Contents: People




>The Innocent


>The Monk

and the Potato

by A. O. Griffiths


by Pete Crowther


The Rediscovered Man


They rediscovered a man;

Captured in a corner of The Rural Life Museum,

His things are mounted and displayed,

His implements arrayed for tourists:

The blade with which he flayed a pig.

The spade with which he dug

And cracked his sinews.


A card, placed nicely by a plough,

Tells us he was illiterate,

Spoke with his mouth,

Hard language in his tools,

Wrote in iron,

Gave history what his anvil would allow.


His face is lost, but his hands are here,

Cast in a throng of horse-shoes,

His thumb leaving a million cells

On the nail he rubbed

And in the mallet grooves.


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Upnor Castle


There are bees above the gate-house door,

A hive beneath the quiet wood,

Alive with May-time industry,

Reminding us this was a place of war.


There is no powder now,

No death by shot;

The pikes set upward in the wall,

No longer hot with conflict,

Stop only vandals and the fall

Of wayward youngsters to the moat.


About its chin the fingers of the Medway float,

Look up and gloat

At the bloodless castle face;

A fallow place

Where youth is done;

A skeleton where hives but mimic flesh

In recollections of the soldier and the gun.


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The Innocent Barmaid


She was the barmaid at the Crown ,

With lips of peach and eyes of plum,

She was a lamb not dressed as lamb,

An innocent of twenty-one.


She was not lustful or desiring,

Worse still, she was young and lonely,

She stood behind the pumps and wondered

If they'd make the Egon Ronay .


And then it happened, just a flicker,

The eyelids poised to take the change,

She felt herself slip in the water,

It seemed an innocent exchange.


Soon came the chatter lined with silver,

Silky and premeditated,

And then just as a door-click shivers,

Suddenly she finds she's dated.


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The Old Pavilion


I've not been here for thirty years;

My humble pitch converted in hard times

To a merchant's yard,

And where the wicket used to stand,

A pile of builder's sand.


I walk towards a thicket,

Past a stack of bricks at extra-cover,

Peel back the briars to discover

The old pavilion,

And, where my feet once rested,

Sleeping bags of garden peat.


A little rusted now, but still the shadow of itself,

The scoreboard stands,

Invaded by the bracken and the ivy hands,

Its numbers lost

And, no doubt, lying somewhere

As a sad memento to the cost

Of progress.



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May Fair at Maresfield


May Fair at Maresfield,

Sussex in hive,

Dancing and dog-shows,

Jovial hoopla

And comical wins on tombola.

There are jazz-men that roller the ears,

Convivial cheers,

Trivial ease and the blues.

Where and why

Is the coconut shy

With it's absence?

Did it choose not to lie

With the W.I.

And the raffle?

Will it baffle the locals and make the committee


May Fair at Maresfield

And the missing link

Is Sussex ghost and clown;

Crowning questions in the haunt of Piltdown.




The Monk and the Potato


Tell me, said the monk to the potato,

Do you feel pain?

Already spiked and baked,

The potato, unable to explain

In words,

Made no reply,

But secretly hoped the monk's meat foul,

A maggot in the faggot

Cheek by jowl

With gristle in the rissole.


Hard-nosed spud and thoughtless brother,

Made for each other

In murder and indigestion;

Vegetable discontent

At such a question

From the navel;

Mash contemplation

In the monastery,

With sleepless nights

(Godless potato grumbling for his rights

In active gut)

And glut of meditation.




Wroxeter Piscina


They placed pride's Piscina

In a city of cold Shropshire -

Wroxeter -

Belligerent imperial throw,

A show of culture on extending finger,

Ring on Watling Street.


The sheep about are unimpressed,

Banal and on their feet

About the ruin.


With neither reverence nor scorn

They float,

And but for fences

They would eat its coat

To leave it naked in the winter.




'This morning when we walked beneath the trees
Where rooks were busy building nests, you said
It made your spirits rise to hear them caw,
They brought you thoughts of spring. I disagreed.
When I hear rooks, I always think of Johnno.

We both were matelots and shared each watch,
He was a regular, I was National Service
And glad to hear the yarns that he could spin
About the many ships in which he'd served,
His runs ashore in ports like Singapore ,

The time he'd spent in China and the girl
Who did his dhobeying there, and what a wrench
It was to leave, his sadness and her tears,
What it was like to sail aboard a carrier'
He much preferred a smaller ship like this.

And so we passed the long and quiet hours
Of the morning or the middle watch each night
While our fast frigate sped through northern seas
From Iceland's freezing waters to the swells
Of Biscay's Bay, and then swung north again

Past Shannon, Rockall, Bailey, on patrol,
And when from time to time the ship would roll
Unconsciously my watchmate turned his chair
And slid across the deck to where I'd wedged
Myself beside my set with headphones on

There listening for a brief transmission from
An ‘enemy' (really Nato) submarine,
Then as the roll reversed he'd turn his chair
And slide right back across the deck.
We had this wireless office to ourselves

And got to know each other very well
Before we docked. I was the first to leave
The ship, for Johnno had a motorbike
And meant to spend the weekend with his girl,
Fiancée he had said (I wondered if

She knew about the Chinese dhobey lass!)
Before I left the ship I took my ration
Of tobacco and ‘blue-liners''cigarettes
And took the bus from Portsmouth to our base
Near Bristol , glad to be ashore again.

Johnno himself was not due back until
The stroke of oh-nine-hundred Monday next.
It was a lovely autumn dawn when he set off
But misty, thickening further west to fog
So dense he did not see the concrete post

Plumb in the middle of a roundabout.
He died before he knew what he had hit,
A fractured skull and multiple lacerations.
We all were shocked to hear such dreadful news,
He was so young and young men did not die.

That day I found myself enrolled to be
Included in his funeral firing party.
All week, we trained intensively and learned
The art of sloping arms, the proper way
To do the slow and ceremonial march.

We went by service bus to the funeral, dressed
Resplendent in white gaiters, caps and belts,
Stiff lanyards, silks and gold-badged number ones.
Even now I can recall the steps of that
Slow march, the country church, the open grave

The weeping girl, collapsed with hopeless grief,
The sudden crack, as we the firing party,
And Johnno's friends and shipmates fired a volley
And all the startled rooks gave voice and rose
Together in a cloud above the churchyard trees.


Contents: Places

>Upnor Castle

>The Old Pavilion

>May Fair at




by A. O. Griffiths