Sunday, 5 July 2020

Resolution

Dear Reader,

I have decided not to put any more photographs on to Face Book from this week onwards. I think I never really understood what Face Book was for, but it has slowly dawned on me that it isn't for people who want to read my blog or indeed my poetry.  It is a sociable medium, where you can read about your friends, see amusing photographs of them, or write about anything that has struck you of interest in the week.

Sometimes if I see something of interest I will put it up but, in the meantime, I will just continue to write this blog and publish one of my poems each week.  I hope you will still enjoy the page which you can get by putting : acotswoldpoet.blogspot.com     onto google and it will come up.  I hope.   I am not very computer literate but I think that will work.

                                                                                   *

July 5th, from Dorothy Wordsworth, 1802 in Westmorland

'A very sweet morning.  William stayed some time in the orchard....It came on to rain, and we could not go to Dove Nest as we had intended....The roses in the garden are fretted and battered and quite spoiled, the honey suckle, though in its glory, is sadly teazed.   The peas are beaten down.  The scarlet beans want sticking.  The garden is overrun with  weeds.'


                                                                                  *

Resolution

I need to breathe salt sea air,
run down to the shell-strewn beach,
let the sharp east wind blow through my hair,
run for the horizon away out of reach.

I need the sound of the seagull's cry,
the music of waves rolling on sand
to help with questions of whether and why
I should change my direction, and stand

up for what I believe in.
I need the strength I know I will find
on that quiet sunfilled beach,
to be resolute, make up my mind.

Enveloped in peace, silence and sea
I will whisper to the listening wind,
"I have made the decision, watch over me,
I"m taking the path I've determined".


                                                                              *

Very best wishes, Patricia




Sunday, 28 June 2020

Viking Footsteps





                                                             Viking Fire Festival, Flamborough Head




Dear Reader

I think it is a mistake for me to read about  loved authors personal life, it seems to spoil the books that I have so enjoyed.  Over the years I have read most of Charles Dickens's novels and loved them, but knew next to nothing about his life.  Now I have just finished a book about him and feel very disillusioned.  He married Catherine Hogarth, a pretty blue eyed girl of nineteen when he was twenty three.  Subsequently they had ten children in sixteen years, none of whom Charles seemed to care for very much, and then he decided that he and Catherine had never had anything in common. And he said she was fat.  He separated from her and had a love affair with his mistress, Ellen Ternan, an actress. 

I was in love with Thomas Hardy all through my teenage years.  I read all his books many times over and I absolutely loved his poetry.  But when I read about his life I was severely disappointed in him as a person,
and it slightly coloured my view of his work.

                                                                                           *

From James Woodforde, June 19th, 1799 in Norfolk

'Very cold indeed again today, so cold that Mrs Custance came walking in her spencer with a bosom -friend.'

Mrs. Custance, as a lady of fashion, would have worn her gowns low cut, in the bosomy manner so often drawn by Rowlandson: in cold weather she would have needed the fashionable item of clothing known as the 'bosom-friend'.


                                                                                           *

Viking Footsteps

There it is: a windswept empty beach,
great fields of white sand dressed
in driftwood, seaweed, plastic bottles,
flotsam, pebbles, shells, stones, and kelp skeins.
It stretches away to the horizon.

Seagulls, gannets, terns, twist and fly,
make their repetitive cries, peck the ground.
Small pools of seawater form
as the tide goes out, sea creatures swimming
there.

But is that a long boat, red sails fluttering, I see?
And are those uncovered Viking footsteps in the sand?
And do I smell spitted meat, mead and honey
drifting past me on the sea-scented air?

The sand dunes hug their silent secrets,
letting the quiet southerly wind
rustle through marram grasses.
I ask them, do Viking voices whisper
on that wind,
sometimes, on an icy night under a starlit sky?

                                                                                             *


With very best wishes, Patricia

Photograph of Viking Fire festival by Kaye Leggett

Sunday, 21 June 2020

For You, Everyman

                                                                                   
                                                                    







Dear Reader,

A delightful piece today from Francis Kilvert's diary.  It also makes a change from the world news which is so depressing.   Whilst we were in lockdown people seemed to appreciate the silence and the empty spaces, started really hearing the birds song, and enjoyed crosswords and jigsaw puzzles.  But no more. People are on the move again, and angry.  Angry about everything including our history which they would like to obliterate, or change.  I have no idea whether they are right, or partially right, but it is the violence that goes with all these protest marches that upsets me. Surely there is a more peaceful way to negotiate.

