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.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Hillsdale College - Chiming the White and Blue

The Old Clock Tower

Chimes for the Blue and White

For Oliver my son at Hillsdale

The old clock is a’chiming
From out the hilltop tower,
Ringing out for old and new
The changing of the hour.
Changing through the seasons
That swiftly come and go,
For Freshmen through to Seniors
And all who hear below.

Summer's in its fullness
The leaves have yet to fall
Peaches are now sweet and ripe
And corn is getting tall.
The finches are a'flocking
Yet to travel away
And the Grosbeak's fluid singing
Is lilting through the day.

The constant measure is beating
For those young hearts and true,
Who sojourn to the mullioned halls
To wear the white and blue.
With high spirits and fresh antics,
New faces will appear,
But Hillsdale unperturbed will greet,
Unchanged, the coming year.

Monday, August 19, 2013

New Book - The Illustrated Adress To A Haggis

Twenty years in the preparation, and illustrated with Colin Bailey's hysterically funny cartoons, The Illustrated Address To A Haggis in now in print.  Amazon.com's CreateSpace is just the most wonderful service for authors.  They make putting a book together a breeze.
The book contains Robert Burns' famous "Ode To A Haggis", "The Tartan Whatnot", "The Fallen Haggis", and "Horace", some great recipes  and stories and a couple of dances by John Drewry, the renowned choreographer of Scottish Country Dances.  The illustrations were drawn specifically to explain the meaning of the words in the poems.

The tales are a wee bit naughty, just enough to cause a blush but nothing that could not be recited in public and grand dinners, as has frequently occurred.  "Horace" is by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, When I asked him if I might have permission to print his poem his reply was, "Permission given, I think I would like to see this gent's booklet, it sounds nice and quirky.

Having slain haggis for over thirty years and often at the Tam O'Shanter, I have featured the restaurant and the famous Chef Ivan, amongst the pages. Here we are with the entertainers.

Well there you have it, the book is on sale now! You favorable reviews will be much appreciated.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Physical Therapist Wins Silver

A Networking Story

On August 9th, Cathy Cahill, the well known West Side Physical Therapist, received a special award for going the extra mile. Cathy is President of the Executive LeTip of West Los Angeles, an eighty seven member strong, committed networking group.  She was presented with her Silver Badge by Douglas Christian, the Insurance agent and president of West Side Referrals. Networking is all about bringing guests and finding out how you and they can refer to each other.  It takes bringing lots of guests and having ten of them enroll as club members to be awarded a Silver Badge.  Cathy has done this, and is an example to us all.  She is an excellent therapist too!
Presidents L-R Barry Sikov, Charlie Farrel, Diana Hobson, Eric Hatfield, Cathy Cahill, Rick Baum, Cathe Caraway-Howard,
 Brian Whitney, Eve Mazzara, and Neil McLeod
Photo by David Blattel

Executive LeTip has been networking and cross referring business in Los Angeles for twenty years. You could even say we are established.  There was a big celebration last month to commemorate the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of our founding.  Diana Hobson, the principle founder, was there, with Charlie Farrel and Barry Sikov both former members and past presidents, and others who have served in that capacity.  Rick Baum saw fit to Saber the Champagne to commemorate the occasion.  It was a novel addition to our breakfast fare.
President's Challenge Cup Winners L-R Anna Virgen, Philip Gershater, Renee Goldberg (Seated), Martin Horwitz, Rick Baum, Brian Whitney, Neil McLeod, Robert Portillo, Rich Ramer and Eve Mazzara
Photo by David Blattel

You will notice that among the President Challenge Cup winners, that Cathy Cahill is in the ranks.
So join me in congratulating Cathy!

Time for a new badge

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Launching Second Book of Poetry

"One For The Pot" is Launched.


The second in a series of ten books of poetry was published today. Amazon.com's publishing service, 
CreateSpace.com is just a boon for authors.  One for the Pot is poetry about Africa, about growing up in Kenya in the 1950's.

