I live in New Mexico,
the Land of Enchantment
in a southwestern-style house.
I value my personal life,
husband, teenage son, and two dogs.
I manage a business from home;
a jackrabbit manages the property.
I am working on a tax return,
which is due on April fifteenth.
I'll finish it earlier this year
because I am habitually late,
and then resume anagrams.
I was born in a Cleveland hospital
with an unbearable name at birth;
I won't reveal the name to anyone.
I came from a "heathen" atheist family;
I'd sneak off to Bible school by myself.
I was an unmanageable child,
bickered with my young sister.
I gave our mother awful headaches,
or so she wanted me to believe.
I read eerie 'Nancy Drew' stories,
and searched for a hidden passage
in my grandparents' stone house,
less than a mile from our home.
I loved to assemble jigsaw puzzles,
then do them again upside down,
with no picture visible to see.
I had quite an active imagination.
I invented secret codes and games
that I played quietly alone.
I confess I was shy and fearful,
but did phenomenally in school.
I was intelligent and attentive.
I learned both violin and piano,
rode horseback in shows,
and rode piggyback on my father.
I went harness sleighing in winter,
made tree houses in summer.
I had a pleasant childhood.
I played baseball with local boys,
until a freakish incident
when I got hit in the head with a bat,
had a hemorrhage, headache, shiner.
I joined the Campfire Girls
(was never interested in Girl Scouts)
and made hot S'mores by the fire.
I trick-or-treated for UNICEF.
I was not a cheerleader or athlete.
I traveled to Rome and Madrid,
where I left the bullfight in tears.
I am humane, but not squeamish.
I adore animals of all kinds.
I had a crush on a friend's brother,
who lived down the avenue.
I was a bareback horsewoman.
I fell off a horse on my head
to impress him with my horsemanship--
another hemorrhage, ache, amnesia.
He came to visit me in the hospital;
I was ungainly in a tie-on gown,
too embarrassed and humiliated
to ever see him again.
I hear he became a veterinarian.
He died of leukemia later,
and I never professed my love.
In my teen years, I misbehaved,
gallivanting with friends.
I went out through the window
at night when it was dark.
I'd stuff a level bed with pillows
to look like I was asleep.
My mother turned on the light
and I ran away from home.
I hid where they couldn't find me,
in my friends' grandma's house,
while she was away in Florida.
I was apprehended three days later
when the grandma got home.
The police called my indignant father.
It was a serious infraction.
I never quite knew the reason
I was sent to boarding school;
I think it was probably behavioral,
because I was a juvenile delinquent,
at least according to my mother.
I was sent to a private school
they couldn't really afford.
I worked part-time in the kitchen
to pay the expensive tuition.
I felt like an abandoned orphan.
I was an introverted teen,
though I enjoyed serving others;
I knew it was a privilege.
I lived on the third floor of a dorm;
I can't remember my roommate.
I know we smoked hash in the closet,
behind a heavy wool blanket
hanging over a rod.
Our sweaters smelt of smoke.
I learned to understand French
and express myself in print,
but I am not verbally bilingual.
I haven't ever used the language.
I loved new philosophies.
I read Hemingway and Shakespeare.
I watched cheesy old movies
on the lower floor of the dorm.
We turned all the armchairs over,
shook out years of coins
to put in vending machines.
I drank Fanta Orange soda
and ate PayDay candy bars.
I had embarrassing acne.
I used heavy Cover Girl makeup
and mascara on my eyelashes.
I wore heather-tone fashions.
I skipped the morning chapel
to sneak off to smoke hashish.
I experimented with drugs,
and had hallucinations.
It was the year nineteen-sixty-nine
and I was "sweet sixteen".
I played pranks on dorm mothers.
I was expelled from school
right before the holidays.
I rode home in my father's car
for thirteen hours in complete silence.
Advisors permitted me to return,
but only until that year's end.
I went to the beach in the summer;
I was seventeen that season.
I found a job as a waitress
at a fishing pier restaurant.
I moved to a boarding house
with several serious surfers.
I hitchhiked for transportation.
I protested the Vietnam war,
burned my bra, was a hippie chick,
and drank Boone's Farm Apple Wine.
