Poetry event 

Sunday 25th September 

2-4 p.m  at

The Little Green Dragon Alehouse, 
Winchmore Hill, London, N21 2AD

Mary Duggan Christine Vial - 2 excellent poets are reading.
Plus the Rev Mark Meacher and Melanie Smith.
I've been asked to read one 'eco' poem ..

Turn and Face Medusa

 Rhino horns, Elephant tusks, Lion hunts

a red mist descends, a hopeless paralysis

 Plastic plastic everywhere

·       Bags on the street

·       Bags in the sea

·       Microplastic we drink, fish swallow, we eat

·       Shrink-wrapped cucumber

·       Plastic bottles – oceans of them

·       Recycling, biodegrading, burning

·       Dump our recycling far away

to pollute distant lands, out of sight, not our problem.


Water, water – drying out

climate catastrophe.

Extinction rebellion

 

I go into overwhelm and switch off

pull the duvet over my head

close down, turn away, block my ears

 

More plastic bottles,

coffee cups with plastic lids.

Where to put my cat food pouches?

 

The search for biodegradable bin bags, wet wipes?

Eco-footprints, carbon footprints

Air travel, diesel engines,

disappearing rainforests,  rainforests disappearing … for ever.

 

Species go extinct,

palm oil in Bisto gravy browning

plastic factories making more and more and more,

and wet wipe mounds pollute the beaches.

 

Open your minds, open your eyes

Open your hearts.  Face the truth!

 

Turn, turn, turn to face Medusa.

 

Anna Meryt

7 July 2019

 

Inspired by a talk by Joanna Macey (Active Hope) Environmentalist.

Medusa – the Gorgons  from Greek mythology, hair made of venomous snakes, those who gazed into her eyes would turn to stone.

 

 

Hatshepsut - I declare before the folk who shall be in the future ...

For anyone who hasn't seen this on Facebook 

Hatshepsut was the daughter of an 18th Dynasty King called Thutmosis I. She married Thutmosis II her half brother who died after a 14 year rule. They had a daughter, Neferure. Thutmosis II had a son by a concubine who was a child at his death, so Hatshepsut, his stepmother, became regent. She reigned until her death in1428 BCE more than 20 years later. She took on full royal male titles.

After she died, her stepson who became Thutmosis III, had her name chiselled out of many monuments ...
The wonderful Hatshepsut Temple was built by her and her architect/consort Senenmut at Thebes.

The inscription always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up becase it's as if she's talking directly to us today ...
This is another of the keyboard exercises I used to set in HMP Holloway, to type up the inscription.
Amun is Amun-Re King of the gods. The king she refers to is herself.
The photo (above) is from a wall painting of Anubis, god of the underworld, from Hatshepsut's temple. I took it in the late 80's when I was employed by Hayes and Jarvis to travel by boat down the Nile and give lectures about Ancient Egyptian history to tourists annually.

The Obelisk Inscription



Next Poetry Performance is at Forty Hall Farmer's market, Enfield on Sunday 14th Aug

 Last Sunday at Edmonton 7th August went well!  Enthusiastic audience turn out for the Poetry pagoda tent and great poets.

Next Sunday !!! Poetry ...live and free !!! 14th Aug

Farmers Market, Forty Hall, Enfield - it's in the Open Barn tea area.

I'm doing two slots 12.30 noon to 12.40 and 13.00 to 13.10 p.m, but there's an excellent line-up of poets including Mary Duggan, Chrissy Evangelou, Julian Bishop,  Rob Saunders, Lenny Varvarides, Anne Alexander, Ayfer Orhan

All kinds of poetry from comedy to climate change, from mental health to buying new shoes.

Not to be missed.




.......................................................................................


A trip to Ramsgate

I have three favourite south coast places I visit, to escape London - Littlehampton, Ramsgate and Shoreham on Sea. Since I grew up on the south coast of Wales and spent all my teenage years in summers on the beach, I have to escape London regularly,  especially in summer, to breathe some ozone and hear the seagulls crying.  



