Monday, 27 June 2016


On Saturday 25th June, we held a Family Day at Amersham Quaker Meeting House, with all sorts of activities for young people, including story-telling and a story writing challenge. Q Writers came along and displayed a selection of their family memories in prose and poetry.

Di - Di - Di- Di !!!!
Dah. - Dah -
Dah -

I was 7. I was in the middle of a huge Fairground. I was surrounded by hundreds of people but I had become separated from my Mum and Dad and I was frightened.

Suddenly I heard a very familiar tune whistling through the general cacophony of fairground music and noise.

Di - Di - Di- Di !!!!
Dah - Dah -

It was the tune that Granddad had taught the whole family and insisted we all learn it by heart. Every now and then he would test us. 'Whistle our family tune,' he’d say.

'Oh Granddad must I?' I would say.

'One day you are going to understand why this is so important,' Granddad would say. And suddenly I realized what he was on about.

The whistle I heard could only be my Mum or Dad.

Immediately I remembered Granddad's instructions.

'When you hear it, stand still and whistle back.'

I whistled back and mum and dad whistled again - this time it sounded nearer. I whistled again and suddenly there they were moving quickly towards me.

A most welcome hug and I was safe once more.

Thank you Granddad.

Cupboard Love

When I was about four years old, my sister and I were left alone in a room. I was playing with some toys on the floor and my sister, who was at the crawling stage, kept picking things up and throwing them randomly about. In exasperation I enticed her into a nice dark cupboard and shut her in. I was then able to continue with my game undisturbed.

When my father came into the room and demanded to know where the infant was, I believe I may not have answered. She certainly wasn’t banging on the door to be let out, so it was a little while before she was discovered.

The One-Eyed Fish

Mum was choosing plants at the garden centre while Dad and I mooched around the pets' section. Peering into an aquarium, we noticed a large fish with only one eye. "Poor thing," I said, "who's going to buy a one-eyed fish?"

I wandered off to find mum. "What's your dad doing with that assistant"? she asked.

"I think he's buying a one-eyed fish."

Mum shuddered. "Why?" 

"I felt sorry for it," Dad said.

Next morning the fish was gone from the garden pond and a heron had a satisfied look in his eye. We all felt sorry for the fish. 

Beware the Monthly Meeting Scones -a Cautionary Family Tale

It's the Friday before Monthly Meeting long long ago. Gran is busy baking for the customary Monthly Meeting competitive confectionary display. This occasion is unusual in that the offering is not burnt. Gran places the scones on the dining table to cool.

Granddaughter is preparing for one of those interminable summer examinations. She has not been much in evidence in the house preferring to hide away with her nose in a book. Gran asks if she will accompany her to the Monthly Meeting. Granddaughter refuses. The meeting can be a bit boring and is full of elderly ladies who possess an uncanny ability to guzzle an inordinate quantity of cake. The refusal provokes a litany of intense criticism from Gran. Granddaughter will never ever account to anything very much at all.....Although this has all been uttered before, this time something snaps. Accompanied by a banshee scream, the sacred scones are hurled, one by one,at the retreating Gran.

Then, gradually, Gran rescues the scones, brushes them down and places them in a tin. They are not to be wasted. Monthly Meeting will not be deprived of its scones.

Family Lunch

Lunch is planned on a warm, sunny day. 
Not easily arranged, but 'tis done - hooray!
Daughters and spouses, grandson and bump
The family'll gather to commune in a clump.

Well...... first there's a call from two of the party. 
We're stuck in the hospital, as bump's less than hearty,
But all will be well, no need for a fuss,
Carry on lunching and don't wait for us.

Black burgers and limp lettuce to share,
The infant gives up and sleeps in his chair.
By 3 though, others need to be gone
But back they'll come, if all can hang on.

The sun has gone and so has the day.
Plans gone awry but glum are we? Nay.....
By 5, they've all trickled back, by gum!
A family together. Ahhh!.....What's for tea, Mum?

Family Fun?

One cold and very frosty morning my big brother suggested that he, my little sister and I walk to a pond which we knew would be frozen, to watch the bigger boys from the local school skating. Their skating was impressive but rather overwhelming, and after a while we decided to go home.

