My Nana had a wonderful group of friends. They went out together, went on holiday together and met up each week for the Sewing Bee and Knitting Bee. I used to go and visit sometimes with Nana when she would go to Mrs. Murphy’s for a cup of tea or pop round to Mrs. Walker’s to drop in a pattern and I loved visiting these people, they were such loving, kind women and because they loved my Nana, they loved me too. Sometimes Nana would get me to stand and sing for them with my Aunt Betty playing the piano. Songs like ‘Down in the Glen’ or Sunday School songs like ‘Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam’. The religion has long gone from my life but I still sing and I still love old Scottish folk songs. I wrote this poem in memory of my Nana and her lovely friends – not all of it is fact. Gradually my Nana’s friends died and she outlived them all. Towards the end of her life she used to talk about how lonely she was even though she had a loving family – she missed the old crowd so much. I often think of how I would feel if the people that I ‘played’ with had all gone. These memories of my Nana and her friends are lovely memories for me and as I’ve said often, it’s these warm loving memories that helped me survive my childhood.

Fair Fortnight

The beach is empty and lonely because of the rain.
The peeling paint on the long building has been green.
Ladies at one end, Gents at the other
it looks like an elongated bus shelter.
Do people still go inside and sit on the green slatted benches?
To sit and stare at the sea counting the waves
and feeding the gulls
or see a faraway shore
an island of dreams like the song says.
Best place to eat the sandwiches
and pour stewed tea out of flasks
then ice-cream cones and wafers
from the same parked van.
Comfortable grey-haired ladies
in floral dresses and white cardigans,
wide-fitting Kay sandals on their feet
hair permed every six months and set every week.
On holiday. Same place for years
but only the women now
staring at the sea remembering why they come here
to this occasional sun-lit tourist-forsaken
cold and windy familiar resort
with its memories of couples and friendships
and laughter and shared potted meat sandwiches.
Pints and whiskies in the pub near the guest house
or maybe a brandy and Babycham or sherry.
It’s nice to get away for a while.
Two weeks in July for fifty years.
They wear stockings and hats.
They carry a shopping bag, a handbag
and a light raincoat just in case.

Barbara 2011