Catching the breeze


Standing by the harbour,
the summer wind blows through
the cobwebs in my brain,
 
scouring Indra’s net strand by strand,
shaking it down, scrubbing off
the dust of life and London.
 
I breathe in a blast of ozone
and the net sparkles with colours,
reds, greens and amethyst blues,
 
I’m waking up to this moment,
watching a pure white seagull,
wings outstretched, surfing the wind.
 
He swoops low over the water then
whips up over the harbour wall,
high above my head. 
 
It’s a game he’s playing
a game of nothing but what it is –
riding the wind.
 .........
 Littlehampton, 2018

This poem was blown up and displayed in the window of the Dugdale  Centre, Enfield, 2019.  It will be the title poem of my next collection, out soon.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Back to Ramsgate where I went last week for a few nights - an expensive time of year to stay at the Ramsgate Harbour Travelodge, but hey I wasn't paying - the insurance company overseeing the building works for subsidence in my flat were.

I've been a nomad for 3 weeks - staying here and there and finally at the Travelodge. So carrying belongings with me, clothes and toiletries and trying to get used to other people's dietary habits, bathrooms, kitchens and rules for living.  How kind and generous they all were. So grateful.

Now I'm back in my own place - still dealing with residual builders, building problems etc for another week, but so nice to have my own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom back: my own food in the fridge, my own cooking etc. What a joy!  Still dealing with boxes all over the kitchen and bedroom but it's MY space at last. 

My Travelodge room overlooked the 'Royal' Harbour
My Travelodge bed
Entrance to the beach at Ramsgate
View across the harbour

Ramsgate beach by the Weatherspoons.

and the weather was hot - had to have the fan on all the time, day and night. 

Evenings were spent with daughter and partner and stepson (17) who cooked for us one night - time spent walking round the harbour,  along the beach to Broadstairs eating chips and ice cream, another visiting a vast antique's emporium, catching up with all their news. 

White cliffs on a walk to Broadstairs.

 
Ramsgate

Poetry performance -Enfield and Highgate Poets URGENT - VENUE CHANGE

URGENT - CHANGE OF VENUE - PLEASE NOTE

I'm delighted to announce that Highgate and Enfield Poets have joined forces for 
an evening of poetry 
Tues 24th May
to remember with top-notch poets from North London on the stage.

The pandemic closed down all our poetry performance outlets - opportunities to perform and opportunities for audiences to hear good poetry again.  So it's a thrill to announce an evening of poetry by experienced poets again and for such a good cause - to raise funds for the homeless, more specifically for cold weather shelters in Camden and King's Cross.  Poet Ruth O'Callaghan has been running these events for many years. The patron of Lumen Poetry is Andrew Motion who was UK Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009.
 
THIS EVENT TAKES PLACE AT -



VENUE:                  THE UNITED REFORM CHURCH
                                        BUCK ST
                                        CAMDEN
                                        LONDON NW1 8NJ

Doors open at 6 pm, reading starts at 7 pm.  We have one half of the evening.  The other half is open mic.
It's on the 24th May 2022

Anna Meryt will read a few poems by Milverton Wallace who sadly died in 2021. 
Milverton was a vibrant and interesting part of the Highgate Poets group and a central figure in organising its 40th anniversary celebration a few years ago.

Enfield Poets

Anthony Fisher has been writing poetry since early 1990 and he has just published his collection’ Goddess and Other Poems’.  With Valerie Darville and the late Jane Elder he founded Enfield Poets in April 2000.  He and Valerie have just been awarded the Ted Slade award for services to poetry.

Valerie Darville
Valerie  Darville has organized many events over the past 20 years including Andrew Motion, Carol-Ann Duffy and Ruth Padel.  She has been placed in the Bridport twice, the Petra Kenny and other competitions and won the Barnet.  She has been published in magazines and anthologies and is (finally!) putting together her first collection

Mary Duggan's Celtic roots inform the song of her poems.  She performs at public events, is published in anthologies and has two local residencies.

Julian Bishop is a former member of Highgate Poets, a journalist and now in Enfield Poets where he teaches poetry courses.   His poetry often highlights environmental and global warming issues.

