Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Minack

22nd August 2021

The Minack

"Anyone want a cup of tea?" I call out, lifting the kettle to fill it anyway. I wince at the pain, my hands aching after spending a couple of hours scraping old embossed wallpaper from walls in the hallway. 

"Please..." they all - hubby, daughter and son in law -  shout back in unison.

We sit unceremoniously around the large farmhouse table, four mugs, two plastic beakers containing water for the grandchildren - Raphy must have the dark blue one and Molly the pink- and snacks of biscuits and fruit to keep us going. We're all tired and I promise after my cup of tea I'll read some stories to the children, after all we have been neglecting them a bit. And I didn't say it but I'd had enough of scraping the walls. My back, my legs, my hands... Yes, even if I have to read Grimwort's Ghosts for the twentieth time, at least it'd be a rest for my body.

"Mum and Dad, we've got a surprise for you," Jo was eager to tell us her news. Paul sat there with a smile on his face. 

"What surprise?" I didn't like surprises. Must be my incessant desire to control every environment that I'm in. I tried to muster up some enthusiasm. Maybe I should have said, "A surprise, how lovely, what is it?" Easy to know how to react in retrospect. My query was, on the contrary, tinged with suspicion. Am I even going to like this surprise?

"We've got you tickets for the Minack Theatre for next week."  The Open air theatre, really? What if it rains? What if it's cold? What if I hate the performance? So many negative thoughts circling in my head. Yes, I know, you think I'm ungrateful. Probably I am.  And it must have shown on my face. I didn't mean it to. I tried for it not to.    

"You don't have to go. Me and Paul can use the tickets and you guys can babysit," I heard the hurt in her words. She was deflated.  Paul looked confused. I mean it was a present they were giving us.

"Well, I'd love to go, Jo. Thank you very much." said my dear hubby. 

"No, we'll go. What's on anyway? It's just, you know, I don't like surprises." Was I  making it worse. 

"Shakespeare's, "A Winter's Tale" , you'll love it mum." I hoped I would. I decided if I didn't get wet or cold, that would be a win.  

Porthchapel Beach

When the day came for our visit, we decided to make a day of it and get to see some of the area around the theatre - beaches, coast path, etc -   especially as it was meant to be really beautiful and we    wouldn't get back there again on this trip. 

After 9.30 Mass in Camborne we set off for Porthcurno, Penzance. As far as I recall the sat- nav predicted the journey would take about forty minutes. The last part of the journey took longer than expected. I  kept thinking we were nearly there, and that the sat-nav must be wrong, only to find more narrow roads to negotiate.   


After checking out where we had to go later and speaking to an official,  who told us the Theatre car park would be open at six o'clock, we headed off to find another car park we'd spotted back up the hill. which had a big sign saying   "All day - £3". 

"We'll just park there, then we won't have to worry," Peter said. I agreed. 

We set off for a walk, bringing nothing with us, not even beach attire. That was a mistake. We also had no water. Another mistake. 

It was a long walk, maybe half an hour, including the climb down, to Porthchapel Beach. It was beautiful. After an hour enjoying the sun and talking to a family Margate - yes, what are the odds? - I started to worry about hubby being hungry and more importantly needing fluids. 

Porthchapel Beach

On the way back up we asked a few people if they knew anywhere that sold food and drink, a cafe or something. Two options, both the same distance as going back to the car, and that's only if we found them. 

"I've actually got  something for dinner in the fridge," I said. "And I'll make coffee. It'll be easier."

"Ok, if you want," he'd have preferred to find a cafe, but didn't say anything. 

He handed me an empty plate. 

"I thoroughly enjoyed that," he said. 

"Yeh, it was good, wasn't it?"

A few new potatoes, some salad and a pork chop. What could be better?

He played  his guitar while we drank our coffee.

We had another walk along the coast path in the afternoon , but in the direction of Porthcurno Beach. We didn't make it down. We were quite happy walking. Every now and again someone would stop to talk to us. 

