Blog of Oonah V Joslin -- please visit my Parallel Oonahverse at WordPress

where I post stories and poems that have not been seen elsewhere - also recipes and various other stuff.

and see me At the Cumberland Arms 2011

Thursday, 2 February 2023

February 2023: Catching the Wind at Candlemas

My year never begins in January, remembered as the month in which my father died. This January my eldest sister Annabelle passed away too. Noel's half brother also passed on the same day.  

Annabelle was 17 when I was born, very pretty and she wore such lovley clothes! Clothes were elegant in the late fifties. I just about remember her wedding or at least my mother trying to keep me from disrupting it too much. I was only 3 after all! She was a very supportive big sister and on many occasions more of a mother figure to us 3 youngest siblings. 

                   Annbelle and Hubert on their wedding day with my Grandparents

My Grandmother died 45 yrs ago on 11th Feb. I know this because I had just left Ballymena to take my first teaching post in Cardiff when I received the news. In the photo you can just see Margaret, the bridesmaid and Esme was the little flower girl.

I didn't think of it as a great adventure. I was terrified really! Never lived in a city before! But I met up with Noel and we had our first date later that month and we never looked back. February is a welcome friend. It brings with it snowdrops and crocuses, if we are lucky, even daffs, and it's light until 5pm. I greet it with a smile of relief. It's not that Winter is over but it is beginning to be over. The yellow jasmine that has been in bloom since November, is now losing it's flowers and the nithering north winds pull at them, as if to set them free. 

February always feels like being set free. The sun just about warms our bones. So as I remember my sister, I'll heed the warmth and feel thankful and hopeful and share with you this little poem which really wrote itself from observation, (those are mostly the best poems!!!) and is therefore one of my favourites.

In February 1992 we made the first move towards living in Northumberland. I did regard that as an adventure! 

February is a time of new starts and who knows, after the covid doldrums of the past couple of years, maybe I can once more catch the wind.

Catching the Wind


Dainty, yellow jasmine flower,


                                                      tiny fairy skirt,


twisting in the twilight air,

                                                     quite the little flirt.


Toying are you with the dark;

                                                     finished with the day?


Darting this way, flutt’ring that;

                                                      can’t you get away?


Star-struck in the gloom of dusk;

                                                      I see how you’re pinned;


Caught there on a spider-line,

                                                       a lure to catch the wind.

First published by The Shine Journal 2007

Subsequently published in The Linnet’s Wings

Friday, 30 December 2022

Goodbye to 2022

I haven't written very much this year, or sent much for publication but I will leave this little memoire from childhood to round off the year and wish you all a Happy and Healthful 2023.

A resurrection in raspberries.

As we spilled out of the town hall, ears tingling with carols, jollity followed us, trinkled along wet streets and trickled in rainbow hues down slushy gutters. Friends, strangers, even old enemies it seemed, greeted one another with Christmas cheer.

Church Street, criss-crossed in multi-coloured bulbs, glowed with pride, its shops festooned with holly wreaths. Even the Brother Archie’s plate glass window bristled with festive sprigs among the Stanley knives, glass baubles glinting out among saws and planes. All was a-sparkle of splintery tinsel and fairy lights. Outside grocery shops, recently cut trees awaited another incarnation, an indoor, scented life among the tangerines and puddings.

As light faded to a glimmer, a single gap in the commerce reined in all sound. The old churchyard lowered black, sucking the celebration from the street. In there was full of people so long dead, they were deaf to Christmas bustle and their dark absence made the lights seem all unreal. I quickened my pace past those wrought iron gates where no tomorrow ever comes. And soon enough the town centre dwindled to narrower streets and darker lanes, and I felt suddenly alone and hurried homeward all happed up in hope.

But I knew life would return to that dank place of runkled graves and dilapidated stones, whose illustrious names, time had all but erased. When the sun was once more at its height, a little taste of heaven would spring up out of decay. We’d walk there, and our eager little hands would reach in through the black surround of the old grave by the crumbling tower, and we’d fill our Sunday hats with soft, ripe fruits, and buy ice cream on the way home, to share the biggest, sweetest raspberries you’ve ever seen. Though, it might have scunnered some to know where we came by them, sure, the grave is silent and we didn’t have to tell. Year after year, this miracle occurred. I never knew his name, our benefactor, but I have never forgot the lessons in hope his grave taught:

True light shines brightest in the darkest times.

The greatest gifts are always freely given and received.