David Sentance who like the author grew up in Kenya in the 50's has introduced the work thus:

Once you spread your wings in Africa there was no going back to the soft life. Dr. Neil McLeod, has deftly captured this unique, lost civilization, by sharing his unbounded childhood curiosity and joy, as only an accomplished bard might.  The universal emotions he captures in his poetry, course, like swift clear trout streams off Mount Kenya’s flanks, where a flash of rainbow red on a fly, set the heart racing as birds fluttered in the forested panoply ahead.  Treasured memories, thanks for bringing them streaming back to restore the soul, Mzee Neilo.  Asante sana!

The book contains twenty one original poems from the perspective of a young child.  The reception of the works on Poetry.com has been most favorable.  Should you get a copy for your own your kind reviews would be much appreciated.

So two down, and eight to go!

Monday, July 08, 2013

My First Book Of Poetry

My First Book of Poems

“A Ship In A Bottle” is dedicated to our three children Roddy, Maran and Oliver

With thanks to my editors Ryan Blank, who also wrote the introduction, and Maddie Merritt, and with the patience of my wife Nancy and our children, I am celebrating the publication of my first book of poems on Amazon.com’s CreateSpace. The volume is called “A Ship In A Bottle” and is available here:

CreateSpace is really effective production and marketing channel for writers.  They make it as easy as possible for you to produce your own book, and be paid for it if people buy it.

This first volume will be followed by nine others.
One for the Pot
The Clan Remembers
The Aching Heart
The Thorn Wi’ Me
My Silver Box
When the Spirit Moves
A Cartload of Stories
The Persimmon Tree
Songs and Poems of Frances McLeod

You can also read my poetry on Poetry.com

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Mourning Maggie Thatcher - A Reflection

Neil with Mrs Thatcher NJF Dinner Oct 2nd 1995 Century Plaza
I salute and mourn the passing of Margaret Thatcher:  Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS, née Roberts, a British politician, the longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century, and the only woman ever to have held the post. (Wikipedia)
Born: October 13, 1925, Grantham - Died: April 8, 2013, London

In relationship to her I have a story to tell.  You may remember that I rammed the Royal Yacht Britannia when a Sea Cadet while on a course in 1962. This is a true story about a boating accident during a Sea Cadet Training Course in Portsmouth. It was August in 1962, all the cadets got their Whaling License but mine was only Second Class, and here is the reason why was because of this accident.

That incident, endeared me to the Sheffield, she was a fine ship.  I strongly feel that had I pursued my original intent to apply to Dartmouth for entry as a Sea Cadet, I would have become a Naval officer, and in twenty years by 1982 I sincerely believe I would have succeeded to be master of my own vessel.  You can bet a shilling I would have tried for H.M.S. Sheffield.

Now the purist among my readers and those familiar with "Janes" will argue that Sheffield went into reserve in January 1959 and became flagship of the Home Fleet until September 1964, when she was placed on the disposal list. But I did not know all that, and any way, why spoil spoil a good story for the sake of the truth (as my grandfather used to say)

The new Sheffield, Type 42 Guided Missile Destroyer laid down by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering at Barrow-in-Furness on 15 January 1970, launched on 10 June 1971 and commissioned on 16 February 1975, was the actual vessel sunk during the Falklands campaign.

Enough said, here is the tail.
HMS Sheffield Struck by and Exocet


Walking On My Grave

It was Margaret Thatcher’s War
The final blast for glory,
Reflecting on it I might have been in service,
For had a different hand been played
This might have been my story
And thinking of it still can makes me nervous.

The Sheffield’s superstructure
Was of Aluminium
The idea was to make her strong and light,
The Exocet was inbound
Impacted and exploded
So hot it made the Sheffield’s top ignite

H.M.S. Sheffield was struck
And set to furious burning,
She quickly was to sink beneath the sea
I know that but for fortune
Had the influence been different
Her grave would have been my destiny.

