The LAST post

This Blog, Parallel Oonahverse will die shortly and I don’t suppose many will mourn it. It’ll be visible for about a month. I am not sure whether I am sad to see it go or glad to see the back of it. It would cost more than I like to keep it alive but in some ways it’s like losing part of my brain. I might revitalise my old Blog. I might not. I am at a hiatus in lots of ways and about many things. Most of all I feel the need for calm and to distance myself from everything that upsets me — and that’s a lot of distance from a lot of stuff! Also I have all this writing lying about in files here and I am too distracted/busy/lazy/on FB etc to DO anything with it.

So I’ll sign off with two poems and maybe see you on the flip side.

Tai Chi Thinking

It’s all about the stuff
that we know we don’t know.
Just an observation.

See with your ears.
Listen with your eyes.
Keep your stance.

Do not react. Master.
Hold your equilibrium.
Don’t vacillate with every wind.

Even in a world where Heisenberg exists
things are no more uncertain
than they ever were.


Older times

I remember a time when
…this or that
seeming endless.

This wrinkled mirror tells a different tale.
That familiar stranger
looking back.

Too cold, too wet, too windy,
too damned tired today
seeming endless.

I remember a time when
my brain worked at a multitude of tasks
seeming endless.

This lumpy old mattress tells a different tale.
Too few years ahead, too many bones,
achy back.

Too slow, too confusing, too many words,
too many memories
looking back.

I remember a time when
time looked forward seeming endless.
But here I am in the future looking back at too little, too late?


January 2020 • on Anniversaries and letting go

60 January’s have passed and I have written about my father’s death many times: the first time in 1972, My Father (see end) most recently a reprint of ‘Lesson Unspoken’ A Fork in the Road see pg15 I sometimes wonder whether I have ever written about anything else. Of course it just feels like that because when you suffer bereavement so early in in life, that becomes who you are. Had he lived, had he come home again, had he been part of our life after Monday 11th January 1960, I would not now be the person I am. None of us would. It was an event that shaped the entire family. From that fork in the road, you go through life knowing the secret. I know a Secret

Death of the Father collected an honourary mention in the Binnacle Competition 2011
But y
ou never know what that other reality might have been. If the cosmos really is multi-dimensional and if everything that can happen does happen, it doesn’t matter: except that the pain leaves scars and the scars in some universal truth, turn into poetry.

scars in black and white
like every photograph he
ever had taken

This was Daddy more or less as I remember him. He died of a congenital heart defect aged 48. I suspect he didn’t know about it. My younger sister doesn’t remember him at all though she was the only one of us who has a photo taken with him.

I remember the day of the funeral, the woman next door had us in for her daughter’s birthday, (which it wasn’t) and it was pretty weird because the curtains were closed. You notice that kind of thing when you’re 5. So whilst the younger ones played Esme, who was 7 and nobody’s fool, pulled the curtain to one side and explained to me: It’s the funeral. Mrs Slater’s wallpaper was black with yellow roses: I’ve never forgotten that wallpaper — well how could you?!

Everyone has swallowed grief, I know. My mother more than most. She lost three baby girls, two of them in 1940, May and June (they would have been 80 this year,) and Eleanor in 1942. I wrote about them too in The Bridge Between in Gyroscope Review and about her grief after the loss of our dad in A Room for Living.

My sister sent me some of my ‘old hankies’ at Christmas. They used to be given as gifts years ago before tissues became the norm and the world so wasteful. Yet somehow these never got used. Most of them were mine. One or two my mother’s. One I bought in Rothsay when I was 12. They are vintage now of course, all more than fifty years old. Esme thought I should use them. What should I use them for? I wouldn’t like to blow my nose or sneeze into heirlooms. I wouldn’t want to use them for tears. I am hoping to put them to some better use.  I happen to have a friend who also lost a baby girl to heart problems in January. We’re going to try and get them made into a child’s quilt to raise some money for the Children’s Heart Foundation to help other sick babies. I am sure my parents would both have liked that idea and my sister, having worked as a midwife all her life will surely approve too.

