Archive | April, 2012
Aside

Something Sad

22 Apr

I won’t comment on the political situation, but I will speak for the children here in Bahrain.  The burning tyres and teargas scenario has been ongoing throughout the year.

I have heard of parents concerned for their new born babies inhaling the fumes and I have listened to the fears of  children I work with, after their streets have been invaded and they are afraid in their beds.

During class one day a little girl said, ‘Do you want to hear something sad Miss?’

This poem was inspired by what she told me:

something in the air

something sad

said the child

beneath the sun

and the blue sky

seeping

it stinks

said the child

it clings and chokes

wafting in the

delicate breeze

through palms

invisible it clings

so sadly to my

happy life

Catherine 6

17 Apr

By Christmas Anne Marie was well enough to walk out with her family. John proudly pushed the pram while Catherine and Billy clutched their mother’s hands as they made their way to Peach Street to visit their grandparents.

The walk took them along Brown Low Hill, passed the Workhouse, a towering monster of a building which stood as a bleak warning to those who were audacious enough to fall upon hard times.  They glimpsed groups of inmates huddled against the cold; women clothed in dreary, identical dresses, and bearded men in overalls.

‘Not a pick of flesh on them.’

Anne Marie whispered, disturbed at the sight of two little girls standing in the gated yard.

‘It’s a terrible place to end up; especially at Christmas.’

‘Their only crime is poverty’ said John.

The girls at the gate watched as the family passed by and Catherine tightened her grip around mammy’s hand. Their presence seemed like a threat to her safety and she wanted to pass that place and rid her mind of the image, although it would remain and resurface in the bleakness of her future. A foreshadow of what lay ahead.

Catherine 5

13 Apr

 

 Image

As the door closed Catherine watched Auntie Lizzie’s stoney countenance until the barrier separated them.  They had reached the other side and were now ‘inmates ‘.

‘William and Alfred, follow me.’

A girl, not much older that Catherine stood in the shadows; her sharp features wizened and bereft of passion, gave no comfort to the silent trio.

Catherine took Alfie and Billy by the hand.

‘Come on you two. It’ll be all right.  Dad’ll come and fetch us.’ 

 She said defiantly passing the girl.

‘Not you.  You ‘ave to leave them.’

‘What?’

‘Leave them.’ 

‘I can’t leave them. They’re my brothers. I look after them.’ 

 Catherine felt her heart pound.

‘You ‘ave to.’

 The girl was impassive.  She had seen and heard it all before.  Pushing Catherine roughly against the wall she wrenched the boys from her hands and dragged them along the ill lit corridor.   

Catherine watched in despair until they were engulfed by shadows, and Alfie’s howls were heard no more.

Lizzie went home and wept.

Catherine 5

13 Apr

 

 Image

As the door closed Catherine watched Auntie Lizzie’s stoney countenance until the barrier separated them.  They had reached the other side and were now ‘inmates ‘.

‘William and Alfred, follow me.’

A girl, not much older that Catherine stood in the shadows; her sharp features wizened and bereft of passion, gave no comfort to the silent trio.

Catherine took Alfie and Billy by the hand.

‘Come on you two. It’ll be all right.  Dad’ll come and fetch us.’ 

 She said defiantly passing the girl.

‘Not you.  You ‘ave to leave them.’

‘What?’

‘Leave them.’ 

‘I can’t leave them. They’re my brothers. I look after them.’ 

 Catherine felt her heart pound.

‘You ‘ave to.’

 The girl was impassive.  She had seen and heard it all before.  Pushing Catherine roughly against the wall she wrenched the boys from her hands and dragged them along the ill lit corridor.   

Catherine watched in despair until they were engulfed by shadows, and Alfie’s howls were heard no more.

Lizzie went home and wept.

Catherine 4

13 Apr

LIVERPOOL 1886

Catherine loved to spend time with her brothers at the Pier Head watching the massive Liners, brim full of people, glide away from the harbour, carrying thousands of hopefuls to their promised land.

‘One day I’ll do that.’

Billy would say, with such certainty that no-one ever doubted him. Like many a Liverpool boy he was fascinated by the mystery surrounding the ships and curious to know the places they had been. While Billy dreamed of boarding a ship and sailing away, Catherine longed to sweep the sky, like the seagulls. She envied the ease with which they would glide and dip to catch the fish churned up by the motion of the vessels as they navigated the River Mersey.

