tom’s eyes, the most beautiful sheep in the world.

Tom was usually a taciturn man, yet this morning there was a slight tremor in Tom’s voice.

“Bleedin’ herons!” he muttered, partly to himself, partly to Betty, and partly to Raj, “Those carp have been there years. Herons! Ha!… Bastards

The postman had delivered several letters that morning. In one, Lillian had been informed that “Her Majesty’s Government Pension Service have decided that due to greater expenses incurred …blah blah blah… by Members of Parliament who had completely, honestly, and above board …blah blah blah… and within the law been making claims …blah blah blah… irrevocable deficit in the Exchequer …blah blah blah… your pension for the work you claim you have put in at the Royal Courts of Justice…blah blah blah… Lord Chancellor’s Division…blah blah blah…no record of you ever having worked here. Your pension ceases forthwith …blah blah. You have fourteen days to reply to this letter. If no response is received by that time the case will be closed, permanently …blah blah blah.”
Later that day, Tom and Raj drove to the nearby, quaint little market town of Streatham-in-the-Vale. Tom went directly to the local ironmonger's: above the door were emblazoned the words, TACK, IRONMONGERY & EVERYTHING FOR THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN. Raj stayed in the van, talking to Betty in case she should fret due to missing Tom’s company.

Tom appeared after some time carrying a parcel. It was long. It was wrapped in brown paper. Tom unwrapped the parcel as soon as he entered the van. In it was a long cardboard box. In the cardboard box was a shotgun; a twelve bore shotgun; with ammunition.

Tom turned the shotgun over and over in his hands, he broke open the breach to expose the chamber for effect; then he looked Raj in the eye and spoke two words,

“Herons,” he said emotionally, “Bastards!”

Raj was fascinated. Betty looked calmly out of the rear window of the van… Nothing surprised Betty.

The postman had delivered several letters that morning. Lillian had received the first. In another, Katriona had been informed by Fortnum and Mason that following a complaint from several of their Staff and also from members of the public following a fracas at a wine tasting in their food hall on the previous Christmas Eve, Mrs Katriona Piesporter-Michelsberg was to have her Store Card withdrawn until after a full investigation could be made into the incident.

It was about this time that the heron made an appearance. Some while between the delivery of the letters and Tom’s excursion to Streatham-in-the-Vale. The heron had been feeding himself very adequately in a pond behind the Sports Pavilion at Crystal Palace, and thought he would rest his wings for a while before he made his way home to Surbiton where he lived. He perched on the roof of the Secondary Building and gazed around at the scene.

“Bucolic charm,” he thought to himself. The sun was shining; the pigeons scattered around him were doing what pigeons do best; making the noises for which pigeons are famed. Their call, a continuous, bubbling moan.

If the heron had known the Residents and Staff of the building on which he was standing, he would have noted that the call of a feral pigeon is remarkably similar to the call made by Sharon when Raj is in the vicinity. But the heron was a stranger, never having been in the vicinity before.

He was looking around at the roofs of the buildings and had just noticed that there was quite a large expanse of water at the back of the grander house.

“That looks like an ornamental stretch of water,” he mused, “and ornamental stretches of water frequently contain carp”. He was about to investigate when there was some movement behind him. He turned to look. Two old women were standing on the roof very close to him, looking over the edge. He moved out of their way politely and considered whether he would investigate the stretch of water he had just noticed, or stay for a while and take in the warm sunshine. After all, he had just eaten and his investigations could take place at another time. And to fly away at precisely the moment when the two old women had arrived could have been seen as a sign of rudeness. And rude he was not; he had been brought up and spent most of his life in Surbiton and had the good manners to prove it. Regardless, the old women weren’t bothering him; so why bother them.

