Park Bench Tales and other writings

Thoughts and writings reflecting the poet within and the activist

Leave a comment

When the door is ajar


Indecision leaves one foot on the step

The other firmly on the mat inside

Which says ‘Welcome’ but are you met

With hesitancy and reluctance to stand aside

Why do we pause so often to leave the door ajar

What are the thoughts that pass through our mind

When were we conditioned not to trust those from afar

Surely we were not born to be unkind

Promises made then followed with hesitation

Impulsive actions made without thought

Raising of hopes leading to expectation

Sadness when such promise comes to nought

The welcoming gesture that fast fades away

A hand that is offered and then withdrawn

The gate is shut try again another day

Darkness snuffs out the rising dawn

A refugee waits in eternity to know a fate

The homeless are forever on the endless list

Mental health issues confined behind the gate

A world where opportunity is so often missed

What if the door and gate are opened wide

Responding to needs of the stranger who asks

Let us show warmth of welcome as we step aside

A humbleness as we set about our daily tasks

David Hopcroft April 2022


Samaritans All

Samaritans All

Those stories that we heard in our childhood

Of a man who journeyed on the Jericho road

Asking us if we can tell evil from good

Would we share and carry another’s load

A challenge that now is being put to the test

To determine whether we cross to the other side

Is His love in us and can we see we are blessed

If we act from compassion and ignore our pride?

We can see the Jericho road is busy this year

The innocent are fleeing from yet another war

Shells replace bandits casting terror and fear

The Samaritan responds by opening a door

Some are collecting many are donating

Offers of shelter compassion is erupting

Red tape still binding frustrating and waiting

Leaders are still talking efforts interrupting

Memories jogged as Levite and Priest passed by

Samaritans now waiting to walk down that road

A nation that simply cannot be left to die

It is love not shells that needs to explode

That lesson we read in those verses from Luke

Were guidance for a future now here comes the call

A sweet gift of love like notes flowing from a flute

Thanks to the Lord we can become Samaritans all

David Hopcroft March 2022

Day One

Leave a comment

Rebel In Me: Part 1

Rebel In Me Part 1

Songs were being sung but I was too young

Protests by beatniks in flowery poetry

Lines by those who never knew true poverty

Could not set alight the rebel in me

Songs that were tame and avoided the blame

Guitars playing chords that never struck shame

Some called this postwar hypocrisy

But they never aroused the rebel in me

Sedated by the television fireside chat

Hire purchase that said life could be good

Credit with a message of live now pay later

That’s when I first felt uneasy

Stirred an awakening of the rebel in me

I knew we were poor and life was a struggle

But on a farm we lived in an imaginary bubble

Our clothes were ragged but the food was free

Nature with her cloak still sheltered me

This sheltered life was to come to an end

Moving to study in the land of the Big Smoke

I soon learned what it meant to be broke

Where you miss meals you could not afford

Walked the back streets by the slum

Past beggars looking down into their cap

I knew that protest could not be pleasantry

The poor had awoken the rebel in me

I walked down a street they called the Kings Road

Looked in shop windows at clothes I admired

Felt out of place with these fashion faces

Making do with worn shoes and broken laces

A portcullis and drawbridge separated a class

The message being clear ‘Thou shalt not pass’

Then came change and I found myself work

I looked past those shadows where people lurk

I felt as rich as a king with a salary

Found a night life with new company

Sometimes I wondered was this meant to be

Whatever happened to the rebel in me?

