Then thou art my father!
From Arnold’s Sohrab and Rustem in Arthur Mee’s Chlildren’s Encyclopedia
Not only did Rustem kill his son in a misguided display of manhood, but he went (unknowingly of course) to attempt the same thing with his grandson, thus providing the exemplary example of Larkin’s famous dictum. Like all the other cases that might be brought forward to support this take on ‘the sins of the fathers’, it has undoubtedly reached down to us by virtue of a great deal of poetic licence. It could also be argued that Rusten’s triumph over Sohrab had the same effect on his reputation as Larkin’s most famous poem will eventually have on his.
The older generation have launched the younger one into a world that they themselves have not had the time or experience to understand and that is how it has always been and will be. The actions of one generation colour the backdrop to the lives of the next. Whether or why these colours are vivid or muted and good or bad cannot be predicted or explained, but in Rustem’s case they ranged from the supreme to the diabolic.
Among my own father’s effects was s sheaf of letters, written to him by his father in the year 1931. Although not complete they indicate a reciprocal weekly correspondence. The last one, dated 12 the November looks forward to a visit (from London where my father was a constable in the metropolitan police force) and both warns and complains about indigestion.
Although I have possessed these letters for 30 years it was not until this month (Jan 2014) that I realised that the last letter was written a few hours before my Grandfathers sudden death-
Throughout his life
this man cultivated shallots in his allotment,
little knowing that they were members of the allium family
and, like the lilies of the field,
though he did.
Neither did they spin,
but, when the time came,
soft shoots bent down
were spun into short plaits.
But the wonder of shallots
is that they form firm shells
which, when sliced
father to son.
Though this has been
not in Askalon;
told not in Gath.
Many things happen that never get into the papers.
Birds on the lawns in the suburbs
are rarely reported.
Gossamer films on the grass
Are often neglected
In favour of death.
But here is a story!
A man and his wife in the evening
Are talking together
And find they agree
Though the meaning of life
"How would you like to help your grandfather in his allotment?"
Not a question to be answered then, or ever,
though potent with meaning.
A man and his grandson
at work in a garden, together.
But which of the two was nearer to God?
Without doubt, he thought I was
and I thought he was.
Has eluded their grasp.
Mapping proportions of the olden times,
what thoughts, how long ago
and who was loved?
Not difficult at all.
Just find a lively stick that dwells both then and now
and mark it off.
And is this one,
the awesome size of adult limbs
notched on an ancient pew
of those who loved the Lord,
who loved them too.
though how they knew,
was not revealed,
and nowhere any word
that thighs must shrink.
We go back far, but it is convenient
to fill a room with just a hundred,
reaching down till our new time began,
and I can serve them tea
and talk about old times,
in which they specialise.
Strange outlandish men,
but they would know each other
and converse in rougher tongues
and start to answer that
for which I brought them here.
Why, when all appear
so close together,
under the light in groups
was each so isolated, illuminated and alone
Silk or satin with the patina of pearl,
Remarkable to think that it lay
In its box
of the wardrobe
The bloom locked away,
while the rose bore fruit.
it did not take long
to work out
who was the family disgrace.
cider undid him. He
on his way down.
What’s in a name?
His mother’s heart was given
to a Yorkshire man
but he went on
and left her only with the name
of his home town
which she passed
to her eldest son.
Its all the same
What did it
was the constant having to explain.
But he had a life-
some proud family line bestowed it.
he was not
like any medieval hero
could have well
in a pub fight.
Instead he never wasted
Dewsbury Orlando Hillier
Some things are not to be taken at face value.
When my mothers cousin Lambert died
his wife thought that the swirling waters of his life
had ebbed away too soon.
developed them in the bath
and found out:-
he had got holes in his heart.'
People have lived here since the ice retreated
and the trees returned
thousands of years ago.
For many centuries
they have worked rich land
and every so often
each of these farms knew children
and lived again its golden time,
but the land was passed down
You might well ask
what do they do here,
what goes on?
What do they do in the evenings?
Yes, that is the thing,
what does anyone do in the evening
but prepare for the dawn
of infinite morning.
We met him in Wisbech.
He had not been there before,
neither had we.
He always wanted to be a butcher,
but he could not sharpen his knife.
His father could,
but he could not
and so this opening was closed to him.
I could not sharpen a knife either,
but had not thought it important
and never tried to learn.
