Tag: childhood


Here is Part 2 of my childhood poem, linked to the ending of Part 1 which was about talking in bed. The stuffed bear was a vivid memory and I’ve only just worked out why. My intention is to alternate free verse with more formal sections but maybe the contrast between them is too sudden and jars somewhat. I don’t intend posting more extracts for a while so would appreciate any thoughts and suggestions so far…

Image result for fur

little birds calling   let them sing
airy nothings          float in the wind
waves on the seashore  play in the sand
castles tumble         sweep of my hand
word in your shell-liketickles my ears
shush now shush        sounds of the seas
               sh sh sh
         that ebb       and flow
           of nights and days
         that rhythm rocked you
              into trance
           you knew the steps
                but not
               the dance 

You knew the silky hot embrace of fur
From grandma's mothball hugs. How fearful then
That fusty pelt as big as forty grandmas
Sewn together, topped with claws and teeth -
A frozen tableau, savage snarl on pause
And paws forever raised about to strike!
You'd sucked two notions up like mother's milk
That every bear was fierce and out to kill
And hunters only shot in self-defence,
For truth was simply what it seemed to be.
You saw a monster make his final charge
And never guessed the taxidermist's craft
Behind the pose, that lifted lifeless lips
In endless snarl and stretched dead limbs upon
The rack so you could thrill and tremble there.
At four years old you never would have dreamed
Of country houses stuffed with trophy kills
Where pocket heroes boast dominion
And long-range high-velocity success
With simply nothing ever left to chance.

You knew the steps but couldn't read the dance.

Voyage in Time

A sentimental – even slushy! – poem about early childhood when my greatest joy each morning was lying in bed with my mum and swapping sense and nonsense with her …

    a secret key to everywhere

head to head           whisper soft
just us two            i just laughed
snuggle down           why does the sun
warm as toast          who life begun
nice and cosy          how high the sky
safe and sound         what where why
special secrets        only we
never to be told       riddle-me-ree
what say what          when is the moon
now and always	       late and soon
where our words        lost in dark
bibble-babble          gobbledy-gook 
che ma pasa            shan ti kapo
bazi baza              yabos yabo
little birds calling   let them sing
airy nothings          float in the wind
waves on the seashore  play in the sand
castles tumble         sweep of my hand
word in your shell-liketickles my ears   
shush now shush        sounds of the seas

This is the intended opening to a long poem about childhood that will explore the relationship between nature and culture which makes us what we are. I’ve made lists of childhood memories – the easy bit – and now all I need to do is write them up!

I may post the occasional extract to gauge public reaction …

What I must remember is that being creative is not an exact science. Things could get messy. A little bird tells me you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. And so, the cc-rack of eggshells and rrr-rip of  tearing rule-books in my ears, I set sail …

My True Nature

I looked inside myself again today
To see if I could find the real me.
Perhaps he never ventures out to play
But stops indoors, afraid of enmity.
I listened for his voice but only heard
My breathing and the beating of my heart
While somewhere up above a singing bird
Made music far beyond the reach of art
To capture. Lost in nature, I was young
Again and back to early days when we
Would wake at dawn to hear the self-same song
From throats since stilled: ancestral amity
To stir an ancient blood within my veins
And urge this captive heart to break its chains.

I wrote this sonnet in response to June 14 Challenge issued by Suzanne Bowditch on her excellent site, well worth checking out.

Only Yesterday

Before I bring the curtain down on my week of writing acrostics, here’s a final flourish based on today’s Daily Prompt from WordPress: Childhood

We are all experts when it comes to this topic. Happy or sad, or else the more common mix of both, what did or didn’t happen then has made us who we are today. It is our inner child who feels empathy for today’s youngsters unless we have contrived to repress that part of ourselves and can only feel jealousy or resentment. It takes a whole heart to recognise that we are all the same under the skin.

Come back with me to where we used to
Hide: homes made of deckchairs, secret clubs
In musty sheds, mystery dens in hollow bushes and
Leafy look-out posts in high and mighty trees. Ah,
Did we really care what grown-ups thought or said or did in their
Houses when we had our own grand epics
Of eager exploration and wild adventure to enact
Outside their petty rules and endless puzzles – beyond the
Dull routine we knew would come too soon, too soon.


Image: ask.extension.org


Child Father To Man! The Shocking Truth!

I was struck by this comment from siddiebowtie in response to my previous post:

It’s as if the powers that be are determined to suck the souls out of children as early as possible so they’re nice and pliable – devoid of will or hope – by the time they reach adulthood so that they can be more efficient slaves.

That might sound a little extreme but what if you could only reply True or False? Which would you plump for? With a heavy heart, I’d say True. And how about this for an educational philosophy?

Our aim is to prepare young people for the workplace by developing the habits, skills and knowledge they will need to secure employment.

At first sight, that may look OK. But then the questions begin. Do we live to work or work to live? Can it be right that our children spend over two-thirds of their precious and irreplaceable development years on little more than job applications?

And even if you think we humans have no value beyond our economic function, it doesn’t stack up. Who knows what the world of work will be like in 2035? And when these kids step on the first rung, what then? What use will they be if they only have starter skills?

