That morning, we pitch our caravans on Joe White’s,
somewhere on Sime Street. Mother scrubs vardo ﬂoors
with washday waste, singing Paddy McGinty’s Goat or maybe
I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen. Daddy has a bloke to see
at The Old Ship Inn or perhaps The Robin Hood, God’s people
blinking as they enter daylight. I stay with the tub cart
or was it the dray, water Plunk our dapple pony, or was it Spike
or was it Pluck? A school of men march into the yard, keen to win
a fortune with Pitch and Toss. From a corner the look-out boy
watches me. Beneath the sign, ‘No Gambling Or Spitting’,
the chuckers bless a fat penny each and bowl against the wall,
or could it have been into the air? Metals wield and thud.
Hoots and oaths. The men drift away, one lad left on the ﬂoor
or maybe leant against the wall, says over, fot in’t war, I did –
and he has no hat. Or was it boots? Or was it both?
vardo: horse-drawn caravan
Gran Violet Applies a Poultice
I know good health stays with the child
born under a rising moon
and the sting of a honey bee’s bite
can be eased with pollen from a meadow’s bloom
and toothache’s gnaw held at bay
by chewing wild garlic or cloves
and a spoonful of honey and elderberry
wards off winter’s snivelling colds.
I know a tincture of burdock root
clears scurvy, bad blood and poor complexions
and being bunged up is easily solved
by scrumping a handful of Victoria plums
and a cup of fresh juniper bark,
rolled and steeped, relieves weary bones
and dandelion sap or well-hung pork fat
works like magic on warts and moles.
I know witchbane nailed to the eaves
forfends crawlers and the evil eye
and when they hang me from the crooked tree
I may walk-on but I never shall die.
It starts with hearts. Red and broken on a soap-box behind a criss-cross
of barbed wire. We pull up a car tyre, drag shop ﬁttings out of a ditch,
throw on sapling oaks, half a besom, unhinge a litter bin. The village
comes out in support, donates a lion’s roar and a bedstead in case of a nifty kip,
and more: an oil drum and a strip-a-gram for entertainment; skinny roll-ups,
and chips and scraps for snap; Welly lock-ins and two football teams
to keep us sane. Mothers bolster us with pit props and builder’s brew –
housecoat grenades. A window cleaner gifts his ladder for a quick escape.
All anchored down with women’s tights and washing line, and yet, we wonder
how far do powder-monkeys and rippers have to go to save their jobs?
Still, we stand ﬁrm on the wooden plank. We are stoked, and black
and white, young and old; eye to eye and pole to pole beside the winding gear.
This barricade is our pyramid; our eagle’s nest on Everest, our stage.
They beckon from afar call it time, lads. We show a sign, we have our say.
No otters in the River Don.
No rest for Sylvia Grant-Dalton
upholding Brodsworth Hall: subsidence
scribbled on the wall –
the roof a drain, gardens besieged.
A losing battle.
Down the lane, Brian
at Brodsworth pit
with his mullet and denim jacket:
windswept, sun-kissed – convinced
they can turn the tide
in landlocked South Yorkshire.
Rossington. Like Beirut,
says Mrs Selby, watching ghosts
of picket line past –
Mr Selby in his chair, waiting
for the snowdrops.
An action shot of Lesley Boulton:
camera in hand, the raised baton –
a pin-up girl at Highﬁelds Welfare.
Wives on battle stations
in the soup kitchen.
Men fed ﬁrst.
Outside the new Frenchgate Centre –
a band of brothers riddled with badges,
rattle buckets – ‘Miners Children’s Xmas Party’
all around the world turned
Paul, just nineteen, marching back
with the shift and his Grandad
to Markham Main: end of the line,
final man down, under that headgear – the last dinosaur in Doncaster.
12 White Cottage
13 Shelling Peas with My Grandmother in the Gorgiolands
14 Mother Tongue
17 Carroty Kate
18 Gran Violet Applies a Poultice
20 The Hedgehog’s Tale
21 John Thomas
22 Pitched early mornin’ at encampment o’ Gypsy king Esau Smith
23 Scrapping at Marshall’s Engineering, Gainsborough
24 I can see Sandbeck Hall
25 Them Dunstan Kids
26 Our Jud
28 Straw Ticks
30 Meat Puddin’
31 Laneham Ferry
32 The Bittern
33 The Calling Basket
34 A Sund’y in Worksop
35 Late Afternoon by a Hedge
36 Census 1911
38 The Ring
39 Walking Girl
40 The Astronaut Who Came to Tea
42 In the Library
46 Pilgrim Queens
47 Things My Mother Taught Me
48 Inside Lingerie
49 2:15 at Doncaster
50 The Pencil Sharpener
51 Giant Leaping
52 I learned to drive in a metallic blue Ford Capri
53 Visiting My Aunt on Her Birthday, 1st September 1979
54 Uncle Reg
55 Between Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and My Class Enjoys Cooking
57 A Spring Morning
60 Trip to the National Portrait Gallery, with the wife
61 The Powder-monkey’s Apprentice
62 Peasholm Park
63 Blood Sugar
64 William Shaw is lowered down the shaft
67 Rosso Youthy 1984
68 Near Extinction
70 Markham Main
71 The York, Edlington
72 The Lost
74 Our Language
BLOODAXE BOOKS LTD Registered Office: Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 1BS, UK Registered Number 1656254 England VAT No 414 4062 89