Jonathan’s Writing

Curtains to Freedom

Listening, looking and wanting to be heard I spend my time unable to tell my story, in silence I live behind the curtains.

Silence pervades my yearning desire to learn, preventing my freedom and trapping me and my friend Edward in our magical worlds of colourful pictures and steady drumbeats.  Inside this introspective place my heart skips to the beat of changing colours and moods, behind curtains drawn against a failing education.  In the classroom our wasted school hours, days, weeks and years hang heavy suffocating expectation by mindless activity.

Unconnected, helpless in our wheelchairs we retreat to the glorious hidden haven, approached through the mottled light of closed curtains. Like a marvellous moment on a day at the fair, when the carousel whirls at full speed and you are lost in the exhilaration of the colours and sounds – the landscape beyond the curtain engulfs the senses and holds me in red rapture. Edward is here too.  With floppy blonde hair covering his piercing blue eyes, Edward squeals in pure euphoria as his stiff limbs rise towards me like a swan spreading its wings preparing for flight.  Onwards we journey, through pastures covered in hues of red and green, the smell of summer carried on the breeze; gathering momentum our beating wings still to a soar as we glide over heather strewn mountains.  For years Edward had met with me silently in secret, escaping the mundane monotony.

When will we be flying free beyond the curtain?

Higher towards the sky we ascend so that the undulating ground beneath us is spread like a laden picnic blanket. Up and on we…

“Hello Peter,” sings a voice dripping with sickly enthusiasm, “how are you today, hello Peter, are you here today?”  Grey indignation spills over the land, the music of our souls interrupted by the clanging song clambering with quick drums of anger.

“Peter! Peter are you here?”  The teacher’s sing-song soft high voice, pitched at a baby, grates to my inner ten-year-old being.  Scowling with mauve frustration I flick the curtains open in annoyance to be greeted by grinning smiles combined with searching eyes pressed against my stage.

“Oh Peter, you are here!” As the teacher makes her way to her next victim I recede to the shadows behind the curtain.

Simultaneously, Edward and I exchange a knowing glance as we disappear into our sanctuary, calm and quiet.  Slowly grey is replaced by green descending on headlands of fern trimmed meadows.  Walking through long grass tickling our calves we head for the gate.

Furthermore, the sun wraps me in warmth as I suck glistening sweets and my heart drums its steady quiet overtures of green happiness.  But life plays on without us.  Our loneliness compounded by our silence.

Swinging on the gate, Edward loiters with his hand outstretched towards me. As I approach I hear my carer call from beyond the barrier, “Peter, what do you want to do?”  Enquiring, expecting an answer, her voice is both patient and persistent.  Red excitement courses through my soul, so I draw the curtains back with a flourish to be welcomed by my gate to freedom.  Bang!  Behind me the barrier locks!  Trapped in a prison of silence, Edward’s doleful eyes gaze longingly at the liberty beyond his lonely cage.

Looking at the squares of letters and colours held in front of me, I spell out, “teach Edward to write.”


How the Herring Lost its Redness (and found it again)

In the beautiful bright blue bay, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there were herring; and they were all red.  Deep red.  They were the Day’s round and the Dwarf round, the Little-eye and the red-eye, the Middling thread and the Slender thread, the Denticle and the Dogtooth, the Tropical and the Panama, accompanied by the Crab of perpetual-slyness-and-audacity.  Boasting of their brilliant burning hues of red, the herring dominated and terrorised the other fish in the bay with their bullish behaviour. Like flaming arrows, the herring darted through the waters, leaving in their wake floundering fish – fed-up with the persistent menace (but my Best Beloved, don’t forget the Crab of perpetual-slyness-and-audacity).

Part of the reason for the herring’s arrogance was their possession of a map. Not an ordinary map: an extra-ordinary map. The best sort of map in existence – a treasure map! Curled up in a place of great secrecy, this map handed down for generations, led to the place of infinite bounteous riches – chests full of glorious gaudy gold, shimmering sparkling silver and jewelled jewellery beyond compare.

Most of the other fish were tired of the constant bragging about this map (and some even doubted the treasures very existence), but not the Crab. The Crab of perpetual-slyness-and-audacity, (he didn’t get his name for nothing, Best Beloved) had always hankered after this hoard of treasure. Ever since the map was first mentioned, he had scuttled from one rocky hiding place to another, forever seeking its secret sanctum. But being both sly and audacious, and as yet having no luck in his daily treasure-map search; he also ingratiated himself with the herring. Whilst the other fish grumbled: he mumbled flattery; when they whined: he dined out with the herring; when they moaned and groaned: he intoned words of obsequiousness.

Before we go further with this story, my Best Beloved, there is one more character we must meet. Far away from the beautiful bright blue bay, at latitude Fifty North, Longitude Forty West, sat a forlorn Fisherman in a boat far from the bay he called ‘home’. Why forlorn?  For five days he had fished in vain, and with fifteen famished boys at home, he could not return empty-handed. You have heard the phrase ‘bottomless pit’, these boys were a bottomless ocean; and if he didn’t return soon he feared for the safety of his wife!

