Friday, 6 December 2013

In Memoriam - Madiba (1918-2013)

Image Source:

In Memoriam - Madiba (1918-2013)

African Statesman
dies peacefully in his home.
This time the world mourns.

John Carré Buchanan
06 December 2013

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Cold Weight

Image Source:

As we move in to the colder months my thoughts turn to the many homeless people that live rough on the streets and in the hedgerows of Britain. It is estimated that in the UK about 10% of these people are veterans, a figure which has, unbelievably, risen by about 6% during the last 5 years.

The fact that in these ‘modern times’ people are forced, often by circumstance, to live on the streets is unacceptable. In order to help raise awareness of their plight I wrote this poem. The title reflects the fact that too many communities regard the homeless as an unwanted burden and fail to support them.

The Cold Weight

He lies in a doorway
out of the wind,
a cold nose companion
snuggled right in.

Cardboard blanket,
patched overcoat,
stuffed with paper,
knotted with rope.

He remembers the time
snow ripped past,
when in sodden clothes
they gave their last.

They were immortal,
or so they’d thought.
As through that hell
they bravely fought.

Now, here, in this doorway,
racked by a guilt,
lies a veteran
in a cardboard quilt.

John Carré Buchanan
05 December 2013

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Sarah Teelow - In Memoriam

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Sarah Teelow, The F2 Water-ski World Champion, came off her ski during the Bridge to Bridge Water Ski Classic on the Hawkesbury River in Australia on Sunday.

She sustained serious spinal and head injuries and was airlifted to hospital. Sadly she died on Monday evening.

My thoughts are with her family and friends.

Sarah Teelow - In Memoriam
Women's Waterski (Formula Two) World Champion


Wind in her face.
Plume from her ski.
Pure power.
Pure speed.
Pure, beauty.

No place she'd rather be
than out on the water, on a ski.
Pure power.
Pure speed.
Pure, beauty.

Wind in her face.
Plume from her ski.
Eternal still waters,
Australian beauty.

John Carré Buchanan
26 November 2013

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Flare Up


The poem below describes what it is like to experience and overcome a flare up in pain. When a flare up lasts for more than two days it is known as a set back. This week has been dominated by a set back. Flare up or set back, neither are pleasant and I thought I would re-post this to help raise awareness of Chronic pain.

If you are a sufferer my thoughts are with you.

Flare Up

The tormenting ache is obscured
replaced by searing agony.
I feel the flesh melt,
Imagine the blisters as they bubble,
blacken and crisp over.
The edges split and retract
to reveal red tissue below.
It blackens and the cycle starts again.

My mind tells me it’s not true,
burnt nerves can’t feel.
but this is no ordinary fire
no water can quench these flames.
Born deep within neural pathways
they burn as intense as
the a charcoal maker’s kiln
consuming all reason and sanity.

Bed covers lie thrown back
the soft linen had burnt;
as its folds crept like molten lava,
and scorched everything in their path.
The mind fights for control
looking to stem the flow
as if closing the sluice on a stream
but the gate valve is stuck

Thoughts are marshalled,
challenged and found wanting.
Well-rehearsed counter points are delivered.
Slowly control is regained.
Unhelpful thoughts rally for a final push
but once again the mind delivers a ‘coup de grace’,
another battle is won
and the leg will bare weight today.

John Carré Buchanan
19th August 2011

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Wipe Out

Image Source:

I loved water-skiing and it is one of the biggest frustrations about my new life that I will not be able to do it again. It was the one activity I could spend a whole day doing and not have a single memory of what I had thought of during the whole day. In short it was my favourite way to switch off and enjoy for the sake of enjoying,

Wipe Out

Reflections dance on the glassy surface.
Autumnal colours of lake side trees
set against a perfect dawn sky
all held in my mind's eye, a memory.
I glide, wind rushes, hair flies,
a trail of diamonds glints in the sky.
My empty mind, lives for the sheer joy of that moment
every move an instinct, no thought dares intrude,
just pure, perfect, unlimited joy.
A screech of breaks shattered that reality.
Now all that's left is a memory of what was,
of what will be no more.
That dreadful moment when all joy was crushed;
when my spirit was wiped out.

John Carré Buchanan
12 November 2013

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Remembrance

Image Source: 

Remembrance

Bugle sounds ‘Last Post’
A hushed nation remembers
Reveille, sleep on.

John Carré Buchanan
08 November 2013

Friday, 18 October 2013

Pulse Rates

Image Source:

Military lives are often summed up by two maxims; "Rush to wait" and "Months of boredom punctuated by a few minutes of intense activity."

This poem explores the juxtaposition between boredom and activity and the effect it has on the individual.

I hope you like it.

Pulse Rates

Crouched in the shade of a tree
pulse rate; fifty three.
I watch a goat herd amble by
as the sun climbs in the sky

Hid behind the tree
pulse rate; a hundred and sixty three.
Listen to rounds spin by
as the Taliban let fly.

Crawl away in the muck
pulse rate; who give a flying f*#@
Dust flies on the hillock nearby
as our gun team lay down heavy reply.

Lain on the bank of the Wadi
Pulse rate; a hundred and forty.
As we suppress; the left flank move
Terry Terrorist to remove.

Sat on a box back at base
Pulse rate; eighty eight.
We’ve been debriefed and had some scoff
Now it’s time to knock off.

Crashed out on a saggy camp cot
Pulse rate: quite a lot.
Thoughts keep flying through my head
Today, I was lucky, I’m not dead.

John Carré Buchanan
29 August 2011

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Off To Gaol

Image Source:

The following poem is based on a true event which took place on the parade ground at RMAS as we prepared to pass out as young officers. The Academy Sergeant Major (one of the most senior Warrant Officers in the British Army) was taking the rehearsal. The Colour Sergeants, who had trained us, hovered in the background; probably hoping that their platoons didn’t embarrass them.

