written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Buttons

You didn't really expect me to write about buttons did you? Good. Then this could be my shortest ever post (LOL). It's all about the poem this week, but I will just blather on a little to set the scene.

American English uses the word button to refer to a small round metal badge, usually worn on a lapel, (near the button hole, I suppose), and that's the usage I'm blogging about today. I have a treasured collection in my 'man button box' though I rarely wear them anymore. (Well, you don't, do you?)

Some of my buttons denote musical allegiances (Beatles, Jefferson Airplane Loves You, Plummet Airlines, Small Faces); others are socio-political (CND, Don't Blame Me - I Voted Labour, Rock Against Racism); one or two have an amusing shock value (Fuck Often!, Nothing Sucks Like A Vax). My favourite, from student days, is a hairy Gnasher button (as in the Beano comic). It's got moving eyes.

With less than two weeks to go to the US presidential election, metal campaign buttons proclaiming allegiance to Biden or Trump are being stamped, distributed and worn as talismans in their millions. It's a practice that goes right back to the presidential campaign of 1896 when William McKinley's team had them mass-produced to publicise his candidacy. The campaign button is the catalyst for this week's new poem...


...and here it is, bright and shiny (?) from the imaginarium:

Hej!
Your aides dished them out like glass beads to Indians.
We wore them as favours on our threadbare coats,
shiny with the promise of a better tomorrow. The price?
Our votes. The cost to you, negligible groats. It's funny
that years down the line we still seem to be paying.
Same coats, vanished hopes, more burden on our backs
because Hej! you had the chance to do good for man,
you know what I'm saying? We gave you our trust
and you plain ripped us off. I keep that rusty tin button
to remind me of the lesson. Your electoral process, well
it's a huge confidence trick and by wearing your colours
we helped delude others. I'll never be that complicit again.
And may you rot in hell, for all your misbegotten wealth.

That's all folks. Thanks for reading, S ;-)

Friday, 23 October 2020

Button Box Envy

There is something fascinating about collections of buttons...a bit like looking at precious stones. You want to rummage through them, admire them, covet them!

I used to turn out my mother's button box (actually a metal biscuit caddy) . Not only did it have buttons in it but there was always a tangle of thread, a few collar studs, some ribbon, the slide pulls from zips and sundry other items!

I buy mixed packets of buttons in one colour, for craft use, but inevitably they are seldom used as few match each other. I try to have some semblance of order in my two plastic tubs, but it doesn't always work out that way. I start with good intentions and have one box for matched buttons, either strung together or still attached to cardboard. The other box is meant for odd buttons and those that come as spare buttons when you purchase a garment. I say "meant for", as they always get muddled up!

Imagine my utter joy when, during lockdown and no sewing shops open, I found a set of eight matching buttons suitable to attach to a cardigan I'd just knitted! These buttons did not 'match' the colour, but were made from antler so co-ordinated with the Aran design. Such a relief that was, as I didn't like the idea of an unfinished project.

My piece today is about looking through button collections....

        

Button Box Envy

Open up your button box and let me look within
Oh ! I see lots of colours, lots of shapes - thick and thin
Ones that match tied together with coloured thread,
Or still attached in rows on labelled cardboard.
I run my fingers through the box, to see the colours bright.
Stopping to admire a glass one that twinkles in the light.
Mother -of-pearl, wood, plastic, even reindeer antler.
Two -holed, four-holed --shanked and fabric covered.
My mother's button box, I played with as a child,
To match them altogether , like in a system filed -
Also there were collar studs, press studs and zip pulls,
Jumbled altogether with bobbins, lace and ribbon.
If you come to visit, you'll love to look at my collection.
Gaze with wonder at the history - held in recollection.
Four buttons from a jacket I wore in '72.
A blazer button, much older, never to be used...
I'll never use most buttons within that box of fun,
But often find an odd one to replace a missing one.
I envy other button boxes and like to explore their depths.
So look out your own collections and find memories there.

Thanks for reading, Kath

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

The Language Of Buttons To Brood XIII

There are buttons for clothes, buttons to push and chocolate buttons to savour. One can be asked to button up their lips to be quiet. On a rocky boat, better batten down the hatches. What a difference a couple of letters make.

Let’s divide the word button in half, but - ton. The word ‘but’ introduces a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned. ‘Ton’ is a unit of measure. ‘Ton’ comes from ‘tun’ referring to an extremely large cask weighing in at up to 2,000 pounds (907kg). Putting ‘but’ and ‘ton’ together does not add up, makes no sense that ‘button’ has evolved into meaning a small round thing that is sewn on to fabric. This just doesn’t wash.