Highgate Poets

Alex Allen
An avant-garde poet who likes to play with form and shape with his poetry.  He has had poetry on display at The Poetry Library.

Rosemary Wolfson
Joined Highgate Poets at the beginning of the pandemic. Her poetry is colourful and observational.

Anna Meryt was, until recently the Facilitator of Highgate Poets and helped organise the 50th Birthday celebration in Finsbury Park.  She has had many poems published in anthologies and magazines in the last 20 years.  She has 2 poetry collections Heart Broke and Dolly Mix, will soon publish her third collection and writes memoir ( creative non-fiction).


Visiting Gibraltar


Gibraltar - The Rock 

Wrote this in October 2021

Feeling mildly irritated.  I'm sitting in what looked like a smart cafe - tables indoors as it's so windy in all the other pavement cafes on this square, although it's warm.   The menu is in English and Spanish and very meat-based -  I asked if they did egg (I'm vegetarian)  - 'What!' said the rather sullen/slightly confrontational young Spaniard by the bar. 'You want fried egg or omelette?' 
   'Omelette,' I said 'and a cappuccino.' The quoted price was reasonable.  I set up my laptop in a window seat, looking over the windy square - a large piazza lined with trees and restaurants with signs like 
'Full English Breakfast,', 'Burgers,' 'Fish n Chips' - lots of chairs and tables under awnings outside each one.  
    The omelette arrived without garnish of any sort, not even bread or toast.  I asked for toast 3 times and by the time it arrived, I'd eaten the small omelette, lonely on its plate.  I wish I'd taken a picture of the cappuccino - the foam was about 3 inches high in terrific peaks - like I remember it was in Menorca when I went there years ago.   The staff are all Spanish and all chatting in Spanish.  Everywhere in Gibraltar, all the service industries are staffed by Spaniards, many of whom seem to have little English.  

   Sunday was my first full day of a 5-day trip. I avoid expensive organised tours. I travel on a small budget. I'm an experienced solo traveller. I'm staying in the only cheap hostel in Gibraltar. I have a small basic room and there are showers and a loo down the corridor.  It's OK, functional.  Not like South Africa where the backpack hostels are the best.   But the manager here is friendly and knowledgeable. I ask him about the buses, he tells me where the bus stops are for whatever destination ... 

    The number 2 bus stop was a 3-minute walk from the hostel. It cost £2 return. It took me to Europa Point, one end of the island, where the lighthouse is - I looked out the window all the way - so this is Gibraltar - 3 miles long and 0.75m wide. A winding road, The Rock high on my left - glimpses of the sea and yachting harbours through sometimes high rise buildings to my right, some of these buildings ugly and functional. 
Europa Point

   The bus took about 25 minutes to do that short distance, which seemed longer.  I remember that in Barbados - 23 miles long and the bus journey took hours from one end to the other. 

    We passed old, post-industrial and modern.  The British took Gibraltar from the Spanish in 1704.  The Spanish have been trying to get it back ever since, but apparently, the Gibraltarians have continued to vote almost unanimously to remain under British sovereignty.  The Brits want to keep this strategic location that guards the entrance to the Mediterranean.  Later I found out some of the reasons why Gibs cling on to their UK nationality..  I'll get back to this topic.

 
   In the distance, from Europa Point Lighthouse - my destination that day, you could see Morocco, misty in the distance.  It's a strange spot, Europa Point - open and rather bleak - a large simple Polish WW2 memorial is there, carved out of polished granite.  Here's the inscription:

"Testament of the fallen" by Ryszard Kiersnowski:

"And when children forget that they had lived in shelters,
That the deeds they had witnessed were too base to forgive,
Let them always remember just this thing about us,
That we all fell in battle so that freedom might live".

 If you face the other way, inland you can see a small rather beautifully formed mosque. 




   In front of it, there's a large ugly low concrete building, with a children's play area in front. It's a cafe /restaurant - with overblown prices.  I walked the other way, past the lighthouse to the end of the promontory and saw a building up ahead - carried on around it and found a plaque titled the 'University of Gibraltar' and strolled in unchallenged. Ahead, people were going up in a lift and so I followed.  