Drill was for most a real pain. That said, the comments these men made during drill sessions were almost always imaginative and funny. When on form Warrant Officers or SNCOs would often leave those not being verbally abused trying hard not to laugh.

Off To Gaol

We’re on parade again,
another rehearsal.
Someone moves.
A shout roars over our heads;
“Colour, gaol that man.”
The quick click-clack
of hobnails on tarmac,
A raised arm
finger pointing down
like Damocles’s sword
“This one Sir?”
“No
- but he will do.”

John Carré Buchanan
02 October 2013

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Crystals

Image Source:

Sitting in a café this morning I came up with this short poem; I hope you like it.

Crystals

Crystalline facets glint
flashing come hither signals
from the pale brown surface.
The small pile of rough cubes
call, entreat, tempt.

Gently he caresses the vessel;
savours the exotic aroma
born from the deep red soils
of some distant land.
Glad he didn't add sugar.

John Carré Buchanan
26 September 2013

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Service Dogs

Image Source:

I read a sad article today. It was about two service dogs, that had to be put down following the Duke of Cambridge's departure from the RAF.

Dogs are used in a wide variety of roles in the Forces. They do everything from sniffing out bombs and drugs to protecting service personnel and property from a wide variety of threats. They are looked after by handlers who genuinely love them and take excellent care of them.

In fact Service personnel often go to great lengths to assist dogs. As a dentist in Germany my wife helped to save a guard dog when he broke his canine. She assisted the vet by replacing the broken canine with a metal one.

Usually service dogs go on to have a second life as a family pet, often with a past handler or service family. Sadly in this instance the two dogs, Brus and Blade, were not suitable for re-homing.

The combination of the devotion/loyalty of both the dogs and the handlers made me think about a poem I wrote a couple of years ago, I hope you like it;

Service Dogs

Jet enjoys the game.
She sniffs explosives out.
Yes Jet enjoys the game.
The lethal game.

Attila enjoys the game.
He runs intruders down.
Yes Attila enjoys the game.
The lethal game.

Max enjoys the game.
He searches through the debris.
Yes Max enjoys the game.
The lethal game.

Handlers play the game.
They have to make it fun.
Handlers play the game.
The lethal game.

The dogs all love the game.
They love their handlers too.
The dogs all love the game.
They know not what they do.

John Carré Buchanan
19 February 2011

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Days Of Our Lives

Image Source: Troop T Shirt

This poem is dedicated to the people I knew in 26 Sqn RCT in Northern Ireland back in the late 80's early 90's. Particularly the ‘diesel dogs’ of B Troop and those that used the Half Crown.

Days Of Our Lives

Those were the days.
Young, carefree, invincible.
Corralled within a steel ring
topped with razor wire
as if to keep the fun in.

Outside the wire
‘Dickers’ tracked us.
Madmen bombed our cars
or threw explosives
cased in jars.

With lives at risk
we had to trust
that each would play their part.
For staying safe outside the wire
was really quite an art.

We worked hard,
then played hard.
Boy we had some fun.
Looking back across the years
friends, second to none.

John Carré Buchanan
08 September 2013

Monday, 16 September 2013

Bereft

Image Source:

A poem on loss, I'm not sure if it still needs a little work, but for now I'm happy with it.

I hope you like it.

Bereft

He sat, bereft.
The powerful youth of yesteryear,
the man who’d faced all-comers, without fear;
gone.
His shrivelled frame trembled in a chair.
Fingers caressed the picture in his hand.
Monochrome locks on porcelain face,
she had always been his Grace.
Now he sat all alone,
in the house they’d called, home.
Cold walls closed in.
His broken heart,
left their home, bereft.
The fighting spirit;
gone.

John Carré Buchanan
16 September 2013

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

When Will They Learn?

Image Source:

I believe this poem to be self-explanatory. I would like to stress that I am not anti-American and I do not condone in any way the events of 9/11 or those alleged to have taken place in Syria, they were and still are abhorrent.

I do, however, believe that the West and in particular the United States have to recognise the fact that many of the nations around the world have histories and cultures many times older that their own. These cultures have different beliefs, values and ways of functioning. The fact that they are different does not necessarily make them wrong.

I hope you like the poem.

When Will They Learn?

Summer draws to a weary finish.
Throngs of tourists diminish.
The first leaves fall gently to the ground
as through the hubbub sirens sound.

A whisper, gentle on the breeze
flits around with the summer leaves.
It tumbles through the city scape
touching all, its voice takes shape.

Through the hubbub a lone bell tolls
As they name three thousand souls
whose tragic loss of life was written
by their own ignorant predisposition.

Yet as they mourn their tragic loss
Their nation’s ‘hawks’ wind up the Boss.
Again they want to interfere
by dropping bombs from the troposphere.

A sure fired way to make good friends -
of nations, their way of life offends.
Where different values are the norm
Just drop bombs – stir the swarm.

Then sit back and wonder why
So many people had to die.
They don’t seem to understand
it’s always better to shake a hand.

John Carré Buchanan
11 September 2013

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Poet

Image Source:

My apologies to my regular readers for my extended absence. I have spent the last year or so completely immersed in fighting CRPS and the combination of drugs and surgery have dulled my ability to think and write. I’m just a week from finishing a staged withdrawal from pain killers and whilst there has been a marked increase in pain, I can almost think clearly for the first time in quite a while. Hopefully I will be able to start writing regularly again.

This poem is about something that most poets experience at one time or another. The words; notebook, pencil and dictaphone spring to mind, but in those early morning moments reaching for the pad……. Well, we all know the score.

