SWEET HEART

SWEET HEART

21.7.14

SONG FOR ANNELIESE























You can’t analyse Anneliese,
she has too free a view.
Anneliese flies through the breeze
And makes a dream come true.

She’s a free floater, not a voter.
There’s a song inside her head.
When she dances she prances, no disco romances;
She sways into my bed.

She’s a German daughter, no teacher taught her.
No nails can hold her down.
When she needs to, she’s free to, no rules to bow to;
She wears no fancy gown.

You can’t analyse Anneliese,
she has too free a view.
Anneliese flies through the breeze
And makes a dream come true.

She’s a true feminist, a brainy anarchist.
She has no hatred in mind.
She’ll love and she’ll give and try to forgive;
She’s not the possessive kind.

She’s a poet on skis, on a flying trapeze.
For her beliefs, she’ll travel miles.
She’s a constant surprise, she’s a gleam in my eyes;
I see planets in her smiles.

You can’t analyse Anneliese,
she has too free a view.
Anneliese flies through the breeze
And makes a dream come true.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

19.7.14

THE STORY OF STEAM: FOR GEORGE STEPHENSON 1781-1848


























‘How wonderfully has his invention facilitated the meeting of thousands of fond and happy lovers.’ (Thomas Summerside)

The story of steam,
history’s hiss 
through the passing
of engines and 
clapped-out hours.
The pereptual urge
to move
into the peace
of sleeping valleys;
iron dreams
and the nagging drive
of cruel ambition 
on the banks of the sliding Tyne.
You knew all this George,
how violent life is,
as, thoughtless in your youth, 
you stole a blackbird’s eggs,
developing an understanding
of mankind’s urge
to rip forests apart,
to make ways
through gardens and castles, 
for commerce
and selfishness to have their way.
That and the wonderful offshoots
like lovers
getting together
and children laughing
in cultural deserts.

Your broad Northumbrian tongue
echoed along rails,
barked orders
to force idle workers
to spark the engines
that scared the crows
and brought terror to horses and cattle
with the fiery blast of mechanical power.
Your ambition surged roughshod
over delicate flowers,
more interested in the mechanics of time 
and fixing watches
than the whispers that the clocks of dandelions
heard in the breeze.
Mister Practicality, 
though you knew that the human lot
ended up in vapour,
you still told the pitmen’s sons that the earth
was round,
taught algebra to the lads
in a curiosity shop
of working models,
self-acting planes
and perpetual motion machines.

In your litttle garden,
you grew gigantic leeks, astounding cabbages,
scarecrow ams to fly in the wind
and a sundial to record the ticks of days.
Hammering the flaming hours
into the rickety shape of Blucher,
you moved people along the way,
crafted the valves, the rods and cylinders
of life
into a breathing thing
that lolloped along,
careering like you
into a famous night.
It did not come without a price;
My Lord, they can’t imagine
how much you scraped along in the dirt,
the bursting blisters on your feet,
your hurting fingers as you began to write.
Wriggling out of the Militia,
you earned everything you got,
forced 
to suffer the deaths of wives and daughter
and the blinding of a father.
Weeping bitterly on the West Moor to Killingworth road,
thinking of leaving for America,
you got to your own station in the end.
Geordie,
with Ferguson’s ‘Astronomy’ in your hardy hands,
you gave us many a glorious smoke-filled day,
brought young lovers together on platforms
awash with the smell of smoke
and the sparks of hearts 
spreading lightning across the land. 





KEITH ARMSTRONG

from 'North Tyneside Steam', Northern Voices Community Projects, 2014.

16.7.14

OUR SPITTAL: POEMS BY KEITH ARMSTRONG, PHOTOS BY TONY WHITTLE


































































Tammy Spence he had no sense,
he bought a fiddle for eighteen pence
and all the tunes that he could play
was ‘O’er the Hills and Far Away’.
From Cow Road to Hud’s Head,
Toppye Knowe Stone and Spittal Point,
we have dredged the coal
and snapped up fish
with ‘Lovely Polly’ and all.
We have ground the corn and bone,
found the iron and cured and smoked.
We have worshipped Bart and lifeboats
and prayed to Paul and John.
We have staggered on in rain and nonconformity.
We have lurched along old shores,
drowned the thirst of sailors
with the rattling old Town Bell and the tunes of jolly Jack,
whistled and fiddled away
in the bright Red Lion light.
Jesus Light of the World,
we are the history in the barrel,
in the soaring wind
and in the foaming waves:
it is our blood,
it is our bread,
it is our Spittal,
our mirrored past.


