Michael’s response to the Trigger ‘call’:
Tapping at my door by Michael Keeble
I must have nodded off again there’s different stuff on my TV.
I don’t know what it’s all about; it doesn’t matter much to me.
Sometimes I see a place I went a while ago when I was young,
And sometimes I will hear a song, but not one that I would have sung
When I was young I had such fun, the boys, the dances – and the war,
But that was then and this is now. I’m not sure what I’m living for.
So many places I have been, and seen and done so many things
But now I sit and doze and dream and hope the telephone will ring
I keep the TV loud because my hearing’s going very wrong
It’s there for company you know, and no one visits here for long
It must be nearly Christmas now. The TV’s full of ads for toys
It’s lonely here and all I have is pictures and the TV’s noise
And no one comes to see me now except the meals on wheels man.
He doesn’t stay, he’s in and out and back inside his nice warm van.
When I was young on Christmas Eve we would, before we went to sleep
Hang a stocking on the bed and promise that we’d never peep
In case we caught old Santa Claus delivering our Christmas gifts
Now who’s that tapping at my door? Meals on Wheels don’t do late shifts.
Again I hear that tapping sound. I hear it just outside my room
Is that the old Grim Reaper come to light my way to sleepy doom?
The door flies open and I see my daughter come to visit me
And just behind her, can it be, my grandson with his family
My daughter speaks “Remember me, I’ve come to take you home for tea
“Yesterday I said we’d be coming round to you at three
“But you’re not ready, never mind, we’ll always take you as we find”
And so I’m bundled in their car and driven not so very far.
I’m told I’m staying overnight. I’m beaming now with huge delight.
I’m told the reason I must stay. Tomorrow it is Christmas day.
A real piece for the writers out there: Fay’s response to the trigger ‘call’, tells a moving story of how she came about writing the original poem.
The Call, by Fay Marie Morris
During early spring, 2015, I was given a journal that had been handwritten by my uncle Vic. He was writing about his experiences while on active service during WW2. It starts:
B N [battallion] EMBARKED ON TROOPSHIP S.S. CANTERBURY AT NEWHAVEN SUSSEX. FOR FRANCE.
THIS WAS IT. D DAY TROOPS SAILED DOWN COAST TO PORTSMOUTH AND CROSSED THE CHANNEL DURING
NIGHT. DEAR OLD ENGLAND LEFT BEHIND’…
I can’t explain my feelings when I first read it. Uncle Vic was my mother’s little brother and they were very close. He was 3 years old and my mother was 7 when she was given the job of bringing him up. Their mother had died suddenly in 1921 and their father, a Durham coal-miner, had struggled with both his loss and being solely responsible for the welfare of 4 motherless children.
I really admired my uncle Vic, better known as Dobbie. He was such a lovely man and would light up a room whenever he walked in. He always saw the funny side of everything and his words throughout the journal highlight this, brilliantly. Towards the bottom of the first page he writes, STILL HAD TO WADE THROUGH WATER. [160 BDE?] GERMAN SHELLS STILL WHINING OVER OUR HEADS INTO THE SEA. ON DRY LAND AT LAST BUT IN FRANCE. KEPT WISHING I HAD JOINED THE NAVY… which is the first of many funny quips he inserted into the most dangerous of situations. No wonder everyone loved him!
He spent his 5 war years in the Welsh Regiment and was later mentioned in dispatches for distinguished service gallantry in North West Europe. His mates wrote to the local newspaper asking if they would include the letter, ‘FOR HIS FOLKS TO READ, AS THEY WOULD NEVER READ IT FROM HIM.’ They said.
Thankfully, both the letter and journal were kept safe and sound by my mum’s older sister, auntie Minnie but it ends abruptly, on page 51 and these were his last words, ‘ THE MO WAS KEPT BUSY! THE PADRE HAD PLENTY TO DO AS WELL!’
He’d been writing about the difficulty of keeping the ‘LINES’ operative due to ‘JERRY STONKING [SHELLING] AT REGULAR INTERVALS’, stretcher bearers [S-BS] bringing people in from the ‘COYS? and of the horrific injuries and lack of ‘FIELD DRESSINGS’. He describes how he and others had had to rip off their own field dressings to help a truck driver who was unloading his truck when it got a direct hit. He says ‘HE WASN’T HALF IN A MESS. HE WAS FULL OF HOLES AND THE BLOOD WAS RUNNING FROM HIS EARS EYES NOSE AND MOUTH’.
Something not included in the journal, and only known by me because of listening in to family conversations. Later in the war his battalion was stationed behind enemy lines in The Reichwell Forest [not sure of spelling] somewhere in N.W. Germany. His battalion liberated Belsen/Bergen Concentration Camp, an experience he never ever came to terms with.