However, without this,
other skills are vain,
because you cannot ask someone else
to sharpen it for you,
and it cut him to the quick.
Grey rocks, each many centuries thick,
Tumbled by men,
lacking the pyramid-
to build the new sea wall,
as though to stem the tide of time itself,
or mark where it had been.
Each one a book of life,
each page a golden year,
beat thin between soft vellum skins.
And will our time appear,
not on the surface of this gilded tome,
but deep within?
Yes; sure as stone it will!
And, come to think of it,
how ancient is this replica of shell
that grew amidst rich seaweed,
strange or not;
and have the waves that bathed it,
now spread out
among the whole wide sea?
but neither have the rocks returned to sand.
She was only five
and she walked out from behind a bus.
Her parents died that day
and again very much later when their plane crashed
into a hillside
coming in to land in low cloud.
Do you have Mr White
This was my Aunt's voice.
We were her family.
When she came she showed us
how to make animal noises
one card down from a full house.
For example, to cluck when you had
the cock, the hen,
but not the chick
although that was another game!
Easy to say,
" they don't make people like her now".
Do you know Master Black
the coalman's son?
but I think I see someone who does
giving me a dark look.
And do you have Mrs Rose
the florists wife?
Rather an overblown woman she became,
and, granting her favours,
has passed through youth
to the far side of passion.
And have you seen Miss Finn,
the fishmonger's daughter.
How could anyone forget her
as she swims through her dreams?
Can you read her eyes
or touch her lips
and does she feel as you or I have felt,
or is she cold as ice?
I carried her up the stairs to her cot,
asleep in the afternoon,
as before I had carried her mother.
But I could not believe
That this weight
was the pull of the earth,
as I found myself
one step higher;
the precious burden,
one step nearer the top.
..and here we will often see
out for a stroll in the afternoon.
This is the male; bodily present,
The female seems tied to him by invisible string
and they often hold hands.
these are the young.
This one is splashing her stick in a puddle.
She likes the mysterious way
that the surface plays
as the waves race and turn.
Now, she sees that the others, moving together,
have somehow grown shorter.
She has, what is called here, a tantrum.
This fills the observer, but never the troop,
with an unlikely feeling.
Remember your language skills;
we call it a diphthong.
not new, but distinct,
a distinct combination of pity and mirth.
The tone is pain, with a ripple of laughter,
and this is what matters,
this is the pay-
this is the time when you write in your notebooks,
‘Something significant happened!’
Meanwhile the boys,
completely at ease
one of them sometimes turns to examine the verges,
but the other continues, more or less in a straight line.
For better or worse, this is a landmark.
A pillared dome, green on white stones.
built by a man who could be called
'The Lino King'
built for his Queen.
He made his fortune from the dusky sheet
that covered kitchen floors
and left them sterile; smelling like a waiting tomb,
where other peoples wives breathed each last breath;
as in their lives,
so in her death.
or appeared to be,
considerably more mature than
He was thin and gaunt and much too young-
to have been caught up in it, but
two kids as well
I think that,
because that is the way things are,
they would have been in receipt of
When my grandmother was in her nineties, she lived with two of her daughters, the eldest being in her seventies. At this time there was a letter-
I’ve said before
that men are all the same,
you should know that.
They’re all the same,
they only want one thing.
They just don’t care.
They want to see us
blown to bits across the breakfast room
and plastered on the walls
like silver shred.
So tear it open up quickly
Taking care, while I
just look away.
Slide anxious fingers down.
I’ll hold my breath.
It’s what your father,
would have done.
So pass my glasses dear.
Slice some bread.
Drink up your tea.
And, another thing.
are so despicable,
they only do their worst
when we are most defenceless.
in the night, perhaps
How would you find it if
when you began to reach
under the bed
for the smooth white china handle
of the chamber pot
the clutching fingers of a work-
When the gorse does not flower
Love loses its charm
and have you learned about all ...?
Oh yes, At School we did.
Quickly heading off
words that would have been
as difficult and unforgettable
as that once long ago first time.
That monumental failure of parental trust
and now passed on.
The baton never held
and never dropped.
But, did the gorse fires ever burn for you?
We did not think like that
We just got on with what we had to do.
So not entirely true.
The passion never kindled by warm breath.
