Blanket

 

I was the designated person. I’d seen it
before and I am hard. All over in a few
seconds; a slow movement across two

graduations, then an increased flow to a
final stop at empty. Clear eyes to
opaque in an efficient procedure

performed by this calm and sympathetic
professional; the dog, supporting his
own weight one moment, to being a

dead-weight slumped in my arms on a
vinyl covered veterinary table the next.
Be aware, she said, now the body is

relaxed, it is likely his bladder will
evacuate in your car. I stood in the car
park and placed his body, wrapped and

limp in his old dog blanket, on a large
plastic sheet in the boot and sobbed
like a child.

(Published June 2017 Ink, Sweat & Tears)

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Old Dog

mr H

I’m writing this on Friday morning, listening to the radio, drinking coffee, the day after the last day of term when the year 6 group I’ve been teaching for two years finished at St. Oswald’s and made their way to pastures new at secondary school. Over thirty years working in education, I’ve learnt not to get attached to classes, but when we get to the final leavers’ assembly (soft clart that I am), these days I find it increasingly difficult emotionally. It has been an enormous privilege to be a primary school teacher and there are some fantastic kids I’ve taught over the years.

It makes me very happy when someone, whether a teenager or adult who has been in my class, takes the time to talk to me and reminisce about life in Class 4. Only the other day, I bumped into an ex-pupil in town, a forty year old bloke with a family, who I’d not seen since 1987. It was the eyes I recognised. Occasionally, students will return to St. Oswald’s, just to let me know how they’re getting on and what their plans are for further study or career choices. We chat in the classroom, while ghosts of pupils past drift around us, asking for spellings, looking for pencils, organising paintpots, swinging on chairs, reading books or gazing out of windows at the playground outside …

Which leads me to the point of this blog entry.

I am a fifty-six year old primary school teacher. When asked (cliché alert), I always say (truthfully) that the best part of this job is the teaching of children. It is the thing I look forward to; it is why I became a teacher after a false start in engineering; it is the main reason for going back in the autumn term every year. The peripheral nonsense I complain about in other forums, regarding interference from the likes of politicians and other vested interests, has become something which is resulting in many colleagues leaving the profession. People I respect, and who have years of experience, are leaving teaching in droves. There is a genuine crisis in education in terms of recruitment and retention of teachers, which has been caused, in my opinion, by over twenty-five years of political meddling. Teachers, along with nurses, doctors, ambulance crew, firefighters, police etc. are not valued by the Tories who … (stops himself, before he launches into a rant which is not the purpose of this blog 🙂 ).

So, I am considering retirement …

Part of this process has been creative and has taken the form of a poem, which will appear next Tuesday (25th July) in that marvellous online publication Atrium Poetry. I have imagined what the last day of all terms would be like for someone in my position, when the time comes (eventually) to leave the classroom for good. Below is a link to a clip of a shorter version of this poem on Youtube:

 

In the meantime, “Thank you” to the lovely crew who left me with super memories and enough wine, beer and chocolate to test my arteries over the summer break.

JH : ) x

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Death On A Pavement

This week I’ve been away on a residential with a super group of kids at a spot near Ullswater in the Lakes. We ghyll scrambled, climbed, walked, swam etc. etc. which was challenging, fun and absolutely the right thing to do with key stage 2 children, but which is becoming increasingly exhausting on a personal basis (physically and mentally) the older I get.

By Friday, I’m wrecked and looking forward to a glass of something red, before falling asleep in an armchair at Northern Towers here in Kendal. Then, settling with a lovely Chilean Marcelo Pelleriti Malbec 2016 Valle De Uco, Mendoza (after a hot bath and a quick search for sheep ticks) I began catching up with e-mails, happily discovering that my poem, Death On A Pavement, had been accepted by Zoomorphic and will be appearing in the ninth issue of that estimable publication in the autumn.

This makes me incredibly happy … which does not come across at all in this clip of me reading the poem ( 🙂 )

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Sudden Panic …

I am a primary school teacher. Occasionally when forced to “do grammar” we look at plurals and have a good laugh at the idea that the plural of sheep is sheep and not sheeps. Then I realise, there is a huge gap in my own knowledge regarding the plural of curlew …

… and having now researched the interweb, I choose to believe that an ‘s’ on the end of curlew is acceptable in some circles.

