Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist


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It’s Us Stupid

It’s us stupid

Those who are expecting some great outcome of COP 26 that will miraculously save the planet from climate change in a period of thirty years are likely to be deeply disappointed. The first COP in 1995 was held in Berlin and the record over the last 25 years has seen greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise on a global scale and inequality increasing at a similar rate. Poverty, hunger, lack of proper sanitation, gender inequality remain as issues where we still need great changes, but the threat of climate change hangs over the globe like a dark cloud about to descend and envelop us. To protest against the politician is to submit for the politician likes nothing better than to convince you that they are the one who will produce the answer like getting a rabbit out of a hat.

Does this mean that another meeting of political figures will leave us all wringing our hands and shaking our heads in despair? Well, there is no need to react in that way. We have the answer if we understand the simple idea that ‘it’s us stupid’.

Take a look at global emissions of greenhouse gases and look at some of the sectors that are the highest emitters. We know that agriculture is one of the largest sectors and yet we have the answer to hand. For the developed world it is simply to eat less meat, eat more legumes, more vegetables and more fruit. Reducing beef consumption is the prime target, the burger, the steak or the rib should not be consumed in the quantities we do at present. If we all reduced the burger intake to one a week and ate at least two non-meat meals a week we would probably have a greater impact than anything likely to be achieved at COP26. The action does not end there, for in countries like the USA and UK there is massive food waste, at the farm, the supermarket and at home. Up to a third of the food produced is estimated to be lost as food waste. Our diet and our food habits are as great a problem as using fossil fuels for transport. The answer lies in our hands and we can change.

We might easily forget that what we wear also affects greenhouse gas emission and the fashion industry is a global effort devoted to persuading us that we need more clothes, and new clothes for each season and for each year. Although there are efforts being made to recycle clothes we should consider how they are produced. Many synthetic fibres originate from fossil fuel products, coal, oil and natural gas, and so boost the fossil fuel industry. What if we were all to choose cotton? Unless it is organically produced then we are looking at an industry as dirty as driving diesel trucks with vast amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides being used together with a very heavy demand on water. Even with organic cotton the processes of bleaching and dyeing use great quantities of water and the chemical waste is often discharged to watercourses. There are alternatives that could be used for many fabrics. Hemp, linen and bamboo can be grown without the use of fertilizers and without the use of pesticides. These fibres are also more suitable for recycling. That does not mean we should abandon cotton, wool or silk, which could be considered as carbon neutral and can also be recycled, but we should consider how we grow the cotton, and remember sheep if used for meat has an environmental cost. There are fashion houses that support the use of organic cotton, and others who are looking at recycling and zero waste. We can choose to support these if we wish. Our clothing and fashion habits are our own, they will not be changed by the ‘blah blah blah’ of politicians and we must start to accept our own responsibility.

We cannot all have an electric vehicle overnight, or have a public transport infrastructure overnight, not all of us are fit to cycle or walk to work. However, we can all make changes to help reduce fossil fuel use in transport and speed up the transition from fossil fuels. We have an addiction to fossil fuels that was illustrated recently by the panic dash to the gasoline pumps in the UK as if we were a nation that could not survive without a gasoline fix immediately. Do we really need to use a car to shop seven days a week, or to drive our children 800 metres to school, and where is the sense in driving a kilometre to the local gym to exercise when more could have been gained by running to the gym?

The massive amount of waste sent to landfill is also a reflection of our habits. We ‘talk the talk’ about recycling and reducing waste but if we are honest then a look at what we are discarding shows just how wasteful we still are. Our bins contain single use plastics, masses of polystyrene, food waste where there is no local composting facility, and other items which reflect our habits. Even where there is recycling we are being encouraged to generate waste at an alarming rate. One has only to purchase a mobile phone and within months we are being encouraged to buy another and upgrade to a ‘new model’. Stores that allow us to bring our own containers for some dry products such as beans and lentils, or wet products such as liquid detergents can be supported, just as using our own cups at coffee houses is often an option. We can choose to support these businesses and avoid those who use lots of packaging. Our habits determine our emissions.

If we start taking action on a scale needed to mitigate climate change what will happen to the farmers, the supermarkets, the fashion industry, and the automotive industry? They will adapt and survive. The production of beef and other meat is achieved by using large subsidies from taxation. These can be reduced and the money usefully put to use in reforestation and restoration of soils.

Whilst I admire young people demanding action for climate change I would remind them, and all activists, that the power to bring about change lies in our own hands and not that of the political figures who will pontificate in Glasgow at COP 26. We have a wonderful opportunity to write our own agenda for COP 26 and we can achieve the goals of that agenda.


