Thou Rustem…….

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- probably from a perforated ulcer. Photographs show him as tall and forbidding. Although our paths failed to cross by 7 years, this letter has established a link that will not be easily broken.


Told not in Gath

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,

toiled not,

though he did.

Neither did they spin,

but, when the time came,

soft shoots bent down



as grass

lies flat,

were spun into short plaits.

But the wonder of shallots

is that they form firm shells

which, when sliced

slip out,

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

Nearer to God in a Garden

"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.

Tunnel  vision

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,

and when,

was not revealed,

and nowhere any word

that thighs must shrink.

Family gathering

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

of four,

or three,

or two,

Or one

was each so isolated, illuminated and alone

Wedding dress

Silk or satin with the patina of pearl,

the blush.

Remarkable to think that it lay

In its box

on top

of the wardrobe


The bloom locked away,

while the rose bore fruit.

Uncle Dewsbury

it did not take long

to work out

who was the family disgrace.

Somerset man.

cider undid him. He

by-passed the working classes

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.

Passed on

Passed down

Its all the same


What did it

was the constant having to explain.

But he had a life-line..

Middle name


some proud family line bestowed it.


he was not

or else

like any medieval hero

could have well

declaimed it

in a pub fight.

Instead he never wasted

drinking time.

Dewsbury Orlando Hillier

Coriolis  force

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.

Stated verbatim

So dissatisfied,

they took

X-rays at home,

developed them in the bath

and found out:-

he had got holes in his heart.'

Carse of Stirling

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

apparently undivided.

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.

Blunted ambition

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-builders skill,

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?

Not yet,

but neither have the rocks returned to sand.

Another Blue Day

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.

Happy Families

Do you have Mr White

the baker?

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,

this body,

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.

The pay-off

..and here we will often see

family groups

out for a stroll in the afternoon.

This is the male; bodily present,

he leads.

The female seems tied to him by invisible string

and they often hold hands.

Falling behind

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-off,

this is the time when you write in your notebooks,

‘Something significant happened!’

Meanwhile the boys,

completely at ease

move forward,

one of them sometimes turns to examine the verges,

but the other continues, more or less in a straight line.

Linoleum Mausoleum

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.

The way things were

She was,

or appeared to be,

considerably more mature than

he was.

He was thin and gaunt and much too young-looking

to have been caught up in it, but

he was.

There were

two kids as well

tagging along.

I think that,

because that is the way things are,

at Christmas

they would have been in receipt of

most expensive


The war on terror.

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-bomb scare and my grandmother was said to have insisted that her eldest daughter open the mail.

Part 1.

First in, last out

I’ve said before

that men are all the same,

you should know that.

They’re all the same,

these men,

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,

bless him,

would have done.

So pass my glasses dear.

Slice some bread.

Drink up your tea.

Another duty was to look under the bed for men.

Part 2.

Palely loitering

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

You found


the clutching fingers of a work-worn hand?

Gorse Fires

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

where no-one is to blame

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-fashioned tone.

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,

and single-handed

polished every wagon in the morning light.

You enrolled us and we won’t forget you,

Edward son of Eddie,

Eddie’s son.

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.

But now

the sound of engines revved at dawn,

of Cranefruehauf

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,

Eddie Stobart,

Eddie’s son.

Wife divorces axed executive! (News headline ca. 2005)

Divorced Executive Axes Wife

Oh Yes!

Oh Yes!

Oh Yes!

Hear Ye!

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

handle that

We understood the basis

of her, let Us say,

manipulative skills,


it seems,

were legendary at Court.

A fact

We only very recently,

found out.

The Theory of Relativity

Oh Italy!

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;

that is- the special theory of relativity.

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,

nor here,

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.

Grub Stakes

We studied the form books

and came up with a winner;

’ The best boarding house on the south coast ’,

but were not alone!

Father Christmas,

in his role as everyone's uncle,

was there for the flat-season.

There are courses for horses,

or should be


though high-tea

never fulfilled its lofty promise,

three times each day,

for a week

he rubbed his hands and

declaimed to room,

but especially the children,

       Grub stakes!

His wife, under starters orders,

knew why those who have no hope of winning,

always obey,

(though their jockeying days were done)

but the picture remains

vivid and crude

as betting-shop art.


(mark my footsteps good my page, tread thou in them boldly)

forth they went together,

though, in this case side-

by-side and sometimes talking

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.

Oh God!

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-

bound, no!

instead lets think about the

Winter Weather Wenceslas dot plan. Plain mad and

that is if he had one to encourage the faint -hearted

who might have wished themselves at home in bed.

One Plan fits all

In gold illumination


and now,

what’s this?



Not to,

or from?

Oh no!

Oh not again!


My Dream Hotel

My dream hotel

is the smell of straw

and the horse-shoe ring

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’.



1 Told not in Gath

2 Newsflash

3 Nearer to God in a Garden

4 Tunnel  vision

5 Family gathering

6 Wedding dress

7 Uncle Dewsbury

8 Coriolis  force

9 Carse of Stirling

10 Blunted ambition

11 Bookmark

12 Happy Families

13 Burden

14 The pay-off

15 Linoleum Mausoleum

16 The way things were

17 The war on terror.

18 First in, last out

19 Palely loitering

20 Gorse Fires

21 Father of the man

22 Divorced Executive Axes Wife

23 The Theory of Relativity

24 Grub stakes

25 www.plan

26 My dream hotel

Family matters