Thursday, August 09, 2018


Winter.
Non-fiction
by
John Riminton.

The European winter of 1944/5 was harsh, Icy N.E winds blew down from Eurasia bringing freezing conditions, even two rare blizzards to the German-occupied Channel Islands; boys riding heavily to school on bicycles with hose-pipe tyres faced the risk of having their red ears finger-flicked on arrival if they failed to notice the bully-boy behind them.

This 16 year old boy lived with his widowed mother in quite a large house a couple of miles west of St. Helier, Jersey. Until D-Day precious supplies had continued to come in from France including some that had enabled the Island authorities (the States) to maintain gas for cooking. However, as the Allies occupied the neighbouring Contentin Peninsula all supplies from France had stopped. In an "Unposted Letter dated Jan.1945", subsequently included in a book, "Jersey in Jail", the author, Horace Wyatt, wrote:
"The last few months of 1944.....have been a period of gathering gloom. To begin with the weather broke up early and it rained more or less every day for three months.
Since early September most of us have been hungry, increasingly cold, generally wet and never clean.... The gas mains were emptied as long ago as September. The water mains function for only two or three hour a day. The supply of current from the electric power stations has just ceased and the telephone service is to stop in a few day's time......There is no longer any ration of wood fuel. The steam laundries are closed down and hand laundries cannot work for want of soap and fuel. Personal cleanliness is out of the question".

In the boy's home his mother had brought all activity into one room, previously known as the Morning Room. Now it held both their beds and such cooking as was possible, depending on the availability of black market wood, was done on a trivet fixed to the grate of the small open fire. Fortunately the house had quite a large garden that was now dedicated to growing the staples of potatoes, onions, haricot beans and brassicas. Such wood as was publicly available was all taken by the States and allocated to district bake-houses to which households could take a dish of vegetables in the morning. There they would share the oven with many other dishes to be collected some 3-4 hours later. The problem was then to get it home while it still retained some warmth.

Our Spring dawned early in 1945 at a time when the weekly rations were:

Flour: 7 oz;(198gms) Butter: nil; Suger: Nil; Salt: nil; Meat: (adults and juveniles): 2oz; (56gms) Children: 1 oz.

The relief came in the form of Red Cross parcels, issued at about six weekly intervals to every civilian. Our summer, of course, came in May that year when we were liberated and the war ended.

Post-D-Day the German garrison, some 16,000 troops consisting now mainly of old men, broken men (back from the Russian front) and boys my age, was also cut off from all support and, as combatants, not eligible for the Red Cross parcels. Shabby, starving, disillusioned, knowing that Hitler had let them down, they could only look forward to detention camps and eventual return to their bomb-ravaged homeland.

There is no doubt that some winters are worse than others. 





Sunday, July 15, 2018


Coming Home.
Bryan Fowler
The kerosene lamp cast its golden glow through the kitchen as night came down to cover the old house on the edge of the bush. Sitting in their comfortable seats Hinewai and Tim looked at their Kuia as she stirred the bubbling pot on top of the coal range, and they took great delight in inhaling the delicious smells that emanated from it. Tim looked around the room that had been one of his special places for all of his short life; at the comfortable cupboards that contained all the good things that Kuia produced; the biscuits that always fitted well into his mouth, and the cakes that seemed to have been made exactly to his requirements. And then there were the pictures on the wall; of themselves with their Papa and Mama; of their Kuia on her wedding day, and others which told a pictorial history of their whanau. He looked at his special room for a time, and he looked at his very special Kuia who was now in the act of pushing the big stew pot to the side of the range where it could simmer in peace for a time, and he said with all of the wisdom of a six year old, “you know Kuia, you and this house are all a part of the same thing”. His Kuia smiled as she laid down her stirring spoon, and sat down in her comfortable seat beside the old range, “you know”, she said, “I have felt the same way myself, I have often been away from this place that I was born in, and my mother before me, but with one exception I have always known when I was coming back, and I was always happy about that, but let me tell you about the time when I went away from my house, and I didn’t know when if ever I was coming back”. Kuia took a sip from her cup of tea which had been sitting waiting for her on the side of the range, “it was when you great uncle Tim was born and I must have been about eight years old so it was a long time ago and my mother became very sick and went into the big hospital in town. My father was very upset, and the next thing I knew was that I was on the bus to Auckland to stay with my Aunty Kiri . Uncle and Aunty met me off the bus, and took me to their home and they looked after me very well, but they were both working at the university, and they had an old rather strict nanny to look after me when I came home from school, for you see I had to go to this big school not far away the house. It was probably quite a good school, but it was so big and the classes were so large. I didn’t have any friends, and the days seemed very long, and I so missed our little school in the valley, and all of the friends that I had there. My father rang quite often, and although my Aunty tried to appear cheerful to me I knew that things were not good, that my mother was very sick, and maybe, maybe I wouldn’t see her again. At night when I curled up in my bed, I missed my family, and my home so much, and it seemed to me that a part of me was missing, and I often cried myself to sleep under the blankets where no one could see me.
And so on it went for ever, or so it seemed to me, until one day I saw a real smile on my Aunties face as she talked to my father, and then out came the glorious news, my mother was well, and at home, and I was going home. The next day my Uncle took me to the bus and although I loved my Aunty and Uncle I felt a great joy inside me as the bus left the station. As time went on and I got closer to home, I seemed to get bigger and bigger, and more and more me, and the bus seemed to sing to me as the miles churned away under its wheels, Coming Home! Coming Home!   

