Inkspill and octopi

This coming weekend, I will be one of 3 guest writers for an online writing retreat, Inkspill, organised by Nina Lewis. I’ll be adding my own perspective to the mix, along with Charlie Jordan and William Gallagher Want some inspiration for your writing? Take a look:

Nina asked me to send her a biography. You might think I would have one to send ‘off the peg’, but it just doesn’t work like that. Every biog I have ever sent out has been different from all the others. This is partly because there are so many facets to my professional life, and not all of these are relevant at the same time.  I can’t help comparing myself to an octopus.

While you ponder on that idea, here’s an octopus poem I wrote after watching a family eating together in a restaurant.

The feeding of octopi

The octopus family
have tentacles twenty
food is plentiful
all is quiet until
plates are empty

when table quivers
upholstery shivers
as octopus babies
lie on their backs
their tentacles rising

they writhe and wriggle
as octopus mom
and octopus dad
slither and grab
trapped in the middle

© Heather Wastie

Perhaps this poem should have had 8 lines per stanza instead of 5. Anyway the line “trapped in the middle” echoes how I sometimes feel trying to keep track of so many creative tentacles!

A far from Idle Woman

Heather Wastie - Idle Women & Judies 2

I was overwhelmed by the wonderful feedback I received after my performances as an Idle Woman on Sunday at Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum. The photo above was taken at the National Waterways Museum, Gloucester where I’ll be performing on Saturday November 8th. The piece was commissioned by the Canal & River Trust and is now available for bookings elsewhere!

Idle Women and Judies by Heather Wastie

Performances at Stoke Bruerne
Sunday 28th September 2014


Absolutely fantastic. Now have a better understanding of women’s role on the boats. Can’t wait for the audio.
Mr & Mrs Roberts, Soham, Ely Cambs

Was great story especially knowing it was real. Sounded very life like, and it was like being there and feeling how the women were feeling. A new life for them in more of a man’s domain. Fantastic.
Belton Family from New Zealand

A lovely performance full of feeling – thank you.
The Richardsons from Lincoln

Very interesting and informative. Very well done!

Very interesting and educated. Thank you.
Isaac Smith age 10

It was very entertaining.
Iona Smith age 8

Very informative and moving.

Fascinating insight into a bygone age.

Learnt new things about ‘Idle Women’ in the WW2. So v. educational. As a woman & new to owning a narrow boat I wish there was an Idle Woman around to teach me her hands on skills!
Penny, Coventry

Very entertaining. Learnt the connection between facts I already knew and those that emerged during the performance.
John Adshead, Northwich Cheshire

Thank you for bringing the story of WW2 women working the waterways to life – very memorable and enjoyable. Great way of bringing history to children.

Liaisons with a Laureate

If you want to know how the Worcestershire Poet Laureate and I have coincided over the last few weeks … Croome Court, Mouth and Music, and our own show “How do Wars Start” … do read this:



How do wars start

by Heather Wastie & Fergus McGonigal

A Dummies’ Guide to Starting a War, a nameless hand puppet, mother’s advice, song references, borders and disputes over a carpet, poetry which rhymes or doesn’t, plus music and blowing up balloons …. entertaining and interactive; 30 minutes of answers.

Commissioned by Kidderminster Arts Festival 2014

Audience feedback:

“Very clever use of words and everyday phrases to dramatic effect. A totally unique slant on the question asked.”
Worcestershire Poet Laureate Emeritus, Maggie Doyle

“Very moving and thought provoking”
“Thoroughly enjoyable”
“Love the “Facebook” duet”
“Tony Blair!”

More info and photos here

Meteorological or Astronomical?

In honour of the autumn equinox, here’s a poem I wrote the last time we had a solstice:

Seasonally affected

September October November
December January February
March April May
June July August

Meteorological seasons
follow the Gregorian calendar

Astronomical seasons
follow equinoxes and solstices

In meteorological terms,
summer begins on June the first.
An expert weather forecaster knows this
whereas non-experts,
meteorologically speaking,
speak astronomically

Astronomical summer begins
on June the twentieth
or is it the twenty first?
I need to know!

Actual summer begins when it feels like it,
ends when it ends
and some years, well,
it just doesn’t …
feel like it.

