Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Sunday, 16 December 2007
It only took two weeks to find Sky. I trawled the internet and found a photograph of a deerhound, greyhound, collie cross bitch, dark brindle and only two years old. No longer is our household quiet and orderly. This is a dog who requires toys; toys to toss and catch, toys to chew and toys to share in a tug of war. She provides endess amusement for George and plenty of exercise for me. Already she has become my constant shadow and has made herself completely at home.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
My resolution for tomorrow is to introduce you to Sky who has become my new companion and shadow
Friday, 16 November 2007
China was our third greyhound, Freya was our first -
Epitaph for Freya - 1988
Shall I forget –
Forget your silhouette
In the broken shade beneath the towering beech?
Shall I forget your cold wet nose
Your trusting gaze depending on mankind
To set you free
I know not where.
I loved you and I laid you down
Curling you nose to tail the way you used to lie,
Your joyful speed now a cold stillness
Under two spits of earth.
I must pick up my burdens and walk on
But, maybe as the evening shadows lengthen I shall see
Beside my own upon the wayside grass
Another shadow thin and elegant
No longer old and weary
Following me home.
The House is very Quiet
13 November 20007
Where has love gone
Now she that I loved is dead?
I heard a voice reply
'Love does not die,
When all the tears are shed
Love will be found
Among the living
Not the dead.
We are already looking for another long dog, probably not a pure bred greyhound this time, but a lurcher; not a replacement but a new friend.
Thursday, 8 November 2007
It was a cold grey November evening almost forty years ago. A strong wind was blowing across Kensington Gardens, dusk was falling and banks of clouds had built up over Bayswater Road. It was definitely time to go home to tea and crumpets. A tall elderly man was pushing a wheel chair across the grass, the young passenger was getting a rough ride.
‘D’you really want to fly it now? Can’t it wait for another day?’
The youth shook his head vigorously. ‘There may not be another day like this,’ he replied and held up the kite. ‘The wind has to be just right.’
His face was very pale, the skin stretched tightly across his cheek bones. The rug across his knees did nothing to hide his skeletal form.
‘Toss it for me Dad, I’m not much good at throwing these days.’
His father took the kite, swung his arm back and threw it upwards. The wind caught it and immediately it began to climb. The lad clutched the string and paid it out hand over hand as the kite, swinging and pulling, soared high above the heads of families heading for home. The wind was gaining strength; the kite was tugging to get free.
‘Let me help – you’re likely to lose it.’
‘No – it’s mine – I’ve always wanted to fly. This is the nearest I’ll get to it.’
I watched the young face, in imagination so clearly with the kite in its tethered freedom, a freedom he would never know in this life.
The kite, now above the Bayswater Road, gave one last tug and the string broke. Earth-bound the young owner watched the kite soaring higher and higher into the clouds until it disappeared. He looked up at his father and smiled.
‘Sometimes you have to let go to hang on to your dreams.’
Thursday, 18 October 2007
Before long we had found a tiny terraced cottage which the family hoped would cure the problem. ‘Granny’s Cottage’ was carved on a slat and mounted beside the front door and once again I had a home on the island. The second weekend we spent there my husband said ‘We might move back completely one day,’ and within the hour I had found the house which was to be our home for the next six years. We put our Gosport house on the market and sold it within forty minutes. We spent the next six months living in the cottage while we restored our new seventeenth century home and created an art gallery and pottery workshop on the ground floor.
Do I believe in ghosts? I’m not sure, but I certainly find some houses have an atmosphere all their own. I once lived in one which I found so oppressive that I began to think I was losing the plot until a very tough teenager said ‘funny place this, I keep thinking I’m going to bump into somebody.’ Granny’s Cottage on the other hand has an atmosphere of peace and calm despite the fact that lorries carrying huge blocks of stone pass by outside. Perhaps it comes from the monks of Wykeham who, over a thousand years ago, lived on the site. I decided to keep it and instead of letting it as a holiday home I wanted it to be a real home. The first tenants loved it and looked after it, so I was quite unprepared for what I found when the last tenants moved out. It took two months to put it to rights and I found myself borrowing rather a lot but the sense of peace has returned both to the cottage and to me. I have a new tenant who is clearly very happy there so my dream has been restored.
