Category Archives: memory

Grandmother II

GRANDMOTHER II (Maternal)

My maternal grandmother, was small(-ish) in stature.

I had more ‘awareness’ of this pleasant lady who outlived my paternal grandmother by nine years.

She lived with my mother’s sister and her husband. The sister was a very pleasant lady also, (just like her mother).

I marvel that the 1970’s saw the demise of at least eight of my relatives.

I can’t say that I spent ‘enormous’ amounts of time with them. Certainly less when I reached my teen’ years. Too busy exploring this world’s offerings of alcohol, discos, girls, and holidays etc., until I met The Person of Jesus the Christ.

My grandmother would visit our home, and one thing I do remember was ‘the password’.

Yes ‘the password’.

As I entered our living room, my grandmother, sitting next to the door, would utter these words, in the form of a question:

“What’s the password?” Intimating that I could not enter unless I verbalised this ‘password’.

She removed my blank look of ignorance, by whispering the said password into my ear, so that I could verbalise it loud and clear, for the rest of the family to hear.

“Up Churchill!” I would exclaim.

“You may enter” was her response.

‘Up Churchill’ was a leftover from the second world war years, and typified her somewhat tongue-in-cheek political persuasion.

Memories of this grandmother although a little vague, similarly take the form of mind’s eye pictures of her wearing her 1940’s long dress attire (still wearing it in the sixties era) She was also quite ‘attached’ to her hat, the kind that has a hat ‘pin’.

(I can picture her also, just as I can – my paternal gran.)

What a person is – usually stays with us.

One could almost say a person’s essence remains after departure, as in the impression they made on us, – their personality etc. 

Of course such expressions (i.e. ‘essence’), are open to all kinds of mis-interpretations. So in referring to this, I make no reference to new age philosophy, which is replete with esoteric or ethereal error.

I do remember seeing her once, during her final illness that led to her demise.

She had a (returning) child-like quality and I remember being left with the impression that ‘this wasn’t my granny’. Something was different and I couldn’t quite grasp what.

Things were kept from me as the junior in my whole family connection, even though I was twenty-one at the time of her departure!

So I had no real realisation of her mental state.

Her husband, my grandfather, died when I was about two years of age. I have a picture of myself in his arms, in a local park.

So a ‘granda’ experience was a limited event for me, whilst growing up. One grandfather I never knew.

The other – only as a two-year-old (short lived indeed).

Generations come and generations go. Mentalities change for the better and for the worse.

My maternal grandfather was always addressed as ‘Pa’, by the family members.

His actual name was Kirkwood, Kirky for short. He worked like the majority of men during that era, at the Belfast Shipyard.

I am ill-equipped to try to do a Wikipedia for you on the shipyard’s history.

There is no shortage of such historical info on the net, I would imagine.

But the shipyard, also referred to as Harland and Wolff’s, was at one point the biggest shipyard in the world. The famous Titanic being built there. 

That whole industry has all but ceased to exist in Belfast.

My grandfather bought a new watch, (so the story goes), and he happened to show it to one of his fellow workmen, who thought it was very nice.

Five minutes later another workman happened to pass by. “D’yi have the time Kirky?” He asked.

“Yes it’s 3.15” my grandfather replied.

Ten minutes passed and yet another friend asked the same question. And Pa dutifully replied, giving him the time of day.

Twelve minutes later another fellow workman wanted to know the time of day.

And so it went on. It took ‘Kirky’, quite some time to realise that he had been ‘set up’ and his colleagues were ‘pulling his leg’ as we say. Or in modern parlance: ‘winding** him up’.

Such a term** especially relevant to this particular round of ‘timepiece’ banter.

The story is also told of how one of his daughters (my aunt), planning a cycle ride meet-up with a boy, was about to leave the house in shorts.

She came under Pa’s scrutinising rebuke and was told to change into something ‘decent’ immediately.

So she dutifully responded, meeting up with a boy a few blocks away, whereupon she removed her skirt, revealing the cycle pants intact, and they cycled-off together ‘into the sunset’.

Pa held amateur talent nights in various halls. My mother played the piano (by ear as they say), and tap-danced along with her sisters.

Well into her seventies, she still was able to show ‘the moves’ that made up her style of tap dancing.

