A hundred miles to Bletchley Park
as the weather whips up a storm.
My precious cargo: Dad
a frail veteran braced to perform.
Windscreen wipers squelch a beat
as I drive through the gate
only to be brought to a halt
by an SS officer conjuring up hate.
Stern faces encased in helmets
brandish machine guns and Lugers.
Why is the German Army camped
at the secret lair of code-breakers?
Body language screams “You shall not pass”.
They force a slow, wet shuffle
through puddles; tough for an old
soldier unable to move at the double.
Bedraggled, Dad collects his thoughts
shaking inside the meeting room
as his Parkinson’s disease gets
worse in the gathering gloom.
Did Dad decipher endless Morse code
beside a remote Scottish loch
only for heartless turncoats to
agitate him years later at a road block?
What a cruel joke to play
on that silver-haired conclave
of clever men who shortened the war
and defeated Hitler the knave.
Dad addresses his brothers in arms
using comedy as an antidote
to stubborn weekend Nazis.
Steady now, he strikes just the right note.
To mark Father’s Day today I wrote this poem about Dad’s close encounter with the “German Army” when he joined fellow Second World War veterans for an annual reunion at Bletchley Park, the secret lair of the code-breakers.
Rite of passage for Thomas and Harry,
held above the stone font at the church door
waiting to be doused, ripe for a party
as family gathers like a merry corps.
Oil and water mix as the twins are named;
ritual repeated countless times before
on previous generations, proclaimed
throughout the parish, added to the lore.
Two lives begat outside their mother’s womb,
now opportunity beckons for both.
Two medical miracles primed to bloom,
brothers in arms ready to plight their troth.
Thomas and Harry may you enjoy grace
and find your true place in the human race.
Last Sunday my twin nephews Thomas and Harry Foster were Christened at St James’s Church Shaftesbury, Dorset, in a ritual that goes back to ancient times. I am privileged to be Harry’s godfather and marked the happy family occasion with this sonnet.
Slip jigs and hornpipes fill a pub’s taproom
as a pure drop session steps up the pace.
Musical energy sweeps like a broom
as notes, not tied to staves, fly through the space.
Music by the people, for the people
taught to the next generation by ear
on fiddle, banjo and penny whistle.
New melodies take flight for all to hear.
These musicians are nourished by clear streams
flowing rapid and deep since ancient times
watering roots, inspiring countless dreams,
feeding a tradition with sparkling chimes.
Tankards, tunes and chat create a good craic;
once hooked by the muse, there’s no going back.
* A pub in Crossgate, Durham, that hosts a traditional music session each Monday evening. My son Dan Foster was a regular when studying folk music at Newcastle University. He returned last month when visiting England from his home in the USA. He had not played with these guys for more than two years, yet slipped into their ensemble playing seamlessly. I suppose that’s what happens when you are fluent in the language of music.
VIPs select nibbles from a tray;
armed with a press badge, pencil and notebook,
I pluck up courage to approach my prey.
His Royal Highness stops speaking to look;
he had been chatting to Sir Peter Scott,
who lost his father in an icy lair.
I’m now exposed in another tight spot;
like quarry locked in his cross-hairs, I stare.
No need to flinch, just ask him the question:
“What’s your favourite conservation scheme?”
“Myself” he says without hesitation,
confirming he holds hacks in low esteem.
The Duke was there to open Panda House;
a sportsman who bagged tiger, stag and grouse.
Working as a reporter for a news agency in early 1980s, I was sent to Godalming, Surrey, to cover the official opening of Panda House, HQ of the Worldwide Fund For Nature (WWF).