Porthcurno Beach

When we got back to the camper we had another cup of coffee and some raisins, before heading off to the theatre.

"Where's your raincoat?" hubby was packing a rucksack with items we might need.

"Under the seat," I said, "and have you got the blankets?"

"Of course."

Off we went to queue, both carrying a cushion each. 

During the performance, which I absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed, we watched seasoned theatre goers with their picnic baskets - cheese and wine, Cornish pasties, soups. It was amazing. If we get to go again we must be more organised.  

The theatre company, a small touring group from somewhere in London, were phenomenal. 

I've never read that particular play of Shakepeare's. Seeing that performance certainly made me want to. 

we will be back, that's for sure. 


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

I'm Back - Maybe...

 18th Aug 2021

I'm Back - Maybe...

Having not posted anything on my blog since 30th April, the last day of the Poem a Day in April challenge - is it really that long?- I was surprised to find that in July I had over 12,000 visits and this month already, with a little way  still to go, there are over 700.

How interesting to find that people are finding my blog when I'm not even pushing it. 

Total visits now stand at over 86,000. That's not bad, really, is it? 

Thank you to everyone who looks me up and reads my words. 

Today I'm here , on the blog that is, because I'm avoiding working on my memoir.  After a break of more than five weeks, I'm finding it excruciatingly difficult to get started again. 

So, this is writing, right? Giving those writerly muscles a workout - yes? I mean, I need it. I haven't even been doing my morning pages!! I know !! How can I even admit that!!

Why, you may ask, has there been such a long break? 

Well, mainly, it's because hubby and I have been in Cornwall. No, no, no, not touring in the camper. That would have been nice. No, we were with our daughter and her family. We helped them move to their new(?) house, with the idea that hubby would put in a new bathroom for them. Shouldn't take long, I thought, maybe a week, then we can have a bit of a holiday. No chance.

 Eventually, after nearly four weeks Peter and Son in Law finished said bathroom to  triumphant shouts of joy from the rest of us. I hadn't even washed my hair in all that time, or had a shower. I didn't mind too much. We are used to wild camping, after all.

I was kept busy all this time helping with "decorating" (code for stripping the wallpaper off the walls in the hallway-a mindblowingly slow process), cooking, entertaining the children and going for walks on beautiful beaches. 

Unfortunately, and the reason why I didn't write, they hadn't yet got internet at the house and even the phone signal was poor. So, not only didn't I write but I also didn't keep in touch with anyone by phone. 

But now we're home and hopefully I'm ready to go...

Friday, April 30, 2021

Haiku to end

 30th April 2021

    Because I have limited time, I end the 30 day challenge with NaPoWriMo with a simple Haiku. The form for a  Haiku is, traditionally, three lines of 5, 7 5, syllables. There are other aesthetic considerations which I haven't necessarily followed here. The form is enough today.

Coming to The End

Thirty days have passed,

the pilgrimage ends, yet new 

words call me onward  

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Looking Through The Window

29th April 2021

This poem just came very quickly with the prompt this morning and it took all of ten minutes to pen. There are probably plenty of errors, but I'm posting anyway. The prompt was to imagine looking through a window and describe what you see.

Looking Through the Window

There she goes, off to the book launch.

It's the fourth time but she still finds it unreal,

like it's happening to someone else.

The car has come for her, a black limo.

Slowly, elegantly she  steps in, her little red shoes 

just visible under the long multicoloured dress,

her hair, which on normal days she ties back 

with an elastic band, 

now arranged in a beautiful bun, with ringlets 

framing her wrinkled yet youthful face.

She didn't dare dream of these moments 

when, ten years ago, at sixty five,

she began to write.

She waves from the window, majestically,

enjoying her moment.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Beautiful Future

 28th April

 Continuing with NaPoWriMo, which is nearly finished. I haven't made every day, but I've done a fair bit of the month.

Now there are only two days left. let's see if can get to the end with two more poems to finish.

I have to attribute the first line of the poem to the poet Simon Armitage. I thank him for the inspiration. 

