christmas

Dr Lee and the Apple Tree/Silencing Big Ben by Katherine Lockton

lemn sissay christmas dinnersWhat is a working class Christmas? It is two hundred homeless people spending the day in Euston train station, out of the cold and being fed. It is the Christmas Dinner’s Project founded by the poet Lemn Sissay, which provides dinners for those aged 18-25 leaving care. It is organisations like Crisis, the Quakers, the Sally Army, supporting the homeless. There are a whole host of volunteering initiatives on the day. Christmas is about not forgetting those more in need than ourselves, whether they are Christian or not and whatever class and/or religion you may be. And yes, it is the escape from work (not from family though), over-indulging, getting ratted, forgetting what Boxing Day is really about & having a punch up instead, the list I am sure is endless on depending on your inclinations.

Then there are the children, no not the children I hear you scream, well yes, the children. This government has put increasing numbers of children in poverty; this is because of falling wages (the majority of people in poverty in the UK are in work – one of Labour’s great failings was subsidising capitalism through tax credits thus allowing businesses to keep wages low) and the general cuts to benefits, compounded by the Universal Credit debacle.

21122459_10155764293890337_9149087267056264227_oBut there are also the children who will spend Christmas day in hospital, where small acts of kindness can mean a lot, as Katherine Lockton describes in her poem, Dr Lee and the Apple Tree, I lie in Westminster Hospital on Christmas day/ and Santa visits me and tells me while I play// that I will walk, and says this with so much/ knowing that I believe his words and blush.’ But some children will not be as lucky to have a visit from Santa, and live in fear of their own family, as Katherine shows in her second poem, Silencing Big Ben, ‘My father’s mood swings, a steel pendulum, cold and shiny as Big Ben’s./ I learn to say yes, sorry and yes again.’ So give it up for any excuse to reflect on where and who we are in a year we didn’t think we could top the misery of 2016, but it has, and with knobs on. Let’s hope for an impeachment of the large orange one. Cheers!

This will be the last post from PP this year. Thank you to all who have kept reading and supporting the poetry of working class lives. Have a great end of year, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, and we’ll see you on the other side.

 

Katherine Lockton is a poet living in London who runs exciting workshops at South Bank Poetry. She has experience teaching and running workshops with beginner and advanced students, teenagers, the elderly and those with health problems. Her work has been published in publications such as: Magma, Rising, Morning Star, Northwords Now, The Delinquent, and ‘Hallelujah for 50ft Women’ out with Bloodaxe. Katherine has won a number of awards including the Inaugural International Travel Bursary by The Saltire Society and British Council Scotland, shortlisted for Girton College’s Jane Martin Poetry Prize, and won first place in the Field Poetry Competition judged by Martin Figura.

 

 

Dr Lee and The Apple Tree

The walking stick that Doctor Yung Lee
has gifted me is made from an apple tree.

I can still smell the apples the tree once grew.
The apples are like the ones that I once drew.

I lie in Westminster Hospital on Christmas day
and Santa visits me and tells me while I play

that I will walk, and says this with so much
knowing that I believe his words and blush.

No one will ever love me again I cry.
The man in the red suit hides his eyes.

Love is the small details in life; the giving
of clay buttons instead of gold rings;

when words simply cannot do
and life gets in the way of it all too.

Silencing Big Ben

My father’s mood swings, a steel pendulum, cold and shiny as Big Ben’s.
I learn to say yes, sorry and yes again.

The day they silenced Big Ben, my father learnt to speak, to say things other than “fuck” and “fuck”.

As a child I clung onto that steel. Now all but gone, my body swings with the music of it all. I used to wish

I had that very same metal boldness; now only that I could, with the braveness of a duckling swimming in its first rain, give up.

Saving for the Hamper by Ali Jones

oxfam coop stampsWhen I was young, my mum used to collect stamps. We had a Co-op on the corner. I remember she would come home with the shopping and blue stamps, letting me stick them in to slowly fill the pages until you had enough for a dividend (the books are low value collector’s items these days). The Co-op’s stamps were a response to their competitors’ schemes, especially the catch-all Green Shield stamps, which were very popular during the 1960s and 70s. Its founder, Richard Tompkins went on to set up Argos. These were the precursor to modern-day loyalty cards that now involve you giving them information about your habits through your purchases thereby capturing your ‘loyalty’.

The stamps were first introduced in the United States towards the end of the 19th century; given to customers who paid in cash as opposed to credit. There are though other schemes, especially saving for Christmas, which is implied in Alison Jones’ poem, “Saving for the Hamper”: “There was more to it than I thought, the pulling together Profile Picof pennies/ in a small leather purse and counting them when no one was looking,/ the card left face down on the kitchen table, in anticipation of a stamp.” These schemes were/are targeted at those who may not have bank accounts, or a way in which they have enough extra money at the beginning of December. This was the case for the grandmother in this poem, “I did not see the strange woman/ who woke in the dark and went digging through her pockets,/ knowing she would find nothing more than ghosts and prayers.” The schemes are now fairly widespread, the latest being Toys R Us; this despite a number going bust, sometimes before the Xmas return to its customers, such as Farepak where people tried for years to get their money back without success. Pleasures change, whether it be a computer game, or as in our poem, “The sweetness of boxed dates was as surprising as summer rain,/ and now I know that hope was a wellspring beneath the ground.” Merry Christmas everyone, whatever your faith or time of the year it may be, at least when it comes to the concerns of capitalism.

 

Ali Jones is a teacher, and writer, living in Oxford, England. She holds an MA in English, focused on poetry in domestic spaces and has written poetry in a variety of forms for many years. She is a mother of three. She is interested in the relationships between place and personal, in terms of ancestry, the everyday, geology, folk lore and fairy tales.  Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals Spoken Word Anthology, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Picaroon Poetry, Mother’s Milk Books, The Lake Magazine, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine, and blogs for The Motherload. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016, the runner up for the Mother’s Milk prize for prose in 2016, and has also written for The Guardian. Her poetry pamphlets, Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams press in 2018.

 

 Saving for the Hamper

There was more to it than I thought, the pulling together of pennies
in a small leather purse and counting them when no one was looking,

the card left face down on the kitchen table, in anticipation of a stamp.
There’s more to making a celebration than I ever expected,

the small processes of finding one thing to set against another
one thing to leave out, to make do without. The chill of the larder,

the echoes in the meat safe that I did not hear, stilted to lift it
from the reachings of hungry mice. I did not see the strange woman

who woke in the dark and went digging through her pockets,
knowing she would find nothing more than ghosts and prayers.

It was always better than I hoped, the old need keeping us strong,
the anticipation of cardboard boxes and shredded newspaper,

spam, Dundee cake, jellied fruits, Baxter’s soup and beetroot relish,
My grandmother’s cooking always tasted the best. At those times,

I think we had something else with us all along, in the way she worked
hour after hour, back bent beneath the heat, drifting between

house and garden, bringing everything in, currants and plums,
potatoes and peas, turning the soil, not a scrap wasted, ever.

The sweetness of boxed dates was as surprising as summer rain,
and now I know that hope was a wellspring beneath the ground,

as she worked, letting things in, immersed in the purr of the wireless,
bleeding carols through the air, making things possible, gathering us in.