When Eddie Stobart died (March 2011), his obituary in The Times put him second to Melvin Bragg in the list of famous Cumbrians. Arguably William Wordsworth has a greater claim to fame than either of them, but the story of Eddie Stobart bears many similarities to that of his fellow countryman John Peel,
Eddie, christened Edward, was the first son of the original (Steady) Eddie Stobart, founder of a small haulage business. The mythology has it that the younger Eddie, dyslexic and a low achiever at school, was a gifted mechanic. After his father’s death, he inherited the haulage business which thrived under his guidance to became a great international concern. Yet despite his achievement, he gave the firm a gentlemanly, old-
Few motorists have failed to notice the name and the distinctive Stobart colours and many have become Stobart spotters, perhaps enrolling themselves as Stobart groupies. It is said that in his spare time Eddie liked nothing better than grooming his fleet. He gave women’s names to all his vehicles and it is believed that he eventually exhausted the repertoire. He insisted that his drivers wear a standard uniform; green jackets and dark trousers and showed a high standard of courtesy on the road.
Father of the man
Eddie Stobart’s dead!
You’ve left us Eddie,
second best loved Cumbrian.
No man of letters, yet you named them all;
Ruby, Joyce, Belinda, Ermintrude,
polished every wagon in the morning light.
You enrolled us and we won’t forget you,
Edward son of Eddie,
Yes Edward, son of Eddie,
third chip off the block,
your colours, red and yellow,
hunting green and white,
your drivers in their uniforms, immaculate,
you, in your worn grey suit,
who raised them from their beds so soon
that we could only follow in their wake,
and, true to form,
your horn was burnished, ready, but unused.
the sound of engines revved at dawn,
and Norbert Dentressangle
may waken us;
it will not waken you.
Yet we won’t let you pass upon your way unsung,
Leading the pack, your rainbow logo makes the heart leap up,
though you are home before us Eddie,
Divorced executive axes his wife.
This scroll has all the facts.
who had not wished
his name to be revealed
said, in an exclusive interview,
We knew something was up,
but she bewitched Us.
It was only when We saw five fingers round the bread knife
We understood the basis
of her, let Us say,
were legendary at Court.
We only very recently,
If there were something precious there
it would soon belong to one who has too much already,
or someone related to him.
So, let us begin with a thought experiment.
Here is a train, going along an embankment
at constant speed
with something valuable on board.
It does not matter whether a man,
standing on the embankment,
or one who is already on the train sees it first,
the result is always the same,
that all that is theirs, must be his;
Consider now that everything is falling under a constant force.
Something is going on and we all know what it is
because he is the one in the centre,
But, should we start to investigate,
we will find that he is not there
and never has been
and this is a most significant result,
that someone, or thing, can be neither there,
both at the same time,
(as the diagram clearly explains)
because the principle of simultaneity
cannot be established.
But, to return to the valuable object
that was once on the train,
though, as far as we can tell,
it is not there now and never has been.
Who was the one who first reported it to him?
Now we have stumbled across
the theory of general relativity
that can neither be formulated,
nor written down.
(mark my footsteps good my page, tread thou in them boldly)
forth they went together,
though, in this case side-
sometimes not. The sign said
in yellow lights. Silence again until
I wonder if we’ll see it
in the next approaching layby?
The Winter Weather Plan, of course.
You must be madder than I thought!
You don’t think that it means..
It must, it does. Hold tight and think
(for once) about it all.
I have. I can’t
Just planning what?
Before we left the house? Too
late for that. Or does it mean the winter weather’s there
or up ahead, or here? You need it pointed out!
No, won’t you get it in your head,
They’re only trying to help.. trying to prevent..
the worst, I doubt they could, it’s just
bureaucracy again, a slight upon the driver,
triumph of the desk-
instead lets think about the
Winter Weather Wenceslas dot plan. Plain mad and
that is if he had one to encourage the faint -
who might have wished themselves at home in bed.
One Plan fits all
In gold illumination
CHECK YOUR TREAD
HIGH RISK OF
DEER ON ROAD
Oh not again!
My dream hotel
is the smell of straw
and the horse-
as the coach draws in
to the cobbled square.
My dream hotel
is candle lit
with a dark oak chest
and the frost is thick
on the window pane.
My dream hotel is at the place
where the two streams meet
the dark and light.
by the black canal
and the old lock gates
My dream hotel has an old plum tree
where the blackbird sings
and an orchard gate
by the ivied wall.
My dream hotel
where the children laugh
and friends can meet,
and a voice that says,
‘Here are the keys,
there’s not long to wait
because all your guests have begun to come
to your dream hotel’.