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On The Parish ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
She clutches her thin coat around her too short to cover up bare knees A cut-off from her mother’s coat never meant for winter’s freeze A chill wind sends her rags a rustle seeps into her very bones Not an ounce of fat upon her but she stifles every moans.
For today she has an errand something that she needs to do A weekly task that needs her courage a lengthy wait inside a queue. All around her adults jostle trying to push her out of place Faces pinched with cold and hunger has no time for social grace.
In one hand she holds on tightly, the coins that jingle in her purse In the other grasps a basket, worn and battered by frequent use. Still she holds her ground so fiercely a lot depends on her today She’s become adept at bargaining though it hurts to be this way.
Once her home was bright and cheerful, once were carpets on the floor Vaguely she remembers her mother dressed in finery go out the door. Then the house got dark and gloomy, a stranger slept upon a bed Hands like claws she swung so gently never feeling any dread.
Then one day the curtains drawn, her mother wept tore our her hair, In the room the bed was empty, stunk of sickness and despair. Now she knows it was her father, died with shrapnel in his heart, Though comforted by both her sisters, still her mother fell apart.
All her treasured things were taken sold to pay the bills and rent Until at last there was no money, every single farthing spent. With no husband and three children what could her poor mother do? Whispered words about the parish broke her mother’s heart in two. *******************************************
Hours later tired and cold she turns around and limps to home But her heart is light with gladness for the bounty that’s her own. For a while there’s food and shelter something to make her mother smile Shouldering the heavy basket now at last she feels worthwhile.
From the butcher came some scrag ends a little meat to make a stew A plump cabbage, carrots, onions, a twist of tea to make a brew. A nice fresh loaf, some stale bread to make a pudding, what a feast! She saved by buying old potatoes, bought some flour and some yeast.
Some margarine, a little sugar, condensed milk to water down The butcher slipped her some beef dripping, that would make her mother frown. Real eggs would make a lovely change; maybe soon the price will drop But she has a treat for mother, cheap bruised oranges from the grocers shop.
Laying down her heavy burden she greets her sisters straight from school How she wishes she could join them but it’s against the doctors rule. A birth defect left her weak and puny so she taught herself to read Pouring over the family bible her thirst for knowlede her biggest need.
The fire is low, the scuttle empty, just enough to make some toast, How she’d love a roaring fire and set her feet up there to roast. But wishes cannot solve a problem this is what she understands Beggars cannot be the choosers; the answer lies in her own hands.
Gathering up an empty sack she takes one sister on the chore, The other stays behind with mother, prepares a meal for one day more. This is how they keep on going with every deed is a pretence Pride sustains their mother’s sanity, her own form of self-defence.
From the coal yard runs a railway taking coal to send away All the profit for the owners, men with power that they betray Miner’s blood stain deep the coffers, greed is all they understand While they rape and plunder nature never thinking of the land.
Along the embankment lies a trail of fallen coke and coal In the quiet of the evening this becomes the paupers goal. Here the sisters work in silence scrabbling for something to burn Lumps and fragments quickly taken for tonight there’s no return.
Blackened, grubby knees are scraped, hands sore and nails broken But the sisters know their duty no more words are to be spoken. Hasten to wash in icy water, gather around the fire’s glow. Bread and dripping eaten quickly, mugs of tea are sipped so slow.
I wrote a poem a few days ago about a mining family and the struggle for them to keep on living after first the father died in a pit fall and then the mother died leaving a elder daughter to take care of the younger ones. It was well received and a chance comment from a member asked how much of it was true to life. Some of it was but not to my immediate family, it was gleaned from stories told by uncles and aunties and a great love of History especially the plight of miners and their families. I replied along these lines but said that my own mother had suffered much hardship in her life and while she was alive I jotted down her memories. She lived until she was 81 and what tales she told me.
The above is a true story of her life. An attempt at recreating a day in the life of someone so very special that it’s a wonder she managed to live to tell the story. At the time of which I've written my mother was about eight years old, I can only imagine how very hard it must have been for her, but in her memories she never once spoke about how she felt, knowing my mother so well I have taken the liberty of putting thoughts to her words, I have a strong feeling that this was how she truley felt at the time.
She was born in 1921, shortly after the 1st World war. Her father was a fairly wealthy man and her mother was used to the good things in life. My mother barely remembered her father, he sustained a wound in the war and a piece of shrapnel worked its way into his bloodstream and he suffered a stroke. My mother remembered his clawed hand and how she used to swing it lightly, she was only a toddler then but in her later years her early past became more vivid than what happened the day before, maybe this is a defence mechanism that helps older people to prepare for their old age, if so then it seems to me a blessing in disguise, as her final nine months of life were bereft of any dignity and she was a true lady that had a strong sense of dignity.
My grandmother was not a strong person, she suffered all her life from depression and anxiety, after her 1st husband died she could no longer cope with the change from comfort to poverty and was dreadfully embarrassed that she had to live on “charity”. She passed this on to my own mother and it took me a long while to understand her motivation in life, but that is now water under the bridge.
My mother was born with a birth defect, a large gaping hole in her bottom which had to be packed with dressings, because of this she was never allowed to go to school and yes, she did learn to read from the family bible, my auntie confirmed this for me before she died of cancer. Even after my mother healed she was still quite frail but I believe that the things she did for her own mother made her far stronger in mind and body.
Her mother could not cope with standing in line to buy food, in those days the money was given to those “On the Parish” on a certain day, queues would form to buy the cheapest food and my mother learned to “bargain” well. She taught me to cook at ten years old and I can still conjure up a healthy meal for the price of a large mixed packet of crisps.
It kept me going as a single parent and continues to do so now I live on benefits, thanks mum, you were sometimes very hard on me, but you passed on your pride to me and in turn my daughter. One day I hope to write that book.
Ignore the ratings they mean nothing and I'm sick of entering them.