Scrubbing the step

My mother remarked to me the other day that she used to wash down the pavement outside our terraced house in the Black Country. This will have been in the 1950s / early 60s. She told me that one of the neighbours sneered at her and asked why she was doing it. Our front room (which we rarely used of course) looked out onto the pavement and, in those days, women prided themselves in having a well-scrubbed step and a clean pavement outside their houses.

The conversation reminded me of a found poem I wrote in April 2011 after visiting the Wellcome Collection ‘Dirt’ exhibition. Now that, thankfully, climate change, and looking after our beautiful planet, are being taken more seriously, it also seemed a good time to share that poem.

Scrubbing the step – cleanliness or godliness

We are generators of dirt
even to our ultimate disintegration.
Our waste is evidence of our
advance on earth.
We diligently clean our homes
and turn our backs
on the gigantic
dust heaps, letting the
scavengers risk disease.
Gravity pulls us into dirt.
You and I are earth.

© Heather Wastie

You and I are earth

Cornered

You and a friend get onto a train. There’s a woman sitting in a window seat. The two seats opposite her and the one next to her are all free. Which two seats would you and your friend occupy?

Cornered

Two UKIP-ers on a train
Boring bullets through my brain
Slippery smiles and slimy voices
Talk of politics and choices
Breathe across me, steal my air
No consideration there
At Farage I’ve had enough
Want to tell them where to get off

One says he backed into a wall
Hasn’t repaired his car at all
Carriage empties, yet they smother
We’ve been deserted’ says the other
One beside me, one ahead
Stifled by their stinking spread
Squeezing past them. ‘Getting off?’
Yes. I’m leaving. End. Full stop.

© Heather Wastie
September 2018

Black coffee and onions

My husband is going to a funeral today. Ron was a dearly loved teacher who I only met a couple of times, but he made an instant impression on me and I wrote a poem about him. Or at least I started it. It’s a snapshot of a brief visit to Ron’s house when I warmed to him straight away as he joked about making black coffee. But that poem was never finished. Looking at it again reminded me of a piece I did complete, after visiting another lovely elderly man called Geoff. I only popped in to leave something for his wife but the encounter stayed with me.

Onions
for Geoff

As I arrived he apologised
that the house smelled of onions.

He vanished then reappeared,
proudly holding a freezer bag
packed with his morning’s work.

The wife can’t do it for crying, he said,
So I chop them up while she’s away.

© Heather Wastie
June 2010

Roll Up! Roll Up! Roll Down! Roll Down!

Last Friday was the final show of #TheIdleWomen Summer tour — another water-borne adventure! To see some highlights, do visit the Alarum Theatre Facebook page.

“Roll Up! Roll Up! Roll Down! Roll Down!” *
During the tour Kate Saffin and I were interviewed by Sony-award winning David Bramwell for Waterfront, a monthly podcast from the Canal & River Trust, dedicated to the stories, people and heritage around England and Wales’ historic waterways. Here’s the link to listen. It lasts 16 minutes and includes one of my poems and an extract from one of my songs.

* Our potential audience were above us on a slight hill.

Living Waterways Awards
We’re absolutely delighted that the Alarum Theatre 2017 tour The Idle Women: Recreating the Journey is one of the finalists in the Living Waterways Awards. The winners are announced on 20th September. Fingers crossed!

IMG_0553

A photo I took when we were on the beautiful Chesterfield Canal

img_0809

Kate took this one at the bottom of the spectacular Bingley Five Rise on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

 

A poem for World Poetry Day

Navvies in Salwarpe Cutting

Fifty years of debris, wet mud, dead trees and silt,
a mine of old bottles, lobbed from the bridge.

Small in the world of cranes,
Priestman Cub and Priestman Wolf will be halted
for Bromsgrove Fitches, too plain,
the hope of a rare Worcester Spreckley intact.

According to Dave, there are three kinds of silt:
Slurp, which goes a long long way;
Wobble, less wet; and Crumble. What you need
is a little bit of slurp and the right amount of wobble
for the silt to roll like lava out of the skip and down the bank,
below the makeshift railway, narrow gauge tracks,
the pop pop of diesel loco.

Mommy Mommy, there are men in our dustbin!
The navvies’ cartoon, a carnival slogan.

Look at them now in the channel
and there where the drag lines and buckets can’t go,
under the bridge hole, standing in mud that’s five feet deep,
digging it out by hand.

© Heather Wastie

From The Muck and Shovel Brigade, published March 2018, available to view at selected venues and online here https://theringart.org.uk/projects/droitwich-canal-restoration/

On Wednesday 4th April at 2pm I will be performing the whole collection in a free event at The Railway Inn, Kidderminster Road, Droitwich. Click here for details.

 

 

 

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.)