Hazel – Haze – whose funeral it is today (Thursday), in this ice-cold world, died a fortnight ago. I can’t reach her funeral, but here is a poem for her. I’ve known her for the last 15 years – funny, straight-talking, a great mother to her son Will (now 18), a sun-lover, a laughter-lover, and a dancer sine qua non. She was one of the first – perhaps the first dance teacher in schools in England, certainly in the Midlands. You knew when you met you’d get a great welcome. The one time she was hopelessly moody was when everyone ‘forgot’ her sixtieth birthday a couple of years back. She had an all-day sulk, before being driven, fed up, for a meal – but actually to a surprise party which dozens of people with whom she’d loved and laughed had kept secret. Not everyone likes surprise parties, but the mixture of howling tears and delighted laughter was wonderful to see. Her favourite expletive was ‘Eck. I built the poem out of her closest friends’ recollections. Hope you like it.
Elegy for Hazel
You took no prisoners, Hazel, except that you did:
we’re here to tell that we’re locked
into your lifeline, into your heartbeat, into the way
you dance across the floor, the way you’re a mover
instead of a shaker. And giving it by crikey.
The sun shines stylishly on your silver birch, as you shift
tears of laughter from each eye, first with one hand
and then with the other. And then you tell us
They think I’m doing that, eh? Well I ain’t.
You drive your Triumph Spitfire through a snowstorm
from York to the farm. You rattle the windows
with a cavalcade of stones, at one in the morning:
your mother arrives with a smile and a sherry
and a slab of Christmas cake, Wensleydale on one side.
And now you’re phoning from overseas, looking out
on an ocean, in an apartment with golden taps, and add
Crikey what’s the point when you ain’t with the ones you love
And so it’s back to the farm, and back of course to Will,
the lodestar on your road, and it’s ticketyboo, and when
it isn’t for others, you’re there, with the biggest bunch
of hot red tulips, and you’re soft as you’re blunt
and everyone’s a daft ha’porth beside your style, your glamour.
Stretched in the sun, soaking the light up, you shimmer,
and later that night, unsleeping, in France, you say
Oh eck oh eck oh eck, so often oh eck in fact that they
name you a perfume. Eau de Cologne? Oh no: it’s Eau Eck.
On your sixtieth birthday, you fall for the tissue of lies,
as everyone phones, and nobody drops in on you, and, steaming,
you enter the hall of surprises, and the penny drops, and
Hazel you’re amazed and amazing in an instant, surrounded
as you’ll always be by friends friends friends, the poppets,
you were fed up, we were all not bothered, and then we were,
as we are, and for crying out loud, and with Billy Fury crooning
Halfway to Paradise in the background, we’re with you again,
surprise party, you’re the showstopper, because fiddlesticks, Haze,
and Crikey, too, and this is for you, we ain’t going, no we ain’t,
and what’s the point when you ain’t with the ones you love?