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Unread 01-07-2022, 12:46 PM
F.F. Teague's Avatar
F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Location: Gloucestershire, UK
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Hi Martin,

I'm on my way to Evening Soup, but I'll just answer this quickly. Ghost of George thanks you for recognising his knowledge in the field of carrots. But he adds that he knows very little about other vegetables. (He was particularly keen on carrots during his short life.)

Yes, for a while Dad kept his exotic instruments on a tray on top of the upright piano. Sometimes, when he played the piano with particular enthusiasm, the exotic instruments would shake and emit strange twangs by way of accompaniment. That was fun to observe. What a sweet story about getting Arab drums for free.

That's great news that you won the contest! I had a feeling you'd win the week.

Best wishes,
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Unread 01-09-2022, 12:04 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Well, here is the prose piece about the demise of George the First 😭

It's written from the perspective of me when very young and it's not something I'd usually post on the 'sphere. They're loving it in Winchcombe, which tends to be a sign it's a little bit homespun, lol. I do think there's a market for homespun, though. Anyway, here goes...

Carrots and Cuddles

"I'll dig a hole, I'll dig it deep."
David Callin*

It was Saturday. I woke early as usual, but I had to wait until 7 o'clock to get up, also as usual. Dad always said there was no need to get up any earlier. Once he'd put a big board across my window, between the glass and the curtains. Mum told me it was to see whether I'd get more sleep if the room stayed darker for longer. I didn't, though. I'd just put on my light and read a book for about an hour.

Once up, I skipped along the landing, past Mum and Dad's room and the bathroom, and went into my younger brother Adrian's room, the largest. My older brother Graham and I had never minded that his bedroom was largest because we liked our smaller rooms. Graham's had a bay window, where he could sit and look up at the stars when it was night-time. I thought I had the best view, of the garden and the woods. Well, unless Dad's big board was in the way.

Graham was already in Adrian's room, playing with Koala. He'd made a sort of robe for Koala, using a bit of a sheet. We were all laughing. Then we heard Mum and Dad coming up the stairs together. They came in and said good morning and then they looked serious. Dad said to me, "Nutcase, you'd better sit down."

Then Mum spoke. "Now, I'm afraid we've got some bad news for you." Her voice broke a little and she looked sad.

I was frightened. "What is it, Mummy?"

Mum took a deep breath and reached for Dad's hand. "Well, I'm so sorry to say this, but George has died." She started to cry.

I started crying too. Adrian just looked at me, but Graham put his arm around my shoulders. "What happened?" he asked Mum.

"A fox," Mum told us. "It was quite early in the morning and I heard noises in the garden, something coming and going. I thought it might be burglars, but when I looked out of the window I couldn't see anything. Something just seemed off. So I went downstairs, I found Dad's big torch, and I went into the garden."

"Dad's big torch," Adrian said, smiling. He'd always liked the big torch.

"Yes, Tots," said Mum. "Well, Dad's big torch helped me up the path and I'd just reached the flat lawn when I saw George's dining room door was open. And then—." Mum couldn't go on, because she'd started crying again.

Dad squeezed her hand and took over, in a quiet voice. "Your mother went up to the hutch and saw that something, most likely a fox, had managed to open the door. I was asleep through all this, but she came back in and told me. I got a brown paper bag from the drawer and my trowel from the garage, and then we went back out together."

"Oh, that poor guinea pig," Mum sighed. Tears poured down her face. She fished a tissue out of a sleeve and blew her nose loudly.

"Poor little chap," Dad agreed. "He was in his dining room and I'm afraid we were too late to help him. So I put him in the bag and then I went to get my spade."

"Your father made such a good deep hole for George," Mum told us, managing a sort of half-smile. "He went 6 foot deep! I found a nice shoebox, the one they gave me at Marks & Spencer's. I put in some of our dried flowers, Nutty, so it all looked very pretty. So now George is asleep and dreaming about all the happy things he enjoyed during his short life. You know, when he used to have carrots and, and cuddles and things."

I knew Mum was trying to make us happy, but I kept crying. Graham cried a bit too, although he did his best not to show it. I wiped my nose on my pink pyjamas.

"Oh no, poppet, tissue," Mum said. Dad left the room and returned with the blue loo roll from the bathroom. Graham and I took quite a lot of it. We were sad.

"It's like when you have some sweets," Adrian told us. "Sometimes, you might lose them."

We were confused for a moment and looked at our younger brother. He grinned and nodded.

"Yes, that's right," said Mum. "Sometimes we do lose things. It's hard, but with a bit of time we can start to feel better again."

"He was such a smart chap," said Graham. He coughed and blew his nose.

"Yes, he was," Dad agreed.

I said, "He was shiny too."

"That's right!" Mum nodded. "Smart and shiny. And do you remember when he came in and did his droppings all over the kitchen floor?"

