Sunday, 29 November 2020

Buckinghamshire 1943

 Dear reader,




                                                                   Victoria Sponge and a Cup of Tea

 

 

 

Dear Reader,                                                       

Talking about recessions, 1709 was the year of the Great Frost and the last event to devastate the nation's finances to such a crippling effect.  It first became apparent in Europe in early January, like Covid, and although there was a three week freeze, followed by a brief thaw when the temperatures plunged again, it stayed there until the spring.

Royal Navy sailors froze aboard their ships while other poor souls shivered to death in tenements lining the icy Thames. The temperatures dropped so low that church bells fractured when they pealed and trees splintered in the fields as though struck by a lumberjack's axe.  On the continent wolves, starved of livestock, wandered into villages looking for something to eat, while the Baltic Sea froze solid with people reportedly crossing it on foot. 

The woes of 1709 did not end there.  When the great thaw finally came it led to widespread flooding, famine and riots. A flu epidemic that had already been circulating in Europe turned into a pandemic. 

We often hear that expression: 'what goes around comes around', and I never quite know what it means.
Perhaps it simply means that life is circular and there is nothing new under the sun. If you know the real meaning do let me know, please.


                                                                         *

Written by S.T. Coleridge, 1799, in a coach between Westmorland and London.

'Starlings in vast flights drove along like smoke .......glimmering and shivering, dim and shadowy, now thickening, deepening, blackening'.

                                                                          *


Buckinghamshire 1943

that winter day
I sat in the pram
strapped in

I wore a yellow coat with bone buttons
and a dark brown corduroy collar

my nanny pushed me along a pavement
covered in crisp white snow
a blue sky overhead

a blackbird sang

but during lunch of cottage pie
and sago pudding
came the fearful sound
of enemy aircraft

terrified I struggled to put on my
Mickey Mouse gas mask
with its great green eyes
and red rubber lips

after the all clear
we had a cup of tea
a piece of sponge cake

                                                                     *


With very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 22 November 2020

Universal Truth






                                                                          Silver birch trees

 Dear Reader,

 "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" Shakespeare wrote in Henry 1V, part 2.  

We have, like many people in the UK, been watching 'The Crown' on Netflix and here are just a few thoughts about it.  First of all it seemed to be so depressing,  places where the Royal family live are all so gloomy with large unoccupied rooms in half light.  I know the Queen is keen on the lights being turned off at every opportunity to save money but even so....Then surely the Royal family is not as nasty as they appear to be in this series.  No wonder Princess Diana had an eating illness and was made thoroughly miserable.  There didn't seem to be a comforting arm anywhere least of all from her husband Prince Charles.  For myself I would rather live, being loved, in a railway carriage than in a palace.

But what I have to remind myself that this is not the true story it is an approximation of the truth.  We don't really know what was said in any of these scenes.  Nobody could have been so rude to Mr and Mrs thatcher when they went to stay at Balmoral, it made a good story but I am sure it wasn't the way it was portrayed.  

"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown", the Queen doesn't seem uneasy but she does seem lonely
and at times unloved.  I am so glad it is her wearing the crown and not me.

                                                                                  *

From Dorothy Wordsworth, 1801, in Westmorland


'I read a little of Chaucer, prepared the goose for dinner, and then we all walked out.  I was obliged to return for my fur tippet and spencer, it was so cold.....It was very windy,and we heard the wind everywhere about us as we went along the lane, but the walls sheltered us...As we were going along we were stopped at once at the distance perhaps of 50 yards from our favourite birch tree.  It was yielding to the gusty wind with al its tender twigs, the sun shone upon , and it glanced in the wind like a flying sun-shiny shower.  It was a tree in shape, with stem and branches, but it was like a Spirit of water. ......We came home over stepping-stones.  The Lake (Grasmere) was foamy with white waves.'

                                                                                 *


Universal Truth


Everyone knows
that Philip Larkin wrote:

"They fuck you up
your mum and dad,
they may not mean to
but they do'.

And what Philip Larkin knew,
I know to be true.

                                                                                    *

With very best wishes, Patricia



 

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Dorothy's Dilemma






 Dear Reader,

Apparently Michael Bond, the author of Paddington Bear was bothered by social media, his daughter has revealed.  Karen Jankel said her father who was 91 when he died in 2017, was disheartened by a more polarised world and waning empathy. 

