Copenhagen • We’re getting too old for this • Chapt 2

Monday the 5th Nov. My husband’s 65th Birthday. There was a haar/ a fret/ a sea-mist over the city. That is to be expected and very familiar if you live in Northumberland near the coast. We were headed for the Danish Pipe Shop and decided, because our phones didn’t work, to get directions from Tourist Info just round the corner from our hotel. Noel had the post code and showed it to the young man at the desk who very unhelpfully sent us on a hour long wild goose chase in exactly the opposite direction! Now that should NOT HAPPEN! It made me very angry that someone getting paid to be the official face of Copenhagen should be so careless and off hand with visitors. We walked and walked until it became obvious we were in the wrong area. A very helpful young man (who was in fact doing his job delivering stuff) Kindly looked up the Pipe Shop on his phone and told us a bus to get back. We chatted to a man on the bus about Brexit etc… Now in the right location, The Pipe shop continued to prove very illusive until, several people later, we decided to have lunch before going on. The man in the cafe was most helpful. We were just round the corner really but by now we were damp and tired and a bit dispirited. Copenhagen is a wee bit confusing — or are we just getting too old for this? It’s maybe better if you are young, can hop on and off bikes and are technologically savvy.

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In the Pipe Shop: Choices, choices — so many pipes — so much baccy. The decline of pipe shops in the UK has been startling over the past decade — they are few and far flung now. In Denmark you can still buy tobaccos that are no longer available here in the UK, even if you can get to a pipe shop and buying online from abroad, you risk confiscation. I am not defending smoking as such but pipes are different. A pipe isn’t a smoke so much as a hobby. They take cleaning, reeving, packing, lighting, smoking-in. They take care and a bit of patience. I love them purely as objects as a well turned pipe is a thing of beauty, a work of art, and they have character, but a dedicated smoking space is a good thing too because even though you don’t inhale pipe smoke, it produces lots of secondary smoke. Anyway, I love the fact that my husband smokes a pipe. My grandfather used to smoke a pipe too, (a Peterson). I love the scent of good baccy, the room-note, and they are beautiful objects — this addition to the collection is very nice too. We were thinking of our friend James who would love this shop.

The afternoon was spent sitting down — on a sight-seeing bus. We had a 48 hour tour pass. We saw the harbours, opera house, palaces (not very impressive on the outside…) Churchill Park in spectacular autumn foliage, churches, the old stock exchange/market building. The history was good. For my money though, Dublin, Amsterdam and Baltimore (Maryland) far more beautiful as sea cities go. We didn’t get out to see The Little Mermaid because we were knackered and a bit slow and we’d have had to wait half an hour for the final tour bus to come through. I’ve been told it is unimpressive anyway. The tour bus was worthwhile in that it allowed us to see the whole city and we chose a place to go back and explore the following day.

In the evening we’d chosen to have an Indian meal at The Guru. Now I have to say the food was good but not any better than in our local restaurant and at about three times the price, not great value. The music was of that intrusive bump-bump type not really conducive to my digestion. The seating is quite close together — this may be a British complaint but our fellow diners unfortunately included two men who were being over-familiar with the waitress, hogging her time, generally loud and by turns contemptuous and apologetic (calling her over just to apologise for offending her) so that they got away with behaviour which, in our opinion, was well out of line and maybe the management (I believe she did complain to one of her male colleagues) shouldn’t have allowed. They were however spending, by the look of what they had, a huge sum of money. It rather spoiled what might have been a quiet evening. I wouldn’t really go back. I think in general, though we did it for convenience, I would try to find more secluded restaurants off the tourist trail. It’s hard to know when you’re searching, what you will get.

And so ended a rather tiring but ultimately successful, 65th Birthday bash.