The Poet

Awakened.
In the darkness,
the thought,
perfectly formed,
races around a clouded mind.
So perfect.
So complete.
So, memorable.
It compels,
it swirls and churns,
demands attention,
confounds sleep.
Yet, in the morning
the rested mind recalls but fragments;
that, perfect thought,
gone.

John Carré Buchanan
23 August 2013

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Mail

British Forces Post Office - Posties - God Bless Them.

A while ago Frank reminded me of the importance of snail mail. This took me back to a poem I wrote a couple of years ago about the mail reaching troops in the field, and the effect it had on morale.

I will always remember the sickly sweet smell of the letters (whoever they came from) after they had spent a week or two in a bag with hundreds of letters from wives and sweethearts who had each splashed a little perfume on their letters to their loved ones.

I hope you enjoy the poem.

The Mail

The Posties came up trumps today,
a sack of pure morale
delivered to the burnt out shed
in which we are corralled.

Girlfriends, wives, mums and dads
have written to their loved ones
and even Gaz is smiling
with a letter from his sons.

The corporal had a laugh.
As he dished the letters out
‘Private Smith……give that to Jones.”
and laughter rang about.

Chalky’s and Trish had a baby girl,
The first photos came today.
He must have shown everyone,
they’ve called her Anna-May.

Yozzer got his third Dear John
He seems to have the knack;
Of making women love him
but then they knock him back!

Danny uses a dicta-phone
to communicate with his kin.
Another tape arrived today
and now he’s plugged right in.

Swampy got a letter
With a drawing by his son
A picture of his daughter
flying kites with her mum.

Two parcels for; ‘a soldier’
went to Big Pete and Don.
Don’s had photos of a girl
and she had nothing on.

An envelope with SWALK on
is lying on Jim’s bed,
when his stag finishes
his smile will split his head.

The sickly mix of perfumes
which mingled in the sack
have tainted the tax man’s letter
perhaps I’ll send it back.

Yes, the Posties came up trumps today.
These messages from home
remind us that someone loves us
and can reach us wherever we roam.

John Carré Buchanan
18 January 2011

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

A Tetractys On War

Image Source: John Buchanan

This morning I was introduced to the concept of the tetractys poem.

The tetractys was made famous by Pythagoras and has since become a modern poetry form. The form is based on the number ten which was thought to be a number of power. The name tetractys poetry derives from the fact that the syllable count of the first four lines equals ten.

A tetractys has in total, five lines, each having a syllables count of 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 10.

This format gives the poem a triangle shape. The format can be played with to produce "reversed tetractys" and "double tetractys". The following poem is a double tetractys, I hope you enjoy it.

A Tetractys On War

War,
soldiers
clear up failed
diplomacy.
Struggling to stay alive in muddy fields,
whilst politicians, back at home, squabble
like small children
about who
they should
blame.

John Carré Buchanan
01 May 2013

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Bars

Image Source: John Buchanan

Living with pain is not easy but I have been given a number of tools which help me to endure it, one group of tools which I use a lot is the cognitive suite. This helps me keep my thoughts, emotions, feelings and behaviours aligned.

During the last month or so I have been kept indoors by a combination of the rain or the pain. I have tried to keep myself as busy as possible, but there are only so many drawings I can draw, poems I can write or times I can watch ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ on the TV.

As I have struggled to keep my feelings in check I have taken to watching what has been going on outside through the window and I have realised that I have felt imprisoned. A few days ago I realised that the rain on the windows has added to the illusion. This realisation was the genesis for a poem. I hope you like it.

The Bars

Staring through the bars on the window
I watch the distant trees sway in the gale.
The three fruit trees in the garden
have lost the blossom that appeared two weeks ago.
Grubby pink petals now wash along the ground
and gather in the corners of the drive;
it looks like there'll be no plums this year.
The grey sky, full of cloud, seems to brush the ground,
its watery mass drives hard at the faces of passers-by.
They dash from door to door trying to stay dry.
Here I sit in the warm living room
a cosy blanket wrapped around my shoulders,
staring out through the rain soaked window,
a prisoner to the rivulets
which trickle down the glass pane.

John Carré Buchanan
12 April 2013

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cloud Busting

Image Source: Mike Malaska & John Buchanan

This is a game I used to play with my children when I wanted some peace and quiet on a sunny afternoon. It basically utilised the facts that clouds tend to form and dissolve in roughly the same places, a fact that the kids did not seem to pick up on;-)

Cloud Busting

Lying in the meadow, green grass all around,
up above the Sapphire sky smiles down.
Amidst the grass a myriad of pastel blooms shine.
Despite their beauty my mind is fixed
on the soft white clouds which drift in the sky above.

Small clouds, vaguely reminiscent of cotton balls
drift from West to East
then somewhere out above the sea
fade into oblivion,
leaving a clear blue sky.

Beside me my children lie aghast,
their father has done it again.
I set them a new challenge
pointing at a small puff of cloud
I say “that one”.

Their eyes screw up with concentration
as they centre the thoughts on dissolving the cloud.
I tell them again and again;
“the trick is not to remove the cloud
but to imagine the sky without it”.

Just before the cloud drifts into the area
where they have been disappearing all afternoon.
I say “let me show you again?”
They gasp with frustration as another cloud
melts into nothingness.

I close my eyes, and lie back
to enjoy the silence.
As two children gaze intently at the sky
and practice cloud busting
oblivious to the smile on their father’s face.

John Carré Buchanan
11 April 2013

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Toolmaker

Image Source:

The concept of flint knapping has always appealed to me. I have tried a number of times to make simple flint tools, but every time I have done so it has ended in some kind of minor disaster. A few days ago, I was watching a video on how an expert goes about making these tools and was struck by the effort involved and the sheer beauty of the finished tools.

