Mum’s Alzheimer’s Disease Progresses …

Mum with Noodle

Where’s my money? It’s in the bank. Which bank?
So I am greeted by the dawn chorus.
Its twitters subside but this angelus
Frames our days. The ship of memory sank
With all hands in the storm, just the odd plank,
Maelstrom flotsam, remains, hard for us
To relate to that once proud vessel, plus
The compulsive fiddling, to be frank
Frays nerves. We’d hoped that Mum could be herself
In the moment but cut off from the past,
Unable to envision the future,
The present becomes in and of itself
Frightening. Her distress stands in contrast
To the tranquility that becomes her.

One Love Manchester

Manchester hosted the Conservative Party Conference in 2019

I recognise Ariana Grande
And also Liam Gallagher. Between
Them a procession of faces unseen
Unheard unknown to me before today
Strut, prance, sing, parade performing skills they
Have honed around the world since the last teen
Culture left home. Ossified tastes careen
Novelty leaving a streamlined assay
Of prog and punk. Methinks I’ve missed out.
Music doesn’t stop because I don’t
Listen, any more than the world ended
When we passed the millennium. No doubt
The killers disagree. Their masters won’t
Permit girls joy or bodies unrended.

In Praise of Extraneous Detail

There is a difference between a short
Story and a novel beyond merely
Length. Whilst Polonius said “Brevity
Is the soul of wit” Hamlet’s author sought
Laughs contrasting this sagacious effort
With extraordinary prolixity.
It isn’t boring that the irony
Requires his speeches be so finely wrought.
The short story is of necessity
Spare, no time, space or scope for digression
It can read like an excerpt from something
Longer. But novels want no such paucity.
They need to fulfill our expectation
That i’s are dotted and all t’s crossing!

Sensory Overload

The dunes assault my senses. The divine
Wild fennel fills my nostrils, vying
For attention with fresh seaweed lying
Discarded by the waves at the tide line
To dry out as the sun and wind combine
To reduce it to leathery kindling.
I squint against the sunlight sparkling
On the sea rippling to the sky-line
And beyond. There’s a buzz as if thousands
Of bees are busy gathering nectar and
Pollen, but neither bees nor flowers do
I see. It remains a puzzle. No funds
Will be found to research it since off-hand,
None need to know. So who knows what is true?

Grandparenthood

Nothing persuades your children you are an
Idiot faster than their own baby.
Since Developmental Psychology
Has advanced they’re far more on trend than
You, they’ve been reading everything they can
Lay their hands on about biology,
Embryology, anthropology,
All the other ‘ologies known to man.
Grandparents’ thoughts are politely dismissed;
Their age commands respect, if not their views.
But woe betide a parent with advice!
How condescending thinking to assist
Having not kept up to date, they accuse.
In response tongue-biting has to suffice.

Eton Mess, or The Ballad of Theresa May

When Theresa May picked up the baton
Released by David Cameron’s folly
She purged the posh with a single volley
And necromanced the late Boris Johnson
Just lately dispatched by Michael Gove, yon
Cassius minus his lean and hungry
Look, who she in turn returned rapidly
To thoroughly deserved oblivion.
Having raised the dead she raises her sights
To a personal mandate, who cares that
She said the opposite a year ago.
Her lead of unimaginable heights
Trumps all pretence of integrity, flat
Out triumph and which voters will still know?

Handsome princes and monochrome swans ought
To dodge Theresa May’s tear pool now.
The right wing press proved unable to cow
Enough voters to win. Instead they thought
They’d teach humility to those who’d fought
To get ‘Strength and Stability’ somehow
Swapped with reasoned policy to allow
Theresa May the free hand that she sought.
The necromancer dries her eyes and checks
Her magic money tree. She chucks a bung
To Northern Ireland nutters, lays down her
Minions for her life and resurrects
Gove to re-inter Boris. Her forked tongue
Slithers, and everything is as you were.

Tories tried in vain to end her mission,
Instead adding one more year begging,
Hectoring, delaying, adhering
To office like gum stuck to the bottom
Of your shoe. When she said she’d be gone
To her political graveyard, selling
Memoirs that will big her up whilst shedding
No light on anything, her denouement
Failed too. A career marked by failures
Failed even to end. To maintain such
Consistency of employment without
Notable achievements simply beggars
Belief. There obviously isn’t much
Tory political talent about.

Five foot eight, eyes of blue and ears of tin.
Theresa May takes the Union flag
In vain as her speech’s back-drop. I gag
At her mendacity. She cannot win
The vote because there is no way to spin
Her deal other than as a rag bag
Of prejudices to make incomes sag,
Achieve the aims of Vladimir Putin
And consign the United Kingdom to
The dustbin of history when Scotland
And Northern Ireland depart, the one
As a free country, the other into
The South of Ireland, whence both will land
Back in the European Union.