When I was a Sea Cadet
I went to Portsmouth Harbor
To do the Southern Area Boatwork Course
My berth was on the Sheffield
The refitted Battle Cruiser
Whose Falkland-sinking caused me some remorse.

For had I joined the Navy
A decision that’s well as may be,
And had I been commissioned with a vote,
On where I might be serving
You could bet a shilling
That I would have tried complement that boat.

H.M.S. Sheffield was struck
And set to furious burning,
She quickly was to sink beneath the sea
I know that but for fortune
Had the influence been different
Her grave would have been my destiny.


I thank God I became a dentist!

You can review this poem on Poetry.com: http://poetry.com/poems/751673-Walking-On-My-Gravehttp://poetry.com/poems/751673-Walking-On-My-Grave

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Kicked Off The Bus


Neil aged eleven on Table Mountain 1958

Kicked Off The Bus - An Apartheid Story

In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. One the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor.
In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. One the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor.
In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. One the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor.

In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. One the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor.
In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. One the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor.
In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. One the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor.
In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. One the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor.
 In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. On the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor. It was done in such a disgusting and racist way.  The memory never softens the experience.
In December 1958 my mother, Frances, and us three boys visited Cape Town on the S.S. Rhodesia Castle. We had a sickening experience with a white South African Policeman which really soured our impression of the governing regime. One the bus ride to catch the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, we were enjoying the knuckle roll the bus conductor could do, and we repeatedly asked him to show us his trick. The result was that a police officer asked us to get off the bus, and at the road side he told my mother off for talking to the African conductor.


If you visit Cape Town
There’s one thing you must do,
Take a trip up Table Mountain
And there admire the view.
You have to take the Cable Car
Which will swing and sway
Right to the top where you can see
Lion’s Head and Table Bay.

When we toured Table Mountain
We went up by bus,
We left from the Market Square
My Mum and three of us.
The conductor did the knuckle roll
When he gave us our ticket
And every time he passed us by
We asked him to repeat it.

But on the bus a policeman
Was clearly not amused,
He approached my mother
And let us know his views.
“You get off the bus right now!
Get off at the next stop.
Get off I have to talk to you.”
Said the Yarpie Cop.

We stood by the roadside,
Way above CapeTown
Half way up the mountainside
He dressed my mother down.           
We stood there dumbfounded
Just astonished plaintiffs,
“It is against the law” He said.
“To fraternize with the natives.”
                   
It’s not like that now in Cape Town
There’s still one thing you must do,
Take a trip up Table Mountain
And there admire the view.
You have to take the Cable Car
Which will swing and sway
Right to the top where you can see
Lion’s Head and Table Bay.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Three Clocks

We have many clocks in our home, and three of them are old classics. I have had them repaired and keep them running, and I envision that each of our three children will one day take one to be in their home.

The first and the oldest clock is an English bracket clock from the 18th Century. It is a Saunders, and was made between 1672 - 1780. The enameled face when laterally transilluminated shows C.J. Saunders
381 Oxford Street.  It was my Grandma Thomas's clock, and was given to me in pieces by my Aunt Joan when I first came to California.  I took the clock to the California Clockmakers' Guild where it was completely repaired by Cecil Crookshank, what a wonderful name for a clockmaker. He was wonderful at his work.  That clock has kept perfect time for thirty six year already.

Wanting a chimer and loving the Dutch cases, I spotted the Delph clock on Crookshank's shelves.  Well a few hundred dollars later it was mine. It pings away sweetly.

Our third clock, also a chimer, was my wife Nancy's Grandmother's clock. Interestingly enough we were visiting after Bud Neely's tragic and sudden demise, and the children were allocating their Dad's stuff.  The broken parts of the clock were in a box, and no one was interested in it.  I took my bride to one side and said "Look Nancy, I can get that clock properly repaired."  Well the long and the short of it is that we wound up with the clock.  It is an American copy of the type of clock that Saunder's made all those years earlier, it was a knock off with a paper face.  It has a lovely deep chime and of course keeps good time.

