|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://www.dayglobooks.com 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://www.dayglobooks.com/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
|Posted on October 14, 2017 at 10:25 AM|
My Fairy Garden
I have recently made a fairy garden in a wooden plant box, which sits on a window sill in my conservatory. They are such fun to make. I am hoping to make a bigger one outside in our garden, though we have some very naughty squirrels, who I think would dig it up!!
|Posted on September 26, 2017 at 10:00 AM|
I have just read Steve Jamieson's wonderful book ‘Bilbo the Lifeguard Dog’ (published by Pan Macmillan) and I am just recovering from being in floods of tears at the end. I felt so much for Steve, the former Head Lifeguard on Sennen Beach in Cornwall. I know that awful heartbreak when a much loved animal and companion dies. He had such a strong bond with Bilbo and was with him every day. I am an inveterate animal lover and have cats and rabbits as pets, but I love dogs too. At the moment we have a lovely cat called Mittens, who is 11 years old. My beautiful rabbit, Shadow, died 2 years ago.
In September 2008, my husband, Ian, and I visited Cornwall and went to Sennen Beach. I had heard all about Bilbo and went up to the Lifeguard Station where Bilbo was standing. As I neared the platform he was sitting on, I asked if I could stroke him and take a photo of him. He moved forward and gently touched noses with me!! Then I took some photos of him. This is one I took of him when Bilbo would have been about 5.
Bilbo made such an impact on me at the time and reading this book was so enlightening and enjoyable (albeit very sad at the end). I am now considering owning a Newfoundland in the future. I am hoping that my future dog will become a 'Pets as Therapy' dog, so I can take him, or her, into care homes, hospitals and hospices, enabling people to enjoy the wonderful healing contact that an animal brings.
by Vivien Steels
|Posted on July 28, 2017 at 3:00 AM|
Getting Older is...
caring for those before you,
caring for those after you.
Feeling needed, for meals,
for advice, for money,
so the slow drip of time,
wearing away your face
into that of your mother’s,
eases you onto the path
whereby you wear your skin
like an evening dress –
glittering with experience.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Reflections (Forward Poetry Anthology) – January 2012
|Posted on June 23, 2017 at 4:00 AM|
I have included this poem I wrote in 2002, because I was watching '50 Years of Gardeners' World Live' at the NEC Birmingham on television and there was a sequence about gardening through the decades, which my poem tried/tries to evoke. It is illustrated with a picture I painted of a corner of our garden in early summer painted in watercolour, acrylic and pen and ink.
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.
© Vivien Steels
Published in WRITE-AWAY - Summer 2000, WRITE-AWAY Special Edition – January 2003,
*PROMISE* - first collection of published poems/colour illustrations designed/printed by Vivien Steels/Vivi*Press – June 2003
& IMAGENATION Vol 6 – Jan 2004
Illustrated with 'Our Garden - Early Summer' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on April 17, 2017 at 6:05 AM|
cherry blossom falls
filling sky with confetti
© Vivien Steels
Published in WRITE-AWAY - Spring 2002
Illustrated with 'Spring Blossom' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:55 AM|
sky – grey cardboard
earth – frosted brown
trees – bare branches
grass – dank tangle
wind – ice shards
room – soft lights
windows – green leaves
fire – living flames
rug – sheep’s wool
vase – golden stars
© Vivien Steels
Published in PANDA 17 – January 2004
Illustrated with 'Winter Forsythia' © Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:45 AM|
New Year's Moon
whole tablet of silver ~
wakes my bed,
draws me to a land outside,
and sprinkles my body
Crystal chips of stars
wink at me
while my body-warmth
rises like incense
into the half-lit sky
so blue, so vast;
an ocean of planets
Climbing stairs back to sleep,
meeting warmth again on the landing,
I fall back into soft white sheets
holding their drowsy heat,
until my limbs sing too loud
and long for the cool
of the New Year’s moon
waxing full onto
a watchful garden
travelling to foreign fields
cast in alien shadows.
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:40 AM|
REVIEW FOR NEW POETRY BOOK
*Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees* by Vivien Steels
Review by Patricia Beeton
“I have just read your new book of poems ‘Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees’. What a lovely collection of poems they are. The poems are a pleasure to read. Your words show a heartfelt, philosophical understanding of all aspects of nature and human emotion. Reading your poem 'Honey, about your pet rabbit, brought a tear to my eye. What a lovely tribute to him and a recognisable mixture of emotions for all of us who have lost a beloved pet. When I started to read your poem 'Everlasting' it instantly reminded me of my mother. Sweet peas were her favourite flower and whenever they are seen or mentioned I see her, so it was funny to realise as I read your poem that you too are reminded of your mother. You not only produce such lovely words, but are able to illustrate them with such beautiful artwork.”
'Stonechat on Gorse' by Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:20 AM|
This is the cover of my latest seventh collection of published nature-inspired poems with artwork, photographs and graphics. It can be bought via my Vivi*Press Poetry page on my 'Talking Paint' website @ http://www.talkingpaint.co.uk or get in touch via the Contact page of this website.
