Alexander Averin

Friday 23 November 2012

Tokens for the Foundlings

Drawing by Mary Husted

The Foundling Museum in London is somewhere I have never got around to visiting but I hope to do so. I was recently visiting the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea and spotted this book of poems for sale. I just had to buy it as the subject is close to my heart.

Tokens for the Foundlings

Edited by Tony Curtis

The royalties from sales of this book are donated to The Foundling Museum, in support of its work.

Established in 1741, The Foundling Hospital was essentially Britain’s first orphanage; admissions to it were catalogued by tokens left by the children’s parents. The book is an anthology of poems about orphans, childhood and family inspired by and supporting the work of The Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury.  Contributors include Seamus Heaney, Carl Ann Duffy, Gillian Clarke, Carol Rumens, Michael Longley, George Szirtes and Charles Simic.

Tokens given by mothers to their children on leaving them at the Foundling Hospital. 18th Century

I want to post two poems today from the book, the first is a prose poem by Mary Husted  -   the drawing at the top of this post is one of many made by Mary Husted before she was forced to give up her baby for adoption (they have since been reunited).  

The Shawl

A memory haunts me.  It is the wrapping of a shawl.  I am leaving the nursing home, following two women; one of them has the baby in the shawl.  Snow is thick beneath our feet.  It started snowing on Boxing Day and in early February it is still falling.

The women turn left – I follow.  We walk up a driveway into an empty waiting room.  the doctor comes to meet us, searches my face and looks at the child she delivered ten days ago.  We sit on hard chairs and exchange awkward pleasantries.  The baby is unwrapped from his shawl.  He sleeps.  I ask to hold him – here he is in my arms.

In a corner of the room near the door is a fish tank.  A stream of bubbles rises slowly and continually to the surface as the colourful fish swim to and fro. to and fro.  The three older women watch me with guarded glances.  They do not know what I will do. ‘It is time,’ says one.  I take the shawl, soft and woollen, and very slowly, carefully, with studied tranquillity, I wrap it around the child, before standing and handing him to one of the women.  She takes him and turns, followed by the other woman, to go out of the door.  I watch them go.  I am one of the bubbles in the fish tank.

Mary Husted.


The day I let you go there were floods
in Wroxeter and Bishopstown.
Leaves, caramel coloured, were swallowed
by the rivers and as weather travelled north
windows ran grey for hours.

Far from that tiny parlour room,
prams were being pushed around still dry
parks or else their thin wheels were hissing
on wide, wet paths and mothers were thinking
of feeding times, baths.

The moment of goodbye was soon over.
Woollen blankets soft between my fingers;
the silk hem of the parting dress a breath
on my skin, and your weight, like kilos of sweet
apples, swung in my arms.

And then, I was cradling air and dust
and stood near the grate, in an awkward tableau
listening to rain falling into soot.
Each clear drop sent dark motes into the room
and the terrible space in my arms gathered all of them in.

Roz Goddard

Wednesday 21 November 2012

A Warming Winter Recipe

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. 

Harriet Van Horne

The Love Cook

Let me cook you some dinner.   
Sit down and take off your shoes   
and socks and in fact the rest   
of your clothes, have a daquiri,   
turn on some music and dance   
around the house, inside and out,   
it’s night and the neighbours   
are sleeping, those dolts, and   
the stars are shining bright,   
and I’ve got the burners lit   
for you, you hungry thing.

Ron Padgett

Artist Natalie Tur
Cooking Jam

I just liked the above poem and the picture and although I have not been making jam, or entertaining naked visitors, I have been cooking.  My own recipe, something I always make when parsnips are around. I hope you like it.

Parsnip, Potato and Onion Bake

Parboil for around ten minutes or so some fairly big chunks of potato and parsnip (have more parsnip than potato as they are so flavoursome).  At the same time gently fry two largish sliced onions or several small ones.  Vary amounts of all veg. depending on how many mouths you are feeding.

While they are cooking make a cheese sauce:

In a small metal saucepan, melt a piece of margarine (or butter)about the size of a small egg, with  two heapedish tablespoons of plain flour, a good pinch of dry mustard (or a smidgeon of ready made), salt and pepper and half a pint of milk. Use a metal whisk and stir and heat all of this but not too fiercely and when it thickens turn it down to simmer for a minute or so.  If it is too thick add some water, not milk.  Add a goodish heap of tasty grated cheese and a good squeeze of lemon juice.  Mix all together and turn off  heat, allowing cheese to melt.

