TWO-WAY FAMILY FAVOURITES (repost, much altered)

Further away now than my father’s ghost,
those villages we breezed through like the word
was out, villages which had been left to
stew in their juices for much too long.
First car we owned, bought cash, a blue Ford,
its chrome shining, chivalrous in the sun,
and slashed just like the Z was in Zorro,
which was why I kept getting it all wrong,
saying angular instead of Anglia.

Parked up, you brought the Sundays
out to read: Stephen Ward, Christine Keeler,
Profumo, the Cuban missile crisis,
Hindley and Brady, Mandy Rice-Davies -
Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

The moors burn off in the sun and shimmer.
A radio, not ours, is playing a torch song,
the same old from some crooner or other.


But it’s Bobby Darin and Somewhere Beyond the Sea
as I slope off to find a bridge with a view,
where the trout seem as fickle as ever,
ghosting in reeds strung out like Ophelia’s
hair -There is a willow grows aslant a brook -
but no willow this time, just a windbreak
of pine, Pinus nigra, where I walk
with the uxorious tread of a brothel creeper
over a cross-hatched bed of fallen needles.


The car door stands open like a chick’s wing,
a blanket booms above the five of us.
Let it hang in the air awhile, let it float
until my grandmother hears the kettle sing,
which she never will, as deaf to its notes
as she was to those of birdsongs.
I’ll be mother and fill the pot and let
the tea take its time, let it stew in its juices
until the brew begins to galvanise.


In Britain it’s noon, in Germany it’s one,
the radio waves fan out to time zones
I can only dream about, to khaki outposts
and dusty bastions where the stain of empire
is fading like a band of ingrained sweat,
a commonwealth of messages, the heartfelt,
the trite, conveyed to homes where cabbages
have been left to stew in their juices,
juices as metallic as iron or zinc.

Further away now than my father’s ghost,
those Sunday songs that filled the air,
The Look of Love, Que Sera Sera,
Volare, A Walk in the Black Forest,
I Remember You, Who’s Sorry Now?,
Kisses Sweeter the Wine,
and the rest,
drifting from transistor to transistor
as I slope off postprandial to the moors
and listen to a curlew threading a scream
through the eye of a needle. The heather
proves a perfect bed in which to lie
and think of poor Ophelia, her garments
in a stew before she sinks into the stream.


I’m lying flat, boxed in clever, but high
and dry, watching the contrails of a plane
flourish at first then grow into indifference,
much as two clouds might that touch, merge,
take on other forms, only to part again
slowly as if somehow assuaged.
I’ve slipped below the radar for now,
though it’s only a matter of time before
my cover is blown, my antic gloom seen
for what it is. The heather is populated
with bees; that existential speck high
above me is a skylark struggling to reach
the summit of its song, and a butterfly
is flickering in a silent movie of its own.
Pieris brassicae – I’ve Latin enough to pin
it like a badge to a lapel should it choose
to engage. But the mind has stewed too long
on nothing, I know this hour for what it is - 
the dead hour of an afternoon going
nowhere in particular, one that will end
with Songs of Praise and homework -
date and title both double underlined.


The backseat’s in a stew all of its own
as we travel back down the valley,
just as the river’s verb begins to cool -
Wearhead, Ireshopeburn, St. John’s Chapel,
and the rest, the road running parallel
to the line Beeching will uproot, or leave
behind to shine like a ring lost at dusk.
Your choice again: Sing Something Simple,
though I confess, though all those Brigadoons
( soundtrack ’54, year I came on board),
come ’69, I’d be listening to a different tune:
White Album – Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?


🌷 (2)




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Tony Hill

Thu 10th May 2018 10:57

Hoped you enjoyed the devilled ham, Frances. Correction: it was Kraft Dairylea cheese, round box, triangular portions wrapped in foil, difficult to open without making a mess. Tony

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Frances Macaulay Forde

Thu 10th May 2018 03:03

G'day Tony,
Your comments and poem resonate so strongly, I had to buy some Devilled Ham paste the other day - something I haven't had for ages! It was delicious - I savoured every memory.
Thank you, again.

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Tony Hill

Wed 18th Apr 2018 17:19

Hi Frances. I suppose they would be classed as 'middle of the road' songs. If I hear one now it still has the power to stop me in my tracks. I was quite a moody child, always sloping off somewhere. I can still hear my mother's voice calling my name, reminding me that it was paste, Primula cheese and - yes - stewed fruit with Carnation Milk. Tony

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Frances Macaulay Forde

Wed 18th Apr 2018 17:01

It certainly did resonate - all those songs...

'Further away now than my father's ghost...'


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Tony Hill

Wed 18th Apr 2018 11:55

Thank you, David. I do tend to go on a bit, though. It may resonate with people of a certain age. It's an amalgam of every family picnic we ever had, at least those at the top end of the Weardale Valley. Tony

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Wolfgar Miere

Wed 18th Apr 2018 11:39

Monumental day dreamy nostalgia dripping nectar.



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