|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
|Posted on March 26, 2016 at 5:10 AM|
of vermilion tulips
aiming to fire scarlet
into the sharp grey sky
of spring deferred
© Vivien Steels
Illustrated with 'Vermilion Tulips'
* * *
Wishing everyone a very Happy Easter
|Posted on March 11, 2016 at 3:20 AM|
Those Days ...
when the ward floor shone
like crystalline quartz
when beds had white envelope-
when perfumed flowers grew
in tall glass vases
when hygiene and cleanliness
were taken to degree level
when bed sores were
when nurses nursed patients
with love and compassion
when doctors came at
any time of day and night
when super bugs were
when patients recovered from
illnesses and operations
when water and food
when visitors were a
when healing and health
were targets to be met
when someone cared
in those days…
© Vivien Steels
I've included this poem I wrote recently as a homage to the past when hospitals were a different world overseen by Matrons, who had extremely high standards of cleanliness and patient care. It is so sad that such a brilliant healthcare system such as the NHS has been eroded over the years. Now Junior Doctors feel they can strike to achieve more money and what they say are better terms. All doctors have to take an oath, which originally was the Hippocratic Oath including the words "first, do no harm". The newer oath of 1964 does not include those words specifically. Instead it says, "I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm." I am sure this does not include striking for 48 hours resulting in the cancellation of thousands of operations...
|Posted on February 5, 2016 at 6:05 AM|
THE CULT OF CRUELTY IN THE NHS
I have been reading for years about the way older patients are treated in the NHS. But I know this from first-hand. About 6 years ago my mother spent nine months in hospitals and I feel the hospital system killed her. This is a condensed version of it.
My husband and I went to collect my lovely mother, who was 88. She had just had a minor operation to unblock some grafted veins in her legs. She was fine and really looking forward to getting back to her warden-aided flat where she lived a very independent life having moved from our family home in 2000.
But when we arrived she was writhing in agony on her bed. She had wanted to go to the toilet and needed help to get there. No one had responded to her bell, so she set off to the toilets on her own. While there she fell and broke her right hip. It is incredulous to me how many older patients fall and break their hips while in hospital and it is an utter disgrace that while supposedly being in a hospital and being cared-for, patients engender an often fatal fall.
I had to battle every day to get my mother the care she deserved. Nurses moaned about having to make her bed if she’d been restless and disturbed the blankets and sheets. One day I came to visit and she was lying flat on her back with a hospital gown up under her arms exposing a nappy-type pad. She was very distressed and shredding tissues in one hand. Male visitors were walking past. I raised the top of her bed pulled her gown down and made the bed around her. I collected and washed her nighties every day and there were several clean ones in her locker. I hunted down and found her lost glasses and slippers and false teeth (this was a daily occurrence). I pulled the curtains round and put a clean nightie and bed-jacket on. She gradually calmed down and we had a good chat. Then I went to see someone in charge. I was very angry and said how I felt my mother was NOT being treated with dignity and respect and she was not gaga, but a very much with-it lady who was normally very independent and active. How could they treat her like that?
After progressing quite well my mother was moved to a convalescent hospital where I visited nearly every day. I made sure my mother had a diary and photos of us to look at. My mother was making good progress but a large part of her care was missing. One day I visited I found her with her head down on her arms sitting at a table near her bed. She looked up when I came towards her. She looked totally bereft. “Life wouldn’t be worth living if it wasn’t for you,” she said. “Could you wash my feet for me? I think they smell.” I asked someone for a bowl and used the soap from the washbasin plus some hand towels and washed her feet for her. “You’re an angel,” she said smiling down at me. I combed her hair, bathed her eyes, found her glasses and her book.
She really perked up and after drying her feet off and putting her socks and slippers on, and a warm coat, I took her in her wheelchair to the lovely garden in the centre of the wards where there was a fishpond, ducks and a wooden bridge over it. I made her laugh by pushing her, rushing up and over the bridge and round the garden at a fast pace. We then had hot chocolate from the vending machine and sat with the sun on our faces and ducks at our feet.
