Sunday, 13 June 2021

Yes, the Neighbours







                                                                            

                                                                              Neighbours
 

 

Dear Reader, 


I think it is interesting thinking about neighbours, new and old, and how best to approach them.  Do we want them to be our friends or simply be able to nod if we see them in the street?   We have some new neighbours.  They are a young couple with a small child.  Francis drew a card of welcome for them and we left it in their house to open when they arrived. Very sweetly they came round and introduced themselves to us, a doctor and a speech therapist and an adorable baby.  But we haven't seen them since.  My question is would they have liked us to call round and tell them where the best bread in town is to be bought, or how well we thought of the local dentist, or where were the best walks near our houses? Any of these things or none?

And the neighbours we have known for four or five years, what about them?  How much can we call on them? Three different couples and all delightful.  During lockdown each couple went shopping for us, dropped round (to the front door)  just to see we were coping, and spoke to us on the telephone several times.  Sadly I know that they are all very busy but one woman, we will call her Dora, loves my poetry and all the things she says about my poems are touching and poignant.  I would love to see more of her but know this is not possible. 

I suppose there is a sort of code for how to be a good neighbour.  Smiling when you see them but allowing them their space, seems to be about it.  


                                                                                     *

From Horace Walpole, June 14th, 1791, in Middlesex

'It froze hard last night: I went out or a moment to look at my haymakers, and was starved.  The contents of an English June are hay and ice, orange flowers and rheumatism.  I am now cowering over the fire.'


From Francis Kilvert, June 15th, 1873 in Wiltshire

'The sun and the golden buttercup meadows had it almost to themselves.....One or two people were crossing the Common early by the several paths through the golden sea of buttercups which will soon be the silver sea of ox-eyes.  The birds were singing quietly.  The cuckoo's notes tolled clear and sweet as a silver bell.'

                                                                                      *


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, Patricia



Sunday, 6 June 2021

That July



 

Dear Reader,

It seems that the famous painting by John Constable, known as 'The Hay Wain' was no such thing.  Most people apparently don't know the difference between a cart and a wagon.  A cart has two wheels and a wagon has four.  It is, in reality, a pole tug, designed and used to transport what remained of a tree after felling, when all the branches and foliage had been removed. What remained was the stock, which had to be taken to the foresters' premises so that it could be sawn into planks - via a saw pit. These vehicles would be soaked in a pond during the summer months to make sure that the spokes remained tight.

I have to say that most wagons, carts, and carriages look much the same to me. But I will look with more attention next time we go somewhere where there are these vehicles for us to inspect.


                                                                                   *

From Thomas Hardy, June 2nd, l865, in London

'Walked about by moonlight in the evening.  Wondered what woman, if any, I should be thinking about in five years' time.'

From Gilbert White, June 5th, 1782, in Hampshire

'My brother Thomas White nailed up several large scallop shells under the eaves of his house at South Lambeth, to see if the house-martins would build in them. These conveniences had not been fixed up half an hour before several pairs settled upon them; and expressing great complacency, began to build immediately.'

                                                                                   *


That July

we planned to walk
along the river bank,
play bridge,
stay overnight in
a superior hotel,
eat in a white
linen-clothed dining room,
exchange gossip, news,
make jokes.

But someone-other
planned other-wise.
No river walks, or talks,
or jokes.
A fatal illness struck,
marked "no reprieve",
with no allowance
for two days under a sunny sky,
our special summer treat,

that July.

                                                                               *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Loss






 Dear reader,


I think this month of May, 2021, has been so depressing.  I could never work out whether it had actually got any hotter or whether it was just cold and damp. It usually was cold and damp. The thermostat in my body doesn't seem to work very well and I often find I am hot when everyone else is cold or visa versa.  So I am constantly putting layers of clothes on or taking them off.  Mostly putting them back on this May.  And I think we all long for a sight of the sun.  Francis and I try to go for a walk every day but I must say I have no enthusiasm for an east wind blowing through me, straight from Siberia. So sometimes we just don't have a walk and end up frustrated having taken no exercise.  Still today the elusive sun is actually shining and we intend to eat outside. Perhaps summer really has come at last.

