Sunday, 8 December 2019

Screams Unheard






                                                                             Imperial War Museum

                                                                                      
 Do not stand
 about here.
 Even if you are not hit
 Someone else will be.



Dear Reader,

We have been watching some wonderful old war series on DVDs shot in the 1970s.  "Enemy at the Door' is our favourite with some wonderful heart-warming stories about the occupation of Guernsey Island near France, in the second world war.  I often do think of both world wars and the incredible bravery of our soldiers, ( I suppose for all soldiers wherever they came from) and gasp at the things they did to help our side.

My father fought in the first WW as I told you on Remembrance Sunday and I so wish I had asked him about his experiences, and what he did to obtain the medals I found in his room after he died.

The poem for today I wrote after visiting a war museum in France, near Caen.  I was so upset that I had to leave before I had seen the whole museum and wept bitterly in the car park.  The friend I was staying with thought I would enjoy the outing - well how wrong she was.  She never did understand why I was so disturbed which proves, I suppose, that we are all so different, so diverse.


                                                                           *

Screams Unheard

It is very well done, she said,
the War Museum,
we will visit one afternoon.
Visit the dead?
I know the grief and loss war cause,
I remain silent, pause
then say, yes why not.

We did visit,
people crowded everywhere.
Schoolchildren were
chewing gum, shouting,
scribbling on odd pieces of paper,
bored with the uncool dead,
and old history.

We lunched in the restaurant
on hot soup, buttered buns,
then hurried downstairs
to inspect tanks and guns.
Under lowered lights
in ominous gloom,
sepia scenes of uniformed men
hung in a darkened room.

Underground now,
the bowels of the earth.
Ah, the virtual reality attraction
the gas chamber.
Permission to touch
the white tiles, the copper pipes
where the gas could come
not very nice, but very well done.

A teenager laughed,
licked his ice cream,
then wandered away,
obscene, obscene.

Normandy landings next
on film,
Sea-sodden soldiers, exhausted, cold,
weary young faces, made old,
blasts of noise, terror and blood,
bulleted corpses floating in mud.
Screech, more aircraft over,
some of  "our boys" after the Hun.
Very clever, very real,
very well done.

We should have gone to the Dolls
Museum, she said.
Perhaps more entertaining
than the dreary dead.

Did anyone else hear the screams,
or feel the grief, the anger, the fear,
all of the things I felt there?..........


                                                                             *


With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Knossos

Dear Reader,

                                                                                           Knossos



We have a bird table outside the kitchen window which affords us much pleasure.  Before it was installed I thought birds just flew about all over the place with no particular agenda in mind.  But I have discovered that I was quite wrong.  Birds seem to have a very definite routine, our birds like eating between 7.30 am to 10 am and then they go AWOL until after lunch.  And different breeds have different social habits.  The most timid are the blue tits who swoop down to peck out a seed and then are off in a great hurry.  The goldfinches on the other hand fly down onto the perch, have a good look around and then start their pecking.  They might stay there for several minutes much to the annoyance of the coal tits and blue tits, and sometimes there is a fight between all of them.  Not being much of a one to watch the television I find watching birds an enormously enjoyable pastime.  If you haven't tried it do give it a go.

                                                                          *

Jane Austen wrote a letter to James Stanier Clarke on 11th December, 1815

'Dear Sir,

My "Emma' is now so near publication that I feel it right to assure you of my not having forgotten your kind recommendation of an early copy for Carlton House and that I have Mr. Murray's promise of its being sent to His Royal Highness, under cover to you, three previous to the work being really out.'

Later in this letter she hoped people would like Emma, but wasn't quite sure if they would.  Not as much anyway as 'Pride and Prejudice" and 'Mansfield Park'.  Gosh, if only she knew.  The sales of her books, I think, go into the millions. 

                                                                          *
Knossos was a very difficult poem to write.  I don't know quite whether it works but here it is anyway.