Saturday, 8 September 2007
‘You know’ said Peter ‘that Kenneth Graham was right when he said that there is nothing - absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’ He leant comfortably back in the cockpit, a glass of wine in one hand and a chicken leg in the other. ‘The six o’clock forecast was perfect. Four to five from the southwest, we should be having coffee and croissants in Cherbourg tomorrow morning.’
Peter was the skipper, a well seasoned ocean racer with a couple of Fastnet races to his credit so we knew we were in good hands. I had sailed with Peter for years but Jimmy had only started that summer and his girl friend Anne had never sailed before. With a forecast like that we would have nothing to worry about, Peter could have sailed the boat single handed so it was perfect weather for a training cruise.
The boat was the first Peter had owned and the pride of his life. Thirty feet on the water line and built for racing, the conditions below decks were fairly spartan but on a glorious evening like that we weren’t looking for creature comforts. The sun was warm and the waves lapping gently under the bow as we set out for France. Jimmy took Anne’s hand and led her onto the fore deck where they sat talking quietly, arms around each other’s waists. Peter grinned at me.
‘Happy love? It should be an easy run. Jimmy should get an easy run too. I think he’s hoping to propose to Anne before we get back. I thought I’d ask them to take the first watch – nice and romantic don’t you think?’ I knew that Peter wouldn’t really sleep till we got to the other side but at least we would make the gesture of going below and leaving them in charge.
Just then a slightly larger wave caused the boat to pitch and Peter looked at me with surprise. ‘I have a nasty feeling the wind is getting up – the barometer is dropping.’ The sun was disappearing into a bank of cloud that had risen out of the western horizon and there was a sudden chill in the air. ‘Shall I go and get you a sweater?’ Peter disappeared below and came back clutching not only my sweater but foul weather gear for all four of us and a handful of harnesses. ‘I don’t want to be alarmist, but with an inexperienced crew I don’t want to take any risks.’
By this time Jimmy and Anne had returned to the cock pit and Anne was looking distinctly green and frightened. ‘Don’t worry,’ said Peter, ‘Take a couple of these and you’ll soon feel fine’ and he handed a blister pack of Stugeron to Anne. ‘Even the most experienced sailors feel a bit queasy from time to time. Nelson was sick at Spithead!’ Anne didn’t look at all reassured and disappeared below.
The boat gave a sudden heave followed by the sound of something crashing on the cabin deck. Anne reappeared, her hands and arms an alarming red.
‘Dear God – what’s happened?’ said Peter.
‘All the supper things have fallen on the floor and the tomato ketchup has smashed,’ replied Anne, ‘And I’m -’ she scrambled back into the cockpit. Peter grabbed her and lifted her from one side of the boat to the other.
‘Never be sick into the wind,’ he said ‘You’ll only get your own back.’
Wiping her face Anne retreated miserably below again.
‘Damn’ said Jimmy ‘I hope I shall be forgiven.’
‘Worry about that later,’ replied Peter, ‘get that lot on and I’ll show you what we have to do to shorten sail. The storm jib is in the fore end in the bag with the green tag. Bee you’ll have to stay on the tiller.’ The wind was rising and a nasty lop was building up. If Peter wanted the storm jib then he was getting worried. I was glad that I hadn’t been asked to get it, I’m fine on deck in a bumpy sea but going below and I might easily throw up. Although I come from a sailing family and I’m quite competent I really don’t enjoy it. Peter doesn’t know but I only do it to be with him.
By eleven o’clock the clouds were hurrying across the sky, the sea was topped with white caps and the tiller was getting very heavy. It was all I could do to keep the boat on course.
‘It’s no good, I had hoped to keep going and get to Cherbourg before this lot really hit us,’ said our skipper, ‘but we’re going to have to shorten sail.’ At that moment Jimmy leant over the side and gave up his all. Whimpering he climbed into the hatch and disappeared below. ‘Poor wee thing – I don’t think he’ll want to come again. We’ll just have to get on with it Bee. I’ll look after the foredeck if you can keep going on the helm?’ I nodded. ‘Good girl – you’re more of a man than that one down there. Bring her head to wind and I’ll take in two reefs’ and he was gone to fight with the main sail.