 

Copenhagen • We’re getting too old for this • Chapt 1

I’ve always found the best bit about travel is being home again. I hate travelling and it never disappoints. This time we flew to Copenhagen via Heathrow. Why we have to fly via Heathrow when you could almost jump off Church Point, Newbiggin by the Sea on a windy day (which is most days), I don’t know. I suppose Newcastle Airport just wouldn’t get enough people to fill a plane to Denmark… Anyway having been forced a couple of hundred miles south to travel back north, we were then processed and pummelled, kettled and caged, ready for transport at both airports. At Copenhagen a confusion arose over how to find information so we could get our Copenhagen Cards, and how to get the train to the city centre. We spent 20 minutes in a queue only to find the people in it were Swedes whose train had been cancelled and who were going to going to Malmo.
Ha! What fun, — we didn’t think.
We found our way and our hotel, The Richmond, eventually — it took 10 hours door to door! Thankfully the restaurant I had chosen for that first night was literally next door to the hotel. So we ate at Il Grappo Blu — and very nice it was too! I had the chicken dish and tiramisu. Excellent food. Excellent wine. Excellent service! Lovely ambiance. A fine Sicilian drink (Passito Tenuta Ortestadi) to complete the meal. HOW MUCH?! I’ll just say that it cost twice as much as a similar meal here.

The Richmond is a basic tourist class hotel and it was very central, clean, comfortable, quiet (was November mind). The staff are pleasant.

The window opened to a balcony. No view but the air was appreciated. Storage is minimal but okay. Phone in the room. Long mirror.

The wet-room was very small but adequate shower facilities housed behind a kind of plastic bubble-wall. The floor was heated. The lights also gave warmth. My only complaint was the tear-shaped wash basin which was too shallow to be of any use at all!

Breakfast was from 7 – 10 (10:30 weekends). Standard buffet. I didn’t think much of the bacon or sausage but the muesli, fruit platter and yogurt were just great and there was a good selection of breads/meats/cheeses/boiled eggs/ tea,coffee,juice.

Thus fortified, maps in hand we strolled out to find the Tivoli Gdns which was a lot closer than we thought (10 min walk) and on 4th Nov was still set up for Hallowe’en for one last night. We spent all afternoon soaking up the happy screams. I have to say some of these rides look terrifying but we had a very relaxing afternoon, ate pizza and ravioli at La Vecchia within the gardens. Even that, with wine, coffee etc came to £70. It is possible to eat cheaper if you want to eat outside or go for hot-dogs or burgers and I noticed people had brought picnics (there were outdoor heaters everywhere) but we wanted a sit down.

 

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That evening we went to a Chinese Restaurant called H Table. It has only been open a few months. The place is below street level on Gyldenlovesgade which was just round the corner on Hans Christian Anderson. It’s not suitable for disabled. The decor is white, simple and tasteful. The sticky dumplings are gorgeous, the crispy shredded beef is really to die for! We enjoyed our meal and it was quiet and about the same price as our lunch that day — but better value for money! They have only one dessert — toffee bananas. We were too full anyway but that is something they could rectify. However if you are in Copenhagen — go there! I’d definitely eat there again.

We were beginning to find our way round (on foot), learning to dodge the bikes and traffic. It’s a very safe city to walk around. And next day… Well I’ll get to next day in Chapt 2.

The Dead • Hallowe’en to Remembrance


My menu is (as ever) Liver au Poivre:

Ox liver (can use other liver if you like) encrusted with 2tsps crushed black peppercorns, flour and salt, quickly sealed in a hot pan, added to (up to) half a pint of preheated red wine (decent wine mind!) with a bay leaf, Fry an onion and some garlic in the same pan and add. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve with crusty bread or soft buttery mash.

followed by (Kathleen Ferrier’s favourite) Apple tart.

For your reading enjoyment from Editor Kate Garrett:
Three Drops from a Cauldron

followed by

In between is Bonfire Night, celebrated in England, Scotland and Wales — but not in Ireland, North or South so it never was a celebration in my childhood, which may be why I love Hallowe’en.

Guido Fawkes was a Spanish mercenary and explosives expert who, had he succeeded, would have been responsible for the biggest man made explosion of his time. He didn’t hatch the Gunpowder Plot. England was full of “nobles” who wanted the King dead (the Northumberland Percys among them) and they hired him to do the job. But Guido became the fall ‘guy’ and was mercilessly tortured and eventually put to death, having revealed nothing and betrayed no one.

And whilst one would like to think that spies and plots and torture are part of history, the evidence is clear that power is still a big game and brutality is still part of it and some people will do anything for money. I wonder sometimes if we will ever move on?

I regard Guy Fawkes as a spurious and somewhat dangerous celebration. This year I hope no child or animal will be injured or maimed as a result. Know where they are. Keep them safe.

