Sunday, 19 May 2019

Attic Trunk


Dear Reader,






Dear Reader,

I asked a couple of fairly new and lovely friends for coffee this week from the same village that I live in.  We talked in general terms about holidays we had been on, Brexit, and exchanged ideas and experiences of dementia.  But it wasn't until the visit was nearly at its end that we discussed our respective families.  I asked them about their children, how many they had and what did they do.  And they asked me about mine.  It was all very interesting and illuminating.  But what we all discovered was that nobody else ever asked us these questions.  I once travelled up to Stratford with a new friend and although I asked her about her children, she didn't ask me about mine the whole car journey to and from Stratford. This is very strange, I think and know now why we like our old friends best, the ones who know our history and what is precious to us. 

                                                                             *




Attic Trunk

Searching through her mother's attic trunk
she recognised a dusty, broken cricket bat,
saw a tiny knotted shawl that must have shrunk
and a youthful photo of Aunt Dora, looking fat.
She found silver shoes wrapped in a crimson gypsy skirt
and a purple box housing a worn-thin wedding ring,
a Spanish fan trimmed with lace, and a grandad shirt
embracing faded love letters, tied with ageing string.
From sepia postcards she studied unknown folk,
and pulled out, lovingly, a greasy-tweed cloth cap,
her father's penny whistle, a badger carved from oak,
and brass rubbings, rolled up in a parchment map.
Precious things we keep are candles on our life's tree,
their discovery tells secret stories, provides a key.


                                                                               *

With very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 12 May 2019

Loss




Dear Reader,

It was announced this week that an archaeological treasure had been found in England during road widening works in Essex, between Aldi supermarket and a pub. Do you remember dear reader when I wrote about Richard III's bones that were found under a car park in Leicester two years ago?

Well this treasure, found under the supermarket, is what archaeologists believe to be the earliest Christian royal tomb ever unearthed in the UK.  The site  at Prittlewell, near Southend, discovered in 2003, has uncovered a trove of artifacts providing an unrivalled snapshot of Anglo-Saxon England at the end of the sixth century.  In the chamber they found an ornate lyre, a painted box and a flagon thought to have come from Syria, and gold foil crosses.  The body (possibly King Seaxa) had been laid in a wooden coffin with  small gold foil cross over each eye. The box in the tomb is the only surviving example of painted Anglo-Saxon woodwork in Britain.

Sophie Jackson, the museum's director of research said: "It's a really interesting time when Christianity is sort of creeping in and this is all possibly before Augustine sent his mission to Britain to convert the country to Christianity, so they would have been just on the transition between having pagan burials with all your gear but also having these crosses."

                                                                             *


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 the 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 very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Small Pleasures in Old Age



Dear Reader,

From Dorothy Wordsworth's journal, 1820, May 5th, Westmorland

"A sweet morning .......The small birds are singing, lambs bleating, cuckow (sic) calling, the thrush sings by fits, Thomas Ashburner's axe is going quietly (without passion) in the orchard, hens crackling, flies humming, the women talking together at their doors, plum and pear trees are in blossom - apple trees greenish."

From Francis Kilvert's diary, l870, May 9th, Radnorshire

"The turtles were trilling softly and deeply in the dingles as I went up the steep orchard.  The grass was jewelled with cowslips amd orchises (sic).  The dingle was lighted here and there with wild cherry, bird cherry, the Welsh name of which being interpreted is 'the tree on which the devil hung his mother'.  The mountain burned blue in the hot afternoon."

Our weather has been so strange lately hasn't it?  Easter weekend was so hot and lovely, and now I am back in my winter clothes, vest and all.  And the heating is on again!.

                                                                               *

Small Pleasures in Old Age

Listening to Mozart's Andante
in front of a log fire

hearing the robin's call
in early spring
spotting the first violets, first primroses

walking in the woods
sitting under the trees
whilst the bagpipe utters

their unique spiritual sounds
watching the deer hurrying
through the undergrowth

following the antics
of the Archer family
eating peanut butter sandwiches

watching the goldfinch spitting
out seeds, and laughing
at the absurdity of life itself

exchanging family news
proudly loving the grandchildren
and their stories

small away holidays
with Francis, by the sea
in Dorset

And, perhaps, most of all
not saying yes to things
when I mean no

                                                                      *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Rooks





Dear Reader,

After a pretty trying week looking after my sister who has dementia, Francis and I went down to my favourite place in Dorset, Lyme Regis.  Enjoying a well earned rest we stayed at an airbnb in the town, and spent much of our time in the sunshine on Charmouth and Lyme beaches.  Francis played his bagpipe on the beach, which amused lots of people.

But the interesting thing to recount to you was the absence of seagulls.  This is the reason.  Two enormous birds of prey called Winnie and Kojak patrol beaches in Lyme Regis to prevent visitors having their sandwiches, fish and chips, or ice cream stolen by the gulls. Apparently through the summer months the eagles will patrol the promenade on their owner's arms.  Their presence is enough to stop hundreds of seagulls from swooping down, tests have shown.  The Lyme Regis Town Council has tried other methods to deter the gulls but nothing has worked as well.

                                                                              *

Rooks

I was fourteen,
when I first heard
the call of the rooks
caw-cawing
their eerie cries.

From a Cornish cottage garden
I walked down through
dark woods to the beach,
a remote place,
just dunes, sand, the sea
and me, a confused, angry teenager,
with the rooks caw-cawing in my ears
disturbing my thoughts.

