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THE INTERVENING YEARS.

What became of the little bay

Where winkles and feathered sea slugs

Lived among the blue-rayed limpets?

No more a place of butterfish and velvet crabs

But an artless concrete platform

Decked out in fading railway depot drab.

Standing in the stinging wind

My gaze moves out

To Lochavaulin playing fields,

Devoid of shinty-playing children

But scarred instead with small and failing businesses

Housed in concrete bunkers,

Gardened about with the litter of shoe-string industry

And the mobile dwellings of New Age travellers

Or Old World tinkers.

Out towards Lonan and Glenmore

The ghastly grey tenements

Thrown up for the city influx

Of paper pushers and the dispossessed.

Where has it gone,

The scene of my youth:

My youth?

Wait! Was that Catriona?

I’ll swear it was:

Boyish figure, hair wild in the wind,

Jeans and a baggy Arran,

Running for the bus.

She’s not changed.

Just as I remember her.

But no…….. . I am mistaken.

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Darkness.

Darkness worries about seeing the light,
The stultifying monotony of night,
Finding room for resolve amid the shadows.

A portrait of idle men with idle dreams
Using guns while others use pens,
A blistering indictment of a system
Clearly abusing its soldiers.

Placing us squarely within it’s politically fraught, tensile moment,
Perhaps it will encapsulate,
An entire lifetime’s worth of hope, truth and pain.

Their sheer brutality is sometimes obscured,
By the forcefulness of words.
Squeezing every last ounce of energy
From the battlefield of my City of Ruins.
Released at an epochal moment in time,
Yet cultural influence wasn’t waning one bit
It keeps turning to them when needed.

Be warned against having too much faith,
Don’t desire things found only in darkened, carpeted corridors
Remember that dreams are just lies that leave.
The moment you’re old enough to vote.

All that is good can leave too,
With time and lost opportunities.
Be it your quest for freedom
The simple fact of holding a job title,
Where did it say work will set you free?

People walked through those gates,
With death in their eyes
Alienation taking them beyond despair
Outside the boundaries of society.
Death picking at the seams of broken lives,
With the best expression of survival.

A man wide-eyed about everything,
Owning the world
But what might it have to offer?
His desolation tempered by hope,
Eventually the anger comes through.
How far man has travelled
From life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Lives that were the focus of the future,
To which the dispossessed paid no attention,
Slipping off the edges of society.
We take care of our own, or do we?
I just want someone to listen,


FOR ONCE,
FOR ONCE.

By Steve Halstead

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When You Are Far Away.

When you are far away

When we cannot speak

That’s the time I think,

Become retrospective, introspective

When my brain makes its own way

Along corridors, some dark, most unknown.

Was I here before

Am I picking up fragments from a bygone age

A life I should know

And yet unknown.

Have we met before

Who were you

A lady in silk and satin

A beggar on the street

Coaxing coppers from strangers that you meet.

What age were you

Was I.

Young lovers caught in the web of time

When the world was young

Spinning jenny still to come

As we tramped green fields

Air pure and fresh

No revolution clogging all our pores.

Did we laugh

Tell jokes as only time allows

Eat bread and cheese

Washed down with creamy milk

Did we know each other

Melding minds and bodies

Hot, glistening, eager

So keen to feel and push

What now?

A union

A life of work, small terraced houses

The sound of infants mewling and puking

So soon grown up and gone

Hair grey, backs bent with agues of the time

Care worn, yet happy

Happy that we met

Happy with what was.

And then the day when pain becomes too much to bear

As one the other leaves

To know the loneliness, the sadness

Memories more important than ever

The wrinkled hands

The buckled fingers

Turning precious memoirs

Hearing young laughter echo

Carefree, joyous.

Until you

Too tired to know another day

Slip far away

Beyond the cruel hand of life

And light and peace

As you never knew before

Overtakes you

So sweet the light

Stay and bathe forever in its eternal bliss.

By Norman Turkington

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Misty River.

The morning sunshine hides behind the mist
As it hangs for life above the river
Early dew silently soaks the meadow
A descending blanket of silver tears


Cobwebs in the hedgerows spun with silk
Like a snowflake’s fragile beauty
The trauma of freshly cut grass
Each blade awash with tears of pain


Falling leaves of autumn come to rest
A sign to us all to let things go
From green to yellow then fiery red
Blowing like birds on a southern breeze.

By Steve Halstead.

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Gardens by the Bay Singapore.

World-renowned British sculptor, Marc Quinn, considered one of the leading artists of his generation, unveiled his sculpture, Planet, a 10-meter long, seven-ton bronze and steel sleeping baby, in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay.

At 7 ton and beautifully balanced on one arm, this sleeping boy child seems to float above the grass.

One of the many things to visit for free in the world’s most expensive city.
A hefty seven tons, this impressive bronze sculpture is 9m long and 3m tall. 
The sculpture’s weight is masterfully balanced on the infant’s right hand, creating the illusion that the sculpture is floating in the air. 
An aerial view of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. A park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land. See the ships in the distance, waiting to dock in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
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Fatigue

Some days I go with a song in my heart,

Then tiredness descends, thoughts depart.

