THE SECRET By Margaret Moreton.

THE SECRET    By Margaret Moreton.
     There is something in us all that loves a secret; we feel special, cared for, important even at having something, one day, to divulge.
    She was taking an exploratory, speculative survey of her garden in the early weeks of the year, letting her mind range over the needs and promises of the coming seasons. She looked at her cluster of hyacinth bulbs. She had wondered, when she planted them what would develop – and now, there appeared just a hint, in the thick, short green shoots of what was to come in good time. She figured that the wholesome bulb was beginning to awaken and thus to reveal its secret – a beautiful harvest for all to see. In the peacefulness of this familiar place, a sudden thought coursed through her brain – may be, just may be, there may be another harvest ripening in the Autumn.
    
    She spoke in the silence of her aloneness to those she had loved and lost, long since – told of her supreme gladness at this unexpected realisation. This new life would be a friend, an ally; a sparring partner to the other family members. She wondered, with them large in her heart, what reactions would evolve – but she was sure she knew. She pondered this pledge, this fruit of a life-times love; this being to be part of a rich inheritance of love, but ‘for now’ she said ‘just mine to contemplate and marvel at.’ Soon, she would share this excess of love with its creator, and together soon they would shout from the roof-tops of the secret that they had shared.
  
    She was needed in field and garden and playground and kitchen and she swathed herself in her old, familiar heavy apron – it would mask the first tentative wideness of the future  and it would keep her secret for another week or two. She counted her blessings that though she had much to do in the business of living, she was given this supreme privilege and joy of sharing in creation. This was not the first time she had known such joy, such wonder and such hope – her exultation had not diminished in any way and it put a gentle, deep smile on her face. She had trodden this road before and well-knew its surprises and snares and its hopes and joys. She wanted to share her secret with its giver, but wait a while – just a day or two more to rest content at its promise. In her heart she knew that there was a reason for this coming blessing. When that reason would be apparent she knew not – it may not be clear to the world but it would be – she was sure that she knew…
     An Autumn coming – how truly apt it seemed, in tune with the ripeness and fullness of nature. She had enjoyed the private and personal thoughts which the coming new life afforded her and she knew so well the nurture that she would provide, but now, now was the time to share this joy and contemplation with her soul-mate, with he who launched its being. There was room in her heart for anything they achieved together , but this, once again was aeons beyond the mundane and the matter-of-fact; this was a so very special secret unmasked.
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Silver and gold by Joe Lyons

Silver and gold by Joe Lyons

Are all granddads full of fun?

Always with kind words?

Do all Nans say, when granddad smiles

that they could charm the birds?

When granddad laughs his tummy shakes

it really is the best

It wobbles like jelly,

when we kids bounce on his chest

At night we have a story before we go to sleep

Tales of wonder and heroes just about to leap

Always into danger to rescue a maiden fair

She awaits with a smiling face and long golden hair

Fighting dragons and fierce creatures we’d travel near and far

Our mission to save good people although we’d never go by car

With his golden teeth and silver hair glinting in the sun

I’d fall asleep after each adventure safe, content we’d had good fun

We could never come to any harm with granddad always there

Sleep always coming easy, in our life without a care

Granddads bedtime stories entertain us while they’re here

Except when he falls asleep after he’s had a glass of beer

Granddads and Nans are worth their weight in gold

Even though at times I know they say they’re getting old

We hope they will always be here, and always stay with us

To be around them means everything and fills us up with love

THE PICTURE By Faymarie Morris.

THE PICTURE  By Faymarie Morris.

