Approaching the End of the School Term

Approaching the End of the School Term

Towards the end of June we approach the close of the Scottish Schools’ term
This time frame must produce mixed feelings for pupils, teachers, and parents
Relief for the teachers once all the marking and assessing are processed
Release anticipated by the pupils as they exit the school gates
Concern in the parents as to how their offspring have done
And also the perennial problem of child minding in the long break

Of course it is true to say that most kids today do go away, at least for some time
Whether on holiday with family and friends – and many of these are overseas vacations
to destinations that earlier cohorts could only dream of
In fact in common with many others of my generation the Scout Camp
At Crieff or Moffat was our most exotic prospect – ten days under leaking canvas!
Still, we survived (the midges) and were not subjected to the temptations of Magaluf

I suppose there is a sense of life in transition at this time
Some moving from Primary up to the ‘big school’ with all its unknowns
For others the prospect of progressing to college or university
In the hope of training for an uncertain future ‘career’
And teachers wish their charges all the best for whatever lies ahead
No matter they are inwardly glad to be seeing the backs of some!

And for all, pupils, parents, teachers, and those connected to them
A sudden increasing awareness of the very transitory nature of life
Perhaps even more so in this modern age where everything seems
Somewhat provisional.   The old certainties swept away
In jobs, in marriage and relationships, in housing, in the economy, even faith

Perhaps we no longer live under the shadow of the 1960’s Cold War
But do we feel secure as the schools are out – how can we feel calm?

Ken Fisher

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

“Wake up and smell the coffee” is apparently a call to action
A set of circumstances, an affair, demanding our reaction
It would appear that we might have been caught sleeping
Time now for us to act, and wake from idle dreaming

Some say the expression is used to tell us we are wrong
Time for a sharp rethink to move our thoughts along
Others say it is just a phrase to say we must wake up
To harsh realities, so many problems piling up

Wake and smell the coffee tells us to become aware
Not hide below the duvet or even turn to prayer
For although prayer may have its rightful place
Nonetheless these issues we simply now must face

So when someone reminds us of that beverage we should smell
It’s obviously something helpful that they wish to tell
And if we are truly wise we will produce a prompt reaction
A timely answer to advice which springs us into action

Ken Fisher

The Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech

 

This time the Queen’s speech was somewhat truncated
Which may have left some of us feeling frustrated
But nonetheless our parliament will be put through its paces
Despite the Queen having to dash off to the races

Some raised an eyebrow about the lack of a Crown
Her headgear may make the traditionalists frown
But apparently to some the hat’s colour seemed bizarre
Giving more than a hint of the European flag’s stars

But I am sure the Queen stays aloof from all politics
No matter Government’s volt- faces and very strange antics
The original manifesto seems to have been whittled down
Ensuring nothing will result in an opponents’ showdown

So it would appear that for at least two more years
Brexit will obsess all the MPs and Peers
Anything else will be considered peripheral
To be squeezed into any convenient interval

So the business of Parliament is expressly defined
The way ahead has been clearly outlined
Let’s hope they get on with the job without any distraction
And pray that we avoid yet another election!

Ken Fisher

Summer Solstice 2017

Summer Solstice 2017

A glimpse of sunshine warms our heart
Flowers and leaves reflect the light
The gentle rays caress our brow
Our lips widen with a smile

For now the daytime stretches out
Filling each hour with gentle light
Dark days of winter long forgot
We rejoice in life outdoors

From this ‘crows nest’ of the year
We scan the horizon fore and aft
Behind long hours of winter gloom
Then spring pregnant with promise

But this year we feel melancholic
Mood saddened by tragic events
We pause at this solstice moment
Praying that fortune may have turned

Ahead the prospect of summer warmth
And autumn’s gold and russet tints
But winter’s spectre lurks beyond
Vaguely threatening summer’s calm

Ken Fisher

The Singer Clock

The Singer Clock

 

