Thursday 3 August 2023
Once again much water has flowed under many bridges since last I added to this site. No need for tedious explanations, rather I'll offer this selecion of recent birthday pieces and a couple of re-discoveries linked loosely to this time of year.
Friday 8 January 2021
Ah, yes, a rather full five years have elapsed since the last update. Way too much to cover in this setting. So I'll just add some pieces from those years and then make it my intention to use and add to the site more often from now on.
3 October 2016
It's been a busy time since the last entry. Here is a piece which captures a few minutes during the Summer. 'Cafe by the Ardeche'.
9 April 2016
Spring has arrived, vigorously ... my new hip is settling in well... and off we go again though never quite as before - se 'The last onion'.
13 January 2016
Having passed 60 at Christmas I'm thinking that it is time to stop worriting on with questions of purpose and mortality, and simply get on with living. 'Re-Calibration' is my attempt to do just that.
20 July 2015
Pastoral church newsletters are not usually considered ground breaking literature, but having sweated over this one I thought it might be of interest to a wider readership than the Norwich Area churches for whom it is intended.
July 2 2015
A day of hot, crackling sun which reminds me of other days like this from a long time ago. The border pinks from our childhood garden which are now blooming here in Pakefield reinforces that good memory. See 'Pink Buttonholes'.
June 15 2015
After weeks of waiting and willing the peony buds to open out into blooms today seems to be the day!
Also a hand out which accompanied two Praying with clay workshops held last Sarurday at the URC Eastern Synod day out in Cambridge. No expertise was offered by me or required by the particpants but, rather like the peony, creativity bloomed anyway.
April 27 2015
A new week and a new poem relating how events of some 30 years ago came to an unexpected resolution - see 'Miss G's Revenge'. This is followed by a collection of pieces produced for last year's May Day event at the Seagull Theatre.
April 21 2015
Spring is well under way, the sun shines and a quiet few hours have enabled the website to go live. You will see that it is far from complete but some recent material is now available and other archive stuff will appear soon.
March 24 2015
After many months offline the fosten.com website 'Heaven in Ordinarie' is gradually returning. The new site will grow as and when I acquire some 'how to do it' knowledge and find a few moments in which to post material
If you have always wanted to ask me something, now is the time to go for it!
A while before breakfast time
the prom witnesses a convergence,
purposeful, deliberate, enlivened by
a pervading sense of anticipation.
With little fuss the outer layers shed,
conversation is muted, tempered by
a stoic readiness for the water’s shock:
‘How will it be today?’ each thinks.
Today there is no need to fear as
benign summer waves enfold you,
though wintertime might challenge more,
but won’t deter if you’ve made careful preparation.
Though bleary-eyed, I’m proud to hold the gate,
and prouder still when you return damp-haired,
bright-eyed, brim-full of your achievement -
and ready now to start the day.
Missing the point – for Laura at 41
Artificial Intelligence, the broadcast tells me,
is poised to change our lives.
It will, we’re told, make a better job
of speeches, essays, sermons, stories too –
It is a marvel, that’s for sure, and will
eliminate flawed human touch on helplines
and can already organise complex information needs
What, then, will be the fate
of writers’ pens or fired imaginations,
of careful research, and nurturing a storyline
until it works?
Before our minds grow slack and under-used,
before imagination is made redundant by
a button push,
keep listening to your heart; don’t lose
the vital threads that weave together people,
places and events…
take hold of facts and make of them
a coloured tale that takes your readers
on a journey, unique and memorable,
which, unambiguously, bears
I try to be a local
the waiter answers me in English
I sip a lager beer
I wouldn't countenance at home.
Conversation at the tables
reflects a European swathe of nations
united by a gently hedonistic enterprise
as sun and sea combine to make us one.
Free wi-fi in the lobby
welds familiar to the foreign
contracts a one-time distance
by so many agile thumbs.
The global becomes local
dissolves the boundaries of vocal
and by technology and opportunity
the catastrophe of Babel is undone.