Odd. Andrea Leadsom’s resignation
Proved to be the final straw. Rejoicing,
As happened with Raab and McVey stepping
Down seemed the way to greet her being gone.
Theresa May now soldiered gamely on
Presiding over farmyard squabbling
Amongst the creatures who were jockeying
For position during the marathon
Campaign to succeed her. Musical chairs
With the final say given to old white
Men was the arcane process. No women
Were seated when first came silence, who cares
They make up half the country? The birthright
Of Tory toffs will be restored to them.

Although one and a half million Leave
Voters from twenty sixteen have since died
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt vied
To lead this zombie army. They perceive
The dead don’t see the attempts to deceive
Them. Beyond reason, they can be relied
On not to recognise they have been lied
To more than any who truly believe.
And so we face the spectre of ‘No Deal’
As well as the march of the dead and
The living dead, clothed in the flag of saints.
‘Will of the People’ the liars squeal
Tory posh boys in a pretense to stand
For people left behind and their complaints.

Does their ‘ism’ have a soul that draping
Itself in the flag of its native land
Goes whispering in people’s ears and
Provides balm for those busy exploiting
Their fellows, solace for any scraping
By? Those with plenty hear “Life is grand!”
Those with nothing are dismissed out of hand.
Those with little: “Fear those with nothing!”
All are told “Accept your station in life.
The natural order is the misdeeds
Of the rich must quietly cause no scenes
Else class mistrust and division are rife.
From each according to the wealthy’s needs
To each according to their current means.”

Decline and Fall

Lieutenant Colonel John Napier Cormack MBE MC Reaches Ninety

Tough as old boots. The words spring to mind
As I survey the half of John’s lifetime
I’ve seen. With back packs we set off to climb
Lochnagar thirty years ago and mined
Snow to take back and show those left behind
In Craigendarroch. As vistas sublime
Unfolded below John surged on and I’m
Thinking old age isn’t much of a grind
Whilst you have good health. Sixty isn’t old
These days. Ninety is. Laid low by a stroke
Bestriding the world as a colossus
Is no longer an option. But behold
Reminiscence’s splendiferous joke.
The older I am the better I was!

RIP Lieutenant Colonel John Napier Cormack MBE MC

He’s dead. That morning he seemed to rally
Eating two tubs of ice cream, complaining
He felt terrible before expiring
After years of decline, far from happy
To go. The world is lucky to have me
He’d answered when questioned about living.
The dashing young officer who (sharing
His dugout with rats) picked up an MC,
Met his dream girl, and married her in weeks…
The father of three who chased Russian tanks
Taking pictures for the good of the cause…
The grandpa bitten by grandsons on cheeks…
For all his many parts we offer thanks;
He leaves the stage to thunderous applause.

John’s Funeral

Cruellest April, swapping sweet showers for
A raging storm that pelts the garden pond.
Water leaps to greet each kindred sphere, fond
Embraces cover the surface before
Gravity and surface tension restore
Calm, each droplet lost in the depths beyond
Our sight, its identity subsumed, donned
By the greater body, distinct no more.
The hearse awaits the improvised cortege,
Just four cars needed to convey us all
To the chapel where four grandsons shoulder
His coffin. His life now one with les neiges
D’antan his passing casts a heavy pall.
There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier …

Scattering John’s Ashes

There’s a better class of undergrowth in
Scotland. The serried rows of pines, ramrod
Straight let light alight on the soft green sward
Contrasting nicely with the grey lichen.
(Unwary ramblers will find their skin
Ripped to pieces by brambles should they plod
Through an English wood’s understorey shod
In fashionable footwear that’s too thin.)
The cremated remnants were surprising
Considering the frailty of the corpse.
Six ziplock bags full, three for each offspring
Present. Weaving through the trees, dust trailing,
Motes dance in sunbeams. Children from time-warps
Decades ago, twisted by time’s passing.

Dreaming

I dreamt of playing Rugby for Wales
Last night. Were broadcast Premiership scores
I heard drifting off to sleep keys for doors
To lost desires? My mind unveils
Itself and I’m shocked awake. Details
Fade, but whistfulness lingers, gives me pause.
What deeply buried thing could be the cause
Of this? My mind’s conjured fairy tales
Far beyond anything in real life.
Am I mourning a youth that never
Existed when it was within my grasp?
Or was the game a metaphor for strife
That exists in the present forever
Entombed in the subconsciousness’s clasp?