I feel very sad that my mother [the Nan or Nancy mentioned several times throughout the journal] knew nothing of it. He often wrote that he wondered how she was and what she was doing and I only found out about the journal myself because my cousin Peter happened to come across it when clearing out his mother’s [my auntie Minnie’s] affects, after she died. He then put it in a drawer and forgot about it for several decades. He was an old man when he passed it on to me in 2015 and asked if I would let uncle Vic’s kids know about it.
Thankfully, my daughter Lisa helped me scan the 60 odd pages in the small, buff coloured notebook. She then enlarged and attempted to clarify them, while taking great care not to lose the integrity of the original, sometimes scribbled, faded pencil handwriting.
I sent Ian, his eldest son, the original notebook, of which he knew nothing. We made 7 copies altogether and sent one to each of his 3 kids, another for cousin Peter and 1 each for me and my 2.
I heard recently that Ian has donated the original notebook to Bishop Auckland War Museum. Uncle Vic was a well-liked and highly respected Town Councillor for many years and a local park has since been created and named in his honour, with shiny brass plaque to prove it, something I’m sure he would have hated.
After reading through the journal, several times, I felt compelled to write a poem about the waste and futility of war and decided to set it during WW1, but, I have no idea why except that by distancing myself from it, might have made it a little easier to write…
ANSWERING THE CALL.
It had been such a long time since daybreak
and the fighting was not over yet.
He waited, next to the rest of his mates
with beads of sweat running down his neck.
Thinking of Mary, his sweetheart back home,
wondering when he’d see her again.
He pictured her face and her golden hair
instead of the mud and pouring rain.
Would she be waiting when all this was done?
Would she consent to become his bride?
Would they be happy and have many bairns?
Would they stay together all their lives?
Her eyes were the blue of forget-me-nots
and her lips were like soft pink rose buds.
She smelt of green meadows in early spring
and of fresh new growth, so clean and good.
He remembered her, standing in the lane,
with salty tears streaming down her face.
He wondered if she’d be there at the end
still dressed like a maid, in snow white lace.
His mother had cried as she waved farewell
and he just marched away from her arms.
His father had stood with stiff upper lip
while suppressing the worst of his qualms.
He had answered the call to arms with pride
and was ready and eager to go.
Until he heard screams and the sound of guns,
something we hope we will never know.
All of his dreams disappeared in a flash
and his heart seemed to turn into ice
but he steeled himself, went over the top… s
ealing his fate with the roll of a dice.
By Faymarie Morris. Nov 2016
I very nearly didn’t finish it but the poem began to assert itself after I read the last few pages of the notebook for about the 5th time.
Uncle Vic had made a list of all his ‘GIRLS’, starting when he was only 15 and I couldn’t understand why, until I realised it was probably to try and take his mind off what was happening to him or what he was expected to do. I imagine that anything from his youth would have been better than the reality of the situation, and listing his many girlfriends would have been a distraction he’d have welcomed with open arms.
The last girl he wrote about was Margaret Wright, my mother’s best friend and much later, her bridesmaid. He said how lovely she was but that he was too shy. He said he would have asked her to marry him, but was too slow.
In my poem, the soldier is thinking about Mary, his girl back home. A scenario that must have been played out many millions of times, in all the trenches or bivouacs of every war that has ever been fought.
Also, I would like to dedicate the poem to the memory of my dad’s sister, auntie Louie, who was only 21 when she learned that her fiancee had lost his life in Ypres, on the same day he arrived there. This fact seemed to have coloured the rest of her life because she never married. I really loved my eccentric auntie Louie, she was certainly a one off, but most people saw her as a sad, weird, lonely old spinster until the day she died, aged 86.
LEST WE FORGET!!
Pete’s response to the trigger ‘tap’.
TAP, TAP … TAP, TAP, TAP by Pete Brammer
A new doctor stretched out, behind his desk,
Holding a nameplate, in shining brass,
‘Tap, tap … tap, tap, tap’,
When in walked, hypochondriac, Jane Glass.
“I need medication for my arthritis,
Stomach ulcers and my heart,
And, what about my inflamed bowels?
So embarrassing, they make me fart.
“There’s cream I require, for cystitis,
My haemorrhoids are playing-up too,
And how long, I’ve suffered with migraine?
To be honest, I haven’t a clue.
“But worst of all, are my chest pains,
I’m having a heart attack.” she said.
After carefully reading her medical notes,
“You are a fraud, and just swinging the lead.
“I just don’t have the time, to waste on you.”
His feelings, he just couldn’t hide,
But later was given, the shocking news,
She collapsed, and died outside.
That first day in practice, played on his mind,
To the point, when he broke down and cried, F
inally he found, he could take it no more,
And was forced to, commit suicide.
Ironically, they buried him next to her,
Him, with his terrible burns.
