It’s Sunday, and it’s absolutely tanking down outdoors. I was going to do some gardening but there’s no way. Luckily this poem popped into my head a couple of days ago and it’s already ripe. Time to jot it down.
My Great Grandad, Frank Hutchinson, fought in and survived the First World War. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. As the anniversary of WW1 approaches, I wanted to mark the occasion in his memory.
I always loved Frank’s apple shed, one of many rickety buildings on his smallholding in the ‘Thankful Village’ of Scruton, in North Yorkshire, to which all its young men who went to fight the Great War returned safe.
Here’s a poem about it.
After years enduring the death-stink of the French trenches,
The mud, the filth, the terror, the rot,
The blood, the bones, the bedlam,
Frank came home to the village.
Sixty years later, when I was small,
I loved his apple shed.
Sagging in its nest of dog roses, nettles and gnarly elder,
With its rickety pantiled roof and ancient, rosy brick walls,
A simple sneck on its slatted door,
Inside it was blessedly silent.
Dust motes speckled the air,
Chill or mellow depending on the season, but always dry.
Rows of small, wrinkly apples nestled in dusty old pine drawers,
Sweet and fragrant,
Separated by crisp sheets of the Darlington and Stockton Times.
Squat jars of honey lined cobwebby shelves.
Iron tools with worn, woodwormy handles leaning against the walls,
An elegant, rusty scythe, the shiny-sharp edge as fine and bright as sun on water.
A chunky stepladder in thick wood,
Flaking layers of 1920s green and cream gloss.
A honey centrifuge.
Crunchy leather gardening gloves.
A tray from an old beehive, crammed with pale gold hexagons of wax.
Dead butterflies and bluebottles gleaming in the musty corners of tiny windows.
Autumn-orange hen feathers.
The tang of mead, cardboard boxes, cidery apple skin.
The buzz of a fly.
A muffled waterfall of blackbird song from the rangy garden, penetrating the thick quiet.
Beams of broken sunshine, high in summer, low in winter,
Peace in our time.