Once, the  future was a beautiful place


 the future was a place of beauty,

A place where, getting old together, 

you and I

Walk by the sea, kick up the stones,

 laugh loudly,

While the breeze plays 

with our hair.

Where, we stroll through

 fields of daffodils,

Yellow flowers, greet the spring,

you pick one, put it under my chin,

do you still like butter?

  as if you don't know.

A new warmth  caresses

 our familiar bodies.,

In the evenings, after shutting the curtains,

You offer me a glass of red,

 sit beside me,

Share a poem or two,

reminisce about when the children

Were young,

we shed tears of gratitude

For each other,

 For the life we’d had, together.

But now, that beautiful place,

 that future

has been stolen away

 ripped from my hands,

By memories

 Of your fading,  

Of your weakening, day after day,

Of sitting by your hospital bed,

 Of holding your hand, as,

softly, silently you slipped away.

The future has become 

 an empty place - dark, cold,

I’d rather not go there.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

He Had A Lovely Smile

24th April 2021

For NaPoWriMo today, I'm going to try to write a sonnet - a first for me.

Playing with the form.

He Had A Lovely Smile

Nothing could prepare me for that day,

When I first saw him looking straight at me.

It was on the beach we first began to play,

And both of us dashed in and out the sea.

He had the most attractive sort of smile,

It captured me and drew me in for sure.

He looked at me with longing all the while

His intentions I convinced myself were pure.

We spent the summer months on golden sands

Walking , talking dreaming, holding hands.

Yet at summers close it all came to an end

I discovered that our love was all pretend .

Thursday, April 22, 2021

No Chicken

 22nd April 

Oh look, it looks like I didn't post this:

1st April

Napowrimo Again - a poem a day in April

Day 1

No Chicken

You sit,
Hunched over,
on the cold pavement,
a colourful sleeping bag
pulled up under your chin,
It seems futile against
this crisp March morning,

carefully,  you've chosen
your place,
next to the steps
that lead 
to the the doors
of the St Benedict's  Church.

You reach out to me,
 hands gnarled, greasy,
 gritted with the road,
Your eyes search me,
find their way to a  corner
of my soul

"Are you hungry?
Can I get you a sandwich?"
"Yes, thanks..."
Is that an Albanian accent?
"What kind would you like?"
I leave  you that dignity,
won't presume to choose.

"Chicken please..."
"No chicken left, 
what about
 ham and cheese?"
"That's fine, Thank you"
polite, refined, 
what brought you here?

You take my hand.
I wish I could take you home.
I find myself sitting beside you,
we talk for a bit,
I leave
to go back  to my,
centrally heated house

Coffee with Friend

 22nd April 2021

NaPoWriMo day 22.

Now that we can meet and get a take away coffee, I've been catching up with friends.

I find that we're so eager to tell each other what's been happening, I mean, even with the Lockdown we seem to have an abundance of stories and news, that we end up interrupting and rushing our words.

I think it's something we have to ease back into. It might take a while. 

Coffee Outside 

with Friend

"Why was I telling you that?"

"Sorry, I interrupted you, again. But..."

"So, go back to your story,

where were you?"

"That reminds me..."

"No, go on... I'm listening..."

"So, you were saying..."

"What were you saying?"

"Why was I telling you that?"

"Oh, would you look at the sparrows,

they're coming so close..."

"Sorry, I interrupted again...

this cake is good...

are you cold, you're shivering..."

"It was so good to see you...

Shall we go?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

What About Us

 21st April 2021

And another day at NaPoWriMo. 

Let's go.

Where are the words?

What About Us

This morning I see lambs

 in a field,

soft, woolly, sitting

in spots of spring


or wobbling weakly,


on thin legs.

the air still cool.

Silent trees, 

heavy with blossom, 

abundant future, 

hidden on each branch.

A breath of breeze 

gifts me scent

of a long ago  day.

And along the lane 

crocuses, daffodils,


beckon me forwards,


that day.

And what about, us

the two of us, 

 what about us...