Drain parboiled vegetables and put in a casserole dish.  Mix around  gently and add cheese sauce.  If too dry add a bit of milk.

Sprinkle a Weetabix over the top to give a delicious crisp topping.  (More than one if you are making a big dish).  Also sprinkle some cayenne pepper amongst the Weetabix as it will make the topping extra  tasty.

Bake in the middle of a preheated oven at 200 C or Gas 6 for 30 minutes covered and another 30 minutes uncovered at the lower temperature of  180 C or Gas 4.

Serve when vegetables are soft (check throughout).  Nice with a green vegetable like sprouts or cabbage.


Tuesday 13 November 2012

My Book of the Year

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.

Dear Diary,

Two of my favourite bloggers have had  excellent books published recently; one, Counting Steps by Mark Charlton, I have already written about and the second  From the House of Edward, Essays by Pamela Terry, arrived in the post a few weeks ago from the USA, a signed copy, beautifully wrapped in my favourite wrapping which happens to be plain brown paper.   First of all this book, I was really pleased to see, was just the right size, it fits in the palm easily, only everso slightly smaller than the average book nowadays; this is always a plus point with me. Secondly, it is a thing of beauty, both in its layout and in  its exquisite understated illustrations  -   it is strewn throughout with four leaf clovers and every book has its own four leaf clover bookmark (and dear Edward is on that too). (When I first looked at the bookmark  I thought they were shamrocks!).

I have delayed writing a ‘review’ of the book, not I hasten to add because I have an ounce of hesitation in recommending it to you but because I am enjoying just 'savouring' a book that is so special.  I keep it by my bedside and like to read a small section last thing at night before I go to sleep as Pamela’s words are so soothing and strangely healing.  Within it are many essays of myth, magic, celebrations of the seasons, of literature and art, sensual delights, scenes from her life, poems, quotations, much much more and her own beautiful prose which is poetry in itself.

If I had the power to I would prescribe this book to anyone who suffers when the Black Dog comes calling,  or to anybody at all on those poorly days, fluey days, weepy days, boring days, cold days etc but also the happy and definitely high days and holidays – there is so much within both to cheer and to inspire.

Today I am curled up by the Rayburn, fleeced and scarved around my throat, feeling a little under the weather.  I have the dog and the cat at my feet who are also enjoying the warmth of the fire. Pamela’s words take me to her land and to many places, many seasons. I am dipping into the book, it is the best way to experience it I feel, rather than reading it straight through.  I am currently in December.  Some essays I remember from her fine blog, some are new to me. Some lines I yearn to copy out for you, some essays too but you will just have to buy the book -  why not put it in your letter to Santa?

I was just one of the people who told Pamela that she should get her writing published in book form so I am thrilled that she has done so and I can’t wait for her next one.   She is one of life’s true ‘sweet hearts’, a gifted  writer who sees all that is magical and beautiful in the world and creates it for us, so poetically, in her writings.  An artist in the true sense in that her heart touches others.

I wish I lived near to her as our interests are so similar and I am sure we would be friends but her blog is unlike mine in that it is  pleasantly rant-free and wholly positive and I follow it religiously.  Please keep writing Pamela.

From the House of Edward is my ‘book of the year’.

 (And Edward is a sweetie too).

Bye for now,

Sunday 11 November 2012

The Hangman - Maurice Ogden

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Martin Niemöller

Friday 2 November 2012

Don't Stop The Dance

Don’t Stop The Dance

Don’t stop the dance.
Who was it said that the dance was the body, dreaming?
Sometimes words will dance from such a wilder-ness,
stirring, wraithed in music, or emerging
from behind a New Moon, seeping into 
my wakefulness.

Always there is longing, shaded by loss.
Let us dance away our tunes of despair
into places of loving; and speaking of loving - 
Don’t stop the dance.

Cait O'Connor

Apologies to Brian Ferry but I swear to you that as I sat down to type up this already written (but untitled) poem, this song came on my random player.  Thank you angels.