Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist

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Down South

Down South

Sitting on the porch in an Adirondack chair

Staring at blue skies

Just passing the time of day

Watching pine trees swaying in the air

Through shades to protect my eyes

As I watch the dolphins leaping in the bay

Clouds of loneliness have drifted from the sky

Burning sun scorches through my shirt

But I will stay a little longer

Let the lingering of memories still lie

Until forgotten in the parched dirt

Whilst my southern love grows ever stronger

Will friendship be lost after this last night together

Beneath the Spanish moss last memories are made

Drinking our margaritas before we retire

Listening to Jimmy sing about the weather

How I wish that departure could be forever delayed

Let not our love die in the ashes of the fire

Copyright: David Hopcroft November 2022


What did you do for climate change Granddad?

What did you do for climate change Granddad?

Many years ago when I was but a lad

Kicking a football around in a field

Visiting the cinema for a Saturday matinee

Watching the enemy getting blown away

Generals presented as freedom’s shield

I asked ‘What did you do in the war Dad?’

Now I am older the question is almost the same

‘Granddad what did you do to prevent climate change’

Grandchildren stare right into my eyes

An occasion calling for truth not lies

A warrior with a pen Would they find that strange

Yet my actions in many ways are those of shame

Your granny and I we drove a big car

A gas-guzzling monster a great metallic beast

We flew across oceans in enormous jet planes

Went from city to city in those old steam trains

Took a cruise liner to the Far East

Three vacations a year to places near and far

We lived in a large house heated by coal and oil

Commuted to the city forty miles each way

Bought all the new gadgets as soon as we could

Threw out the old ones they were no good

Dumped plastic in a bin where it would not decay

Greened the lawn with fertiliser in the soil

Those were the days when the burger was king

Exotic fruits flown in from overseas

Takeaway meals came in a polystyrene tray

No need for washing we just threw them away

Paradise was a place we could just do as we please

A Holy Grail of peace where no birds sing

The looks that they gave me were those of disgust

I sensed that feeling where lack of comfort betrays

Our selfishness had so nearly destroyed their lives

Creating a barren world where so little survives

We had left it to our grandchildren to find better ways

Taking more than our fair share and leaving nothing in trust

Copyright: David Hopcroft January 2022

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The Glasgow Caucus Race

The Glasgow Caucus Race

(with apologies to Alice)

I wonder what happened to all the trees

Said Alice

And the last time we played there were more birds and bees

Said the butterfly (sighing)

Now all we have are old men and women

There’s one to represent each nation

Here to plot a path for our salvation

Led by the seduction of quantification

Because big numbers always give gratification

Or so they say

Strange because I thought zero was the magic number

To keep the freeze on the tundra

And the rain forest wonder


Oh no, now I’m being told it’s 1.5

They debated and argued and most of them lied

Then could not agree upon any particular date

Some cheated some bullied and all of them spied

Complaining that others were always late

Nothing was happening and of progress there was none

Now Alice and the butterfly knew something had to be done

Alice spoke up ‘Why don’t we all have a race

The sort of exercise where nobody loses face

We’ll run around in a circle any direction will do

Start wherever you want if you haven’t a clue’

So Boris the bulldog ran around and around

Shouting ‘I’m winning I’m winning’ and everyone cheered

Whilst Small Island gasped ‘I’m sinking below ground’

And looked for some help but everybody just jeered

The Great Eagle stood still and then fell fast asleep

Dreaming he was the winner and everybody should clap

But was awoken by a nightmare from the deep

With a starving polar bear sitting upon his lap

‘I refuse to take part’ said a voice from the East

‘Then neither shall I’ came the growl of the Bear

‘That doesn’t matter’ said Alice smiling at the beast

‘You’ll both still be a winners that’s how much we care’

The Impala was walking around in a daze

‘I’m thirsty’ she murmured as she fell to her knees

Wishing for the water she’d not drunk for days

When the rivers started to run dry

Would she be a winner or would she just die?

The Dodo just floated around as a ghost

Circles completed but there was no boast

He could never be first past the post

In hindsight now knew more than most

So he shrieked

‘Walk there’s no need to run

This race has only one winner

He’s called Extinction’

Then Alice blew a whistle declaring everyone was a winner

And all felt more comfortable that nobody was to be a sinner

They proclaimed they had saved planet earth from a fate

Now they agreed they all could choose a different date

All could give numbers whatever they chose

Now I ponder the epitaph as I write this prose

Watching them smile and pretend everyone had won

Flying home in their jet planes claiming ‘Job well done’

Alice looked sad ‘Doesn’t anyone want a prize?’