Well it’s also my husband’s birthday and so we are going celebrate that.

 

The Sorrow

This is a very special issue of The Linnet’s Wings which we hope you will like so much online that you’ll want a print copy for yourself or a friend. It’s a real souvenir issue with poems from so many WW1 poets some of whom you will not have heard of before and many contemporary poets and Friends of The Linnets Wings.

We will remember them!


The War Graves St Mary’s Morpeth

October • Darkness descends and other bright thoughts

Darkness descends and I don’t mind. It’s true I dislike the depths of Winter but I love the cosy-cuddlesomeness of Autumn evenings and stews and casseroles and deep red wine, and deep red trees, the misty, hearty porridge mornings, the slanting gold of it all.

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I have so enjoyed choosing the contemporary poems for our special LINNET’S WINGS — The Sorrow. This is a memorial issue and it’s a thing of beauty. Please BUY one.

Treat yourself or a loved one to a print copy this time. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Marie Fitzpatrick really is a bit of a genius when it comes to design and the quality of the writing in this issue is outstanding. There are WW1 poets in there too for your enjoyment — some you will know well and some you’ll never have heard of (perhaps because they fought on the other side). Bill West has written a piece about Wilfred Owen and I, one about Siegfried Sassoon.

I am reading for Christmas.

I have been in Writing for a Woman’s Voice a lot recently

Your Debit Card with Contactless and To Tommy Thompson are close together on the site. Also:

Water Sculptor

Owl Tales Never Told 

No Stone Unturned 

Of Equinoxes 

Beyond the Rim

Liberation

and there are a few more to come

In Bewildering Stories there’s The Box and God is not ‘God’

I do trust you will enjoy reading all the work. We need poetry to brighten the dark recesses of life and penetrate the sometimes relentless despair of the modern world — at least I do. And we need art and music and laughter and not to give in. As long as the creative spirit is alive, and as long as there are trees, there is hope.

September • Meeting James Graham

Those who know me well will know that I don’t like being away from home and therefore when I go somewhere it is usually for a reason. This week we went to Knaresborough in Yorkshire for a very good reason — to meet a very special person.

Dr James Graham has been poetry expert on Writewords since it began, and I do not use the term ‘expert’ lightly. James has commented on literally thousands of poems over the years. He always comments several times on each poem.  He sticks with it. He helps all who come to learn at Writewords to become the best poet they can be and he does it with patience, care, compassion, erudition and enthusiasm, and many, many of us owe him a debt of love and gratitude that can never be paid. He has been first (and sometimes the only person) to see almost everything I have written in the past 12 years.

So when James suggested we meet up with him on his way down to Yorkshire from Ayrshire, Noel and I decided to drive down and join him in Knaresborough. Conversation drifted through a lovely dinner, then great breakfast at The Dower House — good hotel by the way), on to lunch at The Mitre, steak and ale pie!!!

wandering through thewonderful RHS Garden, Harlow Carr

Of course we had to stop in at Betty’s where they have their own tea and coffee blends, a cookery school, and cakes to die for!

And back for dinner again at the hotel. What didn’t we talk about? And yes we had breakfast with James before we left and could have gone on talking. In fact I hope we will! It was just — au revoir for now.

When we left him, James was off to another garden. He told me he hadn’t had enough trees yet.

James is author of “Clairvoyance” and “Becoming a Tree”. Brilliant poems. You should buy these!

There you see… It’s always worth leaving home to spend time a great friend you’ve never met! Thanks James. See you soon we hope x

 

 

August • Feeling a bit Vintage


I (teacher on right) remember way back in 1978 (it was my first job) getting a lift back from Ely to Canton (Cardiff) in one of these Robin Reliant cars (below). The body is fiberglass so doesn’t rust. It has one wheel at the front and Lilian (teacher on left) who was one of the older members of staff (though a lot younger than I am now) only needed a motorbike license to drive it. It was a perfect little city get-around, the Robin. We saw this one in Wallington (1st August) and it was taking everyone’s eye. What a gem! Made me feel a bit vintage myself…

We celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary at home this weekend. Moussaka, champagne, nothing too racy, more Robin Reliant than Ferrari — but that’s us. It’s quite a thing to be together all those years — and still be speaking.

