Saturday, March 15, 2014

Guinness Walk - Inter-Hospitals Pilgrims Way Stroll



An extra half at the finish line.May 16th 1970


The celebratory dinner menu
Have you ever walked so far that your legs froze up at the end of it?  Well it happened to me, and I have the book to prove it.  It was all a long time ago now, in May of 1970.  I was a dental student at the time, attending Guy’s Hospital Dental School in Borough, London.  The occasion was the Inter-Hospitals Pilgrims Way Stroll.  What a euphemism that was!

It was a misty Saturday morning, and masses of us were driven down to Compton Lane, just south west of Guilford in Surrey.  Sandwiches were being handed out to all takers.  I had already had a good breakfast, but I took a couple of sammies for which I was grateful later on.  We were all gathered to take the Pilgrims Way, a Chaucerian fantasy across the south of England on the old Canterbury Trail.  Well it was up hill and down dale for thirty miles all day.  Some of the entrants cheated, they ran all the way, tch!  I took my time through the soft rain and the muddy cart ways between various farms stretching out to the east. 

Neil the "Bovril Man" climbing the hill.

By mid-morning a bracing hill climb found me staring at what looked like a pavilion on the crest.  I was delighted upon reaching it to find a hiker’s snack bar distributing quartered oranges and half pints of Guinness.  I had never had Guinness before.  It changed the complexion of the whole day.  Although I did find myself regretting not having had a second half later in the afternoon.

On crossing the finish line all participants were awarded a copy of “The Guinness Book of World Records”.

That First Guinness

I never really cared for Guinness
Thick, black, oily smooth and bitter
Not ’til that day of the United Hospital Walk
When we traced out the path of the Canterbury pilgrims.

Up hill and down dale
On muddy farm tracks and over fields
By hedges in the cold misty morning
And me in my stripped pajamas like the Bovril man.

But by mid-morning in the sunshine,
When I was bracing myself against a steep hill,
It seemed that a pavilion was staged
At the very top.

Other walkers were stopping ahead of me,
And hot and thirsty I paused
For only a little while
To down a half pint.

It went straight down,
Thick, black, oily smooth and bitter
Delicious!
I never cared for Guinness till then.

(This poem can be found in "The Thorn With Me", on Amazon)

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1029852/bovril-prevents-that-sinking-feeling-poster-harris-herbert-h/

Monday, March 03, 2014

Riding Tortoises - A poem

Car-Hartley’s farm, in Rumeruiti- Kenya, was our home in the holidays in the 1950's.  There were two very large tortoises on the farm.  We loved to ride them, in fact, we tried riding everything we could, rhino, buffalo and even ostriches. Getting the tortoises going could be challenging, but once we got the knack we could enjoy a short ride. They were wiley critters and as soon as we were aboard they made a bee line for the fence knowing the wires would knock us off as they forced their way under it.


Here is a picture of my sister Roida, having a ride on a huge tortoise, while Ewan seems perhaps a little dejected that his pedal propelled jeep doesn't go so well.  You can see a huge Giraffe box in the background. 


Tortoise Toe-Jam


A tortoise, as every one knows,
Takes his home with him where ere he goes.
And he’s terribly strong and can take you along
But you have to watch out for your toes.

You are not going any where quickly
The view is not anything high,
You might find your ride is just hidden inside,
Its shell, but you give it a try.

A nudge with the toe of your sandal
To the back foot, just under the rim,
Should do the trick, but you have to be quick,
And not get pinched as legs are drawn in.

The thing about children and sandals,
Is they wear them until toes are bunched,
It’s with razor to go, that, you cut off the toe-cap,
So on tortoise rides toes might get crunched.



   
When our feet got too big for our shoes they cut the toecap off.








   

Sunday, March 02, 2014

When The Spirit Moves - the eighth book of poems

This week my eighth book of poetry went to press. The volume is called "When The Spirit Moves".  It contains poems that have a spiritual or religious connection, and are uplifting reminders of occasions when the human spirit is moved.  Amongst the compositions are “Mother’s Hands”, “The Folded Palm” and “House of Sighs”. Traditional Christian values underscore the sentiments expressed in these optimistic and uplifting works.

