Monday, 26 November 2012

Cabbages and Chrysanthemums

Jennospot 88  Cabbages and Chrysanthemums

Oi've got a real noice friend wot's called Ginny Rogers. Ginny writes stuff, mostly poetry, an' it's stuff wot makes yew fink, wot makes yew dream, an' often wot makes yew chuckle an' all. The ovver day Ginny showed me piece wot Oi loiked so much, Oi asked 'er wevver Oi could share it wiv yew on my blog, an' she said as 'ow Oi could. So 'ere it is, wiv greetin's from Ginny:

"On Cabbages and Chrysanthemums

The autumnal season baffles me. I revel in the red, russet and golden glory of the landscape. I squint cheerfully at the shafts of dazzling sunlight, and am gleefully surprised by the short startling showers of rain.

But - the heavy rainfall comes not as a happy surprise, nor the frosty cold and wet; ominous threat of a gliding, sliding pathway that could appear overnight, enhanced by autumnal snowfall. And then the wild wind, making stage appearance with full force.

Is this autumn or winter?

I like to believe in an autumn that heralds winter, the season when gold turns to grey, and light to darkness with smooth and gentle movement, rather than the harsh twist from soft obscurity into total gloom.

Today I dress in sandwich apparel, to insulate my body and add to my weight. I am no match for the wind. My cap flies off and I am jolted into accelerated mobility in a dervish dance. One glove, pulled over frozen fingers, falls to the ground. I remove the second to pick up the first, and sob at the sight of the two on icy earth. Fingers hurt with cold, even as I slip on wet gloves with polar hands and jam my cap on a now wintry head.

I continue on my autumn jaunt, and stop short to pay respect to a mass of orange-bordered crimson cabbages alongside tangerine and frenetic fuchsia chrysanthemums tended resolutely by someone making the most of the fleeting season. Here Autumn plays herald in tangible tone. Even as I squash tarnished leaves under my feet and raise my head to commiserate with trees in a state of undress, the riot of resilient colour brightens my path."

Oi ‘ope yew loiked that, an’ Oi ‘ope yew ‘ave an ‘appy season. By the way, it were me wot put in the picture, so don't yew go a-complainin' ter Ginny if'n it ain't ter yer taste.

Luv from Jenno.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Gang Territory

Jennospot 87  Gang Territory

Moi village o' Widdlin'ton ain't an important place, 'cept fer them wot live there, o' 'corse, wot don't mean that there ain't no visitors from toime ter toime. Any'ow, a real noice lady from Pennsylvania (wot's in the United States o' America) come by recently, an' she were kind enough ter write a piece about it, an’ even if’n she din't say nuffink about me, she did say somefink about a "Boy". Well, it jus' so 'appens that that "Boy" lives in the back o' moi place, be'ind moi chicken run, an' cripes, Oi know all about the trouble 'ee 'as wiv gangs, an' wiv 'is aunt an' all. This American lady's name is Katherine Ashe, an' she writes super novels about English 'istory, so she really knows wot she's talkin' about. Any'ow, this is wot she wrote about the "Gang Territory" in Widdlin'ton:


"World War II and the bombing of London brought about the displacement of multitudes of children. We see photos of them, wan, frightened as they’re herded onto trains bound for the safer countryside or they’re led away by the firm grip of strangers’ hands. But what happened to them after that, when they arrived at their unfamiliar destinations?

Peter St. John’s autobiographically inspired story of a boy from a destroyed London orphanage gives us an insight. An insight not only into the new hazards such children faced, but into the noble code of boyhood, a code that forbade complaining when one was abused and that produced a degree of self-reliance that would serve well in later years – provided the noble spirited little lad survived.

As in a medieval romance, the hero’s name is never revealed to the reader. We will call him Boy. Boy arrives in the rural village of Widdlington which is scant of indoor plumbing but rich in gangs of children. Every street has its own gang who guard their territory from intruders. And an intruder is any other child who does not live on that street. This of course makes life exceedingly difficult for Boy, whose aunt and guardian seems oblivious to the juvenile culture surrounding her, for she makes a habit of sending him on errands where his very life depends upon his ingenuity in getting to his goal and back home again unobserved.