#ignoramus

curlew1.JPG

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Sensitive Flower

I am thin skinned …

I have always known it.

I take criticism badly. I see criticism inferred in situations where, possibly, it might not even really be there. From the time as a kid at Boothferry Road Primary School when we were graded in a year group of eighty children (being rated as twelfth {twelfth ???} in the overall pecking order according to scores on the 11+), being watched during a five-a-side football tournament at Bradford University by a girlfriend who casually mentioned I seemed to be playing/running in a somewhat flat-footed way (really!??), to a lesson observation during an OfStEd inspection when the inspector thought my session of poetry writing was “dangerous” … (You are kidding, aren’t you? Were there children swinging from the light fittings? Were fires being lit in the book corner? Were scissors being misused, risking life and limb in the process? *).

These examples (and more) are proof enough. I know what I am like.

The other day, the stuff I do (and call poetry) was criticised as “bleak”. It’s true. In my heart of hearts I know I’m guilty of some pretty cheerless stuff. I actually think that at 56 years old, I might be going through a phase which, on reflection (and jolted by the honesty of one critic) I’d quite like to negotiate as quickly as possible.

Time was, my stuff was light and fun and jolly … but of late, I have this urge to try the serious stuff which, in poetry circles, has more kudos. My difficulty, and my discovery, is that I appear to have a deeply hidden vein of melancholia which seeps up and oozes out into the words/phrases/ideas I’m using at the current time.

I don’t seem to be able to help it. I start writing and all this self-indulgent, bleak, chuck-yourself-off-the-edge-of-any-nearby-edifice pap dribbles from my pencil. I can only apologise and hope (i) no one has been adversely affected by this drivel and (ii) the phase passes quickly.

*(No. It was “dangerous” because it was a creative writing exercise, and the inspector said that I didn’t know what the children would produce … #AbolishOfStEd)

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Poems on Clear Poetry …

Please visit the Clear Poetry website …

clear

Thank you

JH : ) (Readers’ advisory … some bleakness may be experienced during the reading of these poems. Stay away from sharp objects)

Man Without A Pullover

He wore his usefulness like a threadbare garment,
an image of time eroded mettle, twenty years’ experience outmoded,
rooted outside the woman’s door, all action lost,
while overwhelmed, his daughter wept alone.

Time was, on these occasions he would don the knight’s armour,
have the skills to see off whatever demons had surfaced,
become the arms and chest in the woolly pullover;
a dad pillow for a sad head.

And though, given the choice, he would be that man again in an instant,
on these bitter days, these later days on the outside of the room,
he had no dad’s pullover to hand.

(Published May 2017 Clear Poetry)

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Incoming …

800px-Curlew_(8621424101)

Soooo very pleased to announce the inclusion of my poem Incoming in an anthology of poems and non-fiction (Curlew Calling) celebrating the curlew, other threatened wading birds and the landscapes they inhabit. All profits from the book will go directly to defending and stabilising the curlew breeding population in the UK. Amongst the other writers, work is included from Welsh poet, playwright and broadcaster Gillian Clarke and the anthology will be edited by Karen Lloyd (prizewinning author of ‘The Gathering Tide; A Journey around the Edgelands of Morecambe Bay’). The book’s publication launch will be at the first northern curlew meeting at the end of 2nd-4th June at Bolton Castle, Leyburn, Wensleydale in Yorkshire.

Order the book at karenlloyd-writer.co.uk/curlew-calling-anthology/

Incoming

I am not your enemy dear messenger,
but still your intent feels murderous.

And though your reckless, adrenaline
fuelled passes and dopplered cries

have sent these old instincts into full
flight mode, my head disappearing

into my shoulders, my fifty year old
body separated from my bicycle to lie

expediently on this damp grassy bank,
I cannot help but admire your bravery

and the skill with which you missed my
skull by inches. How were you to know,

my crescent beaked nemesis, that I am,
in fact, a fully paid up member of the

RSPB and have no designs on the eggs
you’ve hidden, but am, instead,

merely on my way back from buying
Morecambe Bay shrimps for my

mother-in-law, who, as well as liking
sea food, agrees with me that

curlews are lovely …

(Published May 2017 Curlew Calling Anthology)

Curlew picture credit: Ian Kirk (wikicommons)

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