|Posted on May 29, 2022 at 3:15 AM|
I wrote this poem 20 years ago while watching coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show and wanted to covey how gardens have changed over the decades. Watching the show recently I thought I would post this poem while the show was being broadcast.
Illustrated with 'Summer's Garden' by Vivien 'Vivi' Steels
50 Year Plot
Simple strip of lawn parallel to washing line
hosts birdbath bordered by rockery
restructured with soil from pond, below.
Paddling pool decorates grass kept weedfree
with shedful of chemical warfare,
as holidays are spent deck-chaired, fenced in.
Crazy paving shifts its mad design
to slab patios where recliners and parasols,
gaudy as daisies, mimic the Mediterranean package
as summer tries to erupt in Britain.
Our dream garden – a fern-green forest to worship,
emerges in terraces sloping in waves
down to blue, iris-fringed water.
Suburbia grows spikes of heathers and conifers,
low maintenance, indelible colour and height for all seasons,
while travel inspires natural groves,
wildernesses, seas of grasses, wildlife havens
to clash with rows of formality
and pop-art sculptures branching out
from unexpected pastures.
Cottage garden is cornered by beehive compost bin,
confusing bees drawn by scent and colour from butterfly border
linking loveseat under rose-entwined arbour
with avenue of borders overflowing drifts of perennials
and pergola clothed with clinging clematis
beyond stream singing its aria.
Makeover requires decking spreading its gangplanks
through vista to distant wild meadow,
set off by pebbles, palms and Arabian pots hosting trees.
Raised beds laugh with vegetables interspersed with herbs
behind trellis, painted blue, embroidering boundaries.
Conservatory - all blinds, designer furniture and mirrors -
becomes the stargate between house and garden.
2000 and Beyond
Gazebo winks at barbecue entertaining flames
beyond which water feature parasols its fountain
while patio heaters, sparking with avenues of light,
reveal time and space as precious commodities
to be bought and sold in plots
by the highest bidder.
Published in WRITE-AWAY - 27th July – 28th September 2000, WRITE-AWAY Special Edition – from January 2003, *PROMISE* - first collection of poems/colour illustrations designed/printed by Vivien Steels/Vivi*Press – June 2003 & IMAGENATION Vol 6 – Jan 2004
|Posted on March 4, 2022 at 5:40 AM|
It is with shock and pain that we are viewing what is happening in Ukraine by the invasion of an independent country by Russia. The people of the United Kingdom stand with the people of Ukraine. I am posting this poem called Against Humanity, which I wrote in 1995 about WWII, but which is a very echo of what is happening today. One man interviewed yesterday, who was ferrying people to the Polish border in his van, could hardly speak for tears as the events of the past eight days reminded him of Auschwitz all those years ago... Again we are talking of war crimes and Putin, and those he controls, being brought to justice for his unpardonable actions of war against innocent men, women and children.
womb of the world
weeps for those
spiked by swastikas –
Queues of blood-tied
cry for their kind;
showered by gas,
dusted by fire.
The beater, the gas man,
starver, death planner,
march like ghosts –
always at night –
up mountains of silken hair,
over spectacles of barbed wire,
down suitcases of names
stacked like tombstones
against my heaving heart.
Auschwitz – fifty years ago –
I have never left that hell.
I am still there.
I pray for dawn
in purgatory –
circling humanity –
as some* bring
cattletrucks of crime
into the glare
of our time.
* Poem dedicated to Simon Wiesenthal, who was a Jewish Austrian Holocaust survivor, Nazi hunter, and writer.
Published in CPR International 4 - October 2000, WRITE-AWAY – Spring 2002
& THE WORLD AT WAR (anthology Forward Press Poetry) – Sept 2013
|Posted on December 8, 2021 at 4:10 AM|
Muffy, Our New Rescue Cat
Muffy, our new rescue cat, came to us in August 2020. Still very sad about Teddy, I fostered a cat and after initial doubts, I said "Yes". But within a few minutes of being introduced to Muffy, an all black cat like my first cat, Miffy, I fell in love with her and her super-affectionate ways. She has a way of buffing you with her head and purring. I should have called her Buffy-Muffy...
Muffy does have a skin condition and so has special food for sensitive cats and has had to have steroid injections, but she has gone from strength to strength and her black coat is now lovely and glossy. She is a delight and has been so lovely to have during this last lockdown.
She loves going in and out of the garden, but likes the door to be open so she can get back every few minutes to make sure you're still there. She loves chasing pieces of string with a bow on and loves her tunnel and light-up balls. She has commandeered my computer chair to sleep on for her naps, but always sleeps on our bed on my feet over-night although I know if it is cold, because she creeps up the bed and lies on my abdomen where it is warmer, like a furry hot-water bottle.