I was a vagabond in blue jeans,
living on my own at seventeen.
I loved bookkeeping in school,
then attended business college
for accounting and computer science.
I learned Fortran, Cobol,
and Basic Assembly Language.
I programmed an endless loop
into the full-room IBM computer
before Christmas break
and left it running for a week.
No one found out who did it.
I got involved with an older man;
I envisioned marriage to him
and thought it would be heaven.
I wore a lovely diamond ring,
but he was businesslike, snappish,
and always late to meet me.
I had been sadly mistaken.
I broke it off and vanished to heal.
I headed to Tallahassee, Florida,
hid as a long-distance telephone operator.
I met my spouse-to-be at a party
the evening Nixon was reelected.
We were drinking, commiserating,
not celebrating the victory.
I thought my husband-to-be clever,
and called him "Philosopher King".
We listened to Firesign Theatre
and erupted into laughter.
I dreamed of his magnetic blue eyes.
I observed him practicing yoga
and meditating with self-discipline,
though I was irreverent and negative.
I talked and babbled and jabbered,
and asked him to take me along
on his journeys and adventures
in search of a higher spiritual life.
He said "There's no room for another",
but I aggressively pursued it,
and eventually convinced him
that I could be a helpmate.
Exhausted, he agreed I could go,
and I quickly packed my things.
We left in a bus the next morning.
I had only a small backpack,
no baggage except my faithlessness,
which was apparently very heavy.
We overstayed our welcome
with his college friends in Austin.
We found an apartment in San Antonio,
but were unable to get employment;
we did not speak Spanish at all.
We slept on a shapeless mattress,
ate Pop-Tarts and Instant Breakfast,
and followed Watergate on TV;
fun, but "heathen" - not a spiritual life.
We ran out of most of our cash
and rode the bus back to Virginia.
He got his glassblower job back.
Our housemates got high in the evening,
served meals to yoga teachers.
I became a wholehearted vegetarian.
I adopted real spiritual behavior.
and felt very enthusiastic.
We hitchhiked to an ashram,
lived separate there as renunciates.
I woke early and took cold baths
(great for ailments and overall health).
I performed humanitarian service,
and ashram housekeeping
(the men seemed chauvinistic).
I sang elevating music,
shared peaceful chanting,
sat in silent meditation,
did Kundalini yoga, too.
Our marriage was at an amphitheater.
Relatives did not attend the service.
I had the flu, felt peevish at the time.
We had no true honeymoon.
My husband became an unshaven white Sikh,
receiving his spiritual name.
I took his name in earnest,
meaning "righteous, faithful",
although, I had real reservations.
We rolled into Espanola in a VW bus,
hearing the ashram there had a farm.
Arriving at the hacienda in overalls,
we helped a while with a harvest,
laundry, and barn chores.
At length, after several miscarriages,
I bore two healthy sons...
(I have a hunch that's enough)
Hawaiian retirement? Heavens, no!
by Anthony David Crafter
When Auntie Cissie kissed us,
It always smelled
It's strange how that phrase suddenly popped into my head, especially as Auntie Cissie has been dead for thirty-nine years. But there I was, sprinkling eucalyptus oil onto a hankie in an endeavour to soothe my influenza-ravaged sinuses when, voila...! long-lost memories of Auntie Cissie came wafting back through the decades.
A wrinkled hankie hides
A million germs and
Indeed, I have always found aromas to be very evocative. Unlike T.S. Eliot, I've not measured my life in coffee spoons: more in nasal experiences. But I grew up in a household of five sons and, as one can imagine, it was a veritable aroma-minefield. Indeed, if I wrote my life story it would probably be called 'An Odourbiography'!
Whoosh! There goes another wave of Auntie Cissie wafting past. Aha! Here she is again; nearly had you then Auntie! But you were too quick for me, flitting in and out of my memories like an elusive will o' the wisp. Not that Auntie did much flitting when alive. I have vivid memories of her visiting us and waddling in through the front door on those elephantine, perennially-bandaged legs, the aroma of eucalyptus hanging in the air behind her like an invisible vapour trail.
