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


Sunday, 24 March 2019

For You Everyman




Dear Reader,

I am sharing with you some entries which I thought were interesting especially as our weather is so strange these days.

March 21st, 1762,  Richard Hayes in Kent:

This day I saw a yellow butterfly......My rooks, by the cold weather and snows, did not begin building till last Sunday.

 March 21, 1798, Dorothy Wordsworth in Somerset

We drank tea at Coleridge's.  A quiet shower of snow was in the air during more than half of our walk.

March 24th, 1872, Francis Kilvert in Radnorshire

A snowy Palm Sunday on the Palms....I saw what I thought was a long dazzling white and golden cloud up in the sky.  Suddenly I found that I had been gazing at the great snow slopes of the Black Mountain lit up by the setting sun and looking through the dark storm clouds.

                                                                       *
The newspaper I read tells me that we are now in for a warmer and sunnier spell of weather.  The birds seems to have started to make their nests.  I see the blackbird is getting moss from the lawn and picking up twigs so spring really has arrived.

                                                                        *





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 the business suit, you in Kaftan,
You, the tall, you, the short,

Yes, You, Everyman.

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

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Miracle



Dear Reader,

Swallows spend the winter in Africa before beginning to arrive on our shores between April and May- bringing the first glimpse of summer.  Migrating swallows can cover some 200 miles a day, flying at average speeds of 17-22 mph.  Britain is 2,500 miles from say Senegal (where they gather in the winter) so with a fair wind they might complete the journey in less than a fortnight. But the question is what welcomes them to our shores?   Tesco supermarket has, apparently, installed netting to stop swallows nesting in the roof of its trolley station where the birds reared their young last year.
There have been several such examples of netting at bird nesting sites elsewhere in the country in recent weeks.

Swallows and other migrating birds who fly here with the arrival of warmer weather are in steep decline.  Habitat loss, climate change and the decline of the insects upon which they rely are wreaking havoc.   The swallows come all this way, take this long and perilous journey to arrive with us, hoping for a welcome, and what do they get?  Lets hope Tesco's is the only supermarket to install
nets to stop swallows nesting.

                                                                              *

A few things you might not know about swallows.  In the past it was believed that harming swallows would bring bad luck.  And in the north of England, up until the 1960s they believed that killing a swallow would lead to cows producing bloody milk or no milk at all.

Male swallows have a dark side as they go to extreme efforts to ensure that their genes are passed on to the next generation.  Males without a mate will often visit the nest of other swallows to associate themselves with a female already paired.  However, the majority of the time the only way a female will accept a new mate is if their current mate dies or if the nest fails, thereby 'divorcing' the established pair.  

                                                                           *

Miracle

Rich in England's spring
cowparsley entrancing
in dog-rose hedge,
the fecund earth lush green,
a baby swallow
hatches in a Suffolk barn,
to the cries of gulls
flying over mudflats,
over sea-lavender.

This small bird grows
embracing our summer warmth,
swooping on insects caught
above rolling grasslands.
It dips and tumbles gracefully,
trouble-free.

But what instinct tells of winter's cold?
This bird, hand-sized, will
fly over icy Pyrenees,
thirst through the parched Sahara,
soar and glide on trade winds,
south to the Cape of Africa
drawn, inexplicably, to the heat
of the southern sun.

In early spring does
this swallow's courageous heart
grow restless, homesick for
a Suffolk barn?
Is it a miracle that some force
of nature returns this minute bird
to its birth-nest by the English sea?
Who knows, but it seems so to me.

                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Letter to India after the British Raj disgrace




Dear Reader,

You may have watched 'The Jewel in the Crown" series on TV years ago. You may have felt   incensed, as I did, at the way that British people treated the Indian population,   Obviously it is not a true picture of the way things were, but true enough I would think to show us, in the main, the appalling way the native Indians were treated.

For those of you who don't know the history of the British Raj here are a few lines about a very long and complicated story and I apologise for making it so brief.

The British Raj refers to the period of British rule on the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.  The system of  governance was instituted in 1858 when the rule of the East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria who, in 1876, was proclaimed Empress of India.

India was called the "Jewel in the Crown" because it had so much wealth in the form of spices, textiles, cotton and opium.  The British bought opium to sell in China to enable them to buy tea.  In August, 1947, the British left after three hundred years in India and the subcontinent was partitioned into two independent states: Hindu majority, India, and Muslim majority, Pakistan.


                                                                           *

Letter to India after the British Raj disgrace

Dear India,

Forgive us as
we marched into your country,
forced our laws
our customs upon you,
were arrogant and superior,
destroyed your traditions,
treated you badly,
spoke to your people rudely,
lacked compassion,
and felt disdain for anyone
with a brown skin.

For these many sins
and others I know nothing of,
dear India, forgive us
forgive us please.

with very best wishes,
Patricia

                                                                        *
and very best wishes to you, my friends,
Patricia

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Word-dancing




Dear Reader,

The stripes on zebras are long thought of as a form of  camouflage, but now another explanation has been found.  So instead of baffling lions and leopards the stripes may be a way of keeping a much smaller, but no less bloodthirsty, creature at bay.  It is thought that biting insects could be dazzled as they try to land on the animals.  Scientists found that horse flies gathered around domestic horses and zebras at a similar rate- but landed on zebras only 25 per cent as often.

When uniformly-coloured horses were given 'zebra coats' flies made far fewer landings.  Video footage showed that flies confronted with stripes came in too fast, often crashing into their prey or missing the landing altogether.  This indicates that stripes may disrupt the flies' abilities to have a controlled landing.  Theories about the striped purpose include camouflage, a means of confusing predators or signalling to other zebras, and a system of heat control.

                                                                        *
                                                                             
Francis and I had our first dancing lesson this week and it was great fun.  We have taken up dancing again but don't really know the steps of traditional dances.  As we couldn't join in with an experienced group,  we wanted to learn the steps with a teacher and then will be able to do so.  I would advise anyone who wants a little exercise and amusement to give dancing a try.

                                                                         *

Word-dancing

The woman discovers the double act
of word-dancing at dinner,
recognizes with excitement
mutual friends from books, from poetry,
from worlds explored, but only
known thus far in solitude.

Together they dance through imagined lands
sharing knowledge,
throwing words back and forth
in light ethereal movements,
cerebral binding and bonding,
now the foxtrot, now the waltz.

For her these pleasures
are found at lunch parties, at dinner,
in libraries, on courses.
But where can the young word-dance?
Her grandson lunches on the run,
dines with Eastenders,
goes clubbing on solitary trips
too noisy, frightening, for word-dancing,
for cerebral binding and bonding,
now the foxtrot, now the waltz.

                                                                  *

With best wishes, Patricia