Sunday, 15 July 2018

Crossing the Bar - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Dear Reader,
                                                                                          Pictures of Rural England

One of the few poems I have learnt by heart of late is Alfred, Lord Tennyson's :  Crossing the Bar.  This poem is very poignant for me - it seems to touch somewhere inside my heart and by its end I am always in tears.  So I thought I would share it with you this week. 

More than any other Victorian writer, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) has seemed the embodiment of his age, both to contemporaries and to modern readers.  In his own day he was said to be, with Queen Victoria and Gladstone, one of the most famous living persons, a reputation no other living poet writing in English ever had.  As official poetic spokesman for the reign of Victoria he felt called upon to celebrate a quickly changing industrial and mercantile world with which he felt little in common, for his deepest sympathies were called forth by an unaltered rural England; the conflict between what he thought; of as his duty to society and his allegiance to the eternal beauty of nature seems peculiarly Victorian.  Even his most severe critics have always recognised his lyrical gift for sound and cadence, a gift probably unequalled in the history of English poetry, but one so absolute that it has sometimes been mistaken for mere fantasy.

                                                                             *

The bar, by the way, is physically a bar of sand in shallow water.   That is all I can find out about it.
Tennyson wrote this poem three years before his death.


Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call to me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Ramparts

Dear Reader,







                                                                
                                                                               Thomas Hardy's Cottage


Francis and I visited Dorset this week, staying in a cottage near Lyme Regis.  Whilst there we visited Thomas Hardy's house in Higher Bockhampton.   It is a small cob and thatch building where he was born in 1840 and where he lived until he was 34.  During this time he wrote two novels:  Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) and Far From the Madding Crowd(1874).   He left home to marry Emma Gifford, the daughter of a solicitor.  The cottage was built in 1800 by his great-grandfather, and  has a typical cottage garden, the interior of the house has furniture of the period although not from the Hardy family.

Even although there were numerous other tourists in the house when we were there, I found it completely charming and peaceful.  It was all so simple and I think not much different from when Hardy lived there.  There were three small bedrooms, white washed, with quilts as bedspreads, china chamber pots, and a Bible by the beds.  All one wants in a bedroom I would say.  In the kitchen there was a small table and a big stove for cooking on, oh and a shelf or two. The floor was made of flagstones, now a faded pink and, I found it easy to imagine Thomas walking over them, pipe in mouth. I looked out of the very small window where he did his writing and saw flowers and woodland.  There I thought was his inspiration for his first novel: Under the Greenwood Tree.  And I really felt him there beside me.  If you are in Dorset and haven't been I do recommend it as a lovely outing.




                                                                          *

Ramparts

To keep people out,
medieval man built castle walls,
dug moats, constructed drawbridges.
"No admission" was understood
from oaken doors, black studded.

Modern man spoils streets,
violates the countryside
with "keep out" signs.
Things do not change.

Ramparts encircle people.
"No admission" written on their faces,
and looks are exchanged with
a private label.

These rejections, solid or implied
do not threaten me,
"Keep out" outdared by my skylark spirit.
It flies free.

                                                                        *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Katie's Angels


Dear Reader,





Just a little about myself this week to put you in the picture.  I have been diagnosed with lung cancer and. at the same time,  have found a wonderful new partner called Francis, a Professor of Social Psychology.  He is also a widower who nursed his wife through dementia, and is prepared to look after me through my obviously difficult times ahead.  I put the picture of the piper on the blog as Francis plays the bagpipe and did so for me, by a lake,  in the Forest of Dean this last lovely sunny week.  So good and bad news but I am determined to fight whatever comes up and to get through the eye of the storm.  

The blog will continue as usual next week. 

         *
                                                                             

The RSPB has given gulls a better press than they have been having lately.  Apparently they are intelligent and adaptable and we should learn to understand them.  'Clever gulls have learned that humans can be messy, leaving discarded food on the streets or in overflowing litter bins, and also that sometimes we will feed them' said a spokesperson for the RSPB.  Gulls are skilled scavengers, however they have a soft side and mate for life.  The male helps incubate the eggs, then later takes it in turn with the female to look after and feed the chicks. Obviously the modern male, then!