Wiping the tears from her eyes

So they comforted her with a pack of white lies

Gave her a medal for she’d answered their call

They could all feel smug but they’d done bugger all

Copyright: David Hopcroft November 2021

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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.


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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The Rabbits who built an Ark

The rabbits who built an ark

Henry and Jamal had first noticed the frequency

When the burrows in the warren became temporary streams

So they had all moved to a hillside acting sensibly

Until Precious the witch-rabbit had one of her dreams

‘The world as we know it will end’ she exclaimed

‘Does that mean moving again?’ the rabbits complained

Without knowledge the rabbits were left in confusion

So they sent for Anika a soothsayer of repute

Who drank of a potion to create an illusion

Her answer they hoped would settle all dispute

‘Floods would continue’ she explained with ease

The answer it seemed was to build a great ark

For the Big Creatures had gotten some strange disease

Their brains were leading them into the dark

But up spoke a dissenter called Donald the Grump

Who said she was a fake and always telling lies

And he banged on the ground with a great thump

You could see he was angry from the red in his eyes

The ‘experts’ he said were part of the Deep Rabbit State

He was so sure he deciphered the message in Rabbit Anon

All that they really needed was another flood gate

Then the threat he knew would vanish and be gone

Now Henry and Jamal had listened to Anika with intent

Ignoring the unceasing ranting of Donald the Grump

For they could comprehend what the soothsayer meant

Whilst Donald started screaming they should get a big pump

That was the day when it started to rain

Hour after hour and then day and night

Henry and Jamal sawed and hammered in earnest

Whilst Donald stood by and proclaimed their work was in vain

They’d wake up tomorrow and the sun would be bright

They’d soon be complaining it was hot as a furnace

The ark was soon finished and started to float

Supplies of carrots and lettuce loaded to the boat

The rabbits clambered aboard as the waters continued to rise

Donald sat on a large hump and continued to deride

At last the ark was ready and sailed on its way

Full of rabbits sailing west with a song

They never heard of Donald again and sometimes would pray

That he might be saved and admit he was wrong

The ark bobbed around on the water for days on end

Until coming to rest as the waters receded

The earth turned green again the Big Creatures were gone

There was healing ahead and the earth would slowly mend

As the rabbits worked together to do what was needed

The meek were the inheritors and Donald had been wrong

Copyright: David Hopcroft August 2020

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There were clouds in the sky a darkening overhead

