When I was in Wales a week back, I was lucky enough to secure an invitation to join the Barmouth U3A writers for their fortnightly meeting. Claudia and I set off on the train, a ten minute journey skirting the sea and crossing the Mawddach Estuary to the little town of Barmouth.
We had a great time hosted by this generous and sparky group of some twenty writers, who provided the most delicious lunch, wine, and had a complete programme organised for the afternoon. We all read our work, and it was terrific to listen to so much creativity pouring out! From poetry and doggerel to writing for children, from short stories and flash fiction to memoir and travelogue, this group celebrated everything, and really loved doing what they do. Their enthusiasm was catching!
One of their number, Mary Howell, was on the point of leaving for England for the prizegiving of the Jane Austen Short Story Award where her entry had been selected for publication in the prizewining anthology.
Claudia did her first public reading to great applause. I read 'Closed Doors' a short story composed of flash pieces, to show what flash can do.
Barmouth U3A do not just write- oh no. They have formed their own publishng house, Round House Publishing which to date has published an anthology of the group's work, and a memoir from one of their number, Richard Paramor.
Some of the poems made me smile if not laugh out loud, and the writers, Evelyn Richardson, Edward Penney and Maggi West were kind enough to send theirs to me for the blog and I am delighted to share them with you. So here they are!
Evelyn prefaces hers with a short introduction.
A little introduction :I looked up the word flibbertigibbet and found footling and the two together amused me and set my mind in motion. Perhaps it provides a different take on how a pensioner of almost 70 years can still be a bit of a dreamer and even change their approach to life, and still have a bit of a devil lurking inside! Evelyn Richardson
I want to be a flibbertigibbet, I want to footle around.
Jump, run and skip and giggle, take both feet off the ground
To cartwheel in the sand and to frolic in the rolling surf.
In fact almost anything that gives rise to an explosion of mirth.
To count all the stars and sing to the moon
Go to bed very late and not rise till past noon.
I want to conga in Dolgellau, do the cancan in Eldon Square,
Rock and roll on the Merion with a daisy chain in my hair.
Start belly dancing in Bala, play tennis in the nude
Although maybe not the latter, as it sounds extremely rude.
To giggle and wriggle like a silly young girl
Wear unsuitable shoes with skirts I can twirl.
I have lived all my life being sensible, wise and quite caring
That still is the case but occasionally I’ll be just a little more daring
As for growing old gracefully well I don’t want to sound churlish
I don’t want to be graceful I’d much rather be girlish.
Embarrass my children by my shocking demeanour
Live in a house which could be infinitely cleaner.
I want to mangle the metre and wreck up the rhyme.
Tho’ some of you here may say “you’re already doing quite fine”
So come on you flibbertigibbets and footlers all
I hope that you will heed this clarion call
The very first flibbertigibbet’s club I wish to proclaim
A new political party with fun its main aim.
So if when out walking in these hills which abound
And you happen to hear a loud laughing sound.
Don’t worry, don’t scurry, you can be sure you have found
Evelyn and her flibbertigibbetty friends and they’re probably just footling around.
CIRCLE by Edward Penney
Is life so spherically convex
Its tangents are of strife and sex?
No straight lines here and no right angles,
A circuitous route that destiny dangles.
The circle opens at conception
Just womb and warmth, its fate’s deception……
If we knew the hassle of what life’s about
We’d have stayed in there and not come out.
When small you learn at first to crawl
That hard things hurt, you start to bawl,
And stressed out mother starts to blub
And brassed off Dad goes down the pub.
Are Mums and Dads a child’s first curse…
Or not to have them… is that worse?
And Grans you kiss reluctantly
Who faintly smell of mints and wee.
And then you’re faced with life at school
In English a past imperfect fool,
And what is trigger-nometry?
A hitman’s training? Yeah, could be.
The bully boy whose name is Bates…
Nickname Master, has no mates…
But you know he’s got it in for you
With his knee in your crutch and your head down the loo.
Then there’s the girl in the class above
Miss Lovelylegs…it must be love…
You dream, you lust, you fantasise…
Of blonde hair, pert breasts………and those thighs.
If truth be told you’ve got no hope,
To her you’re just any old Joe Soap,
Her boyfriends got a car…he’s rich……
He’s a tosser and she’s a bitch.
You drift into an office job,
It’s better to earn an honest bob……
Your Dad tells you, of course he’s right……
But he’s not blessed with second sight.
You’re a wannabe idol, a fledgling rock star,
Ambition burns, there’s a reality bar……
An axeman, a god, a true aesthete……
With Miss Lovelylegs swooning at your feet.
Of course it’s just a dream like life,
You settle down and find a wife
And have two kids, a girl and boy
Who soon become your pride and joy.
And the circle closes, like your Dad
You’re down the pub when things are bad.
You tell your mates that life is fine
As your wife at home pours yet more wine.
Your dreams on hold for another year
You’ll make it yet, no doubt or fear.
Never stop hoping, that’s what Dad said…
Now there’s no hope ‘cause now he’s dead.
You love them all, your family…
Your wife’s the star, that’s plain to see.
Your dreams fade to obscurity
Now your mother smells of mints and wee.
With Apologies to Roger McGough
By Maggi West
I have outlived my youthfulness
An Elder I will be
I no longer need to scintillate
Or even sin till ten past three
I don’t need to find a mate
I’m happy to be me
Most of my life I’ve fitted in
I wanted to keep the peace
Now I’m growing a second skin
I’m wearing it like a fleece
I’m happy to create a stink
I just don’t care what people think
Don’t mind if I’m thought risible
I refuse to be invisible
If we’d no cash we did without
No plastic cards to use
There was no need to scream and shout
No overwhelming need to booze
I’ve been called a ‘stupid old cow’
By a yob in a tin box on wheels
Because he had to use his brakes
And didn’t like the squeals
I was on a pedestrian crossing
He was trying to beat the lights
No wonder there’s so much tension
No wonder there are so many fights
When I was a child
We respected the old
Now it’s all turned around
And we’re out in the cold
Treated with condescension
Expected to be tame
I object to all and sundry
Using my Christian name
Yes I have outlived my youthfulness
An Elder now they see
I intend to make my presence felt
Show I’m not a non-entity
Ha! They still make me smile. Thank you Evelyn, Edward and Maggi, and thank you to all the writers of barmouth U3A for their kindness and generosity. I hope we keep in touch!