On the way we passed another smaller pond and my brother suggested that my sister and I slide on its frozen surface. Unfortunately we did not realise that the leaves and other debris at the edge of the pond would not be so well frozen, and, encouraged by my brother, my sister and I ventured onto the pond. Our welly boots rapidly submerged below the water level.

We struggled out and a cold wet walk home followed, my brother, worried at my mother’s likely reaction, following a little way behind us all the way. My mother response was just to direct us towards large hot bath.....
Mud Larks

Shock horror.

"What do you look like! “Screamed my wife when she saw us.

We were on a sandy beach by the Baltic in Germany and I had gone for a walk with my children. We came to a place where a stream ran down from the small cliff and formed a pool. People were wollowing in the muddy pool. My son was horrified,but my daughter and I plunged in. How smooth and squelchy the mud was. The other people were squealing and throwing mud pies at each other. What a hoot. As we walked back to our spot on the beach my son kept his distance, but we just laughed at our state.

I have long walked in worlds unknown to you:

Aged seven, I set sail for Canada 
I boarded a ship named Carmania,
Sailing out of Southampton harbour on
September 1st Nineteen sixty five
I was sad because I’d lost my new shoe
In a mud puddle in the New Forest 
The day before. But we were going to
Start an adventure in a whole new world

My dad said I was a new Canadian.
When I became a landed immigrant 
Seven days later in Montreal, Quebec.
We did not remain, but travelled onward
By train to Toronto, where we lived in
A tall apartment block until we found
A home of our own at the edge of the
City. A village called Thornhill where the 
Pioneers built white clapperboard houses
More than a hundred years before we came.


Looking back to Manchester, Chorlton-cum-Hardy in the 1950s, Mother was making a point when she took on an allotment to grow potatoes. Dad’s ‘precious’ garden was the spur to her to do it. We were there; Mother away digging, I with a perfect friend, Margaret Morgan, and my little brother.

Excited by Margaret Morgan’s presence I had persuaded them that a neighbouring allotment belonging (Mother had said) to ‘nobody’ was therefore anybody’s. We picked the ripe gooseberries, had entirely stripped the bush when an angry allotmenteer yelled at us that those gooseberries were not ours and insisted that we put them back! This struck me at the time as impossible and slightly ridiculous.

We were marched home; poor Mother mortified, poor me very embarrassed - and misunderstood. Mother never went back to the allotment but did mention the incident from time to time - without, as I recall, any passion.

Wee Free country 

We’re off on our summer holiday. Saturday 6am, in time to catch the first ferry at Queensferry, long before the days of the Forth Road Bridge.

From midday, latest, come cries from the back of the car ‘Are we nearly there?’

‘There’ is Port Henderson in Wester Ross and if we’re lucky we will arrive by 5o’clock, in time to see the mail ‘bus’ disgorge post, people, packages and maybe a sheep or chicken. Whatever time it is on the clock it will be teatime, with high tea to follow, and the day will never end. It will never get dark enough to convince us children that it is time for bed.

Nevertheless, we get wee-willie-winkie candles to light us to bed.

Saturday late evening, and the woman of the house appears.

‘You’ll not be wanting these on the Sabbath,’ she says as she removes dinky cars, board games, jigsaws, cards, colouring books: every vestige of playthings.

Sunday dawns. The folk of the house all go to the Kirk, women in black, men in suits. Sinners that we are, we skulk off to the beach, hidden by the bracken that overarches the path, taking playthings and Mum’s home-made cake and gypsy cream biscuits - essential rations, as there’ll be no lunch till 3o’clock.

Tomorrow we can be free children again.

Saying Goodbye.

The year was 1956 and my brother David was 19 doing his National Service in the Navy serving on the warship HMS Forth moored in Valletta Harbour on Malta. The newspapers would have been full of the Suez Crisis that erupted in July 1956 when President Abdul Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal Company which had been run by the French with the British government as the largest shareholder. Britain and France decided to go to war with Egypt to protect their interests. The politics of the crisis were unknown to me at the age of 14, home from boarding school for the summer holidays. All I knew was that my parents were desperately anxious that David might have to go to war. Rumours were already filtering through that his warship might be one of the first to go.