Lillian, closely followed by Katriona, had climbed onto the roof. They were making their own completely unrelated protests concerning Lillian’s letter from the Government Pension Service and Katriona’s letter concerning her Store Card at Fortnum and Mason. They stood, half obscured by the late eighteenth century battlements and mullioned windows of the Tower over the entrance to the Secondary Building, They, the only thing marring the beauty of the Main Tower in the early afternoon sunshine; they, a minor blot on the roof above the Portico, on that lovely day; they, Lillian and Katriona, destroying the calm that hung like a whispered prayer over the Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst Memorial Billiard Rooms and Gymnasium.

Below them, Matron (Mrs Hilda Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh) was walking beside Sister Mary Perpetua. Matron was telling Sister Mary Perpetua how Tom Mould (in his capacity as Head Gardener) was maintaining, so expertly, the beautiful rhododendron border.

Matron and Sister Mary Perpetua spoke in well modulated voices, unaware that above them stood two old ladies and a heron. There was a cry from above. Both ladies raised their eyes to see two of the Residents standing just behind, but not concealed by, the late eighteenth century battlements. Two ladies of advanced years.

“Fairness to Pensioners” called out one of the ladies on the roof.

“Death to Fortnum and Mason,” called out the other. “Death to the oppressors”

“Don’t look Sister,” said Matron, “It’s most probably somebody cleaning the guttering”. There was a slight movement as the heron, somewhat embarrassed by the noise and the less than genteel raised voices, moved slightly to the left so that the two old women on the roof could take as much room as they required.

“And fairness for pensioners” shouted Lillian, with less conviction. “Death to the oppressors,” sounded so much nicer. She wished she had thought of it first.

“Polish chaps, I should imagine,” said Matron.

Suddenly as if from nowhere, there appeared a third female figures on the roof. The new arrival was Old Mrs Prendergast (Ghastly Prendy, as she is affectionately known to her fellow Residents). Being on the roof was no new experience for her and she started to shout obscenities to those below.

“Attagirl,” said Katriona. “We’re here to protest. All visitors welcome”.

A voice came from below. It was Matron. She stood looking up at the protestors; beside her stood Sister Mary Perpetua. Matron didn’t look as if she was enjoying the situation.

“What’s going on?” she called, “Desist. Stop it at once”.

“To the barricades,” shouted Katriona, “Death to the oppressors!” and then unaccountably started to sing in a loud and particularly strident voice:

“Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !”

Maude and Cook had just come out of the doorway of the Secondary Building. The noise had drawn them and several of the other Residents.

“Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé !”,
continued Katriona.

“I don’t know what that’s all about,” said Maude, turning to Cook. “She’s from The Isle of Wight”.

L'étendard sanglant est levé !
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils et nos compagnes !”

“Death to the oppressors,” chorused the three rooftop ladies. “And up yours!” added Ghastly Prendy.

Tom Mould and Betty, accompanied by Raj, appeared at this juncture, in the van. As they drove past the quickly swelling crowd of Residents and Staff, Tom leant out of the van window.

“Wozzup?” he asked.

“On the roof,” came a chorus of those watching the protest.

“Bleedin’ pigeons and herons… bastards,” growled Tom, “I’ll be back”.

He shortly reappeared with Raj. They were carrying a ladder. Leaning the ladder against the side of the portico, Tom started to climb. He held the cardboard box under his left arm hand and drew himself up with his right hand; his pockets bulged.

Several of the Older Residents were making a day of it; singing along with Katriona:

“La-la la-la la la la laaaaaa la-la” they sang in chorus… more or less.

Tom Mould scrambled to the top of the second story window that projected over the drive. A crashing of wings and a cloud of pigeons rose in the air and started to describe a slow circle of the ground in front of the Secondary Building. Then bending down, Tom drew the shotgun from the box, broke it open and inserted a cartridge. Hardly taking aim, he fired at the flying pigeons. There was a crash and then momentary silence; only the sound of Katriona’s voice, still passionately singing:

Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons ! marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Then a flurry of feathers and three or four pigeons fell to the ground; followed almost immediately by a slate from the roof. Ghastly Prendy stood there with another slate above her head.

