Tag Archives: Ray

Autumn by Robin Parker

This beautiful piece from Robin came from TCWG first online workshop, hosted by Ray Stearn. The covid lockdown has meant that we look for other ways to meet and Zoom provided the opportunity here. This came from a ten minute exercise in  a very short 40 minute workshop





Life in its fruitfulness spawns

Berries of all colours,

Fronting still green leaves.


Mellow winds strengthen and

Miserable rain begins to fall.


Autumn augurs death of summer as

Leaves turned brown flutter down,

Becoming damp mush.


Bark of tree branches becomes

Starkly visible.



I’m with him
On the lawn that he has mown with precision.
We both stand down after tending his precious rows,
Blood-red roses, always his favourite.
One special rose takes pride of place,

On a slow, sunny Sunday,
Sat in his upturned wheelbarrow,
Ploughed field of a wrinkled face
Set off by twinkling blue eyes above,
Bright as flares on a starlit night.
Woodbine entrenched in the corner of his mouth.

“when Lieutenant Smithies arrived, new to the front,
He hadn’t seen the neat lines of men
Mown down by machine gun.
He paraded on the fire step to show he had no fear,
Top of his bloody head blown apart in two minutes!”

The no-man’s land between us
Plays out a Christmas-truce football match.
I think it’s a draw.

Now he’s studying
Motorway traffic on the bridge.
“There’s been seventy four lorries this last hour alone,
That’s twenty more than yesterday,
You’d think there was a big push on.”
The blue stars turn to a piercing storm,
“Did you buy that motorbike,
Despite what I said?
Bloody dangerous things,
Kill you as soon as look at you.”

“Yes, I did.”

He sighs
“Well, I’d better get you some proper boots,
No grandson of mine
Is going to moan about
Trench foot from riding his bike.
Now, have I got to watch that
Bloody rugby today?
You know very well it’s
Wrestling on a Saturday afternoon.
What’s that Grammar School taught you?
What’s wrong with football?
If you think I’m putting up with this
Four times a year
You’ve got another think coming.”
Hostilities break out again,
An echo of his life some fifty years before.
Except these are gentle, loving skirmishes.

© Ray Stearn 2nd October 2009, revised 5th November 2015

There is a Place

There Is a Place


There is a place, one very dearly bought,
Where women tasted freedom as men fought.
Work brought liberation from domesticity,
A female charge emerged, like electricity!
More than a million women forged the workforce,
Worked the trams, worked the mills, worked the horse.
Even that most sacred, hallowed place of all,
The field where men worshipped the God, football
Saw women in daring, new-fangled shorts
Take up the game. Whilst living men shot through the ports
To fight in Belgium, France, Gallipoli, then died
In the trenches, bled. Women still cried.
Canaries behind munitions factory gates
Filled shells, faced death at half men’s hourly rates.

Then came war’s end, opportunities lost,
The death-knell of soldiers not the only cost.
For some, their life went on a brand new tack.
For many the ticking clock simply turned back,
Domestic servitude became, once more, their lives,
While husbands, maimed, put more demands on wives.
The vote came in; it’s true, if you were thirty
A small enough result from war that’s dirty.

So has one hundred years changed women’s lot?
In many ways the answer comes “It’s not!”
Wages still differ; career choice is still hard,
Yet football’s not confined to the back yard!
So is there any gain that we can name?
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

© Ray Stearn 14th August 2014