Words Down the Line

As the seasons change, we publish a free leaflet 'Words Down the Line' for you to enjoy reading or contributing to. Our editor selects poetry, prose and illustrations by local writers and artists. The leaflets disappear very quickly and we are always fascinated to hear the journeys they have taken.

Special 'Wild About Wivenhoe' Edition 
May 2017

Spring Issue 2017

Winter Issue 2017

Autumn Issue 2016 'Migration'

Children's Poetry Edition 2016

'Childhood' edition 
Spring 2016

Spring 2016
Special Haiku edition.

Winter 2015
On the subject of 'Change' with contributions from Jonathan King, David Winfield and Helen Chambers.

Special Kid's Poetry Edition -Summer 2015

Out of 233 entries to our poetry competition, Alex Toms, a local poet, picked these six as her favourite entries.

Summer 2015

This edition is about journeys, and contains work by Philippa Hawley, Heather Edwards, Bryan Thomas and Candyce Lange. Illustrations by Charmaine McKissock.    

Winter 2014

This edition includes 25 word stories by authors listed beneath the edition, and prose by Paddy Adams.


Paddy Adams
Having lived in East London (pre1965), Colchester, Chelmsford, Grays, Harlow and Colchester again, Paddy, although born in Bermondsey and abducted to Plymouth at an early age, is happy to call himself an Essex man.

Sarah Armstrong
Sarah lives with her husband and four children. She teaches creative writing for the Open University.

Sandra Muggeridge
Sandra is a "Music loving, food loving, Wivenhoe loving...energetic and enthusiastic participator of life!"

Sally Tarry
Sally is hooked on storytelling. She has had two short stories published and is following the ‘publish a novel’ dream. 

Petra McQueen
Petra is a writer and teacher, with an MA in Creative Writing. Her life-writing has appeared in The Guardian and You magazine. Her stories and poems have been widely published in the UK and abroad. She lives in Wivenhoe with her supportive family who suffer her moody silences with grace as she composes yet-to-be-written award-winning novels in her head

Clare Hawkins
Clare lives in Wivenhoe and loves historical novels – both reading and writing them.

Philippa Hawley
Philippa has lived in Wivenhoe for over 30 years and has become an active member of two local writing groups. She retired from her career as a family doctor in 2010 and has published two novels with Wivenbooks since.

Autumn 2014

This edition had the theme 'Autumn' and was illustrated by Mary Pullen Deacon.

Summer 2014

There was no theme in this edition .  Contributions were made by Jonathan King, Helen Chambers and Nicole Weller.  The leaflet was illustrated by Sue Dawes who also produces it.

Spring 2014

Our Spring edition is Nature-themed to chime in with Wild about Wivenhoe events in April and May.


Patricia Bloom is glad to be under Essex skies after long exile in the States. She  is the founder & co-ordinator of the Stanza Poetry group, MOSAIC, now based in The Minories, Colchester.  She is the author and illustrator of books for children.

Jo Gould loves living in Wivenhoe. She spends time walking, watching wildlife, getting dirty in the garden, and likes reading in the evening.
Alex Toms is a published poet. Her poem 'On Entering the Eel Catcher's Workshop' was highly commended in the 2012 Essex Poetry Festival competition. She lives in Wivenhoe with her partner and two sons.

The exquisite wildlife photographs are by Glyn Evans , Chris  Gibson and Debbie Taylor,  from Wivenhoe Watching Wildlife. WWW is a group of people who share their passion for nature, through a variety of walks, talks and vigils.  

The leaflet is designed by Charmaine McKissock


Winter 2013 

Our winter warmer edition includes a a wry comment on 'the Christmas jumper' from Hazel Humphries. Candyce Lange, Gloria Lloyd and Melissa Hursthouse contribute three beautiful poems of yearning. Here's a little more about the contributors:
Hazel Humphreys has lived in Wivenhoe for two decades and after studying philosophy and a Masters in Film Studies at Essex University and has run the town's comedy club for the last six years. An ex-pat Scouser, Hazel loves the comforting flow of both nature and language in semi-rural Essex.

Melissa Hursthouse, painter, writer, lover of all creatures great and small, writes for the sheer love of language and all that it can do.  Having previously lived in Wivenhoe, she returned 5 years ago from London after pining for the lovely 'country life'.     

Candyce Lange has been writing poetry (and fiction) since high school in Minnesota. Moved to England in 73, and now Clacton-based. A regular visitor to PoetryWivenhoe.

Gloria Lloyd is an International Organisational Development Consultant. Inspired to write prolifically after an experience whilst visiting Monet’s garden in Giverney, she has since written over 2000 poems.  Married to David, they have one Son Matthew and spend many happy hours in their holiday home in St Osyth.

The leaflet has been designed  by Charmaine McKissock.

To a Christmas Jumper (or Purls before Swine)

By Hazel Humphreys


How I love this Christmas jumper
Decked with holly bells and bumper full
Of imagery and scenery
So Christmassy and sweet.
Look there's Rudolph and a snowman
And Santa, surely no man could scorn
The mistletoe adorned charms
Of this Yuletide treat.

Even bipolar yet festive
Scandinavian detectives can't resist
Some snowflakes on their bits
It's all the rage.
I don't mean to depress
But I've read the Express
recommend we all wear jumpers
As we greet the new ice age.

If the three wise men could just bear
Gold, frankincense and knitwear
I'm sure they would, though you declare
Myrrh less embarrassing.
How these sweaters make you shiver
In disgust and your nose quiver
Every time we walk past
Primark and you see the woolly bling.

Elves and polar bears together
Under fir trees in cold weather, bring
A metaphor of peace and love for
All the human race.
It's Oh come let us adore ya
In herringboned angora
So when you unwrap this on Christmas
I can't wait to see your face!

Fondly I Remember My Dad
By Melissa Hursthouse

Fondly I remember the gentleman that was my Dad,
Kind, generous and ever so slightly mad

His fingers gently strumming his old guitar,
His flying hat in his old classic car

His trips to Scotland to catch an elusive trout,
The many hours spent digging and growing the perfect sprout

An imagination that created many a story,
We’ve all heard a drama in all its glory

Sailing boats, puppet shows and magic tricks,
All sorts of toys and dens made from wood and sticks

For the man with four children life could be hard,
He once stated “Life is one big Barclaycard!”

He loved his buildings, gates and doors,
Chairs, ceilings, stairs and floors

An architect and designer, a DIY man too,
Also quite nifty with a snooker cue

Chocolate, cheese and a large glass of red,
Father of the bride when three of us wed!

His adventurous nature, spirit and mirth,
Found him riding, silver haired in the Fistral surf

In his pocket, pencil, penknife and tape measure,
Never a man destined for a life of leisure

All of which leaves me with no doubt at all in my mind,
My Dad,
He was simply one of a kind.

You Miss Him Tonight
by Candyce Lange

And it hurts.
It’s the way the lock fell off the shed door
    when you went out to open it.
    Fell off in your hand –

    Not that he would have mended it right away –
    but it was how you swore at the inconvenience,
        then laughed at the unimportance of it.
        Picked up the broken latch
        and turned back towards the house.