“Death to the Oppressors!” she shrieked, and almost as an afterthought, “Up yours!”

“Oh, Sweet Jesus!” exclaimed Sister Mary Perpetua, “I can’t look” as she brought her hands up to her eyes; she peered slyly through her fingers. “Let them get down safely,” she murmured, half to herself, half to a Greater Being; and then, more quietly, “If they fall, I hope I don’t miss it”.

“Death to the Oppressors!” shrieked Ghastly Prendy once more and with that, hurled the slate to the ground,

“Be careful of the rhododendrons you wicked, wicked woman,” bellowed Matron, and turned towards Sister Mary Perpetua to see if she had noticed her rage. Sister Mary Perpetua was too busy looking through semi closed fingers to notice.

“If you don’t come down immediately, there’s no supper for you tonight, you naughty girl” called Nurse Smythe.

“Alright” said Old Mrs Prendergast and looked over the late eighteenth century battlements to see what was happening at ground level. She withdrew her head as Tom let off another round at the by now swirling pigeons, and suddenly she was beside Cook, at ground level. No one knew how she got down from the roof so quickly but Old Mrs Prendergast hated to miss supper.

The heron thought better of staying and had decided to fly off.

A couple more of the pigeons now lay on the gravel.

“Shotgun,” said Maude, turning to the Reverend Hugh Halitosis who had just rounded the corner on his bicycle. He gazed at the scene before him and a shudder went through his slight frame. The sound of the shotgun had brought him, but repelled him also.

“I don’t like violence” and he turned to go; head bent down low over the handlebars as if to shut out sight and sound

“A shotgun, also known as a scattergun and peppergun, or historically, as a fowling piece, is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder,” said Maude. “Always had them around the house when I was a girl. We were a country family; a hunting family. Killed a lot when I was growing up. Useful for hunting birds and other small game. Slaughtered no amount of rabbits and grouse and things”.

The Reverend Hugh Halitosis fled; pedalling as quickly as he could whilst attempting to retain the dignity required of a man of the cloth.

It was at this exact moment that the whole concoction came together in one glorious confection.

It was at that precise moment that Tom, looking up directly into the bright sun that hung in the afternoon sky, saw movement from a large creature,

“Heron” he intoned “Bastard”.

He thrust one more cartridge into the breached chamber and aiming directly over his head, pulled the trigger.

It was at that very moment that the heron, feeling that Surbiton was a much more restful place to be, bent his legs slightly and prepared to fly off. With two mighty flaps of his wings he took to the sky and flew gracefully in a gentle arc towards his home and family.

At precisely that moment Lillian looked over the late eighteenth century merlons and embrasures and shrieked “Death to the oppressors”.

At exactly that moment, the flock of pigeons decided that it was safe to return and so returned; clattering wings, directly over Tom Mould’s head.

“CRASH!” There was a report that shook the watching crowd. Feathers floated down gracefully in a light breeze. The heron flew off gracefully to a well earned rest amongst his nearest and dearest. Lillian, describing an arc as elegantly as possible under the circumstances, fell from the roof, headfirst into the rhododendron border. Several dead pigeons fell with and on her.

There was a monumental silence for several seconds, broken only by the sound of the Reverend Hugh Halitosis gently falling off his bicycle. The noise and the bloodshed and Maude’s graphic description of her childhood days of slaughter had been more than his constitution could bear and he had fainted.

“Oops!” said Tom and climbed slowly down the ladder, and then went to seek solace with Betty.

Sister Mary Perpetua removed her hands from her face. She wore a seraphic smile; she hadn’t missed a thing.

So the rooftop demonstration came to an end; Katriona came down and had a lovely afternoon telling everybody about the fracas at the wine tasting at Fortnum and Mason. Most of the Residents went for their afternoon nap. Tom told Betty everything in the minutest detail. Raj fed his Black Orpingtons. Sister Mary Perpetua went back to the Convent of The Little Sisters of Selective Charity, a happy woman. Matron, on the other hand decided that rhododendron borders are all very well but do need an awful amount of care.