Aha! and here comes her pipe-smoking husband, Percy! Much loved, much travelled, Uncle Percy - a debonair ex-naval engineer, awash with exciting tales of exotic places:
Uncle Percy's smoky hugs
Smelled of pipes
And Persian rugs.
Alas, Percy also died - in his eighties - many years ago but here he is again, vivid as ever, alive and revived, a videotape in my head! Hi, Uncle; just passing through are you? I wonder to which fantastic world you are returning now!
I remember that brother Kevin (known to all as Windbreaker Kev) was Percy's favourite, but he only ever saw Kevin's well-behaved side. He didn't know that this fiendish devil-brother liked to lock me in the cellar in the dark, or sit on my head and make smells. Now, in white-haired old age, Kevin has not changed much, except that he doesn't lock me in the cellar any more...
Whene'er I smell a rotten egg,
I think of Kev
With lifted leg.
Being the youngest sibling, I always had pole position for piggy-backs from dad, and I remember a particular evening when we had all been to see a Bud Abbott and Lou Costello movie. I was draped, warm and sleepy, on his back, arms around his neck, enjoying the tangy-sweet fragrance of Brilliantine emanating from his hair as he trudged up the hill to our house.
Suddenly, he halted to draw everyone's attention to a shooting-star, but I was too tired and comfortable to raise my head. I never did see that shooting-star, neither have I ever seen one to this day, and I have grown up rueing the fact that my brothers had seen this incredible sight and I had not. Now, when I smell Brilliantine, I feel a sense of sleepy contentment tinged with the sad regret of missed opportunities.
Piggy-backs and Brilliantine,
I haven't seen.
It was always a great source of intrigue and amusement to my brothers that I identified people as aromas, and I in turn was delighted to provide them with entertainment. I remember sitting cross-legged on the kitchen table while they fired aroma-related questions at me, and awaited my imaginative pronouncements with eagerness:
"What smell is Alistair Reeves, then?"
"What is Mrs Hanrahan at number nineteen?"
"What is Keith Hankin?"
"What is Annie Andersen?"
"What is Kevin?"
"Ha ha! What is Dad?"
"What is Mum?"
This was the question I had been dreading. Was there a universal fragrance that epitomised a mother's love? And if so, what was it? Ah, not a fair question to ask a seven-year-old kid. I thought hard. Then it hit me! They all leaned forward in expectation.
"Aha! She is... she is..." I said.
"Yeah...? What?" They gathered in closer.
"Clean washing!" I announced. "She's clean washing!"
"Huh...?" Their faces dropped and they walked away in disdain, now bored with the game. I was broken-hearted; I was only telling it as I smelled it, but I had disappointed them. From that day, I learned to embellish my pronouncements to ensure maximum audience appreciation.
Mum's the one I loved the most,
And warm as toast.
Of course, no childhood memories are complete without those of our schooldays. I hated school with a passion. The corridors invariably reeked of Johnson's Wax and vomit and, although neither of these odours in isolation reminds me of school, just mix them together and I am right back there with the kids.
I can even feel Mr Waterman the music master rapping my head with a wooden blackboard duster when I didn't know how many beats there were in a semibreve.
When my addled brain then failed to distinguish a crotchet from a quaver, he used the analogy of a chocolate bar to accompany the highly effective rapping of the blackboard duster. "Each (rap!) square (rap!) of chocolate (rap!) denotes a musical (rap!) beat, and together they make up the whole bar (rap!). Have we got that Crafter? Bonehead!" To this day the smell of chocolate gives me a throbbing headache, and rap music gives me even more of one.
Chocolate bars and blackboard chalk
Are things of which
It hurts to talk.
Then, one memorable, teenage day, I discovered girls! Having been raised in a family of brothers, the household was dominated by indeterminate male aromas, but when I started going out with girls I stepped from a world of aromas into one of fragrances. Ah, heaven! And what wonderful perfumes there were to remember and idealise them by! Valerie was 'Evening In Paris', Nadine was 'Rive Gauche', Hannah was 'Miss Dior'. I have never forgotten the heady smell of those perfumes and as a result I have never forgotten the girls either.
Nadine, Hannah, Val as well;
A pot pourri
Of heavenly smells.
