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PETE HAS BEEN WRITING POETRY AND PROSE SINCE HE WAS ABLE TO SPELL. HERE YOU WILL FIND SOME OF HIS EARLY EXAMPLES AND SOME NEW ONES TOGETHER WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S WORK....
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A FAMILY CHRISTMAS
A True Story from Haven Grandiflora! Pete's book about The MOTF
Talk about Austerity, - I know what it feels like to have no money at Christmas, - and yet, as this story shows – miracles can happen!
My first wife Dorothy (Left, with me, Vivien and Deborah at Offley Place in 1967, just before we moved to Blackpool) tragically died of a Brain Haemmorrhage at the age of 31 in June 1967, leaving me to bring up two daughters (Vivien, aged 5 years and Debbie. aged only fourteen months) on my own.
I was determined to bring my daughters up on my own, and had written to our Stevenage MP Mrs Shirley Williams, suggesting a ‘One-Parent Family Allowance. (This was later successfully passed by Parliament in 1970)
Fortunately for me, I had built up a ‘Family’ of friends, who called themselves ‘The Magic Oak Tree Family’ (and still do!) which comprised of many teenagers, who turned to me for advice.
They all called me ‘Uncle Pete’, as I was an old man to them, of 31!
They saw me as some kind of Hippy Guru.
However, not being able to work full-time, money was extremely tight for me, and I was wondering how I was going to make any kind of Christmas in this year of 1968 for my two small daughters
At least I had a few tatty decorations left over from 1966, so I put these up, and the girls were delighted.
By the time Christmas Eve was upon us however, all I had by the way of food was a few sausages, some potatoes and a tin of peas!
On Christmas Eve morning, the girls were playing in the living room, when Vivien told me; ‘I wish we could have a dolly’s pram for Christmas. Debbie and me could share it, and we could take our dollies for a walk!’
‘Yes.’ Debbie chimed in. ‘I could share it with Vivvy…’
I cuddled both of them to me.
‘I’d love to get you a dolly’s pram.’ I told them with tears in my eyes.’ But I’m afraid daddy can’t afford one this year…’
‘Perhaps somebody will give us one.’ Vivien said optimistically.
‘Yes daddy.’ Debbie added. ‘We do have lots of nice aunts and uncles…’
‘I doubt it.’ I told them. ‘Dolly’s prams are very expensive…’
Just then there was a knock at the door.
To my utter amazement, a lady stood on the doorstep, with a doll’s pram!
I stood with my mouth agape as the lady explained.
‘I’m from Social Services, Mr. Perry.’ She told me. ‘Somebody brought this to the office this morning, so we thought your two little girls might like it!’
Dumbstruck, I thanked the lady and took the pram into the house.
‘You see daddy?’ Vivien said as I closed the door. ‘You only have to wish for things!’
‘Yes.’ Debbie agreed. ‘Wishes always come true at Christmas!’
Totally choked up, I hugged the girls again, and then went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee.
As I was waiting for the kettle to boil, I noticed a van pull up outside. Tony Smith got out.
Tony had given up his job as an ice cream vendor, (which had given rise to his Family name of Tonibell), to become a milkman.
‘Hello Tony.’ I greeted him at the door. ‘I was just making some coffee…’
‘Thanks.’ He told me. ‘But before we settle down, I’d like to know what you’ve got for your Christmas dinner…’
‘Oh, we’ll be all right.’ I told him with a shrug.
‘In that case,’ He said as he walked into the kitchen. ‘You won’t mind me having a look!’
Before I could say anything, he had opened the fridge door and discovered the sausages.
‘Is this what your having for Christmas?’ He asked.
‘Of course not!’ I told him. ‘I’ve got some potatoes, and a tin of peas…’
‘Make the coffee Pete.’ He told me. ‘I’m just popping out to the van.’
When he returned, he was holding a plastic bag.
‘Here.’ He said as he handed it to me. ‘Here’s a Christmas present for you…’
I took the bag and looked inside.
To my astonishment, it contained an oven-ready chicken, with a packet of sage and onion stuffing!
‘I don’t know what to say!’ I spluttered.
‘Then don’t say anything.’ He replied. ‘Just put it on the side to thaw out!’
Whilst Tony and I were drinking our coffee in the living room, Vivien answered the door to another knock, and came in with Les Prickett, carrying a bag.
‘Guess what Tonibell has brought us?’ Vivien asked Les as he sat down.
‘I don’t know.’ Les replied.
‘He brought us a chicken!’ Vivien told him.
‘And some stage and onions…’ Debbie added with a grin.
In that case.’ Les laughed. ‘These should come in handy!’
He handed me the bag that he had been carrying.
Opening it, I took out some roasting potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, a cauliflower, fruit, dates and assorted nuts!
‘But Les!’ I told him in shocked disbelief. ‘You can’t afford this, - you’re still at school!’
