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



Sunday, 18 April 2021

Recipe for Blue





                                                                                         Garden gnomes

 

Dear Reader,

I am sure some of you will be pleased to know that garden gnomes are back in fashion.  I am equally sure that some of you will not be pleased and think that having gnomes to decorate your garden is very naff.  For myself,  I am very fond of gnomes.  They are cheerful beings and lucky so they say.

The first known garden gnomes were produced in Germany in the early 1800s.  Then they were made out of clay. In the 1840s garden gnomes became particularly popular in France and Britain.  Originally gnomes were thought to provide protection, especially of buried treasure and minerals in the ground.  Myths claim that gnomes are sensitive to sunlight and some legends think that the light of the sun will turn a gnome into stone.

But there is a shortage of gnomes at the moment.  Raw material have become increasing difficult to come by and the blockage of the Suez canal has contributed to the national shortage of gnomes.  Many garden centres have contracted suppliers across China and Europe to help ship the gnomes to the UK.  There has been a massive swing in the sales of gnomes this year and definitely a different clientele wanting them in their gardens.

                                                                                   *

There was a letter int The Telegraph newspaper this week which absolutely accorded with my feelings about the Duke of Edinburgh. ' I am an ordinary man,' the letter said, 'and not particularly a royalist but I felt an enormous sadness when I read of his death'. I knew very little about Prince Philip but felt sad when I heard of his passing.  Subsequently I have read of the many wonderful things he did for so many people and am now a fan.

                                                                                   *

 

Recipe for Blue

 

Take blue from the mountain

and dye my bones,

crush lapis lazuli,

mix it in my hair.

Plunge my heart in forget-me-nots,

soak my maidenhead in blueberry juice,

add a pinch of larkspur.

Wrap me in the Blessed Virgin's dress,

shake over star sapphires,

fold in the clouds,

and bake slow.
 

                                                                                      *


With best wishes, Patricia

                                                                 

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Gentleman of the Road


                                                                                   The road less travelled
 

 

 Dear Reader,

 It was with enormous sadness that I learnt about the death of Prince Philip.  I suppose I, like many others, felt he was, if not a friend, someone one knew and liked.  And he was always there.  Having listened to the radio and watched television programmes about him in the last couple of days I realise what an enormous amount of good things he did, for the betterment of all.  He was special as Prince Charles told us.  But I have been thinking of the Queen and hoping she has lots of family and friends about her.  Even if you know someone is going to die it is a real shock when they do and the aches, longing and the grief this brings, start.  

Incidentally when Albert, Queen Victoria's husband died, she had photographs taken of his corpse and positioned them on the walls around her bedroom.  What a strange thing to do I would have thought but ... She then had forty-odd years as a widow and never took off her black clothes. She seems to have been a very strange woman who gave birth to nine children but didn't really like them.  She adored Albert, he was her life, and she never got over his death, never came to terms with it.

 

                                                                                    *

 

From Francis Kilvert, 1872, in Radnorshire, April 14th

'The blossoming fruit trees, the torch trees of Paradise, blazed with a transparent green and white lustre up the dingle in the setting sunlight.  The village is in a blaze of fruit blossom'.

 From Dorothy Wordsworth, 1802, Westmorland, April 17th

'I saw a robin chasing a scarlet butterfly this morning'.


                                                                                     *

Gentleman of the Road

The old man shuffled into the cafe
head bent. shoulders hunched
with a weather-beaten face
and straggly beard
he looked sad and lonely.

In a deep rasping voice he said
he would like a ham sandwich.
I made him one,
and sat down beside him.

'I am a gentleman of the road, he told me,' he told me,
'been on it for fifty years or more.
I have walked the byways of England,
watched the sun come up
watched the sun go down.'

He told me his life story.
Often being cold and hungry,
frightened when sleeping
on a city street,

how he felt old and
out of sync with the times
how he hoped to die
in the countryside, under a willow tree.

When he left I hugged him
and tears came into his eyes
'I haven't been touched by another
human being for over thirty years', he said.

And tears came into my eyes.

                                                                                     *


With very best wishes, Patricia














Sunday, 4 April 2021

Chapel






Dear Reader, 


Happy Easter to you all and may the rest of your year be full of hope and joy, with restrictions lifted and a return to a sort of normality.

As a Christian with many doubts, I always feel emotional about Good Friday and the Saturday before Christ rises from the tomb, in a divine state. And then when I wake up on Easter Sunday my first thought is that Christ has risen.  This is a great relief to me and I can enjoy all the festivities that Easter Day can bring.

