Sunday, 17 January 2021

Small Moments of Warmth






                                                                                      Pony and trap

 

Dear Reader,

The pony and trap photographs are to do with the poem below.

                                                                                              *

From 1655 a pint of rum was the usual ration handed to each sailor in the Royal Navy.  It was served every day, half at 12 noon and the second half at about 5 or 6 pm, (though the amount decreased in following years). The rum ration was known as 'Pusser's Rum' the name being a corruption of Purser, the person who issued the rum each day.

Legend has it that Pusser's Rum is sometimes referred to as 'Nelson's Blood', because after the great Admiral Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, his body was preserved in a cask of spirits on its way home. But sailors are said to have drilled holes into the sides of the cask letting the liquid drain away. The sailors essentially drank his blood during the long journey.

 

                                                                                              *

 From Gilbert White, 1791, in Hampshire 

"Rugged, Siberian weather.  The narrow lanes are full of snow in some places...The road-waggons are obliged to stop, and the stage-coaches are much embarassed.  I was obliged to be much abroad on this day, and scarce ever saw its fellow.'

From James Woodforde, 1790, in Norfolk

'The season so remarkably mild and warm that my brother gathered this morning in my garden some full blown primroses.'

                                                                                              *

Small moments of warmth


I remember a little warmth
Joey trotting the family through Norfolk lanes,
the small yellow trap swaying in the sunshine.

I remember picnics on Yarmouth beach
with enough blue sky 'to make a sailor's trouser'.
We ate cucumber sandwiches, Penguin biscuits.

I remember dark evenings,
the small warm flame from a Tilly lamp
lighting the kitchen, and sometimes for supper
we had chicken, chocolate mousse.

I remember a warm holiday in France
squeezed into the back of a car,
singing old thirties love songs.

But will these small moment of warmth,
at the end, be enough to heat and split
the heavy stones that circle the human heart,
allow salt tears to trickle through the cracks?

                                                                                                *


With very best wishes, Patricia




 

 



Sunday, 10 January 2021

The Mind Cupboard




                                                                                         Song thrush
 Dear Reader,


Reading Richard Hayes's piece from his diary written in 1765 about the song thrush which 'pipes away as though an April morn' I felt sad.  When I lived in Oxford I had a small garden in which two beautiful song thrushes came to live.  With great pleasure over the years I watched them grow and produce little ones, then just before I left that house they disappeared.  And I haven't seen a thrush ever since.  What happened to them, I wonder, if anyone knows could they tell me please.

                                                                                  *

I was called to the Health Centre last week to have the Covid.19 vaccination.  I hadn't been at all keen on having it but was persuaded to change my mind. In fear and trepidation I asked Francis to take me to the centre and although I had to queue for ages, it all went very smoothly.  There are various mild side effects that you could get after having it but I have had none.  So to anyone who is wondering whether to have it or not I would say go for it, it is the obvious thing to do now to rid us of this beastly pandemic.  And it is safe.

                                                                                    *


From Richard Hayes's diary, 1765, in Kent

'Brisk wind, but quite warm.  Song thrush pipes away as though an April morn.'

From Francis Kilvert, 1872 in Wiltshire

'The air early this morning was as warm as the air of a hot-house and the thrushes singing like mad thinking that spring had come. '

                                                                                   *


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

 



Sunday, 3 January 2021

Plumage





                                                                                             Birds of Paradise

 

 

 Dear Reader,

'White soup' was an essential ingredient for a party in the 18th century.  White soup started out as a seventeenth-century French dish called 'Potage a la Reine' which contained almonds boiled in bouillon.  It eventually made its way into English cookery, appearing in William Verral's cookbook of 1759, under the name of 'Queen's Soup'.  By the end of the century, it still contained the almonds and the stock but also, perhaps, cream, egg yolk, white bread and anchovies.

I really enjoy reading about what people ate in other times.  What is so astonishing is how much they ate. Queen Victoria apparently had no difficulty in downing about eighteen courses for dinner, having eaten a substantial lunch the same day.  And Henry VIII thought nothing of eating a whole chicken plus a few meats for his breakfast, all washed down with ale.  Mind you this was after he had been early morning hunting so no doubt he was hungry. And what they ate is interesting too.  Roman soldiers were apparently fond of eating dormice.  The dormice were a larger variety than we get here in the UK.