Oh, how I wish I felt drowsy or sleepy,

But it’s not that simple, life’s not that easy.

Motivation goes, levels drop.

It’s not my fault, I’ve got what I’ve got.

Lifestyle choices don’t make me unique,

Weary, drowsy sleepy: it’s fatigue.

Never would have known I could feel this alone.

What the hell is going on with me?

What’s Wrong?

If you felt like me, I’d put my arm around you.

It feels like a hangover, jet-lag, the flu.

So you think you know me, but I’m not what you see

I’m never allowed to be me, because I have fatigue.

Overwhelming and slow, a brain that won’t go,

Words that go missing, no energy flow.

There have been times, I could give in and weep

Tried meditation, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi

Although I’m exhausted, I still can’t find sleep.

And yes, I have been here before,

Left things firmly at your door,

Forgetful but thinking, physical but slow,

Emotional because it won’t let go. I have fatigue.

I don’t want to create undue noise,

But I gave myself permission to prioritise.

I’m going to use my energy wisely,

Learn to say ‘no,’ clearly but wisely.

You couldn’t possibly know how I feel,

Weakness in muscles, limbs that won’t heal,

Like quicksand, a swamp, a pulling sensation,

It hurts like hell, physical degradation.

In my head it sounds like a baby screaming,

Someone’s fingers clawing at the ceiling,

Outside, muffled and distant,

Increasing in tone, heavy, persistent.

I tell my friends that things have to change,

It’s hard on my family when I rearrange.

But don’t be offended when I moan and I groan,

If I’m having a bad day, please leave me alone.

By Steve Halstead

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Pitsilia Street

 A   h e a v y   w o o d e n   w a l n u t   d o o r  
 H a n g s   l o o s e ,   i t s   h i n g e s   w o r n .  
 C a t s   p l a y   a g a i n s t   t h e   a n c i e n t   w a l l s ,  
 T h r e e   f e e t   t h i c k   a n d   s o l i d   s t o n e ,  
   
  I t  s   o c c u p a n t s   l e f t   l o n g   a g o ,  
  M e m o r i e s   a n d   g h o s t s   w a l k   a l o n e ,  
  V o i c e s   f a d e d   i n   t h e   d e p t h   o f   t i m e .  
  F a m i l i e s   h a v e   l o n g   s i n c e   g r o w n .  
   
  T h e   b e a t i n g   h e a r t   o f   a   d e r e l i c t   s t r e e t ,  
  O n c e   a   p l a c e   o f   t r a d e   a n d   m e e t   a n d   g r e e t ,  
  N o w   c o v e r e d   w i t h   g r a f f i t i   a n d   o l d   c o k e   t i n s .  
  T h e   p e o p l e ,   l i k e   b i r d s   w i t h o u t   t h e i r   w i n g s .  
   
  L e m o n   t r e e s ,   s o   f r u i t f u l ,   n o w   n o - o n e   p i c k s   t h e m ,  
  A n c i e n t   w a l n u t   t r e e s ,   a b a n d o n e d   t o   f a t e   a n d   t i m e ,  
  O l i v e   a n d   p i n e ,   l e f t   t o   g r o w   w i l d ,  
  C a p e r   a n d   r o s e ,   t h e   c r y   o f   a   c h i l d .  
   
  C o b b l e d   s t r e e t s   s i l e n c e d   b y   c h a n g e ,  
  R u s t i n g   k e r o s e n e   l a m p s ,  
  T h e   s u n   b e a t i n g   d o w n   o n   p e e l i n g   p a i n t ,  
  S o m e o n e  s   f a d e d   p i c t u r e   o f   a   s a i n t  
  I n   P i t s i l i a   s t r e e t .  
   
   
   
  B y :     S t e v e   H a l s t e a d .  

 

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Vietnam

Returning home in '69, to a country that lost its soul.
He walks through the town, all alone.
People stop and stare at him, the enemy within.
It’s not his country he left burnin', why should he bear the pain.
If they'd been there with him, ordered to do the same.
Then hang your head in shame.

When your world jams up with fear,
And all around are dead and the enemy are near.
North Vietnamese or Vietnam cong.
Who thinks of you in Washington.
If you judge this man when he’s not to blame.
Then hang your head in shame.

He went to make a difference, scared, bright eyed and empty faced.
58,000 comrades died, it’s a disgrace 
Now he's back and no one wants to know his story.
A generation lost with no glory.
His country’s quest for power, the money men play the game.
Please hang your head in shame.

And even way back then, technology needed to be tried.
Agent orange and napalm still poisons their countryside.
I’ve seen the museum in Saigon, oh how we all cried, 
A shame a game is played so far away from home.
And when three million of you fellow man perished just the same.
You must hang your head in shame.