 "Paddington as a character is very kind, very down to earth," his daughter said "but he doesn't suffer fools. If he doesn't like something, he was there with his hard stare.  So it doesn't mean to say that you should be totally complicit."

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, 2007, Michael Bond did say that people's manners had changed since the era in which he grew up.  He said "I suppose Paddington is my escape from the modern world because, frankly, I find a lot of it very depressing. Everyone seems to be much ruder and more impatient.  I thought that when I got to 80, people might step aside when they saw me coming.  Not a bit of it.  I might as well be invisible."

I have to agree whole heartedly with Michael Bond. People being angry, impatient and certainly ruder is how it is today, which wasn't the case when I was young.

                                                                                  *

From Jane Austen, 1798 in Hampshire

"What fine weather this is!  Not very becoming perhaps in the early morning, but very pleasant out of doors at noon, and very wholesome - at least everybody fancies so, and imagination is everything."

                                                                                   *

 

Dorothy's Dilemma

Dorothy slowly rode the hill,
eating potted beef and sweet cake,
she glimpsed, growing in green moss,
three primroses in full bloom.

Should she pick them?
December primroses in a jar
adorning the kitchen table
was a temptation, a pretty picture.

She pondered long, then left them
to enjoy the fecund earth,
their natural home,
their rightful place.
Days later, she saw with joy,
nestling in the moss,
her primroses, flourishing,
uninjured by cold or rain
or human hand.

                                                                                *


With very best wishes, Patricia


                                                                          

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Thanks Private Norfolk




 

Dear Reader,

 It seems such a short time since last year's Remembrance Sunday service, so different from this year with the restrictions on gatherings.  But Francis found out that he was allowed to play the pipes on the Playing Close by the Memorial today, and looking marvelous in the Cameron kilt and black jacket with silver buttons, we kept the two minutes silence and then he played 'The Hills of Tyrol', and two other well known pieces. 

Every year on Remembrance  Sunday I think of my father.  He served in the Royal Army Service Corps and was mentioned in Dispatches on three occasions. He never mentioned his war memories but was ill from the gas he inhaled all his life. 

As always, thank you Dad for the small part you played in allowing me to live in freedom. Thinking of you and sending love.


From D.H Lawrence, 1915 Oxfordshire

'When I drive across this country, with autumn falling and rustling to pieces, I am so sad, for my country, for this great wave of civilisation, 2000 years, which is now collapsing, that it is hard to live.  So much beauty and pathos of old things passing away and no new things coming.......the past, the great past, crumbling down, breaking down, not under the force of the coming birds, but under the weight of many exhausted lovely yellow leaves, that drift over the lawn, and over the pond, like the soldiers, passing away, into winter and the darkness of winter - no, I can't bear it. For the winter stretches ahead, where all vision is lost and all memory dies out'.

                                                                                 *

Thanks, Private Norfolk

You left singing, with your pals
marching for good and glory.
You hadn't yet dug a trench
killed an unknown soldier,
seen dead bodies, smelt their stench,
heard comrades' last sickening cries.

You gave your life with generous heart,
believed the lies
dispatched by loftier ranks.
So to you, dear Private Norfolk,
I give my salute,
and my deepest thanks

for swapping your mauve rain-skies,
your white-breast beaches, and beckoning sea
your level fields of ripening corn,
to fight in foreign fields, for us,
for me

                                                                                *

With very best wishes, Patricia



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Sunday, 1 November 2020

Loveable Rogue

 Dear Reader,





                                                   

     

                                                                              The Silk Road


Major Mick Stanley whom I wrote about last week, is in the news again with his amazing challenge of rowing his homemade boat along the Chichester Canal for 100 miles.  He has now raised £22,500 for St. Wilfred's hospice, Bosham, and is currently halfway through the adventure.

                                                                                  *

In my long and varied life I have met many different people, but none who have stuck out more than the 'loveable rogue'.  I met him everywhere: at the Samaritan Centre, as a Magistrate or just striking up a conversation with him in cafes or bars.  This man is a charmer, he jokes, flirts, tells good stories usually about places in exotic parts of the world.  This week's poem is about him, I hope you enjoy it,  and will be able to spot him if you talk to him one day, somewhere.

                                                                                  *

From Dorothy Wordsworth, November 4th 1800, in Westmorland

'William went to the Tarn, afterwards to the top of Seat Sandal. H was obliged to lie down in the tremendous wind.  The snow blew from Helvellyn horizontally like smoke - the spray of the unseen waterfall like smoke.'


From Thomas Hardy, November 4th 1873, in Dorset

'It is raining in torrents.  The light is greenish and unnatural, objects being seen as through water. A roar of rain in the plantation, and a rush near at hand, yet not a breath of wind.   A silver finger hangs from the eaves of the house to the ground.  A flash and then thunder.'


                                                                                   *

 

Loveable Rogue

 

 

Jeans jacket, black trousers

long curly black hair

an impish smile

sparkling white teeth.

 

A world traveller

worked in a kibbutz

surfed in Australia

sold jewellery in India,

Nepal and Afghanistan.

 

He had a finger in many pies,

he said, done many deals,

made friends, made enemies

walked the Silk Road.

 

The ladies loved him

he twinkled at them

made jokes

got on with their dogs.

 

He told good stories

wore silver rings

had a rose tattoo

on his arm, a cross on his leg.

 

This loveable rogue

was charming,

uninterested in the truth

and wandered through life

conscience free.

*

 

 

 

With best wishes, Patricia.

 

 

 




Sunday, 25 October 2020

Home



                                                                              Major Stanley in his boat

 

 Dear Reader,

 This is such a heart warming story.  I love it and hope you do too.

An 80-year-old retired British army major built a boat to raise money for charity following the example of record-breaking fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore.  He built the vessel during Covid-19 lockdown. 

He is hoping to row 100 miles of the Chichester Canal in West Sussex by December 18th. The boat is made of two sheets of corrugated iron, curtain hooks and a hosepipe, which he built to mark his 80th birthday. 

"It goes extremely well, I have worked out it travels about two miles an hour.  It glides through the water and generally speaking doesn't leak too much" he said.

Major Stanley, who served in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards for 35 years, has already raised £12,000 beating his original £1,000 target for a hospice.

                                                                           *



From Gilbert White, 1784 in Hampshire

"Hard Frost, thick ice. On my way to Newton I was covered with snow! Snow covers the ground, and trees!!."

From Francis Kilvert, 1874 in Wiltshire

"A damp warm morning steaming with heat, the outer air like a hot-house, the inner air colder, and in consequence the old thick panelled walls of the front rooms streaming with warm air condensed on the cold walls....The afternoon was so gloomy that I was obliged for the first time to have lights in the pulpit."

                                                                          *


Home

is honey
oatcakes
soft lights
warm bed
comfortable mattress

home is
quiet,
books, peace
a space for the
Good Lord,
a small garden
red geraniums
foxgloves and roses

home is where
my precious
collection
of things
have their place

home is safety.

 

                                                                                *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Sometimes



 
 



Dear Reader, 

Last week I was talking about beautiful Worcester Pearmain apples and I thought this week I would remind you of quinces. Their short season is now. The quince tree is deciduous and bears a pome fruit, similar in appearance to a pear and is bright golden-yellow when mature.  The quince is a hardy drought-tolerant shrub which adapts to many soils and tolerates both shade and sun, but sunlight is required in order to produce larger flowers and ensure fruit ripening.  It was favoured by landscape architects such as Fredrick Law Olmsted in the early 20th century for its attractive blossom.  

Most varieties of quince are too hard to eat raw but are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they maybe peeled, roasted, baked or stewed.  Adding a diced quince to apple sauce will enhance the taste of the apple sauce with the chunks of relatively firm, tart quince.

                                                                               *

The following quote is probably one you all know from Edward Lear's (1812-88), The Owl and the Pussy-Cat:



"They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
  which they ate with a runcible spoon..... "

                                                                                 *

From Francis Kilvert's diary, 1878, The Gower Peninsula, Glamorgan

"We had a merry windy luncheon on the bank near the churchyard gate, and great fun and famous laughing. An east wind was blowing fresh and strong, the sea was rolling in grey and yeasty, and in a splendid sunburst the white seagulls were running and feeding on the yellow sands.  A wild merry happy day."

                                                                                 *

Sometimes
 

I feel overwhelmed by
a spirit of joyfulness,
a desire to jump, to dance,
to laugh, to see the world
in a bright light,

sometimes I am optimistic,
enjoy the warmth of the sun,
soft patter of rain on my face,
the wonders of this world.

Sometimes I believe
people are kind and good,
are innocent of evil,
deserve praise and
I honour them,

and sometimes I don't.

                                                                                  *

With very best wishes, Patricia