Thank you biscuits

It’s a miserable day. The drive down to the city is messy and difficult – too much rain, too much spray from the road, poor visibility. All the autumn colours are washed out, greyed by the rain.

We take biscuits, shortbread in a fancy tin. I don’t know why we take them today – maybe we’re feeling particularly grateful to the nursing staff who pad gently round the clinic, who are always smiling, who offer comfort and reassurance. They are warmth on this bleak November day.

a red leaf

gold, disregarded

smoke in the air

Frank is taking care of the dVerse bar tonight. Thanksgiving is coming up and we are asked to consider gratitude. 


When you live here, you start to recognise the local names; local families. The Beers, the Griggs, the Heywoods, the Petherbridges. If you’re not one of them, or related to one of them, you’re not local. Beer is nothing to do with drink -it’s from Beara – a sacred grove. There are a few Bearas around as place names. Ancient remnants of pre-Christian beliefs, still lingering in my neighbour’s name.

the tree has long roots
thrusting deep into the earth
apples ripening

A haibun for Frank Tassone, who is our dVerse host tonight. We are celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and thinking about what it means to be indigenous. I’m an off-comed-un, not a local here. There are families that have been here for generations, which is about as indigenous as it gets round here.

Caterpillar summer

One summer we kept caterpillars – nothing special, the green ones that attack cabbagess. Maybe I got sick of killing them, the green mush between my finger tips. Maybe I thought it would be educational. We kept them in a propagator, fed them cabbage leaves, made sure there was water in there. Not many survived. A lot were attacked by some predator that ate them from the inside. The smell of old cabbage was vile. We persevered.

Finally we had a few chrysalises. We took the clear plastic lid off the propagator, and left the base tray open in the outside toilet over the winter. We forgot about them.

One spring morning, I went out to feed the cat, and opened the door of the outside loo. There were the butterflies, finally hatched – white-winged and fluttering. I called the kids and we admired them, and then let them fly away – to lay more eggs on more cabbages, I guess.

souls soar in spring
butterflies soak up the sun
green leaves unfurling

Kim is hosting at dVerse tonight, and our haibun theme is insects.

Celebrating the workers – haibun for dVerse

When Thatcher broke the mining union, she broke my town. Changes that would have happened gradually happened overnight. Family firms went bust, big chain stores moved in. A community was shattered.

As a child, I was dimly aware that everything came from the pit. Like all jobs that deal with fundamental elements, mining is tough, and dangerous. You have to be able to trust the men around you when you are below ground. Above ground, miners clubbed together to provide welfare for themselves, but also resources for the community – sporting facilities (football, cricket), education (my mum worked for the Workers’ Education Association), entertainment, music…the list goes on.

For me, even now, the sound of a brass band is the sound of the Gala – a celebration of local mining communities. Miners marched behind their colliery band, under intricately embroidered, heavy banners. There was competition and community in those marches. I still feel a tingle when I hear a brass band – it’s blue collar art, an act of rebellion against a system that wanted the workers to be workers and nothing more.

green shoots climb skyward
flowers open in sunlight
fed by the dark earth

It’s Labor Day in the USA, and Frank wants us to celebrate labour, in the broadest sense. A haibun for dVerse.

Hope – haibun for dVerse

Hope feels like a small thing at the moment – the hard green apples waiting to ripen, the half-filled pea-pods. A domestic thing. I am narrowing my gaze, because the world feels too big, too precarious, and I feel helpless.

But perhaps that’s how hope always starts – as a green shoot coming up through the burnt earth, as a child folding a paper crane.

peace comes at twilight
green things growing silently
sun rising with hope

This is a haibun for dVerse. Frank is hosting tonight. He reminds us that last year we wrote about the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. This year, he wants us to commemorate that bombing, but to write about the hope that can emerge from tragedy.

I’ve just read “A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. She mentions the fact that Japanese schoolchildren folded 1,000 origami cranes for peace after 9/11. I was moved at how this connected back to the story of Sadako, who developed leukaemia after being exposed to radiation at Hiroshima. If there is hope, it is in the hands of children.

Green memorial – haibun for dVerse.

We took the quieter path through the trees. It runs alongside an old canal, a memorial in itself to local people who carved it out of the steep hillside. We walked the old towpath – single person narrow – above the river and beside the canal itself, empty of water, but full of nettles, red campion, dog’s mercury. We stopped to read the names carved into the bark of a beech tree – Layla 7 years old Jack 4 years old. We wondered who they were; worked out they might be in their thirties now, with children of their own. We wondered who had carved this green memorial, and why. The beech tree kept its secret, even though the leaves were whispering all around us.

trees are green guardsmen

river water slow and silent

time blurs all our names.

I went on a poetry walking workshop on Sunday, with Chris from Poetry Pin. We walked, wrote poems, and pinned them to a virtual map, so that future poetry lovers can read them in the place they were written. Along the way we found a beech tree with these names carved into the bark. We wrote a poem there, so if you’re ever on the Tarka Trail, you can read it and connect with us on a wet Sunday in May.

This haibun commemorates that walk. It’s a memorial of a memorial, maybe. It’s written for Frank, who is hosting haibun night at dVerse tonight. It’s Veterans’ Day in the States, and we are asked to write about memorials.

Picnic – haibun for dVerse

We took our lunch outside, and sat under the elder tree. It was in full blossom – the grass was sprinkled with white floret stars, and the scent was heavy on the air. You were missing your sister, newly started at school, and I was trying to create adventures for you.

white stars fill the air

sweet scent of Mother Elder

mother of dreamers

A haibun for Gina at dVerse. Our theme is picnics. I’m trying to keep my prose as tight as possible at the moment.

April Fool – haibun for dVerse

I live in a beautiful place. Beautiful, but rural, remote, and poor compared with the rest of England. We still manage to keep our local Arts Centre going. It offers an eclectic mix of blockbusters and arthouse cinema, struggling theatre groups, comedians working on their act, live streams from the National Theatre, intense one-man shows, Balkan folk bands, gallery space for local artists, poetry and writing groups, yoga, a Youth Theatre programme….

In the spring programme, there’s always a spoof event listed for 1 April. The spoofery is aimed more at the Arts Centre itself than anything else, I think. This year it advertised all-in wrestling – not the usual programming at all.

Apparently 16 people rang for tickets and had to be gently told to check the date.

Now the trustees are wondering if they’re the ones missing a trick!

April sets the stage

Blue-tit clowns, blackbird sings sweet,

Plum blossom dances

A haibun for dVerse on April Fools’ pranks. Kim is hosting today. My family’s not really organised enough to do April Fools’ Day properly.

March – haibun for dVerse

March is the toddler month – on the first day she brought us sunshine and led us out to the vegetable patch. On the second day she screamed a gale and threw rain clouds across the sky. I don’t know what to wear today, or what her mood will be like.

golden celandine

primrose tucked beneath the hedge

sunlight on the grass

Merrill is hosting at dVerse tonight and we are writing haibuns. I’m trying to make my haibuns shorter and tighter at the moment – as is traditional.

Solitude – haibun for dVerse

Early morning is my time. In the winter you’ll find me curled on the sofa, drinking tea and scribbling a list or a poem. In summer I may slip outside to water the garden or just breathe deeply. Solitude slips away so easily, lost in the clatter and chatter of the day. I don’t mind – I’ll find it again tomorrow.

oak tree in winter

bare branches twist to the sky

in spring leaves return

A haibun on solitude for Kim at dVerse.