   The doors opened onto a second-floor bistro - a large open plan restaurant with big picture windows, lots of light and as a sign points out to you - one of the best views in Gibraltar - it looks over the curving sweep of a huge bay with large cargo ships. It was busy with families and couples here for Sunday lunch - the food looked good - higher end, but not over-priced. And the daily a la carte was reasonable. 


    I sat at the bar on a barstool and ordered a cappuccino.  As usual, there was some consternation from the male waiters about this lone older female - I could hear their thoughts - where is her husband, her son, her family?  Why is she alone? I ignored it. That day, I did not have my laptop as I was doing a rekkie. Usually, I just flip it open and start writing.  People get bored, lose interest and stop staring after a while. 

    'Do you want to serve me coffee or should I go to the cafe on the point?'  I asked - the waiter was questioning my request for a cappuccino. Wasn't I expecting someone?  My husband? My family? He gave up. The very busy girl made me a good quality coffee - I'm very fussy.

    A bit later, after advice from a nice woman at the bus stop, I was heading for Camp Bay... I tried to get the image of Camps Bay, Cape Town out of my head - that long wild beautiful beach I always head for when I'm there, with the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, over the Atlantic Ocean. Ah well, it was never going to bear comparison.

    I watched my bus's progress using Google maps, on my Smartphone. You have to get out a few stops past the cable car office.  After asking a few people on a side road, I found myself walking through 2  tunnels in a rock face ... pedestrians and SUVs go through this narrow track with no railings or road markings.  I waved my arms a lot or flattened myself against a rock when the odd vehicle showed up. Then, to my right, over a wall was 'the beach'... if you can call it that - a wide semi-circular inlet faced out to the main shipping lanes - is it the Atlantic or the Med just there - or do they both join together at that point?  Giant ships - cargo ships I assume - not the vast container ships that pass through Durban to Port Elizabeth.  No these looked more industrial.

    I'd chatted to a man in the airport lounge in Heathrow, who I sat near to, who turned out to be a ship's captain on his way to Gibraltar to take command of his cargo ship.  He was from Athens and lived there with his wife and three kids.  There was something vaguely unsettling about him - I kept having to divert him from arguing about trivia.  Anyway, I thought about him as I looked across at those huge ships. Which one was he the captain of?


   My attention turned to the beach - long concrete terraces ran in steps down to the sea with here and there a narrow strip of shingle, wide empty cafes and in front of them, row after row of concrete mushrooms about 18 inches tall.  These stretched across the bay, to a tiny stretch of sandy shingly beach, about 50 foot long.


   

    A small group of men hung out there.  I walked from one concrete side to another of the entire beach and its terraces (about 5 minutes) and found at the far end some steps leading down to an even smaller bit of beach. 

    By now the sun was shining and it was quite warm.  I wished I'd bought my costume but it was hard to work out how deep the sea was there and if there were currents? I had a short paddle, looked out across the sea and enjoyed the rhythmic swishing of the waves on the shore.  Is there any more relaxing sound?  Later I walked back to the first restaurant/cafe.  It was closed. I lay there on a fake grass ledge in the sun for an hour, listening to the waves and reading another 6 chapters on my Kindle Paperwhite  (it doesn't reflect the sun).

   Later, I walked back, across the concrete platform and up the steps onto the lane, through the two rock tunnels and out onto the main road. There was, what appeared to be, an Italian restaurant just along from there. 

   No, not Italian it seemed, the chef was Spanish. They brought me the worst cannelloni I have ever eaten - I had to send it back - stale curling pasta,  the bechamel sauce swam white and thin like milk and it was stuffed with so much chopped spinach that it tasted like mown grass ... no other discernable flavour.  The waiter said 'Why?' when I called him over -  I said, 'I tried but it's inedible.'  He brought me an indifferent pizza Margherita instead. I ate half and left. And there was no working wifi there.  In this day and age, that is a crime of negligence in my book. ...
    I found the No 2 bus stop and came back to my room. 

Tuesday: Catalan Bay - The Sea Wave restaurant/bar.