Jane, my grandmother had three girls and one boy.

All of that generation is gone. I lost my last remaining aunt a few years ago.

I was not privy to exactly where my grandmother stood concerning the things of God.

I think of all the things I would like to have asked my grandparents.

When we are younger the big questions, the important questions, are often ignored, and would not be on the lips of grandchildren.

Paradoxically however kids often stop us in our tracks with astute observations/considerations: e.g. What does God look like?

In fact let me quote a few statements of childlikeness that propel us into necessary considerations about life.

Deceptively deep, they were expressed in prayer-letters such as –

“Dear  God, did you think up hugging? That is a good thing.”

“Dear God, count me in”

“Why did you make the sky blue and the grass green. Is that the only colours you got?”

“Dear God why do I have to pray when you know anyway what I want? But I’ll do it if it makes you feel better.”

[Children’s letters to God compiled by E. Marshall and /S. Hample]

My grandparents generation were certainly of high survival calibre – knowing what it was to ‘make-do’ with little.

At worst they had restrictive unnecessary rules, – what we would term legalism. At best they stood for moral principles, our world today is ignoring, as it falls apart at the seams.

Apprentice interlude

APPRENTICE Interlude

So much has happened in the world since those days

Just as so much happened in the world before those days

Standing outside the central library on the steps

Leaning against the pillar and watching the world go by

As the odd gust of wind lifted dust and old cigarette packets

That wafted their obnoxious mix across one’s squinting eyes

While the journeyman who stood there beside me said little

And seemed to never hear when spoken to

Long monologues I would exhale to his ears that seemed to swivel his head from side to side as he too observed the passers by

And then frustratingly he would – after my well-crafted theories were expounded – grunt a question mark in response

As though he hadn’t heard a word

Time was up – back to the stone – the chase – the form

Back to his instruction – for now he came alive

Indentured-I-was to this fair trade as it was then

With licence to carry a sword by ancient decree

I carried a lunch box instead

The library (rarely entered) covered us with it’s canopy it’s baroque archway of an entrance providing shelter

So that even on rainy days we could watch that

changing world go by

Lunchtime break – a welcomed device for quenching

the smell of ink and wash-up

Menial tasks thrust into one’s path – do this – do that – scenarios

Except for the efforts of the non-answering journeyman

under whose wing

I began to learn the trade – Stanley – with slightly crossed eyes

I never did hear of his life again or of his demise

Concentrated bliss

CONCENTRATED BLISS

We walk about and have our day

My city beloved in emotional attachment

I walk the streets – past shop and cafe

With echoing memories passing my way

Glancing here – glancing there and pausing

I remember – with concentrated bliss

                   ….

This means all and nothing

Nothing when compared

To the weightier matters of the law

All and much in my infinitesimal little life

Those streets and avenues

Where I bounced on my heels of youth

Or trudged – sore-footed in my latter years

                   …                

Until memory has to stop and park

In the recesses of the forgotten

Until memory flights to yonder place

No material building can house

A habitation not made with hands

New perception – All else forgotten

No memory of the former

Just the concentrated bliss of the eternal

77

77

I still see the number in my mind’s eye

Exactly as it was

The door is no longer… 

          –

Destroyed in urban clearance

But I still see the number

On gloss-green painted door

All brass shining on its plaque

          –

Where I was born

Gone with the house

That number is fixed

In my mind’s eye

It represents my family

It is the constant

The number on our door

          –

Brass bright – like some ancient landmark

“77” I say it again

Once we enthused

at its sunset strip connection

“77” – brass – polished – by diligent mother

          –

Quickly take me back

Green door – red step

Window sills

Paper mill at the street’s end

Roofs to climb in naughty pursuit

          –

I will ride the imaginary horse

And espy with my little eye

77 glinting in the sun

Branded on my memory

Bygones gone forever

Leaving 77 to shine on

On the green door of my heart

What will become of us…?

What will become of us…?