Starter skills – aka ‘the basics’ – are popular with politicians because they can be tested on the cheap. Don’t worry that they narrow the curriculum to the point of dumbing down and take all the fun out of learning. Schools don’t need real books when they’ve got reading schemes, nor computers when learning is by rote and the teacher holds the key to knowledge. And don’t get me started on original sin and the need to curb enthusiasm in the very young!

You don’t make something heavier by weighing it. That is to confuse cause and effect. Similarly, I’m good at grammar but I learned to read and write fluently without it because my interest was fully aroused. I just got it. I didn’t learn to talk by mastering phonetics and I didn’t learn to ride a bike by naming its parts. Time enough to become technicians when we’re up and pedalling.

We need a Plan B. How about this for a starter skill?

“Every child is an artist. The challenge is to remain an artist after you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

Let’s go beyond it. Every child is an artist, poet, philosopher, dancer, nature-lover, explorer, comedian, scientist, sceptic, teacher, boundary pusher, truth speaker. This morning I heard about an experiment where they gave unschooled slum kids computers and asked them to find and understand advanced concepts. The results astounded the scientists. No instructions were needed. The key was to have a group of nine year olds round a single computer.

The best teacher I ever had gave us afternoons to do themed projects guided by her questions which asked for much more than research. We had to share our findings with classmates and then – working in groups to organise and adapt our material – present it to other classes and groups of adults. Helped by our watchful primary school teacher we did displays, lectures, readings, performances, interviews, recordings and more. She expected us to aim high and trusted us to take risks. We struggled to interest others. We gave up our free time. We didn’t need to be tested on what we’d learned. And we learned loads.

Nietzsche said, ‘Become what you are’. This is rather like the Buddhist notion of waking to our innate nature. Learning, meditation and compassion are the ways in – or perhaps, the way back, because what we discover was there all along. TS Eliot (Little Gidding, Four Quartets) puts it as well as anyone:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

I want to write about childhood because it is the common ground we all share beneath the cultural divides that come later. Every child is a natural rebel and together they are the archetypal cross-border tribe. The indigenous Australians had the right idea giving their kids mentors in neighbouring tribes. Ah well, our kids go walkabout online …

I’m getting silly. Time for my cocoa. When you’re my age the past looms large, so be warned … there may be self-indulgent writing about my childhood to follow! In the meantime, here’s Don DeLillo talking to The Guardian’s Xan Brooks about his regular reunion dinners with long-lost childhood friends:

‘And when we meet, we talk about growing up. And all of us remember absolutely everything the same way. I mean that there’s no argument, it’s very strange. It’s as though the last 50 years have been …’

A happy dream? A hallucination? ‘A waste of time,’ he says and laughs.


Part of the Problem?

It behoves us oldsters once in a while to put aside the comforting toys of our second childhood and consider the state of the world we leave our children. Against a background of rising inequality and failing ecology that surpasses the foggy 19th century, we witness religious upheaval that seems to emerge from murky mediaeval mists. Wasn’t the Enlightenment supposed to banish the Dark Ages for good? And who in the egalitarian and optimistic 1960s would have predicted such a lurch into irrationalism and tribal conflict?

E.P. Thompson in his brilliant book The Making of the English Working Class (1963) suggested that history showed a desperate oscillation between periods of political activism and religious fervour: whenever one was seen to fail, the other would be tried once more. And as in the macrocosm, so in the microcosm … if my own experience is anything to go by.

I was a churchgoer as a child and would sit in my pew searching for spiritual illumination through stained-glass windows with the best of them. Left to my own devices I would later climb tall trees to the sound of church bells, as if to gain a higher perspective. The voice that came to me in the wind through the leaves spoke a different truth than the preacher below. Two voices, then, and both of them in my head still …


“I am an actor mouthing another’s words, my days spent in drab rehearsal for the cavalcade that shimmers behind death’s parting curtain. I want to know nothing beyond scripture, for it is blasphemy to search out divine purposes. I seek only to assuage an angry deity, despising and even persecuting those who fail to observe the little rituals and shibboleths that may keep the wrath of heaven at bay. I think of Us and Them. I am generous to those whose ways I approve because I yearn for eternal reward. No matter what else I may say, my one concern is personal salvation.”


“I search for the voice that nature and experience will give me, each day until my last a new voyage of discovery. I want to know everything because I seek to become as whole as the world. My happiness and security are founded in the union of equals. I think only of Us. I study the ways of every creature and strive to be generous to all. I do not fear death because it brings value to life, which I hold sacrosanct.”


A third voice might point out that the other two are polar opposites, exaggerated and even caricatured. Most of us are strung out on a ragged continuum between those positions, with many believers more charitable and many non-believers more selfish. My only question in these turbulent times would be,  which perspective is most conducive to peace?



Freedom to roam


I find it sad that children today don’t occupy the streets and open spaces like we did when I was young. There have always been risks in such freedom but we made a habit of going around with our friends, rarely if ever alone. We knew the dangers and were able to avoid them. So many kids were out and about, there was safety in numbers. With more adults around, too, we behaved ourselves most of the time because we didn’t want to get into trouble. In this way, we learned how to take responsibility for ourselves.

Sitting alone in your bedroom is not a healthy substitute, especially when you factor in the online risks and bad cyberspace influences that would shock many parents. It’s a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, I’m afraid. Let’s make the open air a place for children again, providing proper facilities and a sensible but not stifling adult presence. It would be quite a challenge but I can’t think of a better way to create the communities of the future …