Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Poetry Bus and the cheeky halves...

I'm off out Montrose Music Festivaling here this weekend (see last post) so I'm putting my homework up now. Bill set us a really fiddly task this week!

First we had to find or write a sentence. I was reading this book:

so I took a sentence from its first page. The book, by the way, was a birthday present for my Mum (for her last birthday in April this year). Mum was a big fan of Rose Tremain and asked for this, her latest novel, after reading about it in her favourite 'Independent' newspaper. When it came to it Mum was already ill by her birthday and not up to reading the novel but I did start reading it aloud to her once I realised there probably was not going to be a time when she got her reading eyes and brain back. Even reading aloud didn't do the trick though - she just couldn't concentrate on more than five minutes fiction at a time once she was unwell, plus the book was kind of gloomy for a 'final days on this earth' scenario. In the end I gave up on it and switched to reading her selected articles from the paper and bits of Shakespeare (she loved that – she shared Shakespeare's birthday and always was a fan).

Once she died the book 'Trespass' just kept looking up at me though (and calling out 'finish me, finish me'). So I did. It's dark and brooding and all about people in families who treat each other badly - I quite enjoyed it.

Anyway, the sentence I picked for the exercise was this one:

Mélodie is ten years old and she's trying to eat a sandwich.

Once we'd chosen our sentence we had to cut off its second half and give it some new endings. Here are a couple of mine as example:

Mélodie is ten years old and she is hungry.
Mélodie is ten years old and her feet are sore.
Mélodie is ten years old and she likes the feel of music.

Then, with as much extra fiddling as we liked, we were to make the new endings into a poem. I didn't change much about my new first I tried to get a poem from just the new endings but that was all a bit flat so I did add a little word here and there. Here is the poem I came up with (and at the moment managing to produce anything at all feels like an achievement). I fear I am losing my sense of humour a bit and I kind of hate poetry too just now. I suppose this all will pass...or not.


she wants to find a book that tells her everything
why she is hungry
why her feet are sore
why nothing ever happens

but no-one is listening to her
and the globe, as always, seems small in her hands

she likes the feel of music
to swim in sunshine
the sound of Russian
a slip of solitude

she knows what passion is already
left to herself, she'd drink jam from the jar

RF 2010


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A new tune for Angus

So, I'm trying to write about something other than mother. It's quite tricky...especially as she lived here with us so it feels a bit like she hasn't really gone yet. All her stuff is still here for a start. about this? If you go here you can find some old words of mine (a poem/song called 'The Angus Adoption Song') that have been give a new tune by a Montrose singer/musician/songwriter called Gary Anderson. Gary is a member of several local bands (Heidrum and others) and will be on stage at several gigs as part of the Montrose Music Festival (on here this weekend).

I wrote the words for this one (find them on my website under 'songs' if you want to read them) a few years back because Angus really is a very beautiful place but it's not well-known as parts of Scotland go. Here, for example, is Elephant Rock (just down the coast from us a little...and thinking about it a little while later I think I've probably posted this photo before...brain not working very well this week...):

I've really loved the eight years we've lived in this county. Can it really be eight years? Where did the time go..? (Looks in mirror...oh, that's where it went...).


Saturday, 22 May 2010

Another bus...

OK, this has been a weird week, preceded by another weird week and indeed a weird couple of months (please see previous posts for whole story... it is a death story...). But for now... I am still here... and the Poetry Bus rolls on... and it's good to keep busy, right?

I usually put as much time and thought as I can into my Poetry Bus poems but this week (what with the funeral and all) I literally wrote a stream of consciousness piece (bleurgh...out it came). Our prompt, suggested by this week's driver Terresa, was this image:

And here is my offering:


So you know, I was talking to this guy and he was
trying to tell me I was beautiful and I thought 'jeez,
this guy is a jerk and how stupid does he think I am?'
and then a bus came by and I thought I might go some place
so I stuck out my arm and I stopped that bus and it was friendly
and I stared from its windows at the big wide world
and I wondered what there was for me to do out there
I mean, no-one has a map for life, right, what you gonna do about that
and well, I hurt in a hundred different ways but
I knew that wasn't really important so I got back off the bus,
found somewhere to go for a soda and then just when I least expected it
POW, my head blew clean off

RF 2010


Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The last song

So, that story about the funeral song...

Well, a week ago it was the last day my Mum was eating and drinking and talking to us. She had a little bit of porridge in the morning, a bit of biscuit later on and, with that, one final cup of tea (in a favourite cup). She had some visitors (one of which was her lovely GP) and then something really amazing happened in the afternoon. At one point I was in her room tidying (or fetching or cleaning or something) when I heard a sound I wasn't used to – the sound of my mother singing. This was an unusual occurrence because although my Mum loved music (opera/classical/musicals/some jazz songs) she never, ever sang about the house or even joined in with choirs or any kind of communal singing. But here, on the last day of her active, connected-with-us life she was dropping her guard and singing - so sweetly – like a little girl. The words sounded familiar...and, interestingly enough, they were about roses (her very favourite flower). It took me a little while to remember it but then I realised she was singing this song (subtitle version added when original disappeared):

So guess what's going to be played (from a CD) at the end of her funeral service today? How could I was like she was giving me a very clear message ('play this, dear'). We are going to have roses too. Lots and lots of roses.


Sunday, 16 May 2010

Making it onto Barbara's bus after all

I was sat at my Mum's bedside Wednesday just gone when I read Barbara Smith's Poetry Bus instructions for this week. A lot of last Wednesday was a peaceful day here – I was fairly oblivious to the change of government (and all that) because all I could focus on was Mum and where she seemed to be heading. There was lots of sunshine and Mum was settled and sleepy for a lot of the day but it was the last day when she was here with us as a personality in any sense and we kind of knew that. She was hard asleep (with sedation) from Wednesday night till she stopped breathing on the Friday morning so Wednesday was the end of our lives together in some ways.