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Beyond the Edge: The last goodbye (Newspeak lines)

Beyond the edge: The last goodbye (Newspeak Lines)

We’d like to really help you but I know you’ll understand

We’ve done a deal with your enemies and given them your land

It’s for the best you see now it’s time that we went home

We sending our apologies for leaving you all alone

But if you can be so good as to form a queue

There might come a time when we can send for you

If you’re waiting for your visa please just stay in line

One of our staff will call you when we think it might be time

We’d really like to help you so that you can still go to school

But we decided we are leaving and that is our golden rule

We know the clock is ticking but that really is not our fault

We can’t keep on helping forever we had to make a halt

We’ve been assured your education will continue as before

It just has to fit in with some changes and a different law

Let me be absolutely clear for your peace of mind

This was always our intention and has been cleverly designed

We’d really like to help you with those issues on women’s rights

But once we told you we were leaving it was time to put out the lights

Don’t go believing all those rumours about beatings with a cane

We’ve spoken with the enemy and they assured us they would refrain

They say you can keep on working but there might be a little change

There are some little details we shall leave them to arrange

Some achievements might be lost because that’s the way things go

But never give up hope I mean you never really know

We’ve held a little summit for our reassurance and your lasting protection

Where the promises we made might have proven to be a distraction

Some day when all of this is over we promise a thorough investigation

And we’ll build a memorial to lost lives the heroes of our devastation

It’s a screwed up world we live in but we welcome all your views

As long as you remember that we still control the news

Please don’t live in fear and excuse me whilst I shed this tear

Because now I’ve got to run to catch the last plane out of here

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2021


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Beyond the edge: Passing Through

Beyond the edge: Passing through

There were whispers in the trees but were they true

Words floating across from leaf to leaf murmurs that drew fear

A forest concealing secret anger as the rumours grew

With each hour that passed the message becoming clear

Roots underground vibrating to marching feet

The forest telegraph signals defeat

The fear is picking up the beat

Hearts pounding down every street

Fragmented news that preys heavily upon the mind

Like flotsam and jetsam being washed up on shores

Armed men passing between trees as the forest becomes a blind

Looting of villages as tyranny shows its claws

Whispers getting louder pierce the air

Villagers collecting rumour that they share

Young girls listening become aware

The wolf has been released from his lair

Like a snake in the grass a deadly presence to be revealed

The head rears up in preparation for the strike

Rape and pillage in the venom that was concealed

Fear marching on as the screams pierce the night

The first refugees arrive terrified and confused

Stories of women and girls who have been abused

Men and boys with beaten limbs heavily bruised

By a freedom fighter who thinks his behaviour should be excused

They bring talk of burning homes of mutilation and of killing

Bringing starving children with hollowed cheeks and eyes

Skin hangs on bones and there are hungry mouths that need filling

Wounds to be dressed before pathogen infection from flies

Our hospital is crowded and overflowing

Every hour the need for treatment growing

Whilst the storm of conflict now is blowing

Through the village where blood of innocents is flowing

The sound of gunfire and mortars landing fills the air

Those who are able flee seeking shelter where they can

Still our duty demands we stay and care

We serve humanity and that has no exit plan

Working on as the carnage takes place outside

Hands cannot tremble though the mind is terrified

The needs of others keep us occupied

We are the collaborators who cannot hide

We feel the heat from burning huts the cries of agony

The guns fall silent the smell of smoke drifts through the door

The marauder moves on with the grim reaper as company

A rifle is his god and the bullet is his whore

I bury the dead in my dreams that disturb my sleep

I see survivors standing over bodies as they weep

Shiver then sweat at the sound of the armoured jeep

So I lie awake in fear of the nightmares that I keep

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2021


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On the edge: Futures must be more than dreams