Each day we live’s a little taste of heaven.

Oonah V Joslin 2022

Tuesday, 8 November 2022

Visiting the War Graves -- 8th November 2022

It is always our privilege to visit the grave of our friend Wojtek Jacobson's brother Andrej at this time of year and so once again we took a walk through the war graves at St Mary's Churchyard on this Autumn day and left a little tribute in remembrance and with thanks for friendships and to those who, like Andrej died far from home. 

There was evidence that the November service on the first Sunday had taken place, in the little candle that had been placed there. Pity it's plastic I thought... But then my own poppy was plastic too. 

Note to self -- must do better.

Monday, 25 July 2022

July 2022 -- Not quite a 'fluffy kitten' story but it's close

We saw a whippet the other day at Newbiggin by the Sea disappear into a hole he'd dug in the sand and it kinda reminded me of this story which I humbly offer to anyone who would like the hell outa here!!!

Mungo’s Hole

A dull Winter’s day on a familiar windy beach is not the place one thinks of for the spectacular to occur. And certainly Joe had no expectations of the day; porridge for breakfast, sandwich for lunch walking the dog, the usual Monday leftovers bubbled and squeaked. He reflected on the down side of being a dog owner as he got blown along the beach in a northerly gale.

Mungo ran ahead, stopped and began digging in his favourite spot. It was a mystery to Joe why he did this but, if it kept him happy. Joe sat on a rock and dug his gloved hands deep into his pockets. It was starting to sleet.

Why hadn’t anything exciting ever happened to him? 
What happened about that millionaire lifestyle, glamorous girlfriends, fast car? 
Where was his dream job, his winning ticket?
How had his life collapsed into this – retirement nothing?
Bloody dog. Bloody January. Bloody wind.

After what he considered sufficient digging time, he got up, pulled his hood over his woollen hat, happed his long scarf closer around him and prepared to turn into the razor sharp, sand-blasting wind for the trudge back, and he whistled for Mungo to follow him. Only Mungo had disappeared completely in the sand.
Mun-go!” the last syllable climbed into the wind and was whipped away by whatever universal forces. “Mungo!” he barked sharply.
Nothing for it then, but go fetch him and put him on the leash. But when he got to where Mungo was – Mungo wasn’t.
There was a hole. A huge hole. A bigger-than-Mungo-could’ve-dug-in-a-lifetime hole, but no Mungo.
Mungo?” Joe peered into the hole.
There was no sign of the dog and the depths of the hole looked bright, bright and bottomless. Unfathomable.
Joe wandered up and down the beach, the dunes, the rocks, calling, whistling, calling. Eventually he went back and looked down the bright hole and sat a while at the edge with his feet dangling over the side, wondering whether to commit. But the tide was turning and where the hole was, would soon be covered by the sea, and he had to do something.
Who do you phone about a bright hole and a disappeared Staffordshire terrier?

Can you take us to exactly where this hole is, sir?” asked the police.
Are you quite sure your dog was still in there?” asked the fire service.
Is it a hazard to the public at large?” asked the environmental agency.

Yes, yes and yes.

As they questioned, the tide was encroaching.

By the time they all met up at the hole, the sea was streaming into it like a huge waterfall with rainbows forming at it’s top, lifting spray high into the air. They cordoned it off. The hole was investigated, as far as it could be investigated. It was indeed bright when the tide was out and seemingly bottomless, and that was that until some days later and the phone call came. Soon after, the press arrived at Joe’s door, cameras, flash photography, the lot – and Joe was still in his pyjamas. This was not the moment of fame he had envisaged.

New Zealand, yes.” FLASH! “Apparently some fishermen.” FLASH! “Yes, I’ll be flying to Dunedin as soon as I” FLASH! “No – he was just digging. He likes digging.” FLASH! “Of course. Tremendously exciting.” FLASH!

Joe was all over the news – in his pyjamas. The headlines didn’t mention Joe, however.

Cornwall to New Zealand in a flash! 
HOLEY MOLEY – Dog Gone Amazing.

After that the phone didn’t stop ringing. Morning TV. Chat shows. Radio interviews. Dog food companies – they all wanted a piece of the action – offered to pay his fare to New Zealand, first class of course, for an exclusive photo shot of the reunion. Joe turned a lot of them down – unless there was mention of money of course. And after all, he had to conserve his energy for a very long trip!

