Brexit and Schengen with Mike and Bernie

Getting down to the nitty gritty with Brexit in the Commons, Bernie. But this immigration stuff, it’s not about stopping it, it’s about taking back control of it. We’ll still want to let in surgeons, for instance, but stop letting in bank robbers, whereas now, in the EU and Schengen area, we have free movement of anyone.

Yes, Mike. And plumbers and building workers and nurses and German comedians, we’ll still need them. But definitely not bank robbers. Although I sometimes think that the banks rob us anyway.

German comedians? Is that an oxymoron?

Anoxy Moron. No, that’s not him, but he’s very funny. Henning something I think. But what about our own bank robbers?

Ah, well. The key to Brexit is being allowed to deport our own bank robbers to Schengen, wherever that is, without getting any back.

Makes sense, Mike. But a tough job for Theresa, eh? And what about a bank robber who’s also a surgeon on the side?

Mmm, a tough one. No wonder these negotiations are taking so long and seem to be getting nowhere!

Stressful, Mike. We need a holiday. Any ideas where?

Schengen, Bernie, Schengen.


The White Rose – A Yorkshire Tale

The White Rose

The Norman church clock tower chimed six o’clock on a cold and windy April day in Stanibridge, a small village on the Yorkshire coast, a few miles north of Scarborough. Sandra Carnforth was standing in front of the old fashioned tiled fireplace in her living room, carefully lifting, dusting and replacing each ornament on the mantelpiece. The doorbell rang. She turned and motioned Toby, a border collie, into the kitchen. She closed the door behind him and walked slowly across the room past the front window, noticing a police car outside. Her pulse began to race as she opened the front door and was faced by two police officers.

‘Mrs Carnforth? May we come in?’

The policewoman’s voice was calm – too calm. Sandra anxiously led them inside. Toby barked.

‘What’s happened? It’s Harry isn’t it, tell me, what’s happened, is he alright?’

The sergeant sat her down on the sofa, said something about making them all a cup of tea and hurriedly headed for the kitchen. He stared at Toby who stayed on his rug in the corner. The policewoman began to explain to Sandra. Harry, it seems, had been walking a dog along the cliffs. They didn’t know exactly what had happened but they thought that he must have slipped and fallen. He’d been found dead at the foot of the cliffs just over an hour ago. Details were still sketchy. They were interviewing walkers and passers-by, and knocking on doors nearby – it would take some time. Sandra sat there in complete silence. Tears began to flow. The sergeant came through with a tray and handed Sandra a mug of tea. She held the mug in both hands and sipped slowly, hearing none of his consoling words. Toby was sat at her feet, every now and then looking up, slowly wagging his tail, wanting the people to leave. He was hungry.

About half an hour went by. Sandra’s sister arrived with the local doctor who gave Sandra a sedative before leaving with the police, everyone mumbling self-conscious condolences. The two sisters sat staring at different walls, with barely a word spoken. They’d never been close. Jean was six years younger and she knew that not even this tragedy would bring them any closer. The birth of her twin girls had seen to that. Sandra was forty-two now and couldn’t have children. Nowadays, even though Jean lived only ten miles away, they didn’t see much of each other, except at family weddings and funerals. Funerals – Jean sighed. With Sandra childless, with nothing said, the twins had become an impenetrable barrier between them. Jean had even tried to avoid talking about her ‘gorgeous girls’ but that only seemed to emphasise the rift between them. Finally, Sandra said, quietly:

‘You’d better get off home, Jean. The kids’ll be getting worried.’

Her sister’s words echoed inside Jean’s head as she left the house, Toby standing in the doorway, like a sentry on guard. She composed herself and walked off down the street. Kate and Sue would be wanting food by now. She had her own world to go back to.

