The Gathering – dedicated to Granville James

I have a friend and neighbour, John, who is a sheep farmer, with a flock on Carningli. His family have lived there for many years.

From time to time I adopt my temporary guise as #theoccasionalshepherd and help him with sheep related duties. For me, it is one of the greatest pleasures of living here in Newport, Pembrokeshire.

Two or three times a year a group of local people, often graced with the presence of Anwen and Chris, help John,and his sister, Aeres , to gather the sheep off the mountainside.  Until this spring we also always had Aeres’ husband, Granville, with his ever gracious smile, care and concern for all, and delight in the mountain and all it’s ways.

Sadly (an understatement if ever there was) Granville died in May this year. This poem is for him, for Aeres, Anwen, John and Chris,  and for all who help out this delightful family. It comes with love.

 

The Gathering

We are walking the old ways

Bracken snatching at our heels

Stone stumbling across the narrow tracks

The sun on our backs

Feet sinking occasionally in rushwards marsh

Sticks swishing bramble, as we make the pass

Larks rising abundant, trilling

A red kite patrolling the sun split skies

Crows flap, unwilling, it’s all a bore

Quite sure, they’ve seen this all before.

 

Is that a rock, recumbent?

Or a ewe, two lambed

Blue hooped, bread rolled, sometimes sooty from burnt gorse

Woolly marshamallowed, on matchstick legs

Stirring grumpily from a sleepy hollow

Answering the call

Her Master’s Voice

As John whistles, shouts, limbers, long shanked

Swiftly

Carningli’s highways and by ways

On the back of his hand

Whilst we follow, as best we can

Shepherding by osmosis

Sometimes instinctive

To the sheep, his tones, distinctive

The flock moving on demand

Alive to his ever familiar command

Labouring on

Sweating slightly with  the July heat

The Bay below,

Curtain called velvet blue,

The sky frames paper triangled sailing boats at play

Church and castle

At our feet

Maybe they hear us working?

In the graveyard, the tall trees bend to listen too.

 

Now we turn, the flock funneled towards homecoming fields,

Sweet grassed, comforted, steadfast and settled

They’re in!

A few rebels

Break for the mountain

But are black bag flapped through the 5 bar gates

Too late!

Baler twined and strung in

Scurrying, heel kicking, stream leaping

Left now

To dot the meadows

An Impressionist painting for the Pembrokeshire hillside

Above beach, and town

Seeping sandy time and tide.

 

We leave, turn away

Even though there’s more, much more to do

(Shearing, dipping, marking, treating)

But maybe not today

That’s all

For even farmers

Have to play

Leave the flock to graze

To raise the bleating clarion call

Dawn to dusk

By night, by day.

 

The wind, sweet heather breathed, new credential

Steeps and gusts above Stone and Castle Hill

Sighing gentle benediction

The Gathering complete

Under John’s direction

Yet we all missed one element, essential,

It leaves us, still,

Our friend, coralled, slumbering long, elsewhere

And now the feathering breeze

Whispers one name

Granville

Granville

 

 

 

 

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Veterans – a D Day tribute.

75 years before…….

Young men stumbling into the shell bound surf
Silver flying fish
Stunned
The boys, wading on and in
Falling, camouflaged no more
Booming, battling forth
Whistling bullets, the siren song of war
Deafening the ocean’s unerring roar.

Years ago
in Juneau
I watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’
With Pete Bibb
Self appointed ‘old timer’
Who left the movie house
“Cannot watch this, have to go”
he muttered
As the faux machine guns
Cinematically stuttered.

This D Day morning
The robes of priests, clustered
The coat tails of politicians
And hats of royalty
Fluttered
As the bemedalled veterans
Mustered
Attendant, attentive,
Old men now
Memories shared, perhaps, despairs
Some stood and stared
As the peace yearning prayers
Were uttered.

In the fields at home
The buttercups, the thistle heads
Were bowing in the stiffening wind
That blows across the Channel
Westward, ho!
The clouds scud seawards
A breath of memory passes
Back across to France
Where death gleaned a mighty harvest
No respect for rank, for officer classes.

The flags and flowers
Half masted
The crowds lost
Perchance
In collective trance
Subdued respect, even awe
For
Our veterans.