Toward the end of the video the filmmaker demonstrated the effectiveness of an arrow tipped with a stone micro arrowhead and the cutting power of a flint knife on the carcass of a deer that had been shot. The results were staggering; clearly demonstrating that Stone Age man was equipped with tools that whilst being simple in appearance, were more than adequate for the task they had been designed for.

This made me wonder what it might have been like to have been present at the very beginning of the Stone Age, when someone made a tool out of a piece of Flint or Obsidian and forever changed the way mankind interacted with his environment. Perhaps it happened like this;

The Toolmaker

CRACK, the sound came out of nowhere
shattering the silence of the wood.
There was a brief pause, then another CRACK
followed by a series of lighter tapping noises
and the occasional scraping sound.

She stole quietly through the undergrowth
taking great care to place her feet
where they would not make a sound.
When she reached the outer limits of his camp
she stopped and began a vigil.

Sitting on a fallen tree trunk ahead of her
a man gazed intently at a stone in his hand.
After a moment of contemplation,
he hit the stone with another,
sending small shards and sparks to the ground.

He paused to examine the stone
before tapping it lightly several times.
Each series of blows shaped the stone further.
eventually he picked up a piece of reindeer horn
and started to prise off small flakes.

She watched him work intensely,
as the sun sank a hand’s width in the sky.
Periodically he would lean forward
pick up a shard of stone,
and place it in a small leather bag.

Finally, looking very pleased with himself,
he hefted the stone he had just shaped
and looked at it carefully in the dappled green light.
From her vantage point, a few metres away,
she could see that the stone glistened.

He reached down and pick up a dead rabbit
which, until that point, she had not noticed.
Then he took the stone to its soft underbelly
and began to butcher the carcass.
She gasped in amazement, he looked up.

Their eyes met across the woodland glade
he beckoned her to join him, which nervously she did.
She pointed at the knife he had just made
and with great pride he showed her
the gleaming surface and the razor sharp edge.

She had never seen anything like it.
Her mind raced with the possibilities
this new tool presented.
But more importantly she knew that
here was a man worth knowing.

She stayed with him as the seasons changed,
she gathered food, made clothing
and bore him a child, and in return
he used his mastery of stone to make tools,
to hunt and most impressive of all - to make fire.

John Carré Buchanan
10 April 2013

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Third Bench

Image Source: John Buchanan

Yesterday we had beautiful weather here in Guernsey and I took the opportunity to take a stroll out along the cliffs at Icart. In recent years there have been times when I wished the cliffs were steeper here, but yesterday I was determined to take a walk.

The Image above shows both the third bench and the view from it. This view has travelled all over the world in my mind. It has been used as a benchmark against which to compare all other views. In my opinion, it has seldom been surpassed.

According to Google Earth, the third bench is one hundred and eighty meters from where I parked the car, which means that my round trip was three hundred and sixty meters, it took me about two and a half hours.

On my return home I wrote the following poem, I hope you like it.

The Third Bench

I went for a walk today,
out on the cliff paths.
As I hobbled along
the familiar foot worn path
I could hear the gulls mock me.
I'd plant my sticks carefully
then advance my left foot
just a few inches and then
I'd move the right, just a touch
trying to stop my trousers
brushing against my skin.
Then, braced for what was to come,
I took all my courage in hand,
and placed my right foot.
Instantly pain seared up the leg
like a bolt of lightning,
it surged through the knee
and scorched my soul.
My body screamed at my mind to stop
It refused, forbade a pause,
not before the bench,
the third bench.
Plant the stick, breath, left and then
bite hard on the scream.
Sometimes a moan or gasp escapes.
Tears of frustration wet my cheeks.
I used to run here,
NO,
‘used to’ is no good.
I will make the bench,
the third bench.
I was less than ten meters out
when a dog walker crested the hill in front of me
one hundred meters away.
He walked slowly with two Malamutes.
Left foot, place my sticks, right foot
another searing blast of pain
one step closer to the third bench.
I move the sticks again,
the walker passed me,
passed the man with tears rolling down his face
and I took another step
toward the third bench.

John Carré Buchanan
06 April 2013

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Let Sleeping Cats Lie

Image Source: John Buchanan

Socks is the oldest of our three cat’s and is by far my favourite. We have had him ever since he was a kitten.

Unfortunately when he was a couple of years old I found him lying in a hedge with his elbow shattered and this resulted in him losing his front right leg. His recovery was incredible and I am often amazed when I watch him nimbly hop along the top of a fence. I must admit that I take quite a bit of strength from him, as he never seems to complain or get grumpy about his leg he simply gets on with life.

He is the only one of the cats which will come to me. Indeed he quite often comes into my bedroom at night and curls up on the bed next to me, particularly when I am really suffering with pain. It is almost as if he appreciates what I am going through and comes in to give me support.

This poem is about the way he reminds me that he is a cat and not a life coach ;-)

Let Sleeping Cats Lie

Socks dozes peacefully on the king-size bed.
His small frame dominates the huge bed spread.
With chin tucked to chest and both eyes closed
he gives the impression of deep repose.
Yet, should you approach him,
an alarm bell will chime,
somewhere deep within his mind.

His outward demeanour remains the same
yet inside his sleek fur covered frame
a highly tuned nervous system prepares
and he opens an eye and at you he stares.
In that instant an assessment is made,
which end of the cat will prevail?
the roll of the head or a flick of his tail.

The head roll is not an invitation to run amok,
It’s merely permission to push your luck.
Place a finger behind his ear, or gently rub his chin
enjoy his fur, the soft warm comfort within.
if lucky, you might feel him purr.
But when he tires, or his tummy tempts too much
His tail will flick, perhaps just a touch.