      *

Katie's Angels


At dawn, driving eastwards,
mist still covering the fields,
trees ribboned in cobwebs,
sky blue and white.

She saw a rabbit, a pigeon,
and two hen pheasants, 
but no cherubs, no bright light.

Much later, lost, tired,
rounding a corner she saw
gathered in the road
twenty white doves.

They flew up,
a breath of sunshine
tipping their wings.
Ecstatic, she recognised the sign,
recognised her angels.

                                                                             *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Not One of Us


                                                                                       Greensleeves



Dear Reader,

I thought you might enjoy this piece from Francis Kilvert's diary on Friday, 12th June,1874.

' Bathing yesterday and to-day.  Yesterday sea was very calm, but the wind has changed to the East and this morning a rough and troublesome sea came tumbling into the bay and plunging in foam upon the shore. The bay was full of white horses.  At Shanklin one has to adopt the detestable custom of bathing in drawers.  If ladies don't like to see men naked why don't they keep away from the sight? To-day I had a pair of drawers given to me which I could not keep on.  The rough waves stripped them off and tore them down round my ankles.  While thus fettered I was seized and flung down by a heavy sea which retreating suddenly left me lying naked on the sharp shingle from which I rose streaming with blood.   After this I took the wretched and dangerous rag off and, of course, there were some ladies looking on as I came up out of the water.'

                                                                                 *

There is a persistent belief that Greensleeves was composed by Henry VIII for his lover and future consort Anne Boleyn.  Boleyn allegedly rejected King Henry's attempts to seduce her and this rejection may be referred to in the song when the writer's love "cast me off discourteously". However the piece is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after Henry's death making it more likely to be Elizabethan in origin.

So what does the song mean?  One possible interpretation of the lyrics is that Lady Green Sleeves was a promiscuous young woman, perhaps a prostitute.  At the time the word 'green' has sexual connotations, most notably in the phrase ' a green gown' being a reference to the grass stains on a woman's dress from engaging in sexual intercourse outdoors.
                                                                                    *
It has to be said that things have changed dramatically in England in the last few hundred years.   For the better, I wonder?
                                                                                    *



Not one of us

A small figure at school in
a hot, strange land.  The
children left her alone,
she didn't speak their language
or know their games or rules.
She was not one of them.

Winter now and an English
boarding school, where the rules
were known, but not to her.
She was clumsy, wore spectacles,
couldn't tie her tie, dropped the netball.
Couldn't master dance steps gracefully
to the music of "Greensleeves',
was not an asset, wouldn't do.
She was not one of them.

She simply asked,
why do the safely-grounded
hear the beat of a terrified heart
and seek to silence it?  Is the beat
too loud, something not understood,
something to frighten?
Are things better when the group
destroys the alien in its midst?

She never knew,
she was not one of them.

                                                                            *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Betrayal

                           The Battle of Sedgemoor           Residents laundry hanging outside of a shop
                                                                                                              in Colyton

 Dear Reader,

I so enjoyed the story this week about Claire Mountjoy from the Devon village of Colyton, the single mother who hung her washing out to dry over her front door.  But local traders instructed her not to hang her washing out to dry because it would lower the tone of the neighbourhood.  In response to this instruction hundreds of residents have taken to displaying bras, nighties, pants and other item of laundry outside their  homes as a show of solidarity with Ms. Mountjoy.  The person who sent the letter claimed that the sight of her underwear was likely to offend passing tourists. The tourists must be easily offended and I think Ms. Mountjoy deserves a medal for showing initiative and brightening her front door up with her laundry.

Colyton first appeared as an ancient village around 700 AD and features in the Domesday Book as 'Culitone'.  It was called the most 'rebellious town in Devon' due to the number of its inhabitants who joined the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.  The Monmouth Rebellion was also known as 'The Revolt of the West' and was an attempt to overthrown James II, The Duke of York.  Monmouth forces were unable to compete with the regular army and the rebellion ended with the defeat of Monmouth's army at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6th July, 1685.   Monmouth was executed for treason on 15th July, 1685.

                                                                            *

Betrayal

You were always there
for me, as I for you.
You read to me
you laughed with me
you told me stories
of magic and imagination.

We travelled north and south
to Scotland and the Western Isles
enjoyed Dorset, Devon, Cornwall.
Went to see the Lakes
peeped into Beatrix Potter's house
felt cold in Dove Cottage where
you put my hand in your pocket.

we were one heart beat

But you have gone.
Now I have to try to live
another life
with you not there,
with someone else perhaps
someone to fill the empty gap
you left me with

Please forgive me darling.

                                                                           *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Small Moments of Warmth

Dear Reader,
                                                                                  Lake Wanaka

This beautiful lake lies at the heart of the Otago Lakes in the lower South Island of New Zealand.  The township is situated in a glacier carved basin on the shores of the lake and is the gateway to the Aspiring National Park.  At its greatest extent the lake is 42 kilometres long.  Its widest point, at the southern end, is 10 kilometres.  The lakes western shore is lined with high peaks rising to over 2000 metres above sea level.

For Maori the Wanaka area was a natural crossroads. Until the nineteenth century Wanaka was visited by Ngai Tahu, the principal Maori tribe of the Southern Region of New Zealand.  They hunted eels and birds over summer returning to the east coast in reed boats.  Ngai Tahu use of the land was ended by attacks by North Island tribes.  In 1836, the Ngati Tama chief led a 100-person war party, armed with muskets, down the west coast and over the Haast Pass: they fell on the Ngai tahu encampment between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, capturing ten people and killing and eating two children.  Maori seasonal visits, no surprise, ceased after this.

                                                                               *

Small Moments of Warmth

I remember a little warmth
Joey trotting the family through Norfolk lanes,
the small yellow trap swaying in the sunshine.

I remember picnics on Yarmouth beach
with enough blue sky "to make a sailor's trouser".
We ate sucumber sandwiches.  Penguin biscuits.

I remember dark evenings,
the small warm flame from a Tilly lamp
lighting the kitchen, and sometimes for supper
we had chicken, chocolate mousse.

I remember a warm holiday in France
squeezed into the back of the car,
singing old thirties love songs.

But will these small moments of warmth,
at the end, be enough to heat and spilt
the heavy stones that circle the human heart,
allow salt tears to trickle through the cracks?

                                                                                *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Spring Fair

Dear Reader,

                                                                              Fairgrounds

Travelling fairs are 'the unwritten portion of the story of the people, bound to the life of a nation by the ties of religion, trade and pleasure'.  The tradition is living and dynamic and reflects the influence of popular culture in which it operates and, in many cases, it predates the history of the town or settlement in which it appears.

The majority of fairs held in the United Kingdom trace their ancestry back to charters and privileges granted in the Medieval period.  In the thirteenth century, the creation of fairs by royal charter was widespread, with the Crown making every attempt to create new fairs and to bring existing ones under their jurisdiction.  By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the majority of English fairs had been granted charters and were re-organised to fall in line with their European counterparts.

Currently, over two hundred fairs take place every weekend in the United Kingdom with the Goose Fair in Nottingham and Hull Fair growing in size and popularity every year.

The poem I am publishing today is the story of one of my daughters who, when we went to a fair years ago, just disappeared.  She returned in the morning seemingly no worse for wear.  I never did find out where she went.

                                                                          *

Spring Fair

The young girl
and her mother, holding hands,
hurry down the hill
where the bright lights beckon,
see the big dippers hurtling,
painted horses swirling, yellow
swing boats diving, swooping,
smell the grease and diesel
hear the loud beat of music,
the children's screms.

Young men of the fair,
long-haired, dark, a little wild,
eye the girls with bright,
knowing looks.
The air is full of restlessness, of quickening,
the urgency to act
before the end of the night,
when morning light will move them on.

Dusk falls, the young firl drops her mother's hand,
stirred by the primal desire of early spring.
Running silently she disappears into the night, eager
to share what ancient fires of life can bring.

                                                                             *

With very best wishes, Patricia