Dogs Just Win (March 2017)

A group of six and a discussion about animals. Lots of chatter, unfortunately not very relevant to animals or adventures, but fun all the same.

So this time a very short poem. From a vote of those there – dogs just win.


Dogs just won the favourite vote and I wonder why?
We had cats because of the mice,
How they would play and tease them before their death.
So cruel.

Perhaps that is why dogs won.

We had a black retriever, it ran away.
He went to Reg’s café for a treat and left us.
It broke my heart and I cried for a week.
So sad.

Perhaps that is why the dog won.

I lost my child. My husband and I were frantic
Where could he be, we shouted and called
He was in the kennel, the dog outside.
So still.

Perhaps that is why dogs won.

Guarding children, guarding prams, part of the family
Leading the way, in their own way.
Remember Laika one of the first animals in space.
So alone.

Perhaps that is why dogs won.

But I had a tortoise called Sparky, we drilled a hole on his shell!


Holidays Extraordinaire (March 2017)

A larger group this week – nine people. We all had fun recounting tales of places visited, liaisons of various kinds, of shoplifting and dangerous traffic. All great fun.


Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside,
as long as it is not Weston-super-Mare.
One found Malta as his favourite,
but Thatcher destroyed that idyll.
Others found Portsmouth soothing,
Or was it just the sailor or was it a marine.
So long ago, but memories bring back the smiles.

Blow all that romantic bilge,
Give me a good honest cruise
In 1988 P&O were at their peak.
I don’t need the Navy,
They can take me anytime.

Mind you – do beware of roundabouts in Paris,
Of lost wheelchairs and frames.
It is important not to pack the trousers
That you were about to wear.
But let me steal some shoes –
the French, they will not care.

Holidays – what do I care when Palma
was my home for longer than I dare.
So travel long and travel free
we all have done our share
and now we will bring our memories
to each other, if we care.

Resolution Rant (January 2017)

Six members this week and the topic was New Year’s Resolutions – those that had been important, or meaningful. This, initially, was not a very good choice as many of the members had difficulty remembering any of any significance that they were willing to share. Soon, however, the conversation started and out the came as a stream of consciousness. So, very little punctuation and just shout the words in bold.


Not to eat so much chocolate (so many at Christmas), but lose weight.(Whisky keeps me slim)
Can’t just eat one chocolate the second is so much better.
Stopped my medication but I got told off – it’s so boring, but I will start.
Don’t like whisky but love brandy, port and milk stout.
Pregnancy – not sure why.
Do things not done before.  – yoga, quiz.
I enjoy walking – don’t get lost.
I think that I should give up driving
I am a recycled teenager.
There is no can’t do – just do!

Food (Dec 2016)

Just before Christmas, we met with a small group of four people and one member of the support staff. We decided to chat about food and had a wide-ranging conversation. The opportunities to produce poetry was limited, but the opportunities to share likes and dislikes were very rewarding.


Some people like some things others do not.
Children hate Brussel Sprouts but love fast food.
I hate them, not children, but their choice of nutrition.
I love trout or lemon sole. Toad-in-the-hole goes down well,
but peaches and cream that is my dream.
Grow your own, or pick your own fruit is my queen.
Blackberries, mangos, raspberries and dates.
Bring me a satsuma, a pineapple or grape,
But figs I will leave alone on my plate.
But before the fruit, there comes the meat course.
With lamb cooked in water, or rib-eyed steak.
Pork chops with crackling, but beef dripping is best,
so bring me a cow. I’ll do the rest.

Christmas Past (Nov 2016)

A very seasonal theme, but with a focus on remembering the past and reflecting on the question “What was Christmas like when you were a child?”. It was a small group this week with only three members (Doreen, Olive and Joan), but they all contributed. What is interesting is that rather than just a straightforward description, they were eager to express the feelings they had as children. They remembered and related to the feelings of boredom, jealousy, excitement and feeling thrilled by the prospect of Christmas. They expressed these child-centred feelings with great warmth and fondness. Christmases as an adult would never be the same.

The Present Past
A china-faced doll with moving eyes,
A second-hand bike blocks on the pedals so I could reach.
A new watch strap, comic books, Desperate Dan, Huckleberry Fin
But all I wanted was a teddy bear – I make up for it now.

The Games Past
Card games – crib, patience and snap.
Bored with board games
After dinner losing at draughts, Ludo and snakes and ladders
I sit under the table sulking.
How I long for blind man’s bluff and kiss chase.

Pass the Past Food
Plucking chickens, skinning rabbits and making Christmas pud.
Stir and make a wish, throw in a Joey – a thruppeny bit.
I hope I find it later.
Early December Mother makes the cake covered with marzipan.
Later mince pies, sausage rolls and trifle while I am tasting nothing more than glue.
As I make the paper chains.

Christmas Past
Iffley Village – picking holly and ivy and looking for mistletoe to hang over the picture frames,
Coal fires making the living room live with colour and warmth.
Waking up in the middle of the night.
Sleep or Father Christmas will not come.
In the morning, has he been?
Yes, looking in my stocking it was not a dream.
An orange, an apple, a tangerine tell me so.
But where are those golden chocolate coins?

Autumn Memories (October 2016)

There was no real topic for this week, as it was unclear who was going to be there and whether, indeed, the meeting would go ahead.

Outside there were just the first signs of autumn a few horse chestnuts leaves were settling in the courtyard and it was the first time that everyone felt that summer was over and Autumn was beginning.