Keeping with splitting the word, let’s go for butt – on. The opposite of this would be butt – off. Where I come from a butt is a bum so this butt-on, butt-off is a totally ridiculous thing when considering the removal of ones’ backside and then putting it back on. One could become the butt end of a joke.

One can’t just have a single button. Let’s add an additional word to describe the containers of these special collections. We now have ‘Button Box’, ‘Button Tin’ and ‘Button Drawers’. Many of my friends have one or more of these. I have one, my mother and grandmother had one.

Cantilever Button Box (image courtesy of Lucy Burscough)
I inherited my grandmother’s button box. Its treasure now amalgamated into my own collection, barring two sporting the same insect image. One is smaller than the other and the larger one I display in my kitchen. Perhaps they were coat buttons, as they are of considerable size.

Vintage Cicada Buttons
These special shank buttons are emotive for me for two reasons. One, they belonged to my grandmother. Two, the three-dimensional cicada brings back memories and connects me to where I grew up. One might ask why?

Where I originally come from, so lives Brood XIII. This brood includes three species of cicadas that emerge every 17 years around June. There are 15 separate broods of periodical cicadas regularly appearing in the Midwest of the United States. Their arrival was deafening.

In the summer of 1973 one couldn’t go outside without their loud chirruping sounds and getting dive-bombed head on. They came in from everywhere. In the aftermath of their short-lived life, it was impossible to avoid crunching on their dead bodies with their red beady eyes staring as they lay littered across the tarmac, sidewalk and grass. Living near the third largest zoo in the country, people would sweep up the dead ones, bag them up and send them to the zoo to become free animal feed.

Attending Miss Johnson’s Fifth Grade Class in that early summer was a nightmare. At the time, we had those old-fashioned wooden desks with ink wells whereby the tops lifted up. The boys being boys really enjoyed catching specimens from Brood XIII and either putting them down the backs of the girls shirts or hiding them in those desks. Lesson learnt from that experience was to come to terms with the enemy and make friends. By August, I had made pets out of them and kept them in a shoe box lined with tissue.

On reflection, buttons are wonderful powerful objects holding things together. Their aesthetics can be admired, they can spark memory and connect people. Who would have thought it would have brought me round to thinking about Brood XIII or to discover that Cicada is a scripting language?

I leave you with this in honour of the Button Box:

My Button Box
Button Box

Fingers fumble
fingers fish
find a favourite
make a wish
wish for love
it’s in demand
kiss it, flip it
roll in hand
find its mate
then find two more
oops there goes one
falls to floor
rolls to left
rolls to right
slap that lid on
hold it tight.

Thank you for taking time to read.
Kate

Further titbit of information, here’s an article about this year’s Brood XIII early emergence and some of Brookfield Zoo animals’ tasty treats: Mmmmm cicadas!

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Language Of Labour

The jewel of the north (and in fact the whole of Lancashire) went into Tier 3 Lockdown at midnight. But however depressing that is, don't be misled by the title of today's post. I'm not delivering up another party political rant against irresponsibility or incompetence. Apart from anything else, I think my take on Boris and his shifty crew is well known.

Instead, we're following the signs to Maternity for this Mind Your Language blog, for what may turn out to be an edgy, but I hope humorous, look at the phenomenon of expletive-laden language on the labour ward. 

Giving birth would seem to be one experience that can surely provoke even the most cultured and refined of women, in extremis, into uttering strings of obscenities. Midwives of my acquaintance assure me they have heard everything, have grown industrial-strength ears, nothing surprises them after a while - but even some of what they recounted is a bit too graphic for repeating here. So relax, gentle readers, you're getting the selectively sanitised version in the Saturday blog.

Before we push on through those swing-doors, you may be asking yourself (if you're a woman) what could possibly justify a man writing about this topic. Or you may be questioning (if you're a man) why a bloke would even consider writing about such things. Really? This is an interesting phenomenon and part and parcel of all human life.

I should, however, issue a short disclaimer: nothing that follows was experienced intimately by me at first hand. For although I was present for the entirety of my then wife's labours (two of them), and they were amazing and emotional experiences, she just wasn't rude at all. Noises emanating from other rooms suggested she was an exception.

