Idle Women on Tour

M. B. Willow

A while ago I went to London to see a double bill of poetry, song and theatre about the famous “Idle Women” of the wartime waterways. Heather Wastie performed her fantastic Idle Women and Judies, and Kate Saffin her one-woman play Isobel’s War.

Both were fantastic, really bringing to life the stories of these incredible women who learned to handle working pairs of narrowboats and barges on the Grand Union and the Leeds and Liverpool Canals. But the most exciting moment for me came when Heather performed a new song she’d written, inspired by our very own Willow! She’d read my blog post where I wrote about the report by Molly Traill on the test run from Ellesmere Port to Birmingham with Willow and Ash, and used it as inspiration for her song!

You can read part of the song on Heather’s blog, which also contains the details of their upcoming tour…

View original post 14 more words

My plate

Here’s a poem I wrote in 1993. I was reminded of it by Helen who, like me, is exceedingly busy. Since my mother reads my blog (Hi Mom!), I will explain that the child is an amalgam of me and a boy called Tom whose dad will probably also read this ….

My plate  

Scene of many a tortuous battle.
Odds against me from the start.
The adversary –
A battery of broad beans.

Negotiations abandoned.
Under attack from the air.

Enemy circling to reload.
Bring on the bread sauce.
Smother the opposition.

*****************

Nothing’s really changed.
Still got a lot on my plate.
Still trying to hide my broad beans
Under the bread sauce.

Heather Wastie

from The Page-Turner’s Dilemma, available from Lapal Publications

(It’s much cheaper to buy direct from me – bring your copy to one of my gigs and I’ll refund the difference.)

#idlewomen Midlands tour

This is how it started. On Twitter. I was booked to perform Idle Women and Judies at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port. I tweeted about it. Kate Saffin responded to my tweet and we got talking. We each had a self-penned one-woman show about the women who were trained to operate working canal boats during WWII. Like narrow boat and butty, our shows fitted together, and within 6 weeks we had arranged a double-bill tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways.

At the beginning of April we did a sell-out preview at The Barge House in London. Towards the end of my performance I announced that I would be singing a song inspired by Molly Traill which begins like this:

We took a trial run
From Ellesmere Port to Birmingham
On Willow and Ash
And here’s what we found

The boats need smartening up
The engines need repairing
Here’s my report
I’ve written everything down

As soon as I mentioned Molly’s name, a voice came from the audience: “She steered my boat!” It turned out that the voice belonged to the current owner of NB Willow, and I had found the information for my lyrics on her blog: Severner Willow

She was surprised and delighted to hear a song about her boat and I in turn was chuffed to meet her!

Our tour starts at the Worcestershire Literary Festival on June 16th. See below for the full tour schedule:

IDLE A5alarumTour flyer back FINAL3

Thu 16 June The Camp House, Camp Lane, Grimley WR2 6LX (outdoors unless wet)
Tue 21 June Ashwood Marina, Kingswinford DY6 0AQ
Wed 22 June * Eagle and Spur, 176 Castle Rd, Cookley DY10 3TB
Mon 27 June * Dudley Canal Trust, Birmingham New Rd, Dudley DY1 4SB
Wed 29 June * The Bonded Warehouse, 2 Canal St, Stourbridge DY8 4LU
Mon 4 July Fox and Anchor, Brewood Rd, Wolverhampton WV10 7PW
Wed 6 July The Bridge Inn, 22 High Green, Brewood, Stafford ST19 9BD
Thu 7 July The Navigation Inn, Newport Road, Gnosall ST20 0BN
Mon 11 July The Junction Inn, Norbury Junction, Stafford ST10 0PN
Tue 12 July The Anchor Inn. Peggs Lane, Old Lea High Offley ST20 0NG
Tue 19 July The Shroppie Fly, Audlem Wharf, Shropshire Street, Audlem, Crewe CW3 0DX

www.alarumtheatre.co.uk
www.facebook.com/alarumtheatre

admin@alarumtheatre.co.uk
07976 818959
@heatherwastie
@Alarum_theatre

 

Sonnet for the post office cashier

Inspired by my love of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and my annoyance at being ignored, here’s one for ‘the bloke in the post office’:

From the other side

Apart from necessary words, like First
or second? One pound twenty six
, the post
office cashier will sing a random burst
of tunes, or whistle, distantly, engrossed.

No please or thank you, what a lovely day,
is that the time and is it raining?
No,
he scats, he taps and clips as if to say
please go away, you spoil my status quo.

I’m tempted to turn up with drum and bass
or improvise a subtle harmony
to beat him, join him, make him lift his face
from paperwork, engage, duet with me,
turn our encounter to a merry vamp
but all he will acknowledge is a stamp.

© Heather Wastie

Last Saturday, we marked 400 years since Shakespeare died, which could be considered a rather morbid way of marking someone’s achievements. Let’s celebrate Shakespeare every year, as the Scots celebrate Burns!  Tomorrow night in Kidderminster we’re doing this ….

Shakespeare Soapbox poster

International Haiku Day on Sunday

On Sunday 17th April, it’s International Haiku Poetry Day, initiated by The Haiku Foundation http://www.thehaikufoundation.org/international-haiku-poetry-day/

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form, traditionally having 3 lines of five, seven and five syllables, without title, evoking images of the natural world.

Since I’ll be busy performing in Croome for Sale at Croome Court on Sunday, and tomorrow I’m having a day off, I decided to post a haiku today. It’s one of the first I ever wrote, in 1993, and was published that year by Poetry Digest. Happy Haiku Day!

Delicate flowers
grown pale without the sun’s rays.
Scented kimonos.

© Heather Wastie

The Astronomy of Herbs

Tomorrow I’m taking poems and songs to an Alzheimer’s Society group, something I do on a regular basis across the region. This one’s in Warwick. I’ve decided to have Spring flowers and gardening as a rough theme, and came across this poem I wrote in 2002. It was published by Poems In The Waiting Room an Arts in Health charity, registered in the U.K.. They “supply short collections of poems as cards for patients to read while waiting to see their doctor and to take away with them” and are open for submissions.

The Astronomy of Herbs
A found poem, after Nicholas Culpeper

Crowfoot and Pepper-wort,
Dodder of Thyme,
All-heal, Anemone,
Lesser Celandine,

Brooklime and Briony,
Wormwood, Butcher’s Broom
and Dove’s Foot are Martial plants.
Stone Crop, under Moon.

Walnut and Marigold,
governed by the Sun.
Mercury has Calamint,
Dill and Sauce-alone.

Amaranthus, Comfrey,
Heart’s-ease, Saturnine.
Dog’s Grass, under Jupiter.
Venus owns the Vine,

Self-heal and Sickle-wort,
Tansy and Thyme,
Foxglove and Featherfew,
Coltsfoot, Columbine.

© Heather Wastie

Culpeper’s best known and loved work is his herbal, called A Complete Herbal.  It gives the astrological indications of every herb in terms of planets and signs of the zodiac.  According to Culpeper, plants were able to channel and embody the subtle life energies of the planets, which were then consumed as food and medicine.  Through an elaborate system of planetary sympathies and antipathies, he found the right herb or formula to treat the patient’s illness.