Friday, June 22, 2018


Purau .

by

John Riminton.

                Conceived in volcanic violence
                I was born of fire and water,
                a softer valley between basalt cliffs
                now I am loved in times of tranquil peace.

                Lichens came first, softening my just-cooled rocks.
                Forerunners of the miracle wind-born soil
                accepting the travelled seeds of plants
                to mantle me and make a home for birds.

                I watched the first canoes exploring bays
                taking fresh water from my sparkling streams.
                Fish flax and birds - the means for human life
                to settle, rest and weave away the days.

                Violence again, this time of men.
                Wars, raids on land, slaughter of whales at sea.
                More human changes - roads homes and farms
                seeking my peace and strong protecting arms.

                What lies ahead?
                A flooded shore? Homes on my slopes?
                10,000 years from now my cliffs will still be here.
                Who will be here to share?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Rainbows


Rainbows
Rex Harrison June 2018

Kermit the Frog sings “Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?”.

It’s hardly surprising when you think about it. We are always drawn to things of beauty. We like to capture them in images, in words, in music so we can enjoy them whenever the mood takes us. But rainbows are ephemeral. They appear when conditions are right, and then are gone. So we keep singing about them to bring them to mind until we can see them again.

Rainbows are like all living things in some ways. They need both water and light if they are to appear. They need just the right amount of rain, and just the right amount of sunlight. A day of heavy rain has clouds that block out the sun and no rainbows. Too many days and living things become pale and wan. A day with no rain has no rainbows. Too many days and living things become parched.

Perhaps this is why they have become such welcome symbols in many cultures. Their appearance means there is both water and light in the world. Their appearance at the end of a storm gives hope the world will go on. And even though they fade, we know they will appear again when conditions are right.

Surprisingly enough, there are a few cultures where rainbows have darker overtones. In parts of Amazonia rainbows are seen as portents of misfortune, for example miscarriages and skin problems. Mouths are closed on sighting a rainbow to avoid disease. Perhaps the ephemeral nature of rainbows is taken as warning of the ephemeral nature of life.

A more modern usage is rainbows as a symbol of diversity, of acceptance of diversity. Although the colours are distinct, the rainbow as an entity is one. Archbishop Desmond Tutu referred to post-apartheid South Africa as a rainbow nation. The rainbow has been used to recognise diversity of gender identity.

But for most of us the rainbow is a symbol of hope for the future. I’ll leave the last word to Kermit the Frog:

Someday we'll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me










Rainbows


Rainbows
Lili Somers (June 2018)