Sharon gathered up several of the dead pigeons and then returned with them to the house. When she reappeared with a basket there were enough dead pigeons remaining from Tom’s carnage to half fill the basket.

Cook, after having hung the little corpses for a couple of days, created a lovely meal; the main course being pigeon pie with juniper berries. At dinnertime that evening, there was the happy sound of Residents dropping shot onto the edges of plates, and a feeling of well being throughout the dining room.

And Lillian? Well, she had received the letter from Her Majesty’s Government Pension Service and the gist of it had been, “…no record of you ever having worked here. Your pension ceases forthwith blah blah. You have fourteen days to reply to this letter. If no response is received by that time the case will be closed, permanently …blah blah”.

Nobody has seemed to have missed Lillian yet, so we thought, All’s well that ends well and left it at that.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

You are No More the Light

I must have been really pissed off when I wrote this

You are no more the light I first perceived in you,
But now the phantom that invades my sleepless nights;
No more the staff you proffered when first we spoke,
But now the heavy stones that weigh my pockets
As I wade onto the icy sea of my despair

You were my lifeline; my floating branch
That offered itself to my clutching hand,
My weakening grasp.

You were my oasis in an arid wasteland;
But you were yet a shimmering shade,
Unsubstantial as the spectre that visits me
In my darkest night,
That croucher by my lonely bed
Who offers empty promises to my desolate soul.

Take Courage Little Minor Scribe

Take courage little minor scribe,
Who scribbleth ABCB,
Our Poet Laureate, you’ll find,
Can’t spell words such as Phoebe.

His punctuation leads him to
(When told, “The poet’s back”)
Assume the poet’s dorsal side
Is on the return track.

Or cruising past a grocery,
The verdant kind, I’ve stressed,
Perceives the apple’s, pear’s and plum’s
As Plural or Possessed.

And there an awful error’s made,
If with language, one’s obsessive;
They’re neither Plural nor Possessed
The Apostrophe’s Possessive.

That floating comma indicates,
Those fruits are not possessed;
It means they’re the possessors.
But here I have digressed.

For rules of language I adhere to
As to the Decalogue
For, “Once”, they say, “a Pedagogue;
Always a Pedagogue!”

His etymologic attempts,
Whilst sometimes quite bizarre,
Leave Mrs Malaprop’s mistakes
Not only back, but far.

Yes, far, far, far behind his lead;
His endeavours make one smile,
For trying to impress with words,
Feet fancier becomes a paedophile.

Or worse, much worse, his spelling
Seems sent, just to divert us,
For paedophile becomes pediophile
Arthritis becomes Arthuritis.

But still, this Poet Laureate,
To chastise my poor endeavour,
Remonstrates with me and says
I’m really less than clever.

“Never, never let me read
A poem with the verses
Exceeding four or five,” he says
“And more than that, the worse is”.

My doggerel’s too long again;
I really need a helper
And so I’ll beat my breast and cry,
“Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa! “

And if that isn’t quite enough
Just two of “Mea Culpa!”
(For three is the required amount);
I’ll add one “Mea Culpa!”

Saturday, 20 June 2009


Once in a while; only once in a while, one of our residents goes missing. She doesn’t actually abscond, neither does she escape; nor does she go AWOL. She just disappears from the confines of Twilight Lawns plc for a few days, and usually reappears after some time; none the worse for wear… more or less. We have become quite inured to some Old Bird wandering across the gravel and into the side entrance with her metaphorical tail tucked between her metaphorical legs.