Singer is a name you won’t easily forget
For decades this brand ruled supreme in
the world of sewing machine production
from treadle power to sophisticated control

Even today you will find Singer machines
in Asian sweatshops and chic fashion houses
But in Clydebank, Singer was also renowned
for its massive factory clock on a tower

For miles around, this monstrosity could be seen
Signifying industrial power and market domination
But like so much of Scottish industry it met with decline
And even the clock gave its final tick in March 1963

When the clock first appeared in 1885 in Clydebank,
then the European headquarters of this early multi-national
It signified the wealth and importance of the enterprise
And its enormous timepiece was a symbolic crown on success

Unfortunately this chronometer probably hung like
an albatross around the neck of the business
It was powered by massive cast iron weights
driving the mechanism that required twice weekly winding

Over the years of the 20th century several changes
were made to the clock. The dials and numerals
were redesigned and various forms of illumination
were employed, inside by gas, outside by spotlights

None of these was very successful, being too dim
or casting unwanted shadows from the internal machinery
In 1928 a total of 145 lamps were attached to the hands!
Then World War II snuffed out illumination and almost Clydebank

After the war, when some normality was restored
The clock came back into service with new enamelled
“Singer” signs re-lit for all to see from far away
But the fate of the clock was on the horizon

In 1963 the clock was finally ceremonially stopped
“As part of area reorganisation in the interests of
production with a smaller labour force”
The aluminium hands were made into souvenir ashtrays!

This was before smoking (and domestic sewing machines) became much less fashionable!

Ken Fisher

Background material from International Sewing Machine Collectors’ Society website.

For Father’s Day

For Father’s Day

Father’s day has come round once more
The shops are filled with cards galore
It’s time to think of poor old dad
An occasion when we should be glad

‘Cause Dads don’t always get best press
And maybe they fail, we must confess
But most Dads do their very best
When often they are quite hard pressed

Sometimes these days it’s sad to say
The Dad has had to be away
Family problems causing separation
And Dad might well feel desperation

Thank goodness many Dads are still around
Shared parenting can still be found
And along with Mum they are a team
Ensuring for all a great regime

But what e’r may be the situation
Let us today make affirmation
That Dads do matter, we believe
Give thanks for all that they achieve

So let’s ensure this Father’s Day
We take some time to loudly say
We love you Dad, we won’t be shy
To tell you, you’re a real great guy!

Ken Fisher

 

The Bee

The Bee

 

We have a lot to learn from the humble bee
Who works ever so hard for you and me
Their principal role is pollination
Which is vital to the crops that feed our nation

Most of the bees are social creatures
Being together is a quite distinct feature
Up to 50 thousand Honey bees inside a hive
It’s amazing they all manage to stay alive

Bumble bees also like to congregate
But apparently they want a bit more space
So we find about 150 under their roof
Perhaps they prefer to be somewhat aloof

Both types of bees depend on their Queen
Who lays all the eggs, this seems rather obscene
But thanks to the efforts of that sovereign so fertile
All that hard work of the drones is not futile

Indeed I am told that one third of all the food that we eat
Relies on the pollination of bees – that’s surely some feat
One out of every three bites that we munch
Is thanks to the bees – if we lose them, then comes the crunch!

So my message is this, if you hear a bee’s buzz
Don’t be tempted to create undue fuss
For on that bee depends your food supply
Better it lives to ensure you don’t die!

Ken Fisher

Fifteen Miles on the John Muir Way

Fifteen Miles on the John Muir Way
[North Berwick to Dunbar]


Routemarker – the John Muir Way

In the shadow of Berwick Law we set our easterly course
A happy band of ramblers, eyes fixed on the road ahead
Steady is the pace, chat comes easy, spirits high
As we tread this walkway opened to commemorate
The 100th Anniversary of the death of John Muir

Our first objective is to reach East Linton and the Preston Mill
An ancient structure , still preserved, for grinding grain to flour
Powered by a waterwheel fed by the speeding flow in the lade
An energy efficient method – so long as the rainfall does not fail!