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

My Life

 20th April 2021

Welcome to day 20 of NaPoWriMo. I have no clue what to write today.

 Something might come to me.

Ok, I'll just go with some words that came to me from todays Gospel reading:

John 6 : 30-35. One of my favourites.

                                           My Life

"I am the bread of life"

The people ask Jesus for a sign. 

Are we still asking for signs. 

Are there not enough,

in scripture,

in our daily lives,

 for us to ponder on, 

not enough to help us believe.

It's true isn't it , 

that for those who believe

no sign is needed,

 but for those without belief,

no sign is enough. 

Jesus tells them,

He is the bread of life.

To me that means

 He is my sustenance,

all I need. 

Jesus is everything 

I need,

my life. 

Monday, April 19, 2021


 19th April 2021

Continuing to attempt NaPoWriMo. 

 here's my response 

to the  prompt to write a poem in answer

 to one of the "chpaters from Susan G.

 Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words" 

 I  chose - "listening to ourselves" 

How are You?

How are you? 

                                          A simple greeting,                           SIMPLE

most of us use it.

What does it mean? 

Is it really asking 

the question, 

                                            or is it code                                  CODE

to be deciphered.

Does it require 

an answer?

The Irish will say,

expecting it 

                                                 mirrored back,                               MIRROR

"How'r ya..." 

which , translated,

means, hello, hi there, or good day.

So often, "how are you?"

is short for,

                                             hello, nice to see you,                      HELLO           

but please don't 

actually tell me,

I don't want to know,

 how you are,

I haven't got time 

to listen to you today. 

But occasionally,

with upspeak tone,

and a soft pause,

 we hear the question 

                                                   and know someone                             ANYONE?

 will listen.

Seriously though,

tell me now, 

I've plenty

                                 of time,                        TIME

How are you? 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Into The Shadows

17th April 2021

Continuing with NaPoWriMo. 

 Into The Shadows

I don't know how I feel about it .
We'd  almost signed the lawyer's writ, 
When, those who were selling to us
Made the most unfortunate fuss
And pulled out. 

Our move, only days away,
almost there, on our way.
Now, though the sun shines overhead,
The moon beckons me, and I am led
into the shadows.

My dream  stolen,  taken from me
Yet still it continues in memory to be,
A complete reality.

I sit in the garden in this sun,
grandchildren, picnics, lots of fun.
Enjoy the plants,  colours so bright,
Drink wine, with friends, late into the night,
But it's not to be.

Something better round the corner
 they say,
A new adventure for another day.
It wasn't meant to be this time, oh no.
We'll just have to have another go,
At searching.

I'm sorry I've bored you all with my rhyme
Not very good and way out of time
Maybe I'll have some better news soon,
If it's the right phase of the moon,

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Jim o the Mill

 15th April

Day 15 of NaPoWriMo

For a dear friend who died last year

Jim O The Mill

You are with me, this morning

 in my mediation,

You, dressed in purple, pink and red, 

fire flames dance daintily or your face.

Diamond stars sparkle below your ears.

Your smile, warm, welcome, a comforting, 

good to see you, dear friend . 

"tell me more," you whisper 

"about the Ireland trip, 

More about trad evenings." 

You have a soft spot for all things Celtic.
Fine, let me tell you of  Jim o the Mill,

An old farmhouse cottage, thatched, hidden,

in Upperchurch,

along a boreen, way up the mountains

Outside the house- balloons, lanterns, lights,

Colourful, like Christmas.

Cars line the lanes, fill the fields. 

Musicians gather, carry instruments, eager to play

you'd  like that, with your love of music,

Shall I go on? 

Crowds greet, hug,  like it’s a family affair.

 But many are travellers who’ve come from afar

Africa, America, Germany, even Bulgaria. 
World renowned is farmer Jim.

 A  micro bar, 

 size of a tiny parlour,
open only Thursdays

Serves Guinness,  Cola,  Irish whiskey.

We’re fond of a Guinness,

silky,  smooth  goodness

The evening begins,

 music, storytelling, poetry,

 fill three small rooms. 

