Monkey in a tree

I spent most of my time in Pretoria when I wasn’t at school up a tree with a book.

The tree was above a small round swimming pool at the top of the garden; green and dark.

Sometimes a monkey would keep me company.

She would perch on my shoulder, pulling out the pins that kept my bun in place until my hair fell round my shoulders.

I hope she was looking for salt, not nits.

I remember the quick pat of her small black hands, wrinkled and old; and the stiff feel of her grey fur.

Her expression was cool, analytical; unjudging. She was who she was; I was me.

So there we were; swinging gently together

On the same branch

Of the same tree.

African Rain

We puttered up the hill in the little black Morris Minor
My mother and I.

The trees hung listless in the heat.
Dusty; dry.

My brown school uniform stuck to the back of the seat.
My panama hat left a red sweat rim on my forehead.
My feet boiled inside socks and shoes.

No-one was around in the scorching afternoon.
Only the drowsy insects pulsed a singing silence.

And then, with a smash of thunder and a roll of drums
thundering over the rumbling hills
lightning splitting the sky,
the rain came.

Pouring waterfalls,
cascading metallic sheets of water,
drenching, ecstatic.

Cars stopped; from every house and garden people suddenly emerged;
dancing, laughing, drinking in the rain.
The blessed, blessed rain,
mercy falling from heaven
upon the place beneath.

I stood in the water as it soaked
through my clothes,
through my skin,
into my mouth,
into my bones,
cooling the racing heat of my blood,
a revelation.

As around me and inside me the world sprung into life.

Sunshine

Sitting on a bench

Sunlight warming the stones of the Abbey

Violin playing in a little surge of tourists

Empty screens of phones raised in ceaseless homage

Friends.

Peaceful; no need for talk.

Yellow trousers next to pink.

Brimful of love, sunshine, music, contentment.

And, it has to be said, wine..

Crisis at Calais

We only have a very little island
There’s room for me and possibly for you
With all these swarms of people
trying everything they can
to pull themselves aboard –
What can we do?

Well, we need to make some very tough decisions;
To only let the ones we want get through.
We need to have a test
to see who suits us best
And this is what I think that we should do.

Let’s line all refugees up on the border
Of somewhere hot and troubled
where bombs are bursting daily
… almost anywhere in Syria will do.

Then we give them all no money,
No help and no instructions
We load them up with children,
with hot and crying children,
with sick and injured children..
almost any child will do.

We add an aged grandma,
with sore and swollen knees,
clutching her tiny bundle
of all that she holds dear
of all that’s left
of what she left behind..
A photograph
will do.

And then we blow a whistle,
and let them race for Dover,
across the wars and deserts..
across the seas and mountains..
through all the camps and fences
through razor wire and whistles..
through loss and death and terror

And any with the gumption,
the strength and hope and courage,
the sheer determination..
to make it through..

I think they’ll do.

Hunt

Don’t ask.

Hunt

Moon
moon
moon
moon
Howl
howl
howl
howl
clouds
trees
branches
moon
moon

AAAH

moon
moon
moon
howl
howl
howl
howl
running
running
running
fast
fast
fast
fast
feet
feet
feet
feet
pant
pant
pant
pant

AAAH

water
cold
skin
water
shake it
shake it
dry
water
running
running
running
smell
blood
smell
fear..
smell
smell
smell
smell
fear
fear
blood
shakesnap
blood
shake
running
running
running
running
leap!
pull down!
Down!
teeth
teeth
teeth
teeth
tear
tear
tear
tear
claws
claws
bite
bite
bite
blood
gushing
hot
terror
blood
running
blood
drinking
drinking
drinking
huh huh huh
drink drink drink

AAAH!

Gossip

The word gossip originally meant O.E. godsibb “godparent,” from God. Notice how its meaning slides from a perfectly respectable title for either man or woman into triviality – and as it goes, it becomes attached exclusively to women:
+ sibb “relative” (see sibling). Extended in M.E. to “any familiar acquaintance” (mid-14c.), especially to woman friends invited to attend a birth, later to “anyone engaging in familiar or idle talk” (1560s). Sense extended 1811 to “trifling talk, groundless rumor.” The verb meaning “to talk idly about the affairs of others” is from 1620s.

Look at some of its synonyms: chatter,chitchat,hearsay,scandal,slander,babble,blather,blether,meddling.
That – and my wonderful Book Club – inspired the following thought.

Gossip

I went to a meeting of my book club on Wednesday.
Ten women (only five of us that day)
Ten women; retired; nothing better to do than to meet and talk about books.

Among those ten women are teachers, writers, artists,
economists, scientists, historians,
travellers, administrators, patrons of charities,
linguists, directors, librarians, scholars…

Who actually think that
there isn’t anything better to do
than to meet and talk about books.

So …
we chattered about communication between humans and animals
We babbled about the reality of ideas,
the idea of reality.
We gossiped about the future of the human race
And its past.

It was a good meeting.
Shame there weren’t any men there; it could have become a discussion.

Folk Song

We wrote this for a folk singer we know … but I don’t think he ever sung it!
Folk Song
There was once a young man
As dark as dark can be –
He had a voice of honey
That could tempt birds from the tree.Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..
Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..He sang his songs in springtime
When the fields were thick with flowers.
The buds unfurled their petals and
Spread perfume through the hours.

Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..
Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..

He sang his songs in summer
When the cows were in the hay
The cream came thick and willing
and sweetened all the day..

Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..
Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..

He sang his songs in autumn,
When the misty trees were red
The plums swelled full and juicy
The drowsy bees full fed

Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..
Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..

He sang his songs in winter
When the snow lay on the mead
And the dreams of summer days
curled tight in every seed.

Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..
Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..

For music is a joyful thing
That makes the living good
and songs make days and hours
dance on the way they should..

Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..
Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..

There once was a young man
As dark as dark can be
He had a voice of honey
That could tempt birds from the tree.

Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..
Oh singing..
oh singing..
oh, sing your songs for me..

The Unicorn

This is one of the lyrics to Extraordinary Creatures. (I am filling in the days I couldn’t write because of despondency over Dracula. I’ll write something new today again)

THE UNICORN

Deep in the wood, sits the maiden..

Peace in her eyes,

Beauty on her brow.

Quiet in her lap,
under her soft hand,
lies the proud white head of the unicorn,
Forlorn no longer.

Home Again

This is a lyric to a song I wrote some years ago now which Jools set very movingly to music. There is a lovely recording of it sung by Nuala.

The sun is setting on the city
The pavement gleams with sudden rain
Umbrellas blossom all around me
Time to go home again.

I reach the door and turn the key
I go to call your name and then
I see your coat still hanging empty.
I know I’m home again.

Since you’ve been gone
The house is silent..
Each day is just another day….

Why did you leave?
What was the matter?
What did I do?
What did I say?

Time keeps passing..
Days keep passing..
You have gone away..

Maybe tonight I’ll get a phone call
I’ll hear your footsteps in the hall
Maybe you’ll come from where you’ve gone to
And we’ll be home again.