 Somebody said that believing the impossible is the Christian story.  But now in my old age I believe it more than ever, I know that Christ has been in my life on many occasions.  Not least just before I had a serious operation for lung cancer, He was there with me and I felt at peace.

                                                                                *

From Gilbert White, 1793, in Hampshire
April 5th

'The air smells very sweet, and salubrious.  Men dig their hop-gardens and sow Spring corn.....Dug some of the quarters in the garden, and sowed onions, parsnips, radishes and lettuces.  Planted more beans in the meadow.  Many flies are out basking in the sun'.

From Dorothy Wordsworth, 1798, in Somerset
April 9th

'Walked to Stowey, a fine air in going, but very hot in returning.  The sloe in blossom, the hawthorns green, the larches in the park changed from black to green in two or three days'.

                                                                                  *

Chapel

Away with the cherubs
the angels, the painted ceilings
the high arches
the high ceilings
nudes male and female
the artefacts
the gold crosses
and ornate statues of the
Virgin Mary.

Give me a chapel with
whitewashed bricks
wooden pews
oak door with studs
daisies on the altar
in a china jug
a bust of St.Columba
and quiet peace
in God's house.

                                                                              *

With very best wishes, Patricia



 




Sunday, 28 March 2021

Throwing away

 Dear Reader,



                                                                 Love letters and postcards

 

 The poem I am introducing today is about throwing things away and it seems to have been one of the most popular poems I have ever written!  For myself throwing things away causes much heartbreak but, as you get older it is essential.   I am 81 and so don't have years to count on and feel that I must leave everything in order for my daughters to deal with.  But it is so hard.  I do have dance tickets from the 1950s and can remember the excitement I had dressing for the occasion.  I have hand-written novels I wrote which nobody published and lots of letters from friends of both sexes.  And various ornaments and pieces of jewellery, not of any monetary value but precious to me.  But these things don't mean anything to my family, they are memories I hold in my heart, solely mine.

So I have filled plenty of black bags, and run down to the bins to throw them in the day before the dustbin is due to be taken away.  It is the right thing to do I am sure, but nevertheless I feel a sadness which doesn't go away.

                                                                                 *

From Gilbert White, 1771, in Hampshire. March 30th

'The face of the earth naked to a surprising degree.  Wheat hardly to be seen, and no signs of any grass: turneps all gone, and sheep in a starving way.  All provisions rising in price.  Farmers cannot sow for want of rain.'

'Nuthatch brings out and cracks her nuts, and strews the garden walks with shells.  They fix them in a fork of a tree where two boughs meet - on the Orleans plum tree.'

                                                                               *


Throwing Away

the letters,
those billets doux
the photographs,
the dance programmes,
the theatre tickets,
the postcards,
is a formidable task,
and weeping is not forbidden,

Before discarding
those once precious things
the proof of special moments
lived in earlier times,
memorise them all with care.
And afterwards, relive
this solitary, remembered road,
and weeping is not forbidden.

                                                                                       *


With very best wishes, Patricia









Sunday, 21 March 2021

Widow

 




                                                                                The Cuckoo Flower

 

Dear Reader,

 

This is the most delicate plant of damp meadows but can also be seen in gardens or sometimes growing through pavement stones.  The cuckoo plant has fine, pale pink flowers with four petals and it can also be known as "lady's smock". Its common name 'cuckoo flower' derives from the formation of the plant's flowers which come up around the same time as the arrival each spring of the first cuckoos in the British Isles.

It is a food plant for the orange tip butterfly and makes a valuable addition to any garden which aims at attracting wildlife.  It was once used as a substitute for watercress.  In folklore it was said to be sacred to fairies and so was unlucky if it was brought indoors.

From William Shakespeare, 1598 (Love's Labour's Lost)

 'When daisies pied and violets blue
  And lady-smocks all silver white
  And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
  Do paint the meadows with delight'.

                                                                                  *

 

I am so glad spring has at last arrived.  The spring equinox is one of the days that mark the turning of the year and we can all look forward now to some sunshine and warmer weather.  We went for a walk yesterday and the birds were fulsome in their song, and small shoots of new life seemed to be everywhere.


                                                                                   *

Widow

 

no one to talk to

no one to hug 

no one to walk with

no one to laugh, cry or sing with

 

no one to come home to

no one to ask how you are

no one to go up to bed with

no one to wake when

overwhelmed with a nightmare

 

no one to cook for

no one to fill that empty

gap in your heart 


and you weep alone


                                                                         *


With very best wishes, Patricia