We men had been warned at ante-natal class that our partners might resort to language when in labour that they didn't normally use, might say things they didn't really mean. We were also congratulated (was she teasing?) by the jolly West Indian midwife for attending the class on a night when England was playing Paraguay in the World Cup - 18th June 1986 at the Azteca Stadium, Mexico City. We all forwent England's 3-0 victory to be told, in terms we couldn't fail to understand, that giving birth was "like shitting a football". We were prepared. 

My first-born arrived exactly a month later. My wife was brilliant, but exhausted. My daughter was beautiful. It was the first time I'd cried since I was a boy. But this really isn't about us.

Let's enter that labour ward, and within it eventually the delivery room, the sharp end and  terminus of an incredible nine-month journey for mother, partner (optional) and baby.

Everything is going to be fine.

I believe it's every woman's right to give birth in the way she feels is best for her and the baby. Unless a C-section is advised or demanded, there's only one way that baby is coming out. It's clearly a physically challenging process - not called labour for nothing - and appears to be getting more daunting with each generation. By which I mean the "football" would seem to be getting larger as living standards improve. When I was born at full term, I weighed 6lbs 2oz, considered fairly normal in the 1950s. By the 1970s the average birth weight had increased to 7lbs 4oz, and by the millennium 9lb babies were quite common. 10lb, 11lb and 12lb babies are not unheard of these days, the record apparently being 12lb 12oz - that's more than two of me! Ouch!

From what I remembered being taught and with a spot of judicious online revision, there are three distinct phases of labour, latent, active and advanced. It is in this advanced stage, sometimes also called transition, as the baby's head engages for its rite of passage, that everything might begin to seem a bit desperate and the air can possibly turn blue. I quote here from the Womanual:

"During this phase, women often experience physical symptoms such as shaking, nausea and vomiting. An obvious change in emotional state is witnessed, as many women feel overwhelmed and out of control. Women often state that they can't cope, want pain relief, and they've had enough and are going home"....and the worst is still to come.

It's not uncommon for women in distress in the painful final throes of childbirth to shout and swear seemingly without constraint in response to what they are going through, for bastard and bugger, shit and fuck to resound with a passion around the delivery room, for men and babies to be royally cursed, for sex to be sworn off eternally, for threats of castration to be uttered, for demands to be made that the whole taxing process should be stopped right now, even for medical staff to be verbally abused. It's the language of labour, spoken in the heat of the moment, and all in a day's work.

Just get the fucking thing out!

Here finally, new born of the imaginarium, an experimental birthing poem in which he do the delivery room in different voices. It's very much a work-in-progress and it remains to be seen whether I'll ever have the balls to perform this one in public!

Giving Birth In A Time Of World Cup
What's the score?
Eight centimetres dilated. We're all
football mad in here. Got the final 
on the radio next door. Come on!
Oh god, I don't want to do this anymore!
It's too bloody hot in here Mum.
Can I get some air?
You're doing well love. We need it warm
for baby. Have a sponge down.
This your first one? 
He's a little footballer. Been kicking
shit out of her for months he has.
He shoots, he scores. Push down girl
when you feel those contractions.
What the fuck? I've never letting Bobby
knob me ever again, the bastard.
I'll cut the bloody thing off! Ow!
Make it stop. I'm not having another one.
They all say that lovey. Not long now.
Bugger me it hurts. Why do we do it?
Hello ladies. How's everything looking? 
Fully dilated doctor. Cervix is ripe,
head engaged, England still winning too. 
I feel like fucking snatch of the day here!
This is bloody killing me. Make it go away.
No? Should have seen that one coming.
For fuck's sake! How much longer?
Extra time being played. 
It's too much. I'm going to wet myself.
This is a bloody disgrace. Ow shit!
You're doing well. Here come's baby's head. 
I'm being stretched to buggery, Mum!
Bastard Shit! Bastard Shit! I can't do it.
Yes you can. Listen to those cheers.
One last big push, we're nearly there.
Bloody hell. Bastard bloody hell.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck! Aaagghh!
They think it's all over! It is now...
Stacey girl, I'm so proud of you.
Here's your little world cup winner.
Are you fucking kidding,
you pair of jokers?
You're right there, lovey. 
We'll have you in stitches soon.
Oh you darling boy. So beautiful.
I'm going to call him Alf.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe, S ;-)

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Mind Your Language - Wash Your Mouth Out!

That soap. I can still remember the taste and the smell.  Green Palmolive rubbed hard in my mouth by my very angry mother. All I said was ‘bugger or buggery’ and obviously that was all it took for my mum to drop whatever she was doing, shout at me and drag me, literally kicking and screaming to our black and white tiled bathroom. The memory is so clear, perhaps I was traumatised by such a severe punishment to be inflicted on me at four years old. Anyway, it was Nanna’s fault.

