Tag Archives: family

Grampee

Merry eyes, wicked smile, teller of tales.
Grandfather mine, I would sit on your knee
hear of Susan, the Mule that liked to kick officers
and saved you on a mountain pass.
How you were called the
Prince of Baghdad  by your comrades
and of meeting real Princes in India.
Self taught, you bought me
Maths books to read with you,
squeezed me into your
invalid carriage and drove to
expensive French restaurants for lunch.
Your love of life and learning
and food
is mine, forever.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

For my maternal Grandfather Alfred Domenico Brown, born Valetta Malta 1897, died London 1979. Much missed.

Alfren and Ethel Brown at Windsor 1957

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1939

She did not weep,
nothing so soft or poetic,
my grandmother sobbed long and hard
remembering war-crippled brothers, war dead father.
She had nursed soldiers, married one,
spent recent years in dread.
A few words on the Wireless,
a husband mustering with his gun,
and the nightmare returns.

As a child, thirty years later,
I saw hunger in her old eyes
a longing for security from fear
that she never lost.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

For Ethel Maude Wellsted Brown (known as Maude), orphaned by the Boer War, Pharmacist during the 1918 Flu pandemic, wife and mother to Airmen and Airwomen. My beloved maternal Grandmother who married a poor boy from Malta and, despite the attitudes of the time, danced with black GI’s in Wiltshire  as they waited to fight in D-Day and the liberation of Europe.

The photo is of her and her children in the mid-1930’s. The little girl in white grew up to be my mother. The three larger children were all in the RAF or WAAF in World War 2. They and their father came through the war unscathed.

According to my mother (who was eleven at the time), Maude sobbed for hours after the declaration of war was broadcast in September 1939..

Coal

He told me of how coal can be split
to reveal the hoof prints of long buried deer
if you get the angle and the grain right

Of how, in the deepest mines
Darwin was proved each day
by the strike of a miners hammer

And how opening the coal opened him
drove him to library and Miners Institute
to learn, wonder and argue

His gentle voice, with its natural grace
led me into his world
to the child opening trap doors in constant dark

To the young man, passionate for justice
filled up with the joy of learning
all forged in dark coal.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

For Wilfred Whysall, my paternal Grandfather (1909 – 1979), on his birthday.

 

We live on the high ground

We live on the high ground
Below us the water tumbles and falls, jumping over buried rocks
Water criss-crosses the land  eventually falling to the sea
Life is good here on the high, fresh soil and clear water
Healthy children, full bellies, long lives
Yesterday we sowed seed, laughing and singing
Today the sun is warm and the birds are singing for me
I try to put the birdsong into speech
As we knap flints from the coast
Mother is drawing a circle on the turf near the Family stones
A circle stones of to encompass Grandmother who closes in to death
We will cover her in the soil of home to keep her with us
Here on the high ground

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

 

Originally published in Three Drops from a Cauldron: Issue 11

Neanderthal

Was it the red hair
that so entranced us?
The strong nose
on a strong young man?
Or that capable stocky young woman
who didn’t moan at first frost?
Where did we get our blues eyes from after all?
In the snows of almost perpetual winter
and at the warm shores of the middle sea
we met them, loved them,
raised their children.
And left them behind.

 

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Worry

We worry about you, our dear boy,
as if, by worrying, we can affect
your journey through life.
It is a parent’s lot to be apprehensive.
But we must take pleasure, bury  fears,
lift our fledgling to the sky
and laugh delightedly as you fly away.
We need to grow
to trust your endurance
to give you to the universe.

Copyright © 2018 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Rat Trap

I tasted aviation fuel in your air today
Laundry flies in the dirty breeze
Overflying jets deafen your children
I still cannot hear at that pitch
Your rainbows are black, lacking imagination
Hillingdon
Rat trap, small town lost in a mega city
So glad to leave you at eighteen
So reluctant now to re-visit

Except perhaps to fly away….

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Note: Hillingdon is where Heathrow airport is located. And where I grew up in the huge suburbs of West London.

The best writing about such a dirty little place is Paul Simon’s, in the song “My Little Town”:

And after it rains
There’s a rainbow
And all of the colors are black
It’s not that the colors aren’t there
It’s just imagination they lack
Everything’s the same
Back in my little town

Husbandry

He talks to chickens
Sometimes with their own sounds
Otherwise in English
Discussing the state of the hen house
The undesirability of chickens entering the house
And pooping on our elderly carpet

They themselves have their own opinions
Apparently
The availability of fresh greens in their diet
The joy of scratching about on the shingle path
The delightful crunchiness of dried meal worms
When I suggest that the girls take part in family decisions
In order to address the gender imbalance
I am rejected
They have their own forum
Talking with my husband each day
True husbandry

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

For Tony….

Fireworks over England (Penny for the Guy)

Flying across England on Fawkes night,
peering down onto fiery blooms
sending light into the night,
bright chrysanthemums burnt to celebrate failed terrorism.
Fireworks and neighbourhood bonfires spark and glow each November
in long and splendid tradition, now organised and commercial.

But where is my Guy Fawkes?
Built each childhood year from old clothes stuffed with straw,
wheeled around the street, “Penny for the Guy please?”,
burnt on the family bonfire amid fireworks bought with the proceeds of my begging.
Tradition lost in a land that wants to go back on itself once more.

We also used to play in the Trafalgar Square fountains,
splashing in icy midwinter,
kissing Policemen at the stroke of midnight,
fraternity with authority on the turn of the year.
Now crowds buy tickets to watch fireworks over the Thames, passively.
We no longer make our own festivals, they are arranged for us.

We need to take back the small anarchies,
set off Fireworks in our own gardens in November,
burn the Guy as effigy of all we are told to be frightened of,
embrace the neighbours, we are all in this together.
Whatever colour or creed.

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This weekend, the British celebrate Bonfire Night  with fireworks and large bonfires.  The tradition of burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire has all but disappeared.  We also don’t tend to set off our own fireworks in our gardens anymore, but go to large neighbourhood displays.

Of course, the classic poem, that we all learnt when very young, is:

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!