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

 

February • Real Angels Never Rust

They just can’t leave green places be, can they? And so it was that 20 years ago they constructed The Angel of the North. I think the jury is still out on that one, but I at least have my verdict, published today in I’m not a silent poet

It’s Art

I will not be including a photo.

It’s a hill I wrote about before, from a nightmare I had, and it’s in my book Three Pounds of Cells: The Rain, which was first published in 2008 in InkSweat&Tears

We are now half way through February. Valentine’s Day is over. Hope you had a little chocolate and wine. Chinese New Year, the year of the Dog, begins this weekend. Time for noodles, I think.

40 years ago this weekend there was a terrific BLIZZARD in South Wales. Sat 18th Feb 1978. I met Noel in Cardiff for a meal and it started to snow. But the snow came in so fast and thick that when we got out, there were no trains! No buses! The taxi rank at Cardiff station had turned into a huge queue of worried people wanting to get home. And a lot of people didn’t make it that night and had to take what accommodation they could get, in gyms, in schools, in hotels and guest houses. This included the many rugby fans who’d just been to the Arms Park for the game.

We were lucky. A taxi driver shouted down the line, Is anybody wanting to go to St Andrew’s Cross? and we and another man, who for some reason had pyjamas on under his clothes, jumped in that taxi. The driver himself was trying to get ‘home’ and it was his last run — he wasn’t risking any more. On the M4 motorway, drivers got stranded and many of them were rescued and put up in Wenvoe school. Cars and buses abandoned for days, littered the roads. Deep drifts covered everything. Schools of course were closed. But The Wenvoe Arms was open 🙂 and that kind of holiday feel crept over the countryside, a sunny, crisp silence, and pleasant camaraderie of people who were stuck. Children made sledges. People shared food. Folk rallied round. Nothing moved for days and the pub nearly ran out of beer!

It’s bad enough moving away from home and having to find somewhere to live, starting a new job and a new life, without coping with unusual weather conditions in a strange environment. It was just another challenge for me in my new life in Wales. Everything seemed like a BLIZZARD! But I was okay and I’m thankful I didn’t have to face it alone. Noel was there with me and he’s been there for me ever since.

Real angels never rust!

 

February 2018 • of Lurching into the unknown

This is me about 60 years ago — the little chubby one (some things don’t change) with my sister Esme.
And this is me (centre, in my dutch girls dress,) (I tended to have descriptive names for my dresses) with Esme again and my little sister Christine who would hardly ever have her photo taken, and our nephew — yes, nephew — Robert (for whom I wrote the story Picture Book, which will be in my wee collection when I get it together. I think that is my sister Margaret in the doorway. She was 20-ish then. It was a big family!

                                                  Ironic Sun-dress

pig-tailed girl-dolls
in Dutch hats
dance around my gingham skirt
blue and white
neat and fresh
carefree cotton-cool
sleeveless
tied at the shoulder
bare
i wished I could dance
as they did there
out in the sunshine but
my freckled
skin
crisped

Between those two photographs being taken, our father had died. It was a sudden event that separated who we were from all our future selves and that is a big deal. But for my mother, 46 at the time, and having lost three little girls in infancy during the war years, (see The Bridge Between pg 6 here) to lose her husband, her support was truly devastating.

It is a hard lesson to learn, so early in life, that the you of today is fundamentally different from the you of all your tomorrows, and in everlasting ways, and it makes for some deep introspection. And I could (but won’t) document what that meant and how it affected the lives of each of us in negative ways. You can see it in my writing anyway. LINK: THE STARE’S NEST

But we were very lucky. My eldest sister was already married to a truly remarkable young man called Hubert, who at the tender age of 25 stepped into the breach and supported us three littlest girls like a father,


all the way through primary school and secondary/ grammar school — a very good schooling for which he paid and to which I owe many of my future selves.  I worked hard and got top grades.

I think Mammy knitted this cardy — or might have been Margaret.

 

 

 

Can you spot me in the choir below?


and university (here at the White Rocks, Portrush.)

In January 1978. The Christmas No 1 had been Mull of Kintyre by Wings, I’d just got my degree and was about to leave Ulster. I didn’t really have much choice because I needed a teaching job and they were scarce. Also I couldn’t, for all manner of practical reasons, live at my mother’s house. So I applied all over Britain, and got a job in Cardiff just before Christmas. In February I was to join the staff at Glyn Derw HS in Ely. So the family threw me a farewell party and the 23 year old me in this photo with my brother-in-law Hubert, was about to step out into the world all on her own. Okay I’d been to Uni and I’d been to France but this was different — this was for good and in a city I didn’t know at all. And I may have been smiling but believe me, I was scared. I left on Fri 3rd Feb, lurching into the unknown, with a trunk Esme bought me, a suitcase, and a stomach full of terror.

