Starry Starry Night – our Vincent Van Gogh tribute

Last week, we looked at the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh. Although he led a troubled life and didn’t become well-known in his own lifetime, Vincent Van Gogh is now one of the world’s most well-known and well loved artists.

The patients and staff really warmed to the task of describing and imagining what was happening in various Van Gogh paintings, and I hope you enjoy our poems.





It makes me think of cows
– I do like that one,
The shoots going down,
The blue flowers blend in with the leaves.
Nice colours. The natural shape of the leaves.

The colours and shapes,
White ones contrast.
Irises intertwined.
You can see the brush strokes,
Trying to paint the soil.
Well balanced.

The blue – like pansies,
Makes me feel calm and warm,
Like I’m in a summer meadow.


The Night Café


The Night Café

It’s deserted
They’re not spending any money.
Nobody’s drunk yet.
A billiard table in the middle.
I can only drink ten pints of beer a year,
Maybe I’ll have a coffee.

I’ll have to have a crack at painting.
It’s inspiring.
Skilled at drawing
– I like the flooring.
All the bottles.
Mis-matched chairs, table worn out.

The colours make it warm and inviting.
The shadow on the floor.
Do the lights fit in?
The colours are right.
Mismatched gas lamps glowing.
That’s all they had at the time.

Wooden floors,
Chairs a bit iffy, you can soon clean them.
I think that’s a child, sat on a knee.
He’s got his head in his hands.
There’s a clock on the wall, empty glasses,
Half past twelve at night.
Probably when they go every night.
You’re welcome and not welcome.
It depends who you are and what you’re doing.
All day café, drinking horrible coffees.
Closing time.

The Night Café

Snooker Table
A drink of beer
I think they’re playing pool or billiards.
Harp lamps hanging down.
Big vase of white flowers glows at the back.
Wooden floor; a very high ceiling.
The chairs hanging down with the lamps.
The clock showing ten past twelve.
A happy couple in the far corner.
The waiter in his short white jacket
Starts to tidy up.


Wheatfield with crows

Wheatfield with Crows


Wheatfield with Crows

I like the yellow colour.
It’s summertime.
A railway track not much used,
So it doesn’t disturb the birds.
Where are the birds flying to?
Someone’s set fire to it.
Crows in a wheat field.
It’s nothing special,
But there’s a lot going on.
It’s quite frightening.
Blue and black sky.
The white part looks like North Africa
It’s as good as any other.
I can see what’s there.


flowering orchards

View of Arles, Flowering Orchards

Flowering Orchards

The disturbing dark vertical poplar
Contrasts with the green, fresh plants.
The mass of the flowers,
An allotment where tall-stemmed plants grow.
The sharpness of the poplar,
The strip of greenness – spring onions.
The white bits, like hundreds of pictures of
The same scene on a camera.

The man digging has too much to do.
Bright spring sunshine – it’s still cold.
The breeze can still cut to the quick.
It’s a working area.
The railway line cuts it off from the town.

Our truth about love

Last week at Newholme, Walton and Cavendish hospitals, we belatedly discussed Valentine’s Day. But it’s never too late to talk about love. Love can be a tricky subject for older patients, who may have suffered bereavement. But for some people, it’s a chance to revive cherished memories of a life-long partner.

Some patients have partners who lovingly visit them, and sending and receiving Valentine’s cards is really important in keeping the love alive, despite difficult times. These poems represent romantic stories and recollections of younger days. I hope you enjoy them.

older love

The beauty of loving someone for life.

Our Truth About Love

He was in the army. He had curly hair.
They sent him to Christmas Island,
And when I came home from work,
There would be piles of letters from far away.

A few weeks later, I came home, and there he was.
Sitting with my parents,
And he’d already asked my dad for my hand.
Dad told him to look after me.
And he did. For over fifty years…

Getting ready for a date,
Running towards him in high heels.
Best dress on and red lippy,
To Dronfield Picture Palace.

Love means kindness and gentleness,
When you’d do anything for someone.
Love and kindness lead the way.
Families are loving and giving.
Sending and text message every day,
Even though they’re far away.
A phone call – coming to see me.

Love means a lot.


