Nicky Morgan most popular? Really?

Yes, my poem School visit by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education was my most viewed post of 2015. Here’s the full Top Ten which includes waffles, gherkins, whisky, salmon, promises, childhood memories and lots of references to being Worcestershire Poet Laureate. It’s good to look back on my year of blogs, though I’m having a break at the moment, building up strength for 2016 when I have some lovely projects and events to look forward to. I’ll be Poet Laureate until the middle of June and there are lots of poems waiting to be written.

Thanks very much for following me in what has been my busiest year to date. Do follow the links below to read my Top Ten and alter the statistics ….

  1. Poem: School visit by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education

  2. County’s Poet Laureate waffles on the podium

  3. International Mother Language Day

  4. Childhood snaps

  5. Worcestershire Poet Laureate 2015

  6. A poem about the gherkin

  7. Being a Poet Laureate on National Poetry Day

  8. The Kelpies, Whisky Angels & a salmon ladder

  9. Burns, Tam O’Shanter & Crambo-jingle

  10. Worcestershire Poet Laureate Competition 2015

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Festive Fare

My Christmas poem was inspired by an article in last Saturday’s Independent Magazine by Oscar Quine entitled Festive Fare, an A to Z of what we might consume at this time of the year, including a few surprises. I used the list and some of the explanations to create an A to Z of my own. The only item I changed was XO Chicken which I have no idea how to pronounce!

I love finding poetry in other people’s writing. My favourite words of Oscar’s are ‘squidgy and luminous’ when referring to jellied fruits and my favourite line for playfully twisting the words I found is the one about roasties. The lobster line was … er … tough.

I hope you enjoy it and I’d like to think some of you might share it along with some food and drink over the festive period. I sent it to Oscar who was good enough to write back: “Thank you so much for your fantastic poem. I passed it around the team and you have put a smile on all of our faces just in time for Christmas. Personally, I’m very pleased that you felt inspired by my piece!” Thanks Oscar!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you so much for reading my blog over the past year.

Festive Fare
inspired by an article by Oscar Quine in The Independent Magazine 12.12.2015

A is for Asti, Italian Spumante
B is for Brussels sprouts – hear the kids moan
C is for cheese that we’re always too full for
D is for date with a stick and a stone

E is for eggnog – “a noggin of egg grog”
F is for fish when abstaining from meat
G is for gl
ühwein served hot, it’s delicious
H is for humbug (I don’t mean a sweet)

I is for Irish Cream, laden with calories
J is for jellied fruits, squidgy and luminous
K is for KFC, choice for the Japanese
L is for lobster, not very voluminous!

M is for mince pies brought back by crusaders
N is for nutroast for veggies, and cheap
O is for oysters, luxurious blighters
P is for pigs in their blankets asleep

Q is for Queen’s speech delivered at 3 o’clock
R is for roasties by Edward the King
S is for snowball – a drink, so don’t throw it
T is for turkey – leg, white meat or wing

U is for unwanted guests past their welcome
V is for vermouth for cocktails galore
W is for whisk(e)y – it’s Scotch or it’s Irish
X is for Xmas – what this poem’s for!

Y is for yule log with marzipan snowmen,
rocks made of nuts, and a sugary frost
Z is for sleeping when dinner is over
before you wake up and work out what it cost!

© Heather Wastie
December 2015

Goodbye, Birmingham Central Library

Goodbye, Birmingham Central Library

Farewell, you concrete blot of brutalist architecture,
eight floors of dodgy escalators, low ceilings,
threadbare carpets and little natural daylight.

As the gatekeepers, the guardians of knowledge
leave their posts for ever, the Prince of Darkness*
believing he has finally claimed his prize,
the place where books are incinerated, not kept
has sent his death-eaters to hover and claw at the windows

when suddenly, up the Victorian spiral staircase,
circling up through the archive, up into the vortex rises …
not flames, but 40 years of human dust – up, up and away!

© Heather Wastie

*Wales

Written June 29th 2013 in response to this article:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-23008062

Now the demolition is actually taking place …
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-35092981

Carpet factory memories

During my time as Writer in Residence at the Museum of Carpet, I ran some writing workshops. Margaret Green came to one of these workshops and talked about her memories of life in Kidderminster when she was a young girl. I wrote a poem using what she had told me. When I asked her for permission to publish the poem on my blog, she sent me the piece below which describes vividly what it was like for her as a young girl working in a carpet factory at the height of the industry. She wrote it after visiting the Museum with a group of poets who meet in Bewdley – the Bewdley Bards. My poem for Margaret appears first.