Next day on his coffin; ‘Tap, tap … tap, tap, tap.’
“Hey doctor, have you got anything for worms?”
A Christmas story poem from Michael
Master of the Universe
Mark’s seven figure bonus burned the pockets of his jeans
Another Aston Martin now came well within his means.
His penthouse flat deposit came from last year’s bonus pack
His options and his pension fund kept future plans on track.
“Life is good this Christmas”, thought the banker looking down
From off his lofty balcony upon the dirty town.
“Tonight I’ll worship Mammon and give thanks for all my gains
And toast the banking system in plentiful champagnes”
The night was cold and wet and grey, but Mark just didn’t care
He’d spent a fortune getting drunk and barely had the fare
To catch a taxi home to bed to sleep the night away
And dream of all the stuff to buy with his inflated pay.
The bar had closed, his friends had gone, and now he stood again
Weaving gently on the kerb of this deserted lane.
As if to make his night complete he saw with bleary sight
A taxi cab approaching him, “For Hire” sign alight.
He slumped himself into the seat and gently closed his eyes,
Opened up his eyes again and there to his surprise
Sat Jacob, friend from student days, who’d made a pile in Law
But had succumbed to early death, but now sat there before
The puzzled and bewildered Mark who couldn’t quite recall
If he had asked this ghost along, he wasn’t sure at all.
What actually was going on until the spectre spoke
And reassured his banker chum that this was not a joke
“I died” he said “before I could enjoy the fruits of wealth
“My sole concern was money; I cared not for my health
“And so it was one day as I was thinking what to buy
“The reaper came with sharpened scythe and told me I would die
“And now I am condemned to ride in this my ghostly cab
“Until I can convince one more, that life is more than grab
“Up all the money and the things that it can get.
“I sit here ev’ry Christmas but I haven’t done it yet.”
“Don’t think I’m the one to change” said Mark “what’s mine stays mine,
“And anyway I’ve set my sights upon a DB9.”
The cab came to a stop beside a place Mark didn’t know
A wasteland by the riverside where desp’rate people go.
Figures shuffled aimlessly or simply stood around
Their clothes were ragged, pride had gone; they stared upon the ground
Having seen more than enough Mark slowly turned his head
To speak to Jacob opposite but, shockingly, instead
An image of himself stared back, unwashed and dressed in rags
A bottle clutched in dirty hands, his stuff in plastic bags.
“Hi Mark” this vision said at last and took another drink
“You don’t know me yet” he said “but just in case you think
“That bankers only give it out and are themselves immune
“I’ll draw you a scenario that hums a diff’rent tune.
“Your bank collapsed from dodgy deals and you were thus deposed.
“You couldn’t pay your debts and so your creditors foreclosed
“And here you are a year ahead, you’re homeless and bereft
“You’ve taken to the bottle ‘cos there’s simply nothing left.”
He paused and stared at Mark awhile then spoke again at last
“You know they say when going up take care of those you pass
“‘cause when you’re going down you may be grateful for their aid,
“Well here I am already down and you’re already made.
“You never gave a single thought beyond your greedy self”
He winked and then ironic’lly he drank the banker’s health.
In guilt Mark closed his eyes to shut his other self away
And when he opened them again the night had turned to day
“Just a nasty dream” he thought. He was lying in his bed
But he couldn’t lose the awful feeling running through his head.
Hungover from the night before, he turned the TV on
To idly watch the news unfold but knowing all along
That Masters of the Universe like him could not be caught
By pestilence or poverty, that all things could be bought;
But then upon the screen appeared a face he’d seen before
Looking from a taxi parked before his own front door.
“I’ve come to take you back” he said “there’s very little time
“For you to make amends for greed before the church bells chime
“The blessings of the Christmastide, and peace, goodwill to all.
“Or wallow in your cosy bed and see what will befall
“You when you’re on your way to gutter land and begging in the streets
“And cardboard packing keeps you warm instead of silken sheets.”
The screen then switched to show the place the scene so desolate
That Mark had seen the night before depicting what his fate
Would be if he should not give up his greedy selfish ways;
The likelihood was that this could be how he ends his days.
What thoughts went through Mark’s mind just then will never now be known
But soon he turned the TV off and reached out for his ‘phone,
Speed-dialled the Aston Martin sales and when they came on line
“Enquiring for my order for my bright red DB9
“I’ve come to a decision and I thought I’d let you know
“That I’m cancelling the order and instead will now bestow
“My yearly bonus from the bank upon those most in need
“Christmas is a time to give and not for selfish greed.”
By Barrie Purnell
We met on a chill day in November
I was hungry, forlorn and frightened.
She offered me shelter and comfort
The bitterness of my life was sweetened.
She said come I can offer you refuge
I have an antidote here for your pain.