                                                                                      *

From Samuel Pepys, 1662, May 29th, in Surrey

'With my wife and the two maids and the boy took boat and to Vauxhall, where I had not been a great while.  To the old Spring Garden, and there walked long, and the wenches gathered pinks'.

From William Cowper, 1786, May 29th, Buckinghamshire

'The grass under my windows is all bespangled with dewdrops, and the birds are singing in the apple trees, among the blossoms.  Never poet had a more commodious oratory in which to invoke his Muse'.


                                                                                      *

Loss

The old woman
totters slowly down the path.
Holding her hand we
go into the field
pick daffodils and buttercups.
Spring is on its way.

Later in her kitchen
she tries to say something, to find words
which seem to flutter away,
escape her, but she manages:
"I don't live
in this house, I live elsewhere."

She lies down on the sofa.
"I like looking at the sky" she murmurs,
and closing her eyes she falls asleep.
I kiss her on her pale, cold cheeks,
and weep.......

                                                                               *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 16 May 2021

At Last







 Dear Reader,


My poem this week is about the topical subject of hugging.  You have probably read lots about tomorrow, Monday, being the day we are all allowed to hug someone and how completely wonderful that will be.  In fact I did an illicit hug with my granddaughter last week, I just couldn't wait any longer. And it was such an intense moment of bliss I will never forget it. I don't know whether you remember my poem about 'a gentleman of the road' who I met when I was working for the Samaritans.  We had chatted for quite some time about his life and when he left I gave him a hug. He hadn't touched another human being for over thirty years, he said, as a tear fell down his cheek.  But I think the hug I gave him cheered him up and helped him on his way.  It was emotional for me too.  

So go out there, my friends, and hug as many people as you can.  I think it is a great deprivation to ask humans not to touch each other. We are social animals and as such need to express ourselves to others in the way of a hug.  Obviously there are some people who do not want to be hugged: well that is their perogative. But for me, hugging is what I like to do, confirming my love for that person in my arms.

Some people find hugging a tree very endearing and satisfying.  So I have put a photograph of someone doing just that.

                                                                                     *

A British firm has become embroiled in an internationsl legal battle over who is entitled to produce Manuka honey.  It is feared that beekeepers from New Zealand want to ensure only honey produced in their country can carry the title.  A single jar of this honey can cost hundreds of pounds depending whether it meets certain criteria.  I buy mine from the Co-op and I think it is about ten pounds a jar.
It is delicious and apparently, in all sorts of ways, very good for you.  So if you feel weak after all the excitement of hugging again, I recommend you buy ajar.

                                                                                      *

At last           (after Covid restrictions were lifted)

the excitement
of hugging someone
after so long
the ecstatic feeling of
somebody much loved in your arms
kissing their cheeks
again and again
holding their hands, holding them close
fingers locking
standing still
breathing their breath
crying with pent up relief
filling that enormous
longing ache
with love and laughter
again


                                                                                  *

With very best wishes, Patricia


 


Tuesday, 11 May 2021

The Holiday Cottage




Dear Reader, 


In the six years I have been writing this small blog I have only missed seven Sundays in all that time. But I really hate not writing it and this last Sunday was no exception so I am really sorry if you missed me. On Saturday I had a tooth out and it was all most unpleasant.  It was a back molar and took some time to move. The dentist had to cut three roots and then I had more injections and when I finally came out I was feeling very groggy and ill.  In fact I shan't be going to that dentist again. The attacked gum is healing now but still feels painful.  Anyway, that is the reason I wasn't able to write on Sunday.

                                                                                          

                                                                                      *

From DH Lawrence, 1915, May 15th in Sussex

I find the country very beautiful.  The apple trees are leaning forwards, all white with blossom, towards the green grass.  I watch, in the morning when I wake up, a thrush on the wall outside the window - not a thrush, a blackbird - and he sings, opening his beak.   It is a strange thing to watch his singing, opening his beak and giving out his calls and warblings, then remaining silent.  He looks so remote, so buried in primeval silence, standing there on the wall, and bethinking himself, then opening his beak to make the strange, strong sound.  he seems as if his singing were a sort of talking to himself, or of thinking aloud his strongest thoughts.  I wish I were a blackbird, like him.  I hate men.

