And It Was All A Dream…

castle

You see, I built all these great shiny castles

Out of air and fairytales and need

My need to love and be loved

I think you built some too

But I don’t know what they looked like

I was too busy piling up summer palaces

Full of flowers and sunshine

Laughter and starry nights beside the fire

We laugh as I chase the boy and dog

Around and round the garden

I turned my face away

From anything that didn’t fit

And hoped that the fairytale of love

Would work its magic on us

But I see now

I am looking now

Only we can work that magic

Love takes courage

You can’t build it out of hope

And air and fairytales and need

And it should not be locked away

In castles and palaces

You must love everything

From the ground up

You must join with everyone

Join the dance

I won’t turn my face away from you

Although your jagged edges

Hurt my eyes

Although your rough surfaces

Scratch my skin

Although I do not know how to make

The flowers bloom in our garden

Shhh!

loudnoises

I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to keep my car clean
Telling me how to smoke my sweet green
Telling me how to paint a wall!
As if in my nearly fifty years
I’d closed my eyes and stopped my ears
And done and learned nothing at all

Oh, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to do my job
Telling me how I should love
Telling me how geology works…
Perhaps they think that I’m impressed
But, no, it just makes me depressed
That the world is so full of jerks

Yes, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to chop potatoes
Telling me what my mental state is*
Telling me how to write my novel
Why won’t they ask, or ever listen?
Coz probably I could give them tuition
On health or design or Greek myth or fossils

See, I know lots of things as well
That I don’t feel the constant need to tell
And when you bang on, and on, and on
Telling me things that are often wrong
Your superiority is what you’re proposing
Your insecurity is what you’re exposing

Yes, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me I should try a Mooncup
Telling me that my hormones are fucked up
Telling me that I’m unfulfilled
Go on, assume that I’m incurious
Very few things get me more furious
They’re lucky they don’t get killed!

I love to exchange anecdotes and ideas
And I can keep talking for years and years
But I’m not out tonight to hear you lecture
Conspiracy theories and wild conjecture
The facts in your brain are a meaningless stew
Inspired and genius only to you

So I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me things that I already know
Telling me things I disproved years ago
Telling me all your urban legends
YouTube videos and pomposity…
No longer will I curb my ferocity
Mate, you’re coming across as a bell-end

Can we not have a conversation?
An exchange of information?
We might both learn something new
You from me, and me from you
Because, my dear, I think you’ll find
That’s the mark of a truly intelligent mind

Until then those men in my life can shut up
And stop telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

 

  • ‘state is’ and ‘potatoes’ actually do rhyme in my London accent, so there

Afon

I sat on a stone

and sang my song to the river

haunting and full of longing

crooning a spell-song

that binds me to her,

her to me

I hypnotise the river

and she slows down to listen

becomes dark and completely transparent

I can look deep down

and see all her treasures

exactly where they lie,

though I will never disturb them

But I like to know, to know everything

I fall silent and then

the river begins to sing her song

back to me

if mine is full of longing,

hers is full of hope

a clear, trilling melody

chorus of a million voices

it’s deceptively light

music such as faeries weave

to lift your heart and draw you on

on and on towards the sea

she lights me up with her

thousand shining eyes

part of me follows her

down to the ocean

part of me is now

tied to this spot

part of her now

lives within me

part of this place

is now mine

What you can do if you fall

fall

If you fall down, what you can do

Is let the shock wake you up.

Feel the pain, breathe, shout it out

Or cry. Then, in your own time,

Get back up.

If a friendly helping hand

Extends towards you, take it.

Back on your feet, you may feel bruised

And trembly, unsure of your footing.

Take your time.

Breathe. Check out your bumps and scrapes.

Rub them better, give yourself a shake.

And hope that you have learned

How not to trip again, over the same old

Twisted roots.

Your first steps may be uncertain,

But one day soon you will be

Far along the path, striding happily.

And you will smile ruefully at the memory

Of falling.

The Wildest Path

thorns

A true story, on more levels than one…

 

Recently, I took a wrong path.

I was uneasy on the flat,

the dog-walking couples in uniform

oppressed me.

I spotted a hole in the hedge.

 

Mistaking it for one of those paths the children make

to the nearest rope swing,

I scrambled, sprang and crawled up

though the intriguing gap.

It seemed like fun awaited,

a path hardly ever taken by anyone.

And the thrill of being odd; not like the others,

I’ll be frank, always entices.

 

As soon as I emerged, I knew, really,

that I had gone wrong

It was not a path to anywhere.

Uncertainly, but sure I’d find my way

I followed tracks trodden by beasts

 

They meandered and wandered,

appearing and disappearing,

skirting a steep slope.

Watching my every step on the rough ground,

I pressed on; I saw the flowers in the field,

the beautiful wide sky, the larks sang for me…

But I knew I should not be there.

I was nervous, on private land

 

On and on I went along until I met a hedge,

a barrier that seemed impassable.

And so I backtracked, climbed a fence

and gained a thicket pierced by badger’s sets and trails.

I crawled and ducked and pushed the whippy branches

aside

 

But the further I went, the more tangled

the way became, with

thorns, and nettles, brambles and

old dead bracken. I had to step very high

not to trip and fall.

Determined, convinced I was making some progress,

I struggled, barbs tearing my skin,

pulling my hair, clutching at my clothes

 

I pushed and pushed, I sweated and I shed blood,

and finally, I was free!

I’d found my way through!

But where was I?

Back in that same field!

With no way out

except the way I’d come

 

Immediately I turned around.

Decided to chalk it up to experience.

Slightly shamefacedly

I scrambled back down

through the hole in the hedge.