                                                                                       *

From Samuel Pepys, 1667, in London

'Lay long, a bitter, cold, frosty day, the frost being now grown old, and the Thames covered in ice'.

 

From Francis Kilvert, 1875, in Wiltshire

'The country was wrapped in one vast winding sheet of snow, the roads were dumb....no sound but the swift sharp rustle of the driving snow in the hedges and hollies.'

                                                                                         *

Plumage

Deep in the humid forest
scenting strongly of rich earth,
the Bird of Paradise trips
backwards and forwards on a tree branch,
utters loud cries, jumps small jumps,
dances the pas de deux,
fans out his tail feathers
pink, aquamarine, blue and red
yellow and green,
to entice female birds
to fall in love with him.

And sometimes they do.

The human male
getting ready for a date
might slick back his hair,
smile at himself in the mirror,
put on a bright coloured shirt
red silk tie, and yellow waistcoat,
pat on scented after-shave,
hum a tune, dance a step or two,
and sally forth,
hoping some female will
fall in love with him.

And sometimes they do.

                                                                                 *


With very best wishes, Patricia




 


 

 



Sunday, 27 December 2020

January Weather



Dear Reader, 

I was luckily given a wonderful book for Christmas written by Lucy Worsley about Jane Austen's homes,  which I have already started and am enjoying immensely.  I wondered what Jane Austen's Christmas was like.  She mentions Christmas in all her novels and, researching, I found that the picture emerges of a warm one, full of time spent with family and friends, stoking 'a  roaring Christmas fire' against the snow outside.  Everyone made merry with dancing, parties, plays, balls, and general frivolity.

in 1806 her niece Fanny described the Austen family festivities with similar glowing evocation:  'We have all spent a very merry Christmas with different amusements every evening.  First we had Bullet Pudding, then Snap Dragon.  In the evening we dance or play cards'.

Christmas was a longer season for the regency gentry and lasted until the 6th of January, Twelfth Night. Christmas Day itself would have begun with a church service, requiring the faithful to bundle up well against the cold outside, and unheated church inside.

                                                                                *

From James Woodforde, 1790, in Norfolk, 25th December

"I lighted my large wax-candle being Xmas Day during tea-time this afternoon for about n hour.  It was very mild, thank God, to-day for this time of the year, tho' wet and very dirty walking'.


                                                                              *

January Weather

We know from recorded history,
that in St. Merryn
a hundred years ago,
there blew great winds
and the sea was smoking white.

We know it was warm in Kent,
where the thrushes thought spring
had come, and piped away.
And primroses were a yellow carpet
in North Norfolk,
or so the parson wrote.

We know of cutting winds in Hampshire,
of icicles and frost, and
in Skiddaw on a mild day,
a brown spotted butterfly was seen.
We know that hungry church
mice ate bible markers,
hungry people died of cold.

And we know that this dark winter month
had days of snow, that wild clouds
gathered in the sky unleashing icy rain,
churning up the plough.

And yet again, we also know
the sun shone in that distant year,
it was warm enough to push
early snowdrops, and Holy Thorn.
Light was glimpsed, here and there,
all life struggled for its moments.


                                                                              *

With very best wishes for a happy New Year, Patricia

 

 

 




Sunday, 20 December 2020

Equality

 Dear Reader






                                                                             The Holy Thorn and its blossom

Dear Reader,

The Holy Thorn is a form of common hawthorn found in and round Glastonbury.  Unlike ordinary hawthorns it flowers twice a year, the first time in winter and the second in spring.  It is associated with legends about Joseph of Arimathea and the arrival of Christianity in Britain and has appeared in written texts since the medieval period.  A flowering sprig is sent to the British Monarch every Christmas.

The Thorn kept Glastonbury's legendary history alive during the centuries between the dissolution of the monasteries and the town's renaissance as a spiritual centre in the twentieth century.  Glastonbury Abbey was dissolved in 1539 and substantially demolished during the reign of Elizabeth I, but the Thorn continues to flower at Christmas and many Catholics saw this as a "Testimony to Religion, that it might flourish in persecution".