Winter was kinder that night.
Spring was coming; it felt hopeful, standing outside –
    no need to rush.
    You didn’t tense.

    And it took you back, the spring wind –
    let’s face it – the wind disoriented you –
    and those daffodils trying to bloom
    for the twelfth year in a row.

And for a moment you forgot he wasn’t here,
and you went into the house to complete something.

Under The Snow
by Gloria LLoyd

And buds will come,
The promise of blooms,
In pleasant warm sun.

Under the snow,
My heart a bud,
With patient courage,
You’ll hear her thud.

And my soul,
A precious bloom,
Takes up space,
But give you room.

To stretch and grow,
Like sapling roots,
In springtime’s glory,
We’ll put forth shoots.

Under the snow,
Courage is warm,
Beating softly,
A gentle storm. 

Summer 2013

'A Gentleman Traveler Arrives at Colchester Station'

By Suzanne Dawson

Bold Boudica
Rooted to your roundabout refuge.
Let me wash woad from your weary face
And wrap silk softly through the steel ribbons of your hair.

Demonic damsel
Shield shoved against shoppers.
Let me craft you legs to lay beneath me,
Arms to arch over me and call our armistice.

Warrior war-maker
Almighty in aluminium.
Let me shear your shackles and set you free
To call your cavalry and conquer

And when you are finished,
Faceless fighter.
Find me fawning at your feet
And feast on me.

Suzanne Dawson: enjoys creative writing and for the last 10 years has been part of Mike Harwood's Wivenhoe group. She mainly writes short stories. Writing time is snatched between working in a primary school, her family and two dogs.

'A Return'

By MW Bewick

Those years – did it ever really stick
In mind, this mire of brown estuarine mud?
A trick, forgot in ideals, thick
With thought: how? why? what? should?
There was no habitat here but the past:
The sweet chestnut and bluebells of a dream
A deluge of deliberations that never last
A ferry to a riverbank unseen.
And shrill, but strong, then it called –
A greenshank slits the sky across
And light comes tumbling, lives fall in
And settle. Being here now? No loss.
No rattling rail or kicking boots brought such luck
To have come here, and gained, and stuck.

MW Bewick: journalist, writer and musician, lives in Wivenhoe. This piece comes from his ‘100 Word Fiction Series’ and the flash fiction blog Possible Fictions. www.mwbewick.wordpress.com

'My Pride Made Me a Bookend'

By Laura Kirwan

It ended the we, the us.
The rub against like trouser legs.

No pyrotechnics or alacazam.
Instead the fizz of a Sodastream .
The one in your parent’s house
That tainted drinks with the licked
Rock of carbonation.

Left with the taste of an old penny
Mulled and mulled. Sucked and sucked
Until the metal was neutral.
The tongue slugged with blood.
Hot with disappointment.

I sat on my hands for weeks.
Then folded us down like a packing box.
Put us somewhere dusty.
I owe you an apology.
My pride made me a bookend.

Laura Kirwan: writes poetry, short stories, and is working on a novel. When stuck for ideas she loves to eat cake, or go for walks in Wivenhoe Woods.

'What is Red?'

By Lillie-May Crane

Red is a jolly feeling inside you
So I’m jolly today.
Red is for laughter
At lots of funny faces.
Red is a sunset
Of lovely romance.
Red is a heart thumping
Deep in your chest.
Red is a lovely heart.
Red is a lovely rose
In people’s baskets.
Red is the hot sun
If you dare to feel it, it will be so hot you will burn.
Red is lovely red flowers
Blooming up.
Red is a happy feeling
So, so happy that you will burst.
Red is feeling so angry
You’ve forgotten what was bugging you.
Red is a juicy strawberry drink.
Red bursting firework
Sparkly ones.
Red is a drum
Thumping really hard.
Red is Mars,
The reddest Planet in the Universe.

Lillie-May Crane is 8 years old. Her favourite subject is English, and she writes for fun. Her hobbies are dancing, trampolining and playing football. She also likes running and skipping.

'You Asked Me for a Poem'

By Jo Gould

You asked me for a poem,

and said an old one would do.

Well I didn’t have an old one,

so I’ll try for something new.

An arrangement of words on paper.

What form shall I choose?

There’s many ways that it could go,

and conventions to abuse.

A pentameter is persuasive.

Shall I pursue a persistent rhyme,

to emphasize the meaning,

if I had the skill or time.

Yes, a sonnet is so special,

but a haiku is really nice.

A pebble dropped in water,

so perfect and precise.

I lack the discipline for counting,

lets meander in modern prose.

So some lines linger on and on, and really not scan,

to keep you on your toes.

But this is just a piece of nonsense

from the chatter in my head.

And the excuse for subject matter?

“How about a poem?” you said.

Jo Gould: loves living in Wivenhoe. She spends time walking, watching wildlife, getting dirty in the garden, and painting. She likes reading in the evening.



'Rail Tales' by Colin Andrews


When I worked on steam trains, one of my jobs was as a fireman, shovelling coal into the firebox to power the engine. Our stopping goods train would visit various sidings, picking up or dropping off all kinds of goods, including potatoes, cattle, grain, and all the produce of the countryside. We'd leave empty waggons or pick up full ones at small country stations, or sidings. As it was a leisurely procedure, sometimes we got waved down for "a favour". One time, some platelayers working on the line waved us down, and asked if we would drop off some coal from our tender at their cabin. So we chugged along till we reached their hut.

My driver was a mischievous man, who thought he'd have a laugh at their expense, so this was what we did. He got down from the engine, and asked me to pass the coal down to him, which was all in large lumps, about half hundredweight size. So I proceeded to pass the coal down to him, but didn't realise he was stacking it all round the platelayers cabin, so that it, being a small place, was surrounded by a wall of coal. As a result, the poor platelayers would have to dismantle it before they could get into their cabin. 

When we passed the platelayers the following day, they were very ungrateful, shaking their fists at us and using very bad language.Another time, I remember when a fellow fireman decided to give his missus a "surprise present" of coal, fresh from the track. As it happens, the day in question was a "washday Monday". His cottage was provided by the railway company, and lay at the bottom of an embankment. As the maximum speed was 20 miles an hour around this railway curve, it allowed him to select a large piece of coal, and place it on the footplate. When the moment was right he would then give it a shove, and it would tumble slowly down his back garden.

Unfortunately, it picked up more pace than he'd intended, and this large chunk of coal somersaulted down, flattening a clothes-pole on its way. Sadly, things got worse as the full line of fresh washing tumbled into the mud as a result. Worse still, he saw his wife standing at the back door, shaking her fist at him, as she realised how much extra work he'd caused her. The poor chap was so terrified that he delayed going home for hours, as he knew what his reception would be.

Colin Andrews: 'My wife Fay and I are from Norfolk. I moved to Wivenhoe in 1967, working as an engine driver based in London, operating out of Kings Cross and Charing Cross. In 1978 I left the railway & took over the licence of the ‘Station’ pub for over six years. I enjoy cycling, Formula 1 and helping our great community.'

