Tuesday, 27 May 2014


RECENT AWARDS.................


silence of snow
we listen to the house
grow smaller

This haiku also gained best of issue in FROGPOND 2013 and Museum of Literature Award.



                                                        Uncle Walter

Just after the war, I am sent to Aunt Cath’s in Burnham Thorpe, Nelson’s birthplace. It nestles between the Holkham estate and the great empty expanse of salt marsh that lines the coast; a world of mystery and magic. Steam engines rumble across fields, ‘night soil’ men visit in the dark. The only light is oil, ghost stories of black dogs and headless horsemen abound.

“Uncle Walter’s a dirty old chap” says my aunt Cath, “he washes his face in that old water butt where we drowned the kittens”.

                                                by the flint cottage
                                                     into green depths
                                                                spiral nymphs

North Norfolk could only be reached by a single track train; its inaccessibility protected the folk lore and traditions. Uncle Walter, with his rich musical accent, is the epitome of all this, from his battered trilby to his gaiters. On his back door are a mandolin and a twisted hazel. His table is littered with hedging tools and gin traps, even an old bird’s nest. On the wall, foxed prints include the Death of Nelson. A stuffed cat sits on the mantel, a squirrel gun leans in the corner; all magic to my eyes.

                                                 from his pocket 
                                                        a coiled ferret

Uncle has a black pony called Bess that pulls a trap. I help him collect hay from the verges, using a sickle. On our return I perch on top, soak up its smell; listen to the rhythm of hooves, to him talking with Bess in that sing song voice. He has a special way with her; she seems to read his mind. I ask him if it’s true.
                                                down Old Lowses
                                                      at a pace through wreaths
                                                                of roll-up smoke
He tells me of Suffolk horse men during World War One, how he’d learnt their secrets. He touches his nose and gives a wink. “Them old boys knew a trick or two, they had a secret power; they could calm a horse, even when the big guns went off. “They called it jading; a stoat’s liver mixed with oils, rubbed on the horse’s shoulder blade, with a piece of mare’s caul, but best was one touch from the toad’s bone”.

“A toad’s bone?” I repeat.

“Yes boy, a sort of wishbone. You catch a toad and hangs it in a thorn till its all dried up, then you buries it in the ant’s fortress. On the full moon you throws it in the beck. If the hip bone swims upstream, you catch it and keeps it under your arm. Its this bone my boy, that gives you the power.

We arrive home and unload the hay, Bess, out of her harness, stands in the yard; he smiles and murmurs something to her. She nods and walks quietly into the stable.

                                                 whispers from childhood
                                                        still close
                                                              in the darkness

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to see this, John...Where have you been hiding. i miss being in contact...