Bodies squeeze together,
sit on benches,  dirt floor,  perch on stairs. 

We are in the room with my cousin,

Kathleen, with her fiddle. 

A lad , maybe  ten, with accordion, 

and a head of curly, red hair,

An American with his guitar. 

 One begins to play a tune,

 others join in, 

even if they’ve never heard it.

 This is an Irish  ramble,

 all welcome.

Anyone can play their instrument,

 sing, recite poetry,  or tell a story.

 I look around,  savour the atmosphere,

You’d love it,  

 the fire in the open hearth 

gives off a soft glow,

lifts the spirit, 

far away places imagined

 in burning sods. 

On shelves, antique looking tea pots,

 family photos, crock jugs, books.

On walls, fiddles, art work done long ago

 by children now with grandchildren of their own,

 and is that a pitch fork, and beside it a hoe?  yes. 

We’re encouraged to join in with songs we know.

 In my mind I'm a teenager sat in another farmhouse
singing Irish folk songs, quite the rebel.

My cousin sings for me – Tipperary Far Away

 I swallow back a river.

The  old Irish balled, haunting,
hits a hollow deep inside-  I’m off again.

 I imagine you with us dear friend, 

shutting your eyes as you do

 when you listen with intent.

 We leave at 1.30 in the morning, 

no sign of the night ending.
Apparently, you’ll like this,

 if you’re there in the morning, 

when the sun comes up,

 they’ll cook sausages and bacon,

ask you to stay for breakfast.

Thanks for listening, 

until we meet again, 

so long,  dear friend.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

More Shells

14th April 2021

Day 14 of NaPoWriMo.


"What about this one
"Wow, love that.
 Put it here, in the bag."
Rosie runs on the beach,
 looks for more shells,
 for a few seconds, 
to be sad.
Her soft hair 
Wafts in the wind. 

Waves rush in. 
Within me oceans rise up,
to meet them.
With my sleeve, I
Wipe tears from my eyes.
Musn't let her see me cry.
 Only three, not aware. 
The seriousness, 
the sadness, 
the significance, 
of  the morning's events,
Wash over her.
Just for  these moments, 
 she is free.

She run's towards me.
"Gram's, I'm cold. 
Can we go home now?"
I pick her up, hold her close,
 bury  my face in her coat.
Can we?
I wonder.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

You and Me

 12th April

Day 12 of NaPoWriMo

Taking a prompt from a few days ago to write a letter to yourself and answer it.

In Haiku form

You and Me

Much disturbs the mind

fills it with fear, discontent,

the future is dark

Look beyond yourself,

give yourself to those in need,

clam your soul with love

Friday, April 9, 2021

Covid on Easter Sunday 2020

 9th April 2021

As it's the season of Easter I am reminded how I spent Easter Sunday Last year: 

From my journal:

12th  April 2020 - Easter Sunday.

I am stuck in the little bedroom, isolating from everyone. I've had a dry cough, a sore chest, an achy body for four days now.

Could it be Covid 19.

I don't feel too bad this morning but I'm following  advice, staying  in.

It's the second week since hubby's cancer op. He seems more settled and his meds are under control. 

Me? I'm exhausted. To be truthful, looking after him has been a 24 hour job. Managing his pain is the worst. But now,  I've abdicated my responsibilities.  My daughter is stepping in, not only with hubby's care, but, ironically, also mine, as well as doing all the cooking for the four of us living in the house.  

The way I  feel, I'm not bothered whether dinner gets cooked or not, or whether anybody eats or not. Those who know me will say "she must be really ill". 

We keep to the rules, None of us will go out for fourteen days. All of us find this the most difficult.  I'll miss my walks and going to the shops. We try to book supermarket delivery spots, but there's none to be had. Our son says he'll do it for us and drop off on his way home. This irritates me.  I don't trust anyone else to do my shopping. 

I'm hoping what I have doesn't progress and that dear hubby doesn't get it. He's suffered enough. 

Being Easter Sunday I "go to" Mass  at Haddenham Church. With all the churches closed, there's  are a lot online now. We get to choose where to go. Anywhere in the world - quite exciting.  Not the same as the real thing, of course and I can't wait for the churches to reopen. 

The tension is getting to us all, especially my son, who doesn't like being cooped up in the house with us. 

But hey, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and I spend half an hour in the garden, social distancing, obviously.

It's boring staying in the bedroom by myself. An Easter aroma drifts up the stairs, tells me the lamb is cooking. through my nose I take a deep breath of memory, of mystery, of magic. Here comes dinner. I might try some, for the ritual, to be part of the uniting. 

Did anyone get Easter eggs? It doesn't seem to be important.

It's a strange Easter Sunday celebration.

Usually we see the rest of the family, but this year, it's just the four of us.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Taken too Soon

 8th April 2021

NaPoWriMo day 8, following prompt.

Taken too Soon

I wasn’t meant to be here yet,

In this cold grave.

But circumstances,


Made it so.

I’m not saying it was a happy life,

But neither was it unhappy.


 to be cut off in my prime,

And wouldn’t you say forty-nine

Is pretty young,

Forty nine!

To be taken at that age…

Well, it didn’t seem fair.

You see, cancer came for me,

He said,

“You’re coming with me.”

And within a month

He had his way.

I had so much to look forward to

The children, three of them,

Growing up,

Leaving home.

More time for me,

For my dreams.

The novel,

The travelling,

And finally, saying yes

To his secret advances.

I regret that the most.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2021


6th April 2021

My day five offering, even though it's day six. I promise to try to catch up.


Slowly, the  butterfly 

emerges from its cocoon, 

opens wide it's wings, 

reds, yellows, blues, 

all hues, 

sparkle in the sunlight. 

Now it  takes flight, 

You, like the butterfly, 

you also, have gone 

 through many changes, 

you also, have had 

 a long  journey. 

Now, you also 

are beautiful, 

you also, are free. 

Fly little butterfly, 


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Sixth Century Oratory.

3rd April 2021

Day 3 of NaPoWriMo

Sixth Century Oratory

Like entering the tomb,

I step from grassy hill

through an outer, modern, brick wall,

down, into this  small, dark space.

There, feet in two inches of 

muddy water, my eyes try to focus

in the dim light.

A whiff of ancient ancestors,

still held in these old stones.

Jangling, clinking 

 rosaries,  haunt

the ruined altar. 

I expect an apparition of St Piran, 

in brown habit, halo round his head,

to shimmer past.

I stand in sweet silence,

prayer rises from 

my soul,

fills me with 

 new life.


Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday

2nd April 2021.

So, we come to the second day.  Don't forget, you can join in too. Just go to . 

Good Friday.

Death, dear friend, I have no fear of your coming,

For it will be just an instant,

from one short breath to no breath.

But what frightens me more

is what might come before,

the how of approaching the end. 

Those imaginings  sometimes swirl

around in my mind, like a tornado,

when least expected.

Today, Love dies, 

and part of me, the part that yearns,

wants to join him,


Yet, I question if I am ready,

ready to leave behind, 

those other loves.

Not for me, you understand,

but for them.


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Holy Thursday

 1st April 2021

And so it begins, NaPoWriMo -  National Poetry Writing Month. Poets and others ( I'm probably one of the others) post a poem a day for the whole month of April. Check it out here if you're interested in taking part. 

And here's my first one. 

Holy Thursday

I creep into the upper room,

sit quietly in the corner.

With every slow breath

I inhale a promise 

of the feast,

lamb roasting,

bitter herbs,

everything ready.

Outside, rushing feet 

on cobbles, 

laughter, shouting,

the streets a throng 

for Passover.

Now, I hear louder steps

 on the stairs.

You enter the room 

with your twelve friends.

they jostle and jab each other

to get near you.

John sidles up by your side, 

brave, bold, burning 

with love. 

Stories, jokes, memories,


a family gathering,


During the  meal,

you become serious, 

a silence descends

All wait.