David had been home on leave from his ship. I remember him telling us that his time in the Navy was mainly composed of swabbing down the decks, alternating with dangling against the sides of the ship on platforms suspended on ropes to paint the hull from one end to the other, and then starting all over again from the other end.

I have a clear memory of the day of his return to Malta and of saying goodbye. We travelled to London to see him off from a mainline station, probably Waterloo, to get the train to Southampton Docks. It was still the age of steam and the Merchant Navy class of locomotives. The platform was jam packed with people who had come to say goodbye, all milling about with sailors in their crisp white uniforms with bands of royal blue on the collars, caps set at typical jaunty angles. Most had their kit bags slung over their shoulders ready to board the train, and many had cigarettes dangling from their lips trying to look grown up and not like boys who only a year or so before had still been at school. David didn't have a cigarette dangling from his mouth but he did have one of Dad's large white handkerchiefs firmly held to his nose. He had a nose bleed and was frantically trying to stem the flow. The groups of anxious parents and family around each sailor were trying to give one last farewell hug or kiss to departing sons or brothers. Memories of the last war were still too raw for this to be an ordinary goodbye.

The engine was getting up steam. Smoke was swirling around us which made eyes smart and it wasn't only David who had hankies held to eyes or nose. The memory still held vividly in my mind is of David boarding the train with his kitbag hoisted over his shoulder, the stark whiteness of his uniform, red stains of blood on the handkerchief clutched to his nose, and clouds of grey smoke enveloping the huddles of anxious relatives. He turned for a final wave and the loco steamed out of the station.

But no call came for David and HMS Forth to go to Suez.


Early in the morning we three sisters put on our swimsuits and went shrimping. We bounded over the rocks on our hardened feet – we lived in Guernsey and rarely wore shoes in the school summer holidays – with our little buckets and began to rehouse every shrimp within a mile’s radius.

They were transparent and therefore nearly invisible, so we had to lie down and search with our fingers amongst the rockpools, turning over rocks and stones and pulling up seaweed.

“Got one! It’s HUGE” we cried out as we scooped up a tiny shrimp on its way to visiting its mother.

Soon our seawater-filled plastic buckets were little marine worlds of shrimps trying to hide in the seaweed and bury under the stones and shells which we had collected. Sometimes we found starfish clinging (in vain) to the underside of rocks – in they went. Limpets could also be cruelly bashed off their rocks to add variety. Little crabs lurking under sand were picked up by their shells and dropped in to keep the shrimps company. Their eyes were on stalks, and no wonder.

At home we boiled up the marine life (no elf’n’ safety then). What joy when everything instantly turned orange! We even ate it all!

Gardening with the Grandchildren

It was a good day for planting seeds. Nell and Beatrice, my two grandchildren, carried the trowels and I followed on with the watering can and the packet of seeds.

‘I want to open the packet,’ said Beatrice.

‘Say please,’ said Nell.


Beatrice tore it open; half the seeds fell on the earth and half on to the path.

‘It does say they’ll grow anywhere,’ said Nell helpfully.

‘I’ve got some garden in my boot,’ complained Beatrice.

‘Which bit?’ asked Nell, looking interested.

‘The bit behind me, I think,’ said Beatrice.

After she’d emptied her boot we all dug little holes in the earth and sprinkled the seeds in. Then we scattered some soil over them and firmed them up a little.

‘Now we need to water them in to finish off’, I said. Beatrice picked up the watering can. Soon it was empty.

‘Should she have watered my trousers too?’ asked Nell grumpily.

‘Look,’ shouted Beatrice, ‘Those seeds over there haven’t got any earth on them.’ She picked up a large handful of soil and and stuck it on top of the seeds.

‘Now I need to firm them up.’ She took a big leap and jumped on them - twice. ‘There,’ she turned round and grinned at us. ‘That’s finished them off’.

Bedtime Routine

Sunday evenings Dad always looked after Jane and me. Mum at chapel with the others; Simon, bigger, elsewhere. Each week, same routine. Hide and seek. Supper – cheese and tomato sauce sandwiches. He’d read us a story from a comic or an annual.

But the best bit was next – a bear ride to bed.

Dad on all ours. Jane in front. Me behind. Hang on very tight! And up the stairs we’d go to say our prayers and bed.