On Saturday I thought 'oh no way, I can post that poem now...I'll miss the Bus this time round...this is not a time for blogging' but then Sunday morning I thought 'well, a person can be wrong...'. Mum loved me writing...she didn't always like what I wrote but she liked the idea of me working and putting my brain to use – she used to say, in her ladylike voice, 'you're a communicator, dear, that's what you are'. So I thought that after all I would post the poem and it's below. It's not a particularly great poem I don't think... not as good, for example, as last week's little opera one that lots of you seemed to like. 'Finale' had some beauty (and don't we all love beauty...I know my Mum did) but this one is more harsh reality with nothing particularly pretty or cultural going on. Still we write life in all its shades and tones, don't we?

Anyway, Barbara's task was to use a given opening line. I was a good girl – I walked the line.

Flat down

I got down on my knees and smelled the new linoleum
And I wondered as I lowered if my knees could take the strain
They are old, faring ill, not as bendy as they might be
I am old, faring worse, not a stranger now to pain

Once I'm down then I'm down and there's no-one here can lift me
Here I am, on the floor, with my face against the cold
Life is hard, so's the floor, now I'm tired and fit no longer
Here I'll bow, here I'll lie, I am ready now and old

RF 2010

I'll be back on Wednesday with a song for the funeral. It's got a great story to go with it too.


Friday, 14 May 2010


My Mum died this morning at 4am. It was peaceful and she was at home with us and it was as good as a death of a loved one can be. She was 86...and much loved.

The funeral is Wednesday next week. If anyone who knows us personally wants details then email me and I'll send them on. I've written a kind of life story thing for the funeral that I can also send to anyone who knew her and wants to see it (it's currently awaiting approval from rest of clan of course...).

I'm not sure of the exact date of the above photo - maybe someone else can date it from the collar or something. She was Margaret Anne Bryant...then Margaret Anne Parr...then Margaret Anne Fox. She was Mum and Grandma, Meg and Maggie. She was a marvellous human being.

Thanks for all your good wishes over the past weeks. It was a tough time but I had a lot of help and support at home and from all over. Nothing will ever be the same again.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A change of scene

I'm very involved in the caring going on here just now – just opening the door to nurses, other carers and doctors is practically a full-time job on its own! I'm not getting out of the house as much as usual but I did get out to the folk club here last night and I very much enjoyed hearing US singer and musician Jeff Warner (still some dates on his UK tour). He's a specialist in old-time American music (his parents were folk song collectors) but like a lot of folk performers he delivers all this recycled material with expertise, humour and real understanding. He plays banjo, guitar, concertina, spoons...and he has a great, strong voice too.

I couldn't find any of the songs I liked most on youtube but this one was possibly the most fun. If he'd had the little men for sale I'm sure he would have sold out of those!

See you for the next Poetry Bus most likely. What day is it today anyway..?


Saturday, 8 May 2010

Mel Gibson's opera connections

So, this week's Poetry Bus is driven by Padhraig Nolan (over here) and once you've followed the instructions you end up with a photo prompt. I got this photo from the State Library of New South Wales.

The subject is Eva Mylott (1875-1920) – an Australian opera singer of Irish descent and also the paternal grandmother of one Mel Gibson (ugh, Mel Gibson...bucket please!). Eva moved to the USA to pursue her singing career, married, had two children and then died young (an accident in the shower, so I read online).

I have never been an opera fan but my Mum loves it and only yesterday I was reading her an article from the newspaper about a hot new opera singer from Peru (it's here). Always an avid reader, Mum still hasn't the energy or strength to read for herself right now so I am reading her anything that can hold her interest (ten minutes at a time max.). It's weird all this caring – I feel like my life has slowed right down. It's not a bad feeling.

Anyway, what with the photo, the story and our own lives just now...this is the poem that arrived.


Now it is work to breathe, for sure
And though you don't really want the air
There it is encore

The stage is quiet, almost foreign
Your long gown brushes the boards again
But your voice has flown

RF 2010


Thursday, 6 May 2010

Long nights

And so we await the election result...and all I can think about is that Nana Xmas Special of the 'Royle Family' from a couple of years ago (clip here - can't embed it). Just call me Barbara.

Night night.


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

More birds

It's hard to write much about anything at the moment. My days are pretty much filled with fetching and carrying, nursing and cleaning, wondering and worrying, rushing and remembering and then, at the last moment, trying to get time to look after myself too (when did I last brush my hair...pass). It is a bit like the early days of parenthood ('what should I do now? Why is everyone telling me what to do? How can I do what they all say? Is she still breathing? What next, what next?') but it's very different too of course. There are funny moments (most of them unrepeatable) but mostly it's just work.

So let's read someone else's words. Here is my favourite poem (so far) from Edinburgh-based poet Juliet Wilson's recent book 'Unthinkable Skies'. The poem is linked to the last post in an ornithological stylee. It's called 'Domesticated'.


Imprinted at birth by a human
you never learnt to be what you are.
Flightless and petted, you enjoy comforts
of home and hearth,
insulated from the harsh
rules of nature that made you.

Winter air fills with honking
geese in joyful formation
high in unthinkable sky.
You look up; an ache in your bird's brain
before waddling indoors
to be hand fed choice grain.

Later you puzzle over dreams
of endless blue and the steady beat of wings.

Juliet Wilson

'Unthinkable Skies' is available from its publisher Calder Wood Press.