Author Archives: Backstreeter Abroad

J-Fest 2022


This year’s J-FEST was in a field a few miles from Abingdon. The field looked flat but was still bumpy by wheelchair. Organisers had laid tracks across and around the side of the field to help.

On the main stage were some excellent local bands. In addition there were signers to translate the lyrics and dance out the rhythm.

There was a wheelchair dancing stage nearby.

The J-Fest is a music festival accessible to all. There were lots of stalls, and activities, including people painting murals. A lot of people there knew Jodi and Jodi’s mum and friends organised the festival in Jodi’s memory.

Lulu makes Douggie want to ‘Shout’

Douggie had been in such a happy dream
and then he awoke.
The happiness lasted seconds
and then a cold sweat began.
How could he have forgotten
even in a dream?
Lu’s speech had been so final.

Douggie worked on a letter
to convince Lu she was wrong.
The wastepaper basket filled,
until he wrote the letter that said it all,
simply ‘I Love You’.
Thinking Lu might not open the letter
with the usual Buchan postmark,

he stopped in a village
on a B road near Banff.
Parked his car, a Beetle.
A lady came out from a stone cottage
stood in front of the post-box
with her long grey hair and homespun kilt,
‘You sure you want to post that here?’

He said, ‘Aye!’
‘Are you sure?’
He said, ‘Aye! Aye! Aye!’
He pushed the letter in the post-box,
held it in the mouth and let go
and did not read the words ‘not in use’.
He thought Lu had chosen not to write back.

Douggie now drives a Honda Jazz
and has a little weep
near that village off a B road near Banff.
He watched Lulu on Top of the Pops;
on her own Saturday night show;
she still looks a Braw lass in 2020
on Jules Holland’s hootenanny.

He understands it all now –
why she had to leave him.
He did not want to share
Lu with the world.
But still, it makes him want to ‘Shout’
‘Yeah’, ‘Shout’
‘Yeah’, ‘Shout, Shout, Shout’.

Do you know where we went on holiday?


We have been away on holiday and it felt like a home away from home with a road called Back Street, and a shop called Mostly Books.

People spoke English with a standard accent, but a lot of the road signs and business names were in what looked like French. They turned out to be a dialect of Norman (like William the Conqueror), that very few people spoke anymore.

With our morning cup of tea we could eat Gâche (pronounced “Gosh”), a bread made with fruit.

A lot of people sold surplus produce they had grown or things they had made from a box by their front gate. Money was put into an honesty box.

Post boxes and telephone boxes were a lot like ours in the UK but a different colour: post boxes were blue and telephone boxes yellow.

This place was occupied by the Germans during World War II for five years.

Until recently a lot of tomatoes were grown here but the local small holders could not compete with Dutch tomatoes and so the many green houses that were common place have decayed and been knocked down. Some remain and grow tomatoes for local consumption or produce early flowers or are about to fall down. The place also has cows that produce rich milk that gets used on the island. It also used to be exported but not so much anymore.

Do you know where we went on holiday?

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)