      The child ran helter-skelter along the lane, the puppy scampering after. His stubby legs kept tripping him as he valiantly tried to keep up and blonde pony-tail and black puppy-tail streamed out behind them like pennants.
      They galloped through a familiar gateway into an adjoining lane which pointed into the distance, towards the dark wildwood. The child started to slow down which allowed the puppy to race on ahead, but he kept stopping, momentarily, to check the child was following and also to sniff out nature.
       There was a family of rabbits that were happy for him to chase them, knowing full-well he’d never catch them, and an old vixen that snuffled behind his ears until he felt, once again, thoroughly cleansed and mother-washed. A pair of nesting pheasants that had been unsure of him until he collected a pile of dead leaves together, with his nose, in a bid to camouflage their nest.
      Low autumn sunbeams streaked between the trees as the child stopped to watch a squirrel scurrying up the spreading chestnut tree, his cheeks bulging with nuts. He disappeared. She stood on tiptoe, trying to see where he had gone. The puppy doubled back, wondering what the hold up could be and found the child standing, like a statue, staring upwards.
      A strange noise penetrated her brain like the crack of a whip. She stirred and opened her eyes. Where was she? She could still feel the damp woodland all around her, smell Patch’s wet fur and the unmistakable odour of decay. Leaves breaking down, lichen taking hold on fallen tree trunks, mildew, rust, mould and fungal spores that spread like unseen tree roots.
     A blinding light flashed in her eyes and she wondered if it was the sun. She blinked twice and could make out another, much gentler light that was shining on the picture of a bright faced child hugging a black and white puppy close to her chest, his tongue lolling idly.
     Sitting bolt upright, she clutched at the empty air and cried out. She wanted that joyous, carefree other lifetime, which was much more real to her than this painful, ugly, stiff one.
      The pleasing aroma of damp woodland was slowly being pushed away by another, less pleasant smell. Stale, cheap perfume mixed with the warm, acrid stench of fresh urine.
      ‘Well, she’s done it again, I knew she would.’ A faraway voice said, peeling back the bedclothes. ‘Poor old thing is staring up at that picture again. Wonder who that pretty child was?’
Well, Ruth knew. Ruth knew exactly who it was but they didn’t need to know, ever. Nobody did. Patch pushed his wet nose into her hand once again and she reached out for him. The smell of damp woodland was coming back and she smiled, welcoming it.
     Arms and hands were frantically tugging at her, lifting her, unsettling her and then pressing her back down again. She didn’t care what these unknown hands were doing and went sprinting away, after Patch, into the woods. But he was running quicker than he had ever run before. Away he streaked, into the trees where she couldn’t catch him. She shouted his name over and over. Lights flashed in her eyes but she hardly even saw them. All she wanted was to find Patch and suddenly there he was. Up ahead. She shouted his name again and beckoned for him to come to her, but instead, he just stood like a statue, by the chestnut tree, waiting patiently for her.
     All she wanted was to smell his damp fur and feel his soft warm pink belly, so she set off and this time she knew for sure that she would reach him. Along the dark tunnel of trees she went, towards him…

THE POWER OF MUSIC by Michael Healy

THE POWER OF MUSIC by Michael Healy

Let music reach your hidden soul

Make you smile, that is the goal

To take away your heavy cares

And answer all your heart-felt prayers.

 

As if those magic music notes

Build in your life a line of hope

That things in time will better be

As we follow our own life’s tree.

 

No matter what may be the tune

From Elgar, to the wizard Who

Those subtle sound combinations

Produce a kind of exhilaration.

 

The harmonies mix within the mind

To interact with brain wave signs

To give a shower of stimulations

Which pleasantly bring healing sensations.

 

So let those chords flow through your ears

And feel the growing smile bring cheers,

Mix music with a cheery poem

So much better you’ll feel without knowing,

 

And the reason is sure to be M-U-S-I-C, Music!

 

Michael Healy

THE END OF A LOVE AFFAIR by BARRIE PURNELL

One for Valentine’s day from new member Barrie?