I do hope you like it.
|Posted on December 20, 2016 at 2:00 AM|
This is a larger view of the cover illustration for my new illustrated poetry book, 'Bees, Seas, Birds and Trees'. It was painted from the kitchen window of our last house when I was recovering from an operation. You can see I am looking through the ornaments/pots on the kitchen window sill and at the top is the blind with a cord hanging down through the painting. For the book illustration I have added certain graphics, including a bee, butterflies, a goldfish, a hedgehog, a bird, watering can, two fountains and a lookalike, superimposed cat over my cat, Miffy, who can be seen sitting on the edge of the pond. As it was painted in the summertime, you can see that the greenhouse is full of tomato plants and the lawn looks like it is quite long and needs mowing. Whenever I look at this painting which hangs in our lounge, I am transported back to the late 80s and although it was started in 1989, I didn't actually complete it until 1999.
|Posted on October 21, 2016 at 4:35 AM|
Into The Past
The Auckland Guest House green and cream
Set within my childhood dream,
Rope-swing falls from towering tree,
Lawn, coloured mallets, balls and croquet.
Miss Sammy, half-Persian, half-Siamese,
Loves a cuddle, loves strong cheese.
Bess, black Labrador with solemn face
Waddles in dining room from place to place
For titbits, gravy, crumbs of cake.
She waddles out still on the make.
Room is airy, walls slope away.
I wonder what we’ll do today?
Garden, breakfast, piano, beach then swim.
My Dad is funny; I play with him
Amongst the waves, silvery-blue and winking,
My rubber ring and his arms stop me sinking.
Ice cream call – Split or 99?
I don’t mind – the one without sand is mine!
We eat our picnic on the beach
Sandwiches, pasties, fresh ripe peach.
My arms are brown, legs are too,
Dad is red, swimming trunks blue.
We wander back to the Lovell’s house
To wash and dress to be ready for tea.
Or is it dinner? My dress feels fussy
After shorts and tee-shirt by the sea.
Evening falls soft as dust.
We all dress up, the show’s a must.
We send a box round finally,
The guests cough up – it’s for charity.
Bedtime comes, the stars appear.
It’s bath, then bed –
Hope we come here next year.
© Vivien Steels
Published in REFLECTIONS: A COLLECTION OF POETRY (Forward Poetry Anthology) – January 2012
Our favourite holidays were spent in Bexhill-on-Sea at the Auckland Guest House run by Mr and Mrs Lovell. We had many happy family holidays there in the 1960s with my mother and father and my sister, Alison. I wrote this poem about one holiday there in 1961, which refers to Miss Sammy, the half-Persian, half-Siamese cat I loved, whose photograph is below.
|Posted on October 21, 2016 at 3:55 AM|
My Semi-Suburban Country Childhood
Although I was brought up in a relatively new suburban area called Woodthorpe about four miles from the centre of Nottingham, I felt as if I lived in the country. The road in front of our house was a terracotta clay track with grassy verges and convenient humps – ideal when cycling or roller-skating – and there was a deep crater at the bottom of the road, which was euphemistically called ‘Coningsby Gardens East’* (there was no West). After a downpour it filled with red, cloudy water to a depth that covered the tops of your Wellingtons, when you floated your boat on it.
Opposite our house was a piece of lush, green wasteground covered in wild flowers and a large, fallen tree trunk called ‘The Log’, used as a meeting place for the groups of children, who arranged to play there. When this land eventually began to be used for building houses by a local property developer, we used the foundations of the new buildings as playgrounds. Planks of wood balanced across low walls provided splendid make-shift see-saws and we devised games based on hopscotch, which utilised the different, mapped-out rooms of the house-to-be.
Behind our house, across Melbury Road, there were the rolling, grassy hills of Breckhill (Hilly) Fields. Here was the ideal place to build dens, play cowboys and Indians, arrange sports and races, collect wild berries, toboggan down the snow-covered, steep tracks or feed the horses kept in one part of the fields.
I knew the two girls, who used to help look after the horses. Rosamund, the youngest, said that I could ride them if I wanted to, as she knew I was an animal lover. I rode one large chestnut horse and thinking I had mastered that in half an hour, I decided to try cantering bareback, circus-style on a smaller, black horse and, yes, I fell off and broke my arm badly at the elbow.
Breckhill Fields stretched out like a country all of its own, changing its customs with the turn of time. In winter (my favourite season) after a heavy snowfall, everyone from roundabout would emerge wrapped in woolly hats, scarves and gloves pulling their sledges, which ranged from tin trays to the most sophisticated pine toboggans. The man next door, Mr Fenn, made me a sledge – a simple, wooden affair with a rope handle but to me it was lovely. I used to conscientiously wax the metal runners made from piping with a candle and it really did speed down the numerous slopes including the notorious ‘Death Track’. This was the longest, steepest and most dangerous track, as it ended in a line of trees and a cut-off tree trunk, so you had to be very careful to swerve out of the way, if you could not stop. One boy died from head injuries after he failed to stop and that is how the run got its name.
