more mothers

pink aquilegia flower

Well, it’s Mothering Sunday and we altered the clocks last night, doing the old dear out of an hour in bed.

I’m not sure that these two dates always coincide, but my mother first drew my attention to it when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, saying that she thought a woman PM could have organised things a bit better. Of course Thatcher was supposed to only need four hours’ sleep a night, so I don’t suppose it mattered much to her.

This is clearly a women’s weekend as yesterday was Lady Day – not to be confused with Ladies Day at the races. A quick glance at Google shows that each racecourse has its own date for Ladies Day although many seem to fall somewhere between late June and August, presumably in the hope of good weather so we can style our barnets into stunning updos and don our posh frocks and fancy titfers. (As opposed to the old-fashioned granny’s bonnets in the top photo and the bright, almost clownish, colours of the jockeys’ silks.)

horses warming up before race

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Lady Day was the traditional start of the legal year, which must make this New Year’s Day. And, since we’ve changed the clocks, it must also be the first day of British Summertime, which perhaps explains why there are already fields bright with yellow rape flowers, a plant I’d be far more likely to associate with May or June and which most people these days prefer to call canola.

Anyway, confusing diary dates to one side, I should probably post some poetry. I don’t have that many pieces that refer to mothers, but have remembered this one, which was commended in the Southport Writers’ Circle Competition a few years ago:

Letters from my mother

She used to write round hand

with a gold-nibbed Sheaffer she filled 

from a diamond bottle. Meticulous

accounts of non-events would cover 

sheet after water-marked sheet

of linen-finish bond. She’d blot

the excess blue-black drops and sign off:

Take care

              with love.

Now we correspond by email. 

No emoticons or TLAs contaminate 

her concise messages. She proof-reads

carefully and checks her spelling

in Chambers’s Twentieth Century. 

Registered virus software stamps 

digital approval, but, for added security,

she refuses

Looking at that afresh after some time, I realise how much the stoic female figure is a familiar character in my poems: the letter-writing mother is related – at least in attitude and suffering – to Rebecca, who appears below.

When I wrote the next piece, I believed Rebecca had never had children, but on reflection I’m beginning to think they just didn’t survive to school age, which might account for her alleged crime.


She used to wear a cashmere cardigan,
well-made, the pocket corners reinforced,
the seams all neatly bound so no loose threads
escaped. The long, concealing sleeves reached
to her wrists; she wore it buttoned up. Perhaps
the neckline was a little tight, the ribbing
didn’t give, but she looked comfortable
enough in fade-into-the-background, soft
blue wool, though gently overdressed queueing
at the greengrocer’s to buy her husband’s
favourite fruit, or as she cast a wistful
glance at mothers waiting to collect
their children after school. At her trial, she wore
a killer’s cardigan and last-straw hat.

That was written after a discussion of killer’s cardigans – a phrase that intrigued me so much it inspired two poems. I’ve posted the other one here before, but I think it bears repeating and perhaps I can tie it in tenuously with the fashionista jargon I used up above to talk of Ladies Day outfits.

Fashion update

I’ve heard that killer’s cardigans are set
to take the fashion world by storm. Discreet
in wouldn’t-hurt-a-baby pastel hues
or trust-me rust and other solid shades
selected from the down-to-earth-tones range,
they’re superficially the same as countless
other woollies seen at WI
and ladies’ reading groups. But they conceal
assorted yarns, flounces, neat stitchery,
and linings bound with threads pulled tight, almost
to snapping point. Teamed with stiletto heels
they’re cutting edge. The fashionistas say
it takes a shared experience to know,
but cognoscenti recognise the brand.

None of those are quite what one might expect for a mother’s day poem, so perhaps I had better at least add some pretty flowers to end on a somewhat brighter note:

brightly coloured primula flowers
red japonica
(Note: this post was edited a few hours after first publication to add a couple more photos.)

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

2 thoughts on “more mothers”

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