They’re on the move

From the romantic hitchhike to the bus terminus

They’re on the move – dodging the traffic

to cross the busy thoroughfare

They’re on the move with rush-hour sidesteps

and train doors closing

 

Strangers in the day and the semi-night

Eye meets eye from time to time

And turning away it wonders why…

 

Some long to engage their speaking faculty

Others speak when not spoken to

It takes a lot

But some – come to that place

Where they will make their complaint

embarrassingly

 

Some see it their duty to give that word of direction

Some fight to do so with interruption and

A fuller explanation

to the lost or stranded holiday-maker

Making their holiday difficult for themselves

 

But now crowds on-hold staying at home

Only a memory – remembered

now a frantic search:

‘What will become of us?’

Jobs gone – future put on-hold

‘What will become of us’ –

as they ease down into the sofa again

Flick through the phone

Flick through the channels

Rising and falling in human mood-swings

Trying to stop time

But it won’t stand still

The inner-life withdraws

To the catacombs of self

Purpose found in identity’s home

No more activity in outward display

No more making money

Identity slipping away

I don’t remember poems

I DON’T REMEMBER POEMS

I don’t remember poems

I – of former full-script-of-lines-remembered

– type person

Standing to play my part as Lentulus

 

I don’t remember poems

I – of former full-on stamping-forward youth

Ready to take the world on

 

I don’t memorise poems –

“Who wrote that I often ask?”

Why – it was KR – me myself and I

 

Written –

it must have fallen unnoticed

Into the back of my folder

 

I don’t speak poems from memory

I have to shy away

All shy within – slipping out of sight

Into the corner – as young men or women

Recite and rant their full contribution

With no page in front of them

 

What memory have I?

Enough to invent more words

Get ‘em down on paper or screen

Speak ‘em out and forget them

But you can glean

Making them what they seem

Or what – you think they mean

 

They tell me there is a diminishing with age

However memory is some old wine

So you’re wrong – it grows in value

What value – a memory brings

 

A softly spoken man – (I’ve met one or two)

Softly spoken – they speak perpetual poetry

Having never written a poem

 

But am I too soft in valuing other things more

When freely distributing my text at the drop

of an asking voice?

Help me or help me explore…

 

The hypothesis that:

Friendship is greater than words

Even though writing them we cannot ignore

 

I don’t store –

up – poems in the recesses of the mind

I get them on the white shore –

safe from the stormy blast

Paper – that ancient reciprocal of lyric or text

Still lends it’s hand as a bank-vault-archive

Pinning these thoughts down

But don’t ask me to extemporaneously repeat them

I won’t make the effort to write them on the heart

 

So in all of this subject matter

In danger of being a major made out of a minor

I have given my explanation as to

why I stand with this page

Let’s just say ‘on page’ is what I want to do

Unimpressed? –

me too

Reminiscing in Rest

REMINISCING IN REST

In my youth I used to paint in a tension-filled expression of emotion.

The clock would ‘disappear’ into the early hours of the morning, as I couldn’t let the painting go, until the home straight was reached.

Likewise starting tasks of whatever kind and staying with them until they were completed, with no rest until finished.

So tasks may be important – but in what inner condition of heart and mind – do we carry them out?

In the Christian context – with years, comes maturity, and an entering into greater spiritual rest.

Christ offers, the child of God, rest from our turmoil.

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Hebrews 4:10

10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

And so, as the material ‘clean-up – clear-out’ I have engaged in, continues – I do it at a leisurely pace, stopping to reflect as prompted by the writings of differing kinds, that I had filed away.

Writings I haven’t looked at for quite some time.

Reflecting on the past, sometimes fondly, and at other times with a sense of disappointment.

One of the things I came across was an article I wrote for the local newspaper. A report of my visit to the training centre in Germany, mentioned in my last post.

Also I came across an old ticket for a Bob Dylan/Van Morrison concert, where I had my one and only foray into photographic journalism, representing the same newspaper.

I almost got my camera confiscated, because the word from the platform was that – no photographs were to be taken.

Van Morrison allowed a ten minute ‘snap’-time, when all photographers came forward to take shots.

But Dylan (or his people), prohibited the taking of any photos.

Whilst taking a photo from a distance, even though he hadn’t appeared, I was affronted by a certain lady accusing me of being deceitful, and that I should not have taken any photos.

Suggesting that I hand over the camera. I wasn’t going to do so as it didn’t belong to me, it belonged to the photographer for whom I was the stand-in.

So representing the newspaper for the first time, and unable to take photos?

Strange.

I have the ticket memento, but won’t tell you how long ago it was 😎.

