The pain surprises me.
The rain falls steadily, but it is not the cause of the pain.
The wind blows briskly, but it is not the cause of the pain.
I look around the small cemetery, one out of around 940 in France and Belgium.
It is the cause of my pain.
It contains the graves of 1262 British, 4 Canadian and 29 German soldiers and airmen.
There is no segregation by rank or nationality, and each grave is immaculately tended.
They are arranged in chronological order of death.
Think about that, just for a moment.
The peace is in sharp contrast to those bloody days 100 years ago.
The days when this part of Northern France was the world’s battlefield, bringing men from all parts of the planet to die here.
The Great War.
I almost smile at the oxymoron.
But find I cannot.
Because of the tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat.
the great war they said
was the war to end all wars
flowers grow in tears
nae bairn can contain their excitement
as the end of October draws near
each wee brain fair itches
as they think about witches
it is the scariest night of the year
aye Hallowe’en is a night of fear-filled frolics
as long as you ca’ canny
ye might see a de’il
or a bogle for real
if you keek in each impenetrably dark nook and cranny
some traditions have lasted forever and ever
some changes we find quite surprising
in the US it’s neat
to say trick or treat
but in Scotland for the past 500 years we call it guising
there’s ay laughter and games for the wee yins
with treacle scones hung on a loosely-strung string
just mind your thrapple
when dookin’ for apples
in case a wild wean wi’ a sharp-pronged fork takes a swing
everyone carves out a lacklustre lantern
we use turnips but some folk use pumpkins
we may be old fashioned
but please show compassion
and don’t confuse us with near-extinct country bumpkins
though it’s now all modern and commercialised
we aw continue to do things we’re no’ supposed tae
it’s still the nerve-numbing night
that causes face-freezing fright
when we walk wi’ all sorts of gruesome ghouls and ghastly ghosties
Hallowe’en is the annual haunt of the bogeyman
he frightens the bravest bairns out of their hat-disguised heads
he has never been seen
but does that really just mean
he is hiding patiently under your bed?
*Glossary of Terms: aye – yes ca’ canny – take care bogle – a bad thing, a spectre, a goblin keek – look ay – always thrapple – throat, windpipe dookin’ – ducking, trying to capture from a large basin or bath wean, bairn – child tae – to bogeyman – boogeyman (USA), very bad (hopefully) imaginary person
it isn’t funny being sick in the autumn
it isn’t funny being sick at any time
it isn’t fun when you suspect the bits and pieces you eject
are as close as you can get to writing rhyme
it isn’t funny when you stare into the mirror
and realise you don’t recognise your own description
when your look at life is wry and you wish that you were high
but the only drugs you have are on prescription
it isn’t funny when you’re confined to barracks
when you’re stir crazy and going off your head
you think of running wild but in fact you’re reconciled
the only place you’re going is back to bed
it isn’t funny when you should be getting better
but this nonsense drags on yet another week
your doctor’s running out of drugs to combat these wretched bugs
you don’t have a paddle and you’re still far up the creek
it isn’t funny when you waken in the morning
although it’s better than the alternative they say
but you splutter and you cough and think oh please buzz off
now you’ve got to suffer through another ghastly day
it isn’t funny when you discover that it’s Saturday
the thought of writing poetry makes you weep
you are completely uninspired and you really are dog tired
so you shrug roll over and go back to sleep