Sunday, 24 March 2019

For You Everyman




Dear Reader,

I am sharing with you some entries which I thought were interesting especially as our weather is so strange these days.

March 21st, 1762,  Richard Hayes in Kent:

This day I saw a yellow butterfly......My rooks, by the cold weather and snows, did not begin building till last Sunday.

 March 21, 1798, Dorothy Wordsworth in Somerset

We drank tea at Coleridge's.  A quiet shower of snow was in the air during more than half of our walk.

March 24th, 1872, Francis Kilvert in Radnorshire

A snowy Palm Sunday on the Palms....I saw what I thought was a long dazzling white and golden cloud up in the sky.  Suddenly I found that I had been gazing at the great snow slopes of the Black Mountain lit up by the setting sun and looking through the dark storm clouds.

                                                                       *
The newspaper I read tells me that we are now in for a warmer and sunnier spell of weather.  The birds seems to have started to make their nests.  I see the blackbird is getting moss from the lawn and picking up twigs so spring really has arrived.

                                                                        *





For You, Everyman

My smile is for you.
Yes, you, the man on the omnibus,
You, the woman in the crowd,
You, the small child, playing in the dust,
You, the homeless, the tramp unbowed,
You, in the business suit, you in Kaftan,
You, the tall, you, the short,

Yes, You, Everyman.

The exchanged smile
acknowledges shared humanity
in this fleeting recognition.
No words needed.

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Miracle



Dear Reader,

Swallows spend the winter in Africa before beginning to arrive on our shores between April and May- bringing the first glimpse of summer.  Migrating swallows can cover some 200 miles a day, flying at average speeds of 17-22 mph.  Britain is 2,500 miles from say Senegal (where they gather in the winter) so with a fair wind they might complete the journey in less than a fortnight. But the question is what welcomes them to our shores?   Tesco supermarket has, apparently, installed netting to stop swallows nesting in the roof of its trolley station where the birds reared their young last year.
There have been several such examples of netting at bird nesting sites elsewhere in the country in recent weeks.

Swallows and other migrating birds who fly here with the arrival of warmer weather are in steep decline.  Habitat loss, climate change and the decline of the insects upon which they rely are wreaking havoc.   The swallows come all this way, take this long and perilous journey to arrive with us, hoping for a welcome, and what do they get?  Lets hope Tesco's is the only supermarket to install
nets to stop swallows nesting.

                                                                              *

A few things you might not know about swallows.  In the past it was believed that harming swallows would bring bad luck.  And in the north of England, up until the 1960s they believed that killing a swallow would lead to cows producing bloody milk or no milk at all.

Male swallows have a dark side as they go to extreme efforts to ensure that their genes are passed on to the next generation.  Males without a mate will often visit the nest of other swallows to associate themselves with a female already paired.  However, the majority of the time the only way a female will accept a new mate is if their current mate dies or if the nest fails, thereby 'divorcing' the established pair.  

                                                                           *

Miracle

Rich in England's spring
cowparsley entrancing
in dog-rose hedge,
the fecund earth lush green,
a baby swallow
hatches in a Suffolk barn,
to the cries of gulls
flying over mudflats,
over sea-lavender.

This small bird grows
embracing our summer warmth,
swooping on insects caught
above rolling grasslands.
It dips and tumbles gracefully,
trouble-free.

But what instinct tells of winter's cold?
This bird, hand-sized, will
fly over icy Pyrenees,
thirst through the parched Sahara,
soar and glide on trade winds,
south to the Cape of Africa
drawn, inexplicably, to the heat
of the southern sun.

In early spring does
this swallow's courageous heart
grow restless, homesick for
a Suffolk barn?
Is it a miracle that some force
of nature returns this minute bird
to its birth-nest by the English sea?
Who knows, but it seems so to me.

                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Letter to India after the British Raj disgrace




Dear Reader,

You may have watched 'The Jewel in the Crown" series on TV years ago. You may have felt   incensed, as I did, at the way that British people treated the Indian population,   Obviously it is not a true picture of the way things were, but true enough I would think to show us, in the main, the appalling way the native Indians were treated.