Here with an introduction by John MacArthur, our pastor at Grace Community Church,  is an assortments of spiritually moving tales. There is a Christmas story which is the versification of "The  Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey", based on the book by Susan Wojciechowski Christmas 2001.

This volume is one in a series of ten books of poetry which has been written over the last fifty years.  Should you care to read any of these volumes and like them, your favorable review on the Amazon site, and here would be greatly appreciated.

More of my poetry is viewable on Poetry.com

http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Moves-Stewart-McLeod-Volume/dp/1491082739/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1393826452&sr=8-2&keywords=poetry+Neil+Stewart+McLeod




Dr. John MacArthur had this to say in the introduction:
This is the real thing;
poetry that warms the heart,
stirs the memory,
enriches the vocabulary,
and brings a smile.
The settings are inimitably Scottish
and, for those who’ve been to that fair land,
they provide a brief visit.
I find poetry to be musical
if it’s well done.
And these rhymes sing.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Traditional Hand-Washing Cup - a poem

Lest We Forget

The painting that hangs in the dining room,
Was his Grand Mother’s, is what he said,
Depicting a man with a washing jug,
And a kufiya covering his head.
His beard overflows in its fullness,
Smile lines crinkling round his eyes,
Ready to help you wash your hands twice
Before breaking the Challah you prize.

That painting left by his Grandmother,
He brought from South Africa,
And the jug will remind him of all the traditions
Where ever he travels so far.
The handles are set at odd angles,
For ceremonial use,
When washing the hands before bread is broken,
Because you see, they are Jews.

For this is the way they have done it
Since Moses had written the law,
We keep the traditions and customs
Our parents taught us before.
There is the two handled water urn
With flowers beneath the fired glaze,
It serves as a symbol that we should keep
Precious for the rest of our days.


The ritual washing of the hands and feet is a traditional part of Jewish lore. Here is the result of seeing the painting of a ritual water jug at my friend Martin Horwitz’s home. The custom of ritual hand-washing, netilat yadayim, is commonly observed within Orthodox Judaism.  There is a reason for the two-handled washing cup used for ritual hand-washing.  After the first hand is washed, it is clean and pure. The unwashed hand, however, is not. If the two hands touch after the first hand was washed, it is necessary to rewash the first one. We use a two-handled cup to make the process simpler, making it easier to avoid the hands touching each other.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Poetry Project in Full Swing


The poetry project is in full swing.  The goal to publish fifty years worth of poems is coming to completion.  Seven volumes of original work have been completed and are available on line from Amazon
Two other books are also ready, my mother's  "Songs and Poems of Frances McLeod" and just in time for Burns Night, "The Illustrated Address to a Haggis"

http://www.amazon.com/Clan-Remembers-Stewart-McLeod-Volume/dp/1490395377/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1387169680&sr=8-5&keywords=poetry+Neil+Stewart+McLeod
Four new publications are now out and available.

"The Clan Remembers"
contains fourteen poems that directly relate to the Hebridean Clan MacLeod, including “The Song Of The Caurie Shells”, “A Lament for the Games At Coombs Ranch,” “It Takes Your Breath Away,” and the title poem which is an accumulation poem, a MacLeod version of the “The House That Jack Built”.  The introduction is by Ruari Halford McLeod, a clan author in his own right.  Clansfolk will have fun with this volume.



http://www.amazon.com/Persimmon-Poems-Stewart-McLeod-Volume/dp/1491082364/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1387169680&sr=8-3&keywords=poetry+Neil+Stewart+McLeod"The Persimmon Tree"
Thirty poems about raising our family in California, including “Three Bands of Gold”, “Three Clocks” and “With Roger”, not to mention doing battle with the varmints in the title story. We watch the tree year in and year out, and just before Christmas we harvest what is left of the crop and make delicious cookies.





