I can hear the grass grow

“I can hear the grass grow” The Move

I was born and raised in the industrial heartland of the North of England amid the noise and bustle of a large city. Every year we come here to the South West of France to spend a time in the quiet of the countryside.

We are surrounded by fields of sunflowers and acres of woodland. There are six houses in the hamlet and you can count on one hand the number of vehicles who pass by in a day. Gradually, you lose track of the hours of the day and then the days of the week. Back home, we live in an apartment and here we have a garden which has been left to it’s own devices for nine months. A kind neighbour occasionally cuts the weeds in garden and prevents it turning into a wilderness. 

In a city the seasons can change unnoticed winter can slip into spring without raising an eyebrow. In rural France you begin to understand the subtly of nature, the nuances of change and the dependency the farmers have on the every changing weather.

The change in the seasons made me think of The Move, “I can hear the grass grow”. Move_2However, reading the poem back to myself I realise I have also written a metaphor for the every changing political landscape I left behind in the UK a few short weeks ago. The wind of change is blowing through our country and I find it invigorating and exciting. I watched Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at Glastonbury and was amazed at the size of the young crowd and you could almost see the growth in his political stature. It reminded me of a quote from the German Socialist Karl Leibknecht  “He who has the youth has the future” 

I can Hear the Grass Grow

 

The thunderstorm and the sun engineer a growth spurt in the garden

Neat and tidy the day before it is now unruly and unkempt

Strands of grass stand proud like the tufts of hair in a teenager’s  beard

The garden is not square and has no clean straight borders

It’s surface is not flat but undulates like a Cotswold skyline

The garden is a mixture of lawn grass laced with weeds, borage and wild wheat

Unmolested by the mower giant thistles will dot the landscape like pylons

But it will be tamed and broken like a stallion it will not have its way

The mower is brought from its hiding place and begins its harvesting

White chalk stones surface like moles into the sunlight

Eviscerated into dust by the passing mower blade  

I look up at the sky and see more rain clouds forming

The wind suddenly cools and the sun hides its warmth

Tomorrow will bring a new dawn and new growth

 

© Jeff Price June 2017

 

The Non-Bucket List

“I get a kick out of you” Dolly Parton

It is an undeniable fact the everyone needs a Dolly moment in their lives. They may not dollyrealise it or be prepared to acknowledge it but it doesn’t stop it being true. Maybe your Dolly moments are in private and that’s OK. Others will throw open the windows and invite the world to join in.

My Dolly track ticks another box, the wonderful lyrics of Cole Porter. His songs sound joyful but hide a sadness of a man who could not celebrate his sexuality and instead hides his anger and frustration behind the subtle metaphors of his songs. Try listening to David Byrne’s version of “Don’t fence me in.” from the Album “Red Hot and Blue”. A song sung by a thousand right wing rednecks as an anthem but actually about being gay in an intolerant world.

My poem was inspired by the title of Dolly’s song “I get a kick out of you” and is dedicated to Lynda, who has to listen to my half formed poems and always manages to sound interested even when she probably isn’t.

 

The Non-Bucket list

 

A pod of friendly dolphins can swim alone

I have never wanted an IPad or an Iphone

 

A voucher for yodelling lessons will never be cashed

 Alcohol free beer will sit in the fridge uncapped

 

A McDonald’s burger will never pass my lips

The cream cake will not stay a lifetime on my hips

 

A baseball cap will never sit backwards on my head

I don’t like the idea of a hammock for a bed

 

A bungee will dangle unstretched from the Tyne Bridge

I won’t do the Great North Run carrying a fridge

 

A bottle of single malt can be tipped down the sink

My skin will never feel the tattooist’s needle and ink

 

A Venetian gondola can remain out of view

But I get a kick out of you

 

© Jeff Price June  2017

Post Empire Syndrome

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One of those days in England by Roy Harper is this weeks inspiration. The track is from the Bullinamingvase album released in 1977.220px-Roy_Harper_2011

It’s all been a bit heavy over the last few weeks and I decided that this weeks blog poem would be a bit lighter. In fact, it’s isn’t a poem at all but a letter. It tells a tale of a broken relationship and broken promises but it is also a letter of hope.

England

Just across the Channel

Near Europe

13th June 2017

Dear Europe

It’s been awhile since I wrote but I thought I might bring you up to date with what is happening here.

Sorry about the delay in sorting out the divorce, it seems my solicitor went on holiday for nine weeks. I am hoping to get a new team together soon so please be patient.

I have also been giving a lot of thought about why I wanted a divorce in the first place. What looked like a good idea at the time doesn’t look that clever now. In the end I have to admit that it wasn’t you it was me.

I realise that I have been a bit arrogant and have taken you for granted, it’s just, well, I used to be somebody, you know. I was a player, I had an empire and everything but it’s all gone now, nothing left but a big lump of rock near Spain and a group of Islands in the South Atlantic than even the Argies don’t seem that keen on these days.

No country likes to look down and see that other people’s economies are bigger than theirs. It’s embarrassing, it hurts. My mindfulness therapist tells me I have “Post Empire Syndrome” and in her words “I have to get over myself”.

Also, things have not been going well between myself and Teresa, I found out that she has been selling my things. You know my Health Service? Well, she had been selling bits of it off on Ebay. The Water companies went to some Chinese bloke and the railways were sold to this old hippie who owns the local record shop. She even sold my student loan to Wonga.