Sunday, 15th June, from Francis Kilvert's diary 1872.

'A beautiful peaceful summer morn such as Robert Burns would have loved.  Perfect peace and rest.  The sun and the golden buttercup meadows had it almost all to themselves.  A few soft fleecy clouds were rising out to the west but the gentle warm air scarcely stirred even the leaves on the lofty tops of the great poplars.   One or two people were crossing the Common early by several paths through the sea of golden 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 and a dove was pleading in the elm and 'making intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered'.


                                                                              *

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 business suit, in kaftan,
You, the tall, you, the short.

Yes. You, Everyman.

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

                                                                                 *

With best wishes, Patricia.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

The Mind Cupboard


                                                          
                                                      Butterflies seen on a walk in the Cotswolds this week.


Dear Reader,

We had excitement this week because we had an engagement party for my daughter Tiffany and her fiancee Duncan.  We had it in the garden in the pouring rain, and toasted the happy couple in Prosecco
from plastic mugs.  But, strangely, it was one of the best parties I have ever been to.  Emma, my granddaughter, who has a lovely voice sang a jolly song, and also did  small sketch of a hungry dog watching his master eating something delicious from the fridge, but not having any himself, which she had seen on YouTube. Francis and I did a short rendering of the song from the film 'Goodness Gracious Me'  with Sophia Lauren and Peter Sellers. 

When they all left and I went inside I was soaking wet and worried that I would get a chest cold (which I do at the drop of a hat) but decided it had been a great fun occasion and how I loved my family.  I am so glad Duncan has come to join us. Funny I didn't ever think a party in the rain would be entertaining, but it certainly was.  If you are still in lockdown and can only see your family in the garden, don't be put off by the rain.

                                                                                       *

From Horace Walpole, 1791 in Middlesex

'It froze hard last night:  I went out for 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.'

                                                                                          *


The Mind Cupboard

          
My mind cupboard overflows
with unwanted debris.
It needs a spring clean.

I will brush away the cobwebs
of cheerless thoughts.
Scrub out the stains of childhood.

I will replace the brass hooks
corroded with salt tears,
empty all the screams
hoarded through the years.

I will replace the accumulated ashes
from the worn shelf-paper.
with virgin tissue.

I will chase and catch the wasps,
relieve them of their stings.
I will refill this cupboard
with love, and learnt, brighter things.


                                                                                              *

With very best wishes, Patricia

The butterfly photographs were taken by Nikki Moran.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Bus Stop Princess

Dear Reader,

Over this lockdown period I understand that everyone has been eating more than they usually do. Well I don't suppose they could have eaten as much as King Edward VII did in his life.  He ate and drank copiously of the rich food which was served at grand Edwardian dinner tables.  At a typical dinner given for his male friends. even though he was in failing health, included: turtle soup, salmon, grilled chicken, saddle of mutton, snipe stuffed with foie gras, asparagus, fruit, a large iced concoction and a savoury.  And by his bedside when he was staying away, the hostesses knew that they had to provide a cold chicken in case he felt hungry in the night. Queen Victoria, his mother,  also had a large appetite and sometimes had 18 courses for dinner.  No wonder Queen Victoria, in her photographs, looks so glum

What I can't imagine is how they could eat so much and not get indigestion or something worse.  God knows what they felt like the following morning after so much food and drink. 

                                                                                      *

The poem today "Bus Stop Princess" is one of my favourites.  It is a true story.  I saw her.

                                                                                      *

Bus Stop Princess

She waited, unnoticed, invisible.
Her fluffy green jersey egg-stained,
uninteresting trousers and sensible shoes
inviting no attention.
She was a brown paper parcel,
loosely string-tied.

But she smiled at me
with such sweetness,
such a smile of goodness,
I saw her sensible shoes,
become sparkling slippers,
her shabby clothes
turn into a ball dress
fashioned from sunlight,
stitched up with love.

Not then a story-book princess,
but a real princess
glimpsed at a bus stop.