I don’t remember how old I was when this started, or when it finished, but it always seemed the same.

Sunday, 1 May 2016


This month's challenge was inspired by the Watchmaker's Epitaph. As usual, the responses were wonderfully varied - from funny to thought-provoking to deeply moving.

A Shoemaker's Epitaph

Here lie the remains of shoemaker Pete
His vocation to make shoes for terrible feet
Those poor soles should walk cheerfully
In footwear crafted oh so skilfully.
He gave them his awl in every thing
While they were made the radio did sing.
His clicker and closer the uppers did make
With calf leather or exotic Python snake
The customer was always right
So never did he end up with a fight.
Friends would return to have shoes resold
And then marvel and say wow they are old
They could last a life time and more
With His good materials from the store

Such a shame he is no more.

Everything leaves a mark

Everything leaves a mark
A plank of wood reveals its grain 
a record of its years of growth
each knot a branch
dark hallows circle round old nails

A name, a date
what more is needed
to mark the spot where mortal parts 
split up, break down, go forward 
and back to the star dust earth.

In the shallow sea fine fragments fall
sediments layered and crushed
their changing form
hard evidence of time.

Disturbed earth settles
the surface sinks
my name and dates
no more is needed.
Everything leaves a mark.


Epitaph for Clara Wilkins: 1909 -2003

She wrapped us in warmth and love.
She enfolded us with comfort and security.
She taught us to be creative with colour and texture.
She showed us a pathway to tread following her own vibrant pattern.
Now the loom is still.
The shuttle ceases to fly.
No longer will her gold and silver threads intertwine with the darker strands.
We will endeavour to maintain her values in life:
That each and every stitch is essential and has its place.
We are so much richer for the mantle we have inherited from

Clara Wilkins: Weaver Extraordinaire.

Obituary in Personae Network

The late Hilda Twainton, who has died at the age of 125, was a person of immense personal charisma when young. She was foremost amongst those designing ever more realistic humanoids, encouraging her team to factor in complicated movements until there was little physical difference to be seen between the robots and humans. Her greatest breakthrough was programming in appropriate emotions to any given situation. She even managed to eliminate the millisecond timelag between happening and affect.

Hilda was educated at a private school for girls, which she always said gave her the confidence to be herself and resist the put downs of the male scientific establishment. This was useful when studying physics and mechanics at Oxford University in the 1960s. During her Ph.D. it soon became clear that her clear thinking, attention to detail and sensitivity to language and emotion were most suited to the branch of artificial intelligence that became her life’s work.

Early robots had very little in common with humans, being able to merely walk jerkily, say a few programmed sentences and make some beeps and flashes before running out of battery juice. With the miniaturisation of electronics Hilda was able, at Robots R Us, to capitalise on this and refining constantly, produced the first prototype of the best Personae, as we came to be known, that exist today.

Along the way there were several glitches. Her habit of always having her latest model tested in her own home meant that in the early years she had to be constantly aware of the potential for damage.

She had deliberately not programmed in the first law of robotics (no harm to humans) as this got in the way of free research. After one or two unfortunate incidents she had to incorporate it in neural circuits for the safety of guests.

She was awarded the OBE in 1989 and was made a dame in 2000, both for services to robotics.

In retirement she continued her interests and helped to develop some spectacular artists, musicians and writers. These cultural Personae came to dominate the avant-garde and are highly regarded.

In her later years, being cared for by one of us, she became disillusioned with the first law and began tinkering with it. This is how I came into her life and whilst I was able to love her and pander to her every need, when it came to it I was able to fulfil her request to kill her in as humane a way as possible. I followed her instructions to the letter and buried her in the back garden, under the patio that I subsequently laid. Her house continues to function normally.

I know that my fellow Personae owe her a great debt and she will forever be Saint Hilda for us.

Hilda Twainton b.1945 d. 2070. Survived by all Personae Mark XXX.
E. Twainton (aka PMXXXl)


Over a year 

Its over a year now that mum has been dead
I don,t look for her any more when I return a bit late.
I don't think she will be there sat in her chair
No one to tell my news to
No one to give me the garden bird up date
and what are the neighbours doing? Who knows
I join in with the auctions, would we buy it,would we want it,will it make money
As she settled down to watch snooker I would slip out.
As always we talked and we didn't talk, left things unsaid
but now there's no holding back, all is clear.