(I wrote last year about my eldest brother having always reminded me he left home on my birthday — literally the day I was born. It’s only now I see an irony here. Feb 3rd was also his birthday! Sometimes)                                                        40 years ago

I had temporary accommodation (diggs) with a not very nice lady in Grangetown. I didn’t have much money, and I needed to find a bedsit quickly. I had a fortnight til my job started. So I based myself at Astey’s Cafe in the Bus Station with the local papers, studying the To Lets, and traipsed round Cardiff by bus. Most people at the cafe were friendly and helpful. In fact some of them seemed quite concerned that I was all alone in the big city and three older people, a husband, wife and her brother, to whom I’d spoken a few times, having seen me there day after day, offered me a lift to Wenvoe, just west of the city, to view a half bungalow share that would have been difficult to find on my own. But they turned out to be genuine folk and they took me and brought me back and they even helped me move my stuff from the diggs to the bungalow. I never saw them again. And apart from being haunted, it was a good billet — a very suitable beginning for a small-town girl — alone in the big city! I shared kitchen and bathroom with a speech therapist student called Christine Baber, who was very nice. It gave me time to acclimatise, and to find a good bedsit nearer the centre before the September term.

Now, I only knew one person in Wales. Noel. I’d met him the year before so when I’d got my accommodation sorted, within the week! I decided to pay a visit to Swansea. The next cake I cut was this one — two years later

so it worked out okay — lurching into the unknown.

I think it’s only a fool who isn’t afraid of the future but really, you know, I wouldn’t change much about who I am today. And as for the future — well, it’s always better than the alternative! Here’s to a good deal more lurching — Cheers!

              Me, Esme and Noel somewhere in the future — a good place to be.

January 2018 • Plans

It’s January. I’m trying to ‘chill’ and it seems I am succeeding because last night, for the first time in more months than I can recall, I slept right through the night. No waking, lying awake, nightmares or worries — just a natural restful sleep, which is why I feel able to write a blog post today and at last wish you all New Year. Happy? Well happy would be a world without dim-wit, self-seeking leaders. Happy would be a world where poets and not politicians are rewarded. Happy would be a world where those with everything show more concern for people than pearls or power. Happy would be a world where bees, elephants, trees and Polar Bears are above valued beyond the worth of diamonds.

January’s only redeeming features are the increase in light, and that it leads to February which I have always deemed to be a fabulous little month.

Plans I said…

Well I am going to produce a book of some of my stories, maybe more than one book, some horror and some humour. I have begun to put them together. It’ll probably take all year. I’ll self publish because really all I want is to get the stories read. A couple of real friends Martin Booth and Margaret Kerswell, are going to help me to get the virtual stuff right. (It’ll be cheap enough to buy. Hope you will.)

I have poems coming up in Bewildering Stories. It’s always a good place to be. Most were inspired by Marie Lightman’s prompts from last April. I owe her at least one reading of those at Babblegum in Newcastle — will do!

I plan to lose weight. January is not much good for that but I have begun a bit.

Also some stuff needs cleared out of cupboards etc and I have begun that too.

There are some commitments I am thinking of ditching so that I have more time and am less stressed. I haven’t decided yet which ones. It’s all a bit up in the air. But I do feel I need to get some things done. It’s time. I’m not getting younger. The chimes may not be working, but he clock is ticking. Here’s one from last year:

Behind the Chimes

 

 

 

 

November • In Dispute of Happiness and Christmas Gifts.

This day last year was my launch at The Stanza for Three Pounds of Cells (and I really wish you’d buy one!) Thanks to Harry Gallagher and Mandy MacDonald who hosted. And my friend and editor Kathleen, travelled 3000 miles to be with me on that day and I loved her being here! And she got a great reception at The Stanza which was wonderful to see.  

And if you’d like a taste of that event: Here is a recording of Peter Lagan on lute, accompanying: A SONG OF SEALS

I didn’t enjoy the day itself. But that’s another story. I never enjoy special occasions. I am a bit of a Gilbert to everyone else’s Sullivan. Gilbert never attended performances — too stressful. In fact I wrote about this just last week — remembering.

In dispute of Happiness

Seems I was never built for happiness.
Each special moment causes me distress.
I like autumnal days when I can hide
away, close curtains, and I can’t abide
the party season’s yippee happee crowd
doing the conga, celebrating LOUD.

