There was such hustle and bustle
where now reflective calm.
In the thunderbox room
nearby the melon yard
haunting echoes of silent voices
once green fingers that pressed
a trigger for King and country,
gently call from an early grave,
who once scattered humus here.
They shed tears for weeds
that stained the fresh leaves
of Spring, unfolding, unseen
cold frames of mouth-blown glass,
warmed the summer fare
that meant so much to those
So many lost at such a cost
shovelling cold organic mud
to sow the seeds of future green
in very unmilitary drills
and who would say what
could have been, had peace
been thoughtfully nurtured
like the fruits of this place.
Inundated by nature’s mission
their names forever bleeding
from these crumbling walls
so few in the flesh of then
left much in the earth of now.
© 2019 John Anstie
[A visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall revealed to me a very poignant story of its gardeners, 16 out of 22 of whom lost their lives in the First World War; of the gardens, which subsequently fell into ruin until the 1990’s when a descendant of the original owners set about restoring them to become one of the UK’s most popular botanical gardens. The scene is set around the ‘thunderbox’ room where they would carve their names in the walls as they sat and the small but very peaceful Italian Garden adjacent to it, where you can feel the history of the place; powerful enough to compel me to write this elegy in their memory …
… this was intended to be published in the March edition of the BeZine, which I rarely miss, but didn’t make it in time. Here is the link to this worthy quarterly journal, whose mission is to foster ‘Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice’ and whose theme, appropriately, this quarter is “Waging the Peace” … https://thebezine.com%5D
“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult”
As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life.
His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream!
His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man.
What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle.
His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”
A most beautiful homage to those gardeners who lost their lives.
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