TALES OF SPITTAL

This small space
for tall tales,
the leprous tongues of centuries,
hospitalised gossips,
words drifting out of ward windows
on a dripping wet afternoon.
Church reduced to a hung silence,
closed hearts
ready for a drink.
And there’s this man
like a tea leaf in the corners
of the Blenheim or the Red Lion or The Albion.
He’s gagging for a chat about the old days,
it’s on the lips of driftwood,
swirling in the blown down days.
Tug the fruit machine,
wallop down a pie-eyed dream.
The ghosts of Victorian ladies
hiss along the promenade
as we are hit in the face
with sepia breezes.
They come from North Sea places
and from Kelso,
Selkirk and Hawick,
they ripple the surface of the sea
and the leaves in the border forests.
Take the ancient waters,
sips of iron and sulphur,
bathe yourself in history and grime.
Pellets of sleet,
hail a watery charabanc drive,
run a hot bath
down the prom prom prom.
And let the keen and callous wind
whip up the skirts of the Tweedside girls,
so you can dance for your lives.
We are the Spittal folk,
the old Pierrots,
our songs are shattered
on ancient rocks.
Our children skip through the clutter of news.
Bless them,
bless young hearts.
Splash in Bishop’s Water,
in fishing places,
songs of herring and of salmon.
Spittal Rovers
sing again.
Leap for breath
in the ways of Spring.
RICHARD MENDHAM’S SPITTAL TIPPLE
Yon tippling illiterate Spittaler,
that smuggler of drunkenness,
thief and copier of the night.
Across the lines of sobriety,
you lurched,
carving a living
from rich streams
of whisky.
Dodging water bailiffs across rooftops,
creeping down trap stairs,
you and your gang
of fleetfooted drunks
shifted illicit dreams.
Eyes glinting in hidie-holes,
disguised in black cloth and gowns,
you sparked like bar-flies in the dark.
Dancing round brightly,
skipping school lightly,
laughed in your dens of warm cackle.
Shook the village with laughter,
gave the rude sign to Berwick,
pranced till they caught you,
hung you high
from your rafter
for daring to test
the stone-sober law.

*Richard Mendham - 1830s Spittal smuggler and counterfeiter who was tried and executed at Jedburgh in the presence of Sir Walter Scott, Sheriff of Selkirkshire.


DRINKING IN SPITTAL
See me fall out of The Elephant bar,
where I’ve been drinking with salmon.
Spittal foaming from my open mouth.
Lame, maimed, drunken,
dissolute, boisterous and poor,
I have become intoxicated by parties of pleasure.
I have strayed from the Holy Island to Brandy Well,
become awash in luggers of boozers,
staggering on smugglers’ sand.
Gin, brandy, tobacco and silk,
let me cleanse myself in the morning light,
take the clean waters of Jesus.
Walk to the Hallowstell,
past the lepers’ huts,
for drops of holy blood,
strip away with bare hands
this ugly scorbutic humour.
Clean the beaches,
clean Spittal,
clean my weary soul.
I will launch myself
into a seawater bath
and blow hot and cold
with the seasoning.
Calybeate waters of Spittal,
salts of pure iron,
you have me
chained to your heavy drinking cup.
Let my lovely heart sing
with children and larks.
Let me go plodging
in daffodils.


GIRL IN A SPITTAL WINDOW


Glancing moment,
chance look.
I was wondering
where to go,
what to do
in the seaside fret.
I am growing 
misty with dreams:
welcome to my Spittal World.
I am little in this universe,
the sun is falling,
the stars are poised.
The window cleaner
will come in the morning
and wipe yesterday 
away.



KEITH ARMSTRONG



















The coastal scenery around Berwick is very fine, with rocks and cliffs, only occasionally interrupted by small bays and harbours. The nearest bathing beach to the town is in the little seaside resort of Spittal, to the south.



I was very impressed by the picture you and Tony created of Spittal.

It struck me that it was in the very best traditions of photo-journalism -

Picture Post recreated for the electronic age.   I thought images and text 

showed great respect and sensibility.





JOHN MAPPLEBECK (Bewick Films)

the jingling geordie

My Photo
whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur