Static Caravan Holiday


The Lincolnshire Coast, 1978

I remember the paint-splattered radio spluttering Popcorn
and strip-lighting flickering, vinyl seats sticky and warm
and fat swollen chips and red sauce and vinegar vapours
and vibrations of lemonade bubbling through waxed paper straws.
I remember my mother muttering damn little madam
and my sister was silent, her lips knotted up in a sulk
and her stiff arms were hugging her chest.  I realised that moment
why the big girls at school called her Little Miss Tits in a Vest.
I was scratching the tissue-thin skin on my back, it was peeling,
and the calomine lotion was powder and cracking like chalk.
I was counting the tin tops of cars as they passed by the window
with their wing mirrors flashing back sparks like electrical shocks.
There were snagged plastic bags, like burst balloons,
hanging limp on the fence wire.  There was stillness.
Then shrillness, I hate you, a door being slammed.
I remember the red sauce bottle.  It wobbled on the table
and I grabbed it, I missed it, it toppled and smashed on the floor.

H L Foster, the University of Strathclyde. She says: "I studied Drama and English in London and took up a short-lived career in advertising before moving to Edinburgh to work in the heritage sector.  A brief interlude saw me return to my native East Midlands to teach in secondary education. I had a short story published in Mslexia last year and won a place to read my work at Edinburgh City of Literature Trust’s ‘Story Shop’ at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I turn to the past and people’s memories of it for inspiration for my writing.  My current work examines the relationship between oral history and social historical fiction."


Surface Tension

Photo by Stephen O'Shea

Photo by Stephen O'Shea

I stand by the pond,
eating woolly snow from my mitten.
The ice has thawed, and frozen again, but
I can still see the cracks. 

I don’t know where the pond skaters go
when water freezes:
there’s no water here to keep them up,
scooting along, no fish
pushing up against the top of the water
like the lid on a pot. 

The house smells of good things.

I pull my boots off and
leave them dripping on the rug
in the hall. Nanny
doesn’t mind about drips; she’ll
mop them up, ‘cause a little water never hurt anything.’  

The table has a crack that runs across it.
I help her pull it wide
so we can drop leaves inside,
and pretend the table is bigger,
and there are always so many people here for dinner-
like the old days, when
there weren’t any missing uncles
or Grandads.

Potatoes don’t have eyes any more
after Nanny is through with them.
They lie flat, on the side of my plate,
beached in gravy. 

She glares down the
length of the table, passing the rolls,
and almost-arguments
go out like candles. 

Ideology has no place here
only butter,

Mary McDonough, University of Strathclyde. Mary wrote her first poem at age 7, after ensuring (or so she thought) that her youngest brother’s adoption proceeded smoothly, and just prior to performing (unsuccessful) open-heart surgery on a snapping turtle crushed by the postman’s jeep;. Mary is a PhD candidate at Strathclyde.