Proverbs of Hell

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure.
All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.
Bring out number, weight and measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.,
If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.
Folly is the cloke of knavery.
Shame is Pride’s cloke. (!!)
Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion.

William Blake

Dear Ria,

Well, it’s early spring – signs of life all around. I haven’t heard the blackbird yet, but when I sleep I’m deaf as a post, as you know, without my hearing aids in – so I’m unlikely to hear that song early in the morning. But evening is another matter and I went outdoors at dusk last evening just in case the blackbird was singing. We have a pair in the garden. they visit for mealworms every day and I watch them on the crocus pots on the front wall, because my desk is in front of the window now. It’s a lovely spot – I wouldn’t swap it, even for a meadow view.

Yesterday I bought some Morning Glory seeds, amongst others, and I’ll sow them for you today. I have your little seed tool and plenty of small pots. I can use the windowsill in the back bedroom because it gets lots of sun. I miss you so much. I love you so much.

Ali sent me a page of Dom’s writing yesterday… his copying out of writing he loved. This was William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell. Very timely under the present world circumstances. I’ll copy it out for you. Kiss Dom’s cheek for me and tell him I’m waiting to see Shivvy in a series being filmed in Liverpool now called ‘Time’. She’s with Stephen Graham and Sean Bean, so someone’s got it right. Willie Russell I think.

Bye for now Sweet Pea. xx

Estelle Aline Stawman

My Dearest Myles,
Something I want you to know is how precious to me your friendship with Dom has been. In my mind, it made him safe and not alone. That proved to be so true in time, as I learned how he trusted you implicitly.

It was through that loving friendship that I met Estelle Aline and I think she felt the same about Dom’s friendship with you. Although we only met fleetingly several times, I knew and heard how much Dom loved and respected Estelle and how he enjoyed her company. It was a deep comfort to me that Estelle so loved Dom.

As mothers, we have watched each other recognise the beautiful qualities we love so much in our respective sons.

As women, I don’t think motherhood has been the central role in our lives, but we have been players – and Estelle Aline was an original woman of great curiosity and integrity. I know very little of her younger days, but I feel we have shared similar experiences and beliefs. Something to do with our post-war, northern generation and education? I have thought of Estelle Aline so much over the past weeks – and I will always hold her close.

I don’t know Felix, but how she must have loved him! What a photograph!

I love you dearly,
Leigh x

Eric and Ella

Eric and Ella will come today,
Bringing backpacks and smiles
winging into this room
and filling each corner
with love and play.

The boy and the girl will
lift spirits and see all
the small things that matter
in waiting and longing
and dreaming and tea.

The doorbell will ring
so they’ll jump to their feet
and race to see who’s
knocking lockdown
and come here to meet.

Baby birds in my head
huddled close in their nest –
sensing feathers arriving
beaks stir from their rest
and open in trust, to greet and to eat.

Leigh Cook
19.1.21

Blessings of Lockdown

One good thing to come out of Lockdown experiences is the way it focuses the mind on small things…usually moments of experience which alight on me like a snowflake or a blessing.

When my daughter quietly sits a cup of tea next to me as I’m knitting…

When my daughter, who I haven’t hugged for ages, stands back to let me hug her children…

When my son-in-law sends me a picture of my daughter and the bairns out walking in the fresh air…

When I can listen to Holst’s ‘Venus’ and hear the last two notes…

When the bin men wave to me in the morning…

When someone trusts me enough to share their sadness with me…

When I have a text from my nephews and nieces saying they love me…

When my sons, who know how to make me smile, make me smile…

When, in the dark morning, where I can hear nothing without my hearing aids, I lie in bed and watch my husband give me his good morning wave…

When I open a card and see love from someone who has bothered to write…

When I hear starlings whistle in the supermarket trolley park…

When my daughter’s shamrock plant begins to throw up new shoots…

When I see the blackbird on the lawn…

When the bulbs I planted start to shoot upwards in the garden…

When the camellia buds tell me winter doesn’t worry them…

When neighbours wave as they pass…

When my fingers ache as if I’ve been building a snowman…

When I can go to a website and feel closer to my family…

When I see Fr. Phil minister Mass on his own…

December 9th 2020

Patsie

I remember in the kitchen
How you wouldn’t let me help
But I set the table with its little cloth
And made my porridge in the evening.
I learned of kitchen roll in cupboards
And leaving it around the kitchen
To wipe up spills and tears.