There may be individuals as completely lacking in humane feeling as this aunt, so completely focused on a sense of being put upon, so resentful of a young boy, and so determined to gain every instant of advantage from the unwanted presence of a child, as to resemble a slave driver with a savage tongue in place of whip. When the aunt seems to relent at sight of the boy’s injuries one senses that self-protection, not pity, is her foremost, driving motive: fear of being discovered as the abuser she is. Why is she so cramped and mean of spirit? Seen from the viewpoint of Boy, we never learn.

But if the aunt makes his new home hellish, the principal local bully, known as Slug, turns the entire outside world into a trial of strategy for Boy as he must navigate from place to place nearly always under the threat of severe bodily harm if he loses his focus of attention for a moment. St. John sets up hazards and triumphs that make the plot predictable but that also create suspense – and a certain admiration in the reader as we know what must be coming but well drawn intervening events keep forestalling the inevitable.

Widdlington is peopled with kindly folk as well as brutes: from teachers to parents to children – mostly girls – and the local derelict known as Dummy. Many speak in dialect although, thank heaven, Boy does not. As yet another “Oi” for “I” is uttered, the words of Henry Higgins spring to mind: “Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” Walter Scott loved writing in dialects too, so St. John is in illustrious company.

The issue of bullying is as timely now as ever and St. John’s exploration of the ways in which children cope: isolatedly, determinedly, with fear and bravery, is as resonant in Gang Territory as in Huckleberry Fin, and as a salutary reminder of obtuse adult perceptions and the complexity of the world of childhood."

Katherine Ashe, author of the Montford series 14 November 2012


By the way, it's me, Jenno, wot put in the pictures of Widdlin'ton just in case yew'd loike ter see a bit o' moi village, so if'n yew don't loike 'em don't yew go a-blamin' the noice American lady. An' p'raps if’n yew'd loike a few more, yew c'd always go ter

Luv from Jenno.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


Jennospot 86  Poppies


This 'ere's a poem wot was writ by Peter St John fer Poppy Day, November 11. It's the day wot marked the endin' of the two World Wars. It's the day when we fink real special about them wot died in these two wars, and we fink about the reasons why they gave their lives: It were fer us, remember.

Let us not forget:

The Poppy Seller

Buy a poppy, lady?

A few pennies for a poppy?

Please give, just for a poppy.

Won't someone buy a poppy?

Some pennies for a poppy?

Buy a poppy, mister?

Just a poppy sir.


Poppies grow in upturned land 

Such as dug by bombshells. And

Fed by blood and bone manure

They bloom bright red. As pure

As spikes of crimson sun—

Flowers fit for everyone...

Buy a poppy, lady?


Retail poppies, up for sale.

Poppies tell a wartime tale.

Poppies peeping where none grow—

Hats, and buttonholes also—

Buttonholes instead of eyes.

Button-eyed, a whole world cries...

A few pennies for a poppy?


Buttons trimmed with petals red;

Lacquered holdfast to the dead.

Button up and cry inside.

Batten down and seek to hide.

Poppy fields were blooming there

In the smoking, stinking air...

Please give, just for a poppy.


Scarlet petals, blood-like stains;

Black dark pit of stamen grains;

Poppies waving in the breeze;

Poppies writhing into wreaths.

Opium for a suffering few;

Drugged with poppies. Poppies new...

Won't someone buy a poppy?


Black death; red death; poppy bright;

Only death can stop the sight.

Poppy bright evoking blood;

Poppy shining from the mud.

Hope, despair, gut-wrenching fear;

Fleas, disease, and tin-can cheer...

Some pennies for a poppy?


Pretty poppy pepper-pot,

Blood-red petals now forgot,

Shake out far your hard black seeds;

Poppy flowers are not weeds.

Some saw carnage; poppies there.

Shake my can, and show you care...

Buy a poppy mister?


Just a poppy, sir.

© Peter St John