The sails rattled and flogged as I brought the boat into the wind. What would I do if Peter slipped and went overboard? I didn’t know enough and I knew I wasn’t strong enough to get him back. He would drown and I would be left to bring the boat back on my own. I swore that if I survived that night I would never sail again without a strong, experienced crew.
As I brought the boat back onto the wind she heeled over and I wedged myself across the cockpit, watching the binnacle light as I struggled to keep her on course.
‘Well done that girl, in a moment you’ll have to do that again while I get the storm jib on. I’ll just go below and get the midnight forecast.’ He disappeared and I heard him turn the radio on.
‘Gale warnings for all sea area.’
‘Bit late to tell us now’ I heard Peter’s cheerful voice reply. His head appeared in the hatch. ‘Better turn round and head home. Jimmy and Anne are flaked out; there really isn’t any point in fighting this one.' We altered course and ran before the wind. ‘Probably only force seven,’ said Peter, but to me it felt far more; it probably was because several boats were lost in the Channel that night.
Sailing into the wind can be a noisy fight with nature; when you turn and run before it the wind is no longer in your face and the water hisses under the bow. That night the sea was lit up with fluorescence hanging from the white tipped waves as we raced northwards back across the Channel.
The wind was directly behind us and at times we almost flew as we caught and held the crest of a wave, the sails goose winged with the storm jib on one side and the rolled down main on the other. My chest was tight with fear that the wind might shift, bringing the main slamming across in a gybe. My head was filled with every story I had ever heard about dismasting. My hands were stiff and cold as I hung on to the tiller.
Quietly Peter got up and clutching the guard rail crawled along the edge of the deck. Reaching into his pocket he took a line and passing it round the guard rail attached it to the boom. Back beside me he said quietly ‘Quit worrying love, we won’t gybe now with a preventer on the boom.’ At last in the distance we could see the gleam of Portland Bill light as it swept across the horizon welcoming us home.
Dawn was breaking and the wind was still gaining in strength as we rounded the wall into Portland harbour and entered sheltered water.
‘Bring her head to wind’ shouted Peter from the bow and dropped the mainsail onto the deck. Suddenly all movement stopped as we ran gently alongside our mooring. Two heads appeared through the hatch.
‘Are we in France now?’ asked Anne. Peter explained that there would be no croissants for breakfast and suggested that we should all try and get a little sleep before doing anything else.
When we woke up the wind was shrieking in the rigging and the tops of the waves were being blown off, clouding the harbour with a light salt mist. It was blowing too hard to lower the dinghy and row ashore so Peter started the engine and we motored round to the shelter of Weymouth Harbour and tied up alongside the quay below the Customs House.
Jimmy and Anne went ashore never to return while we settled down to a day of cleaning and sorting to make Peter’s great love whole and beautiful again, stopping every now and then to share a of bottle of wine with friends who came to commiserate. We were storm bound for three days before the storm blew out and we were able to set off to Cherbourg again, this time with a couple of very experienced friends.
What do you do storm bound in your home port? I can tell you. We ate well, we slept well, we played piquet and talked ourselves into feeling quite heroic. Nine months later I had the perfect excuse for staying ashore. Peter has promised that his next boat will be perfect for family cruising!
Saturday, 1 September 2007
I had thought my aunt’s life was tragic until the day when I was clearing her cottage out and found a few notes in her desk. She had written ‘I never regarded myself as disabled’ although she had been born with a congenitally dislocated hip which was not identified till she was two and led to twenty seven operations before she was five. In those days parents were not allowed to stay with children in hospital so at times of great pain she was abandoned to the care of strangers. She had been baptised Naomi Avis Primrose and my grandmother insisted that she was called Primrose despite her dark complexion and nearly black hair. Her father had been killed in the first month of World War I and her mother spent much of the remainder of the war in deep depression, quite unable to meet the needs of her little girl.