I remember footfall to London
On those bitter mornings
Holding each other up on ice
Then quiet sighs when the train was in.
Sitting together and whispering
Til Blackfriars and the river’s
Cold wind made the eyes weep.

I remember your Sheffield smile
Shining across the room at me
And the hugs we shared, eager
To sit and chew the news while
The men brought drinks and journey talk.
Walking together into the city
Umbrellas hiding the crying sky.

I remember how it was…
Your smile opened the door
Your smile made the coffee
Your smile snuggled into your chair
And your smile said good morning.
Your smile gave me flowers
And frowned ‘Take care of yourself.’

I remember the hospital
How much at home you were
Drinking our cappuccinos or
Watching at the bedside and
How hard it was to leave and
Find our way back through Chelsea
Freezing in St. Albans for the bus.

Watching our children grow
Watching fields fill with snow
Watching Coronation Street
And watching you fall ill.
Ella shouting at my laptop
Cos you were far away
But near enough to answer her.

The sacred moment when I kissed her
Whispering my thanks…
My sister.

Eileen Walke
27. 10. 2020

The Wearing of the Green

Two o’clock of an early March afternoon and into the hurly-burly of the supermarket to buy birthday cards and vegetables. We like the wonky ones and tea in the upstairs cafe. The grandchildren will like the gingerbread men. You can run, run, run as fast as you can…You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!

A cup of tea and a teacake later, I’m in the lift going down with the trolley while John, as usual, takes the stairs for exercise. Past the Easter eggs and on to the checkouts. I find a seat while veg and cards are counted up and slammed down to make the computer say yes. Then we’re off, past the secondhand books and bubble-gum machine, back towards the car park.

Under the hot fan, through the security bars and out into the cold foyer. A gunmetal grey sky – the same colour as my first high heels – and still the freezing rain on the windows. Past the bin guarding the outside doors and trolley-line, then the cold blast hits me.

My coat is a sort of spring green, like a young cabbage. It keeps me warm all winter and has a feather filling, so I have to dry it with three tennis balls in the washing machine to make it fluffy as well as clean. Ria turned up with it after Dom died – must have been in the winter of 2012 – “…to keep you warm Mum.” Since Ria died, I’ve worn it every day. I fasten the top button and feel for my gloves.

“Hello Leigh. It is Leigh, isn’t it?”

I turn towards the still small voice.

Isolated on a wet sleeping bag and rucksack, with her hands clasped under her chin, looking cold and anxious. Looking very cold. There she is.

“Yes, I’m Leigh. How are you?”

Don’t we ask ridiculous questions when we’re taken aback?

I bend down beside her, looking closely at her face to see who she is. Her skin is pale and her little face framed with tangled black hair. Eyes like small black sepals supporting petals of periwinkle blue and smiling at me.

“Have we met before?”

“Well, you talked to me and I saw your green coat.”

John leans in to us to ask if she’s hungry.

“I’m starving. Coffee and sausage from the hot food counter please.”

She puts her hands hesitantly to her mouth. Not hands warmed by soap and water.

“I’ve forgotten your name,” I venture.

“Kelly.”

“Where do you sleep Kelly?”

“Werneth Park. It’s my birthday on Monday – March the eighth.”

“How old will you be?”

“Thirty-seven.”

The hot coffee and sausages lend some warmth as we leave.

Early April now and self-isolated, I can’t get back to her. Kelly stays close in my mind. Just twenty years younger than Ria and fearless as a pirate beauty.

Stay safe. But where’s home?

April 2020

Ouse

You were never so Great.

Swan-song down-draughts of Lift

Feather-flung dippings of dive

This river-embrace of years and tears.

Your bread-on-the-waters women still

Share their far-bank love feast

And gaze into numinous exile-epiphanies.

… On this bank your motherless child

Glides into the sunlit shallows of backwater days.

Eileen Walke, 2006