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I Remember : A Palette of Words

Tony Gadd was ‘poet in residence’ throughout the Norman Cornish Centenary. Later this month an Anthology of works created during the Centenary workshops at each of the exhibition venues will be published via this website. Participants will be receiving personal copies in due course.

Poetry is a powerful medium which also has the capacity to evoke memories and trigger emotions. Many people have a favourite poem.

I Remember (title) takes the reader on a journey through Tony’s early years and is a constantly evolving poem initially inspired by Cornish’s paintings and drawings. It was warmly received as an introduction at a number of Centenary lectures, and is published here for the first time. Tony has personally selected the images to accompany this poem in recognition of the inspiration they provided.

Tony plans to publish his personal Anthology in the near future and it seemed appropriate to share his palette of words as a taster of things to come.

If you would like to contact Tony directly about his work and receive details about any forthcoming publications, then he may be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


I remember

Colour TV in the 1960s

laid on the floor, elbows on cushion, chin on hand
watching Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds and Joe 90
fantastical tales, all filmed in ‘Supermarionation’ 

I remember

Swooning and cooing over Aqua Marina

a mute, tail-less mermaid with Bridgette Bardot lips
and silicon polished eyes 

I remember

Wondering if she would ever choose me over Troy
wondering what the hell was ‘Supermarionation’ ? 

I remember

Thinking all baddies had thick necks, shiny bald heads with
thick bushy eyebrows over menacing eyes and devilish grins 

I remember
Sitting in the barbers shop with me Granda

I screamed as the barber set fire to a mans head
watched as he then waxed and polished it

brushed the collar of his ever expanding neck
transfixed, my eyes bulged as he turned and smiled 

I remember

Running out the barbers, thinking me Granda must be a real
gangster as he new lots of baddies 

I remember

Me mam typing quicker than I could speak

writing in hieroglyphics, she said it was ‘short hand’, but
it looked pretty long to me 

I remember

Going to the Odeon cinema in 1969, aged 7,
to see me first ever film, 2001 A Space Odyssey

two and a half hours of my life i’d never get back

wondering what the hell was it all about

hypnotic visuals, discordant sounds, assaulting my senses
few words, lots of space, space, space and no ending 

I remember

Months later being nonplussed, as Apollo 11 landed on the moon
all black, white and grainy, no invisible ‘HAL’ to talk me through it 

I remember

Fifty years later realising, why the 7 year old me didn’t get it

with its themes of existentialism, human evolution, AI, and extra
terrestrial life, still not sure I get it now, still never watched that film again 

I remember

Getting drunk on cadburys old Jamaica chocolate,
9 pence for a 3 and 3/8 ounce bar

a burnt orange sleeve, with gold foil cover

feasting square by square on a pirates treasure, followed by a
palate cleanser of 2 hubbly bubbly or some golden nugget chut 

I remember

Tripe, liver and onions, leek suet pudding boiled in a cloth,

penacalty, fish finger stotties, bacon grill and pressed ox tongue in a pyrex
bowl, which doubled up on Sundays for a 10 bob swirl of Mr Whippy. ice
cream. Beef’n’drippin, spam fritters, faggots in gravy, fray bentos pies, and
a spare key kept in a draw just in case, to open tins of corned beef 

I remember

Sunday lunches, huge roast joints that would last all week
Yorkshire puddings the size of your plate

pressure cooker veg fresh from the allotment

all doused in grandmas secret recipe mint sauce

skin on rice pudding served out of huge enamel tins

all cooked in Council Rayburn, the commoners AGA 

I remember

Scraping the ice off the inside of me metal framed single glazed window,
to see if it had snowed overnight, then dressing in front of the open fire,
the only heating we ever had

Then shovelling snow to get out of the house, to get to school,

which never, ever, ever, shut for the weather 

I remember

Frozen wet feet from ill fitting rubber wellies

soggy woollen mittens, strung through duffel coat arms

the tingle in finger and toe tips as they quickly began to thaw
much like the coal dust speckled snowman i’d spent hours creating 

I remember

The smell of rubber plimmies, hanging in bags from cloakroom hooks
doing PE in my pants and vest and those slip on jabs or sand shoes
third of a pint bottles of milk served at school morning breaks
prunes and custard, discarded stones balanced on edges of bowls
‘Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor’ ringing out around the hall

those who reached thief often missed afternoon classes

spending their time instead on the bog 

I remember

School days, playing ‘spot’ with a brown leather casey

against crumbling sandstone outside bog walls

adjacent allotments with owld gadgees in diamond patterned cardies,

who pass freshly picked tomatoes from grubby hands, through diamond
patterned fence, halved with a penknife used for grafting plants, whittling
stakes and sharpening stubby pencils, just big enough to fit a’hind their ever growing lugs 

I remember

Drawing the short straw

and being sent in to buy beer, under age, at the off-sales window

of the Colpitts Pub, two bottles of Samuel Smiths bitter all we could
afford, shared between ten, more spit than beer, how bitter sweet it was 

I remember

Coal fired chippy’s serving up, fish lots, dab and chips, and a bag of
scraps or scrapings’ wrapped in yesterdays newsprint, nee forks,
fingers arnly,

discount given for yesterdays news 

I remember

Using my great grandfathers shoe last, to feed the soul

Sutton Street cobbler with kiwi polish and buffed leather smells

provides horseshoe heels, a pound of blakey rounds and quarter tip segs
to feed the soles, to stamp my feet, to make some noise

to parade, drill and pass out 

I remember

Pit heap, pit head, pit wheel and gantry landscapes
Huge pylons, aerial tubs and telegraph pole skylines,
The smell and taste of an autumn days smog, and the
phosphorus orange glow from the pit yard lights. 

I remember

Coal deliveries, dropped in back lanes,

menfolk still on shift, women at h’ame left to handball

frem lane to shed

on return frem shift, the pitmen diarise, the quality of load delivered 

I remember

Pitmen tewing the’ pluck oot,

blue tattoos, chiseled into hands and face

scars hewn from years spent at the seam,

flat cap, hides many more tokens, from time underground

as they speak, the only thing visible, butt ends of broken, rotten teeth 

I remember

Them haakin’ an coughin’ the black spit up

deep roond pullie eyes, hide any notion of emotion,

foot-rot ’n gout, huge spots all ower the feet and hands

burnt off by blue lotion issued from the infirmary

stag, frem lack of light, isolate them frem life ootside

ralloused, with caisson disease, dust, and anthracosis,
pneumo and skumfish, all of them explained away as bronchitis
have em all at h’ame, reaching for oxygen, hauled roond,

on a cast iron trolley 

I remember

The first time seeing Norman Cornish’s paintings

browt a tear to me eye, as I saw aa’l me family that had gone befower
aa’l the memories of that life lang gone.

now I use a palette of words to explain our heritage, our community.
our hopes for the future, our destiny, our ‘ Slice of Life’, our

‘Sense of Place’, in this landscape, we call h’ame