It’s all over between me and Teresa, she hasn’t moved out yet but I don’t think it will be long. In fact, can I let you into a secret. I have met someone else. He is called Jeremy and he is really nice. He says he will get back all my stuff that Teresa sold off. However, I need to be careful, I have been hurt before. Remember Tony, I fell for all his smooth charm and he turned out to be a psychopath with a God complex. Remember Ed and his “Things can only get better” and they didn’t and don’t even get me started about Margaret.

But this time it will be different, Jeremy says he will also help me with the divorce and he thinks we should all try and be friends again. Would you like that?

The Kids are muddling along, Scotland has been through this teenage crisis and wanted to leave home but I think we have passed that now. Northern Ireland does nothing but complain about its borders. Evidently, it’s worried it might be going hard and Wales, well you know Wales,  I still don’t understand a bloody word it says.

Take care

Your ever loving

England

© Jeff Price June 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Mountains to Monuments


The Times they are a Changin’

BLOG UPDATE Friday morning

The UK has election has happened and the people have spoken, not sure what they said yet but the times they are a changin’. Fantastic result for Labour after been written off by everyone but Corbyn’s supporters. A very bad day for Teresa May and UKIP.

Tomorrow the election results will be announced in the shadow of the carnage of Manchester Arena and London Bridge. Whatever the outcome it made me want to reflect on the bigger picture and to try and have some perspective.

I read an article this about a man called Mohamed Benzizine, a stone 7784215594_mohamed-benzizine-tailleur-de-pierremason from Lyon in France who has been working on the restoration of the Cathedral of St John the Bapiste. During the restoration a damaged gargoyle needed to be repaired, it had long ago lost its heads and following the medieval tradition, the mason charged with restoring it was given free rein to sculpt a likeness of a person have liked or disliked. Sculptor Emmanuel Forchet decided to graft a likeness of the man who had taught him his trade and who had recently been made a Chevalier in the Legion D’Honneur, Mohamed Benzizine.

gargoyle 2Bob Dylan’s The Times they are a Changin’  (Sung here by Bruce Springsteen as I couldn’t find a decent recording of Bob Dylan on YouTube) was a song that when I first heard it in 1964. Although it was 53 years ago I can remember I was walking down Beaconsfield Street in Newcastle when I met a friend who had just bought a copy of the album and we went back to his house to listen to it. I was completely blown away by the lyrics.  Bob seemed to be saying all the things I have thought and put them into a song. The words were true then and are true today but in those days I was in a hurry for the world to change. Life has it’s own pace and sometimes we have to be patient and that isn’t easy but no matter how slowly it seems the world changes that there is hope and that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves and our own petty prejudices and worries in the end amount to very little.

Bob also reminds us that there are always people who will champion the under dog, who will call out for freedom and who will rail against prejudice. I am sure Mohamed Benzizine does not see himself as a champion. He probably sees himself as a mason who has dedicated his 43 years of work to something he loves and in his own words “Want to go on doing until I can no longer climb the scaffolding” but the fact that a Muslim Mason sits on top of a Catholic Cathedral surely symbolises that our world keeps turning and that little by little it changes.

Mountains to Monuments

 

In the shadow of Stonehenge are the remains of a camp

Where neolithic masons rested and feasted

Our early ancestors understood the importance of moments

Casting them in stone for millennia to marvel at

 

In the hidden reaches of the ceiling vaults of a Norman Church

Medieval masons mocked their elders and betters

With carved caricatures of now nameless and forgotten faces

Knowing that centuries later the last laugh would be on them

 

In the 12th century Cathedral of St John the Baptiste in Lyon

Modern masons have created a gargoyle to honour their hero

A man who taught them their craft by passing on his passion for stone

His country has made him a chevalier in the Legion D’ Honneur

 

His name is Mohamed Benzizine, he is Algerian Muslim

Who came to France at fifteen to learn a trade and start a new life

He is part of an ancient tradition but a symbol of a new world

Hammers that destroy can also build beautiful buildings

 

Kings and merchants may commission great Churches

But working people transform mountains into monuments

Places of wonder can come from madness and chaos

And a Muslim can help restore a Catholic cathedral

 

© Jeff Price June 2017

 

 

The Lime Tree

This week’s artist and song is Crosby Stills, Nash and Young “Our House” It marks that time of year when Lynda and I visit France. For those of you who don’t know the story here is a brief summary. Lynda lived in the Tarn et Garonne region in her twenties with her husband Mike. There they farmed goats, made cheese and raised a daughter. Sadly, Mike became ill with cancer and they returned to the UK for treatment. After Mike’s passing Lynda still kept up her connections with the area and twenty years ago bought a small house in the tiny hamlet of Bordemoulis and for the last seventeen years we have been coming every summer. 

For the next few months my blog poems may take on a Gaelic edge and maybe a garlic flavour. Our arrival is always heralded by the lime tree in the garden which is in full flower at this time of year.

limetree.jpgThe Lime Tree

At the end of the  garden

The lime tree had flowered

Purring like a Porsche

with the sound of a thousand bees

Clouds of poppy red butterflies

Scatter when we open the car door

The evening air is sultry

warmed by the hot tarmac of the country lane

The sun sets behind a vermilion cloud

Whilst mosquitoes scout for supper on the terrace

© Jeff Price May 2017