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Monday 16 April 2012

Suburban Village #1 : Charlie

Charles Alexander,
maternal grandpop of your truly,
cap slammed permanently down upon his head
(often have I seen him nude but for the cap;
never have I seen him minus it - he sleeps in it),
cycles - now and then unsteadily -
Along Glebe Path and into Western Road
to see a man about a dog.
(God knows which man or what about the dog!)

He encounters Mrs Heppleweight - or she
encounters him, her ample weight
obstructing the dark narrowness of path
into which he aims the bike, still more unsteadily.
Hi, Charlie, how are you today?
"Hard up and happy, Mrs Heppleweight! Hard
up and happy, thank you this good day!"
He turns away and heads back for the road.
There, Mrs Garwood. Morning, Charlie,
And how are we today? "Can't say for you,
now Mrs Garwoood, but for me, I'm
Hard up and happy - same as yesterday!"

But now his luck runs out. He runs slap into -
physically into - Dr Shellswell, who has banned -
has "banned and then forbidden" him
to ride his bike. And so he makes for home,
his tail beneath his shirt tail. Walks his bike.

Returning prematurely, he collects
Grandma's large enamel bowl and vanishes
behind the loganberry trellises. Meanwhile,
Small Jack - six feet something,
distant cousin umpteen times removed,
kept goal for Sunderland, or somewhere
thereabouts, arrives to teach me how to kick
a football with a modicum of venom.
He talks a bit, then demonstrates. The ball takes off,
flies high above the rose bed - just as Grandpop
reappears, complete with Gran's enamel bowl.
The football catches him beside the temple.
He goes down like he's been poleaxed.
The family flap round. And even when
he smiles again, we're still at panic stations.
Only the cap remains unmoved.

At the moment this is still only a thought: that I might try posting a Suburban Village sketch each Monday morning based on actual characters and/or incidents from my childhood environment.


Brian Miller said...

i think that idea is a great one....it will be very cool to meet those that surrounded you growing up and to read your story telling as well...i find it rather fascinating...

Daydreamertoo said...

LOL What a wonderful idea. I know so many elderly men used to wear those flat caps and, just like Andy Capp, never took them off. These all sound like wonderful, characters, very colourful.
Lovely read Dave. :)

aprille said...

That would be fun. From Larkhill to Candleforth sort of thing. I loved living in a small village and those little scenes of yours bring that back.
BTW, I can't find a single A.Oswald poem anywhere on line. Any ideas? You've made me curious now.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Very enjoyable snapshot! :)

Kat Mortensen said...

I enjoyed the ride, Dave! This is so full of the colloquial and the quintessentially British (albeit Middle Class) that I had to smile throughout. And I must tell you, it's going to be hard going to get that image of your nude grandfather in his cap, out of my head!

Mary said...

Looking forward to raeding more of your childhoood stories in poetry, Dave.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

A great picture: caps are very often fundamental and, as in my personal case, essential... caps have been in many occasions totally at one with one's head, your poem perfectly catches the symbiosis, if there's one thing only that must remain, that's the cap. Not to mention some jazz drummers...and that's a mystery. Why do so many of them, perspiring profusedly, never take their caps off while playing their drums, giving instead the impression they are so much at one with their caps despite the evident physical heat of the environment filled by their beating their drums? A mystery.
I possess at the moment eight caps.
And I have been wearing a cap every day now, as ever, since October.
But I don't play the drum.

Windsmoke. said...

First thing i thought of was a article in the newspaper many years ago which said wearing a hat or cap all the time makes you go bald which i find very hard to believe and still do :-).

Friko said...

Oh aye, it's grim oop north.

Sorry Dave, I couldn't resist. In spite of the quality of your poem.

I like the idea of writing a poem about real life characters. Have thought of doing it myself. Mine would be singsong Shropshire/Welsh border characters.
I need to take lessons from you first.

Elephant's Child said...

I think the vote is in, and we would really, really like you to do these Monday posts. A snapshot of Dave's formative influences. Yes please.

rch said...

Just great story telling, really good Dave, your eye for detail is amazing, can't wait to read more.

Cloudia said...

a personal bestiary, eh?

Warm Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } (°>


Dulcina said...

My vote is in too, Dave, very good idea: Monday chronicles.
As I am growing older, recent memories die soon but old ones, especially those from my childhood, come to my mind more and more often, more vivid, as if those events had happened just yesterday.
Charley's cap, yes, he felt dressed, protected, under it; "hard up and happy". It was part of him and, by covering his head, he was covering his whole body, as when an ostrich hides its head into the ground when frightened.
Another nice portrait: his unmoved cap, the brief encounters with neighbours, their language, the family episode with the ball.
His cap unmoved, same as most traditions in little villages, but life goes on.

About your previous poem, I understood what you meant without that "NOT" (Anything X to be caught out looking at our neighbour): remember A word is enough to the wise.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great idea, Dave. I will look forward to the monday posts (poems).

Dave King said...

Much obliged for the encouragement - of course, I've no idea yet how far I will be able to take this...

Thought I'd start with Grandpops, just to ease myself into it!

Ah, now you're talking.
Two links to Alice Oswald as starters: the first the general Wikipedia one, and the second the I-player address for her poem on the River Dart - she followed it from source to sea.


Thanks for this - if it's any consolation, I have never been able to get the image out of my head!

Thanks Mary. helpful.

Some interesting trains of thought you've set up here! You are quite correct about the drummers, of course. I have recently taken to wearing a cap in heavy rain. Before which, my only head gear was a deerstalker for football - to the mild embarrassament of my accompanying son. I did explain the theory of the ear flaps, but I don't think it comforted him at all. (i.e. that flaps up mean I'm listening; flaps down mean I'm speaking.)

Granddad was not bald.

I do not think you need lessons from me - esp. with the Shropshire/Welsh border setting. Beats S London, I'm thinking!

The Elephant's Child
Well, since you put it that way... it could be a surprise for all of us - me included. Thanks.

Much thanks for these kind words.

Very well put. Yes, indeed!

Thanks for all this. Yes, you seem to have caught the essence of Granddad - and even more encouraging, the meaning of my previous poem, despite the absence of the NOT! Thank you so much for saying so!

Thanks. I shall try not to disappoint.