Before the next time to visit I received a phone call. My mother had fallen and broken her left hip… I could not believe that this gross negligence had happened again. I went to collect her things then back to the hospital where she was down for an emergency operation. This went ahead and after the operation my mother’s character changed. I looked this up and found Hospital Delirium was a well-known phenomenon after general anaesthetics and prolonged stays in hospitals. The nursing staff on the new ward were angry with my mother about her temporary surly and unusual behaviour, which was understandable after two hip breaks and two general anaesthetics. But they didn’t seem to know what Hospital Delirium was and here was I, a lay-person, telling them about something they should know about. I did notice a few months later a notice about Hospital Delirium appeared on the ward wall.
I battled on visiting and making sure she received the care she should and trying to get her into the Nursing Home opposite her flat complex. One day stands out where I was visiting at a weekend. My mother was in terrible pain. I approached a nurse who said she was too busy, then shot into a ward where she joined her colleagues all standing round having a chat. Usually this was round the nurses’ station when patients would be ringing their bells and desperate for help while the staff on duty ignored them and carried on laughing and joking. I once stood to wait to speak to someone and was summarily ignored for over ten minutes…
I approached a doctor I saw in the corridor despairing about my mother’s pain. As I explained, this woman doctor laughed at me and started walking away from me as I was still asking for help. I have never felt so alone, so hopeless, so angry… her pain was never managed properly in hospital and I cannot believe in this day and age that pain relief isn’t effective. I asked if the Pain Management Team could see her and the day they came my mother’s notes had been misplaced and they couldn’t do anything effective.
I battled on to get my mother in to the Nursing Home. Eventually she was allowed to go but mustn’t walk on her hip for a few weeks as she had a slight hairline fracture of the right femur. I went to see the Sister at the Nursing Home to discuss her medicines and remember saying she was on a sleeping tablet nightly. My mother was so happy to be there after all those months in hospital and I greeted her as she arrived by ambulance. She had been telling all the ambulance crew about me!! I thought that things would improve.
But that first night was awful for her. The next day I was greeted by a lady who used to clean for her. “Your mother’s had a dreadful night and been shouting her head off and disturbing everyone.” I was so angry. Who was discussing my mother like this? The Matron of the Nursing Home and the man in charge of the warden-aided flats had been discussing my mother’s first night in the Nursing Home with other people. I thought this was most unprofessional – this should have been private. I found out that my mother had not been given her sleeping tablet in a mix-up over medication even though I had gone through this with the Sister earlier. When elderly people have sleeping tablets long-term and then aren’t given them they can get severe withdrawal symptoms, which is what my mother experienced. She had been left in complete darkness with the lamp turned off and my mother had been having terrible nightmares and crawling to the bottom of her bed. When it was discovered about the non-dispensing of sleeping tablets the Matron did apologise to me.
Being fiercely independent my mother found the Nursing Home community living quite difficult. Plus the night staff were stretched and never came when she rang the bell. Her washing was always lost. We had got my mother a mobile phone while in hospital and I rang her every night. My night-time talks with her at the Home revealed how unhappy she was. One evening she had wanted to go to the toilet. No one had come so she got off the bed and wandered to her bathroom herself. She fell and broke her right femur badly. I knew she would never recover from this.
The last time I saw my mother with her natural and cheery character had long gone. When we visited in hospital again one day she complained of terrible pain in her back and I was concerned she had a bed sore. On bringing this up with various staff, they all dismissed it, yet she developed a terrible Stage 1V bedsore at the base of her spine which caused awful pain. The femur had been reset but the wound wasn’t healing and my mother underwent the very painful treatments of debridement. Still the pain medication given wasn’t touching her pain levels.
As I walked the hospital corridors to get to my mother’s ward, I would always pray and ask God and the angels to be with me and I don’t think I could have carried on without this spiritual help. My husband was so supportive and picked me up each night after work and came up to see my mother too. We visited together at weekends.
One day I visited and her bed was empty. Where was she? Had she died? I panicked. No one had told me. She’d been moved to a side ward. Her agony continued and although I tried to see him, I never met her Consultant, but wrote to him about my concerns and spoke to him on the phone.
There were a few lovely staff who really seemed to care, but these were very much in minority and off-set by what I can only call a cult of cruelty in the NHS. Do these people who dish out this awful care realise they will be old and ill and vulnerable one day? What sort of treatment would they like then?