                                                                       *

2020 has been a very strange year for us all, and as I write whatever plans you have made for Christmas will perhaps have to be rearranged.  But whatever you do and with whomsoever, I  wish you a very happy Christmas Day.  Francis and I are going to stay here at home with no family visiting which is very sad.  But we mean to make it a joyful day, eating duck and Christmas pudding then out for a walk if the sun shines.  We know we are very lucky to have a warm house and plenty to eat and drink but we will be thinking of those who don't.  A very special Happy Christmas to you if you are one of those.


                                                                        *


Equality


Christmas Day.
The house fills with laughter, music,
the tree sparkles, aglow with stars,
angels and white roses.
Under ribboned branches, a present-pile,
exciting, enticing, the children
jump, squeal, and dance, eyes bright.
The turkey is succulent, the pudding sweet,
there are chocolates, crackers, jokes.
But a thought buzzes, wasp-like in my head:
while families reunite, reaffirm love, smile, chat,
I think of those who have none of that.

                                                                             *


With very best wishes to you all, Patricia




Sunday, 13 December 2020

Mother Earth

 

Dear Reader,

This week I hope you will forgive me for writing about my new book.  My darling granddaughter, Emma, produced it for me having obtained a first class degree in Graphic Design at Brighton University.  

It is a selection of my poems that I have written over the last fifteen years, and so there will be some that you already know and some new ones too.  Maybe it would suit as a Christmas present for an aunt or grandmother and can be sent for from Amazon where it is published.  The cover of the book is above.   

I think I am of a generation who find it difficult to promote themselves but my poems do seem to resonate with some people, and are well liked by many. In danger of boasting I will just tell you that my blog has now been read by over 60,000 people from all over the world, obviously not much in comparison with celebrity blogs, but good for something very small, simply with short stories of this and that, and a  poem.

                                                                       

                                                                           *

From Dorothy Wordsworth, 1802, in Westmorland  December 19th.

 

'.........as mild a day as I ever remember.  We all set out to walk......There were flowers of various kinds - the top-most bell of a foxglove, geraniums, daisies, a buttercup in the water...small yellow flowers (I d not know their names) in the turf, a large bunch of strawberry blossoms.' 


                                                                           *


Mother Earth

is dying,

suffocating in
oceans of plastic,

gasping for breath
in the rain forests,

choking in cities
from pollution,

gagging in rivers full
of chemicals.

She is asking us to stop,
to think,
sending fires, floods
and famine,

but do we hear her?

Mother Earth
is weeping,

and so am I.

                                                                         *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Presents





Dear reader, 

My daughter Jessica always keeps me alert to any 'gull story' that I might have missed.  Do you remember a year or two ago there were lots of stories about the machinations of sea gulls and their nefarious ways? She saw this one in a letter to the Guardian newspaper from one Andrew Keeley who said the following: 'as any teacher who, like me, spent 40 years on break and lunch yard duties would tell you, the researchers in Bristol have discovered something we already knew ("Urban gulls target school break times for food, says report').

Daily, gulls would arrive on the neighbouring houses' rooftops just before the bell rang for break or lunchtime, anticipating pupils' food scraps once the had gone back into school.  The gulls did not bother to turn up at weekends or during school holidays.  The clocks going back in autumn and forward in spring used to cause them a problem, as the next day they arrived an hour early or late respectively.  But by the following day they had adjusted their internal clocks and arrived bang on the bell, confirming their super-smartness'.

If either Jessica or I see any more stories about the sea gulls I will keep you informed. 

                                                                               *

From Thomas Hardy, 1886, in Dorset,  December 7th

Winter.  The landscape has turned from a painting to an engraving:  the birds that love worms fall back upon berries: the back parts of the homesteads assume, in the general nakedness of the trees, a humiliating squalidness as to their details that has not been contemplated by their occupiers

                                                                                *


Presents

I don't want presents
tied and ribboned.
Encouragement doesn't wrap
well in green tissues,
praise in paisley boxes
or love in thick gold paper.
I don't want guilt
compressed into an envelope,
with cheque.

A parcel of thoughtfulness,
a parcel of interest,
a parcel of embracing,
a parcel of safety, were
the presents I hoped for
under the festive tree.
The presents I hoped for
which were not to be.

                                                                               *


With very best wishes, Patricia