Writing Away – September 2017

Monthly Column from author and poet Sue Gerrard

It’s good to be back writing the column again although I cannot believe I am writing about September already. I hope you all had a good, relaxing summer. I cannot however, let the column pass without writing about the untimely death of fellow poet Len Saunders.

Len and I worked together on many occasions and he will be much missed by me and many other people in the town. Next month I will be featuring some of Len’s wonderful poetry.

Meanwhile here is my personal tribute to Len which first appeared in St. Helens Star.

Len Saunders

Len was one of those people who I felt I had known all my life; his charm, warmth and easy manner made you feel at home in his company straight away. My first solid recollection of speaking to him was at the St. Helens Festival, Sherdley Park when I, lost as usual, asked him directions to the tent where I was performing. In typical Len fashion, he didn’t point vaguely at the sea of white tents but took me himself. This was the start of our friendship which would see us working together on and off stage.

The next time he came into my life was as a student when I was teaching Creative Writing at St. Helens College and what a brilliant student he was. I remember clearly Len performing a piece he had written about a Jewish survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. He showed what a fine writer, poet, singer and performer he was. It is no wonder that he graced our T.V. screens in productions like ‘Casualty 1900.’

Even though he was busy as a member of ‘Writers Unite’ and working as a volunteer at the Lucem House Community Cinema Plus in Corporation Street, he still found time to act.

I was honoured when he agreed to play Tobias in the production of my novella ‘The Pale Boy’ and this year we have performed together three times. The first was in ‘Funshine’ when I gave him the daunting task of performing most of Shakespeare’s major speeches, which he did in superb style. In fact, not many great Shakespearian actors could have done that.

The second was at Shevington Art Gallery and the third on 5th July when he took part in ‘St. Helens and the War Years’. He brought the house down with laughter with his portrayal of a ‘Dad’s Army’ style of air raid warden called Ted.

That’s how I will remember him, always laughing.


Now here are some of my poems to catch the mood of autumn.


I met you on the river bank
An unexpected brightness
In a grey day.

I had not thought
That this day would be
Any different.

The sun was absent
And the wind had ceased
To blow;

The sky offered nothing
And the water yielded no
Reflection of things to come.

And yet, when I saw
You there, I knew we
Had to meet…

That you could offer
Solace, where others gave only
Empty air.

And when you left
The sun was high
And the earth was warm with life.

I knew that we would not
Meet again, but now I know
The value of a chance acquaintance.


Swirling dancing leaves,
Wind driven, rushing round
And round in circles like
Ladies dancing at a ball.

Golden browns, russets and ruby
Chase each other round before
Settling on the country ground.
I walk onwards and the more
Exuberant follow catching
At my heels like
Enthusiastic puppies.

And so, I admire this autumn scene
As I tread this finery underfoot;
I smile at the beauty and absent
Minded slip on wet leaves,
Then fall from grace
Into this, a dirty muddy place.

From ‘Monkey Nuts and Mayhem:’ available from Wardleworths, Westfield Street priced £5.

Now here is a piece of work by playwright Norman Weston


What colour say you of the battlefield? I say grey – the dullest grey, and of this day, never more so. The day is done indeed, and so are we.

As I regain consciousness, I can feel the thud, thud of heavy raindrops against my cheek. Mercifully, some trickle down to cross my lips; and I drink. In my mind’s eye, I can see the face of the last soldier I have killed – a young boy not yet of beard and never to be so. As I felled the lad, so too was I felled.

I open my eyes to look up; my head propped against a heavy shield. All around is silence and death. Across the valley Persian and Spartan lie intertwined in curious embrace; enemies no longer. And all to the colour grey – of mud and mist. But there is movement. Through the murk, ghostly shadows play in and out of view, as looters ply their shameful trade. Would that I had the strength to rise up and strike them down.

Beside me, my brother, defiant to the last, still clinging to his spear, its banner once of blue and white, now a blood red.
I feel no pain, all along of an inner peace. I grow weaker, but reach out to take hold of my sword. The battle of Thermopylae is over….but the fight for Greece has just begun.

An Exhibition in Two Halves:

This is the title of my next exhibition which is going to be at Shevington Village Art Gallery from Saturday 2nd September to Monday 3oth October. The first section is ‘The Family Tree’ and the second ‘Sporting Pursuits’. It is a combination of poetry and visual images with additional art work by Carol Anne Eaves. Admission is free and opening hours are available from Shevington Library.

Meanwhile if you would like to have a poem featured in this column please send it to sgerrard156@btinternet.com


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