I can’t tell you anything about love

I can’t tell you anything about love,
All different kinds of love,
Family and friends.
It’s the same as it always is, being at home.

Having your family around you,
Home means love.

I knew that she was the one,
And we’re still in love,
Still giving each other cards.

But I’d prefer a cake,
Or some chocolates…
I love you and I see you.
You’re lovely!

Some Enchanted Evening,
And romance lingers in the air.


A long time ago

It was donkey’s years ago.
Was it true love at first sight or on the rebound?

We were too close to send love letters.
Working together at Masson Mill.
You got used to the noise.
We didn’t make a big fuss on Valentine’s Day
– Rock ‘n’ Roll dancing in a suit and tie,
And I got married in my winklepickers.

A long time ago,
I went to dances in Edale.
I’ve always liked dancing.
Waltz and quickstep
Foxtrot and tango
Military two-step and barn dances.
I loved them all.

Celebrating pancake day

This week in Derbyshire hospitals, we’ve been making and eating pancakes, and thinking about Shrove Tuesday traditions around the world. From our own tradition of using up all the rich foods in the house by making pancakes and eating as many as we can, to the exotic celebrations of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) in New Orleans or Carnival in Rio. The three hospitals I visit, in Chesterfield, Buxton and Bakewell, had very different pancake preferences, and we’ve written three very different poems together.


Pancakes with classic lemon and sugar

Pancake Day

A thick pancake with a ladleful of stew
That’s me done, I don’t know about you!
Or mop it up with a dollop of gravy
Or meatballs to make it really savoury

I don’t like pancakes – bad for my tummy
Even though most people find them yummy!
But Yorkshire puddings with sugar and jam
Suit me just fine with a slice of ham.

People queue up to eat them through my garden gate
We used to bake, but now some just cook and shake.
We take pride and make ours from scratch
Oh, what a lovely big beautiful batch!

Sprinkle on sugar and squeeze on lemon juice
Or blackcurrent jam, or chocolate mousse
Nutella and ice cream, rolled up hot
Golden syrup spooned all over the top!

Yum, yum yum!


It’s pancake day – use up all your rich food
Lent should be a time to do things that are good.
For forty days and forty nights, we fight our greed
We think of others who are in need
(and try to give up drinking mead!)

Visit a lonely neighbour to cheer them up
Keep her company and tea to sup
Volunteer at a charity shop,
Helping out with a brush and mop

Some give up chocolate, some cake
Some might give up sausage and steak
Some give up Facebook, some give up the phone
Try to be positive – stop having a moan!

Give up chips and lose off your hips!
Because soon it’s Easter – and chocolate will be passing our lips!


Ooh! Tastes lovely!
It was alright.
She knows how to mix the batter –
I’ll eat at least half a dozen
Very nice –
Delicious with lemon and sugar
Sweet and tart
Sharp smell
Yummy and scrummy
Excellent and lovely.
Eggs for creation,
Flour – the staff of life,
Milk for purity.
A pinch of salt for wholesomeness
And maple syrup.
We’re not mardy,
But full of gras,
Because we’ll always have a “Ha Ha!”

Wildlife In Winter

Last week, we thought about wildlife in the UK and around the world, and looked at photos of some of our favourite animals as inspiration for this poem, which was started by patients and staff at Walton Hospital in Chesterfield, continued at Cavendish Hospital in Buxton, and completed by patients at Newholme Hospital in Bakewell and their visitors. The weather outside gave us some inspiration too. On Tuesday afternoon particularly, it was sunny, followed by hail and torrential rain in the space of just a few minutes!

Fox in winter

A fox walking on an icy pond.

Wildlife Wonders

There’s a seagull bullying me, stealing my chips!
But my bird table is laid with fat balls and sunflower seeds.
Ducks swimming in the lake and taking a dip
Children giving them bread, the birds eagerly feed.

The spiky hedgehog helps us by eating slugs
We need to do them a good turn to help them to thrive
A hedgehog ramp in the pond. To eat, plenty of bugs,
A bowl of cat food left outside will help them stay alive.

The hooting owl gives us a fright
Out on the hunt for mice and voles
He’s feeding his family through the night
He spies them from high on the telegraph pole.

