At the Dentists

Waiting at the dentists,
pondering my fate.
Got here far too early,
afraid of being late.

I know it’s just a check-up,
no reason I should fear
but I’m feeling rather nervous
as appointment time draws near.

You see my usual dentist
has moved on, gone away,
so it is a stranger
that I must see today.
Back home, the ordeal over
(okay, that word’s too strong)
the new dentist was charming,
I’m sure we’ll get along.


The Stranger

This network of interwoven streets
is where my roots lie deep,
and this the house where I was born
though I have been long gone.
Every year brought visits here,
a pilgrimage back home
to friendly neighbours, open doors,
where I was known.

Times change, those folk are gone,
and I am known no more,
just a stranger looking on
outside this old familiar door,
my name remembered by so few
though family ties were strong.
Now only whispered memories
tell that I belong.

Yet still I find I’m drawn back here,
still I search these streets
for memories of those happy times
that seem just out of reach.
You may wonder who I am,
a stranger looking on,
but for me this is my home,
the place where I belong.

Elizabeth Leaper
(from ‘Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles’)

After the Storm

The roaring beast of the storm
that yesterday railed
in tantrum against the rocks
has exhausted its god-like fury.

I take the steep and slippery track
down to the beach,
scrabbling over the rocky outcrops
laid like traps to trip the unwary.

Low tide. The sea breathes
gently over the shingle,
hushsss out, and shooshsss in;
a giant monster sated and asleep,

while there on the sand
the remnants of a rusting hulk
lie discarded – picked bones
of some long-since digested feast.

Elizabeth Leaper
(from ‘Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles’)



glides across the room with all the swan-like elegance
her stocky frame allows. Nothing moves
except her feet with their neat steps.
There is no flow, no ease, as if
to bend would shatter her shell-like poise.

No movement is detected in her clothes, her hair –
grey now, but superbly sculpted into place, no air
would dare to blow a wisp across her face.

Her face; a mask, with fixed half-smile,
in denial of her age, no wrinkles mar
her bland serenity. She turns to speak,
her whole body not her head, in case
this cause her neck to crease.

As she speaks, quiet, passionless,
her lips are seen to move but not her brow,
her cheeks; her face expressionless.

Only her darting eyes show any sign of life,
and these so often hide behind small panes of glass
that tint at the slightest hint of brightness,
(it would not do to squint).

Matronly plastic android,
she stems the tide, holds back the years
and underneath the Botox hides her fears.

Elizabeth Leaper
(from ‘Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles’)

Two Blackbirds

Two blackbirds hopping on the grass
Take little notice when I pass.
They know if I don’t stray too near
That they have little need of fear.
I’m the one who throws the crumbs
When the winter weather comes,
I listen when they stop to sing
And watch them when they take to wing.

But when my cat comes in to view
Then they make a great to-do.
A chink, chink, chinking they commence
And quickly fly up on the fence.
My cat comes nearer paw by paw
And to the treetops they withdraw,
Chink-chinking still till cat has passed,
Returning then to hop on grass.

Elizabeth Leaper
(from ‘Barking at Nothing’)

Cat Flap

Cat flap

Clean bowl.

Who’s that
stray cat?

That’s not
my cat.

Scat cat!

cat flap.

Elizabeth Leaper
(from ‘Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles’)

Creature of the Night (Triolet)

All along the fence she’s prowling,
Feline creature of the night.
Listen to her softly growling.
All along the fence she’s prowling,
The volume now increased to yowling,
Putting trespassers to flight.
All along the fence she’s prowling —
Feline. Creature of the night.

Elizabeth Leaper
(from ‘Barking At Nothing’)

Uncle Tommy

Those buttons
are all that I remember of the man.

conker-brown and made of leather,
woven like a turks-head knot.

I call them ‘Uncle Tommy’ buttons.
The real thing they were,
not these tawdry plastic imitations.

They held his jacket together,
most likely tweed I think, although
of this too I have no recollection.

His face, his shape, his voice —
all that was him has left no trace.
I was far too young to remember.

So this is all there is,
this haunting shadow-memory
of a man I don’t recall.

Just those buttons and a name —
associated forever.

Elizabeth Leaper
(from ‘Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles’)

Pink Bird

A strange bird,
lifted on wings of wind,
hopped upon the trellis fence,

flew into the waiting arms
of the ash tree,

only for a new breath, then
swooped down across the lawn
to rest by the shrubbery.

A pink plastic bag.

Elizabeth Leaper
(from ‘Collecting Cobwebs, Gathering Brambles’)

The Treacle Mines of Wem

Further to Monday’s post I would like to give you a bit more information about the treacle mines of Wem. I mentioned that the locals are known as Treacle Miners and I suspect this is because the town grew up around the mines to house the miners. Now, of course, due to the expansion of the town as time went by many inhabitants earn their living in other occupations, however they are still collectively referred to as Treacle Miners.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my children’s poem on the subject, taken from my book ‘Barking at Nothing’. For more information about the book, which is sold in aid of the charity ‘The Donna Louise Trust’ please refer to my Books page or go to my website at

The Treacle Mines of Wem

If ever I go back to Wem
I’ll visit the treacle mines again.
The best treacle you could hope to find
Is the treacle that is mined
In the treacle mines of Wem.

They dig it up from where it’s found
In sticky globules underground,
They refine it and they ladle it
Into jars and label it,
And happily they’ll show you round.

The mines are dark and smell so sweet,
But you’ll get sticky hand and feet
So they give you special clothes
That cover you from head to toes.
And when you’ve looked you get a treat —

They let you sample treacle pud
And oh, it is so very good.
And toffee-apples you will find
With toffee of the richest kind
Made from Wem treacle, as it should.

So next time I go back to Wem
I’ll visit the treacle mines again.
The best treacle in the world you’ll find
Is the treacle that is mined
In the treacle mines of Wem.

There are many other treacle mines in England and, I believe, one or two in Scotland. Mines can be found anywhere from Devon and Somerset, through Kent and Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. In Lancashire too they can be found, immortalised by Ken Dodd and his Diddy Men who worked the mines in Knotty Ash – although come to think of it that was the jam butty mines not treacle mines.

For further information I can refer those of you who are interested to an article which can be found at the British Food History site here, although there is no mention of the Wem mines. (You may wish to note the date of the article).


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