Geoffrey King 

Geoffrey King kindly presented this extract from a book in his possession of Great Eastern Railway Staff timetables for 1863. The extension from Hythe was opened after the May timetable had been printed, so June was the first time that Wivenhoe appeared.

A Late Arrival 

by Stephen Beattie

He stands under the station clock
bow-tied and bowler hatted,
moustache as precise as a painting.
The carnation in the left lapel lightens
demob drab of his suit.

Travellers tide against him;
some cocoon him from sight -
others veer away without realising
he’s there. Amid the cacophony
of tannoy announcements,
mobile phones and studied indifference
he remains a calm constant.

The train arrives.

She is the last person to alight,
still beautiful despite her years.
She rests against her cane,
eyes seeking him out but never quite
connecting; she recalls symmetrical
rows of white crosses and that mortal wound,
a single red carnation.

He’s no longer there as she passes
under the clock, but there’s no sadness.
The time of waiting is almost done.

Stephen Beattie wrote nothing until he enrolled on a poetry course at his local college, suddenly all those random thoughts floating through his mind began to make sense.


 Spring 2013

Day Out In Cambridge

by Lelia Ferro

On a beautiful autumn day in Cambridge,
Golden bricks against a teal sky,
I gave you all my wishes for your future.

I pictured you in a gown, flush faced,
While a scholar played the piano loudly in a nearby chapel.

I moved to Cambridge to be near to you,
You passed all your exams just like I knew you would.

In the car on the way home,
The distant shattering of Sunday bells -
Who would have thought it would be your last toll?

A blood-stained stream carried you away to the woods,
A cluster of white cyclamen flowers,
The crows gathered excitedly above the ancient oaks at Mistley.

You did leave something behind -
A strong call to another world.

To witches brooms, and black holes. 
To cold moons and bracken covered cauldrons. 
To rage, to loneliness, to love.

Lelia Ferro: is a journalist and website manager who lives in Wivenhoe. When she’s not reading Words Down The Line on the daily commute to London, she’s busy on the allotment, cooking Italian food, or exploring the surrounding countryside


Night Walk

By Phil Cohen

Look there, she said,
A giant has blown a smoke ring
In the sky, a halo
For the harvest moon.
I earthed her gaze to mine,
Down to a lunar landscape nearer home:
Fields phosphorous with pebbles
From another shore,
Cows steaming in the cold night air.
Hidden in woods
Pheasants go off like firecrackers
As we walk on, not speaking,
Seeking the missing element
To make the circuit of our walk

Phil Cohen lives in Wivenhoe and London. Since his retirement he has spent most of his time writing. Poems have appeared in Agenda, Critical Quarterly, Soundings and Kites. A memoir Reading Room Only will be published in April. 


Water of Life

By Jeff Holland

The frost sparkled on the monuments and tombstones as I made my way through the town towards the old tree. It was a path that I’d trodden many times, but never this late at night or, to be precise, this early in the morning. It was too late for the revellers and too early for the workers and that suited me just fine.
 As the path became steeper so I looked up and could just make out the silhouette of the tree’s dead branches, trying to claw the stars from the sky.  She’d have loved this.  She’d have seen the poetry in this, but I couldn’t.
 I’d always liked the tree.  Some couples have “our tune”, some have “our place”, we had “our tree”. We’d sat beneath its boughs many times.  When it was still located on a footpath beside a farmer’s field we’d had our first tentative fumblings towards each other. Apparently, during the war, her letters to me were composed up there and, certainly, I’d come here by myself on the few occasions when we weren’t together, the most recent being after visiting her in hospital.  But she was home now.
 I came to the park gates, the farmer had sold off his field some years back and, as I expected, they were locked. Not to worry.  I’m fairly sure there’ll be a gap in the hedge somewhere.  There always used to be when we used to bring the dog up here.  That was after I retired, of course.  We’d come up here and let the dog have a run around whilst we sat under the tree and either reminisced or made plans, nothing major, just 'What shall we do on Thursday?” or ‘Shall we get fish and chips on Saturday?’  That sort of thing.
I followed the hedge along the road until it dived behind the new houses.  Then I followed them until I came to an alley between them. It was too dark to see down it but still I entered. I kept touching the fence to my left with outstretched fingers until I was level with the ends of the gardens.  Here the hedge followed the property boundaries and, as I’d suspected, the kids had made a gap in the hedge.
 I squeezed through and found myself on the edge of the park.  The old tree was visible in the moonlight, made even brighter by the frost on the grass. We’d not seen it like this before and I stopped and just gazed.  Oh, we’d seen it at night before but then it was still alive with sap coursing through its veins and dressed top to toe in greenery.
It lived with its friends and other plants in the wide open country, not hemmed in by houses in a council park. But it still looked magnificent in its gaunt, stark beauty of death, made all the more dramatic by the moonlight.  How I wished she was here to share this with me.  I just knew it would have struck a chord deep in her soul.
 I crunched off through the short, brittle grass, past the swings and slides, past the vandalised shelter and up the slope until once more I could sit with my back against its trunk, together again with an old friend; my last friend. I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out the bottle.  I had carefully chosen this one, not just because it had the most in it but also because it was one of my favourites and, very importantly, had a strong taste.  Not all single malts are like that, you know; some can even be insipid at times.  I didn’t want the taste of the pills to be the last thing I knew on my long journey.

Jeff Holland has been writing fiction for most of his adult life. He has had several short stories published in Small Press magazines. He is now retired and lives in Clacton.


Winter 2012 edition

A Christmas Trifle

By Hazel Humphreys

A recipe for all the family
 Most efficacious for one's sanity 
Survive the rigours of this Yuletide 
Take to your kitchen; hide inside.

Take a pair of golden quinces chopped 
With plums, cranberry and soursop 
Ignore demands to help from mum 
Sweeten with a drop of rum. 

Combine cinnamon, star anise and lime 
Soak in scotch and ginger wine 
As dad complains nothing's on telly 
Pour hot water on peach jelly. 

Add three quarts of co-op brandy
Pour into whatever's handy 
When your son teases your daughter 
Gently stir in the other quarter. 

Mix fruit, jelly, sugar and spices 
Whisk cream and custard in devices 
And whilst the family start to bicker 
Discard the fruit and drink the liquor.

Hazel Humphreys is an ex-pat Scouser, living in Wivenhoe for two decades. She studied Philosophy & an MA in Film Studies at Essex University. She has finally found her niche in running the town's comedy club.

At Alresford Creek

By Helen Chambers
Most people don’t bother with the disused railway spur, the finger of land pointing out into the river, indicating the confluence of the Colne and Alresford Creek. It’s a secret place; off the beaten track. My son believes it’s his personal discovery, but I came here before he was born, and my parents did before me, though they steamed over it by train. We don’t like to imagine our parents living lives before we are around.

To reach it, you turn off the main path. You need to trample nettles underfoot, battle brambles and barge through snags and scratches of oak branches – even exotic tamarisk – until finally you emerge breathless onto an unobserved and wind-blown open space; a platform of spongy grass raised up and protrud-ing beyond the shoreline. Behind you, unfurling fronds of ferns mask your route back; the vegetation has closed behind you like in a fairy tale. You stand on a tiny promontory with views in every direction: Fingringhoe Nature Reserve opposite, Mersea Island low-slung in the distance, the rusting skeletons of dis-used machinery at the quarry; and beyond, the landmark tower of Brightlingsea Church on the hill.