                   THE END OF A LOVE AFFAIR

BARRIE PURNELL

We met by chance it was a brief encounter just one night

We talked and laughed and kissed goodbye and said we’d write

Words thrown into the darkness not to be examined in the light

But her letter told me of her love in words so erudite

They broke through my defences like a stick of gelignite

So from that chance encounter a lifetime love affair took flight

 

We stole time for days together nights we couldn’t say goodbye

We hid inside each others hearts oblivious to passers by

I told her I would always make her happy and never make her cry

I would give her everything I had and never ask her why

And that from all previous lovers my bonds I would untie

And all my secret places I would let her occupy

 

She soon knew all about me understood everything I said

She had the key to thoughts I kept locked up in my head

Dylan’s words became the soundtrack to our lives when newly wed

She played me Leonard Cohen’s songs when we lay together in our bed

We were living in the moment no thought of what might lie ahead

We pushed away reality and wrapped ourselves in youth instead

 

Our love was all embracing it was a selfish love I know

No time for family or friends or that nightly TV show

Pursuing our ambitions we watched our fortunes grow

Searching for that croc of gold at the end of life’s rainbow

So as years passed and ambitions faded how were we to know

That we’d find just what we’d dreamed of that long long time ago

 

We had all of those possessions we’d once looked at from afar

A big house with indoor swimming pool and a silken lined boudoir

The chairs they were by Chippendale with a walnut escritoire

On the wall a painting by Rossetti we purchased in Dunbar

With gold and silver jewellery from an Istanbul bazaar

And outside in the garage a big black Bentley car

 

But when I lost my love those dreams dissolved in the cold November rain

Her photographs and my memories are now all that remain

To remind me of those sunnier times that I never can regain

I was left feeling like an addict who’s deprived of his cocaine

All those sympathetic words raised tears I struggled to contain

Just realising that my life would never be the same again

 

Oh if life could only stay the same but that’s never going to be

Times thief steals love from everyone this time his victim’s me

The pain of loneliness or death is just a matter of degree

The night ignores my cries for help it is my enemy

A dark crevasse down which I fall where no one hears my plea

Only when we masquerade as lovers in my dreams am I set free

 

There are no words at my despair at losing her for good

Does it matter now I loved her and did everything I could?

And if to bring her back I shout her name into the graveyard’s wood

Just an echo of my voice comes back like I always knew it would

We rarely see him coming that reaper with his scythe and with his hood

And if we did would he know of our grief would he have understood?

 

Immortality is not for us we are just nature’s slave

It wields a random hand when selecting who’s next for the grave

However many deeds of kindness done or sinners we forgave

However many penances we take to the Cardinal’s conclave

But I can’t stop the tears of sadness for a love I could not save

And though I promised my love many things I never promised to be brave

 

I now look enviously at young lovers like some secretive voyeur

Time once a thief of love is now a devious saboteur

Distorting all my images of love so they all fade and blur

But my love was not so brief that I can forget how we once were

Yet a day will come, as if by accident, when I will not speak about her

Even once — and this the last line I will write her

African Jack by Pete Brammer

As the last deep mines in Britain close, here’s a poignant story from Pete

AFRICAN JACK

Lingford Mine was situated on the outskirts of Llansaintffraid, Powys, near Elan Village, employing some eight hundred and fifty men. The mine was opened by Glyn Bryn-Awel, businessman, landowner and Liberal MP in 1867 and was their first deep mine with some of the richest coal seams ever found in Wales. Now a drift, had been sunk with faces heading out in the opposite direction towards Newtown.

 The majority of coal travelled by rail to power stations in England. A small amount to households, including concessionary supplies for the miners. This being a good incentive to work at the pit, not that there were many other options left open to them. Industries in the area were few and far between. One or two collieries nearby had already been forced to close. Maggie Thatcher was truly the snake in the woodpile where that was concerned. The workforce feared for their jobs with good reason. She was determined to pay the miners back for what they had done to Ted Heath’s government and for causing the ‘Three Day Week’. Never in a million years would she ever give in to Arthur Scargill, even if it meant bankrupting the whole bloody country to satisfy her outrageous ego.