‘Don’t worry.’ He assured me. ‘I’ve got a part-time job at a greengrocer's for the holidays. I told the boss about you and the girls, and he put these together…’
By this time, both Vivien and Debbie had clambered on to his lap and cuddled him.
‘I think that deserves a cup of coffee!’ He said, so I took the bag out to the kitchen, and put the kettle on again.
As I was pouring Les’s black coffee, I noticed Ted Cooke and Alvin Sly pulling up outside on their motorbikes.
I called to the girls, who jumped off Les’s lap and ran to open the door.
As they came in, they, too, were carrying plastic bags.
‘Don’t shut the door yet, girls!’ Ted called to the children. ‘Uncle Frank will be here soon!’
‘There you are Uncle Pete.’ Alvin said as they put the bags on the work surface. ‘Happy Christmas!’
Opening up Ted’s bag, I found a large selection of sweets, bags of mixed fruit and nuts, and two large boxes of Christmas crackers.
By this time, Les and Tony had come into the kitchen to find out what was going on. I realised that the girls had gone out of the front door, and asked Les to see where they had got to.
When I opened Alvin’s bag, I found more sweets, some fresh fruit, - and a set of fairy lights!
‘Oh dear.’ Groaned Tony as I took out the fairy lights. ‘Trust Alvin to get it wrong – Uncle Pete hasn’t even got a Christmas Tree!’
‘Oh yes we have!’ I heard Vivien call out excitedly as she and Debbie came running in to the kitchen. ‘Look what Uncle Frank has brought!’
Frank Swaine (pictured right) and Les Prickett came into the kitchen carrying a large Christmas tree!
‘Just a little something to show our appreciation.’ He said as they plonked the tree down on the floor. ‘Now where’s my cup of tea?’
Frank never drank coffee, so I made him a cup of tea, whilst Ted, Alvin and Les set up the tree in an old bucket, which they found in the storeroom.
‘Now we can put the detonations on the tree!’ Debbie said as she jumped up and down with excitement.
‘That’ll make things go with a bang!’ commented Frank.
As Ted, Les and Frank began to decorate the tree, Roger Moores turned up with several packets of balloons, some new Christmas decorations and more sweets for the girls, all wrapped up in festive crepe paper.
Straight away, Frank took the crepe paper and wrapped it round the bucket, to make it look more festive.
Roger roped Les and Tony into blowing up the balloons, and whilst they were doing this, Jon Ridley (pictured left) turned up with yet another plastic bag!
‘My mother thought you might appreciate this.’ Jon told me as he produced a homemade Christmas pudding out of the bag. ‘Then I thought, hey, man! Uncle Pete can’t have a Christmas pudding without custard, so I bought a tin of custard powder. Then I thought, hey, suppose he hasn’t got any milk! So I bought a couple of cartons of milk, - just to be on the safe side!’
The next member of The Family to turn up that morning was Cas, who brought more decorations for the Christmas tree, another set of fairy lights, some tinned fruit, a couple of cartons of cream, - and even more sweets for the girls!
By this time, everyone was busy blowing up balloons and putting up the decorations, so Cas decided to start peeling the potatoes and preparing the Brussels sprouts, to save me time in the morning.
Whilst this was going on, Chris Notley (pictured right) and Cliff Jackson turned up, bearing gifts of fizzy drinks and bottles of squash, shortly followed by Janey Kyle, who brought along some carrots that her father had given her from his allotment. She also brought some mince pies and sausage rolls, which she had made herself.
Her mother had given her some eggs, margarine and flour; ‘in case he wants to make someYorkshire puddings!’
The girls were ecstatic, as a steady stream of Family members turned up throughout the day, each bearing gifts.
Tony Finch turned up with a cabbage and bananas, and was promptly roped in by Cas to help with the preparation of the vegetables for our Christmas dinner!
Keith Simmonds, Keith Hindle and Mutley (pictured left and who was on leave from the Royal Navy for Christmas), had clubbed together to buy me a joint of beef, a leg of lamb and a joint of bacon.
Tony Jackson turned up with some sausage meat, bacon rashers, and some chicken Oxo cubes, and Eddie Smith brought along some Christmas stockings, full of sweets!
Wendy and Phil brought along some colouring books and crayons for the girls, as well as tea, coffee, sugar and milk, and then they set about helping Cas prepare and stuff the chicken.
Christine Folbigg, Cathy Parr and Debbie Tamm brought along various dolls and toys (all wrapped up as presents), that they had found whilst clearing out their bedrooms, and had clubbed together to get me a leg of ham for Boxing day!
Their mothers, hearing about me and my girls, had also given them some jars of pickle and relish, and various sauces, that they had left over from their Christmas hampers.
By that evening, after everyone had gone home, I put two tired, but very happy little girls to bed.
‘It’s nice having lots of aunts and uncles, isn’t it dad?’ Vivien told me as I tucked her up in bed.
‘Yes, it is.’ I agreed. ‘We’re a very lucky family.’
‘Yes!’ Debbie agreed. ‘It’s the biggest and bestest one in the whole wild world!’