On the edge: Futures must be more than dreams

She is just another lively smiling Afghan child

Player with a soccer ball that her mother bought for her

She’s a striker for the village team and drives them wild

As the ball flies past the goalie in a blur

He is just another bubbling and enthusiastic Afghan kid

With magic in his hands as he turns a cricket ball

Skills he has developed that nobody should rid

Let him entertain the world do not confine him with a wall

She is just the singing dancing Afghan teenage queen

Her lyrics bringing cheer to all around the world

Let us give her the chance to live out her greatest dream

Do not let the talent and potential of her years be furled

They spent their early years in study at the school we built

To secure a future for those that follow with a different wealth

We encouraged equal opportunity and yet we leave with guilt

Abandoning the promise of democracy to ill health

With promises in one hand but corruption in the other

Could these young people who have never known sharia law

Like so many in the past be condemned to suffer

Watching foreigners on the last plane out shut the door

There are still pictures on the schoolroom walls that promised choice

Empty now as they fade and the walls of hope might crumble

There is nothing but the dimness of the echo that once was voice

They skipped and sang along the roads where the armour now will rumble

What of those that we have failed do we think of their fate

What was the purpose building a military without democracy

Where corruption was allowed to flourish in a failed state

Now we run away with our excuses bathed in hypocrisy

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2021


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Forever War

Forever War

There was no surprise for she had seen war before

The saviour defeats the oppressor and some feel hope

Then the cycle begins again with the rot at the core

As the people try to claw their way up the slippery slope

Sometimes the saviour would arrive from a distant land

With promises of freedom and a road to democracy

Yet a victory meant only a shifting of the sand

Likes dunes refashioned by the daily tides of sea

She had watched as generations listened eagerly to the lies

Answering the call that promised peace beyond the door

Fathers sons and grandsons all responded to the cries

Now they lie beneath the earth in this forever war

Why did so many take arms and march to an early grave

For war lords and fanatics who cared only to be in power

Why shoot your countryman when there is democracy to save

Fresh promises will swiftly become the wilted flower

The addiction of corruption still lingers as the enemy

Fire consuming peace and this might be for evermore

Doves shackled by arms dealers are caged and cannot be free

What will it really take to end this forever war?

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2021


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High Street Demolition

High Street Demolition

The Tudor house beside the shiny cobbled alley

Where some say the growling granny dwelled

And teenage boys shared a kiss and more with Sally

Secrets that the mind has closely held

A High Street running through a golden valley

Where it seemed the church bells never knelled

A Victorian cottage hospital where old folks lay

With dreams and memories that intertwined

Thoughts that precede the bed of cold red clay

Before the town hall a proposal once declined

Is accepted as colour emerges from grey

These last images will not be unkind

The greengrocer outside his doors shows his fruit

Pears apples plums and berries of every name

The haberdashery displays a pin-striped suit

A barbers’ pole hangs out in Lovers’ Lane

Pheasants from butcher’s awnings droop

Banks with Georgian faces their pride proclaim

‘It’s time for the modern era’ came the cry

As they tore out the front of Heather’s bakery

Now neon lights illuminate a liquor store

The ironmonger’s shop was doomed to die

A bookmaker’s sign offered no mystery

The town hall clock would chime no more

The clamour for change was still not done

New stores appeared with accessories for mobile phones

The cobbled market square resurfaced for a new car park

Harry’s butcher shop became a slot machine arcade for fun

The hospital dismantled for its well-dressed stones

Vaping stores appeared but the brighter future now looked dark

As the once attractive character began to fade away

Superstores were built outside the once proud town

Those who could afford to decided not to prolong their stay

Dereliction set in as each old home was pulled down

A bingo hall once a chapel crumbled into decay

A cluster of thrift shops formed a faded gown

‘Plan for a better future’ the architect now cried

This town should now be nothing but history

Bring in the bulldozers to tear up the countryside

Perhaps beneath the dust and debris something else had died

Beneath new tarmac ghosts still might hold the mystery

And should I view another motorway with pride?