 The local Miners Welfare was usually a hive of activity full of laughter, banter and jokes, but now with the threat of pit closures the atmosphere was very downbeat. Men huddled round tables with their pints discussing what the future held for them. Gareth Jones an NUM official did his best to allay their fears. “It won’t come to that, you’ll see. Scargill will win the day for us. That he will”. Adding. “I know Arthur said the Tories will shut all the pits, but believe me, it won’t come to that”.

He had no sooner got his words out, when Daffyd Secombe their union secretary grabbed the microphone on stage. “Listen up lads I have a very important announcement to make”. There was a spontaneous hush in the hall. He looked extremely glum and upset. “I have just received news from management that our pit will be going into the ‘Review Proceedure’ as from Monday”. Gasps of horror reverberated around the room. If Thatcher had walked in at that moment, she would not have got out alive. They would have torn her limb from limb.

That night twenty-three miners collected their tallies from the Time Office and made their way to the Lamp Cabin. Once there, they collected both cap lamps and self rescuers. The odd cigarette was hidden in strategic places around the building to be collected seven or so hours later to light up on their way to the Pithead Baths.

 Arriving at the entrance to the Drift, they handed over one of the two brass tallies issued at the Time Office. Their moral was very low, some even debating whether they should be there at all. “We ought to be out on bloody strike. It it were a Yorkshire pit they’d be out for sure”. Grumbled Taffy Williams a Ripper.

Soon they were into carriages that would transport them down the gradient to the Pit Bottom. Yet another paddy awaited to take them up to the face, just over a mile away.

 No sooner had they set off when singing in unison began. A most welcome relief. First it was ‘Bless This House’, then ‘We’ll Keep a Welcome’, followed by ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’ and finally, ‘Land of my Fathers’.

The previous week saw this team break a longstanding output record. The manager Francis Thomas was quoted as saying. “I am extremely pleased with my lads. They always work as a team and are conscientious to a man”. He then added. “If anyone deserved to break the record, these lads did. They are the best”. Feelings within the workforce was that this record would be increased before the month was out.

Now that was the last thing on their minds. Yes. As you can imagine, moral had taken a massive dive. Work proceeded as usual up until snap time and well inside the target required to break the record. A lot of joking and small talk was taking place when the oldest and most experienced of the workforce, Richard Evan Jenkins suddenly cried out. “Quiet…Listen…For God’s sake listen!”

Everyone in the immediate area stopped eating and turned to look at him as a couple of rats scuttled past, followed by another three of their mates. A sharp cracking sound echoed along the face.

Jenkins was on his feet like a gazelle. “Get out or we’re all dead!”. He yelled.

His workmates didn’t need telling twice. Just like him, they too scrambled to their feet following in his wake.

Unfortunately, those further along the face were not so lucky. The roof came crashing down, burying sixteen of the team.

Before Jenkins and the other six could vacate the face, the roof in front collapsed. They were now well and truly trapped.

Dick tried to calm his men down. “Look, it’s no good panicking. That won’t get us anywhere. I suggest we turn most of our cap lamps off to save the batteries”. His voice seemed to have a calming effect. “Look. They’ll know by now on the surface that we are in trouble and will be putting rescue plans into operation. So let’s just keep calm”.

A Belt Fitter was climbing on the rubble, digging into it with his bare hands. “Come on. Let’s at least try and get out”. His frustration plain to see.

Jenkins pulled him down. “Save your energy Rees. We need all the oxygen we can get. We must preserve what little there is and what you’re doing doesn’t help”.

Eventually Jenkins had managed to persuade the other survivors round to his way of thinking.

Four and a half hours later saw them huddled together, to keep warm. Again it was Jenkins who demanded silence. “Listen…Listen… I told you they’d be down here to save us”. The sound that had come to their ears was a sound they had never heard before. It was eerie like something out of this world. It sounded slightly musical with a ‘whooshing’ of water. “It’s not rescuers!” Cried one of the men. “It’s water!….We’re all going to drown!” now panic really set in with a vengeance.