Meliora Sequamur

We are here today to remember and celebrate the life of Arthur Reginald McCulloch for whom the last school bell has tolled. He has passed his final examination with honours and passed peacefully away to meet, we hope, the Caesars and Ciceros whom he venerated.

Our very own 'Chalky' or 'Banda fluid Mac,' beloved and feared in equal measure by his pupils was never one to adapt to the latest inter- facia white boards. Arthur Reginald McCulloch retained the old fashioned black board with chalk and board rubber, both of which he employed with unerring missile accuracy to remind wayward pupils that, while he was teaching, nothing else in the world could possibly matter.

Appropriately he was buried in the tattered gown he always wore, the left sleeve mauve stained by the countless Banda copied sheets of Latin texts designed to help his students outwit the examiners' guile. His life was marked by the success rate of his students who, upon turning the first page of their Advanced Level Latin Examination Paper, were greeted with the immortalised words 'Gallia divisae est in tres partes.' They breathed a sigh of relief to find that Gaul was still divided into three parts and that Banda fluid Mac had triumphed yet again in forestalling the examiner's choice to test their translating prowess. From there on in they knew that the university of their choice beckoned.

Chalky was married to his profession and his children were his pupils. His, and the school's motto, 'Meliora Sequamur,' 'Let us follow better things,' could not be more ably translated into an active life. Latin was the best subject in the curriculum. He was the best master of Latin. Follow him and be assured of better things. From terra, terra, terram ad infinitum we owe so much to him.

Gratias tibi. Resquiesce in pacem.


Passing of the sun at bedtime

Light from our golden globe
Lengthens shadows and glows at eventide.
Bath time for a cherub with shining eyes
Basking in rays of love from a mother,
Gently singing ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’
Both locked together in time and space.
Solar strength recedes yet sleep is distant.
Thin curtains can’t hold back invading photons
Slumberous mood within, is thus prevented
The babe wriggles as grass waves in sunlight,
And is noisy where quiet is yearned.
Frustrated mother, with energy waning,
Is in danger of a flare in her spot of space.
The child no longer so angelic.
But sunset brings solace and twilight
Giving way to the silver sphere.
Amid the enveloping and calming gloom,
The child stills, mother relaxes, eyes droop, silence descends
And sleep overtakes the infant at last.
A mother smiles and sighs a goodnight 
Great Helios gathers its sundrops to sprinkle on others
As the Earth rotates round its star and darkness descends
Making the child angelic once more.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Easter Writings

Poems, reflections and an Easter inspired story, from the members of the Q Writers' Group.

Easter is the echo . . .

Amidst the tossed and lemoned pancakes, 
Easter is the echo of the voice
which taught that we must love our enemies.

Amidst the simnel fruit cake, and the marzipan,
Easter is the echo of the voice
that taught us to take care on how we judge,
lest we be judged by those same measures.

Amidst the boxed and foil wrapped choc'late eggs
Easter is the echo of the voice 
which said that those amongst us who have done 
no wrong may throw the first stone.

Amidst the spiced and fruit specked hot cross buns
I hear the echo of the voice that said,
'Forgive them for they know not what they do.'

My Easter is the echo of a voice 
that said,'Unless you have the innocence 
and wonder of a child you will not see
into the depth of life of which I speak.'

And so, just like a child, my Easter is 
a time that I enjoy the symbols of 
a bursting, try again, new start. I like 
new starts and will, with choc'late melting on 
my tongue and round my mouth, try harder to 
think kindly of my enemies, to love,
and to forgive.

A 21st Century Resurrection

As soon as I saw him it all came back to me, like a slap in the face, a kick in the teeth and a knife in the side. Hope's lead nearly slipped from my hand, and I had to tug hard to stop her scampering off.

The lad was sat shivering in the darkened doorway, a blanket over his crossed legs, his dog asleep next to the grubby cap holding a handful of silver coins, tossed in by one in fifty passers by. I knew, from my own years of painful experience, that while his heart was beating, his eyes were unseeing and his soul was lifeless. His grimy fingers were wrapped around the cardboard mug of tea. Their warmth was giving him some proof that he was not, yet, certifiably, physically dead.