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2021


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Seeking Silence

Seeking Silence

Standing on a street corner waiting to cross

Jostled and pushed by those

Who have come to believe there has been no loss

For whom time already speeds by too fast

As each day they take their chance with life

Knowing only that their moments will not last

Horns blare head spins hammers pounding upon my brain

Sirens shriek out a message

Beware we need to pass this journey must not be in vain

The rattling of wheels as they pass along the iron rails

The Doppler effect of a jet passing overhead

On its path to touchdown

Drowned out when a woman hails

For a passing taxi

All the time a background rumble

Mixing the grumbling of congested traffic

With the chitter chatter of my fellow beings

How then do I try and meditate

Gather my thoughts for the day

Wishing really

That I could find some silence far away

An escape perchance to another shore

Now along the forest track that is far overgrown

I push through the brambles and the fern

A false darkness of a canopy high above

The promise of the clearing lies ahead

Where the mind can drift and other thought be fed

Upon the heather where I have a sense of half-asleep

Eyes closed helping to focus the mind

Can I find the silence that I seek

Yet even here a world is filled with sound

Above beneath and within the ground

The melody of a bird singing to attract a mate

The bubbling of a spring to start a stream

I am startled by the cracking of a twig

My ear slowly is attuned

Listening to the whisper of a centipede beneath decaying leaves

The crash of a dead tree falling

Startles me

Yet in my thought

This is the the land where I can reconnect

The mystery of a message understood

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2021


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Images in fields

Images in fields

Rain-lashed, wind-driven, storm-torn the croft still stands

Memories of an untamed youth cling to the aging mind

Walking with a sweetheart across drifting sands

So much I remember, fond reminiscence of a letter unsigned

Sun’s rays stream like beams beneath the barren boughs of beech

Across muddied ditches and fields of dainty daffodils

Her beauty always seeming to float beyond my reach

My mind mesmerized, captured in dreams of thrills

Her white cotton dress floating like a snowflake over cornflowers

Like blue polka dots inviting and drawing me near

No longer imprisoned in her father’s ivory towers

I cry out with her name but I know she can’t hear

Has the stream of consciousness at this moment run dry?

Wait! Her pretty form dances among poppies in the field

Love gave me such a moment beneath a cloudless sky

Passions from a summer where our future was not sealed

I wonder, will my thoughts slowly turn to cosmic dust

Do I believe the dream, or is the dream to be my belief

If this is trickery of the mind, then why so unjust?

And if all would end, could that really bring relief?

David Hopcroft January 2012


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Conditioned

Conditioned

When there was no longer a history available to consult

There were no longer memories hidden deep within a vault

No place where echoes of a distant past might have emerged

Of past solutions where thought had once diverged

Such thoughts of which people could no longer speak

A time when minds had been free to seek

When each believed there might be a universal solution

To a universal problem created by evolution

Life some had believed could be controlled by magic pills

Little helpers to see each through real and imagined ills

Depression could be replaced by chemically induced thrills

Whilst other thought had traversed a different route

Gene manipulation to hasten a human reboot

Clones whose reactions would always be the same

The odd mutation culled with nobody held to blame

Life’s peculiarity would no longer be there to tame

But life’s peculiarity would not be put to shame

So had control of the masses eventually be lain to rest

Had the laboratories failed to meet this final test

Was free will unharmed and looking on in jest

The prodigal returning as a welcomed guest

Yet so often discovery comes with a single incident

Stumbled upon by good fortune or accident

Knowledge that was almost forgotten yet really present every day

Staring all in the face whether at work or play

Now the blinkers of obstruction fell away

For minds really could be programmed to obey

A conditioning created by constructed scenes

Imported into the mind though numerous screens

There was no need for drugs or carefully modified genes

The world could be controlled by Orwellian dreams

Though there remained at first the problem of memory

Until it was erased and renewed at the start of each day

Last night’s history wiped clean like the child’s slate

Now images told you who you could love or hate

Yesterday’s truth lost as each new image closed the gate

Like the swipe across the face of some ancient phone

Now you’ve forgotten everything you’ve ever known

Each day you find yourself living in a brand new home

The trick was to simply keep removing yesterday

So that another world could come into play

Where all news could only be the here and now

The past turned like the sod beneath the plough

Recording of anything that ‘is’ would break the vow

Made before the Great One with a bow

The morning’s history by afternoon has gone

By evening the afternoon’s events are also done

Which nightly play would then overpaint with fun

Though in some hidden book there was a story of how it had begun

Where lies had proved more powerful than the gun

Where lost elections had always been won

And truth was buried with the setting of the sun

Copyright: David Hopcroft February 2021


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Inside Alternative Worlds

Inside alternative worlds (A first glimpse )

Truth could not be seen as a casualty

In a world that had sacrificed reality

Upon an altar to the god of obscurity

Such that remnants were lodged out at infinity

Now each could have a ‘truth’ that was the other’s lie

Such that both the other’s ‘truth’ could easily deny

So that all alternatives were but conspiracy

Found in the imprinted mind that had come from birth

Each form of news peculiar but had apparent worth

Serving as nutrient for those still trapped upon earth

The alternative world had long since bid farewell to sanity

Creating mists of illusion that seemed to fringe on lunacy

Such are these worlds created by dissent

Dissatisfaction magically covered by new sediment

With history to be regarded as excrement

All paths might once have led to merriment

Now each world could only thrive with an enemy

Such hatred is created in the fields of uncertainty

By those who really strove to form a new nobility

How easy it became to mimic what was once sincerity

Driving the flocks ever closer to conditioned slavery

And I but a rebel still unshackled in such a world

Raise the flag of free will to be unfurled

Copyright: David Hopcroft February 2021