Two Young Lads

Two young lads, ten and six
carried Dad’s bags down the
lane to the horse drawn tram
running along the main road.
Mum sent him away for he
drank all his wages, left nothing
for his children or new baby.

After his illness the doctor
had prescribed for this fine
husband upstanding church man
that standard remedy, stout
to build up his strength.

Working in that colonial town’s
port office everyone saw his
shame, her humiliation. Now
he would sail the Pacific
on trading ships, die
in a foreign port.

This devout churchwoman
swallowed her pride, went to
the mayoress’ committee for
the indigent, accepted their
charity until her sons’s wages
supported them all though
it stuck in her craw to beg.

Two Young Lads


Before World War I our Dad was
born sickly, retained little food.
“Arrh !”   said Uncle Jimmy
“they’ll never rear that one !”
He told the family often, Dad’s
siblings reminded him too,
baited him as he grew stronger
throughout his school days.

Lean and wiry, he survived
long weeks on naval rations for
six long years of World War II
……scant limited rations.

After war’s end he mostly ate
plain food, no sweets cakes or
biscuits, no ice cream or fruit.
Sometimes he craved fried foods,
On Friday nights out with his
mates he ate fish and chips,
pies and fritters, then made
long dire sounds in the toilet
at home,  late at night.

At 87 Dad wanted to tell
Uncle Jimmy he was still
alive, but Uncle Jimmy
had passed away at sixty
such a long time ago.

Some of Dad’s grandchildren
and great grandchildren have
serious dietary disturbances.
Was he lucky to survive ?


Night Time Phone Calls

From city to town to city
I moved over the years.
“Our address books have
so many entries for you !”
friends and family exclaimed.
Some of them moved often !

I used to visit long distance
now energy and funds curtail !
Instead I travel in cyberspace
on skype and long distance calls.

Late night chats strengthen long
time bonds as we talk of those
we know, share our news, come
up to date with each other.
Children, grandchildren, funny
moments in daily lives, sadness
and grief for those around us,
genetic time bombs taking
us by surprise.

So we build each other up
take strength from these
late night network connections.

Night Time Phone Calls


My newly purchased town
house stood on its back section
in newly built splendour.
Its letterbox read “114A“.

After unpacking, settling in,
weathering Christmas and
New Year, my rates bill
was truly overdue. The
council office was puzzled
on the phone, so I took my
documents to their offices.
A senior man checked their
records, assured me
my number was….”116A”  .

In those days of handwritten
documents over thirty years
ago a hurried “4” could
become a “6”.  We agreed
that this had happened here.

If I change my number
again, I said, my mail will
all be “returned to sender”.
At the council man’s
suggestion I wrote a
letter to the council.

One month later I was
officially …… “114A“.


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.

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.


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.



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.