Category Archives: friends



(The higher you climb…)

was the title I bestowed
upon my insulting brand of arrogance when,
though sweating from the ache of bearing too much weight,
I refused generously proffered aid from a stranger.

was the title I bestowed
upon my cold refusal to engage when,
though risking a soaking from a downpour of freezing rain
I spurned an offer to share an umbrella.

Even when family and friends offered to help
with some big or little thing
and I wanted to accept their assistance
I would shake my head, say
thanks, but I’m OK, and turn away instead

(the further you fall)

Years later, when all my money was stolen,
I had to borrow to cover the bills.
Through that rimy winter
I was often hungry
always cold.
In my damp home
I shivered under a green blanket,
its fibres too arctic to comfort my chilled bones.

And still my drug-befuddled son pursued me for more money. I would try to spend any money I had before he found me, but he was like a hound, sniffing the air, smelling the money and my blood wherever I scurried, hunting me down for the money, always the money, and when he found me he got the money in any way he could. Sometimes, when he was unlucky enough to turn up too late, I would have spent the money on food. When that was the case, he ate it and tried to bully me into getting more money from somewhere, anywhere, he didn’t care. More money, always more money.

Hedley Davey is a man of humour and secret suffering
whose presence would melt a heart of lead.
I knew his gentle reputation, and most of his history,
as I had known him for many years.
Perhaps we were no more than aquaintances,
or maybe we were friends;
but at Oxfam we were colleagues as well.

Hedley’s the thin guy you may see
standing outside the shop in Boutport Street.
Smoking a cigarette, chillin’,
dressed like a weathered cowboy in an old western movie.

Hedley Davey, talking about boats, thinking his ship has come in because he has at least as much as the poorest man on the river or off it, feeling like a king whenever he has food in his fridge, but forever wishing that he had someone to share it with. Hedley Davey who they said was half crazy, but is one of the sanest men I have met. Forget the medication. These days everybody who’s anybody has a mental health issue or two; he was just ahead of the rest – and who wouldn’t be affected by being buried alive while saving a couple of kids from almost certain death? They said he was a hero, gave him a medal, but they couldn’t mend the bit that had been broken, so he hid it beneath a poem, a song, a joke, any magic trick that would turn a poker face into a happy grin.

If my son was a hound, Hedley was a dog of a different breed.
He had no greed for money, but he could sniff out need,
and he recognised it in me.

The day that he came to the back of the shop after his casually-rolled smoke, took my hand and pressed a twenty-pound note into it, I was embarrassed, and my instant reaction was to shake my head, and try to give it back – even though I had need of it – but he told me it wasn’t his, that he had rescued it from the pavement, and when I looked in his eyes I saw two things; the first was that he was lying, and the second? He wanted me to let him help me. It’s true he was a hero, and in his humility, he didn’t even see it.

I haven’t yet told him that he gave me more than the money. He gave me something that had been missing all my life. Hedley Davey gave me twenty pounds that day, and in the sweetest way, he gave me the precious gift of humility.

Independence was the title
I had always bestowed on my self-obsessed pride.
Hedley Davey gave me money so I wouldn’t go hungry,
and he taught me to be humble.

Written for Soulgifts’ Circle of Friends Week 3: Friendship and Gifting.

©Jane Paterson Basil




tired feet slapping as I’m dashing down the lane
rapping out rhymes in my overactive brain
random ramblings rushing like a runaway train
can’t locate the brakes and I think I may derail
scattering my passion in the wake of my trail
an ambiguous failure lacking wind in my sails

I’m gasping for breath but I’m almost there
in the kitchen at Elaine’s I sink into a chair
with a mundane mumble on the state of my hair
while she switches on the kettle to make a cup of tea
I regulate my breathing as she listens to me
and I’m grateful to find myself where I need to be

©Jane Paterson Basil

Choose life


I need to find the perfect words
to bring back those memories;
the right way to say please,
please save your skin.
step out of the alley,
revive your sinking spirit,
walk away from that vile witch,
ditch the needles and the dealers,
and reach out to the living.

free yourself from the back-street filth,
from the sleazy scrabble to find another dirty dick
who’s willing to slide his stinking flesh over your skin
and sling you his tainted tenners in exchange;
so you can buy a thinned down hit.

free yourself from the daily fear,
the screaming need,
the wasted veins,
the reaper’s blood-stained scythe,
and the clucking, clawing aches and pain.

free yourself, embrace your family,
and your loyal friends;
who even now wait patiently,
faithfully praying in the aisles,
for you to choose life.