Back at the beautiful bright blue bay, a small and subtle change was occurring in the herring. Years of the Crab’s false flattery was starting to take the effect he desired (he wasn’t called the Crab of perpetual-slyness-and-audacity for nothing).

One morning, he approached the herring and putting on his most saccharine voice said, “O most noble honourable herring, whose red fiery flashes are the envy of all who have the immeasurable privilege of sharing your bay. Today with the breeze in the East, the full moon tonight and the tide ebbing at noon, nature is whispering promises of great plenty.”

“The treasure,” squealed the herring, “let’s go and retrieve our treasure.”

“My most eminent erudite herring, for fish of your dignity and distinction it would be unwise to travel unless accompanied by a bodyguard with full armour.”

And so the Crab of perpetual-slyness-and-audacity secured his place on the treasure expedition, with avarice in his heart and service on his lips. Wondering how the herring intended to transport their treasure, he knew with certainty he could ‘help’; storing the hoard in his shell would make the herring his servants forever.

What he had not banked on was the herrings cunning. You see, the herring were as fed up of the fawning flattery of the Crab, as the Crab was of performing it. With the treasure map clearly marking latitude 62o 17′ 20″, longitude 19o 2′ 40”, the red herring led the Crab in the opposite direction. Like a fox leading a weasel they disappeared into the open ocean.

Meanwhile, the forlorn Fisherman is still waiting for fish – ten fish, two fish, ANY fish… Suddenly, the net trembled, vibrating with tremors of hope. Pulling the cords, the Fisherman hauled hordes of bright red fish which surged and submerged, floundered and abounded, flopped and dropped, skipped and flipped, danced and pranced, until the nets were breaking with the tension.

Utterly embarrassed by their stupidity, the red in the herring’s skin leaked out. (You see my Best Beloved, when we are embarrassed we turn red, but when you are already red you turn white.)  So that is how the herring lost its redness.  But, how will it find it again?  Perhaps when it came to the crunch, the Crab was more intelligent than the herring.  Realising he had been led astray the Crab scuttled back to the bay before the net could catch him too.  As he left the scene of destruction some of the herring’s red fell onto his back. 

Living in the beautiful bright blue bay, the Crab of perpetual-slyness-but-not-so-much-audacity is often berated by the other fish for his foolishness; whereupon he retreats into the inner sanctuary of his shell.  Beware! He remains the Crab of perpetual-slyness and takes his anger and frustration out on any unsuspecting passing animal.

Some of the herring escaped from the net that fateful day; returning to the sea stripped of their racing red and reduced to sticking together in large subservient schools of grey non-descript fish.

Forlorn no longer, the Fisherman floated home to his fifteen famished boys (thankfully his wife was safe as well), with his boat laden with sumptuous fish.  So laden, that for the first time in their lives the fifteen famished boys filled their bottomless oceans, and uttered those hallowed words – “I’m full!”  Being a thrifty Fisherman, he smoked the remaining herring, which consequently turned red.  Deep red.

Next time you are tempted to lead someone on a red herring, my best beloved, remember it will always end in your embarrassment.


Baking Beauty

Filling, beating, stirring, pouring,

Baking beauty life restoring,

Dripping goodness love in sharing,

Aromatic health repairing,

Pleasant parcels held with pleasure,

Tantalising tastes to treasure.

© Jonathan Bryan


Residential Poem

Activities adapted,

Inclusion at their heart,

Tidal waves of belief,

Esteem growing with my part.

Escaped on bikes; elated,

Hair ruffled in the breeze,

Views absorbed; time stands still,

Free-wheeling downhill with ease.

Friends clapping cheering chanting,

I’m rising to the sky,

Pulling me to freedom,

My ovation soaring high.

Dogged determination,

Proud member of Rhine class,

Great team forged with laughter,

Fantastic friendships last!

© Jonathan Bryan


Acrostic Poem

H appiness emerging excitement growing,

O ceans of dancing waves lovingly flowing,

L aughter like singing birds heard in the morning,

I rresistable ice-cream noon-time yawning,

D addy filling our heads with figures and facts,

A way we’re escaping down unexplored tracks,

Y early adventures treasured deep in our hearts,

S adness its over ’til the next one starts.

© Jonathan Bryan

Delving into Devon

Quickly the summer passed like a long-awaited train puffing through the corn fields; enraptured in the moment we jumped and clapped with joy, happiness enveloped our souls.  Making the most of each weeklong carriage is always challenging, but the highlight was a week in Devon with my parents and two sisters, Susannah and Jemima.

During our stay Susannah was eaten by a ravenous sand monster! As sand heaped, the brutal beast’s hulking mass towered over the beach; rocks surrendered to its scaly back, jutting out like a menacing armour, terrifying its adversaries into submission. Plundered rockpools brought out from their depths sharp razor teeth lining great muscular claws, open wide to claim their next victim. Straggly seaweed lay strewn across its path whipped by its lethal forked tail, as screeching seagulls circled overhead heralding its presence.  Too late!

“Help!” Screamed a terrified Susannah with only her upper body visible from between its mighty jaws.

In the morning after our sand monster ordeal we decided to trek through Exmoor National Park.  Like a steam train chuffing painfully slowly uphill, the sound of my mother pushing my chair up a steep gradient made me wonder if she would collapse with the effort (she never did, much to our disappointment).  At times the path became so impassable that the 3-wheeler had to be dragged backwards with me clutching the clammy sides in a bid not to tumble out.  Near the top we encountered a stile so high that I needed to be hoicked over, being passed from one parent to the other.

Do you know what it is like to climb a hill to be met by a beautiful view?  That feeling of elated achievement is magnified when the struggle to the top has been characterised by such determination.  Stretching in front of us the bracken clad headland invited us to peak below its arms to the secret treasures below.  In the distance the shimmering sea whispered its ancient tales of mysteries yet untold, as we peered down at the beach below.  Lying in state our sand monster’s piercing eyes glared up, the second prize flag just visible in its rump.

Song of Silence

Numbness making sensory dead!
Inhibiting freedom fearing change,
Sanity seeping sadly down,
Shutters closing, everyday night.

Ceasing hope holding shame aloft,
Kept like wounded trapped birds caged inside,
Why should silence drown their spirit?
Who can free their souls aching sorrow?

© Jonathan Bryan

Song of Voice

As adept fingers point
My silent soul emerges,
Like the dawn blackbird’s song
Suddenly breaking the black.

Music buried in the mind
Sings melodies divine,
Of ancient tales yet untold
Unfurled to men astound.

Whose beauty hears my voice?
What depths saddened my pathway?
Soaring eagles spread wings
I fly to my destiny.

© Jonathan Bryan

The Forever Garden

Finding him reading I go and hug him on the sofa, not knowing when I will have a chance to be out of my wheelchair again. As we lose ourselves in the picture of a beautiful tranquil garden, we inhale the smell of freshly cut grass and hear rustling leaves from the trees overhead. With the soft breeze caressing our faces we felt energised realising we were no longer trapped in our disabled forms, but free and furthermore inside the book!

Running when your legs have never worked is the most indescribable feeling of freedom. “Jump!” exclaimed Will. Using our newly found energy we leapt around in the lush green grass. As we gleefully resounded with laughter I saw a figure of a young boy with a mother quietly walk towards us. When they headed past the cluster of flowering fruit trees I knew in an instant it was my beautiful friend Noah and his dear mother. Like a graceful deer in the spring, he ran towards me arms outstretched so by the time he reached us I was enveloped in his love.

Guiding me gently by the hand, Noah brought me to his mother who knelt graciously and kissed me tenderly on my forehead. After embracing Noah I introduced him to my best friend Will, who was sitting underneath a large tree whose buds of bright blue flowers were barely visible amongst the vibrant green leaves.

“Let me teach you to climb!” Noah pronounced each word with an enthusiastic energy, infectious with fun. Quickly and meticulously Noah scaled the silky branches; as he reached the lowest limb he stopped and stretched his hand towards me. Knowing our time was limited, I gripped Noah’s soft hand and scrambled up the trunk to the luscious canopy above. Sunlight shimmered through onto the shiny large ripe fruit that filled Will’s hand. As my hunger grew and Will took a bite the fruit oozed sweet juice down his chubby chin. I needed a wonderful juicy fruit, to taste this delicious delight myself. Noah wanted to get the best one for me. The willowy branches extended to enfold Noah as he ascended into the upper limbs of the tree. Like a dew drop from the dappled sun, the fruit fell through the bright light onto my lap. I held it in my hand smelling its heady perfume and feeling the soft velvety skin on my cheek whilst Noah descended back to me.

Will Noah eat the fruit? Should I eat the fruit and return with Will? These questions played on me dancing circles in my mind, gaining speed until the thoughts veered together colliding into a heap. Either I leave Noah or remain in paradise forever, but seeing Will eating I resist no longer. As the sweet juices touched my lips I heard the voice of Jesus calling Noah mingling with the beauty.

Deciding to return was the most difficult decision of my life, but one day I will live in Jesus’ garden forever.

© Jonathan Bryan

Forever Garden was written as Jonathan’s entry into the BBC Radio 2 500 Words story writing competition

Me, Jon-Jon

Jon-Jon! Jon-Jon! turning ten
In the presence of young men,
What enormous love and joy
Could gift the mighty faithful boy?

Why the sorrow? why the pain?
Will we celebrate again?
And when earthly time has passed,
What beauty lies? What peace at last?

Jon-Jon! Jon-Jon! turning ten
In the presence of young men,
What enormous love and joy
Should gift the mighty faithful boy?

© Jonathan Bryan

[written in the style of The Tyger by William Blake on 27.01.16, Jonathan’s tenth birthday]