Both Astronomical and Meteorological seasons
contain other seasons:

The silly season, for example
which occurs when other seasons don’t.

Or the football season which,
regardless of the calendar in use,
ends on the last day of one season
and begins on the first day of the next.

Astronomical seasons
are about 3 weeks behind
meteorological seasons,
so weather forecasters are campaigning
to have the astronomical seasons
brought forward by 3 weeks
to make their forecasts more accurate.

Actually I was a bit astronomical with the truth there.
But I hope to promote the meteoric rise
of meteorological seasons
as a subject for casual conversation
in preference to merely talking about the weather.

© Heather Wastie
June 2014

I oughta drink water

At a recent Alzheimer’s Society cafe performance in Coventry we talked about drinks and collected thoughts. Here are the 2 poems I wrote for them afterwards.

I oughta drink water

I oughta drank water,
and fresh lemonade
is very refreshing,
but it has been said
that Guinness is good for you,
whisky is healthy
and wine helps the heart
but you have to be wealthy
to keep to the target
two litres a day
to stop dehydration,
well, that’s what they say.

I’m partial to lager,
I’d settle for shandy
or beer with some oomph
though it can make me frisky
and talking of whisky
there’s Chivas Regal,
it worked for James Bond
in Casino Royale,
but I oughta drink water,
the experts advise
if I want to be sober
and wealthy and wise.

© Heather Wastie
September 2014

Tea with the vicar

“A cup of tea, it seems to me,
is only half of what it could be
if beneath the cup there is no saucer.
More tea, vicar? Strong and sweet, sir?”

From china cup with delicate handle
a crinoline sleeve and pale fingers dangle,
a pure white doyley in each saucer.
“More tea, vicar? Sweet and strong, sir?”

The vicar smiles and tilts his cup
and watches his doyley soaking up
the liquid rising in his saucer.
“Dear, dear vicar, is something wrong, sir?”

“Not at all!” the vicar winks
then, waiting till his doyley sinks,
he slurps the beverage from his saucer.
“Such ignorance I can’t ignore, sir!
I’ve never seen the like before, sir!
And I won’t be pouring any more, sir!!”

© Heather Wastie
September 2014

Idle Women and Judies

Earlier this year I was commissioned by the Canal & River Trust to write a new piece of poetry using some of their oral history recordings. I created an audio piece and I’m now about to give the first live performances. See below!

Idle Women Stoke Bruerne poster

Idle Women and Judies by Heather Wastie is based on the wartime memories of 3 women: Emma Smith, Nancy Ridgway and Daphne March (Daffy). It broadly tells story of women who took over the working boats while the men went off to war, from recruitment to redundancy, using their own descriptions, condensed into the form of a poem.

I have been involved with canals for most of my life, cruising on ex-coal-carrying narrow boat Laurel and, in the early days, getting involved in campaigns to save them from extinction with my father, Alan T Smith, who received an MBE for his services to the inland waterways. As a writer and musician, I particularly enjoy sharing other people’s stories through my writing and I am grateful to the Canal & River Trust for commissioning me to undertake this fascinating and rewarding project.

Interviews on air plus Black Country Night on Saturday

My Alzheimer’s Army song was aired on BBC Hereford & Worcester last Friday and I had a chat with presenter Tammy Gooding. You never know what’s going to happen in a radio interview. We had planned to record this one in advance but it ended up being live and I thought it went really well. You can hear it by following the link, but be quick as I think there’s only a day or so left to listen.

I also did an interview for The Milk Bar which is a podcast, which means you should be able to listen to it any time. Again, I thought it went well. People are interested in finding out more about dementia, and that’s what why I recorded the CD; as well as entertaining, the songs inform, using words and thoughts from people I’ve met at Alzheimer’s Society memory cafes. The song is played here too

Black Country Night
On Saturday night I’ll be performing as Black Country Pat at the Black Country Living Museum. Pat is a long-suffering Black Country wench who hates poetry but writes it any road, whose voice is like a glede under a door and who gets really narked if you call her a Brummie. Here she is plus a link for further info:

Black Country Pat (photo by Geoff Cox) performing in Worcester High Street for Clik Clik Collective Worcester Music Festival 2014