Now a sexagenarian, with more years behind me than ahead of me, I have added a host of new smells to the list. Talcum powder represents babies and I am instantly reminded of our two beautiful daughters at baby-age.
In contrast, there is the depressing and all- pervasive stale-urine aroma I encountered when I visited a nonagenarian relative in a nursing home (and, no, it did not come from me!).
Then there is the intangible smell of sheer fear I experienced when an armed robber raided a bank where I was an assistant manager. Adrenaline does indeed have an aroma.
In April, the viburnum juddii here in our garden bursts into flower and releases a divine fragrance, but it lasts a mere three weeks then it's gone. While it is there, the aroma is an announcement that Spring is here again. Alas, like life, it is all too brief.
Babies, Spring and urine stale,
Speaks a tale.
One day I am going to amass a load of those individual Shippams paste pots and in each one I shall put an aromatic reminder of various times in my life. Ok, I don't think I'll be having a Kevin-jar but, apart from that, I shall have eucalyptus in one, pipe tobacco in another, have a hint of Brilliantine in another, a bit of floor wax in another (I think I'll leave out the vomit) and so on until I have built up a comprehensive potted history. Then, when I am feeling nostalgic, I can pick a jar at random and embark on my own 'scentimental' journey. I wonder what aroma I would be?
When they have tolled my final bell,
Will I come back
As just a smell?
Life - a Reminiscence
David Sean Bourke (age forty-nine):
I was born at a young age in Homerton, in East London, of Irish descent. I moved to Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, and from five, home was in Swiss Cottage, a Viennese-Jewish refugee enclave in North London. As a nipper, I went to George Eliot, a wonderful primary school...I cherish my happy childhood memories there! Then I went to Haverstock Comprehensive, a tough, harsh school a mile away in Chalk Farm. My form teacher was Alan Scrivener. It was in the early Seventies then, in the "glam" era...I had long hair and I even used to wear high-heeled boots like I was David Bowie or Marc Bolan! A heterosexual, but naively unaware of what a vain, effeminate fairy I looked, I was chased and beaten up by the girls. I mean, boys didn't even consider me fair game! It was hell...a sheer hell. I misbehaved. I failed in most of my exams.
At about thirteen-ish, I got into motorbikes. I used to hop on a thirty-one bus and I'd beeline to F.H. Warr (a Harley- Davidson dealer in Kings Road in Chelsea) and stare, while in awe, at the massive, powerful, shining machines in their window. I knew everything about them...except how to ride one! I wanted to be Barry Sheene or Evel Knievel. I could even recite gear ratios, external dimensions, engine measurements, bore and stroke, for an Electra Glide, a Cafe Racer, a Sportster...off the top of my vacant, juvenile head. No use to anyone. Years on, I have still never ridden a motorbike!
At fourteen I forgot about bikes, as I got into guitars. I read up on the subject. I knew my stuff. I couldn't even play one to any degree, but I knew all the model names, numbers, values, good or bad points of each "axe" brand, expensive and cheap. At fifteen, I switched to playing a bass, as they had fewer strings to think about. Or maybe it just suited my introvert personality. I left Haverstock, then I worked in a shop (Chappell of Bond Street) selling the things, where I met famous rock stars such as Carlos Santana, Tom Robinson, Steve Howe, John Entwistle, Trevor Horn, and Mark King on an almost daily basis. Which I thought nothing of, this was just what a seventeen / eighteen / nineteen-year-old did. I went skiing in Austria annually. I got engaged at twenty-two to Terrie Smith, a lovely, beautiful honey-blonde girl with whom I was besotted (and had been for years before we became an item). A shame it didn't work out with her...we split up, and shaken, that night I smashed a car backwards into a brick wall, and I got severe whiplash. It took me ages before I got over the unbearable heartache, the anguish, the sheer pain...oh man, I still miss that car!
Meanwhile, I played the bass in a bunch of under-rehearsed and unremembered bands, with various haircuts...'The Outsiders', 'Pressure', 'Dance Macabre' (goth gloom, similar to Bauhaus), 'The Chance' (or "No Chance"! - a Shepherds Bush "mod revival"...my favourite album is 'Quadrophenia' by The Who), then 'Coda' (Queen/Van Halen-ish stadium rock anthems...without a stadium!), 'The Marquee No-Stars', 'The Shout' (heavy Welsh blues)...none of them ever got anywhere. (The bands, not haircuts. Well both, when I come to think!). I played as a pianist in a cover band called Self Inflicted...I remember an unimpressed landlord of a bar in Holborn where we played...he thought I was SO bad, he said, his eyes heavenwards, "If I ever see Dave near a piano in here ever again, I shall superglue his fingers together!"