Muffy has a beautiful nature and has really come out of herself. I am so sad about Teddy, as I am about all my cats who have passed away, but Muffy has brought lots of joy again.
♥ ♥ ♥
Sadly, I became very ill in September 2021 when my M.E. and Fibromyalgia flared up very badly. At the same time, Muffy became very unwell. She had re-occurring Miliary Dermatitis with very bad diarrhoea and a bad bacterial infection, which a course of oral antibiotics didn't cure. This time steroids didn't help, her special foods weren't working and the anti-diarrhoeal medicines didn't seem to help either. I became bed-bound and had to make the awful decision of taking her back to to be fostered by a lady attached to the original Cat Rescue. This was devastating to me. I believe you should look after a pet from when you first have them until the end. I felt I had betrayed Muffy's trust.
Physically I was very unwell and I was also so upset by having to give up Muffy. It is now December. I am slowly recovering physically, but I am still so upset about having to give up Muffy. Ian, my husband took Muffy for her last vet's visit then on to her fosterer.
I still remember Muffy's extra-loving ways: how she would follow me everywhere, hopping up on a window-sill so she could buff me and purr so loudly, how she would jump up onto the table where my computer was for a cuddle and curl up on the mat, so I had to use my keyboard on my knee and how she slept on my feet every night after playing chase her string round the bedroom.
I have prayed she gets better physically, which she has and also that she does find a very loving home where the owners can deal with her health problems. She is the most beautiful cat.
|Posted on October 7, 2021 at 4:25 AM|
It is National Poetry Day today and I was watching the news and the awfulness of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, where young girls who were pregnant, or just classed as 'flirty' or 'attractive', were incarcerated in buildings where they worked as slave labour and treated harshly for what was perceived as their sins by the Catholic Church. I wrote this poem in 2004, but wanted to include it here on this special poetry day and also because this has been exposed in the media.
Prayer for the Magdalene Sisters
we, the unconventional & passionate,
flesh & blood,
often dulled into conformity
by a strait jacket
of distorted Catholicism
venting its spleen
we talk too much,
are too enthusiastic,
attractive to men,
and, before we sin,
condemned to asylum workhouses
bearing holy names
slaves in suds
non-beings eternally laundering
dirt out of soiled clothes,
some owned by perverted priests
and embittered nuns,
whose vows to love
mask a heart to hate
when we express ourselves
we are condemned as irreligious,
temptresses of the flesh,
fecund & warm,
rich in spirit & body
our loving & giving
represented as profane
stripped of dignity,
of any personal possession,
our rounded bodies are forced
into identical straight brown shifts
and starched white aprons
Christ spoke to women
loving them when stamped
bringing life in abundance
let us be ourselves
accepting our fertility
of body, mind & spirit
let us remain ‘neat’,
our special gifts
given to us by God
let us never feel
guilty for being ourselves,
for loving life
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on October 2, 2020 at 7:15 PM|
A report from the Royal Botanical Gardens from Kew has said an estimated 140,000, or 39.4%, of plants are under threat of disappearing. This is up 21% from 2016. There are also currently 723 medicinal plants facing extinction. Harebells, along with other Native species such as Chamomile, Juniper, Pennyroyal and wild asparagus are under threat. Harebells are one of my and my mother's favourite flowers and I painted them for her under my maiden name , Gath, in 1985. It would be awful to think that these beautiful and delicate bell flowers could just disappear from our natural landscape...
(Victoria Allen, Daily Mail, Wednesday 30th September 2020)
Harebells by Vivien Steels (nee Gath) - watercolour/pen & ink
|Posted on July 29, 2020 at 5:40 AM|
I have a lovely memorial plaque and have put it on our Japanese garden where Teddy loved to hide and play, plus have bought a little red Acer tree and a special pot to plant it in to put near him. I will call it Teddy’s Tree and have ordered a small solar garden lantern to light it up. I’ve also got a lovely brass butterfly plaque to put on the bench in the garden where Teddy loved to snooze and I am getting one for lovely Mittens, my last rescue cat, for the chair where he loved to snooze. I am so sad without my lovely cats.
He was such an adorable cat and I will miss him so very much. He was only 10 months old. I always find it amazing how such a small furry animal can have such a big impact on you after so short a time.
|Posted on May 7, 2020 at 8:25 AM|
Crater Life WW1
You know what it’s like when your Mother,
soft as rose petals, stops your aching ears
with warm cotton wool, don’t you?
The world stops talking.
I am lying in Green Ridge Meadow,
grass tickling my head,
staring at cotton wool clouds,
soft as sheep, sauntering by,
time drifting with them.
Bees drone on about finding flowers,
blue butterflies land on milky lady’s smock,
a lark rises catching up with the blueness of blue sky,
harebells dip and ring round my drowsy head,
singing that song of childhood
I’ll never forget.
I open my eyes.