In August Noel and I will celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary. I am not sure in what manner we will celebrate it. Maybe we’ll manage a holiday of some kind. It’s quite an achievement to stay together all this time and we’re lucky too that we still enjoy each other’s company. It’s a fine thing to grow old together. In fact it’s a fine thing to grow old at all. Time to let go.

My Father was written when I was 18 and first published in my school magazine, The Braid. It’s a bit angst ridden and teenage but it is what it is, as I am who I am.

I remember a man who used to live
at our house when I was a child;
a smallish man who used to wear
blue overalls with silver buttons
that I would twiddle when he nursed me;
a putty smelling man with oily hands
strong and gentle.

He used to call me
his girl when
I sat on his knee at dinner time each day
and I would kiss his cheek because
I liked him.

He took me to school each morning on his bike;
trousers held firmly to his legs with large black clips,
a tweed cap on his head.
He smelt of linseed, solder, copper pipes.

Each Sunday we all went with him
to church,
eating our way through sermons, hymns and prayers
with large white sweets
which were his favourites.

And then there were the walks;
the long cool walks on summer evenings
or in early spring –
I forget when.

Time dims the memories that remain,
just as it dimmed the loneliness and pain
felt by a child
too young to understand.

There’s no place now for sentiment or tears.
I’ve no tears left to shed.


A Room for the Living and The Photograph were published together in The Shine Journal and you can read them there still where they shine out white against black –but I’ve put them here too just for preservation — though nothing last forever. They are two of my favourite poems. Hope you like them too.

The Photograph (for Christine)

She didn’t remember her father
that day,
spade in hand,
demonstrating the best way
to fill a bucket with sand.

Hands on her waist, she looks
Why didn’t he just go
away. As if she didn’t know
how to play.

She didn’t know
it was the last thing
he would ever teach
her, here
on this monochrome beach.


A Room for the Living

A dry,
rasping sound.

My mother on her knees
at the hearth
as if at prayer,
the last of the hot ash down
through grate slats;

constantly coughs
breathing fine grey dust,
covered in grey dust,
covered in grey dust.

The hearth is thick with it.

The bright brass fender,
covered will not
suffer this

The Mayflower shines
on the fire screen
on the long handled
companion set.

Silverfish slither away.

Mother uses
an old blackened shovel

before Daddy’s ship
in a bottle,
forever frozen
on a blue wooden sea;

before the Rock of Ages
where rich and poor
seek salvation from the storm
and losing all,
are saved.

On grey wallpaper scenes;
an old stone cottage,
a well,
a path,
a few geese,
over and over again
as if that prayer
this country girl
out of town,
Mother draws pussycats
thinking about

My mother is good at
cross words.

She rises;
goes to dump the ashes on the garden and
I wait for her to come back,

to tell her….

certainly not for tears

Not for tears.

December • Christmas round the corner

In Belsay they have a light show in the gardens. It’s called Enchanted Belsay. I was there last weekend — but not for the light show.  We went during the day and the night-time magic looks a bit tacky in a daylight. It’s like the discarded wrapping paper after all the gifts have been opened. But for me Belsay is always enchanted. It’s is an enchantment of shared memories with and of  people I love: an enchantment of knowing the trees and how they will soon blossom. And Winter has her own agenda with regard to light. It slants in at angles and gilds everything it touches. It whispers a golden promise of renewal, wrapped in frosty breath.

Meanwhile, our little bungalow this time of year can be quite dark and so I do my best to have a few bright corners to cheer the place up, fully aware that as real light returns on Christmas morning, as it becomes a little noticeably lighter, they too will look a bit tacky and I will end up taking them down as soon as the festivities are over. All my decorations are years old. Every year they have done their usual job of making mid-Winter less s a d.

We have almost reached the Winter Solstice now and that means for many that the worst is over, the darkness is almost past and the year’s turning has come. However I can’t help feeling the darkness is lingering this year, and lengthening for those in our society who find themselves at the bottom of Boris Johnson’s priorities: the sick, the elderly, the poor, children with special needs, the homeless, the unemployed. I am reminded, in the works of C S Lewis and Tolkien, that one ray of light can defeat all the darkness around it and that even the smallest person can make a difference. And I am afraid for the planet. But perhaps if we stop buying stuff and change our lifestyle just a little, we can even have some positive effect.