Sometimes she doesn’t even know where she has been, and, more often than not, she doesn’t know who she is either. On occasions, if she’s a bit rank… or more so than usual, we just hose her down and shove her into Nurse Smythe’s office for a quick checkups; then it’s back to her room, or The Queen Alexandra Day Drawing Room and Recreation Area, or to take her place in the queue at Medication Time. Then we get on with more important things

A similar case occurred recently. One of our Older Residents, Maisie, who has been here for so long that no one can remember when she arrived… or where she came from, did just this. Old Maisie’s fairly harmless, all things considered.

She wandered into the kitchen one Friday morning, demanding a packed lunch. Cook assumed that she was going for a Jolly Jaunt with several of the other residents who were going to limewash the latrines at the back of the Scout Hut in Ponce Lane, Merton-on-the-Water. The Little Sisters of Selective Charity, Streatham Hill had organised this Fun Day Out but, as it was a Friday, Sister Mary Perpetua had decreed that her Sisters wouldn’t be able to touch the limewash, in case they contravened an old Papal Bull that stated that not only must fish be eaten on a Friday, but one would be in danger of extending Purgatory by seven years if one were to touch a paintbrush or lime in any form on that day.

So a small contingent of girls from Twilight Lawns and one or two Novices who didn’t look as if they were fit for the life of one of the Sisters of Selective Charity, had been delegated for the cleanup.

Cook assumed that Maisie had been one of the lucky participants, but this was not the case. Maisie had simply decided that her mother would be visiting her on that day. During most of her stay at Twilight Lawns, Maisie had been convinced that a visit from her mother was pending… in fact, imminent. Whereas most of the Old Dears of her age would preface a statement with, “I’m almost ninety, you know”. Maisie’s catch phrase was, “My mother’s coming to see me today. We’re going out for tea”.

But cook didn’t enquire and indicated a cardboard box in which there were a number of packed lunches; enough for one each of the residents who were going for the limewashing. Maisie took two packed lunches and went to the front steps of the Home where she aimed to wait for her mother’s arrival, and sitting on the stone steps, began to eat the first packed lunch.

Presently, Sister Mary Perpetua arrived in the Saint Benedict’s white van, to collect the limewashing party.

“My mother’s coming to see me today. We’re going out for tea”, said Maisie.

Sister Mary Perpetua, true to her vocation, and to the tenets of her Order, ignored her; she returned shortly with a group of the more able Residents, most of them carrying packed lunches and looking forward to a Jolly Day Out. Edna and Esther were complaining that there weren’t enough packed lunches to go round and Sister Mary Perpetua was explaining to them that if only they had been born Roman Catholic and of a Better Class, they could have partaken of the Poached Salmon a la Paige with Dill, Vidalia Onion and Cucumber Relish that was on the luncheon menu at the convent that day. Sister Mary Perpetua slipped into the driving seat, forced the gearbox somewhat, and with a screech of metal against metal, took off with Novices and Residents squawking like Raj’s Black Orpington hens.

Shortly afterwards, The Reverend Hugh Halitosis marched quickly and importantly up the stone steps. He had an appointment with Mrs Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh (Matron) and hated being late.

“My mother’s coming to see me today. We’re going out for tea”, said Maisie and gave him her biggest smile. She liked The Reverend Halitosis. But he was far too busy and also far too important to talk to any of the Residents singly; he much preferred to talk to them in small groups. So he swept past her and entered the house.

Maisie was starting on her second packed lunch when the Refuse Collection Lorry drove through the side gate and disappeared around the back of the Main House. The driver leant out of the window of his cab as they passed.

“Oi! Oi! Oi!” called out the driver, “Is this Wrinkly Greens, terminal home for Old Farts & Crazy Old Birds?" The astute chap had obviously read the signpost at the Great Gates. And he drove on, his loutish friends guffawing along with him.

Maisie rose to her feet and called out, “My mother’s coming to see me today. We’re going out for tea”, but neither the Refuse Collection Lorry Driver nor his amused friends heard her, so Maisie sat down again and gazed into space.