Pity the brazen ones who’ve
been and seen and done it all
before their adult lives
have properly begun.
Tune out from all the tiresome brays
of those with so much noise
to make, yet really have
not very much to say.
Instead, appreciate the time
there is to take in, not the first,
nor next, but maybe, the third thought
that comes into your mind.
For moments need not be fleeting;
smiles, tastes and rich thoughts
might be savoured for just as long
as might be needed…
… the life that you’ve been given
need not be a sprint from this place
to the next, when you can choose
to slow your living.
So let the marking of another year
speak less of progress on a path,
much more the ample filling of another page
within the life-full album which is yours.
maker of mischief;
setting twists and turns
in otherwise straight paths.
an ordered garden of
and good intent,
and confuse it into
a tangled wilderness of
disarray and folly.
even as I watch,
your playful, filigree threads
draw me in,
and whilst you may have
some goodness deep,
I must choose to keep you
at arm's length,
just the same!
Woodland encounter – for Joe’s twelfth birthday
Joseph and his Mum
take to the woods by bike.
Mum rapidly is left behind as Joseph
swerves around sycamores,
ollies along an oak tree root,
bunny-hops across a fallen birch,
side-slips round a spruce,
broadsides a massive beech,
hurtles past a holly,
makes air beside an ash,
rattles under a rowan …
All the while he gathers speed,
so very nearly pitch-poles into
the policeman, noticed just in time,
standing in his path.
“Out alone?” enquires the copper beech-man.
“Oh, no!” replies whippy sapling Joe,
“Mum’s just behind …”
Minutes pass, the tortoise
catches up the hare, and together,
watched by the not-so-poplar policeman,
the two of them complete
the woodland trail.
A 38th birthday poem for Laura - a huge fan of JW
The half hour spent with you each day
has been the bonus of our lockdown way
Your simple, honest call to spring
and jump and lunge makes my heart sing
Your daughter is so cute, but is she real?
For as you leap and laugh and question, she sits more still
than my boys ever did!
Joe Wicks, Joe Wicks, we hear restrictions might be easing
and in so many ways that would be pleasing
and yet, I find
that part of me is happy to continue for a while
for, once we’re back to normal, surely I’ll
our morning brisk and busy rendezvous –
the sit-ups, press-ups, burpees inspired by you
won’t be the same.
Till then …
the half hour spent with you each day
remains the bonus of our lockdown way
For a lifetime, until now, the obvious project
has been to marshal skills
and opportunities; to mix in effort
and an eye for the main chance; some
careful listening for the right tune,
the right possibility, the right coincidence
of disparate fragments from which to form
THE PERFECT MOMENT.
And would that then be an end to searching?
A portal opening onto supercharged performance?
A time for fame and accolade?
A fanfare of arrival or, perhaps, a time to touch the Sun -
and burst into an arc of flame?
Alternatively, this might just be the time
for glancing back over a shoulder; for noticing
the route from birth to here is not
a wondrous highway, crossing continents and
reaching for the stars, but, rather more a path
of steady circularity, always within touching distance
of where it all began?
Today I fancy that I hear and see and know some folly
behind the driving question: 'Where to now?'
For where we come from, where we go, is only ever
For once all forward motion is suspended in favour
of simply being, here and now. And in this unfamiliar pause
I notice that the anxious screech of life's anxiety fades
while in its place is heard, at last, timeless and unfathomable,
the music of Shalom.
So many footfalls have planted, unconsciously,
their mark upon this place.
Their sound - a thud, a scape, a slip,
has triggered a resonance which echoes
within the passing years and makes
a bridge between what was,
what is and what is yet to be.
This day I tread where you
and countless others have stood:
I sense the subtlest tremor in the land,
a strange at-home-ness through the soles
of my feet - a benign familiarity where
(I would have said) I had not previously trod;
an un-remembered kinship with the past.