Desolate, yet you are not alone. In front of you, the river. Time-less. Surging and swelling, wind-whipped wavelets racing sea-wards. Strong enough to wash away the railway bridge in 1953, before Beeching axed the line anyway. Ebbing and flowing over the Roman stones at the ford. They say you can feel them with bare feet, if you squelch through the mud at low tide - like a curlew probing to find food by feel. The sky above you is wide open, somehow always brighter towards the sea, low frowning clouds in the west.

Mud. The living, breathing expanse of mud. Treacherous ooze; rich and sticky. Listen for its gentle ‘pop’. Fringed by islands of sea lavender and samphire. A lone egret is hunched on the shoreline, stooped like an elderly man, neck retracted.

Further downriver, a heron strides languorously, spreads his umbrella like wings, flaps, rises and soars. Plaintive calls echo across the water and a pair of oystercatchers purposefully fly past. Step back. Step away from the edge of the miniature cliff; or the springy turf will tumble into an avalanche of tiny pebbles and earth. How was a railway bridge ever supported here? A few corroded posts remain on either side of the river to show its former route. But the absence of tracks enables our visits here, and our pleasure in this place.

Helen Chambers is a local primary teacher, who, until recently, kept her penchant for writing for enjoyment as a big secret


By Martin Bewick
Like at night, talking at the table, and glancing outside to see the snow falling. Like forgetting and awakening; again the clear magic. Like the blackthorn’s spindle branches and grasses turned bronze and the endless white sky. And the snow that came like confetti first, and clung to the birches and the oaks, and settled like a warm robe across the woods. Like the gleeful shouts that crack the morning still, the scrape of shovels and crunch of boots. Like the water’s edge with its icy hem and the stealthy strut of a curlew. Like coffee. Like my lover’s eyes.

Martin Bewick, journalist, writer and musician, lives in Wivenhoe. This piece comes from his ‘100 Word Fiction Series’ and the flash fiction blog Possible Fictions. www.mwbewick.wordpress.com


Autumn Blackberries

By Pippa Allerton

“Some really lovely blackberries round the next corner”
Carols a passing dog walker.
I pick up my bike and pedal on
Small bag of poor pickings
Swings listlessly from my handlebars
Metronome-ing the passage of my afternoon.
I once had the pick of the crop,
Grazed where I fancied
Discarding those that might nourish, sustain,
be good for me;
Spat out the seeds
Wiping my mouth and hands free of sweetness
Moving restlessly, relentlessly onwards
Allowing diversions of career, ambition, life
To dictate what I harvested.
Now in late autumn there’s an emptiness
A yearning for comfort,
For nurture and contentment;
But pickings are sparse, wrinkled, dull
Perhaps beyond redemption.
Do I stop and gather what I can
Hesitant of investing time, energy and hope
On what is unquestionably second best,
As insurance against oncoming winter famine;
Or cycle on ?

Pippa Allerton fell under the "Wivenhoe Spell" 22 years ago. Although she has enjoyed evenings at Poetry Wivenhoe, this is her first time as a writer - apart from a school poem 45 years ago!

Autumn 2012 edition

Attention  All Kipping

By  Martin Newell


Somewhere south of South 
East Iceland
When you're drifting, half-asleep
Safe in harbour, dreaming
Faeroes, Fair Isle, counting sheep
Men in nutshells fish the deep
Cresting matterhorns of water
In the oceans of the night
Sea severe but clearing slowly
Moderate becoming slight
Dogger, Fisher, German Bight

Stornoway and Tiree warning
Hebrides and Malin Head
Storm approaching 
then receding
Backing southerly instead
On the trawler of your bed
Lightship anchored by the
Visibility is poor 

Rockall, Shannon, Fastnet, 
Radio burbling on the floor  
North Utsire, South Utsire
Plymouth, Portland and Biscay
Fathomless, you sink 
in pillows
At the closing of the day
Irish Sea and Ronaldsway
Wight and Dover, Thames
and Humber
Calling to you in your slumber.

Martin Newell  (b.1953) is a writer, poet and musician.  First published in The Guardian in 1984, he wrote regularly for The Independent  for 15 years, before taking up his current posts as resident poet for The Sunday Express, Saturday columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times and contributor to the Suffolk magazine.  

A Life in the Air

By  Pauline Rendall

No one really noticed Jennie Atherton. Most days we’d go to the reference library and she’d be there, helping us find books, shushing us when we got too noisy. I think she was quite pretty in one of those ways where you have to look hard to see it, but we didn’t. In our brash, nineteen year old way we thought we were where it was at, and someone who spent her life stamping books was somehow on a lower level. There was Ian, set to follow in his barrister father’s footsteps, Megan, clearly planning to take the media by storm and me – I was going to be the next Jean Paul Sartre.
Megan’s older sister Claire knew Jennie from Uni and brought her out with us one night. But I don’t remember her uttering more than a few words. Ian tried to flirt with her but afterwards said it was like he’d kissed the princess and she’d turned  into a frog. We thought that was hilarious.I suppose we got our come-uppance. We were none of us very brave. So when a company specialising in bungee jumping was advertising in our area, we didn't pay any attention. We did notice that a copy of the advert had appeared in the reference library. Ian pointed out a short guy who happened to be passing and said, ‘Look at him. He used to be six feet tall until he tried the jump,’ and of course, we thought that was hilarious as well.
I expect you can guess where this is going. Jennie showed the advert to Megan, and asked if any of us would be interested. ‘It’s for cancer research,’ she said. I think Megan just laughed and said she didn’t think it was our thing. And then forgot all about it, until the 9 o’clock news. I didn’t watch it myself, but Megan rang me. Apparently the local news had featured the bungee jump, and guess who they’d been interviewing! Jennie! But wait for it, this wasn’t the first time she’d done a jump. Megan said she said there was just no thrill like it, and that she hoped to continue jumping for some time to come. She was also saving up to do some free falling out of a plane!
Looking back, I’d like to say we treated Jennie with greater respect, but we didn’t. Yes, when we went in to the library next time we said ‘great stuff’ and ‘well done’. But after all, we were nineteen and pretty callow, and we soon forgot about it.
I hope Jennie got her wish and did some free-falling, but she left the University Library the following year and we never saw her again. But I suddenly remembered her because I was stamping somebody’s library book the other day and I noticed the author and title:    A Life in the Air,  by Jennie Atherton. 