It was a pleasant morning with a warm sun; the sun shone, as only the sun can shine in the better parts of Surrey; the birds chirped with dulcet tones in the hedge beside the gravel drive; and our Maisie, never the great thinker, sank into happy reverie, and from the happy reveries she slipped into untroubled sleep. In her dreams she walked beside her mother, on their way to an Olde Englishe Tea Shoppe. Her head fell back gently against the stone pillar and she slept the sleep of the good... or more correctly, the sleep of the geriatric in the warm sunshine.

And it was possibly at this juncture that she seemed to have disappeared.

Sister Mary Perpetua vaguely recalled seeing her on the steps of the Main House. But she thought little of it… she had spent many years of her life scrambling over women lying on the floor or kneeling or whatever, to notice this one.

One or two of the Residents, returning with Sister Mary Perpetua recalled seeing her there, eating sandwiches. These Residents may have been Edna and Esther.

The reverend Hugh halitosis swore that he had seen nobody… especially an old lady, and as he observed to Matron (Mrs Hilda Plantagenet-Featheringstonehaugh), “There are dozens of the Old Dears wandering around Twilight Lawns, one more or less shouldn’t really matter,” and after all, he was far too busy and important to notice such small details.

The Staff were far too busy arranging an intimate supper that Matron had planned to celebrate the visit of the Bishop of Guildford to Norbury-sur-Mer. Cook was busy in the kitchen preparing vol-au-vents, rissoles and canapés. Sharon was washing the best Wedgwood and Waterford, and muttering something to herself that sounded remarkably like, “Volley balls and arseholes, if you ask me. Who’s ‘e fink ‘e is? A bleedin’ Pope or sumfink? Looks more like a bleedin’ fairy if you aks me, Innit”.

So Maisie’s disappearance wasn’t noticed until the following Monday morning when Nurse Smythe was doing a roll call and it was noticed that there was a slight gap between Madeline and Malvina. Martha offered to be Maisie if that meant that she would have an extra breakfast, and Nurse Smythe agreed. So rather than the inconvenience of a full room to room search and dragging the duck pond and the Virginia Woolf Ornamental Lake, Martha/Maisie took up residence, and all would have gone well, except on the Friday a fortnight after Maisie had disappeared, the Lawns received an official visit from the head of Refuse Collection,. Recycling and Environmental Planning, South Surrey. He was shown into Nurse Smythe’s office. This person was accompanied by a young man in sandals and socks, wearing an anorak and National Health glasses fixed together with Elastoplast. He was earnest from the top of his head to the bottom of his sandaled feet. He was obviously a member of the local Green Party.

It appears that on the Friday when Maisie had disappeared, along with... or following immediately after by the Refuse Collection Lorry, there had come the Recycling Lorry collecting plastic bottles, card, paper, glass (No lead crystal, please!) and old clothing. The workers from RECYCLING FOR A GREENER FUTURE, SURREY, has seen Maisie lying on the stone steps to the Main Building, basking in the morning sun; sound asleep. As she looked remarkably like a pile of old rags, who could blame the well meaning workers from assuming that Maisie was just that. Before she had had a chance to say, “My mother’s coming to see me today. We’re going out for tea”, she had been scooped up rather unceremoniously and bundled into the back of the lorry in the section marked: OLD CLOTHES, RAGS AND FABRICS.

Having recounted the tale, the young man in the anorak took off his glasses and polished them on his sleeve. “I am afraid we have some news for you,” he said. We have located your Maisie, and…” There was a long, drawn-out silence “I’m afraid she’s been… recycled,”. He turned away from Nurse Smythe. Was it emotion? Was it nerves? Was it…? One will never know. He hurried to the door and spoke to someone in the passage outside Nurse Smythe’s door. There was a brief conversation with some person unknown and then, into the room walked what most probably had at one stage been Maisie. Yet it was a Maisie with which all members of Staff and Residents of Twilight Lawns were quite unfamiliar… Her eyes were glazed, there was an unnatural cleanness about her, her features were somewhat blurred. She stood there and it is fair to say, that for once, Nurse Smythe was at a loss as to what should be done.