Lately the children had been spending more and more time at the Pier Head. At ten, Catherine was old enough to sense that all was not well at home. Billy and Alfie were content enough to be sent off with a penny each and big sister to look out for them, but Catherine was worried. The happy home life they once enjoyed was no more, and she wished she could tell Maud her fears, but they were too deep to find a voice.  As her auntie had predicted she and Maud became best friends and with only a year between them they enjoyed playing together, skipping up and down Great Newton Street as horse drawn carriages bumped along the cobbled road.

To look at, the girls were as different as you could imagine.  Maude had long dark curls, rosie cheeks and brown eyes, in contrast to her cousin’s grey-blue eyes and lank fair hair.  Catherine felt safe with her big cousin who was always full of ideas for games to play, and she had not wanted her worries to encroach upon the happy times they spent together.  One day she fell over in the street, cutting her knee.

‘Come on Cathy. Let’s get you home.’ Maude said oozing sympathy,

‘I’ll take myself .’  She had insisted, distraught.

‘I’ll come and tell your mam what happened.’

‘No, Maudie. I’ll go myself!’

She shrugged off her cousin’s helping hand and limped home alone.  Looking back at Maude as she reached the steps of her house, she felt guilty for treating her that way but couldn’t let her see what had become of her home, and mam wouldn’t have wanted her to bring anyone in.  She had lived like this for months now, hiding the secret, trying to be normal.

The Promised Land

8 Apr

Today has been eventful, although I have not yet metamorphosed and am still awaiting the arrival of the iphone4s. Tomorrow should be the day.

Meanwhile, not wanting to stray too far from home in case it arrived, I went on holiday to the balcony.  As my landlord forgot to furnish it, I usually spend the odd few minutes leaning over the rail to check out the goat and the Yemen Embassy rooftop, but today I carted a couple of duvets and set up camp with a book and a cup of tea.

Later, after a spot of sunbathing, I decided to go to Mass at the Cathedral Of The Sacred Heart, as it’s Easter Sunday.  A huge complex built around a courtyard, there were a number of services running simultaniously in various outbuildings, as well as in the main Cathedral.  The English Mass was scheduled for 7.00pm and as it was 11.00am I joined the one happening at the time. Not sure what language, but I’m guessing Urdu.  It was a huge congregation all looking their Easter best.

On the way home I did my usual trick of getting completely lost and drifted a bit far into the maze of haphazard streets and alleyways, away from the noise of the traffic, where the walls are heavily graffitied in Arabic script  saying, ‘go home middle aged English woman. We don’t need your sort around here’. Or words to that effect. At last I stumbled on an illegal taxi driver who got me out of there and drove me home, whilst conducting his illegal taxi business on two mobile phones, and showing me pictures of his family in India.

He returned later to take me to the Bahrain Writers’ Circle meeting, and later still to bring me home again.

Victoria emailed to say she went up the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land, but it was a bit hazy.

Catherine 3

7 Apr

The Cantells moved into their house on Great Newton Street a few weeks before Alfie’s birth and it was a rush to get everything ready. Ann Marie’s sister Lizzie and her husband Denis lived a few doors away and were a great help especially as her husband,  John worked long hours as a  printer for the Liverpool Echo.

Catherine spent hours entertaining Billy while mammy got the house straight and Auntie Lizzie went back and forth preparing pans of Scouse and freshly baked bread for the two families  One such day they were busy together in the kitchen polishing brasses and folding away starched white sheets which had been through the wash the day before;

‘Well the house is starting to look lovely Ann Marie; you’ve done a great job.’ Lizzie pronounced hanging a shiny brass engraving of a ship at sea, up above the fireplace and stepping back to check her handiwork,

‘I couldn’t have managed without your help Liz, and thank God it’s ready to bring the baby into.’

‘Yes and our Maud can’t stop talking about having Catherine to play with; they’re so close in age, like us Annie. They’ll be the best of friends.’

The two story terraced house, with its parlour and large kitchen felt pleasantly welcoming to the steady flow of visitors  as they awaited the birth.  But it was a cold November evening when Ann Marie put the children to bed and told John to call the midwife.

Jenny Steel  lived just round the corner and Alfred was born shortly after her arrival.‘He’s a beautiful baby boy John!’ Jenny announced, ‘But I have some concern for Ann Marie. I think you should fetch the doctor.’