THE BARNSTON MONUMENT

‘On the road to Chester, on the outskirts of Farndon, stands a monument to the late Major Barnston, raised in 1858 by his tenantry and friends. It consists of a grand obelisk, having at its base, four handsomely carved stone figures of recumbent lions.’

 History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, George Ormerod, 2nd Edition 1882.

 

The lions, positioned north, south, east and west –

encompassing the, now reduced, estates–

are lying, on their tomb chests, heads on paws

as if asleep.

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THE ABATTOIR AT MAZINGARBE

 

The Last Absolution of the Munsters at Rue Du Bois, by Fortunino Mattania, depicts an event which took place on 8th May 1915, near Neuve Chapelle.

 

 

The push for Aubers Ridge had been postponed

because of rain. But the Saturday

was dry and sunny. Going up the line

in the early evening, the battalion

stood easy at the shrine to Our Lady.

‘…in remissionem peccatorum…’

By noon, next day, nearly half were dead,

caught on the German wire Haig’s ill equipped

artillery had,

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LA PLACE DE LA LIBÉRATION, AUCH

In the centre of the square is a fountain –

an inspired, aesthetic roundabout –

a contemporary design, the numerous

jets spurting three or four metres from the setts.

On the way to the restaurant, she sees it,

and, of course, fascinated by water

in all its forms, tugs at her reins – but the cars

circulate heedlessly and, anyway,

we are guests. She tantrums.

 

Later, the fountains are turned off, traffic

is forbidden and la jeunesse takes over

with its skate boards and hip hop.

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UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

One early afternoon at the nadir

or the zenith of the so-called Cuban

Missile Crisis – a good or, rather, bad

two years before ‘Dr. Strangelove’ and ‘Fail-Safe’

were screened – I was waiting in the drear

and white-tiled catacombs of Liverpool’s

Central Station – where it always seemed

as if it were night and the blitz still on

and water appeared to drip continuously –

for the next train, under the Mersey,

to Chester, when I heard somewhere beyond me,

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SLEEPLESS IN WAZIRISTAN

The Waziris call them ‘bangana’ (Pashto

for ‘buzzing wasps’) as they drone day and night –

like Doodlebugs in perpetual motion –

endlessly visible, unremittingly

audible, five thousand feet above

the clay-walled villages and towns, the markets

and the farms, the madrassas and the schools,

until some CIA operative,

in a Nevada mountain bunker,

or RAF personnel near Lincoln,

wakes and, after his/her double espresso

and cranberry muffin, identifies

the true enemy and left-clicks the mouse.

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