Both my grandmothers were decent, lady-like women, but Nanna, my maternal grandmother, ran pubs like we did and she was, perhaps a bit more worldly wise. Nanna often said ‘is it buggery’ or ‘does it buggery’ in answer to questions, not to me, but I heard it often enough. In her world were many buggers, too, in fact everyone was a daft bugger, silly bugger, dirty bugger, lazy bugger, etc, and being in the pub trade, lots of drunken buggers. I spent lots of time with her so I suppose it wasn’t really shocking that I should say it myself. After the mouth washing, I sobbed to my mum that I only said what Nanna says. I don’t know if she took it up with her.

I worked with four and five year olds in an infant school for quite a while – the best years of my working life and I wish I’d stayed, but that’s another story. Young children soak up education like sponges and everything else as well. They love to tell their own stories, no holds barred, so I found myself knowing all sorts about everyone’s parents, siblings and home life. I am the keeper of many family secrets and my lips are strongly sealed. There are people out there who might be horrified if they knew what their child had said at school. Sometimes, there was inappropriate language and staff were advised to be tactful and simply ask a child to say it again as we hadn’t heard properly. There were not many swear words around that age group. If necessary, I would say that I didn’t know that word, and let’s just use words we understand.

Sometimes I have to check myself, or remind my husband that something isn’t ‘bloody’ it’s only a table, or whatever the item might be. It’s a hard habit to break, but we have our grandchildren round a lot and what big ears they have. They are aged five, four, three and nearly two. I’ve already had a gentle chat with the five year old about ‘some words are only for grown-ups and not nice for children to say’. How times have changed. My mother would have scooped him up to the bathroom and he would still be vomiting soap suds after his exclamation of ‘f--king hell’ when he dropped something under the table.

We had a small, metal plant pot on the draining board. I know it was in the way, I just needed to decide where to store it, so I take full responsibility. One day when my husband was doing something at the sink and our grandchildren were playing nicely, the planter fell to the floor with a loud clang. My husband, exasperated, called out ‘That bloody tin!’, which met with three of the four children bursting into laughter and shouting ‘Bloody tin!’ We were all hysterical, adults and children alike. It was the funniest thing ever. The ghost of my mum would have run in with the soap. The small planter, or ‘bloody tin’ which it is now referred to, is safely stored.

As for having my mouth washed out as a child, the deterrent is not lifelong, by the way. Mummy might be cross, but I swear sometimes. And worse words than ‘bugger’.

My poem is a reflection of working with the general public where not everyone is pleasant. Suffering pain and Covid rules bring out the best and the worst in people.

 

So, you scream ‘eff off’ at me

From the safety of your phone.

I’ll kill your call, line now free

And you can leave me alone.

 

Lately, I’ve been chucking back

The very same words you use.

I’m not taking any flak,

I’ve developed a short fuse.

 

I know you’ll understand me

Using your language, self-taught.

Unacceptable? I see,

You’re taken aback and fraught.

 

Say ‘bugger’ then, I don’t care.

Just be yourself, you are crass.

I’m not bothered if you swear,

Sticks and stones, and all that jazz.

 

PMW 2020


Thanks for reading, take care and keep well. Pam x

 

 

Saturday, 10 October 2020

The Sea, The Sea

I've named today's blog twice, in imitation and recognition of Iris Murdoch's Booker Prize winning novel of 1978, because I happen to be re-reading The Sea, The Sea at the moment. (Incidentally, Murdoch dedicated her 19th novel to an erstwhile family friend of mine. I never asked the family friend why, though I know they were at Oxford together at one time.) The novel is set on the north-east coast of England and re-reading it has reminded me, among other things, of days spent at the seaside in Northumberland with my daughters when they were young (for my in-laws lived in Durham). The beaches at Alnmouth, Boulmer, Embleton and Seahouses were/are beautiful and sandy expanses on a rugged coastline, good destinations in fine weather for a day out and a picnic. The North Sea was/is very cold!

My own first experience of the sea was, in marked contrast, a tropical affair. I was too young (not even a year old) to retain a memory of the encounter but my Dad (bless him) kept diaries which he later transcribed into a form of memoir. From this I know that my first "taste of the sea" as he phrased it was at Victoria Beach, Lagos, in Nigeria where I was entranced by the sight of surf rolling up the sloping sands and by the tang of the hot sea breeze (not to mention the stranded blue jellyfish melting in the sun). It was a thrilling locale that I was to visit on several occasional trips to the coast during my early years in Nigeria and always a refreshing sight in contrast to the frequently dry and dusty interior of the country where I grew up.

I should perhaps explain at this point, for those who don't know, that The Sea, The Sea is in fact a classical quote from the Greek (where else, eh?). Θάλαττα! θάλαττα! or Thálatta! thálatta! was the emotional cry of 10,000 Greek soldiers on forced retreat during the Persian War when after a protracted northwards march through dry, dusty and hostile territory, they sighted salt water (the Black Sea) and safety at Trebizond, as told in Anabasis by Xenophon. Not quite as lovely as the Mediterranean, but a welcome respite and a return to Greek dominions.

I have one thing in common with the protagonist of Murdoch's novel. We both spent our professional lives, by accident not design, as far from the sea as it is possible to get in England and on retiring both headed for a house at the seaside (only on opposite sides of the country). I differ from him in at least two respects. He is a fanatical swimmer - even in the cold North sea - and I am not. He is also rudely dismissive of my favourite part of the world: "Oh blessed northern sea, a real sea with clean merciful tides, not like the stinking soupy Mediterranean!" Harsh, that, and the first indication of a flawed character.

His love of the sea and swimming reflects Iris Murdoch's own; and as Miles Leeson (director of the Iris Murdoch Research Centre at the University of Chichester) has pointed out in an interesting essay on the novel, the author always upheld "the importance of the sea to mental health and wellbeing, and to freeing the creative part of the mind. She always wished in letters to her friends that she could have a cottage by the sea and one wonders why she didn't as she could have afforded one."

I thought that was a fitting observation to relate on this day of all days, World Mental Health Day. And I give thanks to whatever quarter is appropriate that during these crazy days of Lockdown and the bastard Son Of Lockdown, I live within walking distance of the sea, the sea here in the jewel of the north! The air, the space, the light, the constant motion of the waters have been a significant factor in keeping us sane in these parts during difficult times.

It's also curious to contemplate that my reason for being in Blackpool actually harks back to my being born in Nigeria. As I've related before in other blogs, growing up football-mad and so far from England meant that I had no natural geographical ties when it came to supporting an English league team, so the fact that Blackpool won the FA Cup the year I was born was enough to secure my allegiance for life. Whenever my ex-wife and I used to drive up from as-far-from-the-sea-as-it's-possible-to-get, to watch Blackpool playing at Bloomfield Road, the first thing we always did (if we arrived in good time after a 225 mile journey) was to take a look at the sea, using it as talisman and augury, trying to determine from its state of play what sort of game we might be in for. 

Of course, a lot of nonsense is talked about the motions of the sea, the gravitational effects of the moon, the ebb and flow of tides, when in reality it's all the work of the great Sea Cat... 😊



That's enough sea-related spiel for one blog. Here to finish is my latest poem. It's genesis lay in my ruminating one night on the nature of patently impossible feats like trying to catch the wind (thanks, Donovan), nail jelly to a wall (cheers, Teddy Roosevelt),  get blood out of a stone (grazie Giovanni Torriano)...or draw a portrait in water:

Water Portrait
I drew your likeness
in a wave receding:
truth of your essence
blue of your eyes
froth of your smile
sweep of your curves
undertow of madness.

I always knew
you wouldn't hang
around for long.

Imagine my surprise
then
when you rose up,
rushed back
and smacked me
in the face,
all salty tears of reproof.

For what? I never knew.

Thanks for reading. Stay safe, stay sane, S ;-)

Friday, 9 October 2020

The Sea

    We are very fortunate in this country that no place is far from the sea. I was brought up in Aberdeen, but our house was on the very boundary of the city so we were about 6 miles from the beach...and what a beach ! Miles of golden sands. Hence the  saying...the Silver city by the golden sands. All along the east coast there are wonder beaches backed by sand dunes and then cliffs that tower over secluded bays. The North Sea has a distinctive aroma about it that I was made very aware of when I holidayed at Cresswell on the NE coast of England. It was nostalgic for me and I've not experienced that scent on this local coastline.

  I always long for the sea. When I lived in Oxford it was a 6 weekly ritual to go to either Poole or Weymouth- as I had a yearning for the seaside. Just to walk along a seafront or sit on the sand..just to breathe the air.