The world is painted red.
Blood filters my view of all that is broken.
I am floating in a crater of waste.
My body – nothing missing so far –
rests in filthy mud-water,
as though I’m floating in Sixpenny Stream.
The path at the top of Green Ridge Meadow,
past the ramshackle fence,
leads down to Sixpenny Stream.
I take off my heavy boots –
no socks in summer.
If I look up at the sun through slitted eyes
all I can see is red.
The heat drives me in
like a sheep to be dipped.
I lie wrapped in water weed,
lifted and lulled by wet arms
stared at by ducks, tickled by fish -
as I float, caught in summer’s breath,
soft as rose petals.
My stomach coughs and retches bile six times.
I smell cordite, bonfire smoke, gas
and the disinterred mangle of body parts.
That green spring I found a dead lamb
at the bottom of the meadow,
near the Tall Top Oak tree
spreading beauty all round it.
Here was death, reeking,
wriggling with maggots,
dismembered, eyes taken by ravens.
I ran back home
reached for the silver spade handing in Dad’s shed
and ran back to the lamb.
I dug into the flowering turf,
down into the darkness of soil
making a cool, soft manger
to hold that lamb,
whose life had never blossomed.
I lick my lips,
cracked, dry, like sandpaper.
My tongue cleaves to the top of my mouth.
Tears wash down onto my lips,
My Dad loved wood
and loved his wooden shed.
He smoothed down the limbs of my sledge,
ready for winter’s grip.
The top of Green Ridge Meadow
sparkled like an iced Christmas cake.
I dragged my sledge, fat rope handle,
to the misty top,
then the bliss of pure white speed,
snow jewels catching my red lips,
melting ice chips, soft, wet,
the bite of frost crystals
hitting my nostrils.
Can I move?
I lift my leaden right arm.
Yes, I can move it.
My left – more difficult,
tangled with barbed wire,
pinned to my shredded uniform
like a battered medal.
I met her catching butterflies
in Green Ridge Meadow.
I was ten.
She told me she was eleven.
The meadow glowed, light diffused
as though through a chandelier.
Grass and flowers were lit up
with a golden-green sheen.
“Pick a long piece of grass and tickle me,” she’d say,
then lay next to me,
head face down on her bent arms,
while I traced up and down those egg-brown arms
and her cheeks, soft as rose petals.
The third day.
No one knows I am here.
Time and No Man’s Land
have passed me by.
My body is weightless, numb.
My thoughts begin to jangle
like a beaded necklace
jiggled up and down.
I begin to shake.
The dark grass of Green Ridge Meadow
holds my body.
It is evening.
I look up at the stars
shooting their time-lapsed silver
into our Iolite skies.
The blue moon, full and bright,
sends shafts of cool light
down to me.
I hold my breath.
I don’t breathe.
I slip past midnight.
I am running,
running with outstretched arms –
like wings of jade-green gossamer –
down the hill towards Sixpenny Stream,
on over the ramshackle stile,
past Tom Barnstable’s farm,
past Sylvie’s cottage on Cornflower Row,
past the clay-red path to our house,
past Dad in his shed,
sucking his pipe as he looks up
and smiles at me,
past Mum in the garden
collecting a bunch of her beloved roses
for the vase in the long dark hall.
She holds out her hands,
soft as rose petals,
and I am home.
© Vivien Steels
I wanted to post this poem before VE Day celebrations on Friday 8th May to remember all the men and women who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. My Uncle, Walter Gath, my father Reginald's brother, lost his life two weeks before his 23rd birthday in March 1944 in WW2, as Lieutenant of the Laforey, a large fleet destroyer, one of the last Allied Naval ships to be lost in the Mediterranean to submarine attack. I have one framed case of Walter and his medals and one of my lovely father, Reginald and his medals. He served in the war on Motor Torpedo Boats mostly in the Far East. I can always remember my father telling me how he swam with dolphins off the side of his ship - one of the more pleasant things he experienced.
Walter D. P. Gath (my Uncle, whom I never met)
Reginald D. P. Gath (my lovely father)
|Posted on April 9, 2020 at 4:15 AM|
Alter Echo (for Gary Moore)
Deep dark stage -
star-lights pinpoint mastery
of fret set with mother of pearl,
silver strings set with genius
reaching decibels of hard rock blues
played at frenetic pace,
soul in harmony with guitar,
voice in harmony with soul.
Face wet, shining livid,
sweat pours down face, down arms
blurring fingers fast as light,
swagger winding up and down,
throwing self to and fro,
backwards and forwards,
in extremis, mouth open,
caught in the moment.
Deep dark stage –
star-lights pinpoint skin-tight trousers,
electric-blue shirt, luminous hands
fast as dreams, seeking chords
from fluorescent galaxy
far away, in that land of artistry
where man becomes guitar,
dark as jet, light as flame.