We laughed a bit then. It had been quite funny, especially as George had done so many of his little droppings. Dad had said he looked proud.

"Come here." Mum stretched out her arms and we all went in for a hug, Koala too. "You're my brave children," she told us, "and once you've all got dressed, we'll go up the garden so you can see the nice resting place Dad has made for George."

Once dressed, we went up the garden. It was a nice sunny morning. We passed the sloping lawn, the flat lawn, Dad's vegetable patches, the rows of fruit trees, and the shed. Right at the top, there was a small mound and a tiny cross above it, which Mum had made using two twigs.

Graham and I started crying again, but not as much this time. Dad said we'd have a prayer, so we all put our hands together and closed our eyes.

"Dear Lord," said Mum. "Please take into your care our dear guinea pig George, whom we loved very dearly. Please make sure he has somewhere nice to play, with lots of carrots and cuddles. Amen."

"Amen," we said together. Graham asked, "Is George in Heaven now?" and Mum said he was. We stood for a while longer, under the trees, beside his grave.


*Recalled from a poem posted in 2017, possibly. Apologies to David C.
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Unread 01-13-2022, 04:20 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Location: Gloucestershire, UK
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And now for something a little different, being a poem from the perspective of one King Tree. Sadly I learned today that Happenstance Border Morris will not be able to gather this year at Snowshill, Gloucestershire for what's known as the orchard-visiting wassail 🙁

There's a brilliant video of the antics from January 2014 here. I think there might be a fuller account in the Postlip footage (including the robin and the rifle), so I'll try to locate that soon.

Dad on descant recorder 😂 (and other things)

Wassailing World

The gardener pats our frosted trunk today;
says, "Sorry, mate. They might not come this year."
We lower all our limbs in deep dismay
and shed a single sappy little tear.
No wassailing for us, King Tree, and ours?
No orchard visiting this January?
We vow that we shall birth a thousand sours,
and wormy, if there's no festivity.

How we should miss the rings around our girth
accompanied by sticks, the happy thwack!
The rousing cider poured upon the earth,
the decorative toasts in gold and black;
the jangling of the pots and pans until
a BANG! the rifle fires; the evil souls
disperse and for a moment all is still,
but for the steam that rises from the bowls.

Wassail! Drinkhail! Then music. Hear ye all
our fruity song to rouse the Winter trees.

Our Robin, not forgotten, has a ball
of fat while folks eat bread and mouldy cheese.
Oh, Robin. Would you sing to us, perchance,
with beak wide open, russet wings unfurled?
And will you drum your pretty feet and dance
once human beings have left this ailing world?

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Unread 01-15-2022, 03:45 PM
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Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Yay to Wassailing, and I'm very sad that your Morris isn't doing it this year. I hope that next year is kinder. I like your robin in this one, and the details of the Morris, which brings back nice memories.

On the plus side, during lockdown here (I live about a minutes walk from an apple orchard), orchards came into their own, with teenagers having
- not house - but orchard parties - groups of six of them sitting under the trees drinking cider in both an unruly and curiously gentle ruly (if that is a word) way.

Here's my very first-draft apple-tree text (not a poem yet), written way back when in The First UK Lockdown (when no trains ran, and all birds sang). Italicised text from a history of apple trees.

Orchard Apple

To offer us different stories in the face of media bias

Escaped wild trees
hide in hedges, while serried rows of cider apples
are shot at by wassailers and preachers in remote places.

In homely gardens the garden apple grows, dessert apple,
earthy pink-dredged blossom
humming and purring with myriads of bees.

You are snail-shod each Autumn
when the air smells of burned paper.
Thousands of lost varieties lie cramped in a dozen heavy Pomonas,
illustrated by careful, half-forgotten women
with ink-stained fingers.

Your shadow shelters Angelica, Dandelion, Chickweed. You are red
and green or gold, with crisp sweet or feathery-soft golden flesh.
Each apple keeps differently.
An ancient tree hides near each abandoned place
to storytell old orchards.

When unpicked, your dried up fruit wizens on the branch
like a lantern, lights us through Winter, ready for unleafing.

Some ryght soure and some ryght swete
with a good savoure and mery.
Helpful in dropsy.
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Unread 01-16-2022, 12:29 PM
F.F. Teague's Avatar
F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Location: Gloucestershire, UK
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Thanks, Sarah-Jane; yes, it's a shame we're not going to Snowshill, or indeed to Postlip, where the residents are so welcoming. I have a few photos from Postlip; I'll see if I can post some soon

It must be lovely to live near an apple orchard. My parents have one within their garden, but there's just a little line of cherry trees along the driveway here. They're very pretty in blossom, though. I can well imagine the gentle unruly/ruly gatherings of teenagers, lol.