As if by magic, the wall of coal seemed to disintegrate before their eyes, leaving a three to four feet hole. The beams of light from their lamps illuminated the hole that had appeared. The coal looked perfectly dry and the sound they had heard, ceased.

A wave of calmness came over the men, when the figure of a black miner appeared on his hands and knees at the entrance. Unable to believe their good luck, a ripple of applause began as well as cheering. “Well?”. Asked the rescuer with a broad smile, exposing a mouth full of gleaming white teeth. “Are you going to follow me? Or are you happy to stay here?”. He smiled. “By the way, I’m African Jack. Together we will make it out of here”.

One by one they entered the hole. Their lamps lit up the long tunnel. It was as smooth as glass with no sign of cutter marks along its length. “Where are the other rescuers?”. Rees asked Jenkins. “He couldn’t have cut this on his own and what about a cutting machine? There’s nothing. Just nothing”.

Jenkins shrugged his shoulders. “Who cares? Let’s get out and worry about that later”.

Reaching the far end of the tunnel African Jack assisted them out of the opening one by one.

Still leading them like a shepherd leading his sheep, he led them to the first set of air-doors. Once through they realized the black African wasn’t with them anymore. Where had he gone? Had he gone back? They couldn’t have imagined him. No, that was impossible for they had all seen him. Making their way to the next set of air-doors, they were met by men from the Mines Rescue Service. There were spontaneous handshakes and hugs as well as a few tears, as information was exchanged.

Once on the surface the men were checked over in the Medical Centre before being allowed to shower in case of delayed shock or any other problems they may have incurred.

After showering they made their way down to the General Office to be interviewed by the Home Office Inspector of Mines, Mr. Ivor Cripps and other safety officials. They wanted information on what had occured and the conditions they had escaped from. Also if there was any chance that others may still be alive down there requiring rescue. The rescue team had re entered the mine but were unable to locate the tunnel which the men had described.

Ivor Cripps looked exasperated. “Nothing of this makes sense. Men and possibly bodies are still trapped behind yards and yards a solid rubble”. He glared at Jenkins. “What you want us to believe is bloody poppycock”.

Jenkins stood up. “With all due respects sir, I am a very sceptical man, but I will confirm what these men have reported. It might sound far fetched, but believe me, the black man did save our lives”. Cripps shook his head. “Well please explain why no such hole exists and no such coloured man was working in the mine”. He continued. “We’ve got men slaving away down there trying to get through to those poor sods on the other side, be they dead or alive”.

Still on his feet, Jenkins replied. “I’m sorry sir, but we can only report what actually happened”.

Although embarrassed, every man stuck resolutely to his story. Their reports all matched to the last letter.

Eighty-six hours later the breakthrough was made to reach the sixteen dead bodies, still buried a few yards further on.

Eventually the dead were located. Coffins had been solemnly transported underground for their return to the surface it wasn’t until old records from the archives were studied, that it came to light, nine decades ago to the very day of the disaster, there was an inrush of water that took the life of, amongst others, a black African miner named Jack Klambunda. His nickname was of course ‘African Jack’. The body of Klambunda was never found. The inrush of water had sadly turned him to clay.

WITCH MEAT FOR CHRISTMAS by Pete Brammer

WITCH MEAT FOR CHRISTMAS by Pete Brammer

I was once a handsome prince,

Most dashing ever seen,

Until I fell out with a witch,

At a dance at Halloween.

 

One can’t help having size ten shoes,

Which turned the old girl shirty,

For treading on her blessed feet,

Her spell made me a turkey.

 

And now that Christmas time is nigh.

I wonder at my fate,

I want to live a happy life,

Not carved up on a plate.

 

It’s not a thought I relish much,

Believe me it’s no fun,

Thinking where the stuffing goes,

You’ve guessed, yes, up me bum.

 

So when you eat your Xmas lunch,

Please sit and spare a thought,

When looking at the Parson’s Nose,

It’s me you may have bought.