We are going to see a pantomime,
Peter Pan, at the Empire, Liverpool.
(She could choose to take one of two glove puppets –
Captain Hook or the Crocodile – so it
could enjoy the treat. She chose the crocodile).
We are going by train – past some fields,
the backs of many houses, through a cut
and then a tunnel under a river.

An odd story for a panto, effete
and no dame or an obvious clown
but she watches literally open-mouthed
whether from her own seat or,



I am reminded of Professor Wallofski’s
Omelette, Prince of Demark, and the rotten egg
the curate ate, watching this particular
‘peasant rogue…tear a passion to tatters’
as if each word were merely a bagatelle
on a stage the size of a tennis court.
‘Oh, what a noble mind…’ But, yoking apart,
who would wander those chill corridors,
discouraged by the guttering torches
in their sconces, where duty and hatred,
love and negligence throng in the smoky
shadows only words discombobulate –
or be unsettled by the Baltic surging
at the cliffs where ambition leaps ‘Even,’



I am unsure what has resurrected –
the right word – the memory of his death,
whoever he was. Perhaps it is
this windy night of cold rain almost snow –
and blinds drawn against the dark. But police
and the ambulance were called at first light.

Behind our house is a row of pre-fab
concrete garages. Even building regs then
forbade the use of the final concrete slab
as prohibiting access. Whatever his name,
he parked his mini there. We remember
his gender and the type of car but not
the reason for his choosing that the
last thing he would see was a high brick wall.



Pursuing our Holy Grail of finding
four balloon back Victorian dining chairs
in good condition, we drove, to furthest
Cheshire – near where the motorway grows
and the villages have Anglo-Saxon names –
the second Saturday before Christmas
to an antique centre once a dairy farm.
In seven erstwhile milking sheds, covering
fifty thousand square feet, were displayed
a range of products of the industrial
revolution – A Hornby train set,
a tractor seat, a Singer sewing machine,
a framed, signed photo of Edwina Currie,
a Parker-Knoll chair,



When, having walked up from Central Station,
we reach Hope Street – that long sentence stopped
both ends with cathedrals – she protests, ‘My legs are tired!’
but, with the promise of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’,
we make it to the Unity Theatre,
the old Hope Place synagogue. She knows
the story well but watches keenly as the imp,
out smarted, stamps his foot through the earth’s crust.

Very properly reared by atheists –
free of chapel, mosque, shrine, shul and temple –
she encounters the Christmas story
at school. She speaks,



A committee of eight Hebrew scholars –
politically balanced between high church
and puritan – produced in Cambridge
University four hundred years ago,
what Tennyson called ‘the greatest poem’,
the King James’ version of The Book of Job.
They were not paid but promised possible
preferment – essential for some comfort
in the church and the groves of academe
of a country racked by civil strife.

Their contribution to the new monarch’s
pursuit of national unity
was ten books: from Chronicles – ‘These are the sons
of Israel…’