I will turn the light off on your nightmares,
I won’t ask you to confess or explain.
I was happy to take up her offer,
She possessed the flawless beauty of youth,
If I could have seen past that pretty face,
I may have cracked the code to her truth.
She offered me some liquid refreshment,
She told me to just drink it all up,
I didn’t know that the drink she offered
Was infatuation in a cracked plastic cup.
I drank deeply and felt myself falling,
The cup slipped from my hand to the floor,
As the smile evaporated from her lips
She said we won’t need that cup anymore.
You’ll be my partner descending to darkness,
For all my transgressions you’ll pick up the bill.
I said that I couldn’t, I said I wouldn’t,
She said sorry, but you must and you will.
I should have run, I should have departed,
For some reason I could not make that choice,
An invisible web seemed to hold me,
Spun round me by all the lies in her voice.
I had drunk from her cup of obsession,
From that moment my freewill was hers,
I became the foodstuff for her hunger,
Satisfying all her needs and desires.
She said now you must sign your surrender,
Put all of your inhibitions aside,
You abandoned yourself freely to me,
And you did it with your eyes open wide.
But she had mistaken need for desire,
My eyes too blinded by tears to see,
It wasn’t love she wanted but possession,
She wasn’t my saviour but my enemy.
She had invaded my whole being,
My mind now had a mind of its own,
Her mind was a mystery kept well hidden.
Behind the disguises that you were shown.
She let no one inside her defenses,
Never forgiving, always up for the fight,
Her guard always up never lowered,
No one really knew her but the night.
Her ears they were deaf to my protests,
Her eyes those from which tears never shed,
Her heart was like ice, only colder,
I love you were words her lips never said.
Having no moral compass to guide her,
Never driven to repay any debt,
Giving no one her heart’s secret password,
She never experienced pain or regret.
Why wouldn’t she give me my freedom?
Why did she write everything down?
Why was she always so close beside me?
Why were my arms always so tightly bound?
She was a terrorist in a black lace dress,
A switchblade hidden in her velvet glove,
Holding me to ransom for a million tears,
Stealing my heart but killing off love.
I was trapped by her burning obsession
I was desperate to leave and be free,
Whether you’re in a refuge or a prison
I’d found was only a matter of degree.
I asked my friends if they would help me,
But they said they couldn’t afford the time.
I asked for help from the arm of the law,
They said obsessive love was not yet a crime.
I asked my doctor could he prescribe a cure
For the sickness that I was speaking of,
He looked in every one of his healing books
But he could find not one cure for love.
Then I turned to my god for an answer,
I asked the Priest to take my confession,
I asked for a way out of my prison,
He said there’s no way out of obsession.
To love is one of God’s prime commandments,
Obsession’s just love by some other name,
You know love is God’s gift to all lovers
If you leave her God will know who to blame.
I was trapped and I could see no way out,
I walked to the bridge over the river,
She had consumed all of me that mattered,
There was now nothing else I could give her.
Despairing I climbed onto the parapet,
Looked down at the cold dark waters below,
When a hand tapped me on my shoulder,
It was a friend from a long time ago.
I asked her for help to find the answer
To where the antidote was hidden,
That would end my tormentor’s obsession
I’d already tried drugs, booze and religion.
She said the answer lies within yourself
It was my self-worth I had to address,
Only then could I break the chains holding me,
To one who didn’t love but sought to possess.
You told me if I broke free you’d be there,
You promised I’d never again be alone,
If I offered my heart you’d not take my soul,
I was reassured by your words and your tone.
You opened the door to my deliverance,
The vision to see through all of her lies,
I told her I would be leaving forever,
I saw the world anew through your eyes.
I told my tormentor not to follow,
If she found me there would be no reward,
Her passion had exceeded my allowance,
Her obsessive love I could no longer afford.
I could not afford all the suffering,
I couldn’t afford to live in her shrine,
I couldn’t afford all of her maintenance,
I just couldn’t afford to give her my time.
I left quickly without looking backwards,
Into your enfolding, forgiving arms,
You didn’t question me or pass judgement,
You didn’t moralise or quote me from psalms.
You saved me from obsession’s dark waters,
You gave me hope when I thought all was lost,
I was saved by your tap on my shoulder
You were my own personal Pentecost.
Maybe you don’t have all of her passion,
Or have the perfect beauty of youth,
But you have the honesty of experience,
And the matchless beauty of truth.
One from a younger Retford Writer – especially for today
By Sarah Bryn-Jones Aged 8 Yrs.
In Flanders Fields only poppies grow,
Thousands of them, row upon row.
Millions of men risked their lives
Most of them didn’t want to fight.
A lot of them died from a bullet in the chest.
I am not saying they were not the best.
In Flanders Fields people Died.
Now we visit them where they Lie.