The robin with his jacket of red
Pretty and with a cheerful song.
He seems to greet us with a bob of his head
And visits the garden all year long.

When the hail bounces down,
The birds dash for cover
The rain’s so heavy, we might drown
Shivering like a plover.

Now the sun’s shining bright
And I am quite confused
It’s too windy to fly a kite
Or look at country views.


A plover – in case you were wondering!

A Celebration of all things Scottish – a Belated Burns’ Night Celebration

Last week, I was unable to update this blog due to a computer malfunction, so here it is! Patients and staff in Derbyshire hospitals looked at the traditions of Burns’ night – a celebration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

We celebrated all things Scottish, from haggis to tartan, and here are the poems that we came up with.

A Celebration of Scotland

As we sit here eating shortbread
We’ve been listening to Rabbie Burns’ poems
Haggis, neeps and tatties,
The mountains and heather that Scots call home.

Porage* oats to make you strong
With some salt sprinkled on.
Made with water if you can’t afford milk
To keep warm from Scottish rain pouring down.

Tartan outfits worn with pride
The Queen in her favourite Balmoral home
Queen Mother lived in a Scottish Castle
Where the Monarch of the Glen does roam.

William Wallace, Braveheart Warrior
To John Brown, Queen Victoria’s favourite
Played by Scotland’s own Billy Connolly
In a kilt and Highland garb

Lots of actors from north of the border
From Will Fyfe to Ewan McGregor
Sean Connery, the first James Bond
To Robbie Contrane, our Scottish sleuth.

scots keep us entertained
Lulu, Annie Lennox, lovely Lorraine Kelly
The stories of Robert Louis Stevenson

And without Alexander Graham Bell,
We couldn’t chat on the telephone.
We wouldn’t have TV without John Logie Baird!

The land of Robert the Bruce –
We’ve got a lot to thank you for!

* Yes, that’s the way that Scott’s have been spelling their famous oats for many years!


A Weekend in Scotland

Iron Bru – I love you
A tot of finest whiskey too
All-butter shortbread, petticoat tails
In a winter blowing snow and gales.

Men in skirts – they call them kilts
We love how your accent lilts
The colours a sounds of Edinburgh tattoo
Stroll around a loch to find Nessie too.

But that bag piper’s driving me mad
And the midges itch me something bad!
No thanks to that haggis, it sounds offal!
Deep fried pizza and Mars bars must be awful!

But with the wonderful wildlife and scenery too
We’ll still be coming and visiting you.

Scottish Wildlife

I searched for Nessie in a loch
I saw Canada Geese in a flock
The beavers had built their dams
Surrounded by leaping spring lambs.

I walked my Westie on a lead
Watched red squirrels as they feed
As Flora and Morag the Highland cattle
Watch red deer stage fight their battle!

Favourite Places

Last week in Derbyshire Hospitals, we talked about our favourite places, near and far. It was interesting to see what each group came up with when it came to writing poems about the places that we love.

In Chesterfield, our minds dwelt on sunny climes and golden beaches, but our deep love of being at home, in familiar surroundings. We are lucky in Derbyshire, to have some of the world’s most fantastic scenery on our doorstep, and sometimes we don’t even need to go outside. The views out of our windows can be spectacular!

Travels Near and Far

chesterfield spire 1

Chesterfield’s famous crooked spire

On our travels, we’ve been far and wide
The beaches of New Zealand, the water crystal clear
But when I’m flying home, my heart burst with pride
The Derbyshire Dales are the best, just near here.

The warm sun and golden beaches of the Med
But you can’t beat Yarmouth – such a lovely place.
A glass of sangria, as the sun sets red
Anywhere on holiday, life’s a slower pace.

Or a donkey ride in Blackpool, and a stick of rock.
A trip up the Tower and a drive to see the lights.
But the nicest sight to see if the crooked spire’s clock
You don’t have to go a long time to see the sights.

In Buxton, with a view of the Derbyshire hills and Solomon’ Temple out of the hospital windows, we thought about Chatsworth, one of the most famous stately homes in the world, a short drive down the A6.

The Palace of the Peak

chatsworth cascade

The grandeur of Chatsworth’s cascade – enjoyed by a duck!

A warm, welcoming place to stop
A beautiful view from the top
Buying cakes from the farm shop
And salmon with parsley on top.