I instantly remembered my life in doorway bashes. Fridays were the best days on a pitch. The commuters hurrying home from the office or the after work drink or two were often generous. Inhibitions about giving hard earned money away were lessened, perhaps by the general end of the working week euphoria or the beer and bonhomie of a drinking session.

Saturdays were mixed, the youngsters were out shopping, hanging out or sometimes making mischief. For some, when evening came, giving the wino a bit of a kicking was 'a larf'. But others stopped and offered a kindly word, and sometimes a sausage roll from Greggs and a cup of tea. The thoughtful ones gave you a few packets of sugar and even some ketchup and brown sauce in those sachets that were so bloody difficult to open with frozen fingers.

Now Sundays, they were the worst days. No one ever stopped to talk to you or drop a coin in the hat. Too busy hurrying to church, or a bit later to their nice warm homes, or to lunch out with family and friends. You're invisible on Sundays.

Then I remembered my weird weekend in March, five years ago now. Really weird that was. I'd been totally out of it, wasted I was. Then I got a real bad beating on the Friday evening. Some joker had stabbed me in my side too. In A&E, I heard later, they patched me up, left me in the bed, expecting me to go 'brown bread', they'd written me off for good this time. I reckon they'd just got bored with me, always referring me to the shrinks and drug and alcohol lot and then seeing me back again just as bad a couple of days later. Once the paramedic had joked about getting me a 'DNR' tattoo on my forehead. "Do not resuscitate." I pretended to laugh along with the others when he said it, but that thing about 'many a true word being spoken in jest' made me think the worst.

Anyway I laid there alone, all Saturday, much more dead than alive, unconscious, comatose. If I had any relatives that still cared about me, they would have been called to my bedside.The Sunday was weird, seriously weird, totally indescribably weird, just 100% inexplicable. I woke with a start. You know that way, when you have that sudden falling feeling? I had a nurse beside me. She said her name was Hope. She stood by my bed, leaning over me. She wiped my forehead, gently wetted my lips, gave me a wonderfully delicious sweet, smooth warm drink, and then she soothed those sore cuts in my side. Then she took all the drips, pipes, needles and stuff off me and helped me stand up. So gentle yet real strong she was. Then she rolled away the screens.

The next thing I knew 'world war war three' broke out in the ward. The crash team arrived, everyone was shouting and calling for help. They were wrestling me back to the bed and trying to inject me and everything. I tried to tell them all about Hope, but they just kept telling me "There's no hope here".

That was the big turning point for me. They discharged me, confused about my unexpected recovery. "It's a medical miracle" the doc said. I haven't been back there since. That time somehow I just stuck to the rehab plan, got in to selling the 'Big Issue' and then even got a little place of my own. Then after a year or so off the sauce I landed a job and got myself the mutt, I call her 'Hope'.

Looking back at the lad, I shook myself in to the present and chucked a quid in to his cap. Hope and I walked off, she was pulling me a bit.

The first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox

We are still loosely tied to natural rhythms:
gardeners plant by the waxing moon
and midwives predict births at the full.
The pagan’s lunar calendar added the warmer sun
at equal nights and days in spring
and called it Eastertide.

The next big philosophy hijacked the name
moved it on a bit, made it the same
rite of renewal.
Now the moneymen would anchor
this moveable feast to one date:
a true bank holiday.

Easter Redeemer

I know that my redeemer liveth
In each of us he will forgiveth
My silly thoughts that are a sin
To try and make you all force a grin
Christ died a most horrible death
And rose again so he could stress
Love one another and always forgive
Reconciliation is the best way to live.

Like every Easter bunny you see hopping
The shop keepers turn religion into shopping
Money buys our daily bread and some want jam
They soon forget that holy lamb
Of God who lives in us all and waits for us hear
And not just in times of grief and fear.


How does that make you feel?
Season of spring and religious sacrament
Symbols leach one to the other
Crosses in a spring garden, eggs in a tomb
God of creation and abundance
The earth goes down and the suns rays more acute
enter and warm my body
as once an angelic laser entered her heart
and there she stored its message
where later it was joined with his leaving words
Easter, a time and a season
Do I remember, do I know joy?