I am going to hold that thought as we move forward into 2020. We can each bring hope on a daily basis into the world. Smile at someone. Donate to a foodbank regularly.  Reduce waste. It’s going to be an effort. I am not a natural optimist, but I am going to try to bring a little hope to someone every day, to shed a little light into the world and to carry on being part of the solution. That’s as much as anyone can do.

May you have a Happy Christmas and may 2020 be kind.

October means Hallowe’en • means Story Time

I wrote this one for my sister Esme who was a midwife and told me about a ghost who used to comfort the babies where she worked.


Just Doing Her Job

by Oonah V Joslin

I’m already worn out,” I told the ward Sister Bridget at midnight break. “Four times up them bloomin’ stairs for nothing. Just as I get to the door, the baby stops crying. I checked all the cots. Only one baby was awake and he was beaming up at me, making gurgling noises.”

Well” she said, “I never go unless they keep on crying,” said Sister. “Matron usually gets there first.”


We think she must have been Matron at one time. Dear knows when.”

What on earth do you mean?”

Did nobody tell you? The nursery is haunted.”

I nearly choked.

Oh don’t fret about it! She calms the babies down. If there’s something really needs seeing to, they keep on crying and she leaves it to us. I don’t think she can actually change nappies or anything. Sometimes babies just cry. Newborns don’t see well. They only want a bit of attention, a friendly presence. She can do that.”

So have you seen her?”

Seen? No. But I‘ve heard her singing to them and once, when a baby died, there was a very faint scent of lavender in the air by that cot. Another nurse told me she saw a figure, like a tall, grey mist, she said it was, moving slowly away, cradling something.” Sister Clarke looked far away for a moment. “We liked to think she was taking its soul to heaven. But if a baby dies – which is very rare by the way, that spritz of lavender is always in the air.” Sister smiled. “So you see there’s really nothing to worry about, Nurse Smyth. It’s just Matron – doing her job.”

Call me a worrier but I wondered exactly what her job was. I was appalled by the notion of babies being comforted by a ghost.

That was decades ago now. I went visiting there the other day. It’s a nursing home now and Bridget was sitting in a chair in what used to be the old nursery. She looked up like she recognised me for a change. “Brought you some nice flowers,” I said. “How are you today?”

These babies keep on crying.”

There aren’t any babies here now, Bridget.”

Who are you? Where’s Matron?”

Nurse Smyth. Jeanie. We worked together. Remember?”

I went to speak to the Charge. “Bridget’s very agitated.”

Yes. Babies and Matron? She’s had her medication. We hoped your visit might calm her down.”

Just then I caught a faint scent of lavender on the air and turned. Bridget’s wrinkled face was beaming in recognition but not of me. Then her expression changed and she relaxed. A gathering greyness surrounded her and I knew immediately what was happening.

Don’t worry,” I told the charge. “It’s just Matron — doing her job.”

September Staycation • A Field Too Far

1513 and King Henry VIII is in France fighting over the Pas de Calais. Now the french don’t really want Henry there and so they call in a favour on the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. Basically if the Scottish King James IV will create a diversion on his border area with England, Henry will have to divert some troops, maybe even rush home to deal with the situation and the French will win back their territory and place the Scottish King on the English throne. James complies. He rides down and takes a few of the Northern Castles, Norham, Chillingham, Berwick. He’s doing well!

But Henry isn’t stupid and he’s not quite that desperate either. He knows how to delegate. He sends the Earl of Surrey (who is quite elderly) up through England to recruit and train men along the way. Surrey succeeds getting most of his troops from Yorkshire. There are many poor farmer’s lads who’ll take the King’s shilling. He marches up and outflanks the Scots near Flodden. James has the high ground at this point but is forced down to Branxton Hill — still a good defensive position. Had James made the English bring the fight to him, things might have been different — who knows? Maybe he was already feeling a bit too pleased with his little self — what with the castles and all. Anyway he attacked. The Scottish had heavy guns but were fighting with unwieldy 18ft pikes. The English mostly fought with bill hooks. (I don’t like to think about that for too long!) The ground between was boggy and the field runs down to a brook called Pallinsburn about a mile away. At the end of the day the field and Pallinsburn was decribed as a ‘river of blood’. 14,000 souls died that day. 10 thousand were Scottish. Flodden was a field too far. It’s a sad place.