Next I came across old email addresses of old friends or acquaintances – and wondered ‘where are they now?”

Looking back – I reflect.

Looking forward – I anticipate.

Here is marching orders from Paul the Apostle:

Philippians 3:12-14

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Spring clean continues…

SPRING CLEAN

In the midst of this spring clean session, I’m engaged in, regarding all things written. Notebooks, polly-pocketed sermons, old CD’s, books, old letter copies – trying hard to be radical in dumping and shredding.

I couldn’t help smiling at the idea, the analogy, of the drowning man. They tell me everything of our past life flashes before us.

Well many things that I have come across have had that movie re-run effect.

Old birthday cards kept. Old schedules for evangelistic trips. Old Cd’s given free with bought newspapers – later bought in charity shops. Old manual from a training school in Germany, where I met my Dutch wife to be. Old instructions to go with old mobile phones, cameras etc. Dvd’s of converted videos of my children when young.

And so on and so on.

It’s an affliction I reckon I have inherited from my parents.

Hoarder extraordinaire.

So I continue to clear – but this is only in my house. What about my art studio/shed? I wouldn’t know where to begin.

I can honestly say I have never set my heart on owning a lot of stuff.

And there is nothing of great financial worth in my possessions.

But thank God I have treasure in heaven. In fact I have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

He paid the price to supply free of charge all He has for mankind. To the whosoever will – He gives eternal life. And it starts now.

Flesh and blood will not inherit His kingdom – and there will be no hoarding problems.

Matthew 6/19

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Ephesians 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

1 Corinthians 15:50

[ Our Final Victory ] Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

My Mother

MY MOTHER

Over and above and beyond

Anything I have ever seen

 

I hear her again saying:

About – above – according to

Below – beneath – betwixt

My dear mother of

19th April 1919

 

She stood in-between tall and small

She rested and dozed and smiled

And admitted

I’m falling asleep

 

Gasping for breath

Her breathing routine

Deep breathes to inhaler press

Gaining her equilibrium

 

Hanging clothes on the clothes line

Mangled-through with dexterity

Dinner for the man

On the table

Gulped down by same

 

Everton mints on a Saturday night

As they took in – on the black and white

 

Another shirt ironed

On the treadmill of being a wife

 

My mother

A gentle spirit all my life

Impressionably irretrievably indelibly…

IMPRESSIONABLY

IRRETRIEVABLY INDELIBLY

Those were the days of my youth

You can’t change it

Turn yourself inside-out

And you can’t change it

The years have fallen like a pack of cards

And will not be put back in place

We have shuffled through time

And we find – ourselves

Emotionally –  irretrievably

Visiting our past

And gluing these memories

To six vinyl records, one old kaftan,

a bunch of magazines, a hippie hat

And a partridge in a pear tree

Long-grass ‘hippied’-through

With laughter

As the persistence of memory

In flights of fancy returns us to longing

And embracing of new faces

Time is the enemy that stops us

changing places with our by-gone’s

We can’t change this clock

The time in this watch is set

To go-off some place else

Other than fair memory-gatherings

Of moments of youth

Couched now in emotion’s hand

All generations have been similarly effected

And similarly are unable to retrieve

The experiences of the upside of life

It was all possible in those days

When music played its anthem to

Our manifesto of taste

And we – all-heads-together agreed

Speaking and talking the same language

This persistent movement of time

Will not allow us to return

Our wonderful days are gone

Our bodies creak with age

Our minds revisit but cannot visit

The days are gone

‘Things ain’t what they used to be’

But impact has been made

Indelible is the feelings returned to – 

These are the springs of youth

That linger in old age

The highlights of the journey

The best sought moments

Are the best thought moments

This is so strong – tight rope walking

Between hope and melancholy

Still we cannot reach the past

We cannot go back

Though back we would go

In a minute

If only we could

Our life consists of this

But shining brightest and

Strongest of life’s sum

Is what got – into us

First time round

When our teenage minds

Opened like flowers

to the possibilities of a new world

Always sought – but always gone

In a moment

Grasped – but slipping away

I can only tell you of what I have found

With feet firmly on the ground

Affections set on things above

Full provision for the journey is made

The past and the future

No longer memories to make

In the future eternal now