In August the entire vibe of life changes. Children are off school. There tends to be renovations going on. Out in the countryside you’re liable to meet combine harvesters, tractors and balers or hay loads on the narrow Nothumberland roads, and that certainly gives you pause. It’s working countryside. The earth begins to get that peppery scent. This year the recent rain is very welcome and the cool air, and I am looking forward to things chilling a bit. I love the maturity of this time of year and the other day on our walk, I could smell everything (sadly, I have polyps) but that day I smelt every single smell in the whole of Wallington west wood. In fact I was a total embarrassment. I kept saying… Oh do you smell that?! I didn’t even mind if it was an unpleasant scent. I felt more alive than I have for a long time. Wrote a poem… Not finished it yet…but I will.

I am also excited because I am going to get two of Walter Jack Savage’s paintings that I wrote for and had published in Postcard Poems and Prose. I love Jack’s work and so, although I was sad to hear he wasn’t painting any more, I’m delighted I’ll have these to keep. I chose: Time in Mexico and Western Town both of which you can check out HERE

Speaking of which a couple of things you can buy now:

The Linnet’s Wings Summer Issue ‘Blackbird Dock’ is available now on Amazon or to read online but I promise it’s worth buying! Click the title.

Be Not Afraid An Anthology for Seamus Heaney is also now available from Lapwing Press and there are lots of great poems in there, all in honour of a wonderful poet.

And I have a poem coming up this week in Bewildering Stories which has taken me years to write! It is called The Best Bird and anyone who has read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance will appreciate what I’m saying there. Also anyone who has seen The Birdcage will appreciate the joke in the first stanza. Hope you enjoy it.

I am going to be busy in the next few weeks choosing poems for TLWs WW1 centenary issue and writing a suitable editorial. We already have some good ones but if you want to submit something stunning, go ahead. I am ready to be impressed. The window is closing though so get a jig-along.

Right, so I am off to drink some bubbly and demolish some homemade nosh. Cheers.

Sizzling Summer

Nearly August? How did that happen? What have I been doing? Well here’s some of it. Sorting out the back yard needed a bit of time.


And my sister visited for a lovely 3 weeks which gave us time to do loads of stuff like meet up with friends and family.

 

and of course celebrate my 64th Birthday on Lindisfarne.


When it comes to carrot cake them birdies mean business — hand it over and nobody gets hurt!

As usual we had a lovely time on the Island and visited Heatherslaw on the way back — there’s a water Mill and a light Railway and much much more and I’d never been there!

and this summer Northumberland so beloved by me because it’s always cool and mostly breezy is sweltering in 20 – 26 degrees. Not my thing at all I’m afraid — and set to continue by the looks of it.
I feel for Japan and Greece and all the people suffering catastrophic weather conditions. I shan’t complain. Summer is sweet!

Springing into • Spring

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz
and I know where
the birdies is

Our house-martins have returned to their nest (on the burglar alarm box) for the third year in a row. Blackbirds and Dunnocks in hedge and yew, wood pigeons cooing all over the place. A thrush serenaded us at Alnwick Garden — well actually it was singing to another thrush but it was in a tree right by us so we got it full throstle! The best of the spring this year has been the flowers. Winter hung on and it meant that after the last snow (only a few weeks back) everything flushed so we’ve had daffodils, tulips, forget-me-not, hyacinths, wood anemonies, ramsons, cherry blossom, apple blossom and bluebells all at the same time instead of staggered through the season. It’s lush! We like to go for a walk every day if we can to one of our local haunts:
Belsay 
Wallington
Cragside 
Newbiggin — okay so sometimes you have to be honest

and most recently Alnwick Garden which is stunning this spring…

and so is our Linnet’s Wings for this Spring. She’s a beauty! Buy or read online.
Our little writing group has been doing writing for an ekphrastic exhibition in our local community centre inspired by work from the artists who meet there. I have enjoyed that enormously! Here’s a sample and a detail from the painting.

Toucan Talk

I wonder who can?
If I can, you can.
If two can, three can.

If three can, four can.
If four can, more can
do the cancan
under these dancing suns

Love ekphrasis. See what else I’ve been up to in:

Bewildering Stories,

A New Ulster 67

I am not a silent poet

Postcard Poems and Prose

and on the 30th May I am doing a reading at Newcastle Literary Salon Bar Loco Newcastle. The theme is Love and Loss. And I go to a group in Newcastle. No wonder I haven’t ‘got round to’ editing poems for TLWs for Summer yet. Must do that!!!