Mungo, in the meantime, a little confused but no worse for the wear, was being utterly spoiled by his hosts and he didn’t turn down any offers. He had mysteriously appeared atop a water spout south of South Island, was rescued by some fishermen who took him to Dunedin where he became the centre of attention.

The water spout appeared with tidal regularity and, now the hole was of real interest to science, the entire beach was cordoned off. There was even talk of militarising PROJECT MUNGO as it was now called. According to financial forecasts

This could be one of the most exciting transport systems ever discovered.”

It was a potential goldmine. People were already buying tickets to be first through Mungo’s Hole. And maybe there were other such places worldwide just waiting to be discovered.

As he packed, Joe was thinking how he could have done without all this excitement at his age, let alone having to traipse all the way round the world. Well, whatever happened, from now on Mungo was staying on the lead. No more digging.
Bloody media! Bloody dog!
Still, there was a bright side. At least it was Summer in New Zealand. He hoped it wouldn’t be too hot. He wondered what sort of food they ate there? Maybe he’d like it. Maybe they’d stay!

Joe got to thinking on the long flight. How strange, a day with so little going for it, can turn from a familiar walk on a windy beach, to a conduit to the other side of the world. To have unearthed something so mysterious, something so undefined, was a miracle but perhaps not the miracle it seemed. Joe found he didn’t want fame, money, fast cars or women. And if this was excitement he wasn’t in any danger of liking that either. No. He just wanted Mungo back.

The End

Friday, 13 May 2022

Friday 13th May 1977 -- Friday 13th May 2022 -- Lucky for some

Yes, folks it's 45 years to the day since Noel and I first said hello. In Portrush. Very close to here, where I was living in the upstairs flat at the time as a student. 

54 Causeway Street

He'd come to visit a mutual friend and had a terrible journey from Belfast in the midst of the final day of a loyalist strike! None of the buses were running and the entire province was very tense. By the time he got to us, he was totally frazzled and not a little scared plus a wee bit sea-sick so I said he could sleep on the living-room floor.

 At first this didn't seem, from his point of view, the momentous meeting it was. From my point of view, I took one look at him and thought, "I'm going to marry him." Now for person who doesn't believe in romance, that is a momentous thing! And it didn't take many conversations to confirm my certainty that this was, indeed THE ONE.

There were quite a few obstacles in the way but without planning it all, I ended up with a job in Cardiff and by the following 13th May, we were, as we used to say in those days, 'an item'. 

We've hardly stopped talking since.          Never a cross word! 
We've bought Champers to celebrate and we'll probably babble all the way through the bubbles! 
Always remember

Looks fade but a good conversation can last forever.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

St George's Day Poem: George and the Gateshead Worme

Character Colours: Please read it aloud using character colours as a guide to voice changes.

Narrator Worme Thane George Maiden (Hiss and Boo) on cards held up for audience

George and the Gateshead Worme – by Oonah V Joslin 2016

There was a worm lived in Gateshead
in the once-upon-long-ago
with vicious scales and big long nails
a fiery wake that wreaked of death
he carried plague on his foul breath
for he had come up from the SOUTH (boo)
at least that’s how the legend goes.

I’ll eat you all. I’ll ssscorch your town.
I’ll burn your buildingsss to the ground.
I’ll make you plead and beg and weep
unlesss you bring me sheepsss to eat. (hiss)

People complied, what could they do?
‘Til one day all the sheep were gone.
The Worme demanded calves and hogs
horses and asses, cats and dogs,
fowl by the dozen – since they’re small
he downed them whole – feathers and all
and when the livestock was all gone
there was a meeting in the toon.

I’ll eat you all. I’ll ssscorch your fieldsss
I’ll burn your cropsss to cindersss. I’ll
make the river bubble and boil
unlesss you bring me girlsss and boysss. (hiss)

The squire stood there and the thane in
fine threads with haughty demeanour
they’d had turtle doves for breakfast
roast swan and peacocks for dinner
tomorrow they’d have guinea-fowl.
They weren’t getting any thinner! (boo)

We have been forced to make a deal
in these wretched and austere times
with the Worme of Gateshead, people. (boo)
And the Squire wrung his noble hands.

Though it pains us as it pains you
to give in to this vile bully,
we have been forced to make this deal.
You must understand this fully. (boo)

From this day we must deliver
a child a week to The Worme’s lair (hiss)
We’ll draw lots for the sacrifice.
Indeed! I think that’s very fair!