The tail flick is best not ignored
If you don’t take heed your hand might be scoured.
as four razor sharp claws flash through the air
the tail flick was telling you; ‘don’t you dare!’
But he also uses it when he’s having fun,
so take care when Socks flicks his tail
or I’ll have written this poem to no avail.

John Carré Buchanan
03rd April 2013

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Day Jimmy Cheered on Celtic

Image Source: John Buchanan

Jimmy the West Highland Terrier was my SSgt's dog in the early 90’s, his diminutive frame was packed full of character. The poem below records a true story which is also captured in the image above. For the protection of the guilty I will not mention the culprits name, suffice to say it was not me and the perpetrator meant it to be a friendly prank.

Having spent the morning supporting Celtic FC, Jimmy returned from a bath with an eerie green tinge which so annoyed Joe that the next time we saw the poor little thing his hair had been clipped back significantly.

For those that do not know Rangers FC and Celtic FC are Scottish soccer teams both based in Glasgow. The two teams, collectively known as the Old Firm, are arch rivals. Rangers are traditionally a protestant and dress in Blue whilst Celtic are predominantly Roman Catholic and dress in Green Stripes. The two clubs share a history rooted in sectarianism and there is considerable ill feeling between them. In fact their games have been described as having an "atmosphere of hatred, religious tension and intimidation which continues to lead to violence in communities across Scotland."

In this instance the whole affair was a friendly prank, which resulted in no real harm, except for an element of lost pride. I hope you enjoy the poem;

The Day Jimmy Cheered on Celtic

Jimmy was a Westie
and a Rangers fan was he
and Joe, his loving owner
was from a protestant family.
So imagine the offence
When Joe spent a day away
And Jimmy's fur was painted
with green! To his dismay.
When Joe returned
The air turned blue
and Jimmy had a bath
but poster paints stain white fur
so Jimmy stayed, well half
That is until a set of sheers
was bought into the fray
and Jimmy's tainted coat
was quickly cut away.

John Carré Buchanan
22nd March 2013

The Day Bill Got Turfed Out

Image Source:  John Buchanan

When people retire from the Army or left a regiment it is fairly common for some form of event to be initiated to mark the occasion. Bill was the Second in Command of 1 Armoured Division Transport Regiment in 1988 and was very popular with the regimental subalterns.

The poem is an account of how we turned his office into a golf green on his final day serving with the regiment. I will always remember how we underestimated the task of turfing the office, and of course the clean up which came after the big reveal. That said the smile on his face and his thanks made the effort worth it.

The Day Bill Got Turfed Out

Bill was always at the golf course
or talking about the game.
The Regimental Golfing Officer
his nick name fast became.
When in the mess or in the field
you would see him take a swing,
then pause to look out thoughtfully
as the imaginary ball took wing.
When his final tour was over
and it was his time to go
the subalterns decided to
say a fond adieu.
They came up with a cunning plan
To bid their boss farewell
and laid a green in his office,
with a hole and flag as well.
The turf came from the garden
and was laid on a plastic sheet.
The task took the lads all night
for they had to be discrete.
Next morning, when Bill arrived at work
he found a group of subalterns
chatting with the clerk.
They were there to see his face
when he walked through the door
and saw his landscaped office
with grass upon the floor.
His face was a picture,
as it registered his delight
at being turfed out of the Army
by friends who'd worked all night.

John Carré Buchanan
22nd March 2013

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A Soldier’s Dawn (Sparrow’s Fart )

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Soldiers in the British Army know the dawn as ‘Sparrow’s’ short for ‘Sparrow’s Fart’. I guess the concept of the birds waking up scratching their bums and making their first utterance really appealed to the soldier’s sense of humour.

One thing is for certain, at that time in the morning the only things that seemed to be awake were the birds, soldiers and the occasional deer.

The poem below refers to a shell scrape which is a shallow trench designed to give its occupant a degree of protection from shrapnel and bullets should the location come under fire. In this instance the scrape is covered with a basha which is a very low shelter made out of a poncho stretched between two trees. The fact that the soldier is in a shell scrape indicates that it is in a temporary location. I hope you enjoy the poem.

A Soldier’s Dawn (Sparrow’s Fart )

The occasional sharp rattle
as droplets fall on the poncho
from the invisible branch above
prevent him from sleeping.

Lying in a shallow shell-scrape,
beneath a low slung basha
cold, tired and awake,
his mind fills the pitch black space.

Low cloud obscures moon and star light
and creates a pure darkness,
which, having no horizon,
becomes infinite.

Time passes slowly,
there’s an imperceptible change,
the darkness has a different quality
an air of expectation.

Gradually a slither of grey
creeps skyward in the East,
faint shapes loom from the dark
and life begins to stir.

A lone bird chirps to welcome the new day
and then, from every tree top
the dawn chorus erupts
as if it were nature’s call to prayer.

John Carré Buchanan
21 March 2013

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Percpectives of Ceticide*

Image Source:

I thought I would write this poem to demonstrate one of the key factors in all environmental issues; that of the differing perspectives of all the stakeholders, and the tendency for activists to get involved.

I greatly admire organisations such as Sea Shepherd, these people risk their lives to save the oceans. I know that they do things that many people consider a step to far, possibly even illegal, but while governments do take a passing interest in the environment, their priorities usually remains with the short term affect on voters. This all too often results in agreements being made but not enforced.

Where governments fail in their duty to enforce the laws that they sign up to, they leave the way open to activists to step in. Unfortunately these people tend not to be as well-resourced as governments and as such they take a less subtle approach to enforcement.