The worthy young Green Party gentleman obviously wanted to wash his hands of her. The head of Refuse Collection, Recycling and Environmental Planning, South Surrey obviously had no place for her. No one seemed to know exactly who or what she was, and nobody wanted to lay claim to her unless she turned out to be something else. What should be done? Then when the situation became almost intolerable, the Maisie person stepped forward and uttered several words that put everything into perspective:

“My mother’s coming to see me today. We’re going out for tea”, she said.

All present exhaled a great sigh of relief. As our dear Robert Browning would have said, “The lark's on the wing; The snail's on the thorn; God's in His heaven, All's right with the world.”

“Time for medication, Maisie, off you go,” said Nurse Smythe.

And so another Fun Chapter in the life of Twilight Lawns plc drew to a close.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Number Sonnet

Eight-fifty on a cold Spring night.
My fingers for the third time
Tapping out eleven digits
In a ‘phone box on a wind-pressed corner.
A young woman in a cotton dress,
Windblown hair across her cold face,
Windblown cotton wrapped around her thighs
Cotton dress. Defeated flags flapping at her thighs.
Her pale face turned accusingly towards me.
Is her need greater than mine?
And I oblivious to all but these
Seven pairs of rings on an unattended line.
A sonnet of rings in an unattended room
Somewhere on the other side of town.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

But If You Choose to End It

I don’t know what the future
Has in reserve for both of us,
But if you choose to end it,
Please don’t do it in Spring,
For that is the season
Of joy and new beginnings;

Neither do it in Summer,
For that is the season of long lazy days,
Spent with Lovers and Friends;
Nor do it in Autumn
For in that blessed Season
Reigns colour, fulfilment and hope;

And ne’er do it in Winter,
For my heart would surely die
In that cruel Season,
Of the bitter, icy blast of rejection.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Compassion, Benevolence, Humanity, Blah Blah Blah

Would you disbelieve me if I were to say
That my earnest desire as I go on my way
Is to give and arouse in each person I meet
A measure of kindness, of which I’m replete?

Of course you’d not doubt it, for you know me well;
For the thought of compassion just makes my heart swell;
And sympathy, gentleness, benevolence too
Are the traits that inspire me; I all others eschew.

My parents endeavoured these traits to impart
And their noble intentions I took straight to my heart
But in practice, I found, though it saddens me still
Theoretical kindness was quite hard to fulfil.

I meant, really meant, to follow their direction
To make benevolent humanity, in me, a perfection.
I loaded my psyche with mercies till then unknown
And was filled to the skin with considerate bones

But regardless of learning and pushing and shoving
And coaxings paternal, and maternal loving
And volumes on manners and holding your knife well
And how to speak nicely that made a boy’s life hell;

Or how to address an Archbishop or Duchess;
Or ask of your Aunt if she’s much better, or much less;
And reply with a letter for a gift I’ve not wanted.
Or faced up to a plethora of relations, undaunted,

Who’ve noted I’ve grown so much bigger and stronger
Forgetting, of course, that I’m ten years no longer,
But insist I speak clearly and try not to stammer
And remember the rules of both Spelling and Grammar.

Good breeding is something I didn’t miss out on.
And it certainly isn’t the thing to dine out on
Turning up at a dinner party in the height of good fashion
If you haven’t an ounce of concern or compassion.

Compassion and empathy… I’m just full of that stuff
I’m intelligent, educated, but is that enough?
If my wonderful qualities are all locked up inside
‘Cause they won’t leave my internals and brave the outside.

And I’ve heard that a person has said of my plight
(And I may be quite wrong, but I think I heard right)
“That with all of your background, and I’m going to be blunt;
You are exceedingly gifted… but you still are a cunt”.