Poems about my family and I
Mostly about Beatties and the Penningtons and the Everetts and Cheltenham and some on Isle of Wight
AUNTY JOAN’S PICTURE
My Aunty Joan lived in Bristol. She was the Aunt I admired the most.
She had dress sense, and presence and stature and she was a generous host.
My family went to see her often. We drove to her house in the car.
A long journey before the motorway, but fifty miles is not that far.
We would sit and chat in the kitchen as she cut us some cake and hot tea.
We would sit round the kitchen table, the last one to sit was always me.
I liked to look at all the pictures that she had hung on the kitchen wall.
Some were big and others not so, but I was tall enough to see them all.
One was an old picture of Rome printed in blurry black and white
With each of the buildings numbered and listed one by one on the right.
Aunty Joan could not find one, the last in the listing for her.
It was somewhere in the background, lost in the detail and the blur.
I stood that day searching the map. I too could not find the lost number
No matter how hard I tried, when suddenly it leaped out of the blur.
“Aunty Joan I have found it. I have found your lost building number three.”
“Have you my dear that’s very good, show me where it is after our tea.”
After tea we said goodbye to Aunty Joan and drove home mile after mile.
I was proud I had found the lost building and my face was a giant smile.
The next time we all went to Bristol the picture was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is the drawing of Rome please?” “Oh, I had to put it in the dust bin.”
I was very shocked. Why had she done that? I asked, not quite wanting to know.
“I did not like it with its blur and now there is no puzzle, it could go.”
As a child I felt distraught, as if I myself had smashed it off the wall.
I had no idea I would be the cause of its destruction at all.
jacb Nov 2020
I knew Nancy for about 45 years. I don’t think she really approved of the boy her daughter married, though I think she got to like me. This was taken at an open air concert at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire.
NOW THAT SHE IS GONE
Now that she is gone
We want to say something.
We want to provide significance
To the life that has stopped short.
Give it reason, meaning
in the relationships,
Whether close and personal
Or the entertained, or annoyed.
We want to say something
To prevent the deadly silence
That can’t be broken because
There is no intake of breath.
We are only remembered
For our effect on other people.
We can not be rewarded for
What we have gained to ourselves.
Nancy Pennington (Nee Cleeves) 1915 - 20215
Jacb Oct 2015 99 years after her birth - revised Dec 2020
On missing Tilly after Christmas
The Grandparents lament
The house is very quiet without you.
Not that you were noisy, your’ not,
But your presence was full of urgent wants
And demands, and not just from the cot.
Not unreasonable demands,
But from the excited need to explore the new.
To lean out and to see, with one hand held
Firm and secure as the cot you flew.
We miss seeing you thinking,
Trying to make sense of what is real,
Copying what you see,
Secure in the love that you must feel.
We miss listening for you in the evening.
Listening to you telling stories to yourself,
Quietly making cocoa not to disturb you
And making sure you had your bedside Elf.
Tilly we miss you,
Coma and see us again very soon.
Love Granny and Papa.
Jacb Christmas 2011
THE ISE OF MULL
You really should go to Mull
Mull, an island like no other I’ve been to. I went there once on a family visit.
An island of strange mystery by the sea; beautiful and rugged, demanding and free.
My Father could not see what the matter was when the chief engineer came to say
“I would like to resign from the company” “Why now, what could attract you away?”
“Have you got a better job to go to?” “In a way, I have bought the Cosy Caff
In Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.” Father was silent, how can you answer that?
My Father decided that we should visit their café on the Isle of Mull
We drove for days up the length of England, staying in strange B&Bs on the way.
The scenery changing mile upon by mile. In the car Father, Mother, girlfriend and bro.
We drove to the north; staring out of the window, as the scenery passed slowly.
We took the Caledonian MacBrayne and drove very gingerly onto the quay.
Asked for direction to the ‘Cosy Caff’, “Park here it is near enough to walk, aye”.
We arrived at the café, two parents, three youngsters, dressed inappropriately,
From south of the boarder, or for the weather. We said our ‘hellos’, ate cake, and drank tea.
My Father still could not understand how they looked so happy, relaxed and at ease
Despite rising early and going to bed late and working hard keeping tourists pleased.
They showed us around the area from the ferry quay to the tall sea cliff,
And we walked all-round the small pretty village to the green hills behind the caff.
“Didn’t realize when we signed the contract we had bought the hill up behind
No use ‘cept for sheep, so we let it.” Father’s mouth was open but gave no sound.
Mull is a beautiful place with views to the hills and back to the Scottish mainland.
But now it was time for us to go, the ferry ready to leave back to the south,
Back to ‘reality’, to ‘life’ but back to – what? Father still had no words to speak.
We too were still a bit bemused, but more at our father than his Chief Engineer.
JACB February 2021 October 2012 About August 1962
“Let’s all play a game.” “Oh Mummy must we.”
“Yes, it will be fun. Go and find two dice.”
Run upstairs please my darling and find two white dice
They are in the back bedroom; er, um, s-somewhere!
