Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Sunday, 20 May 2018

VARNISHING ACT

I've recently added a new word to my vocabulary ... vernissage, meaning a reception at a venue for an arts event that's about to take place.
The word's origin is French: its literal meaning is 'varnishing' and refers to the day before the opening of an exhibition that was traditionally reserved for the artist to varnish his paintings. Nowadays it's an opportunity for invited guests to mix and mingle ahead of the public opening of an arts event.

Hence the glass of red wine and lively conversation I enjoyed at the opening of the Guernsey Literary Festival, a four-day extravaganza of culture and art that's due to become an annual event.
This photograph was taken by Chris George, the island's finest photographer, whose extraordinary images of Guernsey enable even the most jaded of us to see our island as though for the first time and fall in love with it all over again.


You can find many more of Chris George's Festival pictures by clicking on the link below.

https://chrisgeorge.dphoto.com/album/0321ev

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

Is there such a thing as true silence and would it drive us mad if we found ourselves immersed in it?
Even in the most remote places there is subtle music to be heard: a keening wind, bird song, whispering grasses...
Such things help keep us sane.





HARP-SONG

A rat nests in a sheep’s rib cage,
alert: life in a lifeless place.
Stunted trees bend, where harsh winds rage,
resistant, like the sturdy race
of men whose sheep stand, like white stones,
on this land no man truly owns.

We crossed the plain, with boots and packs,
to find the dolmen, picnic there.
The sun, at noon, upon our backs,
warmed our pale skin, wind swept our hair.
I held you then as you loved me.
Sheep watched uninterestedly.

Today, sun bleaches stones and bones.
Young sheep graze where those others stood.
Around gnarled trees a wind still moans 
and teases music from warped wood
that rises endlessly above ...
haphazard harp-song for lost love.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

WHERE POETS GO

I’ve recently returned from Cambridgeshire, an interesting part of England that I had never previously visited. It has much to commend it.
At one point, I stumbled on a small, rural church tucked away in a clearing just off a narrow road and surrounded on three sides by meadows. A side door was open so I was able to go in and, as I always do on such occasions, thought of Betjemin and Larkin, those secular saints whose church poems so impressed me when first I read them.





















COUNTRY CHURCH
 

It feels intrusive, stepping in
through the arched door uninvited.
Money in the collection tin,
a pound coin, appears to right it.
I look about. The church seems small:
not thirty feet from wall to wall.

No stained glass here, no bleeding Christ,
just  hymn books, hassocks, modest pews.
In this place, such things must suffice
to promulgate the Gospel news.
The congregation, I suppose,
shrinks week by week and never grows.

Preponderance of tweedy suits,
of wives in self-effacing hats,
an absence, here, of fresh recruits,
of newcomers to swell the stats.
A failure somehow to connect,
is what the vicar must expect.

The stone floor makes my footsteps seem
funereal, my presence wrong
and out of place. No godly theme
runs through my life, I drift along
as most do, unreflectingly,
a spiritual amputee.

Outside, old gravestones vie with flowers
for my attention as I leave.
I came here to avoid Spring showers,
where others come to pray or grieve.
The dead are lost to us, I fear,
while daffodils return each year.

Monday, 7 May 2018

LEGENDS

As part of the forthcoming Guernsey Literary Festival, poet Jane Mosse and painter Frances Lemmon will be talking about their exciting shared-publication, Guernsey Legends, a bewitching brew of poetry, folklore and vibrant images.
Launched by Blue Ormer last month, Guernsey Legends promises to be one of the most successful publications to date from this young and dynamic company.
Jane and Frances will be appearing at the Guille Alles Library on Thursday 10th May at 1pm. Admission is free. 




Thursday 10th May (1 - 2pm) at the Guille Alles Library
https://guernseyliteraryfestival.com/speakers
https://www.blueormer.co.uk/?p=846




Thursday, 3 May 2018

FORTY SHADES OF GREEN

Despite a number of false starts, Spring finally appears to have arrived in Guernsey.
It provides me with an opportunity to air this short poem.


SPRING

Green mariners, young leaves soft as skin,
are gathering before a tall tree’s mast.
A bright, fresh crew,
they have a season’s time
to learn the ropes.

Come September,
we will witness their return to port,
brown-parchment-skinned,
rum-soaked,
no wiser than before.


Friday, 27 April 2018

HEY BIG SPENDER

Back in the 1960’s before the introduction of decimal coinage to Britain, in an era before satellite television, mobile phones and personal computers, people used a monetary system that nowadays seems positively quaint.
The British pound's value was comprised of twenty shillings and each shilling was made up of twelve pence.
Along with the standard pound note, there was a smaller ten shilling note. Additionally there were four silver coins: a half-crown, florin, shilling and sixpence. Smaller values included a three pence coin (often referred to as ‘thrupence’ or a ‘thrup'ny bit’), a penny, half-penny and a farthing. 
There is no coin that is a direct equivalent of the old three pence coin today.
The ‘thrup'ny’ bit was a pleasant coin to handle. It had a satisfying, chunky feel and a child with one in his pocket could feel safe in the knowledge that its spending power would provide a cornucopia of treats.





















COIN       

It’s under glass therefore I have to ask
the junk-shop man to let me have a look.
He brings it out: a chunky three-pence piece
from back when pence were signified by 'd',
two-forty to a pound, a shilling, twelve.
We called them Thrup’ney Bits back in the days
when three dee could have bought treats by the score:
a Dandy or a Beano, licorice,
or sarsparilla, pop or bubble gum.
I stand and weigh it in my adult palm.
Thru'pence ... so curious, so oddly obsolete.
Worth now? I’ll take a fiver, says the man,
but I refuse and hand the small coin back
then leave the shop, continue on my way,
childhood alive again, my footsteps slow
my wallet undisturbed, my mind less so.



Monday, 23 April 2018

WAITING FOR GOD

Already this year my wife and I have lost a number of elderly friends, all of whom had reached their nineties.
Many of us would question whether living to much an advanced age is something to be desired.

















WAITING

A nurse approaches then retires
having adjusted tubes and wires
so I am left to lie in peace
and to progressively release
my buried improprieties
and misdemeanors, as I please:
errors, too late for correction,
guilts, those lapses of affection,
transgressions of the flesh and mind,
the failure, often, to be kind,
the opportunities I missed
when Fortune pleaded to be kissed.
Subdued and suitably contrite,
I gather them around me tight.
I do this with consummate skill.
I lie quite still.
A fly lands on the window-sill.