I am, who I am

The NN8 Writers Group was given the task of writing about our name. What follows is the first in a series on the theme.

reading a poem at my parents diamond wedding anniversary
At school I was Carrot or Ginge
But that's not me anymore.
For years my surname was Knight
But I traded it for a mum-in-law.
Some shorten my name to Val
But they're only friends for a while.
My name can be sung, Val-der-ree
Or belted Amy Whitehouse style.
To a favoured few I'm Grandma
Never Gran, Nanny or Nan.
But to Him who knows me,
Really knows me,
And yet still loves me,
I am, who I am.

Sounds from our caravan.

Another poem about dogs to make me smile and remember those lazy, hazy days of summer when we would go away in the caravan, two adults and two dogs, for rest and relaxation. Not!

Starlight and new moonlight pierced the dark
and the sound of silence covered the park

Until,
the dogs ears cocked, they barked at the air
'cos they heard the rabbits nibbling out there.
She went to bed and he read his phone
while the dogs lips smacked on a half chewed bone, 
until they curled and sprawled in the chairs
occasionally stretching and shaking out hairs.

At the crack of dawn, there was a thud on the floor
As Bramble jumped down and scratched on the door.
To keep the peace, she let him in
and first on the bed was agile Pippin,
who stretched out between Val and Pete
then Bramble jumped up and curled on their feet.

The sound of snores filled the room
As man and beast slept once more in the gloom.

Val awoke and JUST THOUGHT of a short run
and before she knew it the whines had begun,
for dogs are psychic, no need to talk
and all excited they prepared for a walk.
Pete turned over and said, "Thank the God's"
for the bed was now his - no wife, no dogs.
Hysterical laughter came from the van
while inside she peed in the toilet/can.

And still she laughed and tears rolled down
'cos laughing at the world is better than a frown.

It’s a dog’s life.

Covid19 seems to have shrunk my world to a few people and a medium town in the Midlands. No longer are my poems on subjects life unfairness, injustice and poverty. Instead I think about dogs! Perhaps it is self preservation in a world which too big to solve. I suppose I could justify this poem as a form of mindfulness and appreciation of what I have; a thankfulness for the simple things in life.

I scratch the floor, at something after four
And wait for the sound
Of her stumbling down the stair, in her second-hand nightwear
To let me out the back door. 
In the misty garden, dark, I let out a muffled bark,
I can't help it, its an involuntary twitch.
She stands and waits, while I dither and cogitate
Deciding the best place to sh..
Then I follow her to bed, and settle by her head
And dare to lick her face with a kiss.
At seven my tummy rumbles and out of bed I tumble,
Pawing her curled up form.
A breakfast of sardines, sprinkled with some beans
And I'm ready for my daily walk.
I pull her to the park, chase Pippin for a lark
And if I'm lucky find some wet fox poo.
I wander up the hill, sniffing and cocking until
She hands me a treat and my lead,
Cos' she's finished on her phone and it's time to wander home
Where she wipes my fur and paws. 
The rest of the day I sleep, curled up, my head on my feet
Dreaming of rabbits, squirrels and sticks.

It's a dog's life, so, being the master, I know,
She can't resist my doleful eyes.
I wag my tail madly and she'll laugh and gladly
Give me what she knows I want.
I don't need to nip and grovel, my life is doggy simple.
Food, poos, treats and cuddles. 

I've no need to moan or grouse,
For I'M the master of her house.

River Nene

This is the fourth in a series of seasonal poems inspired by my local river, The Nene. As I ran along the river bank in this Covid year, 2020, it became clear that although our lives have changed, as we grapple with the affects of the pandemic, Mother Nature is still doing her stuff, and I found this comforting.This

This is the fourth in a series of seasonal poems inspired by my local river, The Nene. As I ran along the river bank, I became aware again of the power Mother Nature has to adapt and restore.

Swans still flock and the terns still swoop,
Bull rushes reach up at the water's edge.
Cows still graze the lush sweet grass
As the leaves yellow in the Autumn light.

Fear grows as a second wave threatens.

But down in the valley...

The river still flows and the fishermen wait,
Boots and shoes pound the Nene Way.
Tractors still plough and gulls follow
As the rosehips glisten in the weak sunlight.

Alarm deepens as the infection spreads.

But down by the river...

Ducklings have grown and signets have whitened,
Dogs off their leads sniff and follow
The well trodden path by the water's edge
And high above a red kite soars.

Autumn Thanks

Two songs keep digging into my consciousness like ear-worms, reminding me that despite the pandemic, climate change and the uncertain future, Autumn comes around with comforting regularity. The signs of Autumn may be delayed by Indian summers, and in the long term the seasons may merge, but nature is awesome in its ability to adapt and amaze us.

This is a reworking of an Autumn term Primary School favourite, sung in assemblies and now sung only in my head. There is always a reason to be thankful for small everyday things.

Autumn days when the grass is jewelled
and the silk inside a chestnut shell,
Lacy spiderwebs sparkling with dew,
All these things I love so well.