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The Bluebell Inn where we stayed is one mile downhill from Flodden — at Pallinsburn, Crookham. I didn’t like to think too much about that either. But I didn’t let it put me off my dinner!

If you want a more indoor and up to date experience of warfare, just 12 miles away in Berwick upon Tweed you will find the hone of the King’s Own Border Regiment.

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Now I’ve been to a few military museums in my time and I liked this one. It has something for everyone — good history, good tableaux, regimental silverware including a Faberge Emu egg! Uniforms old and new, weaponry, an Um Paul pipe carved in South Africa and Sooty 🙂 YEAH! I am so glad Sooty survived Burma aren’t you?! Go visit it. After that you can have lunch and walk the town walls which is a lovely thing to do and affords spectacular scenery — two castles in one shot at low tide — quite a view.

To the right on the headland, Bamburgh Castle and from there along the spit of sand that is covered twice a day by the tide, Lindisfarne Castle as seen from Berwick’s Walls.

Can’t think of a better place to Staycation.

September Staycation • Ford and Lady Waterford

Waterford is in Eire and Ford is a tiny village in Northumberland so what was Lady Waterford doing in Northumberland?

Well this tiny village has a socking great castle in its back yard (not uncommon in these parts because we have a violent history in the borders). Now don’t get too excited — you can’t actually go inside this one. These days Ford Castle is a Residential Activities Centre for school children. However Northumberland has a castle every mile or three so we can afford to give up one! It used to be the property of the Marquis of Waterford who left it to his wife, Louisa Marchioness of Waterford. He was an out and out rake — the original ‘painted the town red’ man. She was a deeply religious woman. Chalk and cheese! Nobody could work out why she married him — but she was besotted by him. After his death the Waterford estates passed to a male heir. She, being childless, had to move out, and so she came to occupy a huge and neglected castle in the small village of Ford. She found the local people living in hovels in abject poverty so Louisa took it upon herself to improve their lot. She provided houses, (the chocolate box village that is now Ford,) work, medical care and a school for the children. This is the Hall. And she spent the rest of her life decorating its walls with scenes from the Bible, in the pre raphaelite style, so that the children would always remember the stories. And she was good! There’s a short film inside the hall that tells you more, an informative guide and some very nice locally made quilting for sale. Louisa would have definitely approved of the current use of Ford Castle. She rests under an ornate stone in the local churchyard which commands incredible views of the high borderlands of Northumbria and Scotland. It’s worth the short diversion to see that! Hope you enjoy my wee slideshow. Go there. Do that.

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If you want to yomp around the countryside, there are plenty of walks around Ford and Etal and between the two villages too as well as a light railway which is FUN!. Oh Etal (3 miles away) has a castle too. I already told you about that one! ETAL

September • Staycation Northumberland • Duddo

Sometimes you just want a break but you don’t want to go far and honestly, when you live with ‘spectacular’ on your doorstep, why fly? Last September we were in Yorkshire with James. This September James is no longer with us but I know he’d have loved our choice of holiday.

Just an hour’s drive from home there were some places we wanted to revisit. It’s strange how when you’re working you don’t get round to these things. 25 years ago we went to The Duddo Stones in summer and couldn’t get across the field to see them because there was a crop. We’d also gone to the site of the Battle of Flodden Field which is not at Flodden but at Branxton. It was a bit muddy and there was no designated path, so although we saw the monument on the brow of the ridge, we didn’t go up. Now there is a proper path. Although we’d been to Berwick upon Tweed many times we’d never visited the Regimental Museum of the Borderers. We planned to go there and to walk the town walls again. Lady Waterford Hall was a place we’d never heard of until this May when we visited Etal but we didn’t get over to Ford Village so that was also on our list of things to do. Now we could of course have done these on day trips from home but that would have environmentally unfriendly and we happened to have stayed at a very nice Inn called The Bluebell, at Crookham, which is within easy distance of all these places. 12 miles to Berwick. 3 to Duddo. 4 to Ford. 1 to Branxton Hill.  It also happens to have a rather extensive menu of good food and wonderful desserts, vast breakfasts served until 9:30, a variety of ales, gins and a nice Cote du Rhone. Hardly any travelling? No dishes? Win — Win!