I remember the first lockdown; being Extremely Vulnerable, I was incredibly careful about everything, only to fracture my femur in mid-June, resulting in four-and-a-half weeks in a Covid-ridden hospital 😕

I like your not-quite poem. It has a lot of variety in it. I'm particularly drawn to the smell of burned paper, for some reason. And 'wizens', because it sounds a bit like 'wizard'. I happen to know a wizard. Last year, he gave me a telescopic pen and told me I could use it to write an epic. I might just do that, if I ever have time.

When the moon's flowin' tricky in tides,
get some cider inside yer insides!


Last edited by F.F. Teague; 01-16-2022 at 02:41 PM.
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Unread 01-29-2022, 12:33 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Location: Gloucestershire, UK
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Back again

This poem is a sort of expansion of 'Aviation Age', I suppose. I'm in full sing-song mode and hearing in octameter, so I wouldn't post it for workshopping here. Phil Wood felt 'foreign lands' worked better in the sonnet than the revelation that we just took the train up to Shropshire (where L. was born). In the moment at the trig-point, I thought it was over.

Long Mynd Lament

One hand is warm around my own; the other starts to roam
upon the chilly trig-point plate that maps our one-week home,
our hills transformed to triangles with numbers at their feet
and tiny type for epic plots and forts and Satan’s seat.

And how I'd hoped to hold his heart within this otherworld,
where sheep sing softly on their paths through bracken tips unfurled,
the crows rejoice to feel the sun caress their velvet wings,
and ponies prance with air and earth around the fairy rings.

His fingers, fiery on my contours, whiten on the chart,
while buzzards wheel and wail and watch for prey to prise apart;
unseen yet felt, our homeland, with its streets of staring eyes,
where Sweetheart twists to slut wherever rampant rumour flies.

And how I fear his fall from all the heaven in these hills,
to all things age appropriate, the final strike that kills,
another woman, suitable in terms of county town,
their photograph in Cotswold Life, black tie and floor-length gown.

His soulscape shifts as heather hangs in needle-swirls of rain;
tomorrow looms, a chill return upon the southbound train,
so summer cools, his nature turns, towards a wintry change,
and silently I weep the loss of high romantic range.

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Unread 02-02-2022, 12:05 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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As a singer sings, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing!" Your octo lines swing.

Here's one, fresh for me:

Moonscape USA

At night I marvel at my stand of trees,
love to watch the moonlight glowing
off their crowns as halos, or with
a breeze strobing and shimmering
rays between leaves and branches.
Always pulling my gaze toward them,
they’re attractive, far more enchanting
than a static and pale naked moon.
So lately, when I learned of trees
Called by NASA Moon Trees,
I was stunned, imagining
trees in moonscape groves!
But a dream, seeded by reality:

In 1971, the astronaut Stuart Roosa,
a lover of trees, akin to my heart,
carried a small canvas bag
of varied seeds as he in Apollo 14
spun around the moon. On earth,
those seeds were parceled out
without fanfare or scientific claims
throughout the United States
and planted. Many took root
as sycamores, redwoods, pines, firs,
sweetgums and maybe more
that now stand tall in various parks
and cities, each tree bearing an ID sign
that claims their kinship with the moon.

Last edited by RCL; 02-03-2022 at 01:22 PM.
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Unread 02-02-2022, 02:18 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Location: Gloucestershire, UK
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Hi Ralph, and thank you! I tend towards hearing 8 beats because it feels more regular, I suppose. And the resulting pause at the end of each line provides an opportunity to reflect on the content, if the reader is so inclined 🤔

I do like your 'Moonscape USA'. I love watching trees at night too; often I keep the curtains open until bedtime, so I can enjoy my views of the garden, while listening to jazz. Nice. I like all the movement in the poem. And that's very interesting about the Moon Trees. I've just read this article, about the Moon Trees in the UK and other things

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Unread 02-03-2022, 01:44 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Pleased you like it.
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Unread 02-17-2022, 12:10 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Location: Gloucestershire, UK
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Here's the poem I've just mentioned on Art. It's a bit rubbish, but it was fun to write anyway. Imgur's down at the moment, so the image is here. Phyliss was one of my Irish great-aunts and she looked a lot like the lady in the picture. Rhythm: cha-cha-CHING.

Phyliss' song

It is safe in the sky. How I surge and I soar
in my beautiful ballgown of blue,
with the southerlies singing a radiant roar
in their silvery summery hue!

As a child I was frightened of flying so high
for a hunter would always take aim:
every arrow would wound me; I'd fall from the sky,
till a wonderful wisewoman came.

"Do not fear, fairest Phyliss," she said, "but be fierce!"
and she sewed me this daring design,
it has steel in its silk that no arrow can pierce
and the headiest heights are all mine!

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