http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Poems-Neil-Stewart-McLeod/dp/149108328X/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1387169680&sr=8-4&keywords=poetry+Neil+Stewart+McLeod 
"My Silver Box"
Treasured memories that might not readily be told are collected.  Here is a box of secrets from the poet's heart, tales gathered from a life of reflection. The title poem "My Silver Box" reviews those favorite secret memories which are not forgotten but seldom mentioned. "Flowers of Memory" is a description of how important flowers are in our lives to add beautiful decor to special occasions, and tender expressions of sentiment.


http://www.amazon.com/Whimsy-Poems-Stewart-McLeod-Volume/dp/1491082674/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1387169680&sr=8-7&keywords=poetry+Neil+Stewart+McLeod 
"Pure Whimsy"
In his introduction, Dr. Larry Arnn talks of the power of poetry, and how committing a verse to memory can be of great value at unforeseen moments,   Includes “Getting Back On Track”,  “Grand Ma’s Smile”, and “Vanishing Wisdom” with over thirty other poems.  Time and experience are captured through the author’s lens.






All of these books can benefit from favorable reviews, so if you do get a copy and like what I have written, please write a review on line.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Songs and Poems of Frances McLeod

With the passing of my mother, Frances, on Halloween 2012, I was determined to organize her songs and poems while I still remember them.  So pen to paper and the book is out of Amazon.

Here are nearly thirty original works written, for the mostpart, during here day in Kenya in the 1950's.

Neil playing teacher in Oxford before leaving for Kenya



The songs about East Africa are typical of much of the music created by settlers in new countries, and Kenya in particular.  The desire to sing about, and immortalize the bird in the wattle tree, the distant hills and rolling plains could only be complimented by an added reference to the impressive sunsets, which are the benediction at the end of the tropical day.  These are family songs of the colonial settler, in the words and rhythms throb the essence of life in a new country and the hope for the promise of the future.  Kenya is not our home any more, but is was home when I was growing up.  I can hear the sounds of the crickets and the roar of a distant lion, the rush of the waves on a sandy beach, and the harsh call of the Kavirondo Crane.  I can smell the Frangipani lining the drive up to the tin roofed mission station, and the air after the rain on a recently burned plain.  The songs bring it all back to me.  They are a treasure.


I am fortunate to have the friendship of James Covell who is a composer and arranger.  He helped me to record the songs which we plan to release soon on Amazon.
http://jamescovell.com/about.html
Neil and Jim Covell in Jim's Studio
 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Cartload of Stories

A Cartload of Stories has gone to press, and is now available on Amazon.
This is my fourth book of poetry, and contains "The Wristwatch of Flying Ace Mills", "A Knock on the Door, and "The First Thanksgiving".  It has an introduction by Marlin Detweiler, the president of Veritas Press.  The plan is to release all ten volumes of my poems by Christmas time this year.  It is a little ambitious, but the poems are nearly all written already.  It is the editing and designing that takes the time.
A shout-out has to be given to Madeline Merritt, a Hillsdale graduate, who is a much appreciated sharp-eyed editor.
There are twenty one original stories in this collection written over the last fifty years.  One a brand new one just finished, "The Knock on the Door" is about the grim task of announcing to loved ones and next of kin the news of a soldiers death. This one was written for our friend Sergeant First Class Greg Mikat.  We met the Mikats because our children were home schooled using the Veritas Press Scholars academy program.  And it was with them that we McLeods visited Alaska when the Mikats were stationed at Fort Wainwright.

The Wristwatch of Flying Ace Mills is a great war story told me by the pilot's son Mike Mills.  In it I try to capture the rhythm of Robert Service, who crafted his famous story about Sam McGhee.


Here just in time for Thanksgiving, is my tribute to the American holiday.  Have fun and let me know what you think.  Your review and promotion of my work will be very much appreciated.

The cover is a picture of our backyard.  We are putting to use the old cart wheel rescued from the dump a few years back.