I emerged on the sand

with everyone else

and I took the shortest way home.

 

The cost of dying

woodlandgrave

With the average cost of a funeral in the UK now £3,757, and the average debt taken on by families to pay for a funeral reaching £1,744, the funeral poverty crisis is worsening every year. Funeral costs have risen steeply (up to 30%), as simultaneously the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 and the government’s crushing ‘Austerity’ policy have tightened the screws on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. It’s a bitter irony that up to 200,000 deaths may be linked to ‘Austerity’, with a combination of food and fuel poverty, cutbacks to health, social and mental health care services, and suicide all contributing to this estimate. So many of us are now too poor to live, and also too poor to die!

Today it was announced that the cost of a death certificate has risen from £4 to £11. It may seem a small amount, until you consider that up to ten death certificates may needed to release the body, arrange the funeral, and access the estate. It’s yet another pressure on grieving family members already struggling to provide a funeral that reflects their love and celebrates the deceased’s life.

While it’s possible to apply for a Funeral Expenses Payment from the DWP if you are claiming certain benefits, the payment will only cover an average of a third of the costs, can take weeks to arrive, and if another family member is in work, or considered next of kin and is ineligible (e.g. if the next of kin is a child), the claim will be rejected. Desperate people on zero-hours contracts, living hand-to-mouth with no savings and no spare money for life insurance or pre-paid funeral plans, will not be eligible. Up to half of all applications are rejected.

So what’s the alternative? There’s been a steep rise in crowdfunding for funerals; in the first nine months of 2016, 2007 crowdfunding pages for funerals were launched, raising an average of £1,300 each. In the same year it was calculated that 1.2 million people in the UK had borrowed £576 million from payday loan companies to pay funeral expenses, landing themselves in a serious cycle of debt. More people are choosing ‘garden burials’ – literally burying their deceased loved ones in their own back gardens, which eliminates the costs of buying a plot, conducting a funeral service and digging the grave. While this has always been an option chosen by those with large estates, or those who want to keep their dead family members close, it’s still not an option for the poorest – you will need to own your own home and the land you intend to use as a grave site and fulfill certain environmental health conditions.

So, as usual, already hard-pressed and underfunded local authorities are being relied upon to provide thousands of Public Health Funerals in the UK every year. There are sad echoes of the ‘Pauper’s Funeral’ of the Victorian era here: burials (costing an average of £700) can be in shared plots with no headstones, these may be re-opened to inter further corpses at a later date; after council cremations (costing an average of £1000), ashes are often scatted in the crematorium’s garden of remembrance, and it may or may not be possible for the family of the deceased to take possession of the ashes. It’s not the send-off that most of us would wish for for those we love, adding guilt and shame to grief. Although councils can attempt to recover some of the costs from the estate of the deceased, in 2015 some local authorities were paying up £250,000 for Public Health Funerals, and these costs can only have been rising since.

Finally, hospitals may be having to cope with storing bodies indefinitely, if the family is caught in the bind where the body cannot be released without a fee (£1000+), but the social fund will not pay out until the funeral is underway.

It’s an emotive issue that most people don’t want to think about. It’s hard enough dealing with bureaucracy and arranging a funeral while you are shocked and grieving, without adding a lifetime of financial pressure (and a reminder of bereavement with every loan repayment) and the guilt of only being able to provide a ‘Pauper’s Funeral’. Those who incur debt to pay for a funeral will likely be unable to pay for their own funeral, either, meaning that this crisis will worsen in the future. If you are facing this issue, there is help and advice available online, or at your Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

‘Austerity’ is not over, it was never about reducing the deficit. It will never be over because it’s an ideology, not a fiscal recovery policy. Reducing our dignity, our sense of social security, and performing a sneaky and despicable holocaust of the poor, sick and vulnerable is what it’s about. If we cannot perform as tax payers/consumers then we are expendable. The ‘Victorian Values’ that Thatcher asked us to return to have indeed returned and it’s horrifying.

http://fairfuneralscampaign.org.uk/content/funeral-poverty-alliance

https://quakersocialaction.org.uk/we-can-help/helping-funerals/down-earth/how-it-works

https://www.royallondon.com/media/press-releases/2018/september/buried-in-debt-mourners-borrow-1700-to-pay-for-loved-ones-funerals/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34943805

A poem with no name

campfire

The people come with their stories front and centre

They wear them like shields, like badges of honour

This is why you find me in this state!

This horror, this lack of care, this tragedy

Has brought me here. Oh, I could tell a tale or two!’

 

And so I sit, and roll up fags for us, and listen

Sitting on the pavement, on damp walls, or on the ground

We smoke and I listen and the terrible tales pour out

Until they have been heard and felt, until

The shields are lowered, the armour loosened

 

And then the people let me glimpse amazing lives

Of courage and adventure, and the honesty or

The grit that means they can’t become

A cog in the machine; a spirit shines through to me

A will that keeps them striving through adversity

 

How many weary miles they’ve travelled, battling demons, sore of heart!

The revolutions fought, the stallions tamed, the families left behind

The starry nights with drink and fire and good companions

The mountains of bureaucracy they’ve scaled

And wild capricious seas of prejudice and kindness, life and death

 

Pushed the to edges, the margins, these people

They have the best, most unexpected stories

And I feel privileged and also strengthened

Because I too, am an outsider, a piece of grit

And my mechanism don’t always run smooth

 

And when I sit, and roll up fags, and listen

That’s when I feel that I fit into something

We don’t run smooth, but we run side-by-side

That’s where I become my best self – sat in the margins

Hearing epic tales from heroes much braver than me