Day Three Hundred and Forty Eight: Stranger Fruit

It’s actually gotten to the stage where I have to look at the post from yesterday to figure out what number of day we’re on.

Anyway, some people found yesterday’s post uplifting. That’s good, and I’m actually working on a poem related to yesterdays post which may or may not see the light of day some time soon.

What I’m about to post is probably not that uplifting. However it is pretty powerful.

I’ve already posted some Seamus Heaney and the poem posted by him before was taken from his collection ‘North’ which this next poem also happens to be taken from. You can read a nice wee article which talks about this poem here. As ever all right belong to the original author.

Strange Fruit
by Seamus Heaney

Here is the girl’s head like an exhumed gourd.
Oval-faced, prune-skinned, prune-stones for teeth.
They unswaddled the wet fern of her hair
And made an exhibition of its coil,
Let the air at her leathery beauty.
Pash of tallow, perishable treasure:
Her broken nose is dark as a turf clod,
Her eyeholes blank as pools in the old workings.
Diodorus Siculus confessed
His gradual ease among the likes of this:
Murdered, forgotten, nameless, terrible
Beheaded girl, outstaring axe
And beatification, outstaring
What had begun to feel like reverence.

Day Three Hundred and Forty Seven: Remembrance

Today marks the second anniversary of my grandad’s death. I still think about him a lot and whenever I go to my dad’s house I always expect to see him sitting in his old seat at the head of the dining room table reading the newspapers with his spectacles on and using a magnifying glass to see the words properly. Just sitting there, occasionally with a beer or a guinness, chilling, reading the paper or doing the crossword.

It’s easy to be pragmatic about death, I think. We experience it every day in some way or another and we’ll all surely experience it at some stage in our lives. When someone close to you passes away it’s hard to be prepared for the emotional maelstrom that follows and although time shapes that whirlwind of feelings into something more manageable, that feel of loss never really disappears.

He was in his 89 when he passed meaning that he, of course, served in World War II. He was stationed on two ships which were sunk in the war. My grandad wasn’t the type who spoke often or about his experiences in the war. Although I wasn’t present when this particular story was told, it later turned out that when he was diagnosed with cancer he relayed a story to his doctor and those that were in the room with him about one of his experiences during the war.

My memory is a little hazy here and no doubt I’ll get corrected by family afterwards but here goes.

When one of the ships he was one was bombed (torpedoed?) by a German U-boat those who survived the blast abandoned ship. Having gotten himself to safety, one of his crewmates was still in the sea calling out for help. They were unable to save him despite their efforts. This was a story that had obviously stuck with my grandad for a long time but quite why he chose to tell it then is a mystery.

Nevertheless, the last thing he said to me and my brother as he was swept in and out of consciousness by waves of morphine was “Try to help people in any way you can”, advice which was perhaps influenced in some way by what he’d seen in the war.

I’ll never forget that moment when he imparted that final piece advice to us. It was late evening and the side ward he was in was very dim, the off pink colour of the room and its curtains had taken on a sort of soft burgundy hue. The bleeps and boops of the machines around him permeated the silence whilst my aunt sat beside him holding his hand. When he told us that advice it was a quiet, breathless voice. It’ll always stay with me.

The only tears I shed were on that night, in one of the waiting rooms next to his ward.

A few days later I was awoken with my dad phoning me telling me that he was coming over to my flat, something which had never done before and hasn’t done since, to tell me that he’d died.

Strange memories. Strange times.

Anyway, I didn’t want this post to become a sad one.

After the war my grandad received a few medals. Below you can see his record of service, medals and various other things relating to his service in the navy. Rather than focusing on his departure, today I’ll be remembering what he gave for this country and what a fine gent he was.

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Day Three Hundred and Forty Four and Forty Five

It’s quite difficult to keep this blog up to date when I have no internet connection.

Using the mobile version of wordpress is not only slow but also a some what painful experience.

There has also been a lack of content due to exams. I have my first and only exam tomorrow.

Feels weird saying that when I’m 26 but hey ho. Some poetry and prose next week.

Day Three Hundred and Forty Three: It’s Clobberin’ Time

If I took an axe to the telephone exchange do you think they’d fix my phone?

As discussed in yesterday’s post the weather played havoc with a lot of services here in Scotland yesterday. For me, I was unable to get my phone line sorted and I remain broadband-less. I wasn’t gonna be pissed off at the guy who came to do because given the conditions, it’s completely understandable that he didn’t want to climb a telephone pole in 70mph winds.

I called up today to rearrange the appointment and was told that I now cannot have my phone line connected until January 10th.

Ok, so having no broadband is rather irritating, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s very much a white whine, of sorts so I’m not going to get too pissed off at that. Similarly, the fact I won’t be using BT’s BT Vision service for TV for another month isn’t something I’m going to lose sleep over. What does irk me, however, is that as of yesterday I am paying for a service that I cannot use.

I made this clear to BT and said I’d like to cancel the order, but was told that even if I done that it’s likely that because every other telephone provider uses BT Openreach, I should expect a similar timescale with other providers.

BT Openreach are very well known for their incompetence. Apparently the have some magic crystal ball which tells them how bad the weather is going to be for the next month, so by combining that with the festive season gives means a very annoyed man.

Hilariously the BT Openreach base here is about 2 miles down the road and my exchange is literally 50 yards away from the house.

Astounding. Someone somewhere has decided that failure to complete a job because of bad weather has meant that if you’re in Scotland you cannot have a new phone line connected for at least another month.

Raging does not cover it.

Day Three Hundred and Forty Two: Weather Yawn

Scots are very focused on the weather. Each year our country is battered with extreme weather and each year social networks explode with exclamations about how bad things are.

Surely you’d be aware that this shit is going to happen? Is it still so surprising even though it happens regularly?

I’ve been studying pretty much non stop recently and I don’t have much to blog about so I’m just gonna throw that out there and leave it at that.

Day Three Hundred and Forty One: More Morgan

More studying today. More medieval literature. I won’t bore you with the details.

Instead, here’s an Edwin Morgan poem for you. It’s wonderful. All rights belong to his estate etc. I claim no ownership

One Cigarette
by Edwin Morgan

No smoke without you, my fire.
After you left,
your cigarette glowed on in my ashtray
and sent up a long thread of such quiet grey
I smiled to wonder who would believe its signal
of so much love. One cigarette
in the non-smoker’s tray.
As the last spire
trembles up, a sudden draught
blows it winding into my face.
Is it smell, is it taste?
You are here again, and I am drunk on your tobacco lips.
Out with the light.
Let the smoke lie back in the dark.
Till I hear the very ash
sigh down among the flowers of brass
I’ll breathe, and long past midnight, your last kiss.