Tears drying on wrinkled cheeks
The hint of a smile
The promise of a rainbow
He’d not wanted to leave, had clung to his independence and this old house of his like a chrysalis to a branch. But it was hardly likely he’d burst forth into new life now, spread his wings and fly. Why, these days he could barely raise himself from his chair.
And as for this wretched trembling, pretty it might well be, in small-winged things, but in these gnarled old claws, hah, they were nothing but a sight for sore eyes. Not to mention the inconvenience, so many spilt teas, looked more like incontinence.
But, his mind actually as sound as his bladder, he had to admit it was probably a darn sight more inconvenient for his daughter, having had to traipse across town to check on him, bring his dinner too. Fiona, darling girl, he often wondered what he’d done to deserve her, heart as big as an ocean-liner, she’d gather the whole world in her lap if she could.
He felt ashamed. Since Elsie died, well, ever since Malcolm ran off with their life’s savings really, he felt so shrivelled inside, he imagined his own heart resembled a walnut. He sighed, tucked his pyjamas into his overnight bag. Then he reached for the rug. Elsie had knitted it for him the winter he’d been laid low with a broken leg. She made the pattern herself, a shiny white house on the hill, a sky, 2/3rds blue, 1/3 wrought in billowing shades of grey, and, of course, boldly, the whole meaning of the piece… oh the colours.
He lifted the rug to his face, breathed. And there she was, bent low over Cindy’s mane, her hair, still wet from the rain, whipping her face as she turned, laughing, calling, ‘race you!’ He could still feel Ned’s muscles bunching beneath his calves, hear the muffled thundering of hooves, could even taste the mud flying from the horse, just metres ahead of him. Drawing level, they’d raced for the hills, for their house, not just glinting white in the sun, but sitting dead centre of the most glorious rainbow either of them had ever seen.
He breathed in deeply again, smiled; granny smith apples, the hint of lux. She was still in there, her rainbow colours too, near bright as ever. He’d held the blanket up briefly, before folding it over his arm. Apart from photos, it was all he’d kept, of her.
Els was still there in their daughter too. For when Fiona pushed open the door to the little flat she and her husband had had built on the site, he caught his breath. How was it possible? Made charming enough already, with his favourite bits and bobs, something else made him wonder if he’d finally lost his marbles. He gazed in awe. And then he saw. The sun was slanting through the window. Hanging from a chain in the centre of the glass was a large prism. What stunned him, was opposite: Arched across a bare white space of wall, orchestrated, obviously by his one and only daughter, another glorious rainbow.
Something cracked inside his chest. Bordering on pain, but exquisite and then changing, movement beneath his ribs, a flutter, the unfolding of wings, becoming a ball now, growing, exponentially, and spreading, spreading, warm and delicious as sunlight advancing across a frozen field. Inseparable from hope, he remembers this, turning, his arms already wide -
It’s love.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Two Gulls.
by

John Riminton.

Two gulls together flying very high
a span apart, intent upon their course.
Pair-bonded or companions on a flight?
small dots, identified by wing-beat and by size.

Gulls surely fly for pleasure but why so high?
far higher than the nearby hills
and out of sight of food
and why together?

We 'd share our thoughts and friendship
discuss the landscape or the track
comment on plants and birds.
and go our way.

But they?
What empathies and needs keep them together?
We only know that there exists
a realm beyond our thought
wherein they fly.




Thursday, March 15, 2018

Pets




Pets
By
John Riminton.


They looked a perfectly normal couple: mid-fortyish, Jack undistinguished, could have been athletic once but now getting plump around the middle, Meg still quite attractive but not likely to earn a second glance if one passed her in the street. She works in the local community Post Office while Jack has always worked in the urban delivery business as a driver.
They were only a few weeks short of their 25th wedding anniversary but trouble lay in the fact that Jack had never acquired any insights into Meg’s mind. An only son, followed by boys school and a male-dominated work environment, for a man of, charitably, average intelligence, the opportunities just hadn’t been there. They had no children of their own – two pregnancies both ending in miscarriages - that had left Meg with deep scars that Jack didn’t begin to understand although he did have regrets that he would never have a son to take to a Test Match. He felt that their marriage was going along routinely as marriages did, didn’t they? He accepted Meg’s company as he always had, still using the same term of endearment that he had used when they were engaged.
They had just turned off the TV after watching a programme that had not engaged either of their minds, each engrossed in their own thought. Jack reached over to stroke Meg’s arm and asked “Pet, what shall we do to celebrate our Silver Wedding?” Suddenly she angrily brushed away his hand and swung around to face him “Don’t ever call me that again. I’m not your bloody pet although I do sometime feel like a pet rabbit trapped in a bloody hutch. Don’t you understand anything? I’m not interested in who is going to knock out whom is some boxing ring or win a trophy in some dam’ ball game. There is more to life than that and I want to be free to find it for myself before it is too late. I don’t want a Silver wedding celebration - I want a divorce!”
Jack was flabbergasted. This was nonsense, absurd, where had it come from? Why now? What was different from yesterday and the day before?
Surely she was just feeling petulant.