You take bread, 

bless it, break it,

"This is my Body..."

Share it

You take the cup,

"This is my blood,

shed for you..."

Share it.

What does it mean?

I want this too...

Why this longing?

Judas leaves,

your eyes follow him


Other things happen,

you wash their feet, 

you give them - me,

a new commandment,

"Love on another,

as I have loved you..."

When you go out,

I touch the cup 

that you held,

put it to my lips,

follow you.


Sunday, March 28, 2021


28th March 2021

 Snippet memories of my nan.

A few poems

The Range

Scrunched up newspaper in hand,

You rub the top of the range.

Every morning,

You perform this ritual.

A little bit of spit,

Your strong arms working,

Back and forth,

Then, circular movements,

till it shines.

Standing back, you inspect your work,

Your sigh of satisfaction,

Is not just in the job well done,

It says, I’m still here, still alive

You throw the dirty newspaper

Into the oven.

And smile


You take your old black bag,

One, you’ve had since

 way back in my memory,

One, who’s leather

 is now just unattractive specks,

One, even I would have discarded

long ago - you don’t care.

Into it you put

 your blue tattered purse,

The one which hasn’t shut properly

Since the shooting

 of JF Kennedy.

The one from Marks and Spencer

That mum sent you for Christmas

In 1960.

You head off

to do your messages.

You might buy bacon

At Walter Mahoney’s,

And ask him

about his wife,

you’ll buy the paper

at Ryan’s,

And maybe

some sweets for me.

On spindly legs,

legs that appear too frail to hold

your ample body-

A little ball on sticks-

Face set against the wind,

You waddle up the town.  




Sit at the farmhouse table,


Pour tea from the old crock pot,

The one with the hairline crack

Down the side.

The Tipperary News,

Spread out across the table,

The horses page,


Biro in hand,

Study form,

Mark your favourites.

On a slip of paper,

You write the winner’s names.

“Pick one” you say to me.

I do.

You do not say,

“That horse has no chance.”

You simply promise

To put a few shillings on,

Just for me.

One day you’ll  teach me

To study form







Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Being a grandma in the pandemic

  14th Feb 2021  

Being a Grandma in a Time of Pandemic

A friend of mine became a grandmother for the first time this week. My heart went out to her as she wept while telling me how she wasn’t allowed into the hospital. Only her daughter’s partner was.  Baby had to go into intensive care. My friend was anxious and upset.

It’s always a bit special the first time. I became a grandma in 1994. I accompanied my daughter throughout her labour. Her husband took her in for the birth and as soon as my grandson was born, we went in to see him. I was holding him close to me within an hour of his birth. I have tried to be there equally soon after the birth of all 25 of my grandchildren. 

It’s the best news in the world to hear that a new baby is expected, and when a daughter or daughter-in-law goes into labour, I, for one, can’t focus on anything else. I probably do more pacing than the father-to-be! I long to hold and hug the new grandchild. 

It’s that closeness I miss during this interminable time of the pandemic. There are some grandchildren I haven’t seen for over a year now. 

One daughter was due to bring her husband and eight children to visit us during the summer. As you can imagine, with that number, there had to be an efficient plan. Unfortunately, the day before the due date, the UK’s ‘Rule Of Six’ was imposed on us. Having them to stay meant we’d have 14 of us in the house. As we see them so rarely, we did consider breaking the rules, but then fear of being caught got the better of us, even though, morally, we felt we would have been justified since none of us were mixing with others. 

It was to be their only holiday, a few days, three maybe, at the seaside with Grams (the nickname my eldest grandson gave me and now all of them use, right down to the youngest) and grandad.  I looked forward to swimming in the sea with the older ones while their ever-patient grandad taught the younger ones to swim. It’s a family tradition of ours which has happened every year, and at least one under-six would end their seaside holiday with this new skill. The evenings would be spent with stories and hot chocolate – whatever the weather … But it was not to be.