Christmas lunch was great, a real blowout, with
A surfeit of trimmings and lashings of sauce.
Mum’s homemade crackers were fun,
but her jokes worse than ever but we enjoyed calling them out.
But now I am alone upstairs, laughter rises through the carpet.
There are drawers and boxes everywhere in the room,
Each stuffed with the detritus from a very long life.
Draws too full of stuff to be able open at a single pull.
I shout down the stairs “Honestly I really can not find them.”
“Don’t be silly darling, I know they are all up there somewhere.”
Laughter from below filters upstairs as I struggle with the draws.
Drawer out, scrabble around, drawer shut, drawer out, drawer shut.
“Come on, you are spoiling it for everyone.”
Boxes everywhere, under the bed, on the table,
Deep in the dark back of the old wardrobe.
How can you have packed it and not know where it is?
Four years is a long time not to have fully moved in.
Box open, scrabble round, lid put back, box put away.
The muffled sounds of fun making a taunting background.
Box open, scrabble round, lid put back, box put away.
“Come down dear, time for tea and a piece of Christmas cake.”
“It can’t be that difficult, and we are waiting for them.
“You always make things much more difficult than they are,
“You just have not tried properly to find them.”
Oh! do look, there they are on the mantelpiece, silly me.”
“Oh never mind you made a good attempt,”
“Go and carry in the cake please, be a dear.
Now then everyone, what shall we play?”
THE BETRAYAL OF ROSIE OUR CAT
Dearest Rosie, even for your advanced years
your fur was so fine and soft to the touch.
You enjoyed so much it being brushed, being stroked,
and my how you loved a scratch. You would lie on me,
relaxed as it is possible for a cat to be.
Now, the pain is too much for you, your distracted,
Even to enjoy your usual daily comb.
Is the Vet your salvation? As we cuddle you
Your eyes are not wide and afraid, but looking up
To us, and are dark, trusting and questioning.
The Vet was very gentle with you,
Examined you very carefully.
Even took away some of your fine fur
For a closer look at your light skin.
For the right place to put the needle in.
And now your whole body is limp,
Now your eyes are closed as if sleeping.
But you won’t wake again in our house
To ask for a cuddle, or a bed, or for tea.
But now from all pain you are free.
I’m sorry. You trusted us not to hurt you,
to care for you, feed you and comb your fur.
We failed you, we let you down,
we brought you here and we betrayed you.
We cuddled you to feel better - and killed you.
What else could have done for you?
No life lasts forever, but slowly decays
Until it can’t function at all anymore.
Our earthly life we can’t control
Though to mitigate it, we struggle.
Is a tidy end to your painful life a betrayal,
Or should we expect life to include some pain?
Have we taken from you, or saved you the hurt?
Was it our sensibilities that were disturbed?
Did you know any of this?
God, we miss you.
John A C Beattie 2010
We want to apologise to you both
For not understanding what you would need.
We knew what you needed to know then,
But not what tomorrow would need.
We are always here behind you
Like the strong, but thick, back of your chair.
Whispering onto your ears encouragement
Support and amazement at what you have achieved
Pride is what keeps us going,
How you got to where we couldn’t.
How you build into your children
What we wanted to build into you.
But we didn’t know how to do it,
Based on our parents post war building into us.
But you have taken a giant step forward,
As will your children when they leave you behind.
Such is life. Regret, amazement and pride.
jacb Feb 2021
SO THAT’S HOW IT IS DONE
Uncle Norris my father’s brother
Taught me a lot about life.
How to stay out of the kitchen
And not to annoy your wife.
Uncle Norris was a man’s man.
When his wife was finally taken
He had to ask a neighbour to
Show him the way to the kitchen.
Uncle Norris, a Bank Manager
used unrepeatable language.
His names for other non-English
Makes me blush in the woke age.
How to sell more from your shop
If it isn’t doing too well.
Double all your prices
And to rich people you’ll sell.
How to pass the time till lunch
By drumming on the table
Till the polish was removed
And the meal was brought by Mable.
Uncle Norris smoked cigars,
He used a fountain pen.
He wore leather driving gloves,
And to weddings white spats
Uncle Norris was older than my Dad
But he had their father’s style.
He frightened me a little
But had a very open smile.
THE FAMILY’s SUPPORT
Parents are supposed
To care for their children,
To oversee their life,
And stability of mind.
But ‘twas gross this time
Incarcerated by regulations.
With selective use of time.
And impossible decisions
But children do it for parents now,
Lifting up their paters creased brow.
Providing some unimagined
Alternative way to spend an hour – or six
My son sent me by Royal Mail
A Fiat 500, the Austin Mini of Italy
As a model of our family automobile,
A small car remembered fondly.
But this one was in bags of Lego,
With 250 pages of instruction.
That not only took time to build
But the pictures needed interpretation.
I did achieve it and was proud
My Lego skill was not a myth.
It sits proudly on my office desk
With all the love it came with.