With thanks to Six Towns Radio www.6towns.co.uk/ for permission to use their broadcast and to photographer Brooksie for the images on this personal video
This is the saddest place.
At 10 a.m. locals head home, store bags clinking with alcohol. Youths, swaying like polar bears in a zoo, hang at the café. Animal skulls adorn doors of dilapidated concrete houses. My grandfather is buried here: Anders Karlsonn, professor of Northern Eugenics, whose life’s work became embarrassing and shameful. By 1940 his research was halted. In 1945, aged 50, he returned to the high arctic forever, leaving behind his dead child-wife, and tiny baby; my father.
A red ovoid sun circles the midnight sky. Permafrost, Aguta says, prevents burials. Handsomely impassive despite knowing what Anders had been: a monster, lying here amongst people he called inferior and Godless. Endless light transforms everything. White crosses of enforced religion are dusted pink. Wild-flowers drift in waves across a different set of graves; many suicides.
“Cultural genocide” I murmur. Guilty.
His hand cups my chin “Not your fault, Maria”
I long to kiss his dark face.
We find the stone coffin, above ground and facing the sea. Ander’s name is on the cap-stone with naïve carvings of a man and woman. The symbolic overturned kayak. A second name: Aguta.
I look at my guide and tremble. Terra-cotta light bruises his chiselled face and almond eyes.
“Aguta is male and female. It means ‘gatherer of the dead’”
“My mother’s sister. Karlsonn married her when she was very young. She outlived him by many years. A dead woman’s name is taboo until a new-born child is named after her. ”
Anders condemned this very culture, yet couldn’t keep away. Neither could I.
“Do you think he loved her?” I whispered.
“I think he couldn’t help himself”
Agutas nose is cold as it touches mine, but his mouth is warm, guiding me towards a love that will be like the Arctic summer, brief and frenzied. If we make winter, will months of darkness bind us? I am glad we have no blood tie, but would that even matter, here? Instead we have the weight of gathered dead. Impossible to bury them beneath the ice, out of sight.
Today I attended the Potteries Prize event in Hanley. I was not the overall winner (and let's face it we all live in hope!) - that went to the "twist in the tail" story Mrs Clowder's Cats by Beverley Adams. As soon as I heard this story and the judge's critique I just knew Bev had won and very well deserved. All of the stories were of a high standard - some such as High Noon and Snowy were laugh out loud funny - the first of those in just 100 words - others were sad and poignant. I was delighted to be the joint first prize winner in "Most Beautiful Use of Language" category with Sam Palmer (no relation) with her story "Sea Change". The whole event at Central City Library was a great success and very well attended. Thanks Writer's Kiln I can't wait for the next one.
Many thanks to Six Towns Radio www.6towns.co.uk/ for allowing me to use their broadcast and to photographer Brooksie who compiled the images for this personal video
The first day of freedom from my 40 years as a paid employee - not having to get up at maybe 5.30am to catch the train to Manchester, drive to Birmingham, get to investigations all over the West Midlands and Black Country, Hereford, Worcester.....deal with crappy computer systems and bored trainees who wondered why the IT systems were shit and the training rooms freezing cold or unbearabley hot...not saying that I never enjoyed my time at work, I did. The freedom of the open road and meeting so many different people was great. There were plenty of nice poeople and colleagues who made up for the ass-holes but I'd had enough. I guess I was lucky never to have been unemployed at any point and I escaped redundancy several times, so I am aware that actually being in work all that time was a good thing. Now, I'm free to help animals in my volunteer roles, and to WRITE! I can't believe the things I am doing right now and the amazing people I have met.
For the first time ever I made it to the semi-finals of a slam! Best of all were the compliments I had from members of the audience on my untitled and maybe (for some people) controversial poem. I know that some people dislike the competetive aspect of slams but I just try to treat it as fun and and a great night out. There was much laughter and it was great to see the Trent Vale Poet in action again. Thanks to Gaby and Matt and most of all the wonderful audience. We were 18 slammers in all and felt very much appreciated.
Yep! I have entered another slam despite the MASSIVE amount of "competative" talent around in Stoke on Trent. Got to say though that all SLAMS so far have had a great atmosphere and everyone is friendly and generous in spirit. I have been inspired by Matt Abbott's workshop The New Vic Theatre for #Stokeslam #sot2021 #awesome
In June I attended The Bath Flash Fiction Festival with two writer friends who are FF regulars and winners. There was a great line up of workshop leaders, speakers, writers and teachers of the short and short-short form – Vanessa Gebbie, Paul McVeigh, Tania Hershman, David Gaffney, David Swann, Ashley Chantler, Peter Blair, K M Elkes, Kit de Waal, Michael Loveday, Christopher Feilden, Calum Kerr, Jude Higgins and Meg Pokrass. I was quite nervous but it was brilliant and all attendees were invited to submit upto three entries for a FF anthology. Never expecting to get anywhere I sent off my three festival-inspired Flashes and was truly stunned when I received an e-mail from Jude Higgins, to say that one of my flashes had been accepted for the anthology! “Silent, and soft and slow descends” is a 250 word story. If you want to read it you will have to buy the book, which should be out by Christmas. Can’t wait to see it!
Everyone who knows me, knows that I think of myself first and foremost as a poet. I have branched out into short stories and Flash Fiction, but had only recently entered some Flash competitions. Well, it seems that I am doing something right as I have won a joint first prize for my story 350 word story “Beneath the Ice” in
The Potteries Prize for Flash Fiction Competition. Local writers were invited to submit short short stories of 100 – 350 words length. I have won -Most beautiful use of language in a story Joint First June Palmer for ‘Beneath the Ice’ However the nail-biting has only just begun as all shortlisted entrants have been invited to a prize giving event to be held at City Central library on 18th November where the overall winner will be announced by head judge, Paul Houghton, Senior lecturer in Creative Writing from Staffordshire University. Wish me luck!
Author - June Palmer