Poetry Corner: Small Things by Wendy Alford

By Bernie Bell

I read in the  ‘Orcadian’ about a young woman, having a peaceful time with her children in Tankerness House Gardens, Kirkwall, encountering a bigot, who proceeded to say insulting things about Indian nurses eating with their hands.

When eating some kinds of curry, or anything else with chapattis, I use my hands. When eating, for example, chilli, with tortillas, I use my hands.  And then there’s Pizza, or …..takeaway FISH & CHIPS!  It’s just the best, and often most enjoyable, way to eat some things.

I’m not Indian, but I was born and brought up in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where two of my sisters were nurses, and worked with many nurses of Asian, West Indian and Irish origin.

These people have been the backbone of the NHS for decades – they aren’t just a recent part of the NHS story.

The woman who spoke in that way, is ignorant and limited.  She needs to  open her eyes, open her mind, and realise where Britain would be without these waves of people from different places, with different ways of being.

Presumably, she heard these insulting references to Indian nurses,  from her daughter, who is working as a nurse in England.  If so, I suspect that it’s a case of someone growing up with bigoted parents – children learn what they see, and hear.

There are worse things to do, than eat with your hands.

This reminded me of a poem by friend Wendy, about the delights of ….eating with your hands!

Small things

Sitting in a van

in the rain

watching the sea foam

through misting windows,


pulling open paper wrapping

the appetising smell

smacks us in the face

as waves slap on the beach


herring gull stands

sideways on, one eyed

one-legged, thinking

of chips, waiting


bite through the crispy fried

outer layer into hot soft potato

satisfied chewing and munching

snug in the dry warm cab


breathing, steaming, eating

staring into blurry horizon

through steady play of rain

splashing on the screen


tip tap tapping on the roof

trickling down the gulleys

mouths and fingers full of chips

delighting in this.

Wendy Alford       October 2012



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