Primrose turned out to have a beautiful contralto voice and a good mathematical brain but with her limp and dark visage she had not the looks for the stage and in 1920, though she gained a BSc in civil engineering, there were no opportunities for young women. She was presented at court and did a season but most eligible young men were frightened of girls with brains, especially ones who had an aggressive determination to survive. World War II gave her the opportunity she craved and for five years her talents were in demand. Despite being in constant pain and having one leg substantially shorter than the other she clambered over bomb sites and cycled to work through the black out until she was knocked unconscious by a passing car and remained in a coma for five months. After that she became a recluse, living with her cats and seldom talking to anyone except in monosyllables.
The cottage where she died had been given to me by my father as a wedding present and because my husband had a sea going job I had lived there on my own when I was first married and my son had been born there. The cottage was full of happy memories. After a time I was able to travel with my husband so I was overseas when she, having run out of money, finally asked for help so it made sense for her to have it. The post mortem showed she had died of malnutrition and hypothermia. The family would have employed a local contractor who advertised house clearances to sort things out but I stepped in and said I would do it. The RSPCA took the skeletal cats away and I began my self appointed task.
The smell was terrible but by opening the doors back and front the air began to clear. Aunt Prim had stored carefully sorted rubbish in hundredweight paper meal sacks; one filled with dead matches, one with the inner match box, a third with the outer covering. Bright red Bournville chocolate wrappers were packed in one sack, gold wrappings in another. As I heaved the sacks outside the floor began to creak and crack until the boards, soft with wood worm and wet rot, gave way in one corner.
A village worthy came bustling in and began poking in corners. ‘No need for her to be cold’ she said as she lifted the lid of a metal meal bin ‘Look she had fuel for the boiler in here and there’s pies in this box. She didn’t have to go hungry.’
I didn’t point out that she had had a stroke and sat for a week in her own urine before anyone thought she might need help, no one brought her a blanket or a hot drink. She had nothing but her indomitable courage and determination to keep her going, and her books to keep her company.
I worked on through the day putting aside anything of value, her books, a small oil painting, a silver fob watch with raised numbers and no glass made for a blind person and ideal for someone working in the blackout. All the while I could hear rustlings as I disturbed the mice the cats had been too weak to catch.
Tied firmly to the top shelf of the book case was a blue felt parcel. Carefully I cut away the string and sat down for the first time that day to examine this thing that had been so precious that it had to be tied down. Layer after layer came off and I thought of the little girl who would have played pass the parcel long ago. Finally the heart of the treasure was displayed on my lap, a Victorian carriage clock in working order. I have it still.
Outside the sun was setting, the cottage bathed in golden evening light. The small garden that I had tended as a bride was a tangle of briars and brambles but half hidden and unnoticed by the front door I found a perfect white tulip. Next morning I cut it carefully and took it with me to the funeral. There were no flowers on the coffin. After the service the coffin was carried to the grave yard below the church. As the undertakers prepared to lower their burden into the grave I placed the single white flower on it. No, my aunt’s life was not a tragedy for she certainly would not have considered it so, she lived her life heroically and maintained her independence to the end.
© Carenza Hayhoe 2007
Friday, 31 August 2007
The victim in my poem was very small and some might think the accident a trivial matter but the sounds of that accident are with me still -
The Lethal Weapon
Rabbit – I didn’t mean to kill you,
You leapt from the hedge across my path
I had no choice,
No time to brake.
Mine the hand of destiny
My car the lethal weapon.
Mine the aching heart
As, framed within the mirror
I had a fleeting vision
Of your small form
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
The mid-day sun is hot
The beer is cool
The colour of a Dartmoor stream
Splashing, swirling round boulders
Trout lying in the eddies
Waiting for a unsuspecting fly
Foam caught in whirl pools.
Froth upon the well poured pint
Clings to the upper lip
Of a blue eyed youth
White blond, deep tanned
And in his glass half full
Bubbles collapsing slowly unobserved.