Pauline Rendall has written since age 10, and had some moderate success with stories for pony-mad teenagers in her twenties – now she focuses on writing crime,. A longtime Wivenhoe resident, she has  lived in Orkney and Cornwall, where she found plenty of material.


by  Candyce Lange 

On the night of Aunt Mary’s ninetieth birthday party
after everyone had gone home
the two cousins sat out in the back yard
under California stars
and celebrated their ancestors.
It was Darren’s idea:
Darren, Mary’s son -- the small quiet one
who’d always sat at the far end of the table
because he fit around the corner --
sat now and remembered out loud their grandparents:
their grandmother’s tiny sewing machine
and their grandfather’s maroon jacket,
so smoky when he hugged them.
This was as far back as she could go:
A photograph, grainy then, faded now,
on the mantelpiece of Mary’s living room.  A wedding.  
‘Great uncle Luke,’ Darren reminded her, ‘one of our ancestors.
We know they lived and we know they died.
They worked hard so we could be here.’
Darren played his guitar for a while, old songs from the Sixties
Just about the time he moved here.
They listened to the stars moving. 
They listened to Mary sleeping.
‘Think of the generations like Russian dolls.’
She took all of this back to England with her,
thought it over walking to the post office:
They worked hard so we could be here.
One October day she washed the conservatory floor on her hands 
and knees.
She cleaned out her wardrobe and organised her sweater drawer
because winter was coming
and she had the clearest memory of her grandfather’s 
smoking jacket –
pennies in one pocket, moth balls in the other.
On Sunday she walked the Wivenhoe Trail to Colchester.
Autumn was peaking;
red leaves were drifting. 
Her ancestors looked down at her from the treetops
and wished her well on her journey
as the wind let go of summer.

Candyce Lange has been writing poetry and fiction since high school in Minnesota., moving to England in 1973, and now Clacton-based. A regular visitor to Poetry Wivenhoe.

Summer 2012 Edition


Oh to be in England in Summer 2012

By Hazel Humphreys


No-one recalled the prophecy
Warnings that were there to see
Uneasy witches, twitchy farmers
Quoting lines from Nostradamus
“No damned son of Albion
Has put a successful event on
In Summer sun; we’ve never won”
And so we boldly carried on.

Our fragrant Queen's jewelled Jubilee
Whilst wet jobseekers worked for free
 Piled high all over Battersea
Stood towers of soggy patisserie
Celebrate six decades reign
By standing cakes out in the rain.

Wisely Eavis cancelled Glastonbury
But elsewhere all festivities
Squelch on as torrents of she-pees
Float down wet scree into Teepees
Where they traumatise some hippies
Who were trying to soak their chick peas.

.The flood ran on through Wimbledon and
 In puddles punnets lay abandoned
Andy Murray always frowning
Not fist pumping, merely drowning.
Sir Cliff tries to save the day
Falls victim to a damp PA.

And at our gleaming Olympic folly
At least the locals sold some brollies
Bolt adapted to the squall Broke
 the record for front crawl
MPs stuck on sticky wickets
Mopped their brows with unsold tickets.

At long last our vaunted summer
Is autumn and our land can slumber
Our streets bedecked with branded cans
 Washed out bunting; Welsh caravans
At least it seems the party’s over,
So let’s get on with the hangover!

Hazel Humphreys has lived in Wivenhoe for two dec-ades and after studying philosophy and a Masters in Film Studies at Essex University has finally found her little niche in running the town's comedy club for the last six years. An ex-pat Scouser, Hazel loves the comforting flow of both nature and language in semi-rural Essex.

First Home

by Margaret Phelps

Tankerville Street still stands but its hinter-land of little streets has gone.
All those houses that opened onto the street and back to back formed lanes strung with lines of washing that had to be hastily retrieved when the coal cart came.
Little shops at every other corner and the alley that led to the co-op and West End cinema, a million miles away from that oth-er West End down the Great North Road.
'Keep on the flags,' my granny would say, as she sent me with a bet threepence each way to Annie, the back street bookie, 'and if you see a policeman don't go in.'
I never did see a policeman, nor did I ever see any flags.
Oh to be in England in Summer 2012

Margaret Phelps was born in West Hartlepool,. She went to school in Epsom where her school colours were Lord Rosebery's racing colours!

Retail Therapy

By Susan Allen

Shop walking
Clothes bound
Brain dead
Nought found
Shop and drop
Turn around
Eat and drink
Hunger drowned
Spending sound
Charity choices
Cleverly gowned.

Susan Allen has lived in Essex since returning to the UK from Australia in 1976. She moved to Rowhedge in 2003 and has been writing poetry since 2008 when she went on a Buddhist Retreat and re-discovered her ‘creative side’.

  June 2012

The Kingfisher

By Ruthie Brooks-Steele

By the river
In a hole
In a tree
A king is searching for fish
He is a kingfisher
He has a fish:
Yummy,  yummy.

Ruthie Brooks-Steele is 6 years old and lives in Great Bentley. She enjoys playing with her friends, making things, drawing,  and being in the garden. When she grows up, she would like to be a farmer.

Slow Down It’s Summer

by Lelia Ferro

Crack open a dream
And curl up asleep under a tree
Fold the breeze around you
Stare at the veins of a leaf from beneath
Lift the lids of a sleeping chick
Get caught in its curious and wild ways

Leave the clatter of pots and pans
Patter bare feet on lawn and beach
Turn the television into a picnic table
Turn the picnic table upside down and make it a boat

Chat freely to little insects
Money spiders sing if you speak to them nicely

Be outside for dawn or dusk
It's when our ancestors visit us

Wear ladybirds or lupins for earrings
Spin garments from sunsets and wear them to weddings

Fill a jar with shooting stars instead of money
Take bee dance classes paid for in honey

Anything is possible when it's lovely and sunny.

Lelia Ferro is a journalist and website manager who lives in Wivenhoe. When she’s not reading Words Down The Line on the daily commute to London, she’s busy on the allotment, cooking Italian food, or exploring the surrounding countryside.

The chocolate-coated spider

By Sue Dawes

John Summers tugged at the zip of his overnight bag.  It snagged as it opened, catching on cling film-wrapped sandwiches, a bottle of diet coke and a Weight Watchers Giant Fudge Bar, which his wife had packed, just in case he fancied something sweet. 
    He thought about his wife as he pulled at the zip again.  During the last three years of his redundancy, he had pushed her to the edge.  The currency of 35 years of marriage and three children was almost used up, and he had begun to feel like an unwanted ornament.  He was concerned that all that stood between him and the charity shop was his wife’s sentimentality.  Even that had a shelf-life.
    John abandoned the zip when the train stopped at Chelmsford and the doors slid open.  He remembered a time, not so long ago, when train doors had to be slammed shut, often needing to be opened from the outside via a pull-down window.  John recalled one occasion when with one leg in the carriage and one leg out, the train moved off, leaving him doing the Hokey-Cokey along the platform. 
    That wouldn’t happen now, with warning bells and automatic doors.
  John dug into his suit pocket for a sweet as the train moved off, something to unwrap, anything to put off reviewing his life in twelve point, Times New Roman.  As he sucked hard on the glacier mint, he caught his reflection in the scratched glass divider between the two carriages.  He wished that he could still register shock at seeing a fat man staring back.  His middle-age spread was like properly buttered toast, reaching all corners. When the train passed Ingatestone, John pulled a plastic-covered sheet of A4 from the front pocket of his bag.  He read: 
     ‘John Summers. 58. Married with a full clean driving license.  5 CSEs in English, Maths, Chemistry, Geography and Woodwork.  Departmental squash champion 1991-1993.’
   As his eyes glazed over his 41 years of prudent investments, John wondered what the other candidates would have to offer.  He hoped they weren’t all graduates, with full heads of hair and endless enthusiasm.
    John placed the CV on the empty seat next to him, and tugged at the zip of his bag again.  It broke open and the Giant Fudge Bar parted company with its wrapper, coating his hands in chocolate.  He took a bite.
It was a disappointment, giant only to the spider that was abseiling down the dirty window. 
  Chewing, John watched the spider as it knitted its safety rope and wondered what it would be like to only have survival to think about. No mortgage, no university fees, and no one to nag you about your high cholesterol. 
   As John pushed the last piece of fudge bar into his mouth, he supposed that everyone had a job to do, even if it was just catching flies.  And hadn’t he read somewhere that female spiders often used their mate’s as a post coital snack?