© Vivien Steels
Gary Moore was the finest guitarist this country has ever produced and he died far too young. He doesn't get the accolades he deserves with the guitars he could make cry and his fantastic blues voice. As an Aries born on the same day I appreciate the passion and talent he put into his music - he gave all of himself producing an effortless display of mastery on the guitar and powerful, heart-felt emotions. I love to listen to his music at an excessively high volume, especially when I am upset about anything. It takes you out of yourself - just transcendent, brilliant, sublime, authentic... Go to YouTube and listen to Still Got the Blues for You or Still in Love with You along with all his other great songs showcasing that out-of-this-world genius guitar playing.
|Posted on December 23, 2019 at 3:30 AM|
Love is putting your best friend to sleep
to end his suffering,
knowing that your suffering
is only just beginning...
Beautiful Mittens Christmas 2015
Pets come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new pet never replaces an old pet, it merely expands the heart.
|Posted on December 21, 2019 at 5:40 AM|
Don't Leave Me
So this is the reason I am here –
this is what they do.
He was kind to me.
He examined my back legs.
I cried and tried to tell him.
She was holding me
and stroking my face,
tears dripping down onto my fur
like rain from leaves on the trees
in my beloved garden.
She signed a piece of white rustly paper,
then he gave me an injection.
I began to feel warm and fuzzy.
The pain in my legs began to recede.
She kept stroking me
and talking to me
but the only words I heard were
“Don’t leave me – I love you.
I’ve loved you every day for thirteen and a half years
and I don’t want to be without you.”
So this is what they do.
She bent over me and whispered.
I didn’t feel the second injection much,
but my beloved garden appeared,
sunlight rustling the leaves.
She was standing by my wooden bench
cuddling me in her arms
and I knew she’d never leave me…
© Vivien Steels
Published in ANIMAL ANTICS 2011 – Forward Press October 2010
Lovely Mittens on his beloved bench in the garden...
|Posted on December 20, 2019 at 4:50 AM|
Mittens was the most beautiful, gentle and loving rescue cat. He was always with me, cuddling up to me and purring. I had to have him put to sleep yesterday, 19th December 2019, and the devastation and loss I feel without him is awful. He is buried under the beech hedge at the front of our house where, when he was outside, he loved to curl up in the leaves. He had even made a dent in the ground there. He was such a precious being in this world. I will always love him dearly.
Mittens in a pensive mood...
|Posted on October 29, 2019 at 8:05 PM|
I Woke Up
I woke up.
I looked out at the day
stretching its golden arms
round the sacred garden.
The sun painted tips of light
on all the green-grown plants,
all in exactly the right places
waiting for visits from bees,
wearing pollen leg-warmers.
The clouds bounced white sheep’s-fleece
around blue shores of sky
and I knew the day would end
with silk-sapphire sheets
set with skating stars.
I fell asleep.
I was looking out over the night
stretching its blue-black arms
round my sacred life.
© Vivien Steels
** I am including this poem as I was recently contacted by a lady, who had heard this poem read out at a funeral and she asked for a copy of it. This is intriguing because this poem hasn't been published and I only wrote it in May 2019. It has only been sent to a few friends, so I presume it might have been forwarded to others. It is a sad poem, but it is full of natural beauty and positivity too. If anyone has seen it or read it before, do please contact me via my Contacts page, or Guestbook page. I always say my poems will reach the people, who are meant to read them and this seems to be the case here, but it is very strange... Mystery solved as this poem was read out at the funeral of a lovely person, who was a dear friend of Annie, a close friend of mine. I had sent some of my latest poems to Annie & she had sent them to him to read. I also sent him my latest book of poems. I feel honoured that my poem was chosen to be read out at his service.
I have illustrated it with The Cloud Sprite Card 36 from The Fairy Pack Oracle Cards by Claire Nahmad and illustrated by Danuta Mayer.
|Posted on September 10, 2019 at 4:50 AM|
Like the Loch Ness Monster –
much sought after,
subject to speculation,
myth and legend,
glimpsed, even photographed
partially above the surface,
but mostly submerged
sunk beneath depths,
crushed by vast weight of water –
health lies languishing
one hundred fathoms deep.
© Vivien Steels
Why the poem was written:
I wrote this poem to convey how crushing chronic ill health can be and that with M.E. (which causes severe exhaustion on both minimal physical exertion & mental concentration) often there is nothing to show that the person with M.E. is unwell except to those closest to them, therefore others, who know very little about the illness, tend to dismiss it unless they, or someone close to them, suffers from it.
|Posted on April 20, 2019 at 3:35 AM|
How Wisdom Comes
drenched in water jewels,
emerging from stream cleansed
to face sun, Giver of Fire, Giver of Life,
offering praise unspoken
to the Great Spirit breathing through
greenness of green,
blueness of blue,
rockness of rocks,
inspired to listen ~
all in abeyance
but spirit itself.