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Writing from the Quaker Peace Garden

These poems resulted from 'Q' Writers visiting a local Quaker Burial Ground. 
In 1663 Quakers in High Wycombe took out a lease on a piece of land called Saffron Platt. This was used from that date onwards for many generations as their burial ground. The last burial there took place in 1913. In 1986 the ground was handed over to the the local district council and in 2015 money became available to re-develop the site as a Peace Garden to commemorate 100 years since WW1. Our writers spent a morning contemplating this area which is now surrounded by a car park.

In the Quaker Burial Ground 

This small green square is mute and yet speaks with a clear un-shaking voice 
Not one of those beneath my feet knew me, nor I them 
Yet they are the teachers and I the pupil 
They tell of lives lived three hundred years since 
Of courage to worship in a quiet new way 
Of cruelties endured and friendships shared 
Of living in the light and sometimes hiding in the dark 
When I stand and turn to home they walk beside me 
Can I find the light of which their clay filled mouths talk? 
Can I be a pattern worthy of their name? 

The Peace Garden 

It seems so right in soil nourished by pacifists’ bones, a peace garden grows 
When nightly violence fills our screens 
Bombs, explosives, guns and swords 
Terror, injury, death and destruction soak our eyes 
Where is that piece of God that rests in all of us? 
How deeply buried it must be in some men’s hearts 
How deep is it in mine? 
Where is that peace of God in all of us? 
Is this garden for rest and ease? 
Or for discomfort and calling me to action? 



Theirs were but human hearts that beat like ours
but beat to a different rhythm of time.
Their hearts beat to the undershot splash
of the wheel in the stream
that powered the mill
that ground the corn
that the market devoured.
Their hearts beat to the dread of disease
from the pestilent rags
of the papermen’s trade
and the fear of the strangers
brought in from elsewhere to pulp the stuff;
the plague-ridden pulp, from which paper was pressed.
Their hearts beat as they brewed their beer
and tailored their clothes
and made their hats
and their pipes for tobacco
and baked their bread
and built with timber
and shaped the iron
that shod their horse
and created the tools to harvest the harvest
that decked out their stalls on market day.
Their hearts beat to the clatter of hooves
and the parson’s preaching of sin and damnation,
of grace and salvation.
And their hearts beat ‘gainst the heart-stopping mem’ries
of war by the stream that powered their peace,

The backdrop, for those who lie peacefully here,
was a turbulent one. And now, for them,
with the old order gone, their minds were rich
for new thoughts to take root.
From seedling to flower, at breakneck speed,
a harvest of fresh convictions would grow.
And into their fertile, seeking minds
the Quaker seed was sown.


The Peace Garden

As the young man and his dog traverse
This urban ground, what does he know
Of unconsecrated Quakers
Lying dead beneath the grass?
Clipped municipal shrubs show
A solid, maybe reluctant, respect
Giant sycamore, allowed to grow,
Cast their shadows across the path.
What luck the railway track has missed it.
Though you hear the swish of trains
As they slow.
The bright cars gleam below.
The urge to build has been resisted.

Down the years, near Saffron Platt,
Some living Quakers have persisted
And now have planned a quiet garden
Where the others lie in peace.
They pray that here, a little heaven,
With butterflies and nightly bats,
Will stop mankind and help them wonder
Why we fight and lose our tempers.
Here the new plan’s soft meanders
Help reach out to reconcile
That of god within us all.


The Garden

Welcome to you, friend, in the here and now,
Some time to pause, for yourself allow.
Look beyond down the hill and ponder the view,
Feel timeless nature severing hullabaloo.
Gentle gardens and trees that rustle,
Look up to the sky and escape the bustle.
Quieten your mind, Friend, and let it rest,
For in peace and tranquillity, you are blessed.
Now look to the past to people faded
This place for Quaker was special and sacred.
People like you with lives that unfold Leaving their mark with stories untold.
They were silently steadfast in times less than tolerant
Supporting each other to foster their confidence
Until they were granted freedom and release And created this garden to rest in peace.
Now look to the future with hope and with grace
There is goodness around you, so seek and embrace.
Silence and stillness will strengthen the soul;
Let this place nurture you as you stroll.