I saw a lady who paid the price of war, she lost a husband and 8 sons.
Who in the west weeps for her, am I the only one?
And when you see we’ve gone to war in some remote country.
Ask yourself who really wins these conflicts with our money.
We should all hang our heads in shame.

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Seasons

The journey's over, I’m home at last,
The year ages as summer passed,
Free to roam in Autumn's glow,
A shield when the north winds blow

'And now we’ll hide from Winter nights, 
Raging oceans and sweeping tides,
Fog that seems to hang under street's lights 
Darkness please leave, please hide

The dark will come, with it the rain, 
Let Spring come find me wanting, 
Let it ease me from the pain
Daylight comes, slowly taunting

The birds sing, the flowers bloom
Trees awaken from their slumber, 
Days are long and all too soon
We could be snowed under.

By Steve Halstead.

I Am Dog

I am dog
Canine
Beast animal
Friend of man.
I can stand,
Sit on command
Hold up my paw
And roll over to please
I am man’s best friend
Or so I’ve been told.
But what does man know of my condition
From whence I came
To where I now sit in the world of people.
I obey
Because I have to
Or because it suits me
You feed me
No endless search for food for me.
You clean me
Although I am quite capable of doing so myself
“Walkies”
How I hate that sound
But ever willing to please
I let my tongue fall out
And jump about for joy
Well it pleases man
And so I do it.
But within myself
And of myself you know so little
My days before you even stood upright
I roamed the world
Was it better?
I don’t really know
But now I know my place
It suits me
Warm, fed and clearly loved
So with my eyes I gaze at you
And acknowledge you as master
It suits me.
And I have the last bark

Norman Turkington from Nearly Man 2 Almost There Available From Amazon.

LANDING THE CATCH.

No auger would be needed.
No Joseph in his many colours
Would be called upon for mine.
Answers bled from the weeping clouds
Above my dearest memories.

‘The Oban Experience’ the sign proclaimed,
Rashly, from its neon hall.

Oh, no! I had had experience of this town
And this, quite simply, was not it.
No more than one could gain experience
Of sleeping with a secret love
By placing her likeness beneath a pillow.

I laughed and cried with this community,
Taught their children,
Enjoyed their music and their dance,
And, sadly, grieved for one or two.

I was there at midnight, mid-summer sunset,
When the fleet came in;
That phalanx of fathers and brothers,
Uncles and sons, all laden with their harvest silver,
Fishes to be packed in ice,
Crushing down in bursting bags upon the oak
And shovelled quickly into holds.

All the townsfolk gathered there,
Not tourists
Left to roam the lower streets in summer,
Waiting to be entertained,
But the real people whose homes looked down
From their follied crown above the bay:
Ardconnel Road and Laurel Road,
Gracies, Robertsons and McPhees;
The people of my memories.

Oh, yes: I was there,
And the memories linger still,
Like the scents of the sea in my dreams.

By John Christopher Tirbuck.

PROLOGUE.

I looked around my hotel room,
More truthfully,
Half the Victorian wonder it once was,
Now architecturally disfigured,
An incongruous cube in one boxed corner;
And rising to the sound of my neighbour’s ablutions,
I gazed out of my half of the window,
Looked down on my beloved Oban
And mused upon the meanings of my dreams.

By John Christopher Tirebuck.

WASTED MONTHS OF HIBERNATION.

Thrust deep into the flesh of dying year,
When green of chlorophyll, gives way
To russet hues of xanthophylls,
When chill of wind meets shortening of days,
Ice crystal areola of the sun,
Pale yellow, overwhelmed by leaden grey,
Bringing forth the cold and heavy moonstone drops,
And tearing air that stiffens from a breeze,
Wreaking havoc in the boughs of ragged trees;
Then I can feel the welling of my tears,
As October marks the shelving of my life,
Libido back in mothballs at the closing of the year.
Half my life is wasted in the way.
In this way, I’ve wasted half my life.

By John Christopher Tirebuck.

I Shopped With You Today.

I shopped with you today
Not Boots the Chemist
Nor M & S
But in some multi coloured spangled arcade
Light years away.

We walked or did we?
A sense of movement without effort
Past shops – or were they?
Emporiums of a future galaxy
Selling their wares.

Moving inside
Honeycombed passages offering all that could be desired.
A ladies suit
Woven in a fabric light and strong,
Chameleon like, its colour changing with the mood.

Is this your size I asked
And a voice, not yours, but coming from the suit
Proclaimed one size fits all.
No word, and suddenly it wrapped you in its folds.
Amazed I watched as the living material
Moulded to you.

A perfect fit
The colour moved
Each thought or movement a new hue
Brilliant, living, pulsing,
Your eyes spoke, said all.
A SALE the voice returned.

But now to pay
Would my plastic be of use in this strange world?
I hesitated.
The suit spoke once more
And scanning me said I could afford.
It took my left arm in one simple, precise movement.
No pain, no bleeding
Instant repair. But no left arm.
Have a nice day the voice intoned
As we moved away.

Norman Turkington
From The Book Nearly Man Available On Amazon.