We have many clocks in our home, and three of them are old classics. I have had then repaired and keep them running, and I envision that each of our three children will one day take one to be in their home
We have many clocks in our home, and three of them are old classics. I have had then repaired and keep them running, and I envision that each of our three children will one day take one to be in their home
We have many clocks in our home, and three of them are old classics. I have had then repaired and keep them running, and I envision that each of our three children will one day take one to be in their home
We have many clocks in our home, and three of them are old classics. I have had then repaired and keep them running, and I envision that each of our three children will one day take one to be in their home

Three Clocks

We have many clocks in our home, and three of them are old classics. I have had then repaired and keep them running, and I envision that each of our three children will one day take one to be in their home

We’ve three old clocks in our house
And they all tick away,
Two of them are chimers
And ring the hours of day.
One of them, the oldest,
Only tells the time,
All of them are accurate
And worthy of my rhyme.

The smallest is of china
All blue and white from Delph
A classic Dutch, just wind it,
And it runs by itself.
The movement on the inside
Is brass and made in France,
You’ll like to hear it ping the hours
Should you get a chance.

The black American Thomas
Has pillars edged with gold,
It belonged to my wife’s Grand Mama
And really it’s quite old.
A leather padded hammer
Strikes on the coiled gong,
And the pendulum swings back and forth
To keep it ticking on.

The bracket clock, a Saunders,
Was made on Oxford Street,
A case inlaid with beaten brass
Makes its face complete.
Side rings make the handles
And brazen balls the feet,
Which came be turned to change the tilt
So it can keep it’s beat.

We have three children and three clocks
And they all tick together,
The hours have turned into an age
And I have thought whenever,
They leave to raise a family
They’ll take one for their own
To remind them of the passing years
Which speedily have flown.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Wrist Watch of Flying Ace Mills


The Wrist Watch of Flying Ace Mills

A true story about a real American hero who flew an F4F Wildcat at Guadalcanal in1942

There are stories told by those who are bold
Who return from fighting a war,
There are lies that thrive as the myths survive
When no one remembers the score.
There are tales of skill in the grip of will
When your luck is all but run out,
And one worth a notch is "The Pilot’s Watch"
And that is what this is all about.

“Have I told you about where I lost my wrist watch?”
Said retired Colonel Mills as he gulped on his Scotch,
“No Millsy, I don’t think that you ever did!”
Said his pal at the bar as he took a big swig.
“Well it happened one day down in Guadalcanal,”
Went on Flying Ace Mills, looking straight at his pal.
“We were stationed you see on this God f’saken isle,
And there wasn’t a bar for a thousand mile.
I was with the Marines and true to their form
It was damn hot and buggy and the beer was warm.
But there were perks for being a pilot you see,
And one was the wrist watch they issued to me.”

“That wrist watch was big and it kept perfect time,
All pilots had one - I really loved mine.
I’d check it each morning when I saw the light
And be out on the runway to make the first flight.
Then up and away to the clouds and the blue
In a Wildcat to spot any Zeros in view.
But they rarely start early and there wasn’t much fear
So they’d filled my compartments with liquor and beer.
If I left at eight, I could be back by ten,
There rarely would be any Zeros till then,
For the Japs took their time, they had breakfast before,
They loaded their bombs and then flew off to war.”

“Now why?” said his pal, his attention complete,
“Did you have all that hootch tucked away ’neath your seat?”
“Ah well!” answered Millsy, “As I flew around
It was a lot cooler than down on the ground.
For two hours I’d watch for an enemy plane
Radio my position and come back again.
And they all ran to meet me when I landed on time,
And I never was late with that wrist watch of mine.
They’d empty the contents of my baggage hold,
For the beer and the liquor was by then freezing cold.
Just the way that we like it to slake a deep thirst,
We could do it because the Japs liked breakfast first.”