‘Another of the same’
The pint pulled by a girl
With bosoms overflowing
An invitation to forbidden fruit
A come and get me smile
Defended by the bastion of the bar
The drinker heavy jowled
Eyes hungry in a florid face
His gut supported by a belt,
A belch, a hasty swallow
The glass half empty but who cares,
The money’s there, there’s plenty more to come.
‘Thanks mister – mines a pint’
The old man sits
And mumbles by the fire
No question here
Half full, half empty
There is nothing left
No swirling energetic stream
No foam, no froth
No summer light
So while there’s time
Landlord, another round.
Latin com – with: fortis – strong
Today has been appalling
I haven’t time to cry.
My fella’s on the booze again
And given me this eye.
Today has been appalling
My girl was on the phone
She says she’s in the club again
He’s gone and she’s alone.
Today has been appalling
My boy has broken bail.
Police came banging on the door
They’ve taken him to gaol.
Today has been appalling
The bills are piled high
I’ve stacked the pills beside them
It would be good to die.
But first I’ll put the kettle on
Quite soon it starts to sing
Now with a hot, sweet cup of tea
I’ll cope with anything.
The teapot is decorated using the mochaware technique which took me five years experimenting to master. When I retired last September there was only one other potter in the country able to produce it to a professional standard and yes, I confess I was rather proud of what I had achieved.
Saturday, 11 August 2007
On Thursday evening I went to Whitestones for the private view of Sea Art, an exhibition of paintings and sculpture by ten West Country artists and was thrilled to discover the work of David Brook whose acrylic paintings I would describe as pure poetry. Two particularly caught my eye, ‘Fish Surfers’ is full of vibrant movement, the three surfers riding the waves with confidence imposed by the painters brush. The image of two walkers caught in a world of their own under an umbrella while the rain curls and crashes on the rest of the world is a sonnet in paint. This is an exhibition to be enjoyed at leisure over a cup of Davd Nicholl’s delicious coffee, the images will remain in the mind long after the visit to Portland is over. http://www.whitestonescafegallery.com/
Saturday, 4 August 2007
Bringing kids up in a pub isn’t easy. You’re trying to be a mum and to keep the customers happy at the same time. Of course the kids get a bit neglected, but The Sailors Rest was right on top of the beach so there were compensations, fishing and swimming, that sort of thing. We got used to the gales and were always well prepared with sandbags and shutters before the wind started screeching in the chimneys and the waves began to pound the top of the beach, but the sea will always surprise you.
I had given up trying to get Mike out of bed in the mornings. ‘Teenagers are all like that’ said my mother ‘You were just the same. He’ll grow out of it and then one day you’ll go in and find another head on the pillow beside him and nothing will ever be the same again.’
It was a day none of us will ever forget; a warm sunny April morning, sea flat calm and not a breath of wind. I had opened all the windows to air the bedrooms, even the attic where Mike lay with his eyes screwed tight shut against the light. I was round the back in the kitchen so I didn’t see it coming. Seems there had been a big storm in the Atlantic. Three great rollers came up the channel, absolutely silent, getting higher and higher until they reached our beach when the first reared up, a huge wave so high it over topped the pub and flooded the house through the attic window. I raced upstairs, my feet squelching on every step, slipping and sliding on the seaweed that had come in with the wave, to find our Mike still in bed, just as my mother had said, with another head on the pillow beside him. She never said it would be a fish!
© Carenza Hayhoe August 2007
By the time I'd finished my room was full of sunlight.
Friday, 27 July 2007
Pebbles on the Shore
no sound but the sucking of the sea
pulling the pebbles on the shore
peopled with the presence of the past
no longer tangible yet real today
crowding and crying 'come
join us and be one with us'
must belong to those who follow after
make of it what they will
the sea will still be there
pulling the pebbles on the shore
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
I woke in the night remembering Northcote House where, for a while, I was the lay chaplain. The staff always had so much to do, checking drugs, making beds, washing and dressing the residents and filling in report forms. There seemed to be no allowance in the daily programme for time to treat each individual as a real person, to listen to them, for each had a story to tell. Miss C whose voice still carried the Irish lilt of her childhood and who had spent the war years as a governess in Paris. Sister E a house mother in a Methodist children’s home who was visited regularly by the children she had bought up, all successful in their own right. Mr S. who could not forget the boyhood friends who had been killed beside him on the Normandy beaches and mourned them till he died. Among them was a lady who said to me ‘It takes a lot of courage to be old’ and it does. Each lived with daily pain and needed help with tasks that most of us never think about, many too stiff to pick a fallen object from the floor, too fragile to get to the toilet on their own. All grieving quietly for the homes they had left, the personal treasures and the books they had collected over life time.