Knossos



It was hot,
a brilliant sun shone,
sky a bright blue.
We wandered
across ancient pathways
wild flowers abundant,
climbed over pink stone walls
marking Minoan burial sites
from a thousand years ago.

We separated and I found
tucked away,
a stark white room.
It was deathly cold and
I shivered violently.
A spirit seemed to envelop me
strangle me, clasp me round my neck.
Fearful I ran away screaming,
my heart pounding.

This was the room
I later learnt, 
used for a human sacrifice,
a young man's bones lying there
bearing witness.
                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Porridge


                                                                               Winter photograph



Dear Reader,


I read this piece by Jane Austen this week written on 6th November, 1813.  I thought you too might enjoy it.

'I had long wanted to see Dr. Britten, and his wife amuses me very much with her affected refinement and elegance.  Miss Lee I found very conversible; she admires Crabbe as she ought. She is at an age of reason, ten years older than myself at least. She was at the famous Ball at Chilham Castle, so of course you remember her.  By the bye, as I must leave off being young, I find many Douceours in being a sort of Chaperon for I am put on the Sofa near the fire and can drink as much wine as I like.  We had Music in the Event, Fanny and Miss Wild played. and Mr. James Wildman sat close by and listened, or pretended to listen'.
                                                                     
What is the Age of Reason?   I wonder if I have got there at 79.

                                                                                *

In the last two weeks I have been having dizzy spells especially in bed at night if I turn my head quickly. Apparently it is quite common and called vertigo.  There is not much to be done about it except exercises which make a dizzy fit come on.  So I am not doing them and just hope it will go
away soon.

                                                                               *


Porridge

The kitchen maid
plunges thin white arms
into the heavy cast-iron pot,
scours the glutinous porridge
from its insides.
She imagines her mistress
out in her carriage
on pleasure calls,
wearing lilac silk,
freshwater pearls around her neck,
her hands, idle white, in her lap.
She weeps.

The housewife scours the saucepan,
eases the porridge from its sides,
brushes the sticky mess into the sink.
She imagines her husband
taking the train, office-bound,
making important telephone calls,
lunching with partners Lucy and George
in the Italian bistro, discussing deals,
drinking white wine, laughing, living.
She weeps.

                                                                                *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Betrayal

                                                                      Dove Cottage




                                                                   Beatrice Potter's house

Dear Reader,

Fingle Woods on the northern fringes of Dartmoor National Park should be an ideal habitat for hedgehogs, yet for decades no evidence of them has been recorded.  But now they have finally been detected in a centuries-old forest in Devon.   Hedgehogs are a great indicator of a healthy ecosystem due to their reliance on an abundance of invertebrates which, in turn, rely on dead wood and leaf litter.

But mild weather this autumn could prove fatal for hedgehog as it interrupted their hibernation. Hoglets need to be above 1lb before they hunker down for the winter, and if they are too thin they are not likely to survive. After struggling with flooding, which has ruined many of their nests, they also face the threat of warmer weather, which means they stay awake when there is not much food around causing them to use up their reserves.

                                                                          *

I have been struggling with a poem this week.  It is a bit of a ghost story which really happened to me on the island of Crete, long ago.    If I can't make it work as a poem I will tell you the story in next week's blog.

                                                                          *

Betrayal

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

We trvelled 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 heartbeat.

But you have gone.
Now I 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 best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 10 November 2019

When my Dad came home





Dear Reader,

Every year on Remembrance Sunday I think of my father, Harold Huth, an actor and film producer after the first World War.  He served in the Royal Army Service Corps and was mentioned in Dispatches on three occasions.  I have a letter written in January 1916 congratulating my grandparents from a Colonel Harrison and his other officers, on their son's distinguished conduct and gallantry   My father never spoke about his war memories but was made ill from the gas he inhaled
all his life.

Thank you Dad for the small part you played allowing me to live in freedom, and thinking of you today I send you all my love.

                                                                               *



When my dad came home

he nodded off
in the old armchair,
any time,
forgot everything,
could name no names.