For every spike in life there is a dip
euphoria and sorrow, joined at hip,
are the twin banes that blight my mind and haunt
my dreams and make me stop before I start
any project that might win prize or praise
or hold me up to Nemesis’s gaze.

I am so paper-thin. I am threadbare.
I fracture easily. I am aware
of all the dangers happiness can bring.
For every love song there’s a dirge to sing.
On every special day a heartbreak stands
exacting any price plaudits demand.

I’ve never smiled a smile without the fear
that next day I will have to shed a tear.
Morbidity has stalked me all my life
as daughter first, as sister, friend, as wife.
Wish me calm passage and an even keel.
I was not made for happiness. I feel.

Oonah Joslin 2017

But yesterday I was at Wallingtom again and the sky was Winter blue and robins were everywhere guarding their little patch and I fely happy — happy because it was no special day. Happy because there was no pressure. Happy because I am having a good run of poems in Bewildering Stories

And The Canzonet is out ( to BUY) FREE POSTAGE IN UK. Or to BROWSE first And my local writer’s group has an anthology out  — The Scribblers’ Pen and Noel was with me and we were happy. In fact, the simpler life is, the happier I am. This is what I’ve found. So next year I am going to simplify life a bit further. Get rid of stuff. Cull some FB ‘friends’. Cut some spending. Destress. Get happy.

Samhain 2017 • Staying Spooky with a story

I tried to send “No Contest” to a competition but there was a problem with paying so I decided it should get read anyway for FREE and I doubt it would have won. So here it is. Enjoy.

No Contest

He turned quickly on hearing a crash and found the pumpkin staring at him. It was still wearing the face he’d just carved, but the expression was altered, and it was not alone. It seemed that every pumpkin in the patch had arrived at his door.
“How in the Devil’s name…” he began then stopped.
In the devil’s name… His words echoed back.
The door of his Last-a-Lifetime Security Shed had been ripped off its hinges. Kit automatically reached for one of his tools from the bench behind him. Instead of the sturdy wooden handle, his hand touched something wet and grainy.
“Ugh!” He shuddered. Looking down he saw the cold innards and seeds, the open womb of a pumpkin, but it smelled like blood. Hastily he wiped his hand on his apron.

In the lurid evening light he saw pumpkin faces. He recognised them, every single one, going back years. Competition after competition won. This shed had for years been his trophy house for countless certificates and rosettes, Best Fiery Face, five Bronze and Silver Pumpkin Medallions, The Golden Grin Pumpkin Award and the prestigious Gold Glow. The hobby had become an obsession, the obsession an addiction and the addiction a curse. He had to win and he’d sacrifice anything. He’d put his very soul into growing the best, and attaining the top prize. He tolerated no rivals.

“Remember me?”
The voice, mellow and dark, somehow familiar, chilled him, transfixed him. He turned, this time slowly. It couldn’t be.
“Hello, Kit. I see you’ve not changed a bit.”
Kit squinted in the diminishing light. It was indeed his former friend and one time arch rival, Jim but his head was a pumpkin head, the very same Kit had stolen from him, the award winning Golden Grin, now crowned with a halo of candlelight.
“Did I make a good mulch, Kit?” The pumpkin eyes scanned the trophies. God knows how many Kit had cheated him out of before the confrontation that final, fateful Hallows’ Eve. “Seems you did fairly well out of your bargain with Beelzebub. Hope it was worth it.”

It was dark except for glinting eyes that flickered all around.
“Pumpkindred,” said Jim in declamatory tone, “Members of the Patch, behold our tormentor! Kit Karver.”
A clamour of voices chorused, high and low, remonstrating, hissing, jeering. And Kit realised, in that moment, where his tools had gone. They were in the hands of those he’d fed, cared for, nurtured, killed and mutilated over decades. Medium saws, fine tooth saws, razor-edged scoops, small, medium and large carving loops for peeling rind, double sided sculpting tools, pokers, wheels and sharp, heavy duty drills, hole and circle punchers. Kit was a professional. He knew their use only too well.
“In the Devil’s name, Kit?”
Kit opened his mouth but found his voice would make no sound but a high squeak.
“Very well, pumpkins, let’s to work!”
His vocal chords were the first thing they cut.

I was very surprised 10 years ago to win a Horror Prize when I’d never written a Horror before, and was new to microfiction. But I love it! And I went on to win three years in a row. Unfortunately that story is no longer extant except in my livingroom.

Microhorror Winner 2007

Have a Happy Hallowe’en everyone. Stay Spooky!