Fifty years on and something has changed

The rebel is now presented as deranged

Protesters find themselves on a list

Labelled Domestic Terrorist

The homeless still lie there on the street

The begging cap at their feet

How I wish I had battled against that society

That wallowed in wealth and indulged in cruelty

How I wish I could start once more and set free

The fire that will ignite the rebel in me

Copyright: David Hopcroft January 2022

1 Comment

Life In The Care Home

Life in the Care Home

Wallace and Wendy proclaimed they had known each other for years

Though Matron assured me they had only met last week

Childhood sweethearts Wendy said as she held back some tears

Wallace remembered meeting her in a canoe on the creek

They had paddled their way through life

Living as man and wife

Wendy had met him on a large ocean liner

That had docked somewhere in South Carolina

Of course she’d been married several times before

Mostly to men but she couldn’t be sure

Wallace had a memory that led him astray

He remembered tomorrow as clear as yesterday

Horace sat everyday in the same wicker chair

He read the same paper over and over again

Saving him money but the pages had wear and tear

Never aware the stories were always the same

Once I brought him a copy of the Washington Post

He coloured in the crossword squares in record time

Always looked forward to the Sunday roast

Which his sister brought in a crock pot with added wine

Hilary loved the weekends when the visitors came

She hijacked as many as she could she had no family of her own

Recounting stories of make-believe children who found fame

You have to be creative when you’ve been left all alone

Once she kept the postman as hostage for several hours

She only released him when he paid a ransom with flowers

Molly could never remember her large family by name

She gave her children different names every week

Was it Wilf or Ronnie or Fred they never seemed to complain

Not that they had time once she started to speak

For in seven days the gossip she had overheard

Could fill several cauldrons with the spoon she stirred

Miranda had been an electrical engineer

Before her grandchildren had dumped her in here

Like a no-name baby left on a doorstep from fear

She had organized wheelchair rallies in the local park

They did donuts around the bandstand after dark

Until the police put an end to their fun and play

When Miranda was caught speeding on the motorway

Social services said they needed more outside activity

So each was given a garden plot to cultivate

Fifty ageing hippies freed from captivity employing creativity

Soon ten acres of weed was harvested and the cake

Made in the kitchen gained in affection

Until discovered by a Health and Safety inspection

Had the law been different then the reporting

Would have described the home as being self-supporting

But they still knew where the magic mushrooms grew

And on Fridays Flo in the kitchen would make happiness stew

Copyright: David Hopcroft January 2022


The You in You and the Hate and the Love

When the mind starts to wander and thoughts spin around

Conclusions are few and even hypotheses most likely unsound

So many ways that I would use to keep these underground

Yet curiosity means that every attempt will rebound

There is a you in you and a you in you in each

But in the one the you in the you should never be out of reach

Else in creating the wall communication would eventually stall

Leaving you with the thought the other you might not be there at all

So if you talk to the you and that you clearly can hear the call

Then conversation is deep and understanding breaks down the wall

That you thought might protect you from you and vice versa

This may well be the most enigmatic puzzle I have never done

A puzzle with a riddle within a riddle, but I would never make fun

Yet I do not see competition where you against you might have won

For if you were to destroy the you of you there would be none

Each piece of my puzzle seems to exhibit a daily shape shift

So that a previous line of thought so soon goes adrift

A thought either lost or won if your thought is bereft

Now that line was just like your challenge if you follow the drift

I find a further paradox when you and you tackle love and hate

What can happen when one you decides to open a gate

You might think that the other you on listening would deflate

But this might work if one you is love and the other is hate

For this way around both might well make complaint

Yet if love plays love would the message be so faint

I am sure I don’t know and I’m really no saint

Whatever the wizardry behind this it cannot be imagination

Though frequently such fantasy promotes only exasperation

I am now convinced the more words of yours that I see

That the problem of the you in you is the same as the me in me

Copyright: David Hopcroft July 2019



Driftwood A conundrum

(A conundrum of faith and loneliness)

As the tide slowly receded from the muddied creeks of her life

Bare banks left exposed for gulls to pick over

She watched as boat hulls revealed their nakedness

Here her life floated among reeds like driftwood

Still seeking to be washed up on a beach that could be home

She watched as figures came and went

Traversing carefully those planks whose age

Had survived so many passing storms

Now succumbing to the boring of worms

Would her life pass away like those planks

Two boys, shouting at their father for a bucket

Lines dangling down deep to reach

The brine-mixed waters of an estuary

Where waters seeped in from small streams

A shout! They had made their catch

Quick Dad, be quick, a crab!