A jewel in Derbyshire’s sparking crown
Gardens designed by Capability Brown
Watch the water in the Cascade run down
Bakewell is the nearest town.

Rooms full of statues and priceless art
Afternoon tea with sandwiches to start.
Victoria sponges and a chocolate tart.
Days out like this really lift my heart.

Having a trip around the country fair
There’s livestock, showjumping -everything’s there!
Take a picnic with Champagne to share
What a wonderful way to take the air.

In Bakewell, we thought about the way that snow transforms places. We had a slight dusting of the white stuff last weekend, taking us back to childhood memories of sledging and snowballs.

Derbyshire Snow

snow in Derbyshire

Fun in the snow

When the snow falls on Derbyshire
It mutes the whole world.
From the valleys of Dovedale
To the height of Kinder Scout.

Wrapping up warm and stepping outside
That tingling feeling in fingers and toes
Building snowmen with coal for eyes
A borrowed scarf, and a carrot nose
Or a snowball fight in the park – who knows?

Then coming inside – bang your boots on the wall
Hands around a hot chocolate, and a sweet snack.
Hang your wet coat and gloves up to dry
And watch the flakes falling down from the sky.

Things that cheer us up!

cheering up box

For my first creative writing sessions in Derbyshire Hospitals in the New Year, I chose the theme “Things that cheer us up”, thinking that everyone needs to think of the things that make them happy on a dark January day.

Little did I know that I would need cheering up myself as I set off to Chesterfield on Monday morning, as I reeled from the news that David Bowie had died. I had something to cheer me up though – the first creative session with the hospital patients went really well, and later on that day, one of my closest friends gave birth to a beautiful baby girl!

Here are the poems that we wrote at Walton Hospital, and also at Cavendish Hospital in Buxton and Newholme Hospital in Bakewell. I’ve combined the Bakewell and Buxton poems into one, as the theme of the love given to us by our pets continued in the two different sessions.

I hope you enjoy the poems!


Walking – especially with dogs, makes us happy!


Things that make me happy!

Riding a Velocet motorbike fast
Stopping for fish and chips at last!
A pearl of wisdom in a good book
Time to think and a change of outlook.
Spending time with my wife in the hot sun –
It doesn’t matter where we are, she always makes it fun.
Watching shows that make me laugh on TV
Going walking with my wife – there’s so much to see!
Getting home to see my dogs, greeting me with glee
Licking my face and wagging their tails, they give their love for free!

Walking my dog round the Chatsworth Estate
Dreaming of cream teas – I can’t wait!
Listening to the guitar of Hank Marvin
The thought of steak and chips – I’m starvin’!
Reading the poetry of Dylan Thomas
Hearing my typewriter bashing out commas…

Happy Thoughts

Reeling in an enormous bream
Bigger than my wildest dream
My son visiting me
For a chat and a cup of tea
A pastel drawing of a robin redbreast –
That’s something I like doing the best
And then we heard a piano tune
Which lifted our spirits over the moon.
Good company and singing a song –
It doesn’t matter if the tune is wrong.
Finding a bargain in the sales
A day out in the Derbyshire Dales.
Riding a bike with the wind behind me
Gives me a thrill – there’s so much to see!
Singing and dancing and listening to tales.
Cosy and warm with a glass of ale.

What the man in the moon wants for Christmas…

The man in the moon

John Lewis Christmas advert 2015. The advert is a partnership with Age UK to highlight loneliness at Christmas. Watch the video here.

Before Christmas, I worked with dementia patients at Walton Hospital in Chesterfield on the theme of Christmas. We looked at some Christmassy music videos, and one of the films I showed the patients was this year’s John Lewis advert, which is about a little girl who sees a lonely old man who lives on the moon through her telescope and decides to send him a special Christmas present.

I worked with the patients and staff to write this poem – about what the man in the moon really wants for Christmas. This is what they came up with.

What the Man in the Moon Wants for Christmas

A glass elevator to bring him home to his granddaughter.
An Alsatian to protect him from aliens and keep him company.
Ginger Rodgers to foxtrot him around the moon crater,
Or John Travolta to do some disco dancing!
A good Christmas dinner with turkey and sprouts.
A tin can telephone with the string stretching to earth.
Some tinsel for his hut and solar lights.
A Christmas tree sparkling with stars.

