Brookland House

Throughout February, March and April 2013, Mike Church led a series of creative poetry sessions with residents of Brookland House, Pontypool.

Brookland House is a retirement facility managed by Bron Afon Community Housing. Comprised of twenty five flats and bungalows it was built in 1980 and offers a range of weekly social activities as well as resident management staff and a community alarm service.

Residents enjoyed relaxed poetry workshops and conversations during a two hour session. The poems have been compiled as a booklet and distributed as a celebration of the work produced.



If there’s not five murders in the first chapter

It’s not worth reading

I like a good murder

What are these fifty shades of grey?

Is it a decent story?

A family story?

The young don’t have time to read today

What happened to Enid Blyton?

The faraway trees

The generation missed

Losing their childhood

And growing up quick

I remember being Jo

Out of Little Women

Books help you use what’s upstairs

Books galore

We want some more

Even if the wife’s giving birth

The husband could be stuck in the books

While the baby’s stuck in the womb

Imagination running wild

Pass it on

And go 20,000 leagues under the sea

There were so few books to be had

I cried over Black Beauty

And cry over the children who don’t read

But remember if there are not five murders in the first chapter

It’s not worth reading!


Growing Old By Numbers

I don’t like this growing old

I never wanted to be 80

Don’t flatter me now

You can’t climb trees when you get on

Is 70 still a young girl?

We used to climb walls

We were skinny and light

But I don’t like this growing old

I never wanted to be 80

If I just had a good pair of legs

Some people grow old at 40

When they’re only starting off

And some were down the pit at 7

I never wanted to be 80

I don’t like this growing old

Leave me where I am

I’m not going to bed just yet

Raging at the light

And just worn out

Hard work never killed anyone

Losing our independence

Never bothering to look up at aeroplanes anymore

Lucky with families

And remembering 58

When I thought that was old

Times change

I change

I don’t like this growing old

I never wanted to be 80

Don’t flatter me now

Maybe I’ll pop to Disneyland



Thatcher the milk snatcher’s gone

So let me see

How will people remember me?

For kindness I hope

Or running down a slope

With a sense of humour to laugh it off

A nugget of me in all the children

Sending the song round

About the little bunny sleeping

And keeping it going

We all leave a bit behind

An echo

A four month old talking on the phone

It’s them

It’s us

It’s how they’ll remember me

As Bampi’s and Bopa’s

In a family

A future

A talent

Be it knitting

Patterns of Donald Duck

Or scarecrows

Knitting children to create a dynasty

Shopping or travelling

Or telling tales

Singing songs of sunshine

All the way

Thatcher the milk snatcher’s gone

So let me see

How will people remember me?

With kindness I hope


The Door

Will you open the door

Wondering what’s behind

Maybe it’s Tutenkamen’s tomb

Or just a cup of tea

Maybe it’s me

Or a rabbit sandwich

Will you open the door to find out?

It could be the excitement of Christmas

Maybe it’s children playing

Or the final curtain moving from side to side

My mum and dad at number 23

The front room with a lit fire

A barrel of elderberry wine

Open the door

No you do it

Open the door

It maybe Lena with a glass

Or Billy Cleaver himself

It maybe the threat of the penny cane

Or the look of a disappointed father

It may be a polished front room

Or someone too young to remember

It maybe the cake on Sunday

Or an ice cream for those that are good

A rasher of bacon and a pennorth of chips

A cup half empty or a cup half full

It may be the scrumps

Or a cup of Oxo with sugar and milk

Go on open that door

And watch the memories tumble out.


What It Means To Be Posh

What it means to be posh

Pretty cups and saucers

Plenty of money

Putting the side on

When girls went off to service and

Came back a bit swanky

Talking like the English

Talking like Nancy

Having clean white socks up to your knee

Meticulously turned out

With a clean pair of knickers every day

And fancy cakes on a trolley

Where the top shelf was the dearest

A tin of Welsh cakes up to London

Or banana sandwiches in school

What it means to be posh

Would I want to be posh?

No they never had the friends we had

And we all stuck together


I Remember

I remember the hooter sounding

When it was funny to be in the house without your mother

Never going outside Newport when we were kids

Now the world has grown so small

‘Mam what time is tea?’

Was the cry then as it is now

I remember the Ovaltini’s,

Dick Barton and the journey into space.

I remember our first radio

We weren’t allowed to touch it.

I remember the pit disaster in Durham

And others before and after,

I remember the King abdicated

And he’d been through Crumlin

And met the miners

The only time my father took a day off work

There were three Kings in one year

Coronation mugs thrown out eventually

I remember

I remember

Street parties

You can’t just watch without doing anything

I remember my sister in domestic service

My brother meeting me in London in uniform

Wanting to see the tower

The man in black telling stories

Running home from the pictures

It couldn’t be missed

I remember

Without memories you’re nothing

Sitting down and thinking back

Looking back at photo’s and remembering

Because I remember

I remember

And we should all remember


Nonsense Love


You’ve broken my heart

So now we must part

You behaved like a hog

Treated me like a dog

First you went with Mary

And took off to marry


At the cookhouse store

You always wanted more

You were Jekyll and Hide

For any would-be bride


Every night I cry and weep

And say goodbye to sleep

You were my lifetime nightmare

Leaving me without a care

So I’ll forget about you

And start life anew

Finishing this awful verse

Before things get any worse!



