The Snowball

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The snow is disappearing but before it goes here is a poem I wrote in 2011. It was shortlisted in the Chapel Gallery Poetry Competition that year.

 

The Snowball

 

 

She holds the snowball

in mittened hands,

satisfied she has patted

a perfect globe.

She presses it to her lips

and gently takes a bite.

Her tongue tingles with the taste

of a thousand dendrites.

 

Bending down she pushes

the ball across the virgin snow

relishing the crunching sound it makes

as it grows and grows.

Face glowing with exertion

she tramples a twisted

path searching for only the purest snow.

 

She rests now, enshrouded

in her panting breath,

bones rattling with cold.

She gazes at the snowball

through frosted tears.

It has grown too big to hold.

 

Shirley Anne Cook

 

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My snowman

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We’ve had quite a lot of snow today.

Here is my poem about a snowman.

 

My Snowman

 

 

If

I had

a ball of snow

I’d roll it on the ground,

and watch it grow.

Then I’d make a tall snowman,

use marbles for eyes

and sticks for hands.

He’d wear designer clothes,

have a coal-button nose.

I’d feed him ice-cream on a spoon,

beneath a lace en-frosted moon.

Then I’d steal a frozen kiss,

savour tastes of crystal bliss.

And when the sun

said he had to die

I’d lick him up

til the

earth

was

dry.

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Battlefields ( Cont)

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A lot of the battlefield land may have started off flat but it was soon filled with shell holes, some thirty feet deep. Most of the biggest holes were from mines like that of Lochnagar Crater.  The trenches and dug outs have left their mark too of course.

Today you can see how changed the land is.  I wrote this poem about Verdun, it was shortlisted in the Swansea Writers poetry competiton on the war. It could apply to anywhere on the Somme.

Verdun

 

 

Walk as far as you’re allowed.

‘Interdit. Verboten. Forbidden.’

For the earth still yields

a deadly iron harvest.

 

Stop and gaze around.

You’ll see green undulating hills,

but they were not always there.

A hundred years ago this place was blasted

with explosives and millions of shells.

In their wake a desert terrain

of pockmarks and craters,

brimmed with soldiers’ shattered remains.

 

Go there today and remember,

those lush mounds shroud a living hell.

 

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Battlefield Tour ( cont) The Sunken Lane

The Sunken Lane is situated in the Beaumont Hamel area. It was a road running parallel with the front line and before July 1st was in No-Man’s-Land.  There were often miniature battles between the English and German patrols for possession of the lane.

But on July 1st advance parties of the Ist Lancashire Fusiliers made their way into the lane.  The idea being that attacking from here would cut down the distance across No-Man’s-Land. As they waited to go over they would have seen the explosion of the Hawthorne mine. Then they got the command. They leapt out of the lane and attacked across the ground to the right but were met with fierce German gunfire.

18 officers and 465 other ranks were killed, missing or wounded.joul

Battlefields Tour (cont)

We visited the South African National Memorial at Delville Wood. 229,000 South African men fought in The Great War and more than 11,000 died.

Delville Wood was sometimes known as Devil’s Wood and the fighting there was particularly ferocious. The majority of the wood was eventually taken by South African soldiers on 15th July 1916.

After the war South Africa purchased the site in 1920, and it serves as a memorial to those of that nation who fell, not just here but elsewhere.

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The grassy woodland paths still have the names given to them by the British troops and can be seen on the trench maps at the time.

 

 

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Just beyond the museum is a Hornbeam tree which is the last to survive from the pre war years. battletree

The stone says. ‘This Hornbeam is the only surviving original tree of the battles of 1916.’

 

 

Battlefields Tour 2. Lochnagar Crater

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This crater lies behind the village of la Boiselle, to the right of the main road from Albert to Bapaume. The Lochnagar mine was the largest of the seventeen mines that exploded on July 1st 1916. It has a diameter of about 300 feet and a depth of 90 feet.

After the war it was used as a rubbish tip, but Richard Dunning bought the site to make sure that a mine crater would survive as a testament to all those men who lost their lives in that place.

The crater is one of the most visited sites on the Somme, attracting around 200,000 visitors a year.

 

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It’s possible to purchase a small metal plaque memorial to commemorate the loss of a loved one in the war. These are inserted in the wooden plank path which you can see beneath my feet.

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On October 1998, whilst visiting the crater, a Mr Drage saw what he thought were the remains of a soldier sticking out of the chalk.  They were exhumed, along with the soldier’s personal items.  These included a folding cut-throat razor which was inscribed with the name George Nugent.  Private George Nugent was reburied with military honours at Ovillers Millitary cemetery on July 1st 2000 and there is a cross on the spot where he was found at the crater.

 

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Battlefields Tour

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Last week I visited the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres, with my daughter and daughter-in-law and our guide, Steve, who organises tours there. ( Discovery Battlefield Tours)

The four of us travelled in his Land Rover Discovery.