My view is that if a government signs up to something it should be prepared to provide the resources needed to enforce it and accept the consequences of that agreement. Where governments fail to enforce agreements they should not be surprised if people step in and honour the agreement made on their behalf. Most importantly they should not complain if activists don’t play the game using the conventional rule book. Perhaps a better way of putting this is; “they should put up or shut up”. I hope you like the poem.

Percpectives of Ceticide*

The Whale

Our music used to fill the oceans
but that was when I was very young.
Back when the oceans were quieter and clean.
Now the water reverberates to mechanical roars,
explosions and the screams of my kind;
and our song grows ever quieter.

The Conservationist

The oceans are too crowded, too noisy
Too polluted, and over fished.
We need to do something - now,
We need a moratorium on whaling and sanctuaries.
We must study whales and determine their needs
Or we will lose them.

The Politician

I’m down ten points in the polls,
this bloody scandal is killing me,
I wish I’d never have got involved with her.
I need something to divert the public’s attention.
The green vote is popular, something international
might broaden my appeal, Whaling – blame the foreigner!

The Whaler

My father and his were both whalers, it’s in my blood.
There are plenty of whales in the ocean,
Whales deplete our fish stocks and damage the industry.
I operate within a quota and aid important research
and I use most humane method to catch them.
Anyway it is my right to hunt, I have a family to feed.

The Public

Interesting program on the telly last night.
I didn’t know the harpoon exploded inside the whale
Or that they pump air into the body to keep it afloat.
That said, I think the kids are right, it does look barbaric
I can’t see myself eating whale.
Next time I see a collection tin I will put some money in it.

Governments

The public want everything and they want it all done green.
Every ministry needs more cash but the treasury’s been wiped clean.
This bloody whale debacle demands we do something
But we can’t upset our trade partners; we need the cash they bring,
So we won’t mention whale meat, stockpiles or poaching.
Let’s let some other nation start that fight. Now about the Euro zone…

The Activist

They’ll hunt whales to extinction, having agreed to save them.
The other governments will just bite their tongues
and refuse point blank to condemn them.
If these nations, who swore to protect whales
won’t honour their commitments - then I will
and to hell with those that don’t like how I do it.

The Courts

These activists are out of order
Just who do they think they are?
This nation may be in breach of the law
But none of the others condemn them.
We can’t let private citizens enforce international law.
They’re vigilantes and pirates of that I am quite sure.

Earth

My oceans are turning murky and silent
Mankind is at it again
They’re aware of the damage they’re doing
But their too self-centred to refrain.
They talk a good talk, but won’t do the walk
and it’s me that ends up paying.

*Ceticide: The killing of whales and other cetaceans.

John Carré Buchanan
05 March 2013

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Saviours

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I make no secret about the fact that I support Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They describe themselves as; ‘an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. [Whose] mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.’ In order to achieve this they use; ‘innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.’ The words ‘direct action’ mean that they are prepared to put their lives on the line. For More information please visit their website here; http://www.seashepherd.org/.

During the last couple of months they have been protecting the whales in the Southern Ocean from the Japanese whaling fleet who have been illegally hunting in a sanctuary. The Japanese were aiming to kill 950 whales, but thanks to the efforts of Sea Shepherd they have taken less than 70.

Sea Shepherd has achieved this by cutting the Japanese fleet off from it’s fuel tanker which has been attempting to refuel the fleet within the sanctuary, (an action which in itself is illegal given the fact that it is within the sanctuary). They have also made it extremely difficult for the harpoon ships to transfer the dead and dying whales to the factory ship by sitting directly behind the vessels ramp, and of course they have used their RHIBs and helicopter to prevent the harpoon operators from getting a clear shot.

I wrote the following poem as mark of my respect for the brave men and women of Sea Shepherd, and I thank them for what they do to protect the wildlife in the world's oceans.

Saviours

The fluke rises and falls effortlessly
as it propels her through the friged polar water.
The graceful motion conserves the energy
She has stored as fat during her time
in the krill rich Southern Ocean.

The cooling water has signalled
it is time to move North towards Australia.
Here, in the warmer tropical waters
the changes she feels within her streamlined frame
will come to fruition, and her calf will be born.

A brass propeller roils the water
leaving a broad streak of foaming bubbles
in the churning wake of the ugly predator.
High on the elevated bow a harpoon gun gazes down,
primed to deliver its grotesque load.

The hunter does not work alone,
other vessels ply this stretch of ocean
with the same murderous intent.
They work together to harpoon and butcher
graceful cetaceans for a fast buck.

A cloud of vapour rises ten feet
from the surface, as she takes a mighty breath.
Off in the distance excited figures point
And the harpoon ship turns menacingly towards her
its crew preparing for the slaughter.

As the ship closes, the whale,
aware of its presence, picks up her pace.
Mile after mile the chase continues.
Gradually the whale tires and her dives shorten.
The hunt is drawing to a close.

A frustrated operator is ready to fire.
The harpoon, tipped with an exploding head
which will rip into the whale and embed a hawser
with which to recover the wounded beast, is ready to fire.
But he has not got a shot.

For there protecting the tiring, frightened whale,
Is a Sea Shepherd RHIB manned by four brave souls.
Hour upon hour they position themselves between the
predator and its prey. This time, with their help,
the whale manages to slip away.

John Carré Buchanan
26 February 2013

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Buying Coca-Cola Can't Help Polar Bears

Image Source: www.mrwallpaper.com & Buchanan

In recent months Coca Cola have been running an advertising campaign which states that they are helping the WWF to save the Polar Ice Caps, home of the Polar Bears. The implied message being, buy Coke and help save the Polar Bears. This is an outrageous claim which I find most offensive.

Coca Cola (and its many subsidiaries) are probably the world’s biggest user of aluminium cans. Aluminium is a metal which requires massive amounts of energy to produce. In fact the aluminium beverage can industry’s annual electricity consumption is almost 300 billion kilowatt-hours, or about 3% of the world’s total electricity consumption.

