The Miner’s Son

Take your boots and come with me
To the Betteshanger Colliery
Where your life from now will be
Digging for the coal.

Long dark day and darker night
Wandering home by street-light
Thousands of men share our plight
Working for the coal.

Long years ahead in the pit
Remembering the days when you were fit
In the evenings by the coalfire lit
Thinking of the coal.

 

 

 

 

When your working life in the pit is done
You’ll think back to how it had begun
But then wheezing with breathless lung
Coughing with the coal.

The hearse will take your body away
To the grave where you will lay
And women in whispers then will say
“He died for the coal!”

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A Closer Shave

I have never grown a beard; never wanted to cultivate a bushy mass of rambling follicles. Over the years I have however, grown accustomed to seeing my frightening fizzog peering back at me through the bathroom mirror just before I set to with a twin bladed scalpel.

Regularly I have endured more cuts than George Osborne would ever have thought possible. Before my illness, I had on occasion, to vacate the bathroom and go to work with little pieces of red dotted tissue strategically placed around my face.

Nowadays I still have a wet shave although not by my own hand. Since the onset of my illness, I have never succumbed to the temptation to grow a beard. So, with varying degrees of proficiency my carers have gladly taken up the challenge of rendering me follicle free.

This is not to say that there has not been mishaps; far from it. I shall never forget ‘Cut Throat Kate’ who made Sweeney Todd look like an amateur on a job creation scheme. Then there was the episode where a hospital nurse somehow managed to lacerate me so badly that I considered myself fortunate to be within bleeding distance of an operating theatre.

One carer who recently cut me rather severely told her colleague, “I’m actually carving out a map of the London Underground; tomorrow I’ll start on the Bakerloo line!” Thankfully I’ve never seen her again, and the Bakerloo line never happened.

In times such as these when my carers tend to sever important arteries on an almost daily basis, I have at last seriously considered growing and maintaining a well cultivated beard. This is not to be regarded as a living and growing fashion accessory – more of a means of survival.

Far from being the proud owner of a rare and wonderful blood type, mine is more ubiquitous, but nevertheless a gift from my forefathers. Furthermore, I would quite like to keep as much of this blood within my body as I possibly can.

Ever since I was a spotty adolescent, I have marvelled at the ingenuity of men who design one, two, three and not only four bladed razors but ones that are powered by batteries. During one rather dodgy period in my adult development, I actually used a metal razor which alarmingly had to be totally dismantled before the dangerous act of inserting an almost lethally sharp razor blade. If as chance would have it, I had any uncut fingers remaining, reassembly of this device provided an irresistible challenge. This type of razor often provided such an extremely close shave that my skin frequently suffered deep trauma.

Not wanting to have my face overgrown by rambling facial hair, It seems almost certain that my daily wet shave by my carers will continue for the foreseeable future. In accepting that this state of affairs is inevitable, I have taken the precaution of carrying out daily risk assessments before I am shaved.

The Public House Ghosts

Old Town pubs full of character
Where many an hour was spent
Are now transformed into galleries
Which Art lovers now frequent.

Behind the old Victorian facades
Life unfolded therein
With pints of ale and merry banter
Tales of love and sin

These walls have heard a thousand stories
Some of them may well be true
While others come with their thirst
Just to sup their favoured brew.

Generations of long forgotten men
Men with hopes and fears
Their voices still echo around these walls
Even after all these years.

 

 

 

Men will always wonder
About who entered by these doors
In their quest to sup the ale
And who walked upon these floors.

On dark and cold winters nights
Many a tale’s been told
Of voices heard around the fire
Spoken by men of old

I’ve seen men visibly shake
Whose faces grow deathly pale
When confronted by ghosts of the past
Who sit here drinking ale.

The Old Man

His eyes, old and narrowed look out across the rolling sea. Eyes that had seen the swell of the sea as his ship ploughed through the waves and across oceans. Eyes that now are seeing the changing face of the world. His body that had felt the freezing cold of Scottish Winters and hands that used to be strong enough to grip hold of life.
Fingers with no dexterity and legs too weak to walk, the result of old age and tired old bones. Sitting in his wheelchair on the promenade, he looks out over the churning foam huddled in a warm jacket against the icy cold wind, thinking of how not so long ago, he as a child was running across these sands. A life so rich and filled with happiness. He, like so many before him never thought that his world would change; never thought that it would be like this when he became old. In his mind he is still a boy but with the experience and knowledge of a man.
He still wants to do so much, to achieve so much and still has the ability and the desire to learn. He thinks of all the things which he had learned; all the different skills which he had spent a lifetime perfecting. And now, now he has no use for them although they would be forever engraved upon his memory. Skills and knowledge which had motivated him and shaped his life, now redundant; only the slimmest of possibility that those skills may be of interest to someone, but nobody is really that interested. People have their own lives and worries; different priorities and different sets of values.
His love of the great outdoors is crucial to his feeling of well-being. Breathing in fresh sea air, he seems not to care if this is accompanied by rain or even sleet. He, deep in thought, thinks of his favourite season, Autumn, when green leaves turn to brown, red and gold before the cold dark days of winter, after which the first watery rays of sunshine appear, heralding the beginning of a new spring. Nature’s regeneration.
His face, pitted and lined by advancing years; his cheeks sallow. His face hardened by weather but still so full of character. He doesn’t mind the rain. When it rains nobody can see that the man is quietly sobbing.

The Barrowland

There’s a place in the east end of Glasgow

Which caters for demand

The infamous Glasgow trading post

They call the Barrowland.

It has been there for many years

As many Glaswegians know

If you want to buy the unusual

Then that is the place to go.

You can buy tubes and pipes

Toothpaste with stripes

Tyres and fires

All types of wires

You can buy clocks and watches which tell the time

Everything bought with the proceeds of crime

You can buy lamp shades, hearing aids

Packs of cards with two Ace of Spades

Nuts and bolts and all kinds of screws

Dodgy gear you hear of in the news

Plant pots, cooking pots, chimney pots

And push chairs for tiny tots.

You can buy left-handed screwdrivers

Paid for with dodgy fivers

Tables and chairs and all kinds of wares

Things to make and bake but possibly fake

Glaswegians all know and understand

You can absolutely anything at The Barrowland.

 

(An Enterprising Sales Initiative in the heart of Glasgow)

 

Child’s Imagination

There is a strange land not far away

Just over the garden wall

Where strange creatures gather

In the night I hear them call.

I see about ten of them walking around

They are about 4 feet tall

Their eyes are large and they chatter

Just over the garden wall.

I see a glowing phantom light

And hear a wailing cry

The stars are twinkling high above

In the cold black winter sky.

When daylight comes they disappear

As if they have never been

Grown-ups wouldn’t understand

So I don’t tell them what I’ve seen.

The Gentleman of the Road

Sometimes you’ll find him sheltering

In the darkness of the night,

Or huddled in closed doorways

In the early morning light.

A plastic bag beside him

His valuables safely stowed.

A can of beer in his hand

Another one for the road.

December now; it’s cold as hell

The winter’s here to stay,

He wouldn’t change the years he’s had

Or have it any other way.

For he walks through the seasons,

Doesn’t have a place called home.

No stone walls surround him.

Completely free to roam.

He walks a bit slower now,

And maybe not quite so far.

But give him an open road,

And the light of a shining star.

His mind is full of memories

Of people who now are gone.

He keeps one old worn photo

Which he sometimes smiles upon.

He keeps it in his pocket

Next to his heart;

For whatever happens to him

They will never be apart.