And though the towns folk booed and hissed
the Thane and squire didn’t hear
for they were spirited away
by henchmen – and partook of beer
before going their separate ways
to their out-of-town fortresses.
The first lot fell on gypsy folk
who cursed the Worme that it might choke.

Now and again The Worme came down
just to intimidate the town
swooping and snooping, breathing flame
and he observed the squire and thane
feasting together in the tower
and the squire’s daughter, plump, well fed,
was slurping broth and chomping bread.

Do you really think you can cheat
a dragon with sssuch ssscrawny meat?
Thessse ssskinny children of the poor
are but a morsssel. I want more.
Sssquire, I will have the best you’ve got
and to your daughter fallsss that lot! (hiss)

The squire now wrung his hands for real
he knew there could be no appeal.

Sir George (Huzzah!) was travelling from the south
he was a brave and fearless youth
a knight whose armour shone with truth
he’d heard tell of this Gateshead Worme (hiss)
and thought that it could do no harm
to offer succour to the town
since they were suckers anyway…

Good Knight, as Squire I beg, won’t you
save us from this most evil Worme?

I’ll think about it – here’s the price
you all must pray to Jesus Christ.

He’s eaten all our cheeses too!
The thane was not the brightest coin.
I mean if you become Christians (what dorks!)
I’ll save your daughter and your town.

No problem! Anything you say.
But it’ll have to be today
to save my beautiful daughter
from inevitable slaughter.
She’s up there now you see. Hurry!

Young George leapt on his faithful steed
with his trusty sword Ascalon
and to Gateshead he rode with speed
to find the poisonous dragon.
He glittered in the noonday sun
his hilt with garnets shone and gold.
I will smite thee, O Worme! he cried. (Huzzah!)

The Worme replied, Oooo Aren’t you bold!
Nothing will keep me from my catch
I’m just about to do my worssst
maybe you’d care to ssstay and watch?
or maybe I should cook you firssst! (hiss)

The dragon’s fiery breath surged forth.
The maiden gave a screech of fear. (weak cartoonish screech for HELP)
George thrust his sword into its heart.
Down from his blade a droplet fell.
Up from the ground grew a red rose.

You saved my life the maiden swooned,
you are my hero. You’re a saint.
When I get out of this armour
lass, I think you’ll find – that I aint!

Being well travelled I suppose
there’s always dragons to be killed.
The story goes George plucked the rose.
Saints are allowed some – latitude
for it’s well known – Maids everywhere
have ways of showing – gratitude. (One last HUZZAH! From all the readers)

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

April 2022 -- Thirty Years Ago... Moving Times

Me at 38

It's hard to believe it was 30 years ago on Apr 14th since I moved to Northumberland. It was the second big move of my life. The first was from N. Ireland to Cardiff, 14 years previously, with only a trunk and a suitcase to take up a new job.

Noel had been here since February and I was left to work my contract out and pack up the house. It was a lonely time, eased by the kindness of good friends like Alun and Mary Norman. Luckily I had a bit of help from Krissy Kirby (Smith) on that final day. It would have been grim had nobody else been there. 

As it was, Pickford's loaded all our belongings of 14 years, into the van, I hoovered, locked the door of our house in Port Talbot and left to spend my last evening in Wales, in Swansea, with family. The next morning carrying only an overnight bag, I took the National Coach to Newcastle via Birmingham and Noel met me some eight hours later at Gallowgate bus station. It was Eastertime so we had to wait a week for the keys to our new pad in the grounds of St Mary's Hospital, Morpeth and for our stuff to be delivered. It didn't really matter as long as we were back together! 

It was a lovely house in the grounds of a Psychiatric Hospital, surrounded by trees, red squirrels and rabbits, views right over the Northumberland countryside to the south, lots of fresh air -- just right for the stress I'd been under. It no longer exists because it was demolished when the hospital closed, but we both remember 2 Southview fondly.

And looking back on things now, I couldn't be happier with the turns my life took. I don't suppose I count as Northumbrian yet but most of the time I feel at home and I have now lived longer in Morpeth than anywhere else in all my life. That has to count for something. In any case, we have little intention of ever moving again. It inspired a story though and some good 'moving tips' actually if you would care to follow the link below.

                                                        STORY: Moving Times

It is a hard enough thing to leave a place voluntarily, to have time to do it, to have another place to go and to know the people you love are safe. Let's spare a thought this Easter for those millions of refugees who have had to leave everything behind, including people they love, in a war zone. I can't imagine how that must feel.