Monday 13 November 2023

Wroth Silver 2023: In the Picture, Making History

There they are, over a hundred years ago
In their flat caps, bowler hats, bonnets & a stovepipe
Standing round the stone in unusual daylight
Making history.

Schoolboys in striped caps, a lady with a feather stole
A constable, a father, a grandad & a farmer
Came to pay Wroth Silver on Martinmas Eve
Came to make history.

Men outside The Dun Cow, in their big boots & waistcoats
In alpha male stances with their glasses in their hands
& their long stemmed pipes & their serious expressions
Making history.

Look, a crowd gathered under the lone pine tree
Before there was a hedge & a lorry load road
Some came on their bicycles all the way from Coventry
To make history.

& back in the pub, all sat round for breakfast
With a collie dog wagging its tail under the table
The ubiquitous church wardens make an interesting composition
Make it history.

Now this lot here, are wearing their Sunday best
At Knightlow Cross, in early November?
Another really posed one, taken in broad daylight
But still they’re making history.

At last we have a photo that was taken before dawn
That woman in the headscarf must be very tall
& that smart looking young man in a dark overcoat
He’s definitely making history!

& there’s Bill Quarterman & Mr. Camping with the charter
A schoolboy & a lady in a bright chequed coat
In the background, my predecessor Victor the Poet
He certainly made history.

Here’s Mr. Sparrow in his waxed estate jacket
Who raised a twinkle in the eye of the Queen
The mayor in his scarlet robe, Doc with a video camera on a stick & William Waddilove
Making history.

There’s David on the eightieth anniversary of his attendance
& Gill & Anne counting the money afterwards
When we had moved to the Queen’s Head in Bretford for our breakfast
Now even that is history.

& here’s a dark blurry one walking down the road
Of early morning twilight & headlight smears
The first time that I came here, not so long ago
We were all colts once
Whatever hats
Whatever boots
Or means of transport we prefer
Whatever may be going on in the wide world
We’re still in the picture
Making history.


My tenth year of serving as the Wroth Silver Bard! It is a great honour & a pleasure. To read my previous Wroth Silver poems & find out more about this unique & ancient event follow these links:
2014: Martinmas
2015: The Road of Time
2016: Wheel of the Year, Wheel of the Land
2017: Eight Decades
2018: Ghosts
Throw a Penny in the Hollow of the Stone 
2020-21 Dear Ancestors
2022: The End of an Era

If you visit my other poems you will see many of the old photos which I mentioned in my poem this year. The title of last year's poem was made poignant by the choice to stand down of David Eadon as the main organiser of the event, a role which he took up in 1967. He attended Wroth Silver a total of 85 times. Here he is as a young man in a dark overcoat, second from the left, in 1951, as mentioned in the seventh stanza of my poem.


Wednesday 8 November 2023

The Winds of Fethaland

Fethaland is far from here:

We took the long road
From the sea-free net savvy middle-lands
The the furthest point
Of what there they call the Main Land.

Spelling each other on the weird ways
Of the modern road system
To a welcome from friend-strangers:
A homely house in grey-green Glasgow.

& on, on to The Flower of Scotland
The granite grey ford-town
Where big boats with cranes
Waited in the harbour for their summons to the sea-fields.

Fields to be ploughed on our behalf
By M.V Hjaltland to Shetland
Through the guillemot’s kitchen
Our fellow travelers, fulmars.

While beneath us, unseen
We passed the black muds that will
Some day be shining stones
On a distant, future shore.

Through the undark night
We passed peaceful Fair Isle
Saw, in a sleepy simmer-dim
Dark cliffs, a lit house, through window glass.

Morning & into the muddy bay of the Sword Hilt Isle
A land of fiddle players & sheep
Otter-people, skua-people, red throated diver-people,
More Norse than Scot, Sea-People.

Up shag haunted voe & merlin haunted moor
A winding road, a long road
The last road, to the final station, with
Winter’s peewits & dunlin already arriving.

This is not a path followed
By many footfalls in these fast days
But we delight in rocky shores
& their inhabitants, past & present.

Those lonely hills of sedge-heather
Were once pleasant pasture
& the small round stone houses
Of the ancient people may still be seen.

They lived well here in their time
With good grain, kale & kine
But even older secrets & wonders
Pass beneath our feet.

From the polished Dalriadan moine
We hike over onto the glooming basement
The dark, blocky castles & spires
Of mythical, primal, pre-cambrianity.

The view from Raven’s window:
Black framed, mad-jagged
By beserker storm waves of The Western Sea
A view of emptiness all the way to the North Pole.

That’s not a place where Raven wants to go
For that is the land of death
& he loves life & in their own way
He & his wife celebrate its richness.

So we reached the last bastion of our journey
From Mercia to the High Lands, Isle Lands
& beyond, believing that we can’t get much further
From the ugliness, waste & hubris left behind us.

But even here, the piratic bonxie, the curlew
The kittiwake & the common-as-muck
Not so common, common gull
Could soon be gone from these plastic speckled shores.

& even here that the ever-so smart signals
Of the self-conscious otherworld
Still illuminate the screen tells all
Or would, because I switched it off.

No GPS map, no texts or trendy kennings
From the country of the meme-people,
We are alone with the power of this place
& it is more real than they are.

& we are neither lost nor last, nor can we ever be
Like the tern or the turnstone
We can find our way in this world
& it has lead us here, to the fat winds of Fethaland.


I have used kennings based on the origin of place names throughout the poem. eg. Shetland= Hjaltland=Sword Hilt Land; Glasgow=grey-green; Fethaland=Fat-Land.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Night Jar



Nightjar! Oh night jar!
We drank from the shadowy bottle of your light
Glass chink the last alarm call
Of some small bird by the path,
As Nightjar, oh night jar,
Your mothy cloak of
Of wing-clap wander-gloom
Spread over the deeping wood.
Three old friends & a younger person;
From the Queen, whom
They call The Major these days;
Past Medusa’s broken crown
& the Central Oak,
Taking care not to step on glow-worms;
Nightjar, oh night jar,
From out the forest we came!
Out onto the owl & pipit
Haunted common, to hear your
Croaking riffym rhythms!
Gloaming made visible;
Primal, primary, pre-human,
Praeternatural, preyventionally obscure,
A whirling, whirring, whiling for a whist
Among the birches, pines, gorse & heather.
Oh yes,
& the cuckoos were up late too.

A great evening in Sherwood Forest & on Budby Heath with friends, human & other than human. Riffym is a word coined by my friend Leanne Bridgwater which means an improvised rhythm. See her posthumous book, adDictionary, for more of the same. Preyventionally is a word I made up; I think it makes sense. Gratitude to my companions.