   Then when we moved to Buckie we had a cliff top house looking out over the Moray Firth to the mountains of Caithness in the distance. I had a chair placed in the bay window where I could look down onto Whale's Wig (the name of the small cove below). On stormy days we'd hear the pebbles rolling up and down the shoreline, foam would fly over us and land on the windows. I'd keep a look out for boats across the Firth, expecting at any moment to see one disappear below the waves...but the lifeboat would often race out to rescue.

  Strangely although I still live in a seaside town I don't have the same urge to see the sea. I have never walked on the sand in Cleveleys nor Blackpool, and only on a few occasions have I pottered round the wave line in Fleetwood. You see I have a fear of quicksands and turning tides that I never had along the North Sea coastline.It is quite irrational. I don't like the texture and colour of the sands along this coast either.

   I have just returned from a brief holiday in Kintyre where the coastline is punctuated by long inlets and sea lochs where the character is again completely different. Where rivers enter and the tide retreats the shore is muddy and claggy. In others, the shore is littered with large boulders and bounded by interesting strata creating rock pools to explore. Each inlet had its own micro climate. So it might be cool and raining in one and a short drive to the next would provide a sunny , warm atmosphere. 

   I jotted down a few thoughts after spending an idyllic couple of hours at Melfort Bay.

                 


Melfort Bay

Walk with me along the shore of Melfort Loch,
Where the tide is out leaving behind dried seaweed
Which crunches underfoot.
 Across the mirrored water I see Islay and the Paps of Jura.
The sun is glinting on the still water
Making me squint and reach for sunglasses.
Shoreside rocks are laid down in horizontal layers
Forming natural steps with pools of seawater
Where small fish are trapped and panic at my footsteps.
The land behind me is rough pasture grazed by Highland cattle.
Merging into bracken and heather on a rugged crag
 That rises to pierce the clear blue sky.
I turn again towards the sea and let my eyes explore the scene--
A yacht is anchored close to shore- a swimmer floats nearby.
A sound attracts my attention, and I spy a small boat heading for an islet.
Two goats spy me and trot over to the fence,
Allowing me to tickle their noses and ears.
Reluctantly I turn away from the soundless sea -
Vowing to return...

Thank you for reading, Kath



Thursday, 8 October 2020

The Sea

 I was born in Blackpool in 1958 and there is nothing that inspires me more than a drive along the promenade - car windows open, wind blowing the waves. My darling Dad, (who was also a 'sandgrown'un'), told me that if you ever feel low, there is nothing better than the air at the end of North pier. He said, "It's worth a pound a bucketful". 

For all its beauty, the sheer power of the sea is awesome. I remember the devastation of the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka one Boxing Day. When the sea invades the land, there is only one winner. Man has no defence against it. We can build walls, create sea defences but ultimately we are susceptible to its will. 

On 28 – 29 October 1927, serious flooding happened in the Fleetwood area. More than 1,800 properties became inundated with sea water and sadly, six people lost their life. At the time it was the worst flood that the Fylde Coast had ever experienced.

It was what you might call a ‘perfect storm’. The winds were gale force 12, reaching 80mph. The 32′ tide was about seven feet higher than predicted. Most of the town was under seawater following this flooding in Fleetwood in 1927.

Drafted in to help was a fleet of small rowing boats, many of them borrowed from Stanley Park lake. The boats ferried supplies to the hundreds of people stranded at home, while they were unable to get out.

The deep water persisted for three days before it started to subside.


My poem was inspired by the 1927 flood. I wrote it during my spell as Wyre Poet in Residence in 2013.


And Oh The Sea

And oh the sea,
the sand filled sea
that crowds into the estuary,
raising levels as it flows,
flooding marshland cratered lows.
Where herring gulls send piercing cries,
cutting through the cloud swept skies.
Drifting, lifting, ebbing ‘caws’,
shrill between the breakers’ roars.
Jostling on the sandbank mound,
       beaking mackerel
       mashed in mud,
with violent currents swirling round.

And oh the sea,
the wretched sea
that raises crests to break upon
the mother cradling little one,
who waves eternally from shore
to seamen lost forevermore.
An older child arm braced to chest,
skirts clinging to their cold bronze legs,
a wind-break to the red-legg’d terns,
       wading surf
       filled with foam
gripping sand-logged esplanade.

And oh the sea,
the destructive sea
that overflowed through cobbled row
to flood the cottages below
and lifted logs from port to town
breaking doors
and pouring down,
filling all with filth and grime:
Retreating left a salty line
       engraved on walls
       etched on hearts
in memory for all of time.