   The train jerked to a stop.  John reached out to stop the spider’s rapid descent. He opened his hand. 

   The spider lay unmoving, coated in chocolate, on his palm.

 May 2012

A Late Arrival

By Stephen Beattie

He stands under the station clock
bow-tied and bowler hatted,
moustache as precise as a painting.
The carnation in the left lapel lightens
demob drab of his suit.

Travellers tide against him;
some cocoon him from sight -
others veer away without realising
he’s there. Amid the cacophony
of tannoy announcements,
mobile phones and studied indifference,
he remains a calm constant.

The train arrives.

She is the last person to alight,
still beautiful despite her years.
She rests against her cane,
eyes seeking him out but never quite
connecting; she recalls symmetrical
rows of white crosses and that mortal wound,
a single red carnation.

He’s no longer there as she passes
under the clock, but there’s no sadness.
The time of waiting is almost done.

Stephen Beattie born in Lincolnshire in 1957, has worked on a deep sea trawler, factories and in public service. After enrolling on a poetry course in 2005,all those random thoughts floating through his mind began to make sense. His first collection, 'Treading The Helix', is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.


by Mary McQueen

Clickety-clack to Clacton-on-Sea,
The train’s coming fast down the track.
We’ve got a picnic, buckets and spades
And tickets to get there and back.

Wivenhoe station is where we get on.
The train is a National Express.
How many coaches will be on the train?
Maybe six, maybe seven… or less.

We’ll stop seven times before we alight
At the station at Clacton-on-sea
Alresford’s the first, Great Bentley the next
And Weeley is place number three.

Next comes a town with a very strange name,
(whether it’s read or it’s spoken)
Unusual and odd, not common at all.
The station is called Thorpe-le-Soken.

The fifth place we’ll stop is called Kirby Cross
Frinton-on-Sea’s the next station.
It won’t be long before we arrive
At Clacton – that’s our destination.

Out through the windows, we’ll see grassy fields,
Where cattle and sheep safely graze.
Where are we at? What station is this?
It’s Walton, the one on the Naze.

Clickety-clack at the end of the track
Is the town that is Clacton on Sea
At last we are here for a day full of fun
My brother, Granny and me.

Mary McQueen lives in the North, but visits her daughter & grandsons in the South. She reads a lot, writes a little; cooks & bakes to feed her friends, who also love her home-made cards.


By Petra McQueen

It's tempting to go out of the front door. Beyond it is a path along the River Colne, flanked by swells of reeds. Instead, I go out the backdoor into the garden.
Someone loved this place once. In a small space, fifteen metres by six, there are seven flowering bushes and an apple tree so fruitful that last autumn, after supplying family and neighbours, it produced enough cider for a barn dance. Even now, in January, in the rain, the garden is beautiful, the naked apple tree studded with rain drops. But I find it dispiriting and I’m not sure why.
Perhaps it’s because I struggle with possessions. I do not know of one object I should mourn if it were lost. Things weigh me down and the apple tree weighs most of all. Its heavy harvest demands I rearrange my life so that I can feed off its. In Norse mythology, the goddess Iounn is the keeper of apples and the granter of eternal youth. My apples make me feel old, trapped and bound. I hear within the tree’s Latin name, Malus domestica, the malevolence of domesticity. Eve ate one and was banished to the kitchen.
Later, I discover the apple tree was probably the first tree to be domesticated. My ancestors must have grafted branches, tended carefully. My tree is a Golden De-licious, its apples much tastier than shop-bought ones. The first Golden Delicious self-seeded in 1891. By 1914 it had been patented, sold worldwide. It is the poster boy of apples, civilisation’s perfect fruit.
All that is left of my harvest is a windfall of maggoty yellow fruit, a hand-pick away. I should clear them up. But I don’t. I turn, walk through the house, out of the front door. Beyond is the River Colne and beyond that, sea.
First published by Earthlines, Issue 1, May 2012.

Mary’s daughter, Petra McQueen, is a writer. and teacher She has lived all over the world, but is happiest in Wivenhoe. 

 April 2012

Crying on Lady Di’s Toilet

By Matt Linley

The first time I came to the East was for a family holiday. Catholic People’s Weeks they were called (or CPW for short). A raggle-taggle bunch of folk would descend on a deserted public school. The radical priest; the toddler who still breast fed; the sure-footed parishioner; the non- believer and the drinker – provided you paid your subs you were ‘in’.
I don’t remember much of the philosophical discussion. I do remember my youngest brother being baptised in a field, and another brother being rushed to hospital after being hit by a skimming stone, and the time I hurled myself over a pole only to find my knee meet my nose at a pace which was far from healthy. I’ve never tried demonstrating high jumping again. But there’s one memory I’ve spent years trying to hide.
I was about ten or eleven when we first arrived at Riddlesworth Hall. Even at that ear-ly age I was a fanatical cricketer: my daily missal the Observer book of cricket; the Yorkshire cricket team my litany of Saints. I’d spend hours religiously playing armchair cricket (a card game), and jockeying anyone and everyone to play Ash Grove cricket on our back road. In my mind I was Bradman, Botham and Bairstow. I was destined for great things: Headingley 81 was never far from my thoughts.
So I organised a cricket match. I found the kit, the ideal place in the grounds and con-vinced the willing and the unwilling to play. I naturally captained one of the sides: I’d have volunteered to captain both sides if I could. We won the toss and with Brearley and Boy-cott ringing in my ears I chose to bat.
Out I strode with my opening partner ready to face the might of the opposition. And they brought on ... Felicity. My eyes lit up and for one short moment I was in cricketing heaven, as I imagined despatching the ball to all cor-ners of the ground.
Play cried the priest. Felicity’s delivery was underarm, a slow, straight, timid ball. I aimed to crack it deep into cow corner. My swing was impressive, combining speed, elegance and skill. But I missed, and swung round to see it roll apologetically up to the stumps. The bails sat there for a second, as if con-templating what to do, and then fell to the ground with a thwack which appeared to re-sound all round Norfolk.
There was silence. A long pause. I think, like WG Grace before me, I was waiting to be invited to bat again. But nothing happened. I slowly turned and started the long walk back. As I reached the boundary I broke into a trot and then a run, fleeing past my team mates and into the hall itself. I stumbled into the nearest toilet, locked myself in and burst into uncontrollable tears.
It was only later, when I learnt that Riddles-worth Hall had been Lady D’s prep school, did I realise I’d spent an afternoon bawling my eyes out where once a royal bum had been.