“There was just enough time for that once I got back
To re-fuel my plane and take off to attack.
The ten o’clock flights were not like the milk run,
With bombers and fighters it wasn’t much fun.”
We flew up to meet with the oncoming force
Of big Mitsubishis and Zeros of course,
Their pilots were good and those Zeros were fast
And a dog fight began so they couldn’t get past.
We started up high where the air was a frazin’
Screamed down on their cans with our Brownings a’blazin’
Their fighters turn nosed up and their cannon pop popped
And down to the sea the first casualty dropped.”

“We arch up and away to regain our height
Come round with a roar to get back in the fight.
The radio’s blarin’, that there’s guns on my rear,
I peel up through a cloud bank, they all disappear,
Up, up I keep climbing till out top I drone
To see four Bettys in diamond formation, alone.
Nose up to the first one I aimed for his turret
Spattered his rear and tail gunner in it,
Dipped down to aim for the wing frame connection
And lit that “cigar” in one flash conflagration,
Then rolling to make sure I just missed his wing,
Soared up and curved round to restart the whole thing.”

“This time as I drop I’m in three gunners sights
I see the gun’s flash so I swing to the right.
Ploughing back I descend on the right bomber’s flank
Squeezed on the trigger and blew up his tank.
Then falling away I banked up and turned
As that big Mitsubishi just curled down and burned.
I was climbing again to make the third run
When the tail gunner got me a bead with his gun.
I saw the guns flash and I heard the shells chatter
And about me cannon rounds rattle and clatter,
Then a clunk and a shudder I knew something was wrong,
I looked down at my arm and my wrist watch was gone.”

“Well that got my attention I was mad as can be
That gunner had taken my wrist watch from me.
My left arm felt broken but I carried on,
Determined to stop them from dropping a bomb.
I peeled down to the right, and curved back with a roar
Nosed up on his tale and to even the score,
As soon as I sighted him I just let go
Plastering his tail with just row upon row.
The turret just shattered as I made my pass
Pieces were falling out, metal and glass,
And then something happened that so bothered me
The gunner’s top half fell out down to the sea.”

Then his pal tried to swallow and clearing his throat
Said, “Wow, Millsy.” and stammered, “Well that ain’t no joke.”
“No it wasn’t.” said the Colonel, as he clutched at his glass.
“But I drained all my ammo as I made my last pass.
With no watch, and no timer I headed for home,
The wireless was dead I was there all alone.
They poured out to meet me when I came in to land
One with a beer, that was still cold, in hand.
When they asked how it went, “Oh, just easy I lied.”
They could see the great canon hole on my port side.
“It’s a miracle you made it now how can that be?”
“I was saved by the wrist watch they issued to me!”

There are stories told by those who are bold
Who return from fighting a war,
There are lies that thrive as the myths survive
When no one remembers the score.
There are tales of skill in the grip of will
When your luck is all but run out
And one worth a notch is "The Pilot’s Watch"
And that is what it's all about.



Betty - Mitsubishi G4M Bomber
Zero - Japanese Fighter plane
F4F Wildcat - Rugged American Fighter Plane

Browning - M2 12.7 mm (0.50 caliber) machine guns. Wild cats had four.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Stone In The River - Eve Senn


For my dear friend Even Senn who passed away from Leukemia just days ago. A daughter of Colonial Kenya, born of European parents in a time and place that has vanished. She loved a flowing river, and named her daughters after two great rivers in Kenya, the Tana, and the Mara. For many years Eve and her family celebrated our mutual East African connection by having gatherings we called the Wajinga.  A group enthusiasts used to get together the share memories, sing songs and show movies and pictures. Her parents Lisa and Imre and Eve's bother and sister  Johnny and Julia were also firm friends.

A stone fell in the river           
Piercing the smooth dark glassy mirror
Plunging deep into its heart
Visible at first, then sinking
Absorbed down into the matted bed.
The water erupting at the point of entry
Rising out and up above the reflection
The reactionary spurt of excitement peaks,
Pauses and falls into ripples
Circling outward to the banks and grasses
Reverberating back in an eternity of entropy
Softening and never ending.