And oh the sea,
the abundant sea
that brought the trawlers’ catch to land
to feed the hungry factory hand
to women weaving trusty nets,
with fateful hearts and faint regrets,
to catch the hake for fish and chips
to open mouths and licking lips,
sustenance piled on a plate
       or newsprint wrap
       with mushy peas.
It kept the war torn Nation great.

And oh the sea,
the turbulent sea
that ebbs and flows through history.
Ships at sail, then pleasure steam,
trips that built the childhood dream.
       Bringer of happiness
       taker of life
widow-maker of Fleetwood wife.

And oh the sea,
the relentless sea
       with power to shape our destiny
it takes the very breath from me.

Thanks for reading. Adele

 

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

The Magic Has Never Dimmed

13:26:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , , 3 comments

Anybody who knows me, knows how much I love the sea. Not sailing on it. That’s a totally different story. And not swimming in it unless it’s several thousand miles from Blackpool and calm and warm. No, my love for the sea stems from childhood day trips and holidays to the seaside. These days my contact with the sea is limited to viewing it from the prom as I take a walk, and photographing it as it rages against the sea wall.  I love it in all its forms - still and calm, glistening in the sunlight or wild in the winds that hit this coast.




Living in London, the nearest place to swim was Tottenham Lido, which was outdoor and freezing.  I rarely saw my dad in less than shirt and trousers, so it was quite an event if he took me and my brothers to the pool on a Sunday morning. I’m guessing my mum persuaded him so she could getting on with cooking lunch without us kids in and out of the kitchen. My dad never really showed much enthusiasm for the outing, emerging from the changing rooms in his knitted trunks, body white as snow, and reluctantly dropping into the freezing water to keep an eye on three excited children.  What I do remember, vividly, is the colour of the water - which I only realised later, was, of course, the colour of the floor and walls of the pool. That colour has stayed with me for sixty years. If I see it now I’m instantly transported back to those Sunday mornings, and the shock of the cold as I carefully descended the steps into the not so welcoming water.


Anyway, I digress. Occasionally, instead of the Lido, we would drive to Southend, where we had young cousins. I only remember once going into the sea there. My mum had taken us kids down on the train and we obviously weren’t meeting the cousins that day. The sea was brown and dirty, but that was no deterrent. Having donned the home sewn elasticated costume, I ran into the sea with my brothers, emerging later with the swimsuit drooping dramatically, weighed down by sand and pebbles and resembling a baby’s full nappy. I wasn’t happy and insisted on getting changed behind a huge towel as quickly as possible. 


Our main holidays were to Margate where we had another set of cousins, nearer our own age. I defy any child to have a better holiday than those weeks by the seaside. Like many a family, I’m sure, we kids scoured the horizon for miles before catching our first glimpse of the sea. It was utter magic. Before we even arrived at our destination my happiness was complete.  The cousins’ house was just up the road from the prom. I couldn’t believe how lucky they were to have the sea on their doorstep. They, however, were pretty blasé about it all.  I couldn’t get enough of the beach and the sea and the tacky gift shops but my cousin was much more interested in mucking out and riding her adopted horse. One year I went alone to stay, and to my horror, although the sea winked seductively at me in the sunshine, I was lent a bike and told to follow my cousin to the stables. Here she handed me a stinking brush and a large dustpan and instructed me to muck out the stable, while she went off on an exhilarating gallop across the fields.  Not only was I scared of the giant horse that eyed me suspiciously but I also felt very resentful of the whole situation, which wasn’t helped by the loud and constant passing of wind from a huge and smelly behind. The horse’s, not mine. 


When I saw the bikes coming out for a second day  I lay back on the bed and feigned illness. I remember a tearful phone call home and the sympathetic voice of my mum, but no offer to come and get me.  I never got my sea fix that week, and returned home vowing to take reinforcements with me next time.


Imagine my delight when, twenty years later - and quite by chance, the husband got a teaching job in Blackpool.  We moved to the seaside, albeit a good thirty minutes’ walk from the actual sea. Ten years after that we decided to move.  Our house sold and in a desperate attempt to find another we drove around the whole area, three young children bored and arguing in the back of the car, and spotted a huge house just off the prom.  For whatever reason, it had been on the market for a year and subsequently reduced drastically.  We bought it, we’re still here, thirty six years later, and I still marvel that we can see the sea from every window.  The magic has never dimmed.