In the Eighties, I was made redundant as a guitar salesman, and hence I signed on the dole. I sat idle on my backside for a while. I learned Italian and Dutch. I studied sharks, whales and dolphins. I joined a scuba diving club. I played underwater hockey nationwide for Hampstead. I tried hashish ...and I inhaled! I even tried hallucinogens. Then my sister Jackie bought me a calligraphy set for my birthday, despite (or perhaps because of) my illegible handwriting. I experimented, and before long, I could write Georgian-style script. Likewise, Olde English. Then a shop in Kensington asked me to paint them a massive fascia sign. I did, despite never having done one before. It didn't look half bad. "I can do this!", I thought...and I've worked doing "this" for a "living" ever since...all cut vinyl now though, I no longer do painted ones.
Watching 'Have I Got News For You' in the mid-Nineties, I was amazed when Ian Hislop pointed out 'Virginia Bottomley' was an anagram of "I'm an evil Tory bigot". Unbelievable! I had it verified on pen and paper. I endeavoured to create a few anagrams myself...I failed to do anything memorable. Then a few months later (in a branch of W.H. Smith...Bromley South, if I am not mistaken), I saw a PC magazine with a free cover CD that had a trial of a program called 'Anagram Genius'. Oh, what fun! I used up all the ten trial runs in half an hour. Being shrewd (and mean...too mean to actually purchase a full version of said program) it didn't take long to work out I could get around this by deleting a particular file, and a manual reset of the PC date to a month earlier. I didn't tell William Tunstall-Pedoe (the software creator), but he realised. High on adrenaline, here is where my life started to go downhill. Creating anagrams started taking precedence over work. Before long, I'd stare at a screen all day, wide awake at midnight, I'd be awake all night...I'd fall asleep exhausted, as the hours vanished. Every morning, I awakened, and I'd pop over to a postbox and send my creations to a newspaper (the Daily Mail) who occasionally printed one, and sent me a ten- pound book token. I think I had at least seventy tokens before even they got bored and stopped printing anagrams for a while. I needed an outlet for my "creativity" though. Eventually I'd start to meet with people driven with the same dreadful affliction...new friends like Michael Tully, Chris Sturdy, Mike Keith, Anna Shefl (alias "Lardy"), and Phil Carmody, who I had met through an online group called A.A. (alt.anagrams). We'd meet once, even twice a year in a bar...The Metropolitan in Baker Street, London. We'd invariably compare tales of household woe caused by our unexplainable antisocial compulsion. Over the years, I must have squandered whole months and haemorrhaged thousands as I preferred to sit, pissed, impoverished, composing anagrams ...some simple, some mammoth, thousands of letters long... some inane, infantile and tasteless (a hallmark I maintain!), some driven by a sheer hatred of Tony Blair. The American president, George W. Bush was a frequent victim, but I didn't despise him, maybe he was just an obvious target. Meanwhile, the Mail rang up...they were going to print anagrams again, and would I please furnish them with a few ideas with which to get started? No tokens this time, though! Apart from which, it is nigh-on impossible to get anything published in the Mail these days, as there is another irredeemable, hardened veteran anagram headcase in Kent ...Tony Crafter from Sevenoaks. It seems he sneaks his ones in each and every day!
What achievements! WHAT achievements? In consequence, I have become an obnoxious, misanthropic, impoverished, unshaven, shuffling under-achiever, a serial philanderer, a habitual skiver, a pariah, a heavy absinthe drinker. I'm a horrible husband to dear Catherine. Ah, the shame, the shame! I now live in the Asian area in Rochester, in financial upheaval. Anyway, as I am a vegetarian non-smoker, maybe I shall live an extremely long time...either that, or it will just seem like it! And William Tunstall-Pedoe? He has much to answer for, damn him!