Eve is that stone,
Piercing our protective shells
Of awareness with exuberant enthusiasm,
Plunging into our hearts with warmth and affection,
Sinking into our psyches unnoticed
Lying there embedded,
Stirring reactions within us all
As her influence ripples out and around us forever,
Never ending, vibrating in all she touched

http://poetry.com/poems/688349-A-Stone-In-The-River

The Buffalo is the emblem of the Wajinga, a Swahili word for mad people.  We are mad about East Africa. The Swahili word for Buffalo is Niati

WAJINGA

 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Uffington Remembrance

At Uffington a white horse can be seen carved into the hillside above which once stood and ancient castle. It is an easy climb up the hill, and when the wind is stiff it make a perfect spot to fly kites, if you have the time.

Upon my back beneath clear sky
At Uffington I lay,
The wind was fresh and kites would fly
For many an hour that day.
The people came to see the mound
Where the castle used to be,
And the white horse cut out from the hill
To celebrate some victory.

While staring up into the air
I was made once more aware
Of the beauty nature brings,
Flowers and grass and wind that sings.
And how we in our city-rush
Can push and shove and make a fuss,
And miss the pleasure in our haste
Because we have no time to waste.


I visited Uffington a number of times when we lived in Oxford.  A pleasant spot to drive to, and there are some nice pubs in the area for a Sunday lunch.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Losing My Wheels

A picture of Alan Johnson and  Ian Urquhart.
Alan's father, Ernest William Johnson - at 93, asked his son if he was coming home to Australia for Christmas.  He used an expression to convey how his body was beginning to fail, he said "the wheels are falling off Son".  Well my friend, Alan Johnson, the Australian Hotelier, told me the tale and this poem is the result!

Are you coming home for Christmas Son?
Are you flying back to Auz?
The time is going by so fast
I thought I’d ask because,
I’d really like to see you,
I’m not down or in a trough,
It’s just that, well I have to say,
My wheels are falling off.

I’ve had a darn good run my Son,
I made it through the War,
Stood up for king and country
And the family I adore.               
There are those who might considering
Such values turn and scoff,
But I hope to see you soon because,
My wheels are falling off.

The carriage is getting shaky Son,
It rattles and it groans,
It takes more time to start it up
I feel it in my bones.
When you’re home we’ll raise a glass
Not down it with a quaff,
I pace myself these days because
My wheels are falling off!

You might soon have to take my place
In the Anzac Day Parade
And wear my salad on the right,
To show a price was paid,
And when you meet the other few
Your cap you’ll smartly doff
And tell them briefly ’bout you Pa
Whose wheels have fallen off.

I had shared the recent loss of my mother with Alan Johnson.  He told me that he had to go home to see his dad who was ninety three and getting old and tired, and used the expression his father used "My wheels are falling off son". Hid Dad was a soldier and in Australia and New Zealand the old soldiers celebrate Anzac Day ( Australia, New Zealand Army Corps). You should know that on the passing of a relative it is appropriate to wear their medals on the right chest. Hence this poem
A friend of mine with whom I had shared the recent loss of my mother, told me that he had to go home to see his dad who was ninety three and getting old and tired, and used the expression his father used "My wheels are falling off son". Hid Dad was a soldier and in Australia and New Zealand the old soldiers celebrate Anzac Day ( Australia, New Zealand Army Corps). You should know that on the passing of a relative it is appropriate to wear their medals on the right chest. Hence this poem
A friend of mine with whom I had shared the recent loss of my mother, told me that he had to go home to see his dad who was ninety three and getting old and tired, and used the expression his father used "My wheels are falling off son". Hid Dad was a soldier and in Australia and New Zealand the old soldiers celebrate Anzac Day ( Australia, New Zealand Army Corps). You should know that on the passing of a relative it is appropriate to wear their medals on the right chest. Hence this poem
A friend of mine with whom I had shared the recent loss of my mother, told me that he had to go home to see his dad who was ninety three and getting old and tired, and used the expression his father used "My wheels are falling off son". Hid Dad was a soldier and in Australia and New Zealand the old soldiers celebrate Anzac Day ( Australia, New Zealand Army Corps). You should know that on the passing of a relative it is appropriate to wear their medals on the right chest. Hence this poem
The poem is getting nice reviews on poetry.com, and you can see them on this link: Losing My Wheels

