Sunday, July 30, 2006

A London tale told in haiku

Yes, I'm busy sorting and packing for my big move. I came to a pile of old emails and paused. Pack rat that I am, my hoarding does have its moments of reward. I found myself reading through travel notes and poems which I'm so glad I saved.

Daughter, baby granddaughter and I had flown to London two years ago which, in itself, is quite a story. At the moment all you have to know is that Hannah was ten months old and screamed a lot, on the plane and while we were traipsing about. We got to see Jenn's close friends in Kent, travel to Brighton Beach, visit an English garden estate, and return to Jenn's college flat in Shepherd's Bush and reminisce.

Homebase was a lovely cottage in the tiny town of Tonbridge from which we could walk to the train and venture into London as one of our many day trips. However, day tripping with a baby began to wear on both me and daughter, Jenn. Add to that, a baby who was nursing and a camera that had dropped on a tile floor and took some damage. We turned to poetry to relieve our stress. Below are some excerpts from one extremely long excursion into bustling London, a day which stretched us to our limits. In retrospect, it also brought us closer.

How to Kill Twelve Hours in London
A Three-Generation Literary Adventure

Jenn's Thoughts

Infant, I beg you
Do not choke on the biscuit
No one will aid us

If you lick the glass
Of the train window again
You will drink Purell

Nurse her on the train?
Car of frowning Englishmen
Rock, hard place, and me ...

London with baby
Only disabled homeless
Enjoy themselves less

Spitalfields Market
Baby bawls and Grandma gripes
We buy marked-down cakes

O, lively market
Sequins, rosettes, fashion blooms
I am large and dull

Still at Spitalfields
Masochists. Why is it that
Only my babe cries?

The famous Christ Church
Sir Christopher Wren, I say
Mother curls her lip ...

A thousand cafes
Cold wind, grey sky, camera broke
Spent, we choose Starbucks

The Tube. Hannah howls.
I pray hard for diversion
Rob me, pickpockets

Vacation? Pleasure?
With the baby and my mom?
This is pilgrimage

Eight tenths of a mile
Tonbridge station to cottage
New muscle group found

Fish and chips tonight
Fried cod longer than my shin
Eat it all? I do.

The smell of neglect:
Seven hours of urine
In a cheap nappy

“You bathe her.” “No, you.”
Hannah gets a bedtime bath:
Hand sanitizer

Three thousand miles
From home, routine. Funny that
All I want is sleep

My Thoughts

Daughter writes the tale
Hyperbole comes to mind
New “reality”

Only grief and woe?
Gen X meets Baby Boomer
Aware of complaints

Perception is key
Baby is interference
Screams and impatience

Rushing to appease
Camera falls on hard ground
Baby Boomer sighs

Costly things do cost
But which is of more value
Memories of what

Meltdown moments fade
Baby licking ice cream cone
Pigeons sunning selves

Castle on a hill
Camera works as before
Storm clouds threatening

Racing baby home
Standing at the window’s ledge
Giggling at the rain

Baby turns and smiles
Values quickly fall in place
Travel becomes joy

Inconvenience pales
Meaning resurrects itself
Sun returns from clouds

Camera is scratched
Worn down and out like daughter
Still captures the truth

Moments of magic
Glowing sun over chimneys
Baby falls asleep

Daughter takes to bath
Grandmom sits amidst the peace
Cottage holds all three

Life as a journey
Movement, tension, too much haste
For now all is calm


kay susan said...

Oh Mater! I live in Eastbourne, just down the coast from Brighton. My daughter, Jenn, lives in Forest Row, not a stone's throw from Tonbridge, but in a different county. 2 years ago, we went, husband and I, on holiday with Jenn, son-in-law Richard and two grandchildren, three year old Joe and 4 year old Maisie to guess where, the East Coast, US of A! Long flight, fire alarm first night in Boston Hotel 3.30 am, no sleep after 7.5 hour flight. Long drive in shared and cramped camper van to North Woodstock, horrible site, dark, trees, bad showers, biting insects. Worked our way south over two or three days to Kennebunkport for wedding of friend of Jenn's. Tired, fretful, still jetlagged, dreadful campsite, dark, trees, bad showers, biting insects. Mother and daughter fell out, smallest grandchild wet his bunk. Moved to super site. Wedding a disaster, after all that travel and trouble. American side inhospitable, daughter consoled, mother reconciled, peace restored. South to Bar Harbour via Camden and somewhere else, name I've forgotton, huge campsite, nothing else but wonderful beach, stayed two nights children loved it. Then on to Cape Code and Province Town.
Spent the last week of 3 week trip in Province Town, best campsite, best position, plenty for us all to do. Then back to Boston (loved it!) for two days before flight. Then home. Straight to bed. Woke up, missed grandchildren. Mother inconsolable! No poetry, but lots of empathy!

kirsty said...

Jenn and the Mater
turn disaster to blessing
wish I was there.

kirsty said...

Jenn and mater wrote
haiku that made me laugh til
I wet myself

Patti McCracken said...

My sister's second baby learned to walk on the transatlantic flight from London to DC. So, up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down... the whole flight.

doow said...

Ooh I've got shivers knowing that you were once in Tonbridge. I live in a little village just 5 miles away and went to grammar school in Tonbridge from 1993 to 2000. Oh, the idea that we could have passed each other in the street!

The Mater said...

kay susan and doow, sorry I didn't make your acquaintance whilst in jolly old England :>) Daughter and I and the wee one loved Brighton pier and Tonbridge castle. Small world, eh?

Sorry kay that some of your travel time wasn't so delightful. You should have come to Philly instead of Boston and had one of our famous soft pretzels!

kirsty dear reader
you continue to return
to my humble blog

with haikus of your own!

patti, I guess everything is relative ... Hannah was just starting to stand and crawl on this trip ... it could have been worse. Bless your sister and pass the Purell!

Thanks all of you for sharing your own stories :>)

Antonia said...

Lots of English readers! I live in central London, born and bred. For me, the secret to the place is being able to get home within twenty minutes of the exact second when you throw up your hands, drop your camera and need a comfortable armchair and a book. I take my hat off to you for hiking in from Tonbridge with a baby. You must have been utterly knackered.

We holiday in MA because my father lives on Cape Cod: Ian, my other half, spent a year of his childhood in Williamstown, near where Jenn lives. Small world.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed a lot! »