Bathroom Window Sill

Toothpaste shower gel shampoo
line up along my bathroom
window sill with the bath plug
to remind me that I bought them.

My previous bathroom purchases
were forgotten all tucked in
around the large pack of toilet
rolls, boxes of hair dye, packet
of razors jammed in against
the outlet pipe in the tiny
cupboard under the hand basin.

Now they all stare at me
as I enter the bathroom.
I know I won’t forget them.

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Bathroom Window Sill

Son Of The Household

As his ward raised in the
elderly bachelor lawyer’s
house brought up by servants,
the boy was clothed, fed,
attended church and school
well brought up in nineteenth
century Calvinist Glasgow.

On his seventeenth birthday
he was put on a ship to
New Zealand forbidden to
ever return to Scotland on
pain of severe consequences.

For he was the son of a house
maid and wealthy mill owner
client, bred of Hogmanay’s
ccelebratory whisky tipple.

Kirk and parish condemned
the breeding of illegimate
brats, demanded unwed
mothers name the fathers
for financial support. No
question of marrying the
house maid. The mill owner
satisfied minister and kirk
elders by paying the boy’s
keep to the lawyer.

They kept his name out
of the parish register.

On his seventeenth birthday
the boy sailed away to the
ends sof the earth forever.

Son Of The Household

Tenant Farmers.

From the stony barreness
of northern Scottish soil
its young landless sons
signed on for mercenaries’
wages in neighbouring
Europe’s frequent summers
of hand fought battles.

Until the fateful 1850’s when
Europe stayed home each
summer except on distant
Russian borders. The landless
sons now brought no wages
into Scotland but looted
tenants’ subsistence farms,
such as remained after
landowners’ clearances.

Family men went down into
mines until depleted seams
closed down. Starving
highlanders crammed into
rundown tenements seeking
desperately sparse employment.

One by one Agnes and her
five sisters with husbands
and children crammed into
sailing ships for three
months, started life again
toiling on far distant soil.

Tenant Farmers.

Gumdiggers

On sunny Adriatic shores
on picturesque villages, vineyards,
stony farms, vegetable gardens,
the ancient Ottoman yoke
sat heavily on its poverty
stricken people as the conflict
loomed that would shatter it.

At first families and villages
joined to pay fares for their
menfolk to seek fortunes
abroad until later uncles
sent home fares for nephews
to join them, then later again
young girls for their brides.

In the southern reaches
of the vast Pacific
they laboured for riches
digging up fossilised sap
for varnish and polish
working long hours in
cold muddy swamps.

Scorned by other settlers
they toiled on resolutely.
In time their hard work
freed them to buy land,
plant vineyards, orchards
market gardens, set up
shops for their produce
in a prosperity unknown
in their beloved homeland.

* “gum” was the fossilised sap of ancient fallen
kauri trees later covered by vast swamps.

Gumdiggers

Charwoman

Young Cornish widow Bessie
after two months in a faraway
land grieved for her husband
struggled with her five children.

New settlers around her pitied
her plight, bought her a mangle
to take in laundry, found her
charwoman’s work scrubbing
rich people’s floors and stairs.

Baptists took  her to heart,
became her family, held her
close in her grief. Each day
her tiny frame lifted wet
laundry from copper through
mangle to rinse tub through
mangle then hung it to
dry in her tiny back yard.

For the rest of each day she
scrubbed floors and doorsteps
while her children attended
school as demanded by law.
to family back home.

Young Tom ran wild, was sent to
reformatory, later taught to farm.
Bessie swallowed her grief, put
her daughters into tailoress
apprenticeships when they
left school at twelve.

They were as small as their
mother but were spared her
burden of laundry and charing.

Charwoman

Cornishman

Cornish lad Tom found work
in Redruth town at the inn as
an ostler like his horse loving
forefathers. They were drivers,
stable boys, ostlers working
with horses, teaching their
sons their horse loving skills.

Young laundry maid Bessie at his
inn caught his eye, his fancy,
his love. Soon she was pregnant,
they wed. Later little Tom was
joined by a sister, and a brother.

Hard times came to Cornwall.
Unemployed Tom joined the
desperate ranks at the mine
head daily, grasping odd
days of work as two more
babies arrived. In despair
at the mines’ darkness, in
grief for his stable days,
Tom wallowed in alcohol
blotting out his pain.

His sisters in New Zealand
married to farmers, set up
his family’s passage there.
But alcohol now gripped him
hard despite his new job in
the livery stables, caring
for horses. His drinking
continued, cost him his life.

His widow and children now
faced life in a new land without
him after two months in their
distant new homeland.

Cornishman