The exuberance of youth. So long ago

Life seemed to be passing her by too quickly

A loneliness recorded within her poetry

That needed a second vision to see through

The glass walls within which she was enclosed

Driftwood beached upon an empty shore

When she had wished for so much more

A green sailboat tied up against an iron post

Brown sail furled, neatly kept

Two berths beneath, so still and so calm

She had known both

The warmth of that bed where she had lain with him

Feeling his warmth press upon her

Gently holding him in

Now all that was left were her dreams

Becalmed upon the reed beds

In a village which tourists thought was half way to a paradise

On a windswept wintry day was a village without hope

A larger motor boat with a diesel engine

That carried visitors out to the banks where seals played

Now stranded along with the others waiting

For an incoming tide to give life again

Looking at the scene notebook and pencil poised

She attempts to write, shut the noise from the bar

Drink her coffee, she wants to record that feeling of being alone

There is no story of waiting for a loved one to come home

No tales of being left on her own

She had made a choice but now finds she is alone

She sketches and sometimes writes letters to herself

Talking to a world that has gone

Drifting away like the wood

Waiting for that incoming tide

Le Lion Rouge is there tied up near the bridge

She had bought that boat when she first arrived

Lived cosily for the first year

Making trinkets from shells and glass she found on the beach

The sun passes a zenith and a drowsy afternoon

Drifts on with the heat

Then she hears the sound of his voice

Calling gently across the crowded street

He has come, as she knew he would

Just as he always came

Tonight they would sleep together

For a few days their loneliness like the driftwood

Would have travelled to a further shore

Two lost souls perhaps

Souls belonging to another world they could not yet share

Respecting the cells in which they were trapped

Love lost now becoming love found

For a few precious days

Each choosing to devote themselves

Not to another but to Him

Devotion struggling each day with the loss

In only a few days their lives return

Where he will be in service to His flock

And she will work with her sisters for Him

I stand now before two freshly dug graves

The smell of fresh fenland soil in the air

Holes soon to filled

Stones to be raised

And as the tears stream so freely down my face

I wonder what you believe

Will be written on those stones

How do you perceive?

Driftwood or not?

A seagull screams overhead

Copyright: David Hopcroft July 2019


When a writer needs a cuddle

There are times when we write and words come out all wrong

Times when the writing is all of a muddle

I am trying to write an Englyn Milwr but it was hard on the tongue

This was a time when the writer just needed a cuddle

Good heavens! Have I really been sat in this room for hours on end

I’ve only written two lines and a really long squiggle

Such a time of frustration when the words will not blend

I want to be in the garden and hear my kids giggle

I’m staring at the screen which is still as white a sheet

The keyboard seems frozen the letters look back to me

Why can’t you just listen? I seem to hear them shriek

Go play in the garden, go swim in the sea!

When the room becomes a cell and you get in a pickle

You seek my opinion? But I don’t work as hard

But I’m willing to stop to give you a tickle

Forget the pages on the floor you know you’ll discard

You think you may be depressed I hear you whisper

But writers help each other when some thing is amiss

Before life loses cheer and becomes a big blister

So the best I can do is send you a big hug and a kiss

You tell me you just want to scream out and yell

But you’re really a kitten who just loves to purr

I’m sure there is someone to stroke you until all is well

Remember laughter and play you should never deter!

Copyright: David Hopcroft June 2019

1 Comment

Talking Stick

(An old poem that was one of my first attempts at writing and using different voices. I have not shown the voices here, but they should be easy to spot)

It is no merry meet, no pious answer to a saint, no secret sign to moot

Yet this russet eventide draws from turf-capped croft and seaweed stranded home

Folk who brave whipped furies of leaf-stripping gales along their route

Some linked by arm for safety, others ‘neath great coats tread the path alone


The heavy knock above the wailing wind crashes through the oaken door

Which open swings. “A welcome to you all” cries the walking talking stick

Shelter’s finger beckons in; the hearth ablaze entices from the floor.