Canine Seasons

Bertie owning the Internet

Spring

May in March
“Cast nary a clout until May be out.”
Does it reference the month or flower?
Thirty days before April’s sweet shower
Had any chance to pierce March’s drought
Hedgerow blackthorn blossom drifted about
In the breeze, scattering petals over
The path, spreading its heady aroma
Around the park where I walk, a devout
Worshipper of the Goddess of Spring with
My miniature Cerberus in train to
Make sure she doesn’t miss the real thing.
Persephone, peplos-clad queen of myth
May not feel the cold, but her view
Isn’t shared by me. I’m wearing sheepskin.

Summer

Bertie on the Beach
The sign at the beach says no dogs allowed
Between May and October. Wherever
You look you see loads of them. Whatever
The motives of the bureacrats, the crowd
Of dog-owners has expressed its view loud
And clear. The sand goes on forever
When the tide’s out, no reason whatsoever
To exclude such friends of man who, endowed
With such a willingness to gallivant,
Are most likely to enjoy the freedom
To lollop on the golden strand unleashed
After the sun-bathers have fled, views scant
Redress for the declining evening sun
Which painted skies as its power decreased.

Autumn

Japanese Maple in Autumn

It’s squirrel season, so Bertie has lost
Interest in his ball, and instead sniffs
Grass and trees, snuffling madly for whiffs
Of rodent or hedgehog. Having criss-crossed
The park he takes every chance to accost
The resident wildlife, trading biffs
With his doggy friends as they conduct tiffs
To establish hierarchies. He’s bossed
By pretty much all of them. Brave he’s not!
But pigeons and magpie families take
Flight at his approach, his upright tail
A shark’s fin knifing through as though he’s got
A snowball’s chance in hell to put a brake
On their escape. Two flaps and off they sail!

Winter

The gravel path spares footwear from the wet
That slickly glistens to the right and left
Pooling twixt the mole hills, plotting the theft
Of any boots that chance to stray and get
Stuck in the mud. But Bertie doesn’t let
It cramp his style, he bounds around the cleft
Tree felled by winter’s storm, his path the weft,
The warp the avenue of bare trees set
On either side. As he weaves snuffling,
Bushy tailed grey squirrels slide around
Trunks and run up, or slip under threadbare
Rhododendrons, silently shuffling
Out of sight. But Bertie is no sight hound.
The squirrels might just as well not be there!

Morning Glory

Bertie loves shoes …

Let out of the crate where he’s spent the night
Bertie steps gingerly onto the grass,
A one dog furry cloud he makes his pass
Across the lawn collecting moisture right
Before he squats, squirts, adds a bit to spite
The green, lifts his tail, shits then licks his arse,
Seeks out the birds whose song drowns out the cars
On the motorway, barks and they take flight.
Honour satisfied, he heads back inside,
Takes a running jump and I take a blow.
He slobbers on my face my neck my hair
Banishing sleep as he lies alongside
Delivering garden dew with a show
Of enthusiasm which I don’t share.

The Mighty Hood

HMS Hood visits Dundee
HMS Hood at Dundee in 1936 (Dundee Telegraph)

Forty six thousand tons of twisted steel
Litter the bottom of the Denmark Strait.
Fourteen hundred men met a dreadful fate
When the Hood exploded, to reveal
The brutally identical seal
To their stories. Hitherto disparate
Strands cut. Fire and water extirpate
All life, all ability to feel
Leaving nothing but a feast for fishes
In place of the manifold hopes and dreams
Of men who’d had a life before the war
And would have had one still, with their wishes
For friendship, love, food, sex, anything seems
Preferable to the mid-ocean floor.

HMS Hood explodes
The Hood explodes

Did he really matter? I ask. I
Ponder the death of my Uncle who died
With hundreds of others. His mother cried
When the boy with the telegram called by
To deliver the news. I suppose. My
Birth was in the future. Were she dry-eyed
Mother Courage, gifting children’s lives I’d
Never know. The charge levied to incise
His name at Chatham enraged his parents.
They baulked, so he went unremarked save for
The brother he’d sung with at New Year in
Welsh raising pennies for treats, sister, once
Worshipping younger brother, cousin sure
To carry his torch. He mattered to kin.

Uncle Melville

Is death the end? We cannot know for sure
However strong our faith doubt must remain
For those who’ve passed are mute. In vain
We seek answers from them who’ve gone before.
We should live life as if there is no more
And help our fellows to live theirs, sustain
With love the bonds we share with all, refrain
From hatred, ego, greed, those dogs of war
That drive the killing madness as men take
From others what they hold themselves most dear.
‘Live and let live’ must become our watchwords.
Tolerance begets trust, once men forsake
Violence then knowledge vanquishes fear
And Perfect Peace leads mankind’s march onwards.