Wind, rain and stars are the Bible
for studying earth’s face,
Peace Pipe, the weapon to war
for a path run closer to God.
Smoke, drawn into lungs,
emerges through nostrils,
rises to mists of clouds
translated into prayer.
immersed in gift of wisdom
blanketing creased body,
feathered with good deeds,
walking amongst the Grandfathers
he talks with God.
© Vivien Steels
Published in The Beehive/Just Words 2001, in Write-Away - Summer 2002
& Panda Poetry No: 16 – October 2003
Illustrated with 'Rocky Bear' - Oglala Chief c.1899 © Vivien Steels
|Posted on February 20, 2019 at 6:20 AM|
I unfurl vast rolls of black velvet
scattered with silvering stars
shooting across midnight skies.
Soft winds blow music from the spheres
into tired eyes and ears
restoring peace and calm.
Perfume of flowers mist
from clouds of dew,
falling onto quiet earth
while spume of dark rivers
press your hands with softness of foam.
Honey-sweet drips onto your lips
as you sacrifice wakefulness,
seduced by sleep.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Write-Away - Spring 2003
& Amber Silhouettes 2 - March 2004
|Posted on November 22, 2018 at 6:15 AM|
'Chocolate and The Snow Globe' © Vivien Steels
FERNE AND CHOCOLATE AND THE CHRISTMAS KAROL
“I love Christmas!” shouted Ferne as she danced across the kitchen. “Only two weeks until Christmas Day.”
She picked up then hugged Chocolate, her dark brown fluffy cat and hugged her. Chocolate was wearing a Christmas collar with red mice and holly leaves all round it.
Ferne was wearing a special Christmas jumper her mother had finished knitting it for her only last week. It was in scarlet red wool with a high roll neck. Patterns of reindeer raced round the yoke. Red was her favourite colour.
Chocolate wriggled her whiskers, purred and pushed her wet nose into Ferne’s cheek.
“I love Christmas trees, Christmas cards, Christmas candles, Christmas carols, Christmas presents, Christmas snow, Christmas dinner and I love Christmas Chocolate,” chanted Ferne laughing.
Chocolate purred louder.
“Don’t you love Christmas, Frankie?” Her elder sister was sitting at the kitchen table writing a list of people to send cards to.
“Yes, I like Christmas.”
“I hope you’ve put Chocolate on your card list.”
“I don’t send cards to animals, silly.”
“But Chocolate is part of the family and we always send cards to our family.”
“Mum,” whined Frankie, “can you tell Ferne to stop pestering me? I’m busy.”
Ferne’s mother was looking in the cupboard under the stairs. It was where she put all the tree decorations in bags when the Christmas tree was taken down.
“Ferne, can you come and help me? Bring the torch for me. It’s in the bottom drawer near the sink.”
Ferne opened the bottom drawer. Chocolate started scrabbling in the drawer with her paws. A large spider jumped out over the side and ran to hide under the washing machine. Chocolate chased it.
Ferne picked up the red and black torch and went into the hall. All she could see was her mother’s bottom. It was swaying from side to side as she bent double, trying to see in the gloom.
“I've got the torch, Mum,” said Ferne.
“Thank you, dear.”
Mum shuffled backwards out of the cupboard. Ferne took her place. “Can you see the bags of tree decorations in there, Ferne? I think they’re near the back.”
Ferne shone the torch. “Yes, there they are.” She grabbed the three carrier bags and dragged them out.
“You are clever. Thank you.”
Chocolate walked in from the kitchen, her tail waving high like a furry flag.
“Are we getting the Christmas tree soon?” Ferne asked.
“On Saturday. Mr Fenton is bringing it home for us.”
“I can’t wait,” Ferne said. “Can we sing carols while we decorate it?”
“Yes, we can put that Christmas CD on we got last year.”
“What’s your favourite carol, Mum? Mine is ‘In the Deep Mid-Winter’.”
“I love ‘Silent Night’.
That night Ferne couldn’t sleep.
She opened the curtains in her bedroom. It was a full moon. The sky was clear, deep sapphire blue. Every star shone and glittered in the cold night air. Silver moonlight slanted across the bedroom and over Chocolate. She was curled in a crescent shape at the end of Ferne’s bed. She was on her paw print blanket.
Feeling cold, Ferne put on her Christmas jumper over her pyjamas. Then she put on a long, multi-coloured scarf. Then she climbed back into bed.
She picked up her Snow-Globe on her bedside table. It had been a present from Mr and Mrs Ball next door. She shook it.
Moonlight reflected on the white and glitter snowflakes. The reindeer in the middle of the glass globe were pulling a sleigh. There were fir trees with birds and baubles in their branches.