So let me begin with The Duddo Stones.

They are roughly 4000 yrs old and situated on a hill that commands 360 degree views yet they are not visible from the road. In fact they are quite difficult to find. The vast landscape here just swallows them as you’ll see by the slideshow, and the network of tiny roads crisscrossing North Northumberland is such that a wrong turn can take miles to correct.  But there are lots of signposts to the Stones. The only marker is a small white notice by a gate at the edge of farmland and one has to park on the grass verge. We were lucky. Two cars were already there (and their owners were on their way back — we chatted). The other thing you need to know is that it takes at least an hour to walk to the stones and back on permissive footpaths along the field margins. It took us nearly and hour and a half but we did stop a while at the stones to savour the atmosphere and we went farther down the field to see the information board. When you begin to cross the first field (there are three) you see the stones very distant on the ridge. It looks daunting! But don’t be put off. We had our sticks with us and wore sturdy shoes but it’s not a steep walk, nor a hard walk, at least when it’s dry. We  had ideal weather! The stones reward you with spectacular views and close up they are impressive and strangely beautiful. Ready?

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And then we had to walk the whole way back.

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I am glad James was able to explore some of our favourite gardens with us in April and I couldn’t help thinking this week — James would have loved the Duddo Stones. You don’t have to go very far if you travel in time. Just Dud-Do it!

The Linnet’s Wings Moon Issue • and other Places of poetry

Delighted to announce the launch of our Moon Issue with lots of good poetry, fiction and art, including a lovely Moon painting by my sister Esme. I have some ‘moon’ poems in there too and there is plenty of great writing and artwork. Thanks to everyone who entrusted their work to us. It was a pleasure to choose from so many great poems. Marie Fitzpatrick has done another fantastic job this year despite bereavements and ill health and my hat is off to her.
This issue is dedicated to Peter Gilkes.

You can read it online HERE

or BUY HERE at Amazon UK

On the Places of Poetry project Map I have pinned 4 poems. You have to go to the side at the top where there are three lines and click and put in a search for the places:

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and they will show up. I am sorry I can’t seem to do a direct link but please give them a LIKE. And do search for places you know on the map too. It’s FUN 🙂

My own recent work has been Memories of a Raindrop in BwS — Harrison Ford has not responded yet.

and two pieces in Writing in a woman’s Voice Clothes Maketh the Girl

Living a Lie which won the 39th Moon Prize

July • MoonahManiaHaHa

The header to this post is a detail from a painting by my sister Esme Kyle.

I just found out today — I won a second Moon Prize from Writing in a Woman’s Voice for my micro-story Living a Lie

Wow thanks Beate! I am now officially Over the Moon!

The Moon has played an important role in my life. I was born on a Monday, have a pale moonshiney face and a moonish name. My first favourite thing to read was The Cat and The Moon by W B Yeats. The Moon landing first caught my attention and Star Trek which came to British TV that autumn captured my imagination. I loved The Sky at Night. I’d fallen in love — with Space. My universe expanded.

July 1969.

Yes — embarrassing!

At 15 I was wearing some of the same clothes the character Janine wears in The Dish (that box-pleat brick coloured, miniskirt, the fluffy patterned jumper, the pink dress she’s got on when Glen asks her out Friday night)? Interrogative intonation seems appropriate to an Aussie film 🙂 Oh — and they didn’t look anything like that on my dumpy little self! As I said in:

Clothes Maketh the Girl

My oldest sister had a set of those very oyster-shell glass cups. She even had one of Maisie’s dresses — the flock frock? If you’ve never seen this film, do. Script, costume, music, casting, cinematography — utterly spot on! It’s also very funny! And somehow the music just takes me straight back. Still can’t resist this one!

Classical Gas.