A haze of heat as glasses mist; “Greetings”, whispers mantle candle wick


Who risks a goat’s foot path or treads the marsh in dark and driving rain ?

Could this be some noble cause, religious zest or perchance some grail quest ?

No bells have tolled; no priest stands robed to kneel before in shame.

Who’d chance mischief and peril on this night; who is host and who is guest ?


All are gathered. “Be seated now in comfort”, talking stick sings out,

“There’s a circle to be made, form your ring around the blazing fire.”

Orange flames leap out and climb, sparks from logs fly all about.

Warmth is spreading round the room, a luring charm of hot desire.


Cotton-wicked tallow sticks perched on window ledges call for flame

Shadows flicker from the gloom as tapers spread the dance around

“Let cold hearts softly melt,” sings out each candle’s sweet refrain

Warmth flows and laps against enclosing walls yet never makes a sound


Cold meets warm as hands in new friendship grasp; talking stick is still.

Glowing greetings spreading out from each to those beside

Sharing out of sacred spirit, thoughts exchanged for hearts to fill.

Time to pass the talking stick, where all such thoughts can reside.


“Speak through me then pass me on

Say what you want or what you will

Who you are and whence you’ve come

But for your purpose speak no ill”


The first to hold the charm of wood

Had laboured long upon the mountain’s slate

Now coughed up dust as best he could

Yet of his life did thus narrate


“I was born as a child from the warm waters of darkness

Sought my love through the dawn at the end of the night

Spring came and was spent in the arms of a lover’s caress

Summer was the quarryman splitting rock with delight


As days shorten I can see without fear or fright

Though heavy on my mind weighs the damage that I’ve done

As one life ends the next is clouded in my sight

Dust of the mountain’s death obscures the rising sun


May the scar on the mountain be left now to heal

The wounds that I made deep in mother earth

Mountains once under seas still bleed from every weal

May the peaks now be praised for all they are worth.”


Talking stick passes on, from wrinkled skin to drawn white hand

A city face thin and pale, hollow valley cheeks eroded by the flow of stress

She has come new to the valley, to a hafod high in this rain swept land

She grasps at the talking stick, and trembling holds it close to her breast


“I search for the island in the opening of the mist

For a land that lies far beyond the movement of the tide

Where mountain peaks by billowing clouds are kissed

The unpolluted land in which I might abide.”


“Ah ! The dreams we often have, the hopes we hold.”

Talking stick is pressed into another palm.

“Seek the vision by your action before you are too old;

Storms across the sky might fly before the inner calm.”


“I know not what I really seek, only that the search has now begun.

I’d like to pretend and say I will not fear what I may find.

Yet fear is there; of tick-tock stop before the journey’s done.

Or what I find to be worse than what I leave behind.”


“Now there’s an honest voice”, thinks our talking staff

“And many more besides could say the same”

If the answers were before us we’d surely know the path

Should we find before we seek then the journey is in vain


“I know not,” calls a voice across the wax-lit room,

“Whether there are deities or maybe none at all

I see the form of this rod as I can see the silver’d moon”

The candles whisper softly “Listen for their call”


“So many now are blindfold led in halls of painted glass

To bow before the statues and kneel upon the floor

Hear incantations in a language strange like some farce

To be no wiser when they rise and flee the door”


There’s a sureness in the voice that’s speaking now.

“I know that I’ve a future, that I must change my ways.

Teach me to love and listen, to respect an ancient vow

Let me the wiser leave to live out better days.”


A purpose that is gathering , a pilgrimage this fall begun

Friendships form, bonding minds that had seemed dulled and glazed;

Talking stick and candles smile; know their work well done.


“I’ve walked across the moving marsh beside the briny estuary

I have followed footsteps I saw before, along the muddy path

That led beside the tide swept sands, though the prints were plain to see

They brought me to this shelter, to a warmth before the hearth.”


So as the stick was passed around and candles flickered by the walls

Each sought to find themselves, searching to find the soul;

Clawing through the dreaded darkness that clothes the inner halls

Seeking within the cavern for the lode that might yield gold.


