Sunday, 20 January 2019

January Weather

Dear Reader,


A few years ago a very dear friend had a terrible accident at a cross roads near here in which the driver of the other car was killed.  Apparently it was all due to the January sun being very low in the sky.   What was all this about I wondered and here are a few thoughts about what I found.

During the autumn and winter months the sun is naturally lower in the sky.  This means that when light hits the surface it will also reflect that lower angle. In summer the sun is much higher in the sky. According to the AA in the UK, sun glare causes over 2,900 accidents annually on British roads.
Sun glare impacts your sight even after you have been exposed, which means that for a few seconds you won't be able to see things ahead of you.  This experience has been described as 'blinding'.

I expect this is what happened to the Duke of Edinburgh and lots of people will be advising him not to continue driving.  But I do hope that he doesn't attend to this and carries on as long as he feels able.  As an old person myself I hope to be able to drive as long as I can without causing any trouble on the roads, thus keeping my independence.

                                                                         *

January Weather

We know from recorded history,
that in St. Merryn
a hundred years ago,
there blew great winds
and the sea was smoking white.

We know it was warm in Kent,
where the thrushes thought spring
had come, and piped away.
And primroses were a yellow carpet
in North Norfolk,
or so the parson wrote.

We know of cutting winds in Hampshire,
of icicles and frost, and
in Skiddaw on a mild day,
a brown spotted butterfly was seen.
We know that hungry church
mice ate bible markers,
hungry people died of cold.

And we know that this dark winter month
had days of snow, that wild clouds
gathered in the sky unleashing icy rain,
churning up the plough.

And yet again, we also know
the sun shone in that distant year,
it was warm enough to push through
early snowdrops, and Holy Thorn.
Light was glimpsed, here and there,
all life struggled for its moments.


                                                                         *

With very best wishes, Patricia




Sunday, 13 January 2019

In Her Spare Room

Dear Reader,


                                                                            Toad, Badger, Mole and Ratty



I have been reading an excellent book given to me at Christmas about Kenneth Grahame's life by Matthew Dennison called 'Eternal Boy'.  As most of you readers will know 'The Wind in the Willows' is one of my very favourite books and I thought you might like a snippet of information about the author's life. 

In January 1879 Kenneth arrived for the first time at the Bank of England and started work in the position of gentleman clerk.    He was nineteen years old, serious-minded, tall, and broad-shouldered.  He had not been keen to work in a bank and had hoped to go to Oxford University  but his uncle, John Grahame, refused to fund a university education.  He  thought a good job in a bank was what Kenneth should have and procured him a place at the Bank of England.  Kenneth had read a piece by George Augustus Sala, published in 1859, which painted a sober picture of the clerk's working day.   He described a 'great army of clerk martyrs....settling down to their loads of cash-book and ledger-fillers' each morning like clockwork.  Sala apostrophised their wretchedness...

During his life,  Kenneth wrote many essays rejecting commercial, cooperate and committee life, celebrating the 'escape' of city men from the daily grind. His real love was the countryside and in particular, waters and rivers.   Long after his retirement when asked to write about his experiences at the Bank of England he replied  'Nothing doing ....much too dull a subject.'

                                                                         *

In Her Spare Room

I see these books,
draw in a breath,
as cherished memories
race into my head.

These are:

Akenfield
Portrait of an English Village
Swallows and Amazons 
The Speckledy Hen
The Little Flower of St. Francis
My Friend Flicka
The Wind in the Willows
Tales of an Old Inn

The owner of this house
is unknown to me,
but her collection
of treasured books
tells me a little of her,
what makes her who she is,
what makes me who I am.

                                                                          *

Very best wishes, Patricia




 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Waif

Dear Reader,



                                                                                         Waifs
 Dear Reader,

I have had a bad cold and cough this week so haven't thought of something interesting to tell you  but I have read 'The English Year Book' and thought you might like some of the quotes.

January 4th, Richard Hayes, 1764 in Kent.

'Our roads are very full of water, I never saw the London turnpike so much cut with the carriages, by having almost continuous rains little or much.'

January 4th, S.T. Coleridge, 1804 in Westmorland.

Horsedung echoing to the merry (Foot) traveller on a frosty morning.

January 5th, Katherine Mansfield, 1915 in Buckinghamshire

'Saw the sun rise.  A lovely apricot sky with flames in it and then a solemn pink.  Heavens, how beautiful!  I heard a knocking, and went downstairs.  It was Benny cutting away the ivy.  Over the path lay the fallen nests - wisps of hay and feathers.  He looked like an ivy bush himself.  I made early tea and carried it up to J., who lay half awake with crinkled eyes.  I feel so full of love today after having seen the sun rise'.

                                                                          *

Waif

The waif lived in a tent
on the beach.
He was cold, he was hungry.
He was always hungry.

He met a boy from a big house.
They played together
on the sand, picked up winkles
and shells, ran down to the sea.

The boy took him to his house
cut large slices of bread,
buttered them, piled cherry jam on top,
gave them to the waif who
wolfed them down.

When autumn came the boy
went back to boarding school.
The waif missed his friend,
screwed his fists into his eyes
as the tears gathered.
Wept for the loss of friendship and food.

                                                                          *

With best wishes, Patricia

 

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Questions





Dear Reader,

My poem this week mentions butterflies so I thought I would do a little research on them for both you and myself.

Apparently some butterflies have inhabited the planet for at least 130 million years.  They showed up about the same time as did flowering plants.  This is known because of fossil records that butterflies left behind.   Many butterflies migrate for long distances and these migrations take place over thousands of generations and no single individual completes the trip.

Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts.  In ancient Egypt 3500 years ago,  butterflies appeared in art form.  In the city of Teotihuacan the brilliant coloured image of the butterfly was carved into many temples, buildings, jewellery and emblazoned on incense burners.  The butterfly was sometimes depicted with the jaw of a jaguar and some species were considered to be the reincarnations of the souls of dead warriors. One Japanese superstition says that if a butterfly enters your guest room and perches behind the bamboo screen, the person whom you most love is coming to see you.  In the English county of Devon people hurried to kill the first butterfly of the year to avoid a year of bad luck.

                                                                        *


 Questions

Was the summer different then,
did the sun shine more, when
wet and cloudy days were few, when
butterflies took wing, and warm winds blew?

Did the bees collect more honey,
did we laugh more, were more things funny,
was the sea less rough, more azure,
did finer shells bewitch us on the shore?

Did roses fade so soon, wind or rain blown,
or were hedgerows so rich and pretty, grown
when all the summer days were bright,
not awash with rain, but drenched in light?

Were the days so cold and dreary,
and did we ever feel so weary
of days of heat and sun and sea,
picnics, sandcastles, flasks of tea?

Did dreams then, sometimes, come true
when love would find us, hold us too,
and make our whole world seem completely new,
when butterflies took wing, and warm winds blew?

                                                                           *


A very happy New Year to you all.

With best wishes, Patricia




Sunday, 23 December 2018

Inheritance

Dear Reader,


                                                                       An 1834 painting of a Gloucester Old Spot Pig


The Gloucestershire Old Spot is an English breed of pigs which is predominately white with black spots.  It is named after the county of Gloucestershire.  The Gloucestershire Old Spot pig is known for its docility, intelligence and fertility.  The pigs are white with clearly defined black spots.  There must be at least one spot on the body to be accepted in the registry.  The breed maternal skills enable it to raise large litters of piglets on pasture.  Its disposition and self-sufficiency should make it attractive for farmers raising pasture pigs.

The first pedigree records of these pigs began in 1885, much later than it does for cattle, sheep and horses because the pig was a peasant's animal, a scavenger and never highly regarded.  No other pedigree spotted breed was recorded before 1913, so today's Gloucestershire Old Spot is recognised as the oldest such breed in the world.  The British Pig association says: "Although if old paintings are to be trusted, there have been spotted pigs around for two or three centuries......".

                                                                           *


Inheritance

What was it that made me
think of you, who
are bone-dust now,
with no statue or monument
to bear your witness?
Was it the apple-bruised spots
on the Gloucester Old Spot pigs,
their legacy from apple orchards, long ago,
to mark them out?

In the afternoon sunlight
as I bent to touch their skin
I saw that my hands, brown spotted,
were your hands, identical.
Was this your legacy to me,
something to say that you were here?

More precious than possessions,
you passed to me our inheritance
from some ancient eastern shore.
Your brownness, your hands, brown spotted,
which marked you.

                                                                       *

With very best wishes and a very happy Christmas,  Patricia

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Bird Of My Loving

Dear Reader,






A very dear friend of mine, Mary Sheepshanks, poet and author, wrote the poem I am sending to you this week.  We met on the Island of Iona many years ago during a week's retreat from the world. And we have been friends ever since although it is difficult for us to meet because she lives in Scotland, a long way from Oxford.  The theme of the poem is one that has always interested me.  


I think we want to belong to someone without being overprotected by them.  We want to feel free to go wherever we want to with their blessing and so to return to them, refreshed, with a happy and loving heart.  There is a moving poem by Richard Lovelace (1618-58)  writing from prison which says in the first line of the poem:  Stone walls do not a prison make/nor iron bars a cage.  He says if he has freedom in his love, then his soul is free.  In this very technical and practical age we tend to forget about our souls - what are they after all?  But my soul plays a large part in my life and I take heed to what it tells me.

                                                                        *

The Bird of my Loving

To all the air I vainly cried:
"This octopus possession strangles me.
Can't I be loved and love
And still be free?"
But no one heard or listened
None replied.
Until upon the green horizon of my view
You came to stand.
The bird of all my loving flew to you.
You held it for a moment
In your hand,
Then opening up our fingers
To the sky you said:
"Our love is liberty.
feel free to fly
But know that I am true."
Because you never tried
To pinion it
The bird of  all my loving
Stays with you.

                                                                        *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Overheard

                                                                              Happy Christmas to you all

Dear Reader,

After our lovely summer and glorious autumn, the weather has decided to step in with rain and storms
to remind us that this is a sceptred island and that means fog, damp, rain and snow, as well as  exceptional beauty when the sun shines.

This is a piece I read from Francis Kilvert's journal, 1872.

" ...... at about half past four began the Great Storm of 1872.  Suddenly the wind rose up and began to roar at the tower window and shake the panes and lash the glass with torrents of rain.  It grew very dark and we struggled home in torrents of rain and tempests of wind so fearful that we could hardly force our way across the Common to the Rectory.  All the evening the roaring S.W. wind raged more and more furious.  It seemed as if the windows on the west side of the house must be blown in. The glass cracked and strained and bent ...... Now and then the moon looked out for a moment wild and terrified through a savage rent in the Storm.

Glad I didn't live then.
                                                                         *

Overheard

The woman sat
on a number 3 bus.
She settled comfortably,
the seat next to her vacant.
Another woman got on
not known to her.
She squeezed over and the
two sat cosily together.
'I'm off to the doctor', said one,
I need new tablets.'.

'Yes,' said the other:
'tablets keep me going too.'.
The two women talked animatedly
about their ailments, until one
of them reached her destination.

'I'm off now', she said, 'but lovely
meeting you.  Such an interesting talk.'.

Both women were happy.
Exchanging tablet talk
had invigorated them,
their shared experience
made them feel content.

                                                                    *

With very best wishes, Patricia