The Island*


Hardly a ripple

Shallow waves lap silently at sand

Approach slowly and with a quiet stealth

A family, deckchairs, buckets, spades 

And no awareness

Of impending danger

Spades digging

Buckets filling 

Castle building

When all around

That silent sea

glints in the sunlight

Gives a little smile

And calmly meanders 

Around the group 

forming pools 

That join and fill 

And finally

Without a sound

The island is complete. 


*If you live in Blackpool you'll be aware of the way the sea comes in and fills in the dips on the beach.  Many times, over the years, I've seen groups of holidaymakers trapped by the tide.  The sea creeps in behind them and leaves them on an ever decreasing island.


Jill Reidy

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

The Sea - My Bit of Blackpool




 When my parent's wish for a pub on Blackpool promenade was granted, I had the joy of having a front bedroom facing the sea. I was fascinated by the view. The summer season was just starting, people were strolling past and each day seemed busier than the last one. Trams rumbled by, horses clopped along pulling landaus, bells rang out from the donkeys taking their place on the beach and squeals of delight or screams of fear came from the nearby Pleasure Beach. These new sounds were exciting but nothing compared to the noises of the sea. On a still and quiet day, with hardly a ripple on the incoming tide, there might by a gentle splash as the last wave met the sand. On a breezy day, the sea was louder and the tide came in with lively, white waves. One of my first memories of that room is of a sunny morning, the curtains half open and the nets billowing into the room on the fresh, salty breeze. In those early days, I shared the room with my little sister who was still in a cot and I would wake up properly to hear her calling my name and holding her arms up to be lifted out. I think she was two years old, which would put me at nine, nearly ten. I don’t know when she moved into a room of her own, though at some point she did.

My grandparents were regular visitors, leaving their pub to oversee ours – it was a family joke. Grandad would go and take an interest in the cellar lay-out and everything behind the bars. Nanna planted herself in the bay window of our private lounge and watched the world go by, tutting at some of the sights and loving the view of the sea. She would smoke her Park Drive and drink tea. Her knitting would remain untouched as the outside goings on captivated her.  I expected to be part of those goings on when I was old enough. I wasn’t, well, not quite.

We spent hours watching the illuminated trams when Blackpool Lights shone. We could see for miles up and down the promenade. My sister and I would be taken out by Dad in the car to enjoy a proper look and see the fabulous tableaux towards Bispham. Many years later, a story and a poem of mine featured along there, amongst others. Who could have known?

When the Illuminations end, Blackpool hibernates. The view from my window is dominated by the sea with no distractions. Trams, less frequent, thunder along but the horses and donkeys have gone. Gale force winds and high tides send waves crashing over the sea wall on to the tram tracks, into the road and often into our cellar. It wasn’t flooded completely, but Dad would need his wellingtons on. I watched the sea with my mum, from the comfort of our lounge. The noise of the sea would frighten me, roaring, pounding and fierce, rising at its most scary like some great water monster. It still scares me. I like to watch without being too close.

I loved that bedroom. Our family changed after my mother passed away and my bedroom was promised to another. I moved to a back room. I should have refused. That’s life.

During the full lockdown, I wished I lived close enough to the promenade to have a walk and a look at the sea. Suddenly, I missed it, everything, the sounds and the taste of salt on my lips. There was one very hot, sticky day during the summer when there was only one way to cool off. After tea, my husband and I drove to Anchorsholme and found a quiet spot. We had a short walk then stood by the railings, looking at the sea that was right out on the horizon. A gentle breeze was pleasantly cooling, swirling my summer skirt and loose-fitting top. We stood for an hour enjoying the fresh air, watching seagulls and the people in the distance. The Blackpool I like is the vast coast-line and the changing of the sea.

My chosen poem, a favourite from John Cooper Clarke, with a nod to John Masefield. It brings to mind the Golden Mile, 


i mustn't go down to the sea again

Sunken yachtsmen
Sinking yards
Drunken Scotsmen
Drinking hard
Every lunatic and his friend
I mustn’t go down to the sea again

The ocean drags
Its drowning men
Emotions flag
Me down again
Tell tracy babs and gwen
I mustn’t go down to the sea again

The rain whips
The promenade
It drips on chips
They turn to lard
I’d send a card if I had a pen
I mustn’t go down to the sea again

A string of pearls
From the bingo bar
For a girl
Who looks like Ringo Starr
She’s mad about married men
I mustn’t go down to the sea again

The clumsy kiss
That ends in tears
How I wish
I wasn’t here
Tell tony mike and len
I mustn’t go down to the sea again.

Thanks for reading, stay safe and keep well, Pam x

Photo from Blackpool Gazette