And in the ringed completion self-made blindfolds are slowly raised

A purpose that is gathering , a pilgrimage this fall begun

Friendships form, bonding minds that had seemed dulled and glazed;

Talking stick and candles smile; know their work well done.


© Celt at Aberffraw October 2000 (David Hopcroft)

Leave a comment

Camping out at Calais

There’s a pretty place near Calais set among the dunes

Where we set up our tent and listened to the sea

Wandered through the sand where the sea thrift blooms

Looking at the twinkling stars and feeling free

Our tents were a little different, mine was a cardboard box

Then I found some driftwood and a sheet of polythene

An international village with doors where nobody knocks

Helping one another, there’s a welcome to the team

Those that live on higher dunes, we call them the elite

Sheltered from the wind, hidden from prying eyes

Ageing concrete homes, we call them Bunker Street

Looking to the land where my dream never dies

It’s wasn’t Butlins but there was a warehouse at Sangatte

They didn’t call out ‘Hi de hi’ but they found us food and clothes

The Red Cross Eurotunnel Hotel, until they knocked it flat

When Sarkozy sent his heavies by the droves

Our Calais Camp demolished and hope was nearly crushed

But ‘The Jungle’ was rebuilt and dreams were kept alive

Although they burn our blankets and seek to spread distrust

Wielding batons of brutality they hope we can’t survive

Fear and hatred they try to spread, harass the charities

Call us vermin, say that I’m a terrorist

Our plight ignored. Who will listen to our pleas?

Threatening those who help with jail should they resist

When you’ve lost a family killed in a roadside blast

Been tortured until bone showed through your skin

Watched starving shriveled children breathe their last

You will walk the fires of Hell to let new life begin

David Hopcroft March 2019

Leave a comment

Empathy gaps and building walls

Spend a few minutes at the start of a day looking at headlines in newspapers, posts on social media, the news being put out by television and radio stations, and you might see how we are subjected to a never-ending deluge of opinion that is aimed at changing the way that we think and how we view the world.  Some of these I view as positive, the plight of those who are suffering from natural and man-made catastrophes deserves to be headlined and we do need to be aware and respond to their hardships. Some of the other storms I find rather more disturbing, the wave of hysteria being whipped up to portray immigrants as thieves and rapists, and the description of African nations as  being  ‘shitholes’ are among the more extreme views, but alongside these comes a concerted effort to portray those who see immigrants differently as being ‘unpatriotic’, as being traitors to a nation, and the cry that we should put our country ‘first’. Even those who scream and shout that we must  put our country first are often found wanting when issues such as the rights of gay people, the unemployed, or the disabled are raised. We face a real challenge between understanding what we mean by empathy and why we need more empathy, and seeing and understanding the selfishness and greed that opposes empathy.


When Barack Obama and others talk about an empathy gap and an empathy deficit in the way we so often view the world around us they raise an important question. Can we look outwards instead of inwards to discover the type of person that we really are? Do we really know what our attitudes and ‘beliefs’ are unless we are prepared to move outside the ‘comfort zone’ that we create? The obsession of one man to build walls to keep people out of a country he believes ‘belongs’ to the USA is not so unusual if we look at how we sometimes react. The appeal of those who asked the question ‘How would you feel if you had a Muslim / Polish family / refugee / immigrant living next to you?’ was to a person’s comfort zone and the idea that you could build a ‘wall’ to separate you from these  ‘outsiders’. Millions may have voted for just such a wall in a recent referendum in the United Kingdom without realising what the appeal of such a question was.

So how do you feel if your neighbour is Asian, or Polish, or Nigerian, or Mexican? How do you feel if the couple living next door are gay? How do you feel if the family along the street have a member serving a long prison sentence? Do we build ‘walls’ to keep us from these neighbours or do we reach out and put ourselves in their shoes?