The energy required to produce just three aluminium cans is roughly equivalent to that of filling one of those cans with petrol and burning it. Imagine then the waste when in the United States of America one hundred million (100,000,000) aluminium beverage cans are sent to landfill, littered or incinerated every day.

When recycled each aluminium can has the potential to save enough energy to run a television for three hours. On a worldwide scale, the number of cans which are not recycled represents about 23 billion kilowatt-hours squandered each year. That is just under quarter of one per cent of the world’s total electricity consumption wasted.

(Sources; thegoodhuman.com, allgreenthings.com and reuters.com).

In addition to the pollution caused by energy production, every tonne of newly extracted aluminium results in four tonnes of toxic / caustic waste being dumped somewhere in the world.

Nice stats I hear you say, but what does this have to do with Polar Bears?

Given that manufacturing cans uses so much power it is clear that any industry using those cans has a significant role to play in global warming and as a result melting the ice caps. Without these huge tracts of ice it is impossible for the Polar Bear to hunt and consequently the Polar Bear population is shrinking. It is a sad fact that at the current rates of decline, Arctic ice may disappear by mid-century. If it does, the polar bear will follow soon after.

So far I have only touched on the cans in this introduction to my poem. a normal can of coke contains about 39g of sugar, a substance recognised as being a leading contributor towards obesity and diabetes. It is estimated that the US taxpayer pays around $190 billion annually on health issues relating to these two diseases. This figure equates to a fifth of the USA’s total health care budget.

What is clear to me is that buying more cans of any fizzy pop, will not only contribute to global warming and kill off the Polar bears, but will also increase the incidence of obesity and diabetes in the human race and end up costing taxpayers in the same way that tobacco has. With this in mind I find it galling that any fizzy drink manufacturer can claim that buying their product will help the plight of the polar bears, or indeed do anything good for our planet.

The following poem is a ludic poem, I hope you like it.

Buying Coca-Cola Can't Help Polar Bears

Coca is an ingredient in both chocolate and cocaine
and cola drinks rot peoples teeth and cause significant weight gain.
These products help drive the cost of healthcare through the roof
as people in the developed world satisfy their sweet tooth.
Governments, as cool as ice ignore the harm these drinks cause,
support for a government would melt if pop was rationed, to save jaws.
The multi-national companies who make and sell this poison
are aware that sugar products harm and kill, but profit is their reason.
Making millions of aluminium cans helps melt the Polar ice cap.
Their advert claims that buying Coke will help save bears, What Crap.
Put these facts together and one thing simply glares,
Coca-Cola help the ice melt and kill Polar bears.

John Carré Buchanan
20 February 2013

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Hood

Image Source:

A friend of mine recently had to make the very hard decision to have her cat put down. This was clearly a terrible decision for her to make and she was very distressed by it. She asked me if I would write a poem for her. This was the first time that I had done anything like this and I was not sure how things would go, but I agreed to do it if she gave me some notes.

I was not sure what format to take or how sensitive I would need to be. In the end I decided to write a poem which at first might seem hard hitting but would have a gentle closure offering a degree of hope and comfort.

I asked a few people to read the poem before I gave it to my friend in order to ensure that it was appropriate and they all gave it thumbs up. I then gave it to my friend and it was several days before she was able to give me her feedback, which was fortunately positive. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Hood

He has gone,
Yes – The Hood has gone.
I glance at the armchair as I enter the room
expecting to see two topaz eyes watching me
from under his pure white fur,
but the back of the chair is empty.

He has gone,
Yes – The Hood has gone.
I scan the top of the cupboards as I make the bed,
hoping to glimpse the tip of a tail waving at me
or perhaps hear a disgruntled purr,
but Robin, ‘The Hood’, he’s not there.

He has gone,
Yes – The Hood has gone.
I check the flowerpots as I tend the Garden,
will I see four huge paw prints in the soil?
His claws will need cutting soon.
Then I remember - he has gone.

He has gone,
Yes – The Hood has gone.
I sit and knit in front of the TV,
he does not make me stop.
I can no longer run my fingers
gently through his soft fur.

He has gone,
Yes – The Hood has gone.
I slept in this morning,
The alarm clock ran past snooze.
There was no soft paw upon my face
To wake me should I doze.

Yet - as I straighten cushions in the lounge
a patch of white fur appears before me.
Should I drop a stitch as I watch the TV
I feel his celebratory purr on my knee.
Yes - You will always be a friend to me
I just have to close my eyes to see.

John Carré Buchanan
01 February 2013

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Camera Shy

Image Source: Buchanan

Just before Christmas I bought a SLR Camera. I had promised myself that I would buy such a camera when the compensation case was completed. I saw it as a reward to myself for putting up with all the tough times I've had during the last four and a half years.

It was then that the lawyers told me it could be another two years before we reached some kind of settlement. This news came as quite a shock and I realised that waiting that long would just make me notice the time more. I also realised that if I bought the camera sooner It would add a new dimension to my life which could only be a good thing.

I used the camera a lot over the Christmas break, but during the recent spell of bad weather I had been avoiding going out and the camera had stayed in its case. Over the last weekend I could hear it calling to me and I decided to prise my son off his X-box and take him and the camera on a photo shoot.

The image above and the poem below, are both the results of an afternoon spent on a nearby beach. The best part of the experience was the very precious time I spent having fun with my son.

I hope you enjoy the poem.

Camera Shy

Carefully he lifted the camera from its case
and placed the broad strap around his neck.
He leant forward, retrieved the tripod
before he straightened and strode to a boulder
lying in the middle of the beach.
He then opened the tripod, secured the camera to it
ensuring that the lens faced the boulder.