Matt Linley is a theatre and cricket nut, who moved to Wivenhoe 3 years ago. He is general manager for Eastern Angles the region’s touring theatre company. 
http://www.matthewlinley.wordpress.com/ twitter @matthewlinley

Lines 9

by Leslie Bell

Each life one
Crying, creeping
Laughing, leaping
Losing, keeping
Working, weeping
Singing, sleeping
In the blink of an eye
So many dawns

Leslie Bell is one of three brothers, born in Scotland . He has lived in Wivenhoe since leaving London in 1978. He has been a student, a printer, a bookseller, a computer programmer, and a carer. www.lezbell.com

The Sea

By Phoebe Southgate

Wave crasher
People splasher
Bloat floater
Beach basher
Stone carrier
Seaweed snatcher
Bubble bobber
Froth maker
Coral Keeper;
Keep it cleaner !
Phoebe Southgate goes to Broomgrove School and wrote this poem at an after-school club. Her hobbies are singing and dancing, and sometimes she writes her own songs which she loves to perform to her family. When she is older, she would like to be a singer/song writer.

 March 2012

Snow Days

By Candyce Lange

But the second clean slate of a day
loomed too long. Break it up like ice,
she thought. You’ll get more done that way.
She picked up the phone,
made a cocktail-hour date
and at 5:00, put on her best boots, opened her gate.
Fell in with a good crowd: a family
pulling a sled down the middle of her road.
She laughed too.
And on her way, slid past two snow men
and one snow pig with his squashed-in nose.
The snow angel opened her door,
served ham sandwiches in front of the fire.
Spoke wise words, wide words, and listened as well.
They floated from the snowy Irish hills of childhood
to today’s gift of silence.
They swapped wicked stepmother stories,
shared hopes for the weekend, stopped short
of the future because the visitor was short on trust.
They talked about faith that night
and opened the curtains,
staring at the ice scoop of a moon
until it was safe to go home.
She took the long way, past the frozen glitter beach.
Looked forward to her white chenille bed.
Can you sing the snow?
You can and she did.

Candyce Lange has been writing poetry and fiction since high school in Minnesota. Moved to England in 73, and now Clacton-based. A regular visitor to PoetryWivenhoe


by Laura Kirwan

When the boy was asked by his mother
to put the ball down, he said no. He had
learnt the word no and the word ball. No
and ball were his universe. He did not
yet know the word mummy.
Mummy said ‘That ball is another little
boys ball, put the ball down.’
The boy felt with his stomach, he felt
with his feet, his head and the gripped
line of his mouth. He felt with the
strength of his legs still fat and creased
at the knees that he did not want to put
the ball down.
‘No,’ he said.
Mummy knelt down on the concrete and
putting a hand on each of his shoulders
she looked into his eyes. In them she
saw; the ball; the no; the universe.
Mummy said nothing.
‘Ball.’ said the boy.

Laura Kirwan writes poetry, short stories, and is now working on a novel. When stuck for ideas she loves to eat cake or go for walks in Wivenhoe bluebell woods.

Liverpool Street to Wivenhoe

By Philippa Hawley

In our compartment were four men.
Opposite: middle aged and balding,
smart beige leather jacket, brown cords.
Polished shoes.

Next to me bearded, grubby blue fleece,
reading a paperback.
Muddy trainers.

Across the aisle he’s fat, in an ill fitting suit,
speaking loudly into his phone.
Dusty shoes.

Opposite him a silver fox, sharp business suit,
working hard at his laptop.
Shiny shoes.

A straggle haired student joined us,
plugged in his ipod, back-pack slung on floor;
closed his eyes.
Converse shoes.

Sleeping man in the booth behind,
trumpeted an enormous snore.
Shoes on the seat.

We pretended we hadn’t heard
Till the man opposite sniggered, smiled at me:
Did I tell you he was my husband

Philippa Hawley enjoys having more time for reading, writing, and involvement with local activities, as a result of early retirement. She makes full use of her Network card, with train trips to London’s exhibitions, galleries and shows.

January 2012

Retracing Tracks

By Sylvia Sellars

In 1982 I lived in a miserable flat in Walton, a two bar electric fire, threadbare carpet, no bathroom, shared toilet, minimalist ‘kitchen’, so perhaps you can imagine how heart warming it was to walk into the waiting room at Walton Railway Station and see a roaring coal fire in the grate on a freezing winter’s morning. Waiting for the train was quite a pleasure.

Once on the train I had 30 minutes of peace before arriving in Colchester and my office. I took in the scenery along the way during winter, spring and summer and the highlight of the journey was leaving Wivenhoe through the woods, the river on the left and,quickly craning the neck, for the best view of all until they built the barrier - the river winding its way first through the great sweeping bend to pass Rowhedge, boats moored,then Wivenhoe before any new development, just empty salt marsh and the birds. The view was gone as quickly as it had appeared, until it was time to catch it again on the way home from St. Botolphs.

This September I decided to check it all out again, catching the train at Wivenhoe to Walton, but of course I should have boarded at The Hythe to catch the best view of the river and had to be content with a very distant view as we passed through Alresford, but on this beautiful sunny morning on the last day of September I am finding it hard to describe because it was just so magical -blue sky, white clouds, the ever twisting river glinting in the sunlight, yes magical will do.

The contrast with the dilapidated stations was quite marked, except for Frinton on Sea of course which is still pristine within the famous gates, even some artwork on raised beds. Occasional handsome Victorian ironwork supporting a lean-to platform shelter would come into view, Thorpe Maltings either about to fall down or already being turned into flats, no longer would I smell whatever they roasted for the brewing industry, that delicious malty smell, almost overpowering if
the train didn’t hurry on its way. You can still get that smell in Mistley, thank goodness, and I forget, I could take the train to Harwich and breathe it in.

A smart elderly man boarded the train at Bentley, his modern pull-along case not quite matching his image of by-gone days in the form of a tweed jacket and smartly creased trousers as opposed to jeans, I noticed his highly polished strange looking black boots, almost patent leather in appearance. I might have guessed he would alight at Frinton on Sea but alas, no longer the Grand Hotel awaiting him, more luxury flats.

Three other things of note on this journey; the ticket collector with his cursory glance and lingering smell of aftershave, the younger man leaving a musty smell of unwashed jeans and alas, there would never again be a roaring fire at Walton!

Sylvia Sellers is long retired, but fully occupied, still dabbling in art of any kind: Woolley Thoughts, knitting and creative writing in the Wivenhoe Bookshop Shed all keep her busy.

February 8th

 by Jo Gould

Strangely mild at twelve degrees,
three days of gales to bend the trees.
Birds sucked up into the sky
are flung back down, can hardly fly.
But the dunnock’s silvery song
hints that time is moving on.

Pointed waves dance and shiver,
break the surface of the river.
Swaying reeds a pinkish blur,
swiftly stroked like animal fur.