Ferne shook the globe again.
Chocolate stretched her back legs in ballet points. Then she crept up the bed and nestled beside Ferne.
The snowflakes whirled round and round, round and round, round and round…
Ferne stood by the fir trees. She looked down and saw she had her red boots on. She wound her scarf round her neck.
The snow was white and crisp. There were with no footprints in it. Shiny glitter baubles hung from the trees.
Brightly coloured birds, like small parakeets flew from branch to branch. They were chattering, ready to roost.
The moon was rising like a huge yellow medallion.
Where was Chocolate? She was crouching, watching a bird that had fluttered down to the ground. Ferne clapped her hands and the bird flew back up into the nearest tree.
“Chocolate, come here. I can hear something. It sounds like bells tinkling.” Chocolate tip-toed over to Ferne and stretched her front paws up Ferne’s leg. She could hear the bells too and wanted to be picked up.
In the distance Ferne could make out a sleigh in the moonlight. As it came nearer she could see it was pulled by six brown reindeer. It was driven by a man with long golden hair.
When it reached the clearing where Ferne and Chocolate were standing, the man pulled on the reins and shouted, “Hoya! Hoya!” The six reindeer stopped. The red, blue and gold sleigh slid to a standstill.
“Good evening,” said Ferne stepping forward, cuddling her cat. “I’m not usually out this late but my cat, Chocolate, and I were looking at my snow globe and the snowflakes whirling round...”
“Well, that will do it every time.”
“Get you here, in Lapland. Home of Father Christmas.”
“Who are you?” asked Ferne.
“I’m Karol Christmas.”
“That’s a lovely name - like the Christmas songs,” Ferne declared.
“My name, Karol, is spelt with a K not a C.”
“Hello Karol with a K, I’m Ferne and this is my cat, Chocolate.”
Chocolate jumped up into Ferne’s arms. The cat wasn’t too sure about the reindeer. They were snorting and scuffing the snowy ground with their hooves.
“Chocolate?” Karol laughed. “What a lovely name for a cat. I love chocolate. And we have ferns growing here in this forest.” He stood up and tied the reins to the side of the sleigh. Then he stepped down.
He was very tall and thin, like a fir tree. His yellow hair reached down his back, and Ferne noticed he had a golden moustache and beard.
He was wearing a dark blue tunic, which was edged with rich red and gold embroidery.
He had a brown leather belt round his middle. His blue trousers were tucked into boots made of fur like the reindeers.
Ferne noticed they had bells on the back like the bells on the reindeers’ harnesses.
“Ferne, would you and Chocolate like to come for a sleigh ride?”
Ferne’s eyes grew as round as Chocolate’s eyes. “Oh, yes please. Where are we going?”
“My reindeer will take you through a magical Christmas carol. Would you like me to introduce you to them?”
Ferne smiled and nodded.
Karol tapped a larger bell on the side of his sleigh and all the reindeer turned their faces towards them.
“Here we have Hop-Star, Moon-Beam, Night-Light, White-Cloud, Soft-Snow and this smaller one is called Fir-Baby.” The reindeer smiled, closed their eyes and bowed down on their front legs.
Then they jumped back up setting all their bells jingling.
Ferne laughed to hear the bells ringing.
“I’m so pleased to meet you,” Ferne told the reindeer, “and Chocolate is too. Can I stroke your noses?
“Oooh, they feel like velvet.”
“Just step up here and you can sit in the seat behind me.”
Ferne noticed the seats were covered in red velvet. She stepped up into the sleigh. Chocolate followed and sat on the cushioned velvet seat close to her.
Karol turned round. “Put that rug round you to keep warm.”
Ferne tucked herself and Chocolate in with the blue and gold blanket.
“Everyone ready?” Karol called. “Then we’re off!”
He shook his sleigh whip and the bells began ringing.
The reindeer shook their harnesses and the echoing bells filled the night air. The birds in the fir trees woke up, chattering and singing. They took to the air with a fluttering of wings and then went back to roost.
The runners of the sleigh slid effortlessly across the snow and then… the sleigh took off.
They flew through the forest about a metre from the ground. They flew over an ice-covered lake. They flew past frosted trees full of glistening baubles. They flew over vast fields of snow.
Then in the distance, Ferne could see a mountain of ice. It was lit by moonlight and stars.
Chocolate had wriggled onto Ferne’s knee and was peering out. Her whiskers were blown back close to her face.
“We’re nearly there,” shouted Karol Christmas. His golden hair streamed out behind him.
He pulled twice on the reins and the reindeer slowed. They descended until their feet were stamping along the road. They finally stopped to a melody of bells.
There in front of them, was the ice mountain. Now that they were closer, Ferne could see that it was carved into tiers, like the seats at the theatre.