My mother died two days after my birthday. I had a phone call at 5.30am and burst into tears – tears of pain at what she’d suffered, tears of anger at some of her treatment, tears of relief she wasn’t suffering anymore, tears of abject grief that I wouldn’t see her anymore on this side of life.
My husband and I have said when the time comes we are adamant want to die at home in our own bed and if this shortens our life then so be it.
|Posted on February 1, 2016 at 7:50 PM|
I was so sorry to hear about the passing of Sir Terry Wogan. I listened to Wake-Up to Wogan from the very beginning. I was one of Terry’s young TYGS (Terry’s Young Girls and Geezers). There were older TOGS – (Terry’s Old Gals & Geezers!!). I was called Vivi “Tyggy” Steels & emailed Terry & Pauly many times & had poems & emails read out. I have a WUTWAC (a Wake-Up to Wogan Alarm Clock) & a WUTW Sweat Shirt. I remember so many times being doubled up with laughter at the emails sent in from other TYGs & TOGS. Who can forget Mick Sturbs & his very funny 'Janet & John' near-the-knuckle stories? I had M.E. at the time & was often unwell in bed, but his radio show never failed to uplift me. I taped lots of episodes of the show and loved it when the team all collapsed in uncontrollable laughter. I was so upset when WUTW finished in December 2009 & I am even more upset by hearing that Terry has passed away. He was such a warm, friendly human being who I remember saying ‘kindness’ was one of the most important attributes. He is unforgettable...
One of the emails I had read out was a take on the Desiderata called DETYGERATA for TYGS & TOGS. Part 1 is printed below.
"Go tyggishly amid the letters and emails and remember (if you can) what peas there may be. As far as possible be on cheery terms with all TOGS. Speak your mind loudly and repeatedly; and turn your radio up, even when you’ve heard it all before, they too need a turn (and often have one). Avoid loud and bearded TOGS, they cause a lot of probs. (See Boggy and Ken about this.) Don’t compare yourself to other TYGS and TOGS for you become too confident or deflated: there will always be a strange spectrum of the breed."
Vivi "Tyggy" Steels
|Posted on December 29, 2015 at 4:25 AM|
Crystal birdbath presages clear night –
stars in their right places
shining ladders of light to flowers,
closed until dawn
when dew washes
all dark away.
The day unfurling its leaves,
springs into the business of bees,
radiating a golden honey-glow,
filling the body with sweetness,
the spirit with hope
lured by the charms
of a new day.
© Vivien Steels
Published in MAGNAPOETS – Epiphanies Anthology Summer 2011
Illustrated with 'Bee' from 'Spring Blossom'
|Posted on December 1, 2015 at 3:25 AM|
For you ~
May snow fall in soft clouds upon your field,
May stars sparkle in pearls of light across your sky,
May frost lace in patterns down your windows of crystal,
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 your house,
May doves of peace rest feathers upon your vaulted roof,
May angels always light your path homewards ~
© Vivien Steels
Published in Write-Away – Winter 2001
& Ferne & Chocolate & The Rollercoaster Rainbow & Other Stories (Dayglo Books Ltd) – July 2015
|Posted on October 17, 2015 at 3:55 AM|
Sadly my lovely little Shadow was put to sleep on Wednesday 23rd September 2015 at 5.15pm. He was 9 years and 3 months old and had developed hind leg paralysis, couldn't hold himself up and deteriorated rapidly. He is buried under a Garden Angel in the back garden in the back central border. I feel devastated and can't stop crying, but my dear friend, Annie, said I 'gave him a lifetime of care, comfort and love and that is a wonderful gift to have given to another living creature.' This has comforted me greatly.
I was so upset at witnessing the death of this small, brown wild rabbit by a speeding car, that I kept thinking - what can I do to mitigate this situation? I had vowed not to have another rabbit after my last lovely rabbit, Honey. But I thought, I can give a good, loving home to another rabbit. I decided there and then to go to the pet shop near my mother's flat.
I cuddled the small black furry rabbit I'd chosen. He was a Lion-Headed Dwarf rabbit about eight weeks old with a fluffy ruff of fur round his neck, a silver tummy and silver eye-liner. He licked and nibbled my blouse. I bought him a two-storey rabbit Chalet set up in the car-less garage with large living areas joined by a ramp and a large garden run. He settled in very quickly. He enjoyed exploring the garage, conservatory and kitchen and the enclosed back garden.