Tobacco smoke from Woodbines
filled the house,
he drank malt whisky,
came home unsteadily from the pub.

He talked of cricket, he whistled
and hummed old country and western songs,
rocked in the rocking chair
and potted up red geraniums.

He ate junket and white fish,
had headaches,
and he wept sometimes.

But we were good friends, my dad and I,
night times he told me stories,
and tucked me into bed.
I never asked him about the war,
and he never said.

                                                                            *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Grief





                                                                                          Claret Bottles






Dear Reader,

It is said that 'loneliness can be every bit as debilitating as a physical ailment; as bad, it is estimated, as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day'.  Reading this piece today immediately makes me remember what it was like to be lonely after the death of my husband.  Terrible, is the word that springs to mind.   I just couldn't get to grips with the situation at all.  Get a dog or a cat was the advice I got from kindly friends, but can a dog or a cat discuss the politics of the day or help me decided if I need a coat to wear that day?  No they can't.  

Of course there are lots of things I could have done to possibly made myself less lonely and I did sometimes play bridge or ask a friend in for tea or coffee.  But what about all those many many hours by yourself?   I went for a daily walk, wrote a poem or thought about the start of one, cooked a bit for myself, but thinking about the rest of my life on my own filled me with dread and sadness.  What would be the point, just filling in the time until perhaps, mercifully, one died.  What about your children and grandchildren, people might think?  Well I love them to bits but they are all very busy.  They do visit sometimes at the weekends but in the week, they do not. 

My darling granddaughter Emma had just got a boyfriend on Tinder.  Why don't you try for one, she said,  I will help you.  And that is how I found Francis on The Telegraph Dating website. And now life is so joyful and such fun. We walk and talk together, cook new things, put on 60s music and dance after supper in the sitting room, watch WWII DVDs  and are genuinely grateful to the Good Lord that we found one another. 

So my friends if you are lonely try computer dating.  It has made the complete difference to my life
finding a loving companion in Francis.

                                                                            *


Grief

Grief bridles you
holds the reins
is an unwanted guest in your head
releases uncontrollable torrents of tears

is ever present
your albatross

you glimpse a slipper
under a chair
study the wedding photographs
count the claret bottles
no longer wanted
and you weep

                                                                             *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Yes, the Neighbours






Dear Reader


Aren't the autumn colours we can see in woods and hedgerows this year wonderful?  Perhaps they always have been, and I quote here from one or two journals and diaries from yesteryear to prove a point.

October 26th, Gilbert White, 1783 in Hampshire.

'If a masterly landscape painter was to take our hanging woods in their autumnal colours, persons unacquainted with the country would object to the strength and deepness of the tints and would pronounce, at an exhibition, that they were heightened and shaded beyond nature.'

October 26th, William Cowper, 1790 in Buckinghamshire.

'A yellow shower of leaves is falling continually from all the trees in the country....The consideration of my short continuance here, which was once grateful to me, now fills me with regret.   I would live and live always.'

October 30th, Dorothy Wordsworth, 1802 in Westmoreland.

'It is a breathless, grey day, that leaves the golden woods of autumn quiet in their own tranquillity, stately and beautiful in their decaying; the lake is a perfect mirror.'

                                                                                   *

Animal news:   The rare greater Horseshoe bat has been recorded in Kent for the first time in more than 100 years, according to the Bat Conservation Trust.  The reason for the presence of the species in Kent is not known.  It is possible that an individual bat was blown off course or has travelled from France, or that a bat has dispersed across Britain from strongholds in the west of England or Wales.

                                                                                   *

Yes, the Neighbours

were very nice

two lovely children
playing quietly in the garden
a large friendly dog
no loud music
no noisy cars

I can't think
who would do this
to them

such a happy, smiling family
such a shame
such a waste

I am so sorry

But, of course,
we never spoke to them
she said.

                                                                                    *

With very best wishes, Patrica.