Sitting on the step
for Margaret Green

I’m sitting on the step,
my step,
the one with the cigarette burns,
cold because the sun never reaches it

I shuffle my dress
to cover the backs of my legs
and hug my knees

This morning
I woke to the call of Brintons Bull
and pulled on yesterday’s clothes

and now I’m sitting on my step
waiting by the factory doorway
waiting for the weavers
to give me sweets

© Heather Wastie
October 2015

Visit to the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster
by Margaret E Green (McCormick)
July 2015

Nostalgia sweeps over me, as I recall my first day at work, in Brintons Carpet factory. I was so young, at fifteen, but I soon fitted in to factory life; I was no longer a schoolgirl, but I was proud that I “worked!”

Memories came to me, remembering unfamiliar places to a young girl; the noise of the weaving looms, frightening at first; later on, I could easily identify the different sounds in the weaving sheds.

I smiled, thinking of the fun I had, and the young men, creelers, that I quickly became friendly with. The jokes that they played upon me. I was put in a basket, which was used to carry bobbins up the side of the loom, but they put me in one of them, and hoisted me up the loom, then left me, laughing at a safe distance.

I remember two young creelers, holding me in a sitting position in a chair, then painting my legs with size, the latex liquid, used on the backing of carpets. Of course, in the fifties, we were wearing stockings and suspenders; when I arrived back home from work that evening, I had to peel my stockings off my legs, painful, but funny.

Brintons was opposite the fire station; when the siren sounded, we all stopped what we were doing, and watched the retained firemen, who worked at Brintons, race along the side of the river Stour, which ran through the centre of the factory. It felt very exciting to me, to see the men running; well, I was only fifteen years old.

I experienced nostalgia again, when touching the carpets, feeling the yarn and remembering some of the patterns of carpets. Reliving the days when I had progressed to the mending department, then on to be a qualified carpet picker; remembering the sore fingers, from the large needle with which we mended the missing shots in the carpets. We all worked at a fast pace; piece work meant the more carpets we repaired, the greater the pay packet. I worked hard, and earned good money by the time I was only sixteen years of age. The best job was the picking and I enjoyed the company of friends. I still had fun, even though I wasn’t in and out of the sheds any more, talking with the young men, and wandering about the factory, sometimes where I shouldn’t be wandering!

Happy days, good memories, of my first job, in Brintons carpet factory.

Temperance Meeting, Gin Lane

I was booked by the inventive Kate Cox, Clik Clik Collective Producer, to be part of an installation and walkabout in Worcester city centre at the end of November. A striking feature in Worcester Victorian Fair, the installation celebrated the darker side of Victorian Britain in an alleyway with debauched inhabitants, cast out of society due to their unsavoury behaviour! My response to the brief was to hold a mock temperance meeting with this motto:Temperance handout

I researched temperance songs and speeches and put together an interactive programme lasting about an hour and enjoyed seeing how people reacted. Several people entered the spirit of it (haha) and joined in with the singing and play acting. One bloke pretended (well I think he was pretending!) to have a go at nicking my gin bottle which I assured everyone had been filled with water: “I have poured away the vile liquid this bottle once contained and replaced it with cool, clear water!” For, as the song goes:

There’s nothing so good for the youthful blood,
Or sweet as the sparkling water.

I invited people to sign the pledge and lots of people did, though ironically the pledge got soaked on the second day when there was a heavy rain shower. I had mixed feelings about the fact that an 8 year old signed after I showed her family the authentic signature of a 7 year old:

The Pledge comments list

It was very rewarding putting this show together and I’d love to do it again, so I’m looking out for opportunities. Do contact me if you’re interested or have any suggestions for venues or organisations that may be up for it. I’m working on a version which doesn’t need piano, though it would be great to have one.

Working for Clik Clik Collective gives me the opportunity to come up with new ideas and try them out. Producer Kate Cox is pictured below. I love what she does; there’s a feeling of authenticity and humour in this work, which is always high quality, and you couldn’t wish to meet a nicer group of people.

Kate by Dave Grubb

Kate Cox in Gin Lane by Dave Grubb