Another daughter lives only three miles away, therefore we get to see her family a lot more often.  Like the above-mentioned daughter, she also homeschools and sometimes when we pop round, we get lured into their school day. 

My favourite time to catch them is the hour they call poetry teatime, even if it does usually happen at lunchtime!  

A teapot, cups and saucers, cakes baked by the children and poetry books decorate the large table.  We take turns to read a poem. They’ve been doing poetry teatime since before Maria, now three, was born. 

I would swallow back tears as I watched her ‘read’ her poem proudly to her brothers and sisters, who would all give her a hearty round of applause when she’d finished.  After poetry teatime I found it moving how my lovely husband, their grandad, would sit with his guitar and encourage the ones who are musical. What a picture. It’s hard to know who enjoys it more, him or them. 

At the beginning of the first UK lockdown my husband had a cancer operation, so we didn’t think it wise or safe to continue to see them. My heart felt as if it was cracked down the middle.  

When hubby was recuperating, we went to see them a few times. The house, set several feet above road level, had iron railings in front of it. The six children, with mum, would stand behind them like inmates in a prison. We’d be on the pavement beneath, about eight feet away. 

From there we’d chat, sing songs together and catch up with their news. I ached to pick the little ones up, to hug the older ones tight. But those railings did their dreadful job.

We resorted to zoom meetings which, as good as they are, are not the same. You can’t be personal. We’ve had some good ones, family quizzes like the one at Christmas which one of my daughters organised. Everybody joined in and a great time was had by all.  But what’s missing is the intimacy. Seeing all the grandchildren on the screen is lovely, but it can seem superficial and distant.

For my birthday I organised a zoom party. Just the idea of a party on zoom sent some of the older ones into fits of hysterics. I did see their point. Maybe it could even be described as an oxymoron. The session itself turned out better than I’d expected. 

Six screens, 17 grandchildren, and four great grandchildren joined me. 


To try and have some order with so many, I asked them to prepare something, a poem to read, a piece of art to show, a song to sing. 

“I’m going to bake you a cake, Grams”, Livi said in a text, “and I’ll eat it for you.” I think that’s what you call 12-year-old humour. 

On the day the others thought Livi hilarious as she showed us all her beautiful traybake. I drooled as I’m sure they all did when I saw the chocolate and smarties covering the top. 

While Livi ate ‘my’ cake, my eldest grandson started off the proceedings. His daughter Rose, aged four, ran to get a book and asked her dad to read her favourite story. I watched her eagerly ‘help’ her dad in the telling of the story, her little smile warming my heart. This is the next generation, I thought. 

Although we had a special time at the zoom party, I still had difficulty with the lack of real intimate contact. 

For that reason, my New Year’s Resolution for 2021 is to write to each of my 25 grandchildren. I mean a handwritten letter, sent in the post, to each one personally. 


I don’t know why I didn’t think of it years ago. Letter writing has gone out of fashion, I suppose. 

I still have letters that I wrote to my grandmother from when I was a child. Unfortunately, I wish I had kept her replies. She always replied. She knew me better than anyone. Some of her words, the ones I remember still, influence my life today.  

I already keep in contact with the oldies via text, Facetime and sometimes email, so my focus was to start with the younger ones, all those under 15, many of whom don’t have their own phone. When there were four in a family, or in one case, six, I’d send the letters together, addressing them to the eldest in the group. I put Holy Christmas stamps on each envelope and, as I dropped them in the post box, I sent up a silent prayer that, maybe, one of them might answer me.

That was two months ago, and I have to say I’m delighted to report that my expectations were exceeded. I’ve had quite a few letters back. They give me a lot to think about.

In the letters, as I respond to each one, I’ll get the chance to help them with life’s questions. I expect to get more, but if I don’t I will try again and, if nothing else, maybe they’ll at least look forward to their personal letter from Grandma. 

Rediscovering the art of letter writing is one of the unlikely fruits of this pandemic. It’s one that can never replace the intimacy of a hug, but until governments and scientists allow us the real thing once more, it’s a hug in words, and one that will last for generations to come.