Dusty willows start to glow,
whisper gently, let you know,
though the sky is dull and grey
somehow it feels like spring today.

Jo Gould paints from nature, loves watching wild-life and walking by the river.

An Oak Tree

by Lelia Ferro

Elephant arms stretched along the Orwell,
Cold musty hollow of animal cradle.

Guardian of lost children, lovers kisses,
Bows and arrows, badgers and burrows.

Fairy cups and squirrel banquets,
The forest floor your leafy blanket.

A crown of crows, a chamber of spiders,
Many more creatures are easy riders.

Medusa's head reflects in the river,
An aviary for weary visitors.

A heart like a pebble ripple in water,
The hiding place of the King's daughter.

Slow turning head,
Centuries of caresses from those long dead.

Lelia Ferro is a journalist and website manager. When not reading Words Down The Line on the daily commute to London, she’s busy on her allotment, cooking Italian food, or exploring the surrounding countryside

December  2011

The Last Great Eastern

by Hazel Humphreys

Bursting forth into the twilight
Past cartoon graffiti tags
Comes the last train home for Christmas
Crammed with people, bulging bags
Executives clutch cans of Carlsberg
Just in case the journey drags

Stratford secretaries enter
Thawing in the sticky heat
Through bars via Westfield Shopping Centre
Purses empty, unlike seats
Chatter and compare their treasure
Teetering on aching feet

Wipe clean misted breath to see
The vast Olympic skeleton
Followed by a cemetery
Terminally Ilford gone
Teenagers get off at Romford
Sirens sing December's song

Leafless suburbs claim their children
As we pause at Ingatestone
Where a new estate sign taunts you
If you lived here you'd be home
But most aspire to higher stations
And all the Quality Streets are gone

Leaving Shenfield squinting darkly
Through reflections at the sticks
In the bustle of the carriage
Sharon's showing baby pics
Sharing space with Liz from PR
New Look bag meets Harvey Nicks

Cylinders of wrapping paper
Bend and dig into your abs
As doors hiss open townies jostle
Bracing to compete for cabs
Meet the chill cross wind at Chelmsford
Smell of burgers and kebabs

Heath Robinson's crumbling old factory
Prepares passengers for flight
Dispute not Witham, she's a loony
Best avoid a festive fight
Keep your head, maintain your presents
Briskly walk home through the night

Crumpled Kelvedon Businessman
Quickly grabs coat and briefcase
Survivor of the office party
Rubs his evening shadowed face
Off to join his wife and family
Whisky sour and lipstick trace

Marks Tey station brings cold comfort
Built for stark economy
Smiling zombies shamble homewards
Brief release from drudgery
Thinking of tomorrow's forage
Through the packed Food Company

Towers shine across the golf course
Where the ancient fortress stood
Welcome to Camulodunum
Beams the homely sign of Woods
Sudden warmth the guard announces
The next station is.... Good

Past the Hythe the trail leads
To where the silver Colne is weaving
Wivenhoe embraces travellers
Snowflakes whirl and pubs are heaving
Sentiment combines with season
For the casualties of the evening

The train still surges on to Clacton
To the icy North Sea shore
Dropping off at Thorpe le Soken
Sleep and then tomorrow's chores
Within a week back to the routine
But it's Christmas, who could ask for more?

Hazel Humphreys: Hazel Humphreys has lived in Wivenhoe for two decades and after studying philosophy and a Masters in Film Studies at Essex University has finally found her little niche in running the town's comedy club for the last six years. An ex-pat Scouser, Hazel loves the comforting flow of both nature and language in semi-rural Essex

Christmas Gifts

By Jacquie Boyd

My Christmas gift he whispered
requires an answer very soon
and her smile became delicious
as she slipped the sapphire on.
Her gift to him - a pair of socks
he accepted as a scorn
and tossed them to a busker
with a board, 'Nowhere to go'
unaware inside a toe
her real gift - a signet ring
inscribed, I Will

Jacquie Boyd : Jacquie moved from London to Wiv-enhoe 23 years ago. She is exceedingly old and exceedingly busy - painting mainly, but also writ-ing. She has four sons, four grandchildren, and an aging cat.

Wivenhoe Christmas Menu


'Rost beaf, boyled beaf, vegetables;
kapers and tother sorts of sausers;
plump pooden, minc poyes,
gellies, blue monges and
tother kinds of shivery shaky stuff;
cheeze and salerie;
horages and hapels;
klay pipes, backer,
jinger and tother sorts of beer.’

This dinner was held for older people in either For-esters Hall or the Infants School from 1904-13.  The above is taken from Dick Barton’s ‘Wivenhoe Attractions, Pleasures & Eccentric Natives’.

November 2011

Old November

By Martin Newell

The sunlight shimmies slowly
Through chiffon layers of mist
As warmth comes late in morning
Which the frost will not resist
And even under evergreens
In icing sugar woods
It spears the steamy clearings
For November, too, has goods
And the best of these are berries
Now the leaves are nearly gone
Like the jewellery of summer
Clinging resolutely on
In the amber pyracanthus
And the holly, red as blood
A ten green bottle background
For paths now mired in mud
Where women walking Westies
Hear the cloth-cap gaffers say
That the winter will be harsher
As it had been in their day
And the breath of central heating
Will exhale in the alleys
And the smoke of huddled houses
Is the signal from the valleys
When the sunset settles early
On the rosegold afternoon
While trees jab spindly fingers
At the milkman in the moon
The curtains drawn by teatime
And the chestnuts in the embers
For these are all the chattels
And the goods of old Novembers.

Martin Newell (b.1953) is a writer, poet and musi-cian. First published in The Guardian in 1984, he wrote regularly for The Independent titles for 15 years, before taking up his current posts as resi-dent poet for The Sunday Express,Saturday col-umnist for the East Anglian Daily Times and con-tributor to the Suffolk magazine.

A Face On The Train

By Ellis Hancock

The train rattled by as she
Walked in the woods,
A face at the window, looking on.
She wondered where the old lady was going:
Would someone be there to greet her,
Or was she saying “goodbye”?
The train only slowed as it
Passed through Wivenhoe.
Her gaze was caught by the girl in the woods.
She treasured those days of freedom,
With everything ahead.
But the girl had smiled and waved,
And that meant a lot.

My name is Ellis Hancock. I am 10 years. I love singing and acting. My favourite colour is purple and I love cats. I love going to school. I am a good girl I think. So that is all about me, bye.

Night, then Morning

By O Michelson

Have you ever been
in a lonely bed,
in a lonely room,
in a lonely house,
in a lonely town
awake, in the dead of night?
The spider is moving;
the curtains are rising;
the dog is freezing;
the wind is swaying;
the tap is creaking;
the trees are howling;
the floorboards are whimpering;
the air is hooting;
the owl is falling;
the rain is still;
Time is scuttling;
the clock is thumping.
The heart has stopped.
Morning breaks:
the dog is thumping;
the spider is rising;
the tap is still;
the curtains are falling;
the rain has stopped;
the air is scuttling;
Time is moving;
the owls are swaying.
The heart is hooting.

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