The Ghost of Christmas Past.

The ghost of Christmas past

Came knocking at my door,

He took me to the time

When my little girls were four.

 

We knelt before the Christmas tree

Presents crudely wrapped but there,

A plate by the fireside

With Santa’s festive fayre.

 

We walked into their bedroom

As quietly as you can,

My two small girls were sleeping there

In Ramsey, Isle of Man.

 

In the muted light they seemed peaceful

Asleep and safe and warm

In a home filled with love and family

To keep them safe from harm.

 

The stockings on the bedposts

Were filled with treats and toys

Hung there by their Daddy

To bring them hope and joy.

 

Christmas was extra special

In that one particular year

As Daddy had come home safely

From military conflict fuelled by fear.

 

I thanked the kindly ghost

For reminding me that night

That despite the hours of darkness

Christmas is about recognising the light.

 

May your Christmas time be peaceful

Filled with memories that shine,

To keep your heart warm through the cold

And lonely times.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson.

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In these moments where we live and breathe.

It has been a complex year and all I know is that many of you out there will have faced your own tough challenges, some that have been overcome with grit and determination and others that have almost broken you with the weight and depth of their difficulty.

There were days this year where I genuinely thought that there would be no resolution, that the interminable darkness and despair would swallow me whole, that my worthiness had been buried never to resurface under some massive cumbersome rock that could not be shifted.

I learned that it is important to feel wanted and needed and worthy and that for me these things come from the work that I do and the relationships I build with the people around me.

I learned that I need to feel connected and secure and that for me comes from having a home and a place to be in the world.

I learned that heartache and heartbreak are cruel masters that spare no-one and that all around me there are people whose stories would make my own look like a walk in the park, that we all need kindness and compassion. That a smile and a hug are the simplest gifts that can give someone a brighter moment in their darkened day.

I learned that many of us fear death, and that at the end it is not dignity that matters but the holding of the hand, the soothing of the brow, and just knowing that someone sits beside you.

It is this moment that matters, not the money, or the glamour, or the furnishings, the shadow of our former life or the lure of future success, but this very moment.

It is the simplest action of human understanding that matters, listening carefully to those around us, sharing their journey holding their hand as well as hoping they will hold ours, not the politics, the rhetoric, the arrogance of selfishness but the humility that is born from suffering, enduring and surviving.

I learned that it is important to be kind and compassionate to oneself and that every moment is a taonga to be treasured.

Namaste as the year draws to a close.

May there be moments of peace in our life.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Homecoming

In the pleurisy of a winter’s morn

My love for you skitters down the cobblestones

Glides past the children sliding in the snow

Seeks to guide you home-

It knows no borderline.

 

So take the silver latch-key

from deep inside your pocket

Kick the snow off your dubbined boots

and step inside to me.

Your war is over.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

I wrote this a long long time ago. I wrote this long before Dave went to Basrah. I wrote this before I spent the long lonely nights sat on the kitchen doorstep with a glass of wine in hand- wondering if he would ever come home and if my girls would ever see their dad again.

My biggest fear was that he would die and would be alone in that moment of death in a foreign and hostile landscape.

He and those he served with must have had similar concerns and I know that sometimes when he went out on dangerous missions he would leave notes for us under his pillow in case he didn’t return.

In the words of Wilfred Owen:

“The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.”

Remembering those who have served.

As Armistice day approaches it seemed right to think about those who have served and it is the centenary of the end of the First World War. My Great grandfather served in the First World War, he was already a veteran and had served in the Boer War and had been injured. (See photo). He served in the First World War alongside friends and neighbours as part of Lancashire Fusiliers often referred to as the Salford Pals. At the age of 40 he joined 15th Battalion (First Salford Pals) and served for the duration of the war from 15-Oct-1914 to 10-Jan-1918.