Next he started collecting hand sized stones,
Each had two opposing flat surfaces
which allowed him to build a shy on the boulder.
Sitting in my wheelchair ten feet from the tower
I leant to one side and collected a handful of stones.
Meanwhile Marcus focused the camera on the shy
and selected the continuous shot sports mode.

We were ready and he began a countdown
Three – Two – One – Go,
simultaneously he pressed the shutter release
and I threw the stone at the shy – missing.
We tried again, and again, each attempt capturing
four almost identical images of the stone shy.
sometimes capturing a pebble as it passed the tower.

Then came the crack as the flying pebble
collided with the standing stones.
excitedly he pressed the view button to ensure
the image had been captured.
Tumbling from my chair I moved toward him
to inspect the results.

There on the display was an image of the collision,
The events of a fraction of a second
Suspended – there on the screen,
the rock had split into several pieces
and a cloud of stone dust hung
peppered with smaller gritty fragments

We smiled at each other and inspected the next image
which showed the shy as it disintegrated.
Quickly we moved toward the boulder
and began to build a new shy.
Both of us wore huge grins on our faces
as father and son shared a rare moment of fun together.

John Carré Buchanan
30 January 2013

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Elephas Maximus Indicus

Image Source:

This poem was written as homework for a ‘writing for pleasure’ course I am undertaking at the moment.

Having spent most of the week, since the homework was set, traveling to and trying to recover from a very painful trip to the UK, I remembered what it was like to be a child at school who suddenly remembers homework.

Fortunately sleep is a rarity in my life and I was able to pen the poem between 04:00 and 04:30 this morning whilst I waited for the pain to subside enough to sleep.

The poem had to be presented verbally and in writing at 10:00 this morning. The verbal presentation seemed to go down quite well. I hope the written version below is received in a similar way.

Elephas Maximus Indicus

Ten foot tall at her shoulder,
decked out in jewels so fine,
the temple’s mighty elephant
is treated as if divine.

Her massive head is painted
with brightly coloured schemes
and her golden nettipattom
in brilliant sunlight gleams.

The caparison draped o’er her back
is richly decorated,
as is the howda in which is set
the deity so venerated

As a temple elephant
she is much revered,
but her warrior forefathers
were very greatly feared

Yes - man has trained elephants
to fight and kill in war.
A five tonne beast in armour
was considered real hard-core.

It’s mighty tusks - capped
with two foot iron blades.
That could cut a soldier in half
when charging through blockades.

The elephants of India
have long been put to use
by men who use cunning
their power to abuse.

From the howda upon their back
the great ‘white hunters’ shot,
killing tigers and deer for sport
they almost got the lot.

They are used as beasts of burden
in the forests man tears down.
As they drag logs along the paths
the jungle turns mud brown.

Wild elephants in the jungle
have been hunted near extinction
by poachers after ivory
for men without contrition.

Yes - elephants are revered in India
but man still finds a way
to abuse and misuse them
and throw their lives away.

John Carré Buchanan
30 January 2013

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Conversion

Image Source:

There is no real need to introduce this poem, save to say that it describes one of the most ridiculous things that ever happened to me. I would love to know what the person who sewed the suit together was smoking when they did it. This really did happen.

Conversion

There was to be a big parade
I had to look my best
So I broke out my service dress
Sam brown and all the rest.

I only had temperate kit
Tropical would be needed
So I went to the quarter master
And for a cool suit pleaded.

He told that me they were ‘dues out’
They'd have to make to measure
This was very good news to me
for it would look a pleasure

I waited through the summer hot
and then the winter too
I chased them up regularly
as my impatience grew

Two whole years later my phone rang
The store man had good news
My tailor made service dress
At last I could peruse

I jumped on to my bicycle
and pedalled to the store
The apologetic store man
greeted me at the door.

He showed me to the fitting room
Where the suit was in a box
I stripped and took the trousers out
and then I got a shock

Quickly I took the jacket out
to check it was the same
T’was over twice the size of me;
and I'm not slight of frame.

Now Nine foot two’s a mighty chest
for any human being
and a six foot five inside leg
The tailor must be dreaming

‘Have you lost weight’, the tailor asked
as I stepped through the door
‘and eight foot eight in height’, I said
as he went red and swore.

In UK they use feet and inches
in Cyprus it’s not the same
They use little centimetres
The difference is to blame

Surely the person who made it
Must have thought it too long
For a fourteen foot tall soldier
Well…… it’s just wrong.

John Carré Buchanan
19 January 2013

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Charioteer

Image Source:

The Charioteer

People part
as I glide
through the crowd
head at chest height.

Mothers tell children
‘mind the man in the chair,’
the kids turn with a start
and stare.

Yes,
I’m the man in the chair.
The man in the brand new
shiny chair.

Carving through the crowd
like a Roman chariot.
Head held unbowed,
a laureate.

But…. later….
when I’m alone
the beasts will be set free -
and they will rage.

No longer the charioteer
I will play the part
of the condemned.
John - a la carte.

Yet - amid the melee,
secure in the knowledge
that, He has a plan,
I will survive.

John Carré Buchanan
17 January 2013

Chinese Proverb

Image Source:

I was asked to write a humorous poem based on an old adage. The subject matter was left completely up to me and not having written for a while I went for something easy. I hope you enjoy it.

Chinese Proverb

He lay there silent,
head tipped back,
a look of surprise
fixed in his eyes.

On his head
two black spots lie
separated by a maw
that was not there before.

The line of scarlet
crossed his brow.
He’d not had time
to utter 'ow'.

I remembered then
an old adage;

“Do not remove a fly
from your friend’s forehead
with a hatchet.”

John Carré Buchanan
17 January 2013

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