Author Archives: Midstreeter

Lemonade

Her hand turned the bitter sun,
dimpling the rind between fingers and thumb.
From the pores a fine oil sprayed.

She discarded rinds like jellyfish,
dissolved sugar, added ice –
our first lemonade.

Our basement room, half underground,
mould on the wall behind the bed,
neighbours’ music – played out loud.

Larger windows now show the sky
as her hand turns the bitter sun,
dimpling the rind between fingers and thumb.

(written for share a poem in September 2021 where the theme was relationships using a line from a poem written circa 1985 ‘dimpling the rind between fingers and thumb’)

Tychicus

He shocked us all by reading his own eulogy.

His voice did not falter as he likened himself to
Tychicus.
Tychicus was sent on errands by St Paul.
Tychicus got five mentions in the New Testament.
Tychicus took the news and encouraged.

‘I hope I encouraged you
and I am sorry for the times we argued
over the truth.’

‘My heart is beginning to fail
and they need to fix so much before
operating again on my heart
and I am too weak
to contemplate that again
and so, I speak to you
having known
since my heart first failed
that it is better to be weak
than to be strong
and having come to the inescapable conclusion
far too late in life
that it is better to be loving
than to be right.’

(five mentions were Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; Titus 3:12; 2 Timothy 4:12)

Asylum Gates and Tavern, Caterham


This postcard was sent by Mary to her sister in 1905. Mary says she will only be able to say when she is coming home to Cransley, near Kettering, after Jack arrives.

The tavern in Caterham is still there, although now called the New Caterham Arms, and possibly rebuilt in part. On 27th August 1975 an IRA bomb exploded  injuring many, including soldiers from Caterham Barracks, next to the asylum. Nurses from the Asylum ran out to help.

The Asylum is no longer there but you can see the gate posts with a memorial plaque. On the postcard there are a gathering of people inside and outside the gates of the Asylum. The postcard is hand tinted.

Leeds United 1972

Gary Sprake 03.04.1945 † 19.10.2016
Jackie Charlton 08.05.1935 † 10.07.2020
Terry Cooper 12.07.1944 † 31.07.2021
Norman Hunter 29.10.1943 † 17.04.2020.
Paul Madeley 20.09.1944 † 23.07.2018
Paul Reaney 22.10.1944
Billy Bremner 09.12.1942 † 07.12.1997
Johnny Giles 06.11.1940
Eddie Gray 17.01.1948
Mick Jones 24.04.1945
Peter Lorimer 14.12.1946 † 20.03.2021

Catching a Virus

We catch it through direct contact,
through a go between like a mosquito;
through defence mechanisms such as:
vomiting, coughing, sneezing, diarrhoea.
We catch it by not washing our hands,
by touching a door handle then our mouth
by breathing the air close to someone infected
by being bitten, kissing, from drinking water …

It has a heart of nucleic acid,
within a lipid envelope, spiked with protein
that hook onto our cells, injects nucleic acid –
hijacks our cells, and replicates.
We send out gobbling white blood cells
and run a fever and end up feeling
wretched, until we decode the spike,
and make antibodies.

It is not calculating.
It mutates and jumps from another species
and becomes a strain that can attack our cells.
It mutates, and produces a new variant
that moves easily between us.
It mutates and disguises its spike
and becomes immune to a stored antibody.
It mutates and keeps us apart.

(Written for share a poem in Feb 2021 where the theme is Science.)

Train ploughs into flock of sheep at Nutfield


That winter brought strange interlopers –
Sussex, Dorset or Leicester Sheep –
Replacing Surrey’s homebred cows
Upon their hoof moiled beat.

Then one sheep teased a barb wire fence,
Reinforced with chicken wire,
That kept them from a richer diet
Than faded grass and briar.

Swarming tightly through the gap
Heads bobbing as they barged –
Like an army unrestrained,
Over the top they charged.

Among the rows of leeks and cabbage
Began their marauding spread
‘Til they saw a man approach
And a stalking canine head.

The shambling flock took formation
And led by one sheep’s eyes –
Sped by fear, they smashed the fence
Back to their home side.