For those of you who don't know the history of the British Raj here are a few lines about a very long and complicated story and I apologise for making it so brief.

The British Raj refers to the period of British rule on the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.  The system of  governance was instituted in 1858 when the rule of the East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria who, in 1876, was proclaimed Empress of India.

India was called the "Jewel in the Crown" because it had so much wealth in the form of spices, textiles, cotton and opium.  The British bought opium to sell in China to enable them to buy tea.  In August, 1947, the British left after three hundred years in India and the subcontinent was partitioned into two independent states: Hindu majority, India, and Muslim majority, Pakistan.


                                                                           *

Letter to India after the British Raj disgrace

Dear India,

Forgive us as
we marched into your country,
forced our laws
our customs upon you,
were arrogant and superior,
destroyed your traditions,
treated you badly,
spoke to your people rudely,
lacked compassion,
and felt disdain for anyone
with a brown skin.

For these many sins
and others I know nothing of,
dear India, forgive us
forgive us please.

with very best wishes,
Patricia

                                                                        *
and very best wishes to you, my friends,
Patricia

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Word-dancing




Dear Reader,

The stripes on zebras are long thought of as a form of  camouflage, but now another explanation has been found.  So instead of baffling lions and leopards the stripes may be a way of keeping a much smaller, but no less bloodthirsty, creature at bay.  It is thought that biting insects could be dazzled as they try to land on the animals.  Scientists found that horse flies gathered around domestic horses and zebras at a similar rate- but landed on zebras only 25 per cent as often.

When uniformly-coloured horses were given 'zebra coats' flies made far fewer landings.  Video footage showed that flies confronted with stripes came in too fast, often crashing into their prey or missing the landing altogether.  This indicates that stripes may disrupt the flies' abilities to have a controlled landing.  Theories about the striped purpose include camouflage, a means of confusing predators or signalling to other zebras, and a system of heat control.

                                                                        *
                                                                             
Francis and I had our first dancing lesson this week and it was great fun.  We have taken up dancing again but don't really know the steps of traditional dances.  As we couldn't join in with an experienced group,  we wanted to learn the steps with a teacher and then will be able to do so.  I would advise anyone who wants a little exercise and amusement to give dancing a try.

                                                                         *

Word-dancing

The woman discovers the double act
of word-dancing at dinner,
recognizes with excitement
mutual friends from books, from poetry,
from worlds explored, but only
known thus far in solitude.

Together they dance through imagined lands
sharing knowledge,
throwing words back and forth
in light ethereal movements,
cerebral binding and bonding,
now the foxtrot, now the waltz.

For her these pleasures
are found at lunch parties, at dinner,
in libraries, on courses.
But where can the young word-dance?
Her grandson lunches on the run,
dines with Eastenders,
goes clubbing on solitary trips
too noisy, frightening, for word-dancing,
for cerebral binding and bonding,
now the foxtrot, now the waltz.

                                                                  *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Chawton Revisited



 Satin slippers

Dear Reader,

There were hopes that something interesting, or even an intimate secret, would be revealed when six lines of a note, recently unearthed, were written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra.  But in fact the findings were very mundane.  Writing to her brother Henry she says "I have given Mde B my Inventory of the linen, and added 2 round towels to it".  Part of Jane Austen's charm was her domesticity, making small trivial observations into an art.

For my part there is nothing nicer than ironing in the kitchen, the sheets and the shirts piling up whilst listening to a play on Radio 4 (especially if it is raining).  I always enjoy tidying my drawers whilst thinking of a new poem, or even plumping up the cushions, ready to sink into.  I like washing the kitchen floor and seeing it shine, and re-arranging everything in the fridge gives me great satisfaction.  When all is order in the house, all is well with me.   Jane Austen was a wise woman indeed.