A luminous white light shone out across the snow to the sleigh. Ferne could see glowing beings dressed in white crowding every level. They had pure white, feathery wings.
“Are they angels?” asked Ferne.
“Yes,” said Karol Christmas, “they are Christmas Angels. They are going to give you a special Christmas present.”
He sat down and the angels began to sing.
It was Ferne’s favourite carol, ‘In the Deep Midwinter’. The music was so beautiful, tears collected in her eyes. They rolled down her face like pearls. Chocolate pressed her face against Ferne’s cheek.
At the top of the mountain she could see angels playing silver harps. As they sang and played, their wings flowed backwards and forwards.
The next carol was her mother’s favourite carol, ‘Silent Night’. It was lulling both her and Chocolate to sleep.
Then a tall angel stepped down from the ice steps and came towards the sleigh.
His wings were folded round his body, like those of a white dove. He held a rolled sheet of paper tied with silver ribbon.
“For you, Ferne” he said, “and for Chocolate and for all your family.”
He unrolled the scroll and began to read. The angels hummed a soft melody in the background.
This is what the angel read:
May snow fall in soft clouds
upon your field.
May stars sparkle in pearls of light
across your sky.
May frost lace in crystal patterns
down your windows.
May moons glitter their silvered rays
through curtains of dark.
May petalled roses of winter blossom
in your whitened garden.
May shards of diamond-ice necklace
round your house.
May doves of peace rest feathers
upon your vaulted roof.
May angels always light your
For you, at Christmastide.*
Ferne was entranced.
“Thank you so much,” she said, smiling. “That was the most beautiful poem I’ve ever heard.”
The angel smiled and walked towards her. Chocolate disappeared under the blanket. The angel handed her the rolled-up poem tied with silver ribbon.
His wings furled and unfurled. A tiny silver harp landed in her lap.
“This is a special harp, Ferne. Just pluck the strings and it will inspire you write beautiful poems. Just ask us and we will always be there to help you.”
“He reached down and touched her head. Her eyes became heavy.
The sleigh had lifted up again.
She could hear the soft sound of many wings beating. Snow had begun to fall. The snowflakes whirled round and round, round and round, round and round…
“Thank you,” Ferne sighed, as she cuddled Chocolate closer.
The bedroom curtains were parted and the full moon shone onto the bed. Ferne awoke.
Chocolate was under her left arm, wrapped up in her scarf.
Ferne was still wearing her red jumper over her pyjamas. In her lap was a rolled-up sheet of paper tied with silver ribbon from which hung a charm. Can you guess what it was?
Yes, it was a tiny silver harp.
Ferne plucked one of the strings then took up her pencil and notebook from her bedside table. She was going to write a special Christmas poem.
And one day she was going to be a poet.
* * *
© Vivien Steels
* Poem ‘Christmastide’ by Vivien Steels published in WRITE-AWAY –Winter 2001
This Christmas story is from my children's book 'FERNE AND CHOCOLATE AND THE ROLLERCOASTER RAINBOW AND OTHER STORIES' published by Dayglo Books @ http://dayglobooks.users62.interdns.co.uk/ where it tells you all about books specially for dyslexic readers and how the paper used, layout, spacing and font used (Open Dyslexic) all help children and adults with dyslexia to read more easily. (Please note the format on this website does not allow the font or spacing as seen in the books.) The books are also for anyone to read.
You can buy my children's book 'Ferne and Chocolate and the Rollercoaster Rainbow and Other Stories' online @ Dayglo Books http://dayglobooks.users62.interdns.co.uk/product/ferne-and-chocolate-the-roller-coaster-rainbow-other-stories/ It contains five stories each illustrated with one of my paintings. This is a picture of the complete front and back cover illustrated by me.
|Posted on May 18, 2018 at 4:55 AM|
I was listening to a programme on the radio about Hypochondria and it reminded me of this poem I wrote called 'Hypochondriacal'. When I was 28 I had a very nasty virus, which never cleared up and developed in to M.E. I also had severe symtoms of Endometriosis and an underactive thyroid. I was constantly told by doctors I 'was imagining my symptoms', I was 'perfectly well', I 'looked so well', and was made to feel neurotic and a nuisance, though I knew something was wrong with me. After 4 years I was eventually rushed into hospital as an emergency for surgery for Endometriosis and 6 years later after that I had a hysterectomy for the condition. It took a change of doctor and 7 years before I was given a diagnosis of M.E. (and Fibromyalgia) and 11 years for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism after a test survey conducted through the Endometriosis Society, of which I was a member and I ran a group in Nottingham for women with the condition.