And then he’ll get out the sherry and mince pies,
Then Santa can visit him, bringing the man’s granddaughter,
So she can bring him the best gift of all –
A big hug!

A poem about the man in the moon is quite appropriate for today – the day that Major Tim Peake has blasted off into orbit on the International Space Station.

As a bonus, here’s another poem that the patients and staff wrote together, based on ‘The Night Before Christmas’.

A Christmas Surprise

The children are sent upstairs to wait for Father Christmas.
The stockings are hung at the end of the bed.
A carrot for the reindeer, mince pie and a sherry –
To make sure Rudolph’s fed and Santa’s merry.

The children are excited, and cannot sleep.
The oldest one wants a sly little peek.
Santa is due any time soon.
Down the stairs, the boy starts to sneak.

Under the tree, he feels the gifts.
One by one, shaking and squeezing in turn.
He tips his new drum over with a terrible crash.
And hides it under the Christmas tree.

From upstairs, he hears a loud creak,
And a tiny noise, like a mouse’s squeak.
(The cat is fast asleep, the mice are having a treat!
He didn’t catch a thing on Christmas Eve.)

The boy thinks it’s time to flee.
He runs upstairs as fast as he can.
Jumps into bed, and settles down,
Just as Father Christmas parks his sleigh.

Before they know, it’s Christmas morning.
No chance of Mum and Dad still snoring.
The children are all wide awake.
It’s Christmas day – so celebrate!

Christmas Angels made by Children at Mickley Infant School, Derbyshire.

Everyday People – Part 2 – Changing Times

This week, we carried on with our “Everyday People” theme, and took a trip down the high street. We started off with a quiz to identify the high streets of different towns around Derbyshire. It’s such a big county that the people who lived in Buxton couldn’t recognise places further down south, like Alfreton.

We talked about green grocers, cobblers, butchers and bakers, and watched the famous film of ‘Night Mail‘ by W.H.Auden. This inspired us to write our own poems about the amazing everyday things that we sometimes take for granted, disappearing shops on the high street, and old remedies and treatments you could get from the chemist.

I’m at Walton Hospital next week, but this was my last session in Buxton and Bakewell until January, and I look forward to returning with some interesting new topics.

Things we Take for Granted

The car starting in the morning,
Hot and cold running water,
Food to put on the table,
Warm clothes to wear,
Hospitals to look after us,
Electric power for all our gadgets,
Pubs open longer and Sunday shops opening,
The marvels of central heating,
The bin lorry to take away our rubbish.

But some things are a bit more of a pain –
The bin men used to carry our metal bins
Rather than wheeling them ourselves.
Sorting out our own rubbish at the tip,
Separating our recycling into green, blue and red.

But it used to take a whole day to do the washing
With the mangle and the starch
Dolly blue and rubbing boards
Flat irons heated on the fire,
You’d spit on them to check they were hot enough.
Terry nappies were a pain.
Ice on the inside of the window
Peg rugs on the floor;
Army greatcoats on the beds.
Pantries before the age of fridges.
Darning old socks and tights.
Black leading grandma’s range.
Outside lavs down the yard –
With squares of newspaper or scratchy Izal
Your mother used to do your hair
Basin cuts and wonky fringes.

We used to make do and men
Holes in our shoes with cardboard in,
Hand-me-down clothes,
The smart stuff saved for Sunday best.
Nowadays we take too much for granted.


The Disappearing High Street

No more high street Miliners’
Seasons of Buxton, Milligans
Madame Marsh and Madam Owen.
Hats on wire stands, ladies’ gloves.

Scotts’ behind the market for school uniforms –
The blue flowery polyester blouse for Buxton Girls’ School.
With a page boy collar, like an old lady’s nightdress.
A slight improvement on the previous brown one, with matching hat.

Potter’s Outfitters – for home furnishings,
A real old fashioned window display.
The only place you can buy proper curtains in Buxton
With a nice pencil pleat, not those big holes.