This website has a wealth of information about the Salford Pals, they were mobilised to France in November 1915 and served in the Somme and were almost wiped out in the summer of 1916 in the conflict at Thiepval. He was awarded the Silver Cross in 1920. He passed away on November 19th 1926 aged 52.

war time memories project

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He was born in 1874 in Sale Cheshire but by the time he was 11 years old had moved to Chief St Salford with his family. He married Frances Taylor on December 14th 1901 and they had 8 children between 1902 and 1915, Frances, John, Henry, Hilda, Ernest, Frank, Arthur and Edith. The photo is of John, Frances and Edith.

 

The best birthday present ever..the forgotten soldiers.

You came home.

In May 2003 a large number of men who served with Lancashire and Cumbria Volunteers, formerly known as reservists of 4KOBR received compulsory call-out notices to serve in Optelic 2 in Basrah as part of the deployment of Queens Lancashire Regiment. They were a jolly bunch of souls from across Cumbria and Lancaster and this was the first time any of them had faced a compulsory call-out to serve in an actively hostile environment. They were given 21 days to sort out their families, their jobs and their affairs before departing from Alexandra Barracks, Lancaster at the end of May.

They served in gruelling heat in and around Basrah Palace and were on duty for a six month active tour. During that time they saw at least one of their officers Captain Dai Jones killed. It was supposed to be a peacekeeping mission but they faced hostilities on a daily basis and there was the constant threat of exploding IED’s. They were “butchers bakers and candlestick makers” and part-time soldiers, and yet they served admirably alongside full-time fully trained army personnel.

Their families back home also survived admirably with little in the way of active support and no garrison to back them up.

There were 2314 reservists called up for Optelic 2, made up of both volunteer reserve forces like LCV and regular reserve forces.

My husband was one of them. He was 41 years old and an HGV driver. We had just moved to the Isle of Man with our two small children.

He missed his children’s first day of school but he came home safe.

For years afterwards, he demonstrated hyper-vigilance but at least he was alive.

He still won’t talk about many of the things he witnessed.

But he came home.

Not everyone did.

They landed safely on Nov 7th (my birthday), and whilst it was another week before we got him home at least we knew he was safe and sound.

Fifteen years ago tomorrow.

He got four days leave- shown in the top photo and saying goodbye again at Ronaldsway Airport.

 

 

On the temple steps at Nan Tien.

Once upon a heartbeat

Your small hand held on to mine

Once upon a full moon

When the midnight stars did shine.

Once upon a heartbeat

My child I gave to you,

Everything my heart held dearly

My dreams and wishes too.

Once upon a heartbeat

You walked with head held high

You were brave enough to stand up tall

Your wings were strong enough to fly.

Once upon a heartbeat

I watched you stride away

Grown up, confident and brave

To make it your own way.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

This is my Ellen. We left NZ in 2017 and had a week together in NSW before going our separate ways. We carried on to the UK and Ellen went back to Whangarei. We loved this visit to Nan Tien. It is so hard being so far away and I miss her so much and I am so in awe of her bravery. Love her always. Xxx

for d’Verse.

For Ellen.

The wealth and beauty in the time-worn.

In Japan they have a word Kintsugi and it relates to keeping something and continuing to use it even when it has become damaged and care-worn. I am finding that as I age in our very materialistic and modern world that this idea resonates greatly with me. I feel that I myself am almost Kintsugi as I have been broken and fixed so many times.

I no longer feel the need to have everything shiny and new and in the latest style, it is as if I feel now more than ever that there was a time where it was the meaning that gave the value and this was more important than the monetary value of the “thing”. On my wall I have a clock that my mother got for me many years ago and its monetary value is meaningless but it still adorns my wall, she got it for me because she thought it would appeal to me and it still holds that value and the love that came with it deep within.

Sunday afternoon was very cold and wintery and in an attempt to stave off the cold we ventured into Bruccianis for a hot chocolate. Bruccianis is on the promenade at Morecambe and it opened in 1939 and still occupies the same building and much of the interior design and decor is still untouched and it is now a grade 2 listed building.

