David Ratcliffe

David is a poet, playwright, lyricist and short story writer from the North West of England.

He is a member of the international poetry study group Worldly Worders.

He has been published in a number of magazines both on-line and in print.

In 2016 his poem ‘Home Straight’ featured at the Fermoy International Festival.

The stage play ‘Intervention’ was produced for World Peace Day.

The main influences on his writing include; Ted Hughes, Ann Sexton, W. D. Snodgrass, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, James Baldwin, Pablo Neruda and his favourite poet Philip Larkin.

His poetry has been published in the following publications…
Poetry Pacific Magazine, TRR Poetry, Sixteen Magazine, Mad Swirl

Tulip Tree Review (Print Version) Oddball Magazine, Poem Hunter, THE BeZINE, Creative Talents Unleashed, Drawn to the Light Press, Live Encounters & The Galway Review.

His poem ‘He Crawled’ was placed third for the Pushcart Prize in the Blue Nib magazine in 2018. Also, in 2018 his poem ‘Pour me a Vision’ featured in VatsalaRadhakeesoon.wordpress.com for Dylan Thomas Day.

His debut collection ‘Through an Open Window’ was released in August 2021.

David’s website contains poems from his book, along with new works intended to find a home in a future collection.


The Halliwell’s

Back in 1948, in the West Yorkshire market town of Sowerby Bridge a devout 18-year-old catholic girl, Elizabeth Coleman

was a seamstress at a clothing factory.

On a Saturday evening in June that year, her best friend Betty Grimes had persuaded her to go to the local dance hall and her reward for this act of sisterhood was that she was to go on to meet her future husband, Brian Halliwell.

Brian was three years older and had a gentle way with him which helped put her at ease. He was tall and slim with black wavy hair, dark brown eyes and a dimpled chin.

He had complimented her on her dress and told her she was the most beautiful thing he had ever clapped eyes on.

Thing? She thought who is he calling a thing?  but he was nice enough, so she allowed it to go unchallenged…

They’d go on to marry three years later at St Mary’s church in the town.

16 years on, and now 32-year-old Elizabeth is a housewife and part-time cleaner at a doctor’s surgery.

They have one child, a son named Kevin who was just shy of his thirteenth birthday. He was the artistic kind, a little withdrawn spending a lot of his time out on the moors sketching local farms or knocking about with his best mate Tommy Kershaw.

When she was not keeping her own home, Elizabeth cleaned God’s house at St Marys. Spending her evenings making new cloths for the altar or vestments for Father Burns.

Although always tidy, their house was modest, sitting in the middle of a terrace with clean white nets in the window.

With Brian working 12 hour shifts at the local mill, there was just enough money coming in to keep the landlord happy, and though there was little to spare towards entertainment, they always had food on the table.

However, things took a turn for the worst when Brian was injured in an accident at work. A warp beam had slipped from its coupling and fractured his ankle.

In stark contrast, her older sister Marie had married James Forthergill, the son of the mill owner where Brian worked as a weaver.

She lives in a fine detached manor house with James and their two daughters Emily and Grace.

Marie often tried to help her sister with handouts to ease her struggles whenever needed, but proud Elizabeth would always say something like…

‘No, we will find a way with God’s help, thank you, Marie, I love you for asking, but no!

Elizabeth had been worried that she wouldn’t be able to give her son anything good enough on his big day, the day he would become a teenager.

Again, Marie offered her help…

Here’s ten bob you can pay me back when Brian is earning again, and he will you know. Get something for Kevin’s birthday and use the rest for what you need.

It seemed that Elizabeth had no choice this time, so she took the ten-shilling note, crossed herself and promised to pay it back as she was taking an extra job at Jacksons the hardware store in town.

When he heard of this, Brian felt ashamed at not being the breadwinner, wept in his armchair and shouted, “For god’s sake! Stupid fucking gammy foot, clumsy fucking idiot!”