And, having stood and waited purposefully
in this place, I journey home only to find that
home has been extended and enlarged: the walls
and boundaries are the same but beneath my feet
what once felt solid and unyielding has become porous
and generations past seep insidiously upward permeating
me and mine and all who've yet to come this way.
In memory the Anniversary Day
would be hot sun that
While yet the grass remained
a scissored choice was made;
a snip, a twist of silver foil,
a pinning-on parade;
the deed was done.
For weeks we had rehearsed
“I’ll walk with God; He’ll hold
“We are the Peacemakers!”, youthful
voices sang - though
how the roof might actually be raised,
I couldn’t see.
Now, if I try or work up a pretence
I might recall the scent
of border pinks;
more certainly the taste of
simple, eager expectation
an ancient song to younger ears,
if heard at all by those who have
so much - much less.
Pink buttonholes, you see, enfold
so many riches -
gathering, anticipation and mutuality,
and memories of a crowded church
where God was celebrated
Miss G's Revenge
She had become my enemy
(though she was dearly loved by students whom she'd taught)
for with advancing years
and solitary living her critical eye
had drained resources from a generous view
of other people's actions - mine, for sure.
Consequently, outward civility was undermined
by posted notes outlining my inadequacies and faults,
until the day I bearded her in her den
and faced a choice -
either I dismantled her unjust accusations, one by one,
or I pitied her alone-ness and let her be ...
I chose the latter course and we declared
a truce - uneasily
Later on she offered me a cupboard,
a wooden cube, large and unwieldy.
Politeness led me to accept
and down three decades Miss G's cupboard
has accompanied me from place to place,
never having a proper use, always
a little too large, too deep, too square ....
Until I was presented with the possibility of release:
the cupboard's space was needed - finally it had to go.
And so one windless dusk, full-primed with newsprint
and loaded with cuttings from a hateful tree,
I set the match .... and how the cupboard roared
and flared as flames shot twelve feet in the air
and scorched me with intense heat.
So mighty was the conflagration it did not last for long
and I, well warmed by fire and achievement,
sat back and toasted the departure of the past.
Next morning, just at breakfast time,
the doorbell rang and on the doorstep
stood a neighbour with some words to say.
Suddenly I was ten years old, shuffling nervously
from foot to foot as he berated me for reckless fire-raising
and his garden full of ash.
Fulsomely I apologised and he left, his anger vented,
my pounding heart in over-drive, and, in some celestial roost,
Miss G smiled, triumphantly, a quiet smile of victory.
Freedom, Justice, Humanity
A preface to 'Timothy Winters' by Charles Causley and dedicated to the courage, conviction and memory of Kitty and Tom Higdon and the children of the Burston School Strike 1914 - 1939.
Tension mounts, the teams assemble;
ideologies are laced tight;
the Sponsor's logo is displayed
This is more than a game;
at stake is life, death and, more importantly,
power, reputation, control and a place in history.
Here is the playing field where
'catch 'em young' can make his mark;
where innocent enthusiasm can be distorted
to serve unwholesome ends;
where dreams and wonder are replaced by
THOSE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW.
The outcome of the match will be the raw material
from which your league tables can be ground.
A summoning whistle sounds;
spectators roar their tribal chants;
a ball is placed upon the centre spot -
it bears a child's face.
The Children at Chare Ends
I pictured the children
(through His eyes it seemed)
scoop and shape
and mould and cast
and make of crumbly,
on the soft,
I heard His voice,
'Let the children come ...'
(that they might be themselves)
'and do not stop them...'
(shovel them or slap them
into adult bucket shapes)
‘for the kingdom ...'
(glorified in castles, towers
and tunnelled moats;
homeward, teatime wandering
and sandy hand held tight)
(peace, pleasure and
at-home-ness, summer filled)
‘to such as these.'
'Timothy Winters' by Charles Causley
Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football-pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.
His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation-mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.
