Do you remember sharing the single
bed in my room in Bristol? It was
not so much the sound of raindrops
falling, but rather that of water gurgling
through gutter and pipe that kept
us awake, turning to each other, rest-
lessly for comfort and dreams.
Downstairs, in our little yellow
house, the dogs are quiet. Upstairs,
rain drums its rhythms on our thin
tin roof and I cannot go to sleep.
The grass will be much too wet
to tackle and scrum: tomorrow I’ll
call around and cancel practice.
Funny how this season winds down
to its end. Tomorrow, no practice.
Then two more games, three maybe,
and a portion of my life will fade
into history. How many forty minute
periods can the human mind retain,
with wins and losses all crammed in?
A strange thing, memory. Even now
I can sing the tunes from the kiddy
shows I watched so many years ago:
Bill and Ben, The Woodentops, Andy
Pandy, Muffin, The Magic Roundabout.
Some nights, in my wildest dreams,
Mr. Plod, the Policeman, still comes
into the tv room with shiny handcuffs.
He leads me to my childhood cell,
high beneath the eaves, and I am
condemned to bed with nesting birds
rustling beneath the roof, rats and mice
scratching, half-heard waters whispering
off-beat lullabies: all oddly disturbing.
This is one of my favorite poems from the sequence of love poems I wrote for Clare back in the nineties. It recalls the persistence of memory: how all things are linked throughout our lives and how one thought triggers another. The phenomenon of rain is the starting point for a journey back to a time or times that still remain firmly embedded in the writer’s mind. Memory is indeed a strange thing. I am certain that no two people recall the same incident in exactly the same way. How could they when viewpoint and memory create such wonderful and different links?
One thing I will never forget: the rats and mice in the rafters of our bungalow in Gower. My father and grand-father built it in 1928 and my uncle was the caretaker who took loving care of it throughout his life. They did their best to keep the bungalow vermin free. But we closed it down in September and over the winter all manner of things found their way in. Those first spring nights, until the rafters were cleared again, were full of the sounds of nature’s revolution against humankind.
The other thing I remember very vividly was the lack of running water and electricity. Wood stoves, a fireplace in the dining room, an enormous cast-iron kitchen range, wood and coal burning, on which my grandmother cooked and did the baking. Then there were the cows that wandered through the bungalow field. They would be there, all night, nurtured by the bungalow’s warmth. Many’s the night I wandered out to the outdoors bathroom, the out-house, in fear of a meeting a nocturnal cow. One of my worst memories: walking barefoot through a cow-pat, warm and wet, and the moisture rising up soft and squishy between my toes. Those were the days … the stuff of which memories are made …