I was also a contact for women with M.E. and Endometriosis through Action for M.E. for a number of years. I created the cartoons for the Endometriosis Society Newsletter for several years and I have included one below entitled 'The Doctor's Appointment - a.m.' regarding my treatment by doctors! It could also be entitled 'Dr Superficial'! You can also follow this link to see an article by me on the M.E. support website entitled 'Endometriosis and M.E.' @ https://www.mesupport.co.uk/index.php?page=endometriosis-me
“The best seller in my conjunctive eyes
is the inedible medical dictionary
lying at my swollen right hand –
it’s very difficult to swallow.
I turn, with the encumbrance
of a new plaster cast,
to the page about ‘ears’.
My hearing is not too sharp today.
A foreign body, I’m sure,
is lodged there, talking incoherently.
My tongue is numb.
Pins and needles sew up my jaw
and my neck is starched-collar stiff.
Something is telling the muscles in my back
to weld steel plates.
My breath finds it hard to fill lungs
once balloons, now bellows.
Of course my heart beats,
but it skips to an unfamiliar tune.
My abdomen gurgles with reminiscences
of vindaloo and my bowels, well –
their syndrome is irritated
to the point of anger.
My thighs are attached to my knees.
(Thank goodness something works!)
But seven seas of cod liver oil
can’t mask the creak when I bend
to pick up a BUPA note
fallen at my flat feet, which says:
‘You’re a marvellous creation –
We want you to stay that way.’ “
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on April 11, 2018 at 6:00 AM|
It seems a long, grey Winter with no release into Spring and today it is 9c with a strong wind from the North East with dark, glowering rain clouds and misty drizzle. I am hoping this poem with bring about a change and that we will see Spring very soon. Our hundred year old pear tree is not yet in blossom and usually is full of white fragrant flowers on my birthday at the beginning of April.
wedded to spring
greening its cloth
across lands and fields
to meadows of warmth
doused in cowslips
beyond which clouds curve
over arc of blue
ringed with sun
© Vivien Steels
Published in A TIME OF REFLECTION (anthology) – Anchor Books 2007
Below is a photograph of our garden on 6th April last year and it is full of blossom and flowers.
|Posted on December 26, 2017 at 4:10 AM|
Ribbon of white leaves
whips from blanketed bush.
Winter blows last life into garden
where squirrel forages in evergreens,
magpie jumps up and down on deserted greenhouse,
ringed dove sips from mirrored birdbath,
hedge sparrow hops in between bowing plants
chased by belligerent blackbird,
white snow-feather flashing in his tail.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Earth Love – Issue 30 Feb 2009
(photo of blackbird with white tail & wing feather)
|Posted on October 28, 2017 at 6:40 AM|
My Tribute to My Lovely Sister, Alison read by me at her funeral on 24th October 2017
Alison was my lovely big older sister. When we were young she liked to look after me. She was always the well-behaved one & I was the naughty one. She did very well at school. When we moved to Woodthorpe in 1957, we attended Arno Vale Junior School and then Arnold High School where Alison became Head Girl. She also got a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Guiding.
‘Alison & I on holiday at Bexhill-on-Sea 1959'
We had a lovely childhood in Woodthorpe with my mother, Marjorie and my father, Reg Gath. Behind our house on Coningsby Gardens East, across Melbury Road, there were the rolling, grassy hills of Breckhill Fields. Now it is all built upon and called Longacre, but then it was the ideal place to build dens, play cowboys and Indians, arrange sports and races, collect wild berries and wild flowers, toboggan down the snow-covered, steep tracks or feed the horses kept in one part of the fields.
Alison left Nottingham to go to a Teacher Training College in Manchester and became a Deputy Head Teacher in Domestic Science. Sadly my lovely father died from leukaemia in 1970. Alison married Keith and had one son, Alexander, whom she loved very much. Unfortunately, the marriage broke down. Alison became very distressed and returned to Nottingham (after being in Australia for a year) where she stayed with my lovely mother, Marjorie. Ian and I saw a lot of her and also of Alexander then, when he came to stay in the holidays.
Eventually my mother had to move into a Warden-aided flat in 2000 & Alison went to a secure flat complex in Arnold. I sometimes bumped into her in Arnold and had a chat with her, but she never wanted to meet up. She became more and more reclusive and shunned contact with people she knew. This last year Alison became very ill and was in and out of hospital and she passed away on 7th October.
I am so sad at the death of my older sister, Alison, and always think of her with love & affection. I am a Christian, albeit an unconventional one, but I firmly believe Alison is in Heaven with God and his Angels, surrounded by love and people who love her, being healed of her illnesses. I send her my love and prayers every day.
Years ago, when Alison was very upset and depressed, I sent her a card with a blessing inside, which she said comforted her very much. I ended my tribute to Alison with the same ancient Jewish Old Testament blessing,
“The Lord bless you & keep you,
The Lord make his face to shine upon you & be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you,
And give you Peace.”
“Bless You, Alison.”
Vivien Steels 12.10.17
My Lovely Sister, Alison
1st January 1950 - 7th October 2017