Thickening like a blanket to descend upon the town

Sitting on the porch he felt this was the village of the dead

Thinking if there were another flood how many would drown

The deluge was years ago recalled from his childhood days

Rivers had overflowed and streets were washed away

Too small to help he watched as people climbed to the roof

He remembered his parents pushing him into a canoe

Frantically paddling in search of higher ground

Now the darkness rolling over became more threatening

He saw the first drop splash on the deck

Then more spattering on the steps

This time something was different he felt it in his bones

A warm breeze was blowing against his face

The raindrops were now becoming more frequent

He felt the first ones being blown against his face

Cold and icy even though the breeze was warm

Now the breeze picked up and could be heard

A gentle rushing sound soon became a roar

The first shingles were being lifted from the roof

He heard the siren faintly sound

A severe weather warning

Time to hunker down inside

It was then the heavens opened and the deluge began

Sheets of rain blowing through with the wind

In the distance the church bell swung crazily

Pickups fully loaded were heading out of town

But he knew the risk of flash floods and was staying put

The difficulty of knowing what was the depth

As you gingerly drove along a dirt track road

The rain was now steady the sky remaining black

He watched as small streams ran down the street

As the grass in the yard became a mini-swamp

Then the stream on the street began to bring debris

Still torrential rain continued steadily

He did not know why he stayed upon the porch

Watching a disaster unfold before his eyes

That strange attraction that draws onlookers

At some point he became aware of the water

The street and his front yard had gone

One river now flowed between the homes

He glanced up at the dark wondering was night setting in

Nine o’clock he went inside to check the power

Lights still working he switched on the news

Pictures of other areas rescues being made

Was this time for his own evacuation

No Way

Southerners always rode out the storm

A flickering of lights and then the power died

Thank goodness the generator fired up first time

He stayed up late the river flowing faster

Scouring out the foundations of sheds and homes

A crashing sound and he knew another home had gone

No signal on the mobile phone the landline dead

Should he have made a dash for safety instead

Now he was conscious that the rain had stopped

The river was flowing deeper down the street

The worst of the flooding was still to come

A sound


A sound of a cry

A realizing that others may be trapped

Wading out he tried to locate the source

Struggling to stay on his feet against the river flow

The old shack was still standing as he peered inside

Three children huddled together trying to keep warm

Clinging to a table top as water flowed below

In that moment he knew why God had not let him go

Three journeys each one exhausting his strength

Carrying each child to the safety of his home

Reassuring them they were not alone

As the water raged along outside

Safety given to them when it was needed most

His purpose in our lives may not always be clear

Yet when your time comes you act without fear

Knowing His presence is always near

When the story was told they said he was a hero

Medals should be pinned to his chest

But he knew his life had served a purpose

God had put him to the test

Faith had saved those children from the storm

As faith saves us when we are reborn

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2020

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World Orders

World Orders

Brown grass scorched leaves parched earth

Telling the tale of how we see the planet’s worth

Littered with plastic and a silent death from burning fuel

Acidic oceans slowly becoming a mass grave

A dangerous virus spreads quickly around the world

I struggle as I am told where priorities lie

How we must start horse racing for the wealthy again

Extremes of weather with flooding catastrophes

Mining scarring the countryside for mobile phones

Toxic chemicals slowly polluting each water course

Humans denied by colour of liberty and equality

See how those who speak out are labelled then mocked

A schoolgirl with vision and wisdom seeks to save

Life on the planet from an apocalyptical grave

‘Hell we can’t have that’ the climate denier cried

‘It’s all fake can’t you see we live in paradise’

Deaths from the virus filled hastily dug graves

‘It’s only flu the economy just has to carry on’

A knee on a neck and then we all watch in dismay

Though I suspect there were those in power just egging him on

Protests were made to try and bring change

The replies were predictable for there was no shame

‘Send out the dogs It’s time for the shooting to start’

‘Send in the military to teach them a lesson’

What if violence becomes the only tool the oppressed have left

How does He save His people from a coward’s death?

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2020

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The Snow Returned

The Snow Returned

They did not remember the old times

Long before the Big Creatures went mad

But nature still remembered

When the ptarmigans plumage turned white

When the stars could be seen through the night

When there was no smog and the sun was so bright

When the hare wore a white coat for part of the year

A time when badgers could roam without fear

They did not remember when the forests were lost

When the sea became acid and shells could not form

How the oceans were warmed and the coral all died

When the ice had melted and polar bears became extinct

Now the forests were quickly returning

Oceans were cooling and teeming with life

The Big Creatures were gone and nature was healing

As they lined up on the ridge to watch the sun rise

Polecats and foxes caribou and moose

Then white fluffy clouds formed overhead

From high above the flakes drifted down

Covering the heather with a carpet of white

Was time being turned back one million years

To reset a clock with a future that was bright

The passing of Big Creatures and the ending of fears

Copyright: David Hopcroft May 2020

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Deep down below the ocean surviving by the vents

Where gas and lava spew out from the planet’s bowels

Bacteria may survive regardless of the acid and heat

Where corrosive geysers bubble up still life may be found

And there is life among the rocks deep underground

So whilst the novices may talk excitedly about a Goldilocks zone

Such thinking is limited by being too close to home

For life like that on earth such a theory might be true

An atmosphere with some gases and an ocean blue

A climate that is neither too cold or too hot

Now just as innovation requires imagination

So thoughts on what life may be needs inspiration

Robotic probes sent out into deep space

Far more sturdy and long-lasting than the human race

Sensing a wider spectrum and other molecular forms

Would these also precede some alien exploration

Would we discover new life in so many different forms

Molecular structures evolving without explanation

Thriving on energy sources not used by me and you

Where temperatures are searing and there are no seas of blue

Life as we know it seems to depend so much upon a carbon chain

But if we close our minds then we never gain

Whilst so many other forms of life play out a higher game

Under skies of methane and acidic rain

When they arrive then our lives may never be the same

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2020