                                                                                  *

With very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 31 May 2020

Will,








                                             
In a Devon Valley, now and then

Dear Reader,

I was watching a DVD about the beginning of the 1914/18 war. In it was this young lad from a rural community in Devon.  I suppose he left school at about fourteen and knew very little about life in the wider world.  He thought going to war would be an adventure, was excited at the prospect of going overseas.  And, so he was told, was coming home by Christmas.  Little did he know poor chap.
And it was the same story for thousands of young men seduced into a uniform to fight the Hun.
Not only did thousands die, impaled on the wire on their first day at Pachendale, but they left behind a whole generation of young women with no one to marry.  My own nanny, Agnes Ellen Turner, who  I thought of as my mother, had a beau called Henry before the war.  They were courting
for two years, then she waved him off at Plymouth to sail to France.  But he didn't return. He was killed. And Nanny remained unwed all her life.

                                                                                             *

I often wondered what 'mind your own beeswax' meant.  Now I think I know, and will share this with you.   The use of beeswax in the eighteenth century was used to fill small pox marks on the face.  If you sat too near the fire the wax would melt and run. So you might not look your best.

                                                                                              *


Will,

a young Devon lad
from the valley,
sunburnt, strong,
worked on the land,
rode the horses,
fed the pigs.
That was all he knew.

Then the war came.
He enlisted
for a few shillings,
excited at the thought of France,
the apple orchards,
beating the Hun,
being home for Christmas.

What he didn't know,
and wasn't told,
was the horror of it all.
The fleas, the rats, the noise,
the mud, the incessant rain,
the lice,
and, of course, the bombs.

On the second day out
scared, wet and cold,
he was impaled on wire,
had his head blown off.

                                                  Did Will die a hero
                                                  in that horrific war?
                                                  Or was it all lies
                                                  he gave his life for?

                                                                                             *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Top photograph of Devon taken by Kaye Leggett.



Sunday, 24 May 2020

The Man from Middlesbrough

                                                                            
The North Sea


Dear Reader,

I hope you will like the poem: The Man from Middlesbrough, which I am putting on the blog this week.  I wrote it in a rage when I heard that the shipyard there was being closed.

Once upon a time shipbuilding thrived on the Tees.  For over two centuries the river Tees was among the most productive shipbuilding regions in the United Kingdom.  The company, William Gray and Furness built ships of many types sailing under a multitude of flags and owners.  Smith's Dock, another ship yard on the Tees, launched more than 900 vessels from South Bank, ranging from tugs and trawlers to warships, tankers and bulk carriers, between 1908 and its closure in 1987.

I think some shipyards were closed as being associated with the risk of asbestos exposure.  Well whatever the reason for shutting down the ship yard in Middlesbrough, hundreds of men were made redundant when it closed.

I heard the man in the poem speaking on the radio with such despair in his voice, I sat down and wrote this poem straight away.

                                                                          *
                                                                      

The Man from Middlesbrough

ordered another cup of tea
lit another cigarette

He held his head
in his history-stained hands,
nicotine fingers clutching
tufts of dirty grey hair.
He stared, not-seeing, at
the plastic tablecloth,
his mind numb.

His father, his grandfather,
worked in this shipyard,
watched ships lovingly grow
from steel plates to proud traders,
built to sail from the Tees estuary,
into the North Sea
and the world's great oceans.

In his head the man heard the noise,
music to him, of drag chains,
when a ship pushed along
the greasy slipway, slid into the sea.
The the man thought of his mates,
of shared experiences from school days,
first girlfriends, first kisses,
walks in the Cleveland hills.
And he thought of the old canteen,
warm with steam from the tea urn,
from brotherhood.

The man wiped his eyes
with the back of his hand,
ordered another cup of tea,
lit another cigarette.

                                                                                *


From DH Lawrence, 1916,  in Cornwall

'The country is simply wonderful, blue, graceful little companies of bluebells everywhere on the moors, the gorse in flame, and on the cliffs and by the sea, a host of primroses, like settling butterflies, and seapinks like a hover of pink bees, near the water.  There is a Spanish ship run on the rocks just below - great excitement everywhere.'


With very best wishes, Patricia



Top photograph of the North Sea by Kaye Leggett