However, on July 20th 1969 the Murphys had landed at our house The Murphys, my mother’s aunt Sarah and her two daughters, Annie and Sissy lived in Belfast but used to show up (we didn’t have a telephone in the house back then let alone one in our pocket. I think our first telephone landed in 1970.) one Sunday every July and stay for their tea. They were always welcome but there was a degree of panic involved, though mammy had always baked buns on the Saturday night and there was usually some ham about. Still, one had to be on one’s best behaviour! The food was strictly guests first. When we were little, Great Aunt Sarah used to hand out silver sixpences, bright as a full moon, in exchange for a kiss on the cheek and that offset the inconvenience of having to put on airs, but she used to call me Jimmy which I hated, because I looked so much like her son. (I did!) 😦 I think I considered it rather an imposition that they should show up on that particular day!

That day the Moon landing was paramount in my thoughts. It was exciting and ‘other’ and scary and would they get back? or would God smite them? or us? Oh, make no mistake, there was plenty of that about! I had been following all the TV coverage prior to the launch avidly. I’d even earned the nickname (one of many) Loonahr surface, I was so keen. I wonder did anyone ever just call me Oonah? Anyway…

Now for the strange bit. I don’t remember watching the actual landing! My sister assures me I did. Maybe it was the Murphy’s threw me. Maybe I was overawed. More likely it’s just my rather unique memory (lack of) playing its usual tricks. I remember the Murphys leaving and us all at the front of the house waving goodbye. Everybody went back in and I looked up and saw the the moon hanging there above the Rowan tree, already bright berried, but of course it was a different moon now, and always would be. I turned to Esme and said, as I am sure many other thousands did,
“Strange to think there are two men up there tonight.”

Song to the Moon — Dvorak

Alas I am no adventurer. I don’t even like holidays much. Hate to fly!!! Not  sure I am all that keen on taking the bus 😉 and I was never going to join Star Fleet!
I just love my own little patch of Earth and being at home. Nowt wrong wi’ that! But I am grateful to the Moon landings for extending me beyond myself and my narrow limits, to the men who did that exploration for us all and the teams and machines that continue the work today. I watch Brian Cox’s programs. He often expresses the belief in space exploration as something that gives us meaning. It does. But in the great scheme of things I believe that there is more to us than that. I think that we are, as all things seem to be, greater than the sum of our parts and that our consciousness is just passing through this fermion flow of matter. I say so in Three Pounds of Cells. which is all about consciousness. One day I hope to explore the universe from the outside ‘like a fish that knows water is wet’

March 2015 eclipse photo by Oonah

In JFK’s ‘Go to the Moon’ speech in 1960, he said:
‘new hopes for knowledge and peace lie there.’

More political bravado in that than anything, though it was a ‘world event’. But there has since been international co-operation because of the space program. Notably the ISS.
60 years on, we have real and pressing problems here on this planet, and we need to resolve them. I have followed Voyager 1 & 2, Cassini-Huygens, Juno, Pioneer, Galileo, Mariner, Opportunity into space. We can learn so much about the universe. Surely if we can do all this, we can arrest our hurtle towards destruction?
I am concerned though that after half century one sees online, yes — on this wonderful new world wide web of ours, headlines like:
‘The Chinese may get to Mars first’ OMGiddy aunt! 
Seems the human race still favours competition over co-operation, and we need co-operation above all at this juncture in history, and a renewed appreciation of all the life on Earth, microbial to whale. We must learn to live in harmony with each other and balance our numbers so that other species can survive too. I’d like to have faith in human nature but if we don’t change that key attitude, the race may be a race to our own extinction. That eclipses everything! We need leaders who will say We choose to reverse Global Warming in this decade. I see no evidence of any emerging who will do this.

Nonetheless, I am avidly watching all things Moon for the next week like I am 15 again.

I am looking forward to The Linnet’s Wings Moon Issue in which we celebrate and explore in words and artwork the legacy of that landing 50 years ago and The Moon in all her glory. We have a beautiful set of poems I think you will treasure. And The Linnet’s Wings is all part of that legacy. I’ll put up a link when we have BLASTOFF. Without the development of computer technology from that era on, none of this would exist.

In the meantime some of my Space related writings for you to enjoy:

series of 6 poems Armchair Observatory

Goodbye Cassini

Snoll and Books

Boldly Going Nowhere an homage to the writers of Star Trek.

and you can of course browse or buy: The Linnet’s Wings Book Archive