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Burns Night Again - 33 year slaying haggis

Burns Night was celebrated at the Tam O' Shanter Restaurant and at the Cal Tech Athenaeum this year.  It was the thirty third year slaying haggis at the Tam, and once again Ivan was with me.  I frequently call on Ivan when I deliver the line "But mark the rustic, haggis fed" and tenderly pat him on his rotunda.  This year this aspect of the celebration included for the first time Nacho, the long standing bus boy, who gleefully teases us with comments in veiled Spanish, which I am sure implies that Tequila is better that whiskey.
Address "to A Haggis" at the Tam O' Shanter
Nacho ready for a dram

We had many of the usual crew at the Tam, a fiddler and story weaving "wenches" the parade of the haggis with the bonniest piper, Prescindia McIntosh, and Chef Ivan Harrison, and a packed house ready for good food and a light hearted celebration of the birth of Scotland's great poet Robert Burns.

Chef Ivan amidst admirers

Not to be out done the Athenaeum's Chef Kevin Isacsson dismissed himself again with the most delicious haggis which was correctly served with bashed neeps and tatties, and was prepared and displayed in sheep's stomach.
Chef Kevin Isacsson and the haggis
Our theme this year was the songs of Robert Burns, and snippets of Burns best known tunes were played by Jan Tappen, director of the Scottish Fiddlers, and Obin and Chris, and sung by Neil McLeod and the audience

 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Haunting the Eighteenth Hole

Col J.W. Mills - Taken the day he became an Ace at Guadalcanal 1942

Col. J. W. Mills 1981 - 2001
A story for my friend Mike Mills about his father a golfer whose children grew up as golf lovers. Like their father, they absolutely loved to play Pebble Beach.  Col Mills was a Marine Ace pilot at Guadalcanal. He retired to be a Mathematics teacher and golf coach for San Francisco State.

Colonel Mills was an ornery fellow
He rose through the ranks in the Corps,
A Marine of note and distinction
Whose passion in life was a ball.
He joined the Marines on an option
It was five years in clink or enlist,
He had stone-brained a street gang opponent,
He was savage, well! you get the gist.

When you join Semper Fi as a private
It’s not without lots of hard work
That you rise through the ranks to be Full Bird
And take playing golf as a perk.
He just loved the big open spaces
Like runways, groomed greens and the sky
And he wasn’t above getting liberally oiled
At the end of the day to get high.

He retired to a home with a fairway,
A driving range was his back yard,
He could simply turn out in the morning
And wack a few balls really hard.
Then sure that his form was still winning
He’d sally forth in his sleek Cadillac
To meet with his cronies and play a round,
And “hoist a few” on the way back.

But one day he missed his appointment
His pals on the links heard the gong,
They knew with the colonel not showing
That something was terribly wrong.
He’d played his life hard with a vengeance
But cancer had riddled his form
And it wasn’t long before family and friends
Would be laying him under the lawn.

But he wanted no plot for a internment
He’d rather it brief and serene
He asked that whatever they got in the pot
Was scattered around on a green.
Not just any green took his fancy
For hallowed ground he made his reach,
He asked that his sons take his ashes
And scatter them at Pebble Beach.

So his lads took a drive down to Carmel,
They booked for a round on the course
They made little mounds at the eighteen hole
And swung at the ashes full force.
Then satisfied with all their labor
They sauntered away full of mirth
Making a line for the club house
And a night of it with “Surf and Turf”.