                                                                           *

Chawton Revisited

Do you remember Chawton, Jill,
forty years ago,
discussing Emma, Miss Bates, Fanny?
Do you remember
our mutual dislike of Aunt Norris
and her devious ways?

Do you remember the sitting-room, Jill,
with the round writing table
small, mirror-polished,
set in a garden-view window, or
the satin slippers tied with a ribbon,
the lace collars
embroidered by hand?

Do you remember the walk
to the church in the afternoon cool?
We sat on a bench in the late summer sun,
and mused on her death,
wondering why did she die, so young.

Do you remember Chawton, Jill?

Alone, alive, having tea in the tea room,
I feel you here with me still.


                                                                     *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 February 2019

In This Salford Street

Dear Reader,






There are so many lovely images in the following quotes that I thought I would share them with you.

February 24th, 1798, Dorothy Wordsworth (Somerset)

......The sea, like a basin full to the margin; the dark fresh-ploughed fields;  the turnips of a lively rough green.

February 24th, 1870, Francis Kilvert, (Radnorshire)

The Black Mountains lighted up grandly, all the furrows and watercourses clear and brilliant.  People coming home from the market, birds singing, buds bursting, and the spring air full of beauty, life and hope.

February 24th, 1916, D.H.Lawrence (Cornwall)

Just at present it is very cold.  It has been blowing here also, and a bit of snow.   Till now the weather has been so mild.  Primroses and violets are out, and the gorse is lovely.  At Zennor one sees infinite Atlantic, all peacock-mingled colours, and the gorse is sunshine itself, already. But this cold wind is deadly.

                                                                            *

In This Salford Street

the houses have no eyes,
windows and doors, boarded up.
These houses were home
to someone,
people grew up here,
played life's games, made love, made babies,
made friendships last to the end.

They are all demolished now,
other people saw to that,
damp bricks and mortar,
which had served their time,
dispensable.

Nothing is left.
No shops, no pubs, no parks,
no prettiness,
nothing but rubble, dust, sadness
everywhere,
and a river running with tears.

-----------------------------                                  *

As we have seen nature is so beautiful, urban reality less so.

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Quickening



Dear Reader

Since I have become an enthusiastic bird watcher  I purchased something on line which allows me to hear the song of the garden bird.  I then decided I would learn the songs of which I knew nothing, had no idea which song went with which bird.  But, dear reader, I have found it very very difficult. 

Francis and I test each other every evening and every evening I get them wrong.  At least I thought I knew the song of the blackbird, but no I didn't.  I remember as a child learning that one bird seemed to be saying: 'a little bit of bread and no cheese', but I can't remember which bird it was supposed to be.   Could you let me know if you know the answer.

I mention the "peacock's plume" in my poem for today.  First originating in India, peacocks can trace their history back to biblical times.  They are mentioned in the bible as being part of the treasure being taken to the court of King Solomon.   Peacocks were an important symbol in Roman times, most commonly representing funerals, death and Resurrection. 

Perhaps what peacocks are best known for historically, is their long connection with the sins of pride and vanity.  This arises not only from the their great beauty but also from a tendency to strut when displaying their magnificent plumage.  In his 1836 book On the mental illumination and moral improvement of mankind,  Reverend Thomas Dick calls the peacock "the most beautiful bird in the world'.


                                                                            *

Quickening

I want the pulse of life that has been asleep
to wake, embrace me, put on the light.
To hear the thrush, song-repeat, to keep
my trust in God to hurry icy winter's flight.
I want to glimpse, under sodden leaves, green shoots
to announce life's circle, its beginnings, have begun.
I want to run barefoot, abandon boots,
to walk through primrose paths, savour the sun.
I want to take off winter's dress, change its season,
to see the coloured petticoats of spring, bloom
and show us mortals nature's reason
to start afresh,  admire the peacock's plume.
Cellar the coal, brush the ashes from the fire,
I want to intertwine, my love, quicken, feel desire.

                                                                         *

With very best wishes, Patricia