The chat turned to Autumn and the poem we wrote last year, so we decided to try to write another, but this time comparing now and them. A really interesting discussion began and some of the members painted a really vivid picture of Autumn and winter of their youth.


Autumn now brings earlier nights and colder days.
Leaves are falling,
but as the heating system starts to rumble, my mind turns to earlier ways.

Mr Irons selling candles and paraffin from his cart.
And if he was missed then off to the shop –
the blue or pink smelly liquid decanted into a can. Trimming the wick was an art.

Anthracite, compressed coal Ovites, logs and coke all provided me with warmth,
and my room with a glow.
First footing and Tom the pie-eyed milkman at Christmas time. Memories that make me smile as I turn up my central heating dial.

Blind Man’s Bluff (Sept. 2016)

This poem centres on street games. The discussion started by drawing up a list of games that were played as children. The list itself was rather functional and seems to give very little in the way of establishing a “feel” of the times. More effective was encouraging the group to paint a verbal picture of the streets that they played in. This was much more successful and as the discussion continued, so did the imagery and vocabulary. For them (and I include my own memories in this), the streets were empty except for the children. No cars, few adults and just the imagination of children turning plain asphalt into seas, castles or deserts. Indeed, a playground for every child.


Rounders, cricket, tic-tac-toe.
Children on the street!
Whipping top and blind man’s bluff.
Hand-me-down clothes always too big.
Holes in my trousers, shoes and hats,
I looked like Granny Green.

Conkers, marbles, running free.

Front doors open, tea and cakes.
Knock-down ginger, rolling in the grass.
Happy then, but not so now!
Apple scrumping, playing until dark.
Policemen on the street, if we were naughty,

God help you.

Backbeat to my Life (July 2016)

At a previous meeting, we had talked a little about music and so returned to it for this session. The conversation picked out various performers and examples of tunes were played. To do this a streaming music service was used (e.g.  Apple Music or Spotify), which meant that suggestions could be selected, downloaded and played as they were requested.

Not only “What music?” was asked, but also “Where was it heard?”, “What was it played on?”, “What was the context?”, “Why do you like music?”, “What does it do for you”. These questions were used just to challenge, encourage and probe. They were not used sequentially but used to open-up the conversation when appropriate.


There was no music on a Sunday,
Believe me, the day it dragged –
just like the torn-up newspaper, hanging in the loo.
Silence was never golden.
With music, we are not alone.

We did not need a “ghetto blaster”
Just a wireless and a gramophone.
Louis Armstrong, Joe Loss and Alfie Bowlly
carried us, our lives, our hopes,
our dreams and all our loves along.

We enjoyed a live performance.
Goodness me, the Town Hall rocked
But now: I love Daniel O’Donnell
He gives my heart a shock.

So thank you!
All you artists – you provide a backbeat to my life
Shirley Bassey, you are gorgeous.
I wish you were my wife.

I would not dare to give you advice (July 2016)

The stimulus for this session was the words of advice written by Mary Schmich in 1997.

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young“, commonly known by the title “Wear Sunscreen“,[1] is an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by columnist Mary Schmich, originally published in June 1997 in the Chicago Tribune.“

It was set to music by Baz Luhrmann in 1998 on his album Something for Everybody YouTube:

The words were printed out and handed out to the group and the YouTube clip was played. The context was “advice to be given to the young”; the question was “what advice do you wish that you had been given?”.

This led to an interesting discussion – the main points of which were added to a flip chart and then these points were reordered into the poem below.

On reflection, although it worked well, the clip was rather too long and I had to take back the printed lyrics early on since the group members were looking for answers in them, rather than from their own experience. Indeed, once this happened the conversation was much more personalised and open.


I would not dare to give you advice
Get to know your friends,
you get back the love you give.
Look after people,
you can only do this if you look after yourself,
Make sure your hearing aid works (even if you have a sore ear), get the doctor on to it.
You can’t start something then walk away:
Don’t “but” just do.
Even if you are not always on the same wavelength it does not matter,
Listen to what they say.
Be lucky.
Do your homework and don’t go to bed in a temper.
One thing always leads to another.

I Remember it Well (June 2016)

This session was introduced by reading I Remember it Well as sung by Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold from the film Gigi. In the duet Maurice list a series of memories and Hermione corrects him (rather impatiently) throughout; that is until the last verse.

He says
“Am I getting old?”

Her answer is tender and caring and full of love,

“Oh no, not you
How strong you were
How young and gay
A prince of love
In every way”

As befits his character he answers

“Ah, yes, I remember it well”.

This was the start of our discussion, but soon the poem took a life of its own. The first line was spoken as a joke, but it made a brilliant start. The next line was in the same vein. The rest just flowed.

The poem is quite short, but the memories and discussions which arose were very honest and open. Everyone reflected on life and experience.

There were seven members in the group today and each one took part either through contributing lines or stimulating others by their conversation.

The final poem is very different from what I thought would be created. As usual, the group surprised and delighted me and themselves.


I remember it well, but then Dearie, you are so much older than me.
I still love you and you are getting ugly, but I remember you well.
So many partners, I don’t remember them all, except you – I remember you so well.
Montego Bay, I remember it well. The car trip, the journey – so long.
My joy at finding you’re queer. I remember it well
No, I am not sleeping or dreaming, I was there and I remember it well.
I travelled for love, a love which remains. Oh, how I love you – I remember you well.