Those boys knew his spirit would linger
Haunting where he loved to play,
Together they’d pulled off a fast one,
And no one could take that away.
Now they watch for the match shots together
With successive angles they each
Search for the face of their Pa in the crowd
By the eighteen hole at Pebble Beach.
    1/18/2013
F4F Wildcat Gaudalcanal 1942

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Waterman Ladies

Set back from the roadside       
    Beyond the lawn and path           
There’s a tall-roofed gabled house,
    With kitchen and a hearth.
Carpets in the living room,           
    A wide cozy divan,                   
A home amongst the college halls
    They call it “Waterman”.

The residents are ladies,
    Hillsdale colleagues all,
Who take pride as they entertain
    When others come to call;
Patriotic damsels, virtuous and true
    Diligent supporters
Of the white and blue.               

Should you on Tuesday evenings,       
    Drop in by chance you’ll see
The denizens and visitors
    Enjoying a cup of tea.
Young men from Delts might be there,
    Mu Alphans and Phi Mus
They take a break away from work
    To air their news and views

It is now a tradition
    Among that active throng,
To nurture arts of hearth and home   
    While yet they labor long.
In the wee hours of the morning
    When others have gone to bed,
The lights are on in Waterman
    They’re working late instead.


For my daughter Maran who, enjoying the company of its residents, applied for and has succeeded in making Waterman her college domicile.

    Dr Neil Stewart McLeod - January 2013

Monday, January 07, 2013

Dressed To Kill - A poem

Fun In The Snow
Between Christmas and New Year we drove up to Lake Hume in the Sequoia National Forrest for some family time in the snow.  We McLeods went up with Mary Chin to join our new friends the Lippincotts. The drive into the Forrest was magical, we had chains on the van, and it was as if we were flying in some 3D movie past the fluttering  snowflakes.  We all stayed at Tim Denton's "cabin" in the Lake Hume Christian Camps area.


Now both Marc Lippincott and I had trouble with our chains during the last part of the drive, and had thrown a cross strap.  We both dressed up warmly and were out in the snow looking for tools and a way to fix the chains.  Tea was brought, and Orange Christmas cookies, and as we stood taking our first sips I asked Marc to tell me a story.
Specialist 4th Class Private Lippincott, Germany 1955
Marc told me a hunting story about his father.  He explained that his Dad, Wendell, was a soldier in Germany, and was a crack shot, nearly a "sharpshooter", and that after serving in the U.S. Army he kept up his skill in hunting. His favorite hunting spot was in the Western Hills of Colorado and sometimes he would tow a trailer out with him in his little red pickup truck so his wife could be comfortable when she came along. Whether away on the hunt or back home in California, Wendell always dressed for church. He wore a three piece suite and shiny shoes to church on Sundays, even on a hunting trip. Then he told me this tale:

Dressed To Kill

Wendell was a soldier,
He served in Germany,
And returned to California
To raise a family.
He loved to go a’hunting
In the Colorado hills
Sometimes he’d bring his wife along
So she could share the thrills.

When she came he towed a trailer
With his red pickup truck,
So she could camp in comfort
While he went to shoot a buck.
And they still kept the Sabbath
He’d wear his Sunday best
Even in the Western Hills
He’d wear a suit and vest.

Now, early Sunday morning
As they left to make for town,
He tucked his rifle in the cab
Before they headed down.
In his suite and shiny shoes
While driving past he spied
A multi-pointed buck a’grazing
Close to the roadside.

Temptation won, he stopped the truck
Got out, gun on display,
And in his three piece Sunday suit
Saw that buck slip away,
He followed soft behind it,
Excitement in command,
Adrenaline rushing, one clean shot
Brought that buck to ground.

The Lord’s Day was forgotten,
He had to claim his kill,
And spent the morning taking steps
To cart it up the hill.
Wendell was a sportsman,
He loved to hunt and shoot.
He shot a stag one Sunday morn
In his best three piece suite.
Wendell Dressed to the nines