Autumn brought a crop of delicious wild blackberries, raspberries and elderberries. I used to go picking with my own small gardening trug and kept going back for refills, returning home with hands and lips stained magenta, having eaten nearly as much as I collected. Mr Fenn also had a substantial collection of damson trees, from which he gave us baskets of fruit to be made into deep purple jam.
In summer the wild flowers flourished as on meadowland and I was a keen naturalist. I owned books on birds, animals, insects and wildflowers and when not being a Red Indian in a wigwam (I always took the Indian’s side), I would wonder at and try to identify the profusion of wildlife around me.
I loved animals and for my eighth birthday my father bought me a beautiful, soft-grey Chinchilla rabbit, which we chose from a stall on the old, open Nottingham Market on Huntingdon Street. Hoppy was the rabbit that came up and nudged my hand as if to say ‘Please choose me.’ He had the run of the garden and the house, but sometimes would set off on adventures and was once seen hot-pawing it up to Breckhill Fields, doing daring zig-zags and leaps to chase off the ensuing dog from down the road. We rescued him and he was none the worse for his ‘dicing with death’. (Read Hoppy's full story on ‘Talking Paint’ @ http://viviensteels.webs.com/mypetsplace.htm)
Now the area is quite built up. Gone is the wasteground and ‘The Log’ and Breckhill Fields, my early experience of the countryside, is smothered with houses and called ‘Long Acre’.
© Vivien Steels
A smaller, much-edited version of this article appeared in the Basford Bystander 177 - August/September 2016
* Just as a point of interest, Coningsby Gardens East was originally part of the land on which Swinehouse Farm and its orchard, which contained damson trees, formerly existed. Swinehouse Farm is mentioned by D H Lawrence in his book ‘Sons and Lovers’. In the book he (Paul Morel) walks down from Mapperley Plains (at the top of Breckhill Fields) to see Miriam Leivers at the farm and she taught in West Bridgford, Nottingham.
Below is a black and white picture postcard photograph from ARNOLD – in old picture postcards by Ken Negus (‘YESTERDAY’S NOTTINGHAMSHIRE’ series no: 14 - 1991). It was taken at about 1900 with the photographers back to Mapperley Plains with Breckhill Road to the left out of the picture. Long Acre approximates to the footpath as does Coningsby Gardens East and Coningsby Road, the hedge being the boundary of Melbury Road. This area was know as Breckhill (Hilly) Fields. You can make out the farm below to the left, which would approximate to the bottom of Coningsby Gardens East.
|Posted on August 22, 2016 at 6:20 AM|
Twisted church spire watches
over brown ridged field
where snow, soft as fur,
nestles in furrows like leverets.
Ink black trees light up from behind
with gold/orange sunset.
Cold kisses my face
leaving rosy imprints.
The road, white with salty sheen,
sings under racing car,
as day sinks under banks
of snow-swollen clouds.
© Vivien Steels
Published in THE GREAT BRITISH WRITE-OFF – ACROSS ENGLAND - Anthology [Forward Poetry Press] – November 2015
I've included this wintry poem as it was written on the way home from Sunday lunch at Langar Hall (see last post below).
|Posted on July 7, 2016 at 7:55 PM|
Imogen Skirving, owner of Langar Hall Country House Hotel in Nottinghamshire, was killed recently while on holiday in Menorca. Imogen was an absolutely special and wonderfully unique person, who made you feel special. She always made sure you were looked after at Langar Hall and was so interesting to talk with. Ian and I go every few weeks for Sunday Lunch at Langar Hall and we loved Imogen, her staff and the whole atmosphere created there. Nothing was too much trouble. We are so very upset and will miss her dreadfully. As someone pointed out, it will not be the same without her. I bought her wonderful book, 'The Reluctant Restaurateur', which she personally signed for me and which I shall treasure. Ian and I are thinking of her staff and all her family at this terribly sad time. I wrote this poem for Imogen not long after hearing about her death.
You never know
how much you will miss someone
until they leave this life
with sunlit reveries
brings ease of mind
as memories tiptoe
up tree-lined paths
past sheep, cotton-wool white
in green-dappled fields
wrapping arms round
an orange-washed hall
where dreams of people
sleep and eat
in gilded rooms
floating amongst the tables
talking with friends
taking food orders
your kindness mixed with
like a good meal
your love of adventure
mixed with a sensibility
about who we are
giving hospitality to pilgrims
as they walk through
now walking into
your new life
© Vivien Steels
|Posted on May 22, 2016 at 2:45 AM|
The corner turned,
turquoise water overhung
with soft, green willow
surrounds the April nest
barricaded with branches
to make an inner island
of safety for Easter eggs;
green-white and so large,
to be turned to perfection
at unusual angles.
We counted seven cygnets that year.
flimsy yet watertight,
nibbled along with young weed,
riding under arch-angel wings.
The cob glides back.
Beaks touch, necks ‘S’
throwing down heart reflections
like white confetti.
Snake-skin feet stroke
cool blue water,
the corner turned
then out of view.
© Vivien Steels
Published in Green Vibrations Anthology (Peace & Freedom Press) - Winter 2003/04
Illustrated with 'Mute Swan Bowing' - original photograph by Vivi Steels