For me the comfort is in its menu. It takes me back to days gone by when I would warm my hands on a mug of Horlicks in the Bus Station cafe in Rawtenstall after shopping with mum, Terry Jacks and “Seasons in the sun” playing on the radio. The menu here boasts Horlicks, Vimto, Bovril and the ultimate decadence of the Knickerbocker Glory. It isn’t shabby chic, or modern art nouveau but simply still the same as it was many years ago.

Its wealth and beauty is that it is what it is. No charlatan here. A place to warm up with a hot chocolate in the winter-time and chat with family and friends or a special ice-cream treat at the beach in a red-hot summer when the sand feels like it is on fire. Sometimes we don’t need perfection what we really need is congruence and familiarity.

 

Morecambe by the sea

Icy cold toes, winter sun

Horlicks comforts me.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

I am submitting this for Haibun Monday at d’Verse, it breaks the rules a tad, but I think it reflects change and perhaps it is also indicative of a change yet to come, a return to a different set of values.

 

Light and shadows of loneliness.

As the day casts its long shadow homeward

I recognise that so much of it has to do with the light.

They say it is always darkest before the dawn and perhaps that dawn is the realisation that the fear, shame and guilt linger longest in the hours of darkness

and they dance and pirouette amongst the silhouettes and shadows to a tune that beguiles and steals the light.

We light candles, we whisper of hope and future happiness and draw circles in vain to cast aside the demons.

We crave love and long to belong to another so that we have a hand to hold in the darkness a kindred spirit to guide us through the pain and suffering and lamentable servitude to solitude.

Sunrise.

Night yields to day and despair drifts away and the endless ebb and flow brings us slowly to the shores of our halcyon dreams.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

This is my contribution for World Mental Health Day. I think loneliness is a huge issue for so many people young and old alike and I think the hours of darkness are able to bring/conjure up their own unique set of torments.

For those who struggle to sleep it seems a long night.

For my girls.

Submitting this for open link night at d’Verse.

Scents of Childhood.

Lavender lush

Lulls to sleep

Creeps through seams in crisp new linen.

 

Scented sachets

Sandalwood

Smell of the orient in Nanna’s drawers.

 

Nivea and talc

Clean fresh towels.

Lily of the valley handcream and cheap eau de cologne.

 

Bonfire night

Sparks and crackles

Burned embers, toffee and smoke galore

 

Pine needles and frost

Gingerbread parkin, mince pie aromas

And freshly fallen snow.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

This is for d’verse poetics, bit rusty have been out of the loop for a while.

 

 

Sounds of silence

Footfalls through the frost

Whispers on the wind,

Stillness in the stars,

Grubby chubby little hands

Seeking out shells on the shoreline.

Moments of magic in motherhood.

Memories fall like raindrops from the skies

Teardrops in my eyes

as I cherish every second of your lives.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Love you always wherever you may be-Mumma.

 

I think I have been silent for quite a while and now it is time to break the silence. I realise that so much of what I am and what I have done with my life and what I have become is linked to becoming a mother.

For me there was never any doubt that it was a fundamental part of what I held as important-not excelling in a sport or becoming a great leader or even the top of my career but giving and nurturing as best I could new members of the human race. I didn’t always do the job well, but I mostly did my best with the time and resources that I had at my disposal at the time.

I was always clear in my own mind that each would become their own person and make their own way in life and that in some respects all that I was doing was giving them some tools for their life basket and a safe place to grow. So it was a sprinkling of knowledge, a touch of high spiritedness, add in resilience backbone and compassion for others. I always wanted them to fly the nest and soar in the winds in their own little worlds build their own castles in the air and thrive and survive and have soul.

They have moved into their own lives now, almost effortlessly without a backwards glance and yet I know that they will always be connected. I don’t think the umbilical cord is ever truly broken and just as I will always carry my own mother in my heart even though she is long since gone I think they too will always carry a part of me in their hearts and so the story goes, the ebb and flow, mother to child.