Even now, in later years,
whenever I hear whispers from the wind,
or sea lapping over large grey stones
ever forward, ever backward,
glimpse a faraway horizon
and see twilight descending
darkening the sky,
the rooks in large black groups
flying high towards
their evening bed,
cawing, cawing, cawing,
my heart misses a beat
and an unexplained sadness
overcomes me.

                                                                      *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Friday, 12 April 2019

England Dear to Me









Dear Reader,


 I am writing my blog this week not on Sunday, 14th, but on Friday, 12th.  This is because Francis and I are going to look after my sister, who has dementia,  and won't be anywhere near a computer until the 25th of April.

Do you remember in March this year I wrote about Tesco putting up netting to stop birds nesting in their buildings, and I said I hoped no one else would think of doing this.  Well this week I see that the North Norfolk District Council has put up netting on the Bacton cliff, stopping the sand martins from returning to their nests after their perilous journey from Africa. Apparently many of these sand martins die of thirst and exhaustion on their way across the seas and arrive in Britain very weary.  A Prof. Ben Garrod, of the University of East Anglia, said the sand martins discovered in Europe in the 16th century had been in the area "longer than the people have".  He also said that they had been nesting in the cliff for hundreds of years, and likely more.

I expect you all read the reports in the newspaper this week so I won't say anything further but I am appalled and sad about our England.   Richard II's  "blessed plot, sceptered isle" .....no more

                                                                                 *

England Dear to Me


It is the robins, blackbirds, blue tits,
hopping and grubbing in the garden
that lurch my heart
make England dear to me.
It is the velvet of green moss,
oak trees, old with history,
the first cowslips,
hedgerows filled with dog rose, foxgloves,
and shy sweetpeas in China bowls.
It is finding tea rooms in small market towns,
enticing with homemade scones and strawberry jam,
or suddenly glimpsing church spires
inching their way to heaven.
It is finding a Norman church,
full with a thousand years of prayers,
and a quiet churchyard mothering its dead.
It is small country lanes, high hedged,
views of mauve hills, stretching skywards,
sheep and lambs dotting the green,
and bleached Norfolk beaches,
silence only broken with a seagull's cry.
It is the people,
their sense of humour,
their way of saying sorry when you bump into them,
their fairness, and once or twice a year
their "letting go",
singing "Jerusalem" with tears and passion.

It is these things
that lurch my heart
make England dear to me.
                                                                           *

With very best wishes, and Happy Easter
Patricia
                                                                  

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Life's Bran Tub



Dear Reader,

Finally I have come to realize that you, the reader, do not like the photographs I put on this blog if they are of a gloomy nature.   Of course I quite understand this point of view but the photographs are always to do with the poem of the day, and some of my poems, if not most of them, do have a serious message.

But I thought this funny piece from Francis Kilvert's diary might amuse you today - it is cold and wet here and staying in by the fire is, I think,  just the ticket.

Wednesday, 9th April, 1873

"While we were sitting at supper this evening we were startled by a sound under the sideboard as if a rat were tearing and gnawing at the wainscot or skirting board.  The noise ceased and then began again.  Suddenly Dora uttered an exclamation and a strange look came into her face.  She seized the lamp and went to the sideboard pointing to a white-handled knife which lay under the sideboard and which she said she had seen a moment before crawling and wriggling along the floorcloth by itself and making the tearing, gnawing, rending noise we had heard.  No one knew how the knife had got under the sideboard.  As four of us stood round looking at the knife lying on the floorcloth suddenly the knife leaped into the air and fell back without anyone touching it.  It looked very strange and startled us a good deal.  We thought of spirit agency and felt uncomfortable and compared the time expecting to hear more of the matter, until Dora observed a very tiny grey mouse taking the buttered point of the knife in his mouth and dragging it along and walking backwards.  Then all was explained."

                                                                                *


Life's Bran Tub

Under a cowl
a glimpsed face,
ploughed with hardship.
A grim mouth,
with broken teeth,
thin and hungry looking,
eyes dull, destined
to assured adversity.                            

Under a crown of hair,                      
a glimpsed face,
round and fair,
with milky skin,
bright yes, white teeth,
and confident smile
of assured security.

                                                                                *

 With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Fudge and Food for Thought



Dear Reader,

I am back reading about the Tudor Age.  What is it about the Tudor Age that is so compelling I wonder?  Perhaps it was because it was such an exciting time, never knowing, for instance, what
Henry VIII would do next.  About food this week:  apparently ordinary Englishmen ate well during the Tudor Age.  They lived on beef, mutton, capons and pigeons. They ate wheat bread and rye bread, butter, cheese, eggs and fish.  A Frenchman who came over to England in 1598 remarked that the English ate more meat and less bread than the French, and had better table manners.  He also noted that they put lots of sugar in their drinks, which he thought was the reason why so many Englishmen and women, including the Queen, had black teeth.   A good deal of honey was eaten and as English honey had a reputation for being particularly good, it was exported in large quantities to France and other countries.

The Englishman had a reputation throughout Europe for gluttony; it was said that overeating was the English vice, just as lust was the French Vice and drunkenness the German vice.

                                                                         *



Fudge and Food for Thought

In the night, captive,
I think of all the fudge I ate,
all the feelings of guilt I had
in my teens, my middle age, old age,
all the sadness at my weakness
my inability to resist temptation.

Tossing uneasily in my bed
I think would I be more comely
if I had resisted,
more desirable, prettier, more amusing,
would I have had a happier life
without fudge in it?

At dawn, I think, what the hell.
Now in my seventies, does it matter
what I ate to make me fatter?
Because now I am where I want to be
plump, happy, peaceful, and guilt free.

                                                                        *

With very best wishes, Patricia