Tag Archives: hope

Lochwinnoch Platform Renfrewshire

I  mentioned some time ago (2017), that one of my poems was selected to appear at two railway stations as part of the Renfrewshire metal health festival Scotland. A few days ago, I got along to see it displayed. I hope it moved some people, or just passed a minute while they waited at the station. A fresh batch of poems will go up in May.

 

My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal – Book Review

‘…he misses the photograph of Jake and he has to close his eyes to remember it. He holds on to Big Red Bear and thinks about all the things he didn’t say to his mum. How long will it be for her to get better? When is she coming back for him? […] Will she come back? Where is she? Where is Jake?’ (My Name is Leon. p.78)

Kit_de_Waal_—_My_Name_Is_Leon

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, My Name is Leon (2016) by Kit De Waal is a heart tugging, sad yet hopeful book. Set in England the late 1970’s – early 1980’s, Leon and his baby brother Jake are living with single mother Carol.  Leon’s father is in prison and Jakes father is married and wants nothing to do with Carol or the child. Carol is terribly lonely and desperately unhappy. Struggling with deep depression, the mother’s fragile state leaves her  unable to care for her children :

Leon has begun to notice things what make his mum cry: when Jake makes a lot of noise; when she hasn’t got any money; when she comes back from the phone box; when Leon asks too many questions; and when she’s staring at Jake, (p.12).

After Carol takes to her bed, Leon, at just nine years old,  takes on the role of carer and parent. Through the eyes of this young boy, the reader watches his world fall apart, fragment by fragment.

Eventually the boys are taken into care and find solace in the home of Maureen, an experienced foster carer with a deep love for both cakes and children. Maureen is a lovable character who feels a deep affinity for Leon, even though Leon is highly suspicious of anyone in the care system, but when Jake is adopted, it is Maureen who picks up the pieces.  It is perhaps her honesty rather than her role as parent that soothes Leon in his most difficult times:

‘Now listen carefully because I want you to understand something and I don’t say this to all the children because it’s not always true but with you it’s true so you have to believe it. And when you believe it you will stop grinding your teeth […] You will be all right, Leon.’ (p.55-56).

But when Maureen is taken into hospital, Leon is left with Maureen’s sister Sylvia, a less motherly role model than Maureen but with a desire to please her sister none the less. Their relationship is strained and often uncomfortable, but soon enough Leon finds comfort in a new friend, Tufty. Tufty is a young man who looks after a plot in his father’s allotment. The man and the boy form a friendship that grows alongside the seeds that they plant in the garden, so when they both find themselves in the midst of the Birmingham riots, they naturally come together to save each other. 

This is a coming of age story unlike any other, it is not a happy ever after but hope for a child and his future. 

I love this novel, it is clearly written with believable characters and honest emotions. At the start of the novel I was concerned about the character’s point of view – a third person limited perspective from the child’s perspective – but it is cleverly done. While the reader gathers glimpses of emotions from inside Leon’s head, there is still enough distance to feel the tug of the story from the outside. It is as if the reader is holding the child’s hand and experiencing his life with him as it unfolds. Brilliantly done and brilliantly written. Go Leon. 

 

Platform

This poem was published as part of the Renfrewshire Mental health Arts Festival and is displayed in two train stations in Scotland – Langbank, and Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire.

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Platform

She stood upon the platform

She stared down the track

She counted back the hours

Since she thought he might come back

She wished upon a memory

Of when her life was true

She counted up the times

She heard him whispering ‘I love you’,

She stood alone and waited

For the seventh time that day

As the train spat out commuters

Who passed along their way

She held her old and broken heart

Afraid her love was lost

She knew she’d always feel regret

She’d grown old from the cost

But alas the lonely station

Had become her rightful home

As hope for the old lady

Stopped her being alone

Her love –  perhaps one lucky day –

On the platform she’d reclaim,

Like an old and traveled suitcase –

The man who called her name.

 

 

 

 

My World in a Ring

For Helen

It was not mine when it caught my eye,

I had never seen treasure like this before;

An opal stone set firmly in gold

Had lured me into the antique store.

 

Now it sat in a box amongst breakfast and tea,

Eight slices of toast with a message in cheese;

Toast perfectly buttered and words written neat,

Marry me?

 

Such a mighty feast adorned my table

That my brain was not quite comprehending,

The offer of marriage in edible love

And the unanswered question still pending.

 

My eyes filled with tears and the word “yes” escaped

And the ring flashed like sun and like fire,

She tenderly slipped the ring onto my finger,

For my love, I just could not deny her.

 

I mused over the jewel that now circled my finger;

Of its journey, its life and it’s past,

Who wore it before me, and who gave it up?

Was it a symbol of love that still lasts?

 

Was it owned by a lady who travelled the world,

Who read Shakespeare and Milton and Pope?

Did she write words with new inspiration?

Did the ring give her courage and hope?

 

Did she sit in a café and hold hands with her love?

Did they fill life with lobster and wine?

Did they explore foreign lands, discover by chance

The opal amongst darkened mines?

 

My ring holds the secret to questions I pose

Locked tight in six claws of rich gold,

The oval shaped opal like a world filled with fire,

And serpents and magic and wonder untold.

 

The magic consumed me as I strolled to the light,

The stone changed from fire into ocean,

Its sky filled with morning, with sunbeams

And clouds and a light show of pleasure and motion.

 

 

My gem is unique in this world, like no other,

It’s a rainbow enclosed in a stone,

Revealed to the world through endurance and skill,

It’s a lifetime of pleasure I own.

 

I wear it with pride on my left hand, fourth finger,

I imagine the gem’s sweet voice sing,

“You are unique, you are precious and have

fire in your soul, and your world will live on in this ring.”

 

©Eilidh G Clark