   I got off the bus (a 20-minute journey from my hostel) - we had executed a right turn after travelling south for a mile and came across to the other side of Gibraltar - one side to the other at that point is (apparently) 0.75 miles across.  The first thing I noticed to my left as I alighted from the bus was a great mound of earth, below which was a concreted car park and then the beach - was it because it was cloudy and quite windy that it all looked so dull? At least it was a beach this time with sand from one side to another. The other strange thing was this entire small beach was covered with hundreds of sea birds, all with folded wings, just sitting still on the sand, a foot apart, all facing in the same direction, not doing anything..  I've been to many beaches - never seen that before. Occasionally they all lifted up en mass when a dog walker crossed the beach, then settled back down again.

   You walk down a kind of ramp and on the left is the sea, beach, grey sand.  On the right were a few cafe/bars - most shut/boarded up - was that due to end of season or covid - no tourists?  Having sat down at the only one that appeared open, a woman came up to take my order - she was friendly and we had a long chat - it turned out that she was the owner of The Seawave cafe/ bar/ restaurant) in Catalan Bay.


   I began to understand why the Gibs all want to hold on to their British status. She said they consider themselves British and are British to all intents and purposes. There are many perks. Gibs can come and go to the UK as they choose, use our NHS. Martha had a daughter just graduating from a UK university. One of the perks she told me about - Gibs can send their children to any university in the UK and the Gibraltar government pay the fees and living expenses. Spanish people living and working in Gibraltar get all sorts of financial perks too - free schooling for their children and many other advantages. Of course, the Gibs all voted against Brexit, they want to keep their feet in both camps, Spain and UK.
  
   The Spanish government is trying to get 'Shengen' rights for Gibs(excuse me, that's what they call themselves - Gibs) to be able to wave visa restrictions for those travelling back and forth between Gibraltar and Spain for work and family.  If so they'll hold on to their EU rights too.      

   Martha told me a bit about Gibraltar history too and Google filled in the gaps.  From 1969, Britain was in dispute with the awful Franco, who ruled Spain as President and dictator. Eventually, due to ill health and old age, he handed over to the reinstated monarch Juan Carlos, king of Spain, who eventually brought back democracy and became a constitutional monarch. 

    The border between Spain and Gibraltar was firmly closed by Britain from 1969 to 1982.  No goods were allowed across this border at all and as most Gibs are a mixture of Spanish/Moroccan/ British and Irish, so have varying degrees of Spanish relatives, it became hard to continue contact with any Spanish relatives.  Also, 20-30,000 Spanish nationals currently cross the border to work. Presumably, this was the case even then.  This all came to an abrupt halt.  Plus the much cheaper food grown in Spain could not be imported - it was now being brought from Morocco, UK and so on and was much more expensive.  So, difficult times for Spanish people living in Gibraltar.

    Now, I sound like the worst kind of British traveller - the kind who expects everyone to speak English and wants only English food wherever they go.  I am not that person reader, I assure you. I've travelled extensively all over Africa, India and I've been to quite a few Far Eastern countries too, not to mention North America.  I love to experience other cultures and eat local food (as long as it's vegetarian). But before I came to visit, everything I read about Gibraltar seemed to be selling that kind of destination to the average Brit - home from home, British shops, English spoken everywhere and so on. In fact in this post-pandemic(???) universe, the reason I chose Gibraltar to visit was linked to that - it was on the Green List, very few restrictions for those of us double jabbed, a large percentage of the population here double-jabbed (more than 90% so I'm told by a local) a relatively safe destination in these troubled times. 

   After a large bowl of salad, Martha had also told me about the hotel up on the hill above us that I could see. It's a 5-star hotel but has not been doing so well,  so now under new management.  I later went up to explore and found a very comfortable lounge with great sea views, as it's so high up on the hill overlooking the beach and out to sea. I spent a few pleasant hours there, writing on my laptop, sipping a G&T.  Then I got the bus back to my hostel. 



   You might be wondering about the nightlife there - there's smart cafes and bars a short walk away from my hostel on Gibraltar Harbour. 

