Alf

 

alf

His garden was slightly uneven, slightly tiered,
From early February’s putting on of scattered beauty –
Snowdrops, daffs and crocuses –
A cascade of shade and colour.

His garden bloomed throughout the growing year.
So-many forget-me-nots:
Wild primrose and aubrietia
Then larkspur, delphinium and the beautiful bluebells
Carnations, cornflower and iris

Tier after tier cultivated by a hidden gardener.
Until one early summer morning, early,
I saw Alf padding about.
He was doing little but looking, dressed in carpet slippers
He had the high colouring of a boozer
I muttered a quick 'Hello’ and walked on.

Over our many, but too few by far, early morning chats after that
I discovered Alf – the more than occasional gardener –
Knew that the word ‘bungalow’ came from the Hindi
And that the word baṅglā meant ‘belonging to Bengal’
He’d been in India during the long withdrawing roar
Of empire. All he’d wanted was to get back home after
Four years fighting the Japanese in Burma:

‘Why’d we bother?’ he’d said, ‘All those young lads, dead.”
“Fer what?”
“Aye, well must get on.” That was the last thing he’d said to me.
Looking at me as if he couldn’t believe the man he’d been…
Alf died last year and, as he’d foretold, all his spring bulbs
Were buried beneath a thick wad of concrete.
“For parking” his grandson curtly replied, when asked..

 

◄ Redemption song

Brother ►

Comments

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John Marks

Sat 27th Nov 2021 19:13

Thank you Mark, Stephen, Brenda and Keith. I'm glad you found this piece moving Stephen, Wordsworth said poetry was emotion recollected in tranquillity. I don't know about the tranquillity. I am very moved, Brenda, by this song by the incomparable John Prine. Yes Mark the money men prefer space for flash cars to houses for ordinary folk. The lack of social housing in England is a national disgrace. We have become such a selfish nation since Thatcher. Keith, I want to express my sincere thanks for your father's sacrifice in the brutal war against the Japanese. My uncle saw action against the Japanese and was eventually captured. He was a big burly rough sort of man over 6 foot and about 16 stone. He arrived back in England weighing just over 5 stones.

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M.C. Newberry

Sat 27th Nov 2021 18:18

It would be depressing to learn just how many small English
patches of natural growth have disappeared under the demands
of the car-owners, not helped of course by a hugely increased
use of yellow lines and a population that exerts its own sort
of pressure on space in our limited over-planned hectares..

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Stephen Gospage

Sat 27th Nov 2021 16:34

I enjoyed and was moved by this, John.

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Brenda Wells

Sat 27th Nov 2021 16:23

A really sensitive piece.
Cultivating a garden is such a very positive and nurturing activity. The growth of concrete across this land so brutal by comparison.
Thank you for sharing this and of course for the music.

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keith jeffries

Fri 26th Nov 2021 23:38

Alf, like my father returned from fighting the Japanese. When asked what he wanted of the future he replied, " to smoke my pipe, drink a pint, have a greenhouse and grow roses". He achieved these. As children we were told on pain of death not to enter the greenhouse or walk on the grass. We readily obeyed.
Bless him
Thanks for this john
Keith

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