As torn white flags marked the fences,
The lame and injured numbers grew –
The dash-eyed many from behind
Drove on the curious few.

A foggy night in January
They climbed up to the railway line –
Eleven were slain by a train
Upon the Tonbridge Line.

(Written for share a poem in November 2020 when the theme was Remembrance)

On a Visit to the Lake District

Rain rides the wind and darkens the rockface
Towering over the heather and peat.
The pulse quickens beneath vegetation
And the bleary forms of Herdwick sheep.

From the swollen earth racing like children
Becks cascade, tumble, and crash,
Down the sheer curve of the mountain.
They gather as one and conquer the pass.

A veil of water flows over pebbles
Then comes to rest in a wide bellied tarn,
Where a strobing stepping-stone cadence
Ripples the shadows and deepens the calm.

(Written for Share a Poem group on the theme Autumn in October 2020)

Zennor


We parked the car in the village of Zennor. The car park honesty box asked for £1 which we paid happily. We then walked past the Tinners Arms and the Church of St Senara along a path to the coastal path.

On reaching the coastal path we could have gone towards Lands End or towards St Ives, and I said out loud ‘Which way now?’.

A young man said ‘Go that way. The views are amazing.’

So we went that way. The views were amazing all the way to St Ives 6 miles away to the east. We didn’t want to walk all that way and turned back to try the unknown way.

The path followed a high contour on the sloping hills. The path then descended by steps to a wooden bridge over a stream then climbed back up again to the high contour path.

At one point I noticed a smaller path leading downwards through bracken. I hoped it would go down to the sandy bay we could see below.

Judith did not like the idea as much but humoured me. The path got boggy, then steep, and stung her.

It finally took us down, over boulders, to the sandy bay.

What a beach! I paddled. I clambered over rocks and gazed at rock pools. I swam in the sea. Apart from something stinging my big toe the swim was wonderful.

Judith did not enjoy the climb back. Afterwards she said it was the worst part of the holiday. The views had been among the best. Her favourite place was Tate St Ives.

St Ives


We drove from Penzance to St Ives on the 3rd day of our Cornwall holiday. I parked the car in the St Ives RFC car park and caught a bus down.

We had tickets to Tate St Ives at 12:30, and had 2 hours to explore before then.

At the exhibition we waited a short while for social distance reasons. Then sanitised our hands and ambled round from gallery to gallery wearing our face coverings.

Judith raved about lots of pictures. There were pictures by St Ives artists like Ben Nicolson and Barbara Hepworth, and also works by international masters like Matisse, Picasso, Mondrian.

Alfred Wallis had been a seaman, and ice cream seller. He started painting in his retirement. The simplicity and charm of his paintings influenced other St Ives artists.

The cafe had sea views and views over the cascading roof tops and terraces of St Ives. The cafe was also next to the shop where you could get 5 postcards for the price of 6.

The beach was now more crowded but socially well distanced.

We wandered through narrow crowded shopping streets. Large signs asked people to keep to the left and socially distance. Not everybody did.

Cars drove through, creating a more immediate danger. One came very close to my sandalled feet and toes. Somebody said ‘You were lucky!’

We got on the bus back. But just as it was about to set off more and more people got on. This did not seem very good given the day’s news that the second Covid-19 wave was sweeping the country. We had postponed the Portugal holiday. Now it looked like the replacement holiday was helping to spread the virus.

Back in Penzance I took some pictures of waves slapping up against the promenade wall.

Perpetual Lockdown

Every week a letter from Doctor Stroud
tells them to continue their isolation.
Their window holds the rainbow of hope
That everybody else has taken down.

Each day is the same as every other.
Nothing really changes. Life goes on.
They watch each other getting old.
He asks her again about the virus.

Who is it still brings the food and water?
Who keeps the door locked on them?
Who brings them their medication?
Why do they need those coloured pills?

She has told him so many times
About how they will get out tomorrow.
Plaster’s strewn on their bedroom floor
From the time they tried to break free.

(Written for share a poem in June 2020 when the theme was Pandemic)