Elizabeth shouted back at him…

‘Stop that blaspheming right now Brian, it’s no time for self-pity, this is just a test, we will get through it, you’ll see’

On her first day at Jacksons, she noticed that they had started to stock the odd air fix model in the window and asked Mr Jackson “how much for the Bismarck?”

“It’s 2/6d but I can’t pay you anything for a fortnight, you know that don’t you?”

“No problem, Mr Jackson, I have it here, I’ll take it, and a sheet of that wrapping paper please, what does that come to?”

‘’You can have the paper as a perk of the job Mrs Halliwell’

No, I will not! Halfpenny, is it? There you go’ and she handed over the crisp brown note.

The next evening was Kevin’s birthday and the house was full of family and neighbours, sandwiches and cake.

With excited anticipation, Elizabeth handed over the lovingly wrapped present and Kevin ripped it open and shrieked…”

Wow this is brilliant, thanks Mum, thanks Dad, Wow!”

Over the next few days, the ship was taking shape thanks in no small way to his dad for doing the tricky bits.

‘Here son, you try doing the gun turrets while I finish the hull’.

That evening Elizabeth came home, and slumped down on the couch and rubbed her tired legs. ‘Fiddlesticks, that flipping stepladders had a baby’

What? Said Brian.

“Look at my tights, a ruddy great ladder running all the way up, where’s the catalogue?”

She looked around and couldn’t find it anywhere so she shouted up to Kevin, Kevin, have you seen my Kays Catalogue love?

No mum, what would I be doing with that?

The next evening Kevin was out with Tommy, so she decided to tidy his room.

When she looked under his bed, she found the catalogue, with some of the pages stuck together.

“I’ll kill him! And it would have to be the lingerie pages, wait till he gets home, using my catalogue to glue his model on”

Later that evening she heard her son walk in the back door, and she yelled, ‘Kevin, get in this front room right this minute!!

Shit! He thought, she must know about us scrumping in old man foster’s orchard last Tuesday, somebody must have seen us, or maybe she could smell the apples off my jumper?

He walked slowly down the narrow hall and turned into the front room to meet his mum waving the catalogue in his face.

Double shit! Oh no, she knows, bollocks!

‘From now on you can use newspaper do you hear me?’

Kevin was confused…She’s gone mad, why would I use a newspaper for that? It’s just a load of words.

“Glue all over the pages, and it would have to be from the exact pages I wanted to order from!”

“In future you can work on the model on the kitchen table where I can see you, and never touch anything that doesn’t belong to you again, do you hear me?”

“Now get to your room”

A relieved Kevin accepted the dressing down and went upstairs. “Bloody hell that was close”, he thought

At this, Brian begins to laugh and sits Elizabeth down to explain the changes in her little boy.

“Lass, he is experimenting with his sexuality”.

“Shut that filth Brian, I won’t listen to another word of it”.

But eventually Brian describes what has been going on in graphic detail.

Elizabeth struggles to breath, she’s sick to the stomach and can’t believe what she is hearing.

Are you saying he is having unnatural thoughts?

“No, it is perfectly natural”

“How would you know?” “Oh wait”, “no, don’t answer that”

She paces up and down the room, trying to erase the pictures placed in her mind by Brian before shouting up the stairs, “Kevin, get down here now!”

Oh, no, she definitely knows about the apples now.

“Your dad tells me you are a dirty little pervert”.

“No, I didn’t”

“Shut up Brian”

“You dirty…oh I could scream”,

you should be ashamed of yourself, tomorrow you are going to confession and you’re going to ask forgiveness for your sick mind. May God forgive you” …

“Oh, and you are going to St Joseph’s, I don’t want poor Fr. Burns having to listen to any of this”

“I’ve to face him on Sunday”.

Kevin couldn’t take any more embarrassment, so he turned and stomped to stairs, with his mum’s final words following him…

“Oh, yes, and you can tell the priest about stealing apples while you’re at it”


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