When teacher talks he won't hear a word
And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,
He licks the pattern off his plate
And he's not even heard of the Welfare State.
Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren't boys like him anymore.
Old Man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier,
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy's dosed with an aspirin.
The welfare Worker lies awake
But the law's as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.
At Morning Prayers the Master helves
for children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars "Amen!"
So come one angel, come on ten
Timothy Winters says "Amen
Amen amen amen amen."
Timothy Winters, Lord. Amen
Cafe by the Ardeche
As a new day quietly forms
I leave my family asleep
and slip into the village
to buy bread.
The boulangerie is also a cafe
and, with uncommitted time to spend
I settle down for criossants dipped
in cafe au lait..
Despite this early hour, the local butcher
is deep in earnest conversation
with the village policemen and the man
who's just set up his market stall.
And, even though I can't unpick their words,
I feel the vital energy of their conversation,
as all the while the sun climbs high enough
to resurrect the river, the bridge, the day.
This listening, watching time draws to a close,
and so I settle up and set off homeward
carrying bread to share from where bread and life
have already, memorably, been blessed and broken open.
The Last Onion
Today is the day they usually
made and shared a curry. And
in this limbo land of alone-ness,
and for the sake of continuity,
she assembles the ingredients
like before, and before, and before ...
She reaches into the basket
and finds the onion, the last onion,
the final, tangible evidence of his
labour, nurture and careful storing.
Her fingers close around the
dry outer skin - as he had so
taken, twisted and prepared it
not so very long ago.
She pauses, caught between
today's brave task of making the most,
and yesterday's bright eyes beneath
a jauntily angled cap, the smell of earth
and annual provision. Through tears,
twice prompted, she takes the onion,
cooks the meal and endures,
for all that is not lost, the taste
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Overheard on Pakefield Cliffs
It was a chanced upon conversation
held as darkness on the cliff top fell,
voices falling and rising in measured animation,
vibrant, yet benign as beach and swell converged.
Uneven, yet genuinely composite,
it seemed a rhythm might be set
only to quicken, then subside
as question, response and thoughtful silence met
and sought the wisdom of this shingle shore.
Toppling waves worked through a day's accumulation
of tide and weather and draw
of a waxen, waxing moon which held it's station
low above the roof tops and the church's tower.
You told me of this breaking conversation, said,
were you a poet you'd conserve this hour. And so,
because I love you all the more for listening to the waves,
Washed by moonlight near Matignon
An untimely brightness beckoned me;
my watch said sleep and darkness;
deep, regular breathing from the others
confirmed this view.
but the steady light gently shook me,
'Now, while you won't be missed;
It'll cost you nothing - give you much!'
The whisper convinced me that
the time was now - and might
not come again until, until ...
I dressed and left my sleeping loves
to re-charge in their chosen way then
took to the silent road, alone.
I cycled through the town until the trees thinned
to an open place where stubble fields
and distant woodland framed the moon
and let it shine full and unimpeded.
For moments, minutes, time enough
I stood and let this light
(which is much more than that)
cleanse and lighten my thinking and my feeling,
my living and my loving
and fix me once again in who I am.
Having a beer is (in effect)
the inverting of an hour glass
the allocation of just this much
space and time apart
Having a beer is (in effect)
an oasis, a sanctuary,
a portion set aside
for waiting, and listening,
a measured segment of
when the present comprises
solely of the now
Having a beer is (in effect)
not open-ended for
this moment is bounded
by glass and contents
the fullness reduces by
drops and grains
becomes a pool,
it empties from above -
fills from below
Time that is loaned
must be called in
the glass drains,
final moments of
refreshment are savoured
and I must settle
la cuenta and
The Ghost Pirate Captain
Who is this ghostly pirate chief?
He’s shrieking like a bat;
he has a skull upon his flag
and one beneath his hat.
With swirling, rustling dustbin cloak,
a hook where once was hand,
he’ll make us walk the plank, for sure,
unless … let’s look … it’s just our Dan!