Preston Mill

Enlightened and refreshed by our visit to the mill
We continue our rural ramble, encouraged by brightening skies
Through open country our journey takes us inexorably toward the sea
But not before meandering through fields of wheat bordered by woodland

Among the joys of walking with friends is the chance to
Tune in to the natural world around. The birdsong,
The flowers and trees of infinite variety, the differing landscape
And times of animated conversation or moments of silence and solitude
To wonder at creation and breathe it in to our jaded souls

We eventually enter the John Muir Country Park at Belhaven Bay
This extensive sandy inlet changes with the tides’ ebb and flow
And as our eyes are drawn outwards from the shore line
We catch a view of the steep volcanic sides of the Bass Rock
Featured in works of fiction, including Catriona by R L Stevenson


The Bass Rock

And so our steady progress continues, our faces weathered
By the changing conditions, the cobwebs of the city blown away
Our hearts inspired by the heady mixture of fresh air
And recognition of the beauty of life, we press on gratefully

As we near the town of Dunbar we skirt a verdant golf course
Then the coastal path reveals vistas below of the rocky shoreline
Notwithstanding our weariness, we have to descend
And then ascend several stone stairways which brought back childhood memories
Of scenes in some of the adventures of the intrepid Rupert Bear

At last, like pilgrims on a journey, we reach our final destination
Weary but contented. Happy to have completed the distance
Happy to have communed with nature, happy to have been in
Each others’ company. Grateful to share in  John Muir’s legacy

Ken Fisher

 


Dunbar

Momentary Thoughts

Momentary Thoughts

Momentary thoughts that enter my head
A flash in the mind, then quickly gone
An angry reaction that made me see red
Or some sadness turning me all forlorn

Pleasant thoughts of happy days past
Joyous memories of times of emotion
Recalling events that left me aghast
Crowded hours amidst untold commotion

Thoughts in my head as I anticipated
Pleasures to come in communing with others
Annoyance when hoped for joys are frustrated
Or by fearful notions my plans are smothered

Momentary thoughts are a two edged sword
At once they bring memories of times of elation
But equally recall feelings of fear or discord
Can even provoke a mood of depression

So the best response to the momentary thought
Is to simply let it pass without any reaction
That pleasure or pain, whether happy or fraught
From our peace of mind will afford no distraction

But this aversion to short lived reflection
Should not all gentle reminiscence deny
For who would turn from that introspection
Which prompts an inward smile, a tear or a sigh

Ken Fisher

The Aftermath

The Aftermath
[The day after the General Election 8 May 2017]

Well it’s all over now
Ballot boxes unlocked, their contents strewn
Eager hands have sifted and sieved, unfolded the leaves
Attentive eyes scanned, sorted and stacked these expressions
of the democratic will.   As each separate pile is then
aggregated for the various candidates. Height of bundles
a barometer of popular support for each protagonist

As the feverish activity reaches a climax checks
and even double checks will be made, a recount may be demanded
The final summation then reported to
The Returning Officer, whose fiefdom for the night
Is the Counting Station for that Parliamentary constituency

When all doubts are resolved the Officer will
Call for silence and then, arraigned with all
the aspiring candidates, a pregnant calm will descend
And with due solemnity, the result will be announced
Amidst cries of triumph and groans of dismay
The winner will receive the congratulations
Of losers who will shake hands, with rictus smiles
Ill disguising their disappointment – at least
If they had believed victory had been possible

The winner, as if at the Oscars, will pronounce a long
litany of thanks to everyone – from the dutiful spouse
to the intern who made the tea at the Party Office
Of course, not forgetting, you the voters!

And so off they go into the dawning light
Some to party as they celebrate success
Others, whose expectations have been dashed,
Or even as unseated MP’s to an obscure uncertain future
And what of us the voters? We have done our duty
Do we believe that the new incumbent will fulfill
Their promise of being the Member for all their people?