And own them all, we all surely must
Those alive
Others sand blasted,dust
Their debt, in full, is met
Our account
Ever owed
To remember
And not forget.

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D-Day – a link to Helen Carey’s blog. Recommended reading!

via D-Day


Making it to 60

Greetings to all friends who are generous enough to follow this blog of mine. I appreciate it very much.

I (hopefully) make it to 60 today, 12th May 2019 (and a quick hats off to the late and great Ian Dury, with who I share a birth date and who gave me/us ‘Reasons to Be Cheerful’).

I have always loved George Carlin’s piece below, and it seemed like a good day to share it!

Meanwhile : Marc Mordey’s song….

60 years on, 

In the merry merry month of May,

Managed a little work

Enjoyed a great deal more of play

Been drenched in love and affection

Avoided most harms and misdirection

Laughed, cried, not much denied

A small measure of pain

Bucketfuls of joy

Tried to be a man

But better at being a boy!

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(photo : Helen Carey – the Queen of my dancing days – and I, in Aruba, February 2019)

George Carlin’s views on Ageing

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we’re kids? If you’re less than 10 years old, you’re so excited about aging that you think in fractions. ‘How old are you?’ ‘I’m four and a half!’ You’re never thirty-six and a half. You’re four and a half, going on five! That’s the key.

You get into your teens, now they can’t hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead. ‘How old are you?’ ‘I’m gonna be 16!’ You could be 13, but hey, you’re gonna be 16!

And then the greatest day of your life … . You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There’s no fun now, you’re Just a sour-dumpling. What’s wrong? What’s changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you’re PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it’s all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50 and your dreams are gone.

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn’t think you would! So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You’ve built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it’s a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday! You get into your 80’s and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30 ; you REACH bedtime.

And it doesn’t end there. Into the 90s, you start going backwards; ‘I Was JUST 92.’

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. ‘I’m 100 and a half!’

May we all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

 

 

 


“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry” Emily Dickinson


Rabbits – a May Day wish.

My grandmother ( the angel upon my shoulder) always used to tell me that the first word to say, on the first of each month, was Rabbits. I don’t know where this tradition/ superstition came from, nor why our lop eared friends were chosen but, whenever I am up early ( as I am this May Day, 2019) and listening to the silence outside, I think of our beloved Eleanor Alice, and, in good faith, I whisper the word…..

Would that my grandmother were alive today

As Pembrokeshire awakens to this year’s May Day

“Rabbits!”

That’s the very first word you must say.

And my spring time wish for you?

That;

Good health,

Good fortune,

And freedom of spirit

Accompany you all

Upon your way.


Notre Dame

Like so many people, across the world, I was shocked and saddened by the images of this famous and beautiful building being consumed by flames. Forest fires can cleanse and purge, regenerate. Maybe President Macron’s pledge to rebuild will materialise. I hope so. But the building is so much more than that. It is a collection of memories, stories, hopes and fears, intrigues, plots, births, marriages, deaths and funerals. For many, a house of God, for some, a box ticked in the tourism guide, and for all, a centre for humanity. So this, in memoriam….

The building falls

Enflamed at the last,

The spire, hunch backed, then broken.

The world exhales,

A collective gasp,

A sob, a tear,

The siren shriek.

A fiery breath roars skywards.

What’s gone from here?

An icon, yes.

A feature, a show,

Somewhere for hordes of tourist to go,

The chatter, clatter, camera whirl,

Babble, rabble, rainbow guided swirl,

Notre Dame, an oasis perhaps, in this,

Our restless, curious, irreverent world.

(Believers came here too. Who knew?)

More than this though,

Sparks stumbling the night sky,

And thus, atomised

Learning to fly :

Dreams

Schemes

Prayers

Hymns

Joys

Fears

The hatched

The matched

The despatched

The church embattled

Across the years.

As the structure breathes its last

The symbol sighs

The crowds groan, moan, mourn this troubling

Devastating

Demise.

Aloft, the smoke belching

Sated, abated,

Fire fuelled repast

The bell no longer tolls.

The silence is that of the bombed out building,

The ghetto razed,

History, erased.

Adieu sublime,

Au revoir, divine.

The cost?

Our mutual loss?

Farewell,

Forlorn,

Adrift,

Yearning, burning,

Ash stricken.

The whispering echoes of time.