 

                                                                                        *

 

The Holiday Cottage

The lone cottage is whitewashed
a small wicker fence
with garden gate
leads to the shore,
to the sea.
Before breakfast I take a cup of tea
on to the sand dunes,
breathe in the salt air,
search the horizon
or watch gannets,
seagulls, terns.
The wind blows softly.

But the cottage is not whitewashed,
does not sit by itself.
And the sea is far off.
This cottage is on an estate,
adjoining houses on either side,
loud music bellows from a window,
cars and trucks fill the drive,
a food store across the road
is the view.

                                                                                  *

With very best wishes, Patricia





Sunday, 2 May 2021

Porridge





 


Dear Reader,

I have decided this week to put the poem first on the blog because the pictures are so pertinent to the poem.

 

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 images her husband
taking the train, office bound,
making important telephone calls,
lunching with partners Lucy and George
in that Italian bistro, discussing deals,
drinking white wine, laughing, living.
She weeps.

                                                                                    *

Joe Shute in the Daily Telegraph wrote this week about Dawn Chorus Day, May 2nd, an annual event celebrating birdsong at the time of year when it has reached its raucous peak.  Apparently the birds sing loudly because it is the height of the breeding season and each song represents a spirited defence of their territories as they care busily for their young.  But it is the weather that really conducts this great seasonal orchestra.  The chilly mornings we have been having and a prolonged cold spell will perhaps dampen things a little this year.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the impact of cold weather, especially sharp frost and snow, on bird song.  Ground-feeding species such as wrens, larks and thrushes, which are are a key part of the dawn chorus, feel the effects of the cold more than most.  Coal tits, for some reason, are believed to be especially responsive to sunshine, while blackbirds will still sing in the rain.


                                                                                     *

I always think May is a bit of a treacherous month where the weather is concerned.  All of us longing to feel the sun, and welcome some warmth in the air, forget that in the evenings and at night it is still cold. We put on cotton shirts and possibly shorts, and not much else and then wonder why we have caught a beastly cold. I remember years ago staying with friends and pleased that the sun shone, I wore a summer dress. And was ill for weeks afterwards having caught a chill and a cold. I am still wearing winter clothes today and if the east wind blows I shan't venture out at all.

*

Very best wishes, Patricia.




 


Sunday, 25 April 2021

A table for One


                                                                                    Table laid for one
 

Dear Reader,


I wrote today's poem when I was staying in Lyme Regis some years ago, and had gone out for supper to a restaurant near to our hotel.  As one does, we looked round to see who else was there, this was before the days of coronavirus and all its restrictions on outings.

In the next door table sat a woman on her own.  But I knew she wasn't happy, she searched in her handbag for a handkerchief and tears spotted her cheeks.  She ate her supper and drank a glass of wine but looked miserable nevertheless.  But when she left the restaurant I felt so guilty. Why hadn't I spoken to her, why hadn't Francis? She might have cheered up and told us her story.  Of course, perhaps she was used to being on her own,  had decided to reach out, to try a small adventure of eating in a restaurant solo, and then found it lonely and not to her taste.  I don't know, it could have been so many things but maybe if we had spoken to her she might have felt better.  And so might of I.

                                                                                           

 

                                                                                            *

From Dorothy Wordsworth. 1802, Westmorland, April 29th

'A beautiful morning - the sun shone an all was pleasant....William lay, and I lay, in the trench under the fence - he with his eyes shut, and listening to the waterfalls and the birds. There was no one waterfall above another - it was a sound of waters in the air - the voice of the air.  William heard me breathing and rustling now and then, but we both lay still, and unseen by one another; the thought that it would be as sweet thus to lie so the in the grave, to hear the peaceful sounds of the earth, and just to know that our dear friends were near.


                                                                                          *


A Table for One

The woman sat alone
in a corner,
at a table for one.
She ate slowly
sipped from a wine glass.

I guess she was middle-aged
or a little older,
an ordinary woman
who seemed immensely sad.

She started talking to herself
her mouth making silent words,
took a handkerchief from her pocket
and wiped her eyes.

What was her story?
had she been in this hotel before
with a lover who had left her
did she come back to this place
to grieve each year?

I don't know her story
but she touched my heart.
I longed to cheer her,
speak to her but I said nothing.
I often think of her,
wish I had been braver.

                                                                              *


With very best wishes, Patricia