Friday, November 13, 2009

Grandmother's Sweet Peas

Early in the morning, hand in hand ,

we went naked to the orchard land.

With chamber pot, along the cinder path, her and me,

warm sun on our bodies as brown as can be.

Behind high stone walls, nobody could see.

In 1943 my grandmother said to me

“Not a good idea to put your pee in the sea.

It makes flowers grow and its free,

But it pollutes the sea.

Go to Hopes Nose, in Torquay.”

We went in the car, its not very far

We slid down the grass under the pine trees

My father took me to see,

the brown stain curling out to sea.

In the 1950s as young teachers in Nottingham we saw the city so proud,

of treating its waste, selling it and spreading it on the land around.

In Southampton on hot sunny days in 1963

our children could not play on the golden pebbles by the sea.

The gulls had a feast, a tomato plant forest grew for all to see

as The Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary and other ships

discharged their waste into the sea,

The children had to play on the bomb sites with me,

Broken houses open to the sky, garden and wild flowers gone awry

where to mice cowered, between the showers ,

we found treasures from lost lives. (not so long since1945.)

At the end of the road we were tempted to look at the shore ,

They could not keep their hands off the shells and the stones

My children were so sick and I said to the shore no more.

In 1968 we painted the Sewer in Scarborough which got rid of Sewage cheaply.

Out of its threepenny bit concrete mouth it spat the sewage onto the beach,

with pink and green toilet paper it trickled through the rock pools to the sea.

Our painting was exhibited in the local art Gallery and at Surrey University.

With my children in Wales in 1973

We used the compost toilets at the National Centre for Alternative Technology

We lived in Borth in a concrete box by the sea

It was built by an avantgard architect in 187O's

It was swept by the wind and bleached by the sun

It was at least three miles to the nearest tree.

We had our sewage disposed of free.

A well built system with two septic tanks.

Gently sloping salt glazed pipes, set in the pebble bank

In bikinis and wellies we could rod them ourselves.

And jump in the sea afterwards to get rid of the smells

In 1989 we drove the backroads from Aberystwyth to Brighton by the sea

to attend the bitter revisionism of the Conference of the Labour Party.

We stopped at all the watercourses big and small

We could smell and see pollution in one and all.

In 1995 our WILPF train crossed the border to China,

going to the UN Womens Conference in Beijing,

out of 240 women the Americans were king

They knew the Chinese used night soil to grow crops,

American hands and voices were raised in horrors and shocks ,

and they said we are not, we are not, eating a thing!

The length of the train what a fuss and a din

I said where is the sea to put the pee in?

The sea is not a dustbin!

An oldie at Pembroke Market in 2003

shared her memories with me.

With the earth closet she used as a child

Their Potatoes and tomatoes grew prolifically

Sustainable as we used to be.

Today on my daily walk round Castle pond,

I still smell sewage on it's way to the sea.

On hot days children jump in and swim .

In 2009 with world oil running out

oil fertilisers in doubt, no longer about,

Bob Flowerdew would agree

Now we all need to live sustainably.

Thalia Campbell. October 2009

My grandmother and parents sparked an early, life long interest in waste disposal.