But none might easily have predicted the actual outcomes
Only the Exit Polls were able to alert us to the likely totals
And as the night wore on the correlation between these indicators
and the eventual reality became quite stark for all to see
Some famous familiar faces suddenly stripped of power
Years of thankless service gives no immunity
Other aspirants thrown into the limelight
Even some actors who had been hiding in the wings recalled
to play their part

Thus a new political landscape took shape in which
we discovered that the people had made choices
which our politicians had not expected or not desired
And once again the shape of the future even  more uncertain
But that’s democracy – we must live with it!

Ken Fisher

Election Time Yet Again

Election Time Yet Again
[The moment of decision is upon us]

 

Time has arrived when voters must make their choice
All sides in the debate near exhausted by the fray
Arguments finely honed and rehearsed so many times
So that, if prompted, even we might quote their party lines

This time around, some major themes have emerged
Brexit and its potential effects have dominated
And if only we can assure ‘Strong and Stable Leadership’
‘For the Many not the Few’ we can assure ‘A Brighter Future’
[Please don’t mention IndyRef2]

But all debate has been hi-jacked by the tragedies
With which terrorists have caught us unaware

Perhaps it is therefore all the more essential
That we do not allow the democratic process
To be sidelined, despite the ideological mayhem
Thrusting the crime scene into our cityscape

Politicians seeking comfort from the pollsters
Turn to the pronouncements of psepholigists
[Modern custodians of the Holy Grail]
But interpretation of results they reserve as their own

Although it is probably true to say that like the jilted bride
Political parties have lost their trust in these predictive gurus
As past experience has shown the pollsters’ crystal ball
Proved somewhat cloudy to say the least

The journalists like ‘war’ correspondents
Have not been afraid to enter in the fray
They have even been the cause of skirmishes
If seen to favour one party o’er the others

So TV political anchors readily bare their fangs
Determined to prove they show no bias, and give no quarter
They attack with unbridled vigour, candidates of every hue
Their confrontations show no favours, make no concessions

But the TV broadcasts of the leaders’ debates have often palled
As participants talk across each other, stifling free speech
Nipping their opponents like ferrets fighting in a sack
Each must display the dominant voice no matter what

And this time we have been subjected to a sort of Star Chamber
Grilling by audience, then broadcasting anchors, of those
Who would seek the highest offices when the ballot is over
And the final verdict has been pronounced

So here we are, it is ‘Make Your Mind Up Time’
As the quizmaster used to say on TV audience participation shows
You’ve heard all the arguments, been given all the promises
Now you must be the judge, let’s hope you are still awake!

Alas all that each of us must do now
Is exercise our hard-fought right at the polls
Enjoy the excitement of the night
And accept the result (and the consequences) with equanimity!

Ken Fisher

Drenched

Drenched

Surely it can’t last long. But a few minutes is enough
Cotton T-shirt soaked through, Shoes saturated
I didn’t come prepared. This is meant to be summer
At least it might please the flotilla of ducks

What began as a gentle meander through the park
Suddenly transformed into a battle with the elements
Blue skies overwhelmed by foreboding dark clouds
The galvanizing flash followed by the distant rumble
Where to run for shelter? – definitely not that chestnut tree!

I don’t know what the chances are of being struck
But this is not the time for statistical speculation
I feel I have entered on a game of Russian roulette
Do I run for cover or trust myself to the open ground?

A few more electric pyrotechnics, echoed by muffled roars
The torrential downpour siphoned into a mighty spate
No escape. Grass, flower, trees all inundated
And then a strange calm descended, and the sun peeps coyly through

Leaving the forces of nature to restore my composure
I found myself content to sit on an abandoned bench
And gradually, as steam rises from asphalt paths and verdant grass
Evaporation transforms my soul like the waters of baptism

Ken Fisher