As I went to kiss them both goodnight, I noticed that they both had some sweets tucked under the blankets.
‘What’s this?’ I asked as I pulled them out.
‘They’re sweeties daddy!’ Debbie told me innocently.
My heart melted. How could I deprive them, when they’d had such an exciting day?
‘Well, - just this once!’ I told them as I gave the sweets back. ‘But remember, - we’ve got a big Christmas dinner to eat tomorrow!’
I returned downstairs and sat gazing at the tree, with the presents that had been placed around it, the decorations, and the bowls of fruit, sweets and nuts on the dining room table.
Tears of happiness began to trickle down my cheeks, as my pride in The Family began to bring my emotions to new heights.
I had to wipe my eyes and choke back the tears of sheer joy when I heard a knock at the door.
As approached the door, I heard voices singing ‘we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas…’
‘Oh no.’ I thought. ‘Carol singers! For all the kindness that had been shown by The Family, I don’t have any money to give them!’
As I opened the door however, in walked Dodger, Cas and Chris, Frank, Ted and Alvin, Cliff Jackson, Chris Notley, The Pilgrim brothers, Ugly, Keith Hindle and Mutley, Les Prickett, the three Tonys, Jon Ridley, Eddie Smith, Janey Kyle, Wendy and Phil, Christine, Cathy and Debbie Tamm!
Still singing, they all marched in, carrying bottles of beer, wines and spirits, so that I had to walk backwards into the living room, until I eventually fell into my reclining chair, stuck for words!
‘And this little lot.’ Announced Cas. ‘Are for you Uncle Pete!’
‘Well, - for us, anyway!’ Laughed Frank.
They arranged the assortment of alcoholic beverages around me, together with packets of nuts and crisps.
‘Right!’ Said Cas. ‘LET’S HAVE A PARTY!’
I have recalled this to many members of The MOTF since that amazing Christmas - and they all swear to me that they didn't plan this together, but acted as individuals, in appreciation for what time I had given them since The Family had formed.
THE TREE AND THE WALL
written by Pete on June 8th 1969
The Tree is bigger than you think
It grows a bit each time you blink.
Through it's branches
Through it's roots
and tiny shoots.
The branches spread for all to see
but not the roots of The Magic Oak Tree
and reach so far
even I don't know where they are!
Letters spreading everywhere
to the hearts of those who care.
Though all The Family don't know me
We're all as one, a Mighty Tree.
Now in the heart there is a Wall
Of good advice for one and all.
You know about The Princess fair
and The Girl with Greenish Hair
The pigeon in the hand is peace
Fly on forever, never cease!
The Wind of Change that blows your mind
Can make you think so deep you'll find.
An Evilie with revolving eyes
Holds Black Jack, and soon he dies!
The finger pointing at The Horse
is pointing to The Truth of course!
A man reaching for a girl is seen,
but there is someone in between!
Colour streamers how they fly-
A Rainbow in The Midnight Sky!
For new Adventures now we'll fight
Black Lightning in The Sunlit Night!
Now we're secure, we're fit and well,
making love in an Oyster Shell!
In Oysters there are tiny pearls -
for love is beautiful, boys and girls!
The Pixies, dancing round The Tree
are oh so happy as can be!
But when they're dancing on The Hill,
They're full of life, and higher still!
A Goldfish takes the Bait of Love,
which pulls him to The Land Above.
It's full of beauty that will last,
as he's saved by The Kingfisher flying past!
Bells appealing peace of course,
to try to tame The Flying Horse.
The Jaguardactyl, Flying Cat!
Razor teeth and wings like a bat!
He'll hiss his final spit and then
lay dead forever in his den!
The Sun is green with jealousy
But this is not for you and me.
Nor is The Cloud that pours the rain
to damp the Winds of Change again!
So sorry for those folks I am
who are being killed by jam!
Whilst the people on The Wall afar
Are making one - you know, we are!
Look close - there's other things so plain-
Suss it over and think again!
Turn on The Dark and you will see
The Wall spread magic through The Tree!
The Magic that is happiness
and Love and Peace - no more, no less!
The Stars a-twinkling in the sky
are there to make you feel so high.
The Green Moon, hanging high above
is beautiful, romantic love.
The Green-haired Girl opens up her eyes,
for she has found love - she never lies!
She and he wipe away a tear-
as, in the dark, they disappear!
They'll bring their love to you and me-
Through The Roots of The Magic Oak Tree...
LOVE, PEACE AND HAPPINESS.
Love is a precious gift
So don't throw it all away.
You may take the grains of life,
Sifting through it day by day.
But with the gift of love
Comes also the gift of life
For without life, there is no love
It simply works that way.
Love is a gift from your parents,
Who originally gave you the gift of life.
Remember this, my friend,
It cannot happen any other way.
So thank your parents for the gift of life,
Without which you cannot have the gift of love.
And that is all I have to say.
Pete November 2009
Click on the bottom left-hand corner of this picture to see a larger version of THE WALL.