He picked us up from home, then we took the Eurotunnel over. That was a new experience for me! We reached France within half an hour.

Steve drove us down to our bed and breakfast, stopping off on the way to show us various cemeteries and places of interest.

I had studied the war at school and read about it on and off since, especially as regards my family’s part in it.  When I started researching my family tree,over 30 years ago, I discovered a great uncle, Alfred Lee, was KiA on October 29th 1917.  I later learnt, with the introduction of the internet and better access to records, that he was buried in Minty Cemetery in Belgium. I knew that one day I had to go there to pay my respects and place a poppy on his grave and to say thank you to him and all those who gave their lives in that horrendous war.

I later discovered my grandad Cook had two brothers killed fighting, their bodies were never found or identified and they are remembered on the Thiepval memorial ( Charles Albert Cook) and Menin Gate ( William Cook). I was able to visit those too.

Our bed and breakfast was in La Boiselle, in the Somme. From my room I could see the Ovilles Cemetery and on the horizon the top of the Thiepval memorial.

 

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There are 3.440 soldiers buried in the Ovillers Cemetery.  2,480 of those are unknown.

Everywhere we went in the Somme there was a cemetery. I just had not realised just how many there are.  We saw the graves of all nationalities.

We visited the Neuville Saint Vaast German Cemetery where there are 44,833 men buried.

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We went to see the Lochnagar crater where on July 1st 1916 at 7.28am the largest of the mines exploded.  It was packed with approx 27,000 kilos of ammonal. The explosion created a crater 91 metres across and 21 metres deep. It obliterated German dug outs.

Apparently the explosion was so loud it could be heard in London!

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At the Newfoundland Memorial Park we could walk through and joury9see preserved trenches.

 

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Placing a wooden cross with poppy on the grave of Great Uncle Alfred Lee, a hundred years to the day he was killed in action.

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According to the war diaries for Alfred Lee his company was working on a light railway not far from Minty Farm when he was killed.

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We stopped at the dressing stations, near Essex Farm Cemetery, where Major John McCrae worked as a doctor and where he wrote the famous poem, ‘In Flanders Fields.’

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Menin Gate. Great Uncle William Cook (Duke of Cambridge Middlesex regiment) KiA July 31st 1917 age 30.

 

 

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Thiepval Memorial.  Great Uncle Charles Cook ( 9th Battalion of Royal Sussex Regiment) KiA August 18th 1916 age 25.

We ended the tour at Ypres where we watched the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

As I walked past that gate I thought of all the men who walked past it to their death.

It does not seem right to say I ‘enjoyed’ the trip, how can one enjoy seeing so many graves of those who were killed?  I would say that I found it an interesting, sobering trip. I learnt so much.  May we never forget the sacrifice of so many.  R.I.Ppopy(1)

Haiku by Shirley Anne Cook

Cambium caskets

enshroud shell-pocked helmets:

legions of blossom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Froth ( poem shortlisted Hillingdon comp)

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Froth

I’m sitting in an Uxbridge café
drinking a latte, revelling
in the fact that I’ve filled
my loyalty card.
Next time I’ll receive
a free coffee. It matters.
I lost my job.
Lattes are my lifeline.
Each sip a shot in the arm.

I take out my note book,
perhaps I’ll have an idea
for a poem. There’s always that.
But today they’re testing the fire alarm.
A high-pitched scream
tears through my head.
‘How much longer?’ I ask the barista.
She’s puzzled. ‘There’s no alarm.’

I gaze at the bottom of my cup
and realise that what I’m hearing
is the sound of train wheels braking
though the white-frothed
tidemark of my life.

Shirley Anne Cook

Nature Walk ( Poem)

Nature Walk

 

 

Back to school.

The smell of new pencils

and black rubber-soled plimsolls.

Mrs Matts pins a poster on the wall.

‘What to look for in Autumn.’

A short talk, then we’re off to the woods.

Lee doesn’t want to wear his coat.

Mrs Matts says he must.

‘There’s a nip in the air now.’

 

We march across the field,

two by two.

The air smells of bonfires and wasped fruit.

Lee and I play football with

a rotting crab apple.

 

In the woods the sunlight filters through

the trees and bathes

everything in a copper sheen.

Acorns pop beneath my feet

and fallen leaves crackle like cornflakes.

Mrs Matts holds an acorn aloft.

‘Giant oak trees grow

from tiny seeds like this,’ she says.

Thirty pairs of eyes look up.

I gasp, I can’t see the top.

I bend down and put acorns in my pocket.

 

Billy Jones lets out a cry-

he has found a conker tree.

Everyone scrambles on the ground

prizing open the thorny pouches,

while squirrels chatter angrily

above our heads.

We walk back to school

then write about Autumn

in new exercise books.

 

At playtime Billy Jones brags

that his conker is a ‘tenner’.

I finger the acorns in my pocket

and dream of giant bean stalks.

copyright Shirley Anne Cook ( This poem won first prize Writing Magazine)

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