©Jane Paterson Basil

My desired destination




friends gave it
willingly; the magic gift of
self-belief to tenuously cling
to, telling me I could do it, that
it doesn’t matter if I am late, but I
have the ability to reach my desired
destination, and I owe it to myself to
try.  now I know  that  even if I do not
arrive  before  the final toll  of the mid-
night bell,  I will  have succeeded  all my
previous expectations. so now, with friends
to cheer me, I take my papyrus, my quill and ink, and
I scribble; I will scribble until I reach the winning post, or
until I hear the final toll of the bell as it rings, rings
in my



Written for Writing 101 Poetry Day 1:

“And… the first prompt of the course is out: courtesy of @laduchessederat, it invites you to write a poem involving magic, whatever your take on the magical might be.”

©Jane Paterson Basil

If we were having coffee


If we were having coffee today
we would reach a new level of intimacy
I would learn your deeper history
you would speak of your trials and your triumphs
I would listen, and where approriate
I would console and congratulate

If we were having coffee today
I would tell you that this evening
we are having a birthday celebration
a happy family get-together
I wouldn’t mention that my youngest daughter, Laura
won’t be joining us
because she is not welcome in her sister’s home
I let you know that my eldest Grandson
will be nineteen tomorrow

If we were having coffee together
I would tell you I rarely feel well these days
the leaden ache in my shoulders and neck
is creeping into my head
I get confused and often feel dizzy
I’m always tired and I want to sleep
yet I avoid going to bed,

because I’m always trying to catch up with time
I’m always behind where I once was ahead

if we were having coffee together
I would give you too much information
and then shrug, make little of it
change the subject
I would tell you that Laura is doing well
that she seems ready to go into recovery
I would suggest that her lack of ability
to concentrate on, or understand
the things which are said are likely due
to short-term memory loss
which is probably temporary
I’ll tell you that she assures me she is going to
continue to live

I won’t make you uncomfortable, because
I have practiced smiling with my eyes

If we were having coffee today
I would tell you that Paul is doing his best
that it has been difficult for him

since he came out of prison
that things will be better now
because he is coming home to us
I would look out of the window, avoid your eyes
and say all will be well

I would probably notice a doubing glint
so, again I would smile with my eyes

If we were having coffee together today
I’d distract you with carrot cake
I’d addle your empathic responses
with distractions, having prepared myself
by checking the books on the cafe shelf
I would leap from my seat, shrieking
“The Pied Piper of Hamelyn! This you have to see!”
and pull out a beautifully illustrated
fairy tale written for adults
I would whip up humour for dessert

If we were having coffee today I would conjure up
a basketful of giggles, a bucket of hilarity
as a salve for those ears I so recently infiltrated
and leave them ringing with laughter

For Writing 101. Day 10

©Jane Paterson Basil


Sometimes The only Kind Of Poem…

that should be written
is a bad poem.

freedom 2

they like to
complete the paperwork
on the day previous to release
by the evening everything was in order
and ready for his discharge
just one final sleep
before freedom

he woke at
five am, with little to do
but wait in his cell until called
the ritual would not take long and he
would be walking into
my arms by
nine am

we would have
a wonderful first day
beginning with the best
breakfast in over fifteen months, and
then the day would progress
in whatever way he

at twenty
past eight I was
waiting outside, patiently
reading a book and checking the time
and reading some more, and
checking again, and
pacing around

at twenty
past nine I rang the
prison and asked what time
he would walk through the gate and
they took his name and said
it could be any time
before five

I had no
choice but to sit and
fret, though I knew something
was wrong. But the data protection
act means that they can’t
tell me what’s really
going on

at twenty
past ten I had an
idea and I rang back and
asked whether all of the prisoners
due for release had left. They
told me that that
was correct

the female
voice kindly suggested
I ring probation to find out
what was going on. I took her advice and
I rang probation and they
supplied the information
within a minute


They couldn’t tell me he wasn’t leaving, but they didn’t have to say that he may be released any time before 5pm. That’s bad enough, but I knew that Paul was unaware of the horrible, horrible error, or he’d have rung me to let me know. So, again I rang the prison, and I explained that he thought he was being released today. I asked if he could be gently informed, and was told that he would be bound to know by now, because he would have asked what the delay was. I said that if he knew, he would have rung me, but the only response I got was that he would have spoken to a warden if he had been concerned about the situation, and the warden would have explained.

Paul rang me at 12.15. He had only just learned that he wasn’t being released today. Naturally, he was very upset, but more worried about how I was feeling.

It doesn’t matter how I feel.

I will light candles for my son.

I will hold a vigil.

And soon he will be in my arms.


Breaking news

He rang me a minute ago, sounding cheerful.
in the background, friends called his name.
in prison they all rally around
when a mate feels low. it may not be Utopia
but there are worse places in the world
and worse people on our own home ground.

his pals laughed about the candles
but in the kindest way.

Paul and co. have repaired me.

© Jane Paterson Basil