Clew’s Chemist shop with those big bottles
Disappointingly only full of coloured water.
Arsenic tablets labelled on the wooden drawers.
The greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers
Are few and far between; the Fairfield dairy shop long gone,
With its two ladies in beehive hairdos.

Now old-style sweet shops have returned.
I wonder what else will come back to our high street!

Old Fashioned Medicine (in Grandma’s handbag)

Butter for a bumped head
Indian brandy for tummy ache
Smelling salts in Grandma’s handbag
Would blow your head off – ammonia.
Camphorated spirits, Epsom salts
Andrew’s liver salt
Henneman’s horse liniment – for humans’ aches and pains!
Menthol crystals or Olbas oild for a blocked nose
Laxative chocolate found in Grandma’s handbag,
Would have an unusual result.
Senna pods and rhubarb to “make you go”
Syrup of figs to “make you go”
Liquid paraffin too – we must all have had trouble in those days!

Udder cream for chilblains,
Caustic pencils for verrucas
Victory Vs for a sore throat
The nit-nurse’s fine-toothed comb.
Zinc and castor oil cream for nappy rash.
Dettol, gargling with TCP
Oil of cloves for toothache.
It all worked.
Sanatogen tonic wine for building your strength
Guinness and Makeson stout for pregnant ladies.

4711 cologne in Grandma’s handbag,
Witch hazel for sunburn
Camomile for conditioning hair
Plants are still our medicines –
Present, past and future.
Who knows what remedies are still out there
In the forests, waiting to be found.

Everyday People – Part 1

This week in Derbyshire Hospitals, we’ve been talking about everyday people who provide essential services – and some that we don’t see much any more. Door to door milk deliveries are dwindling, and the postal service has changed a lot, with fewer letters coming through the door, but more parcels due to internet shopping. We don’t often see our neighbourhood police officer (or “Bobby”), and the traditional rag and bone man, or “tatter” is long gone. Some patients remembered deliveries being made by horse and cart.

We also remembered the importance of hospitals and the NHS, so we’ve written two very different acrostic poems, using the same word! Life in the UK would be very different without healthcare that’s free for everyone, from the doctor’s around the corner to Accident and Emergencies.

Hospital (by the staff and patients of Cavendish Hospital in Buxton)

Healthcare that’s free for all
Outpatients and operations large and small
Sterile and clean wards – good sanitation
Patients getting better every day
Ingrowing toenails to cataracts
Tea and therapy with a smile
Ambulances to bring you in fast
Lasers and computers, now giving treatments

Hospital (by the staff and patients of Newholme Hospital in Bakewell)

Newholme hospital was originally built in 1841 as a workhouse, and was used as an auxiliary hospital in World War One for injured soldiers. We reflected the hospital’s long history in this poem.

Historic building – built as a workhouse
Offering shelter for the needy and poor
Soldiers from the Front came home to recover
Poor people came for their Christmas dinner
Infirmary for patients who need help
Treatments now for young and old
All welcome here throughout the year
Lives are improved by the care that is given

I’ve also put together some reflections from people about how things have changed in our everyday lives.


The bread man
The ice cream van
“Any old iron” of the rag and bone man.
He’d give out balloons for the kids, pegs,
Even new dishes and plates,
In return for the old scrap.
Or a dolly stone to clean the front doorstep –
No one bothers with that any more!
The milkman wouldn’t just bring eggs –
He had eggs, potatoes, orange juice in glass bottles.
The old dairy is where that big Tesco is now.
Now that’s where people get their milk from,
And the supermarkets do deliveries.
I miss the electric hum of the milk float,
The rattle of the crates.
I remember milk being delivered by horse and cart.
We used to take it in turns to feed crusts to the horse.
We collected the milk bottle tops to build a Spitfire.

Buxton High Street

There are no proper fishmongers in Buxton now.
Sometimes a man in a van comes, once a week.
Spring Gardens had a fish shop.
Now it’s a Shoezone.
Mycock’s is the only proper butchers.
There used to be Dewhurst’s and Booths,
Swindells at the traffic lights.
The International stores was the first supermarket.
You felt a bit cheated, loading your own basket,
The Co-op’ still there though.
We used to collect Co-op stamps, Green Shield stamps.
The streets are full of charity shops
Not so many jumble sales nowadays.