 

Bomb-shelling Austerity by Oonah V Joslin

I am not a silent poet

Where are you getting the dosh theresa?
Did you find the magic money trees eh?
Rooted there in the hall of distortions
nurtured in your fake austerity,
transmitting lies and international contortions
that spread the toxins of your dynasty.
..
Where are you getting the cash theresa?
Did you find some hidden stash theresa;
one you’ve kept back for war and bribery?
Not from taxing the posh theresa,
not from those pockets deep in wealth
but from the mouths of the poor and cutting health.
..
Where are you getting it from theresa?
The money you couldn’t find for nurses?
Not from the corporates who don’t pay taxes.
Certainly not from royal purses.
From false apprenticeships and pension funds,
from taxing those who can afford it least,
..
from cutting services, then offering crumbs
while subsidised in Westminster, you feast.
By threats of loony left and Russian stealth,
by social…

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March was a good month • Happy Easter… I think

Easter is early and a bit cold. It was a bit cold in 1962 as well when my sister got married. My wee legs were frozen! Happy Anniversary Ray and Margaret! 

This was hail and sleet! 

But we have light evenings again and I am happy about that — despite what I say in Noon’s the Goon.

I wish there was more light politically. I can’t see the end of the tunnel. We seem doomed to a darkness of dishonesty in Brexit dealings, in international relationships, in internal politics too. We are being misinformed, kept in the dark, bamboozled. We are even being sold to anyone who can deliver a political edge. Nothing is transparent. Everything is hidden in a lace of lies and propaganda. Russian oligarchs reign over London whilst ‘commy’ is shouted against anyone who would simply like a society that cares — a society at all! Working class people are driven out of properties that have been deliberately allowed to deteriorate, so that more lucrative properties can be built. This destroys the fabric of communities that might oppose this soulless government. The Grenfell Tower inferno should never be forgotten. 100 of those families have yet to be housed. In the meantime the PM goes round grinning and shaking hands over an espionage story that defies belief and her apparatchiks deliver photo-shopped propaganda. And what is that grin? How can anyone grin and talk nuclear weapons at the same time? I call it demonic deflection. Is she insane or just plain evil? Corbyn (who is only the opposition leader and therefore not responsible for ANYTHING that is going on politically) is accused of anything they can think of — including being a friend to Russia — hey wait — Russians — aren’t those the guys who own all those empty flats by Grenfell Tower? Cognitive dissonance and political expediency dance hand in hand round the May pole. And opinion poles seem to me to be the point. All this is happening ahead of local elections, in the hope of detracting from her utterly weak position in Brexit negotiations, her inept cabinet, her bribery of the DUP, her dismantling of the NHS (which she is now trying to put a sticking plaster over and I’ll guarantee she’ll whip it off again and let us all bleed to death!) and her total inability to connect with real people. If the local elections go badly she’ll say they don’t really matter — but they DO! and she knows it!

‘demonic deflection’

In order to win an election
you need some demonic deflection
trained minions from hell
to laugh like a bell
in whatever opposing direction.

One just shouts ‘shut up’ and ‘go away,’
keeps one’s nerve. It’s a gas, it’s fair play,
to always make fun
of about anyone
and ignore what the lefties all say.

If you want to look strong and stable
keep your dirty deals under the table.
Folk would never vote right
if we had a straight fight.
So confuse them with warmongering babble.

It’s a given one has to tell lies
but there’s no need for too much disguise
‘cos the media’s knows
where the buttered side goes
and where to aim those custard pies.

In terms of writing March was good. Not only did I get into Bewildering Stories but 3 of my poems made it into the Quarterly Review. I am always chuffed when the editors include my work. And I will be in again in April with a reply to the most popular of those poems, Book Sniffers Anonymous 🙂

I also had several poems in I am not a silent poet. My archive HERE.

I have had two poems accepted by Amos Greig for A New Ulster and they will be up in the next two issues which I will link here as they come.

The Linnet’s Wings is due out any day and Marie has done a lovely job as ever but a family bereavement is causing a little delay.

I’m off to eat eggs now and forget politics for a few days.

Enjoy