Tidying up I found a few of my old annuals. Victor and Dandy and even a Rupert Bear. It seems comics are still loved as they exchange hands for decent prices and charity shops find space for them. My local Oxfam has a good selection of Beezer, Topper and Whizzer and Chips among others.
It was a great feeling picking up a comic on a Saturday morning, perhaps with a mix-up bag of sweets and getting lost in those stories. Victor was always a favourite, but so was the Dandy and Beano and aforementioned Whizzer. I think we lose that feeling of immersion as we get older. We perhaps have so many distractions we are never completely lost in what we are doing again. If you can create it – whether it’s reading, golf, oil painting or karate – it’s a wonderful feeling.
Anyway, here are a few line on being lost in comics. Which comics were you lost in?
Fly-tipping is a problem in my local area. We’re near a lot of major roads such as the M6 and A34, but close to open country. Unfortunately, this means that dodgy types use glades and spinneys and gateways and paths as a dumping ground for rusting cookers, broken tiles, half bricks, empty paint tins and, inevitably, dirty mattresses.
This poem imagines what a fly-tipper might say to justify his actions. Apologies for the sound quality and variation in light in the trees, but this was shot in a spot close to home where sadly old kitchens and tyres are often left.
I’m discreet, see. I make things disappear
Out of sight. Out of mind. But somewhere near
Keeps the petrol down. Saves me getting stopped
For balding tyres or the exhaust that’s dropped
There’s no name on me van, just a bashed door
Nothing to ID me. You know the score
I pick up at dusk. No fuss. Cash in hand
I’m just helping folk out. Meeting demand
I’ll clear broken tiles and busted settees
Filthy mattresses. Unwanted deep freeze
Gas cookers and lino. Cracked Belfast sinks
Black ash cabinets and carpets that stink
My punters ask: Is your setup legit?
‘You mean tax and stamp and using the tip?’
‘Nah, we don’t use council. I got this mate.’
‘That’s why it’s so cheap. Call it special rates.’
This is a poem about an imaginary friend, a provider of comfort and a sounding board for those unhappy moments in childhood.
As usual with these things some are my experiences (the budgie, the reading) and others belong to the rest of my year. I never had to wear a blazer, just a nylon sweater that fitted like clingfilm. There is more about school ponds elsewhere on this blog but I never went in one, by choice or otherwise
My imaginary friend was called Johnny Kettle and lived over the back. I hope I haven’t broken any rules disclosing that.
When they ripped up my homework Johnny was there
Crouched behind the shed so none saw my tears
In cobwebs and nettles I learned not to care
They’ll tire, he said. Their hurt’s driven by fear
When I missed penalties. When my budgie died
When I had to read in assembly and choked
‘Be like a mirror, though you’re crying inside.’
‘When you’re thrown in the pond and your blazer’s soaked.’
We’d talk by torchlight. Johnny wouldn’t reveal
Himself. His whispered guidance brought only good
We spoke less. My confidence grew, my wounds healed
This is a poem about a well-known shipwreck off Anglesey which led to the tragic loss of 33 lives in a December 1900 storm. You can learn more here and also searching the terms on the Daily Post website and elsewhere. Holyhead Maritime Museum is also a great source of information and well worth a visit. Finally, there is a detailed account of the shipwreck from J Thomas of West Kirby, who was the signaller at South Stack that dreadful day. His account is quoted in Holyhead: The Story of a Port by D. Lloyd Hughes and Dorothy M. Williams.
There is conflicting information in the sources – for example it is noted she was set for New South Wales, but most records are clear her destination was Vancouver. However, I apologise for any errors, but hope I’ve captured the plight of those poor men and those who witnessed – and with the exception of brave John Owen – could do little for them.
‘Somebody’s Darling’ is written in stone
For the sea took them down and swallowed their bones
They set sail Christmas Eve. Conditions: fine
Bound for Vancouver with a cargo of wine
A signalman noted the glass falling
‘Good God, lad. It’ll blow hard before morning.’
The Primrose Hill was swept, south by south west
Her sails were in ribbons. She signalled distress
Caught in a flood tide. A mile off South Stack
Thirty-four set sail. Only one would come back
Somehow Hibernia got alongside
She threw a line. But trapped between wind, tide
The line failed. And she left those desperate few
Forced to protect her own passengers and crew
Three masts were smashed in the first crash of waves
If the rocket line failed no souls would be saved
She pitched, struck rock, her steel hull was shattered
Her crew washed away and her timbers scattered
Douglas Brown, fifteen, was the youngest drowned
Twelve couldn’t be ID’d. Six were never found
She sank as the lookout clung to the mast
A Swede called Pedersen was doomed to be last
A swell took him. Though forlorn of all hope
He was held by a farmer, tethered with rope
He’d have heard them in his hospital bed
Been tormented by the faces of the dead
Farmer John Owen got a street parade
I wonder what kind of life Pedersen made
Did he make a fortune, travel afar?
Was he riddled with guilt, alone in a bar?
The town raised funds for the men that they found
Memorial stones and plaques on sacred ground
‘Somebody’s Darling’ is written in those stones
For the sea took them down and swallowed their bones
Or there’s a short clip of me reading it (and avoiding those curious cows) at Shaky Bridges on a beautiful September day.
We cool dusty feet in Millian Brook, and climb A ridge of rabbit scrapes and toppled gates To gaze upon Sow Valley as St Chad’s chimes Names are carved in oak and beech. Woodlands dates Bob hearts Bren. Tru Luv. Beneath us, rail tracks sing And far off M6 windscreens shimmer code Timeless here. Insects buzz, hover. Swifts take wing We’ve left the tarmac for an ancient road We’re followed, surrounded, by curious cows We shoo them, then un-shoe to wiggle toes In glistening shallows of the meandering Sow At Shaky Bridges we forget our woes Silvery minnows dart. We toss sticks. Make wishes Upstream, the ghost of Izaak Walton fishes