Days passed, with the police making fewer and fewer appearances in the village. They found out very little but it all seemed straightforward. And then there was the inquest of course, with only a few witnesses of that fateful morning. Charlie Evans had seen Harry Carnforth climb over the five-bar gate on the path leading to the cliffs. He’d watched as Toby raced ahead, sniffing here and searching there, on the look-out for imaginary rabbits. Tommy Stevens had passed Harry as he biked home from school, stopping further on to pat Toby on the head and give him a sweet. It was Ted Harris and his girlfriend, Sheila, who’d found Harry, around five o’clock, lying spread-eagled on the beach, staring up to heaven ‘as if he knew where he was going’, as Sheila said. His imprint was so deep in the sand that Ted said it was as if he’d dug his own grave and fallen in. The verdict was death by misadventure. The coroner stated that it was not only a tragedy for Harry’s wife and family but also for the whole of Stanibridge. Harry was well liked in the community and everyone had nothing but praise for their local postman. Throughout the hearing Sandra Carnforth sat in silence, bearing her grief with dignity. Three days later the funeral took place. The whole village turned out in force to give Harry the send-off he deserved.

‘My God that woman has coped well with it all,’ Charlie Evans whispered to his sobbing wife as they left the graveyard, following Sandra and Jean. For the first time in years, the two sisters were arm in arm.

By the following week, Stanibridge was returning to its bustling normality. The tourist season, seemingly postponed for the funeral, sprang into life. Anoraks and walking boots, ready to tackle the North York moors, and buckets and spades, easily capable of tunnelling under the North Sea, at least in any child’s imagination, descended on this insular hamlet. Sandra wasn’t seen out much. When she was, it was usually with Toby trailing behind.

‘That dog’s looking poor’, said Tommy Stevens’ dad to his son. ‘Must be missing his master.’

Weeks passed and various people attempted to coax the grief stricken widow out of her depression. Members of the W.I. turned up at her door, ostensibly to collect for charity, or to get help with organising the summer fete, vainly trying to lift her spirits. The vicar called round every week – it did him more good than Sandra! Even young Tommy Stevens did his bit, taking Toby for a good long walk every day. Only once had they ventured out onto the cliff tops. Toby had turned tail and run.

Since the day of the funeral no-one could remember ever having seen Sandra visit her husband’s grave, and yet there was often a freshly cut white rose lying against his headstone. Nobody noticed except Tommy. It so puzzled him that he decided to keep an eye on the graveyard, visiting it often with the border collie. But, he never saw the lips that kissed the flower, nor the hands that gently laid it down in memory of a lost love.

It was early one bright August morning when Tommy knocked at Sandra Carnforth’s door and, as usual, walked straight in. She was lying on the living room floor, motionless, eyes wide open. Tommy knew instantly that she was dead. He fled from the house pursued by Toby who had no intention of losing his new master. Instead of casting a shadow over Stanibridge, the suicide, perversely, cleared the air. The overdose was understandable – depression after Harry’s death. Now, only the border collie remained to remind them all of the Carnforth tragedy, and he was happy enough.

‘Although what Sandra did is against God’s law, He understands and forgives.’

The vicar’s words at the funeral brought closure to most, but not all.

Some weeks later, one evening in October, Charlie Evans’ wife returned to the graveyard one final time and placed a single white rose on Harry Carnforth’s grave. Tommy Stevens stood watching with Toby at the cemetry gate as she left carrying the three-week old baby in her arms. The boy, with the only witness at his side, walked slowly to the graveside. The border collie had seen it all but was a silent witness to what had happened on that fateful day in April.

Harry Carnforth had climbed over the five-bar gate and ambled along the cliff top. He stood staring out to sea, thoughts churning in his head, while Toby ran around.

‘Harry, don’t leave me,’ Sandra said quietly, suddenly appearing behind him.
Harry turned quickly to face his sobbing wife.

‘I have to – we love each other’, he said all too calmly.

‘But she’ll never leave Charlie!’ she shouted at him, suddenly angry now.

‘She’s carrying my baby! My baby!’

Harry spat out the words, words that bit into Sandra’s very being.
Her right fist clenched and hurtled into her husband’s chest. Harry fell backwards into oblivion.
Sandra stared over the cliff edge, down at her dead husband embedded in the sand below. She turned and quietly walked home, the border collie at her heel every step of the way.