Another favourite tune that keeps playing in my head, especially when out running or walking, come rain or shine, is…

Oh Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, 
Consider all the worlds thy hand has made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
They power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my saviour God to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!

And for me ….

When the clouds appear and the rain drops fall as tears,
I doubt he's there, and wonder if it's true.
Then my soul, aches for affirmation
And I turn to him, my God, my faith renewed. 
Then sings my soul ...

one in a billion

A billion or more galaxies in the Universe.
The Milky Way is just one.

A hundred billion stars in the Milky Way.
Our sun is just one.

Nine planets orbit our sun.
Earth is just one.
196 million square miles
of sea and land, lakes and ice.
A blue planet spinning,
orbiting a sun 1.5 million miles away
and yet
providing warmth, light and life.
195 countries
the UK is just one.
93 thousand square miles
of mountains, villages, fen and marsh
cities, towns and villages.
Four countries, united yet divided.
England is just one.
50,000 square miles
of beauty and desolation,
patchwork fields, heathland and moor,
motorways, roads and lanes.
4,400 island,
Isle of Wight is just one.
150 square miles
of slower living, beaches and cliffs.
6 towns, umpteen villages.
Godshill is just one.
A model village
1/10  life size,
where you can be a giant,
towering and controlling,
or look up in awe, 
to be just one among billions.

Godshill.

On a visit to Godshill Model Village on the Isle of Wight, I became aware of why adults and children like small world play, whether it be Isla with the doll’s house or Pete with his train set.

Godshill, an apt name for the place, illuminated our relationship to our world and God to his world. We are not God’s small world play with his hand moving the pieces into place, building and knocking down his creation. Just as an Earthly parent cannot control all that happens to his world, his children, so God is not in control of his world, his children. The image of an all powerful God presiding in the heavens was dispelled when we saw for the first time from the moon, the Earth rise. Later the Hubble telescope showed us the vastness of space and our small place in it.

Thinking of our smallness gives me vertigo! And a heavenly hand playing with or controlling us, as both laughable and terrifying.

In my vision of our place in the Universe that I saw at Godshill, I understood again that God is present and with us – loving, comforting, guiding, reprimanding – throughout our life on this tiny planet, and “letting go and letting God” is not defeatist or fatalistic, but rather a recognition that we are not in control. So when you let go of the uncontrollables, peace of mind, a peace that passes all understanding, fills the gap.

Islander

Written while on holiday on the Isle of Wight, 2020. In the news was the Corona pandemic, refugees arriving by dingy on the coast of Kent, and the Brexit deal.

Bird’s eye view of Ise of Wight. Ventnor.
Perhaps it's because we're an island race
That each year we're called to the sea;
Packing up bags and longing to taste
The salty air, relax and just be. 

This group of isles off Europe's coast
Settled by Romans, then the Saxon's home,
Conquered by Normans, (the Nazis almost);
Come together in the British genome.

Is it because we're an island race
And the sea defines our borders,
That some are conscious of limited space 
 So call for tighter immigration orders.

Maybe it's because we're an island race
That some fear being over run.
While others are willing to reach and embrace
Seeing all humans as one.

No one is an island, the poet wrote
So naming our inter-dependency 
And yet the channel has become our moat.
Pull up the drawbridge, Brexit's our legacy.
Carisbrooke Castle. Newport. Isle of Wight.
View from the barricades. Carisbrooke.

Foundations remain firm as the ground shifts.

The ground has shifted and what I thought was firm and solid has turned to sand. Trust in the news, the government and in the experts has been washed away and what is left is uncertainty and fear.

When the ground shifted, I was jolted and the confidence in who I am, was picked off, leaving me feeling exposed and lost. What I thought was important and defining, I now consider a burden that drags me down. It is too heavy, huge, overwhelming so my only thoughts are how and when can I let go and find peace and purpose again.

The ground shifted when “zoom” replaced face to face encounters. How can I sit and see myself, exposed and vulnerable, scrabbling around for words and seeing all along that I have been an imposter. Face to face, pen to paper, speaking and listening were lost as the ground shifted.

Is it any wonder then that I have returned to solid ground, the assurance of being accepted by my family who expect nothing but love. The comfort of knowing I am loved for who I am, not for what I do, is the firm ground under the shifting sands of this year.

And that brings me to the matter of my faith which for a year has been battered and bruised by bereavement, exhaustion, fear, pandemic and mistrust. Under it all is the firm solid ground laid down in my infancy. The familiar words of hymns and prayers, the comforting sacrament of forgiveness and the mystery of communion with God through bread and wine.

I am standing on the solid ground of faith and of being loved and it would be easy to stay on this island I have rediscovered; stay and retreat from the world of shifting certainties and believeable lies.

But God, who is my firm foundation calls me to love him and others, as I have learnt to love myself. He never said life with him would be easy, but rather take up a cross and follow him.

So I stand on His piece of solid ground, looking into an uncertain future, poised and ready to step where ever he calls.