A Recipe for Life


Start with your whole hearted self

Add some sharing, caring, hard wearing sweetness

Then half a pound of kindness

And a pinch of happiness

Tip in some beer and martini for comfort

And then add one single teardrop

You’ll need to put in a decent dollop of looking at yourself

And a giant slice of Peter Pan

Top this with a measure of luck

Bake for twenty, fifty or eighty years

And then

Just get on with it




I used to mutch, mitch, bunk off or just miss days

And I got there through a horses field

Caned on the hand and on the back of the legs

And kept on the left hand side of the corridor.

My favourite lesson was playtime

Jonny Thatcher would hold Miss’s bloomers

And we’d be in our green uniforms

With a green and white sash for the best.

Berets and caps

Panama hats and badges

Caught without your hat

And there’d be trouble

Dipping hair plaits in ink wells

Cod liver oil and orange juice

Wonderful infants

Acting out Boudicca

Singing competitions and passing exams

Cookery schools and fruit salads

Custard tarts and baked tomatoes

Families that didn’t know how to eat

‘But then you’re not like you sister are you?’

Labelled as from the big family

How do people get babies?

To find out you had to work out how the frog did it

Or you’d end up as a ‘pro’

Not the queen of your own body

Don’t be as common as muck

Stay at school and get what you can

Don’t mitch, mutch, bunk off or just miss days

Or you might end up like us…


The Suitcase

Go and open the suitcase

Inside you might find

A collection of postcards from around the world

Maybe there’ll be a fairy from a tree

Go on open the suitcase

Maybe you’ll find some going away clothes

Or love letters

Or perhaps an injured swan

Go on open the suitcase

Maybe inside will be

Your first memory

Or the keys to your heart

Maybe there’ll be

All the illness of the world

Or just a jar of marmalade

Go on open the suitcase maybe you’ll find

Someone’s psoriasis packed away forever

Maybe there’ll be 500 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky

Maybe there will be

Conjunctivitis in a child

Or a rasher of wind and a fried snowball

Go on open the suitcase

Maybe you’ll find

Scarlet fever

Or kippers and jam

Or scab and matter custard and green snot pie!


Go on open the suitcase

Maybe you’ll find

All your secrets

Or your Bible

Or a map to find your way back

Or just a smelly sock


Go on open that suitcase

You want to know what’s in there

You’re curious

You want to find out



Don’t’ open that suitcase

It’s not your property

And it may be more trouble than it’s worth


The Kingdom of Dust

The dust

The dust

My kingdom

Has the dust

It must be

The drilling

The painters milling

It must be the 50 shades of green

Orange doors to be seen

It might be grey it might be sage

But Colin the painter’s taking an age

No heating

Not even a light up the stair

Tripping over, it’s just not fair

Feeling for keyholes

Is this Calcutta?

I wanted toothpaste

But found it was butter!!

Next thing I know

I was in bed for a week

Goodness me the year’s been bleak

The dust, the dust

My kingdom has the dust


Back In The Day


Back in the day

You could walk the streets

There were skipping ropes and rounders

Hopscotch and hoops

There was proper freedom

Back in the day

There were games like ‘Kingie’ and ‘Queenie’

We’d play three ball against the wall

Back in the day

We had whipping tops and marbles

And sometimes

The ones with the prettiest top could go first

That was back in the day

When left handers had to be right handers

And we used to knit and crochet

Sometimes we didn’t’ have childhood at all

It was straight to service

Or shopping

Or domestic chores

Or we were in the house listening to the wireless

There’d be 10 woodbines and a pint of beer

There’d be reading a good book and a cup of tea

Back in the day

When cinema audiences would applaud those in uniform

And we’d swap rations in the pub

Buying wool by the pound

And getting things on tick

When things were put away

And you could take it all and pay later

Back in the day

When half a crown was a decent bit of money

We’d go to the same shoe shops and they’d know what we want

When dolls and prams

And desks and chairs were favourite toys

And we all wore Sunday best

Back in the day

The Ponty way

And there wasn’t a Play Station or Computer in sight

Back in the day….


What Makes A Community?


Where’s our community gone?

Nobody knows neighbours anymore

Community used to mean

If anyone was ill you’d have a house full

With a ‘Can I do this?’ or ‘Can I do that?’

If your milk was on the doorstep after 9am

Someone would knock with a friendly ‘Everything alright?’

We knew what community meant

But where have all the milkman gone?

Our favourite phrase was:

‘Let’s go in and have a cup of tea’

And the men would stand on the corner

At the ‘Hallelujah Lamppost’

And we’d be washing wellies to be out of the way at times of birth

The pits pulled people together

We knew what community used to mean

We didn’t need phones and facebook

If we had thruppence for looking after children

We were in our oils

Pushing prams up snail creep

And then you could leave a child behind in their pushchair

Without fear of social workers knocking your door

We’d all make toffee apples together

And, like them, we’d stick together

Through thick and thin

And you couldn’t cheek the old people

You’d wring out your clothes and your tears

But if you cried you wouldn’t be able to go again

Neighbours were helpful then

They’d take you to school

And even take you in to live

But you might get the odd tap from a wooden spoon


Where’s our sense of community gone?

Nobody knows their neighbours anymore

But we know

We know

What community used to mean


How to choose the perfect man


Make sure they always address your father

As ‘Mr this’ or ‘Mr that’

No first names please

Make sure they are not a lovechild themselves

And don’t accept anyone who can jive

Dancing is very dangerous

Watch what they say and what they do

Watch out for day trips and going to the pictures

And don’t take the first man who waits for you outside your gate

Don’t take someone for a bet on who’s had the most dates

Don’t marry someone from a big family

Do everything you can to annoy the man

Then see if they stick with it!


And most of all

Look for a decent pair of eyes

And marry someone you can cwtch up to in the dark

And sing Incy Wincy Spider!