What is the news? (Mike and Bernie down the pub)

You see, Bernie, my problem with the news is that we don’t choose it, we just accept it. Whatever the media tells us. That’s why all this social network stuff, Twitter etcetera, is so important for the kids. They get to be involved in what the news is, although a lot of the stuff is trivia.

What’s brought this diatribe on, Mike? The wedding? I know you’re not good with weddings, ever since Bob put you up against the church wall ‘cos you brought your girlfriend, uninvited, to his brother Pete’s wedding and they had to re-arrange the seats at the reception. Quite a stir that caused!

Enough Bernie! It’s not the wedding. It’s Venezuela, they’ve got a dodgy election going on. Worthy news you might say. But, like most people, I’ve got no idea if it’s true, whether their president is dodgy or if it’s just propaganda from the other side. And, I’m not entirely sure where Venezuela is!

Me neither. Your point is a good one. We get peddled news, especially us middle-aged types with no clue really. Take Limato for instance. He ran way below his best in the Lockinge and Henry Candy says it was probably the pollen that caused it. Now, that’s news but sounds iffy to me.

Mmm, sometimes you amaze me, Bernie. Anyway, what did you think of the dress?

Horses don’t wear dresses, Mike!

True, Bernie, true.

Perspective Of The Bear

We forget nor do we understand
The sacrifice of the bear
The twenty million souls departed
Memories of horrors passed down

Still hard to live for peace today
In a world of threat perceived
Be it real or imagined within his mind
The bear feels safe only within his lair

Should he fear a new empire
Its power through financial stricture
Corporate democracy with no electorate
No visionary to bestride our time

Now he growls from the cave entrance
With narrow view born of memory
While the world outside stares back and snarls
Forgetting his perspective of sacrifice

The bear is strong but he lives alone
War and peace interwoven in his mind
He fears the hunter to this day
Even while the rifle lies in the snow

Mastiles Lane….Easter Monday memoir

Well, yesterday was Easter Monday, and springtime in Yorkshire. So, a walk above Kilnsey Crag would be splendid. Setting out with optimism, after a mile and a half a photograph was taken just below the snow line, with the fell top indistinguishable from the skyline. On turning back a direct-into-the-face blizzard ensued. Being inappropriately dressed, my trousers and nether garments became soaked through with ice cold water. Back at the fish farm at Kilnsey I changed all relevant garments. Never before have I seen my knees glowing red and luminescent! Hot tomato soup saved the day. An excellent walk in Yorkshire!

Discommunication….Mike and Bernie discuss

While you sip that pint of yours, take a look around, Bernie. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, the change of behaviour in the pub. See that old couple over there, been married for donkeys years, obviously. The bloke bought two drinks fifteen minutes ago, then sat down next to his wife. They’ve not spoken since. They just stare forward, thoughts confined to their own brain, no communication at all. I reckon that’s not good. They’ve come out for a drink but have nothing to say to each other. Sad, eh?

Yes, Mike, but not unusual. Happened for years. It puts you off marriage, and we’re both married. Maybe that’s why we come to the pub together and always have done. We talk at home then come here and talk to each other, intellectually compatible we are. But it’s not just the old couples, Mike. I’ve been watching the two youngsters in the corner. Probably been together for a few years, not married yet, that’s my guess. She’s pretty, he’s handsome, they look aspirational types. About 25 I’d say. He got them drinks and then sat down next to her. And then? They both started looking at their phones. They’ve been thumbing away for twenty minutes, not a word said between them, not a drop of drink drunk. Now that is sad!

Bloody hell, Bernie. That’s depressing. Good grief! Well, maybe that explains why I turn up to see you every bloody week. A good pint and a good chat. Get me another pint!


I live here
In a house near a city
At the end of a journey
With hum drum and the day to day

I live here
Have lived here
Thity years and more
A wife a daughter now flown

I live here
But I don’t belong here
I belong on a hillside
With my thoughts and my strangeness

I grew on that hillside
Staring into space
Staring down at the valley
Flood and snow and fields of colour

I live here
I cannot go back
To that hillside
Though it is where I belong

I know that
I shall always know that
To the day when breath it leaves me
And returns to that hillside for all time