 - a giant casino in the shape of a cruise ship is on one side. I'd chatted to one of the croupiers on the flight over - he'd been working there for five years - he was 31, single, worked late hours. Pleasant chap but I couldn't help feeling that his life was empty and bleak. Five years in a casino.  Good money I expect.  


   On my first night, I'd wandered about and found a tiny backstreet fusion restaurant - run by an Indian woman, dishes a mixture of Indian and Moroccan great for a vegetarian, tasty and cheap. There was an Italian restaurant in the same back alley but I didn't get a chance to try it.

   On my last day in Gib, I'd planned to take the cable car up the Rock - the views were supposed to be great. I took the No.2 bus and got off at the stop near Camp Bay, then queued for 25 mins  in an enclosure next to the jump off point for the cars.  The queue  was mainly retired British couples - some wearing masks, some not.  I guess we were all double-jabbed (Omicron and the 3rd jab had not yet hit the scene in the UK).  

   The manager at the hostel had told me not to go on the preceding 2 days because the weather was cloudy and windy.  Today had dawned sunny, blue skies and warm. 'Perfect', he'd said. I got to the end of the queue at last and we all followed each other across the little square, down some steps, up some steps into a large whitewashed room - a doorway on the other side was wide open and you could see the cable car.  

    I'd struck up some conversations with various Brit couples while we were in the queue.  One couple asked me about my PCR to get back into the UK. I looked blank - we'd all had to do a PCR test on arrival in this large portacabin outside the main doors to the airport. For some reason (and I'm quite thorough and meticulous about these things normally) I had missed that we had to have a PCR test booked (and a quotable number) to get back into the UK.  Shit, I thought.  I had assumed (never assume) that as a fully vaxed person with proof on my NHS app, and a UK passport, that would be enough.  No, apparently it wasn't and I was leaving the next day.  You had to have the form with you with the booking reference when you landed at Heathrow. 

   This bad news day was about to get worse.  As we all trailed up to the top of the stairs and started walking towards the cable car, anticipating the view, it became apparent that the tide of people was turning and walking back towards us. I asked a couple what was going on.  'It's been cancelled!'  they said - we have to go back and get a refund. 
'Oh No,' I thought. What do I do now?

   Queue to get the refund, that's what. They said there was an electrical fault so the cable car was cancelled for the day.  I was returning to the UK the following day so I never did get to have a ride.  As we were near Camp Bay, I strolled back there and sat in the sun watching the sea.  But the day was now rather spoilt and also because I then spent the afternoon trying to sort out a regulation PCR test with a verified number for the damn entry form. I phoned various 'clinics' on the government website list - they were VERY overpriced - one quoted me £99.  The couple at the cable car queue had told me they paid £30.  In the end, I finally got one booked when I got back to the hostel - for £50.  By then I was stressed and tired and glad I was leaving the next day.

   The hostel I was in was located 5 mins drive from the airport.  I had hoped I'd be able to pop across the border to Spain during my stay.  Things were much cheaper there. In the end, I'd decided NOT to risk it - due to the pandemic issues and being unsure whether I qualified fully and whether, having travelled to another EU country, there would be problems getting back into the UK.

   I don't think I want to go back to Gibraltar although my 5 days there was marred by mainly cool cloudy weather and all the pandemic issues - I felt that all these things had tainted my view of Gibraltar.  It was not a good time to be there.  I'm used to lovely beaches and sunshine and friendly locals, when I travel - it felt like mostly absent in Gibraltar.

   Perhaps I was unlucky and my view was tainted - it was end of season and at the tail end of the pandemic.  There were very few tourists around, so lots of places closed. 

   One more point, the whole time I was there I saw only one black person.  I live in London, I'm used to extensive diversity of races,cultures and colours. There are mixed Spanish/ Moroccan/ white British people in Gibraltar. But no black African, Caribbean, African American. Except for this one guy - a Malawian from my hostel, who told me he'd been stuck in Gibraltar for a year - due to Covid rules he could not go back to Malawi.  He was fed up, wanted to leave, but couldn't.

   It's not the same world anywhere since the pandemic hit us all.