Shadow is very sociable and inquisitive. He loves being combed and brushed, which has to be done daily, because of the long fur round his neck and back. He affectionately butts my hand and licks me running in circles round me and making a funny honking noise. He expresses his joy of life by jumping and twisting in the air, dashing at high speed round his toys and in and out of obstacles. In the morning he rushes to greet me on the top storey of his Chalet so he can jump down onto a stool, then the garage floor. He dashes out into the garden and his happy disposition lifts my spirits every morning.
Running up and down his three-storey cardboard Cottontail Cottage in the conservatory (all the way from the US) and eating raisins as a treat.
When my cat, Mittens, ignores him.
Being friendly to everyone he meets.
© Vivien Steels 2014
Published in The Sunday Telegraph (Lifestyle Section) Pet Tales – 11.5.2014
|Posted on September 1, 2015 at 1:20 PM|
Bands of amber kelp
anchor furred body
floating on back,
rafting against tug of tide
liquorice nose lifted,
small eyes closed,
as sunbathing under settled sky
meals from sea’s kitchen
gained on diving trips –
starfish, squid, crab, abalone –
shell bashed against stone tool
resting on rounded belly
like hammer on anvil,
prising open juicy riches
with webbed paws.
Grooming waterproof coat,
blowing air bubbles
to inflate own lifejacket,
rolling close to female with kit,
who rides clinging, squealing
when she disappears for food
beneath choppy waves.
He kidnaps suckling
forcing mate to share catches,
nuzzles her streaked coat,
then floating on backs,
rafting against roll of tide
under settled sky,
they sunbathe side by side.
Published in ORBIS No: 123 – February 2003
I've included this poem as I have been watching The Big Blue Live on the BBC and have been so entranced by the Sea Otters. They are one of my favourite animals. I wrote this poem in 2002 but it does detail the behaviour where the kits are kidnapped to force the female to give up her food.
|Posted on July 16, 2015 at 5:20 AM|
'A little girl named Ferne goes on magical adventures with her best friend, Chocolate, her dark brown cat. The book contains five stories, one for each season of the year plus one for Christmas. On their travels Ferne and Chocolate meet some amazing characters – seagulls who sail a boat, a bad tempered camel, a pair of strange twins who can swim, a screeching bird with multi-coloured feathers, and flying reindeer. These stories are full of descriptions of weird and wonderful places and Ferne brings home some extraordinary memories with her.'
My children's book with my illustrations has just been published by DayGlo Books Ltd @ www.dayglobooks.com, who specialise in books for children, and people of all ages, who have dyslexia. Do go and have a look at their website.
|Posted on June 20, 2015 at 3:00 PM|
Hedonist's List of Desert Island Essentials
Blue iceberg from Arctic shores
melting into cool, mountain streams.
Chocolate Emporium effusing cocoa –
door always open, shelves always filled.
Cooking pot permanently flame-hot
to bubble water within its depths for
Chinese Jasmine-scented tea,
fragrance rising in coils of steam.
Tent, the size of small bungalow,
with bathroom ‘en suite’ included.
Bombay Curry House,
waiters and cooks ever-ready
to conjure spiced masterpieces
served on white plates.
Library, walls resplendent with books,
superb poetry section –
no overdue charges.
Softest duvet fattened with duckdown,
hammock fittings to lasso two palm trees
under indigo sky christened with stars.
Published in 21st Century Poetry - October 2001,
Write-Away – Winter 01/02 & Panda No: 9 January 2002
|Posted on April 4, 2015 at 7:10 PM|
cherry blossom falls
filling sky with confetti
essence of flowers
pollinates soft air with bees
whirling wings upwards
Published in Write-Away - Spring 2002
Illustrated with 'Spring Blossom' © Vivien Steels
|Posted on February 11, 2015 at 2:55 AM|
I want to go somewhere;
somewhere there is sky
so blue, so vast,
it fills up my eyes
with sapphires of colour;
somewhere there are tents
made of red felt
singing in the desert winds;
a backdrop of undulating dunes
drifting gold across shifting sands;
somewhere there is sun,
so yellow, so warm,
it knits my bones together
and tickles my skin
with a honey-brown glow;
somewhere there are fields
rolling gorgeous green
over the backbone of hills;
holding its wild flowers up to sinking rain
streaming in from distant seas;
somewhere a kaleidoscope of shapes
whirls its frenzy into the retina
causing psychedelic auras to pulse;
mesmerising with a rhythm of colour
painting my mind with dreams.
