Medal of Honour

My grandfather, who was 92 when he died, 9 years ago, was a very brave man. One day, he was walking through the centre of Hull when he saw a gang of lads attacking a guy with learning disabilities. With no hesitation, he waded in, pinned the ringleader to the ground, the other lads ran off, and he got another member of the public to ring the police. He managed to hold the bully down until the police arrived.
For this he received a bravery award from Humberside police. I was SOOOO proud of him! Here’s a poem dedicated to him…

Medal of honour

All we have is a fading photograph
Proud old man
In tan leather shoes
Polished into mirrors
Of army reflections
Standing on principles
Of selfless bravery
Heels as sturdy roots
Sucking up the echoes
Of classless courage
From an Earth
Sodden with the blood
Of cowardice
of cruelty
of discrimination.

All we have is a photograph
Proud old man
In weathered wool coat
Threads laid bare by age
Your seventy-five years
Hold you not to turn a blind eye
To turn the other cheek
Once an army boxer
Punches never left you
But attack in defence
Working class fists
Infused with the legacy
Of world war hardship

Fist to floor
Floor the enemy
Enemy a prisoner
Prisoner of war
War crime
Crime for a cheap dime
Don’t mess with him
Non nonsense banker
Pennies for punches
Pounds for penitence.

All we have is a photograph
Proud old man
In memories now you’re gone
Proud to call you grandad
Proud

©2020 Sarah Drury

The Clan of the Working Man

Inspired by happy times at the Belmont Working Mens Club in Hull as I was growing up.

The clan of the working man

I remember the clan
The clan of the working man
Waiting at the door of the modest establishment
For the member to sign the book
The book of acceptance
To say you were one of them
One of the working class men
Or women, who supped halves of lager and lime
Whilst sporting their wash, set and blowdrys sublime
Fresh from the hairdressers on Holderness Road
Their weekly routine, ready to dazzle the salt of the Earth
The heart of our country
The ones whose minds and souls and hearts are priceless worth.
The ones whose graft and dedication to the grind have given birth
To the bones of the city I was born in.
Hull
City of shipping and slavery abolition
And Amy Johnson and wartime ammunition
And bombing and resilience and grit and persistence
And not cracking under pressure, no matter the resistance
And the crack
The getting on a bus and the elderly lady
Stopping for a chinwag and a friendly word
And the people, the wonderful people,
Dragging you into the bosom of their hearts
The stories they tell, the stories they’ve heard.

But I was in, I was in the clan
As the band pulsed rhythms of sixties and seventies
And did I hear a bit of Sinatra for good measure?
And the flashy singer, a hit on the circuit
But not quite an income of millionaire treasure
And testing one two, one two,
Eyes down for full house
I sit with the clan as my palms sweat with
Eager anticipation
Hoarding my little pink books
The huddles of women praying for a line
In desperation
The room buzzing with a Northern energy
Don’t dare break the silence,
Each player no friend but a foe, an enemy.
And I feel the love, amidst this competition,
I feel the love, the kinship,
The clan held together by a monetary mission.
But this was real love
Real love.
The belonging, the warmth
Of these strangers who felt like a family
Who took me in and wrapped their generous hearts around me.
As the punters rocked to the beat of the act
And my spirit rocked to the feeling of being
One of them
one of the ones who on signing on entry had made a pact
to give back the love
to give back the warmth
to put my comforted heart into their all welcome glove

and I look at my grandfather
and see the joy etched on his age-mapped face
and I know why they have brought me here
I know they feel the belonging of this special place
As grandma chats to Ethel about Coronation Street
And they fantasise about the filmstars they’d like to meet.
And they compare the price of bacon at the local butchers
And how they cook their beef on a Sunday lunch
And swap recipes for apple pie and sweet cherry scones
And bitch about the harlot women they’d love to punch.
And grandad
Grandad sat by my side
And just sat and we enjoyed a moment
A moment that lasted every night
And these moments turned to memories
Now I am 50
And my grandparents are stars shining bright.
Amen.

©2019 Sarah Drury