Most of us find it relatively easy to show empathy after a major disaster, feeling in some way the shock, desperation, isolation, that comes after an earthquake. An image of a child who has lost family sitting in front of a ruined home does produce a response that we want to help this child, and others. Those feelings are very real, the giving is real and is done from a feeling of empathy, and we can be proud that we react this way. Do such feelings last? Think of the response to the first refugees from the conflict in Syria, where charities received donations, convoys were sent out to help those in need, calls were made to house those who were being displaced. What has happened over time? Now we see countries putting up barbed wire barriers to keep these people away, refusing to accept ships carrying refugees, anti-immigrant feelings being promoted in the media. These experiences suggest that, for many people, the feeling of empathy can be short-lived.

I had a very sheltered life as a child growing up in the countryside; I never experienced the lack of a roof over my head, or of food on the table, although we were comparatively poor if we just measured ourselves in terms of financial stability. How might my life have been different if I had been born to a family where there was no stability in terms of work, with no  guarantee of work, or a roof, or of food on the table? Would I have begged for food, would I have stolen to satisfy hunger? What if I had been the son of a refugee? How would I feel if I were sleeping in the open, even when the temperatures dropped below freezing, if I were glad to see any scraps of food, grateful for any form of shelter? How would I feel if I arrived in a country where I expected to find safety and then found myself the object of hate, beaten up by gangs who had been taught to hate?

These might seem to be very obvious situations where we can consider how we see empathy, but there are many others not so obvious. I might see a T-shirt that I like whilst on vacation, and I might be pleased with a low purchase price so I go ahead and buy the T-shirt. Would my feelings be any different if I had some knowledge of how the garment had been manufactured, and where it had been made, and under what sort of conditions? Occasionally well known ‘brands’ are ‘shamed’ in the media where child labour has been employed, but the outcry is often short-lived. Perhaps journalists should adopt a different approach, highlighting the story of the child making the garment or the dangers faced with poor machinery. We need to hear the story from the viewpoint of those who suffer the hardship and are exploited, and we need to understand their needs. Many will be aware of a well-known company selling bottled water obtained from a large aquifer on a Pacific island, but will be far less aware of those on the same island who are being denied access to clean water because of such activities. If we listened to their story we might be less inclined to sing the praises of this bottled water.

We live in times where climate change is starting to impact on lives, and adversely on the lives of those in areas where sea level rise threatens their homes, or longer droughts threaten crops. As ‘climate change refugees’ start to make their way towards countries in western Europe we should take time to listen to them describe the damage we are creating in their homelands. We are still building ‘that wall’ to live in a comfort zone and ignore the effects of our own lifestyles on others. When mitigating the effects of climate change is proposed we saw one nation openly remove itself from any commitment to help those affected, the preference was ‘the wall’ that shielded their lifestyle and ignored others.

For most of my life I have been aware of changing attitudes towards those who actions have transgressed what is seen as normal behaviour. On one side I have witnessed extreme calls for punishment, a desire to see others suffer and a belief that to inflict suffering is somehow right. At the other extreme there is the idea of reform, of repentance and of retraining to help people back into a society. We need to spend more time considering the lives of those who often end up incarcerated for reasons that we should be able to avoid. We should be asking the question why the prison population does not reflect social and ethnic grouping in the general population. Even the most ardent reformer needs to try and understand the conditions that have led so many to end up incarcerated for long periods of time.

Whilst some may express their frustration by acts of vandalism, or theft, or violence, others may respond differently. A sense of helplessness among young people, of being isolated, or facing a life without the security of owning a home, or even having a roof over their head,  a sense of desperation sometimes leading to suicide, or to becoming dependent upon drugs, all these reflect poorly on our ability to show empathy. The wall that we build to protect our comfort zone sees these people isolated in the same way that many were seen as outcasts and beggars in times past. We see these people as being ‘at fault’  when we really should be spending more time listening to their stories and their concerns, listening to their hopes and determining how we can better play a role in their futures. If we continue to build walls then we can never hope to have empathy that helps us put ourselves in another’s shoes. The generation gap can too easily become an empathy gap.