Published in Moonstone 95 - August 2004
Illustrated with 'Tibetan Festival Costume' © Vivien Steels
|Posted on January 2, 2015 at 6:20 AM|
New Year’s Wish
Grey pearl sky shimmers
with hidden sun
above russet beech-hedge
keeping its old clothes
until a bright green costume
arrives five months later.
Buddleias and box
dress borders with evergreens
ready to reject winter’s grip
for the soft caress of spring
waiting in the wings
to dash, solo, into view
flinging primroses and daffodils
over grass and soil
before the mad hot days of summer
fizzle onto yellow-dead lawns.
Published in Nottingham University Creative and Professional Writing Anthology –
‘Into the River’ – June 2010
|Posted on December 3, 2014 at 6:50 AM|
Christmas Wish for a Dog
I would love a dog,
a big, long-coated dog
to walk with forever
in tree-lined snow avenues
in that land where illness isn’t.
Illustrated with 'Christmas Walk' © Vivien Steels
|Posted on November 10, 2014 at 6:50 AM|
I have posted this poem today for Remembrance Day on 11th November.
If grass could bleed
what scars would be exposed
when wounds of battles,
now grown over
with meadows of time,
scythed their way
through trunks of bodies;
lopped, uprooted before maturity,
left bare before crows
and wuthering skies;
returning riches to nature’s soil.
with the wildest of flowers
amongst bonehard briars,
spread an ancient king’s epitaph
across early summer’s book.
Published in WRITE-AWAY – Spring 2003, Artists Without Frontiers 2004
& In Flanders Field Anthology – Forward Poetry Oct 14
|Posted on October 28, 2014 at 5:10 AM|
‘Trawling’ was based on a dream I had which I recorded in my dream diary. It had a rather nightmarish quality to it, as in the cellar was an old sailor (wise man of the sea) mending the net of my heart (heart-broken?). A cellar can refer to your subconscious and water can refer to your emotional life. As there was a lot going on in my life then, mostly very difficult to deal with, this was one of those poignant dreams that stay with you for a long time after and mean something deep; deep as the ocean.
Sinking shut into sleep
silk-soft cotton mesmerises feet
to tiptoe hallways housing
damp-filled skirting boards,
mirrored doorways, wisped ceilings,
all signposting to secluded cellars
where one, inhabited,
breathes like a barnacle
clinging to the underbelly,
labyrinth of night starred with senses
and there he sits, silver as fish,
sand-blasted hand grasping
the hook of your heart,
pulling thread in and out,
mending the net,
re-designing the web that
will trawl the waters of the world
to drag salty words of treasure
into the limelight of your luminous eyes
from wild, wild mermaids.
Published in Popshot 10 - October 2013
|Posted on September 28, 2014 at 5:15 AM|
Anyone who has owned a pet and is an animal lover knows only too well the terrible feelings of loss and grief when a beloved pet dies or has to be put to sleep. This is a very personal poem, but one which I think pet owners can identify with and was written when the pain of loss was very raw and the grieving process had just begun. It was written about Misty, my lovely grey fluffy cat, who is seen here helping me with my work. (Misty - 19th October 1992 to 24th February 2006).
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…
Published in Animal Antics Anthology 2011 - Forward Press
|Posted on September 4, 2014 at 3:30 AM|
I have been stunned and appalled by the events in Iraq and Syria. It reminded me of this poem I wrote in 1995 about the crimes against humanity in the second World War. This poem is written from the view-point of a survivor from Auschwitz. How can mankind keep repeating the same murderous mistakes? Don't we ever learn from history? Then there are the men and women who make it their life's work to bring perpetrators of genocide to justice...
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
Published in CPR International 4 - October 2000, Write-Away – Spring 2002 & The World at War (anthology Forward Press Poetry) – September 2013