My mind moved to memories of my mother-in-law. She cut the apron strings that might have held her sons and set them free, earning the love and admiration of her two daughters-in-law. Never once did either of us hear any criticism of anything we did. She had a subtle way of letting me know if she disapproved of a plan I had in mind but if I persisted she would support me to the hilt. She gave me a silver sixpence, a keepsake from a young man she had watched march bravely off to war with Kitchener’s Army. He never returned.
I reached out in the darkness
Your presence real to my waking mind
But you were gone.
All that remains is aching emptiness,
But just as wounds are proof of injury
So this deep pain confirms the memories
Renders them precious
And yourself more dear.
Monday, 23 July 2007
What is a ghost?
A thought – a song – a sigh
Upon the wings of time
That echoes down the passages
Where you and I first met
And others who pass by
Will wonder why they pause and smile
Unknowing that the peace they feel
Was born in our content.
I wouldn’t call my self psychic although half a century ago I could be persuaded to read palms and I do own a crystal ball. You can read so much about personality in a palm but I found that casting the future is dangerous, especially when it turns out to be right and I soon gave it up. The problems of today are quite enough.
I inherited the crystal ball from my mother and keep it in a silk drawstring purse beside my desk. It has already featured in a novel I wrote for younger readers which lies unpublished waiting for a final editing. It will appear again in a historical novel which so far exists only in my head.
Psychic or not, I have found that many people claim to sense good or bad atmospheres when they are house hunting although they would deny any ghostly presence as nonsense.
Sunday, 22 July 2007
We have been in this refugee camp for a month now. It is a terrible place, mud ankle deep, full of the sound of crying children, no one has enough to eat and there is only one stand pipe for every hundred families. They have come from all over. Some have primitive tents; some have dug themselves tunnels into the banks around the camp. We’ve tried to dig latrines but many just squat and relieve themselves where they are and the stench is appalling. At least we are alive and we can dream and work for a better future once we have found the others.
It wasn’t always like this. We used to live in a fine city with wide clean streets. It was a well ordered society where each one of us had a purpose, everyone had enough to eat, everyone was employed. Central Control saw to everything and we were happy. Life was good and we were confident that it always would be, until the day of the earthquake. The maternity unit was at the top of the city near the warmth of the sun and felt the first tremor. Suddenly the walls fell in and the floor cracked. Midwives were running everywhere carrying newborns to safety. The top section of our citadel was destroyed but Central Control took charge and we rebuilt deeper into the earth. I and some of my term mates had just been trained to fly so when the order came to scramble a squadron we were detailed off to join the unit. We were above ground when the hot rain came. Steam and scalding water from on high destroyed all we had known. There was a great silence and then we heard a voice like thunder high above us
‘I’ve always hated ants. One more kettle of water should put paid to this lot.’
Saturday, 21 July 2007
Climbing the attic stairs I found a child
Head in hands weeping among the cobwebs.
She had found a long forgotten trunk
Iron bound, its leather rubbed and worn.
Within were dolls no longer loved
For those who loved them are long gone
A teddy bear, a rabbit with one ear
Still waiting to be remembered.
Where are they now
The children who once dreamed of days to come?
Their days are gone
We never knew them and we never will.
Friday, 20 July 2007
Accompanied by tankards of good beer
Allows us to develop themes and share
Love, laughter, jealousy or fear
And contemplate a carefully crafted end.
A glass of wine, a connoisseur’s delight
Will be remembered for bouquet and taste
And for the dinner that it graced
Never a drop allowed to go to waste,
A story shorter than a summer’s night.
But for a poem I would choose
A glass of single malt to be my muse