Sunday, 30 July 2017

When my Dad came home

Dear Reader,

                                                                        Whisky bottles

Whisky has been distilled in Scotland for hundreds of years.  There is some evidence that the art of distilling could have been brought to this country by Christian missionary monks in early medieval times, but it has never been proved that Highland farmers did not themselves discover how to distil spirits from their surplus barley.  The earliest record of distilling in Scotland was in 1494, when an entry in the Exchequer Rolls stated: "Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae", which is Latin for "water of life".  This was enough malt to produce 1500 bottles of whisky and clearly indicates that distilling had already become a well-established practice in Scotland.

Whisky soon became an intrinsic part of Scottish life and was frequently used for medicinal purposes or as a reviver and stimulant during the long, cold, harsh Scottish winters, and it began to feature more in everyday social life in Scotland.  Until the advent of the patent still in 1831, all the whisky produced in Scotland was of the malt variety.  Now two kinds are made, malt and grain, and malt  is widely regarded as the superior.  Certainly "aqua vitae" was my father's favourite tipple - he drank a large glass (or two) every night.


When my dad came home

he nodded off
in the old armchair,
any time
forgot everything,
could name no names.

Tobacco smoke from woodbines
filled the house,
he drank malt whisky,
came home unsteadily from the pub.

He talked of cricket, he whistled
and hummed old country and western songs,
rocked in the rocking chair
and potted up red geraniums.

He ate junket and white fish
had headaches,
and he wept sometimes.

But we were good friends, my dad and I,
night times he told me stories,
and tucked me into bed.
I never asked him about the war,
and he never said.


With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 23 July 2017

This man

Dear Reader,

I ask for your indulgence this week because I am writing about something strange that happened to me, and which I thought I would share with you.  Any of you, dear readers, who have followed my blog in the last few weeks will know that my husband has been very ill in hospital.  During one of the nights that I was alone and he was in intensive care,  I awoke at 3 a.m. with the poem I am putting on this blog, dictated by a voice in my head.  I rushed into my study and wrote it down as best I could, convinced that this voice came from our Good Lord.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964), a Scottish mathematical biologist, said in his essay "Possible Words":  "Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose... I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy."

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Shakespeare,   Hamlet  


this man

loved blue

it was a ship, a blue ship

that he sailed in

it was his power

made his heart beat faster

drove him along life's waterways

but he sailed away

came adrift

became shipwrecked

no power no heartbeat

this man

had lost the blue

but I made a small ship out of wood

gave it sails of the finest silk

an engine fired with love

now he sails again

his power came back

and I painted the ship blue


this man


Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 16 July 2017


Dear Reader,

Suffolk Punch horses

I thought this was an interesting story and hope you do too.   Apparently for hundreds of years the Suffolk Punch horse has been used by farmers to till fields across the country.  But now Britain's oldest native breed is on the edge of extinction, because not enough females are being reared.  According to recent figures published by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, just 33 fillies were born between 2014-16, which is nearly half the number of males reared during the same period.  Nigel Oakley, a Suffolk Punch breeder said, 'that certain stallions with the "propensity' to produce male offspring might have to be 'held back' so that others with a track record of producing females have more opportunity. "These numbers do not bode well for the breed - this is our heritage", he added "Once they are lost they are gone forever and our grandchildren's children may never see them".  Years ago, living in the New Forest,  I knew a man who bred these beautiful horses, took them to shows, spent hours brushing them and then getting them to look glossy, fat, healthy and fit, but sadly I heard he is no longer with us and nor are his magnificent horses.



The day she left
her heart hammered
tears streamed down her cheeks

the rain beat against the car windows
an east wind blew
the road was black ribbons.

She took a small suitcase.
It held a red skirt, two shirts, underclothes,
two cardigans, a duffle coat
and three favourite books.

After twenty years of marriage
those were her spoils.

Oh, and the kettle.


With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Butler

Dear Reader,


                                                                                       The Butlers

For many years I had arthritis until I discovered the wonders of Aspall Cyder Vinegar.   Taken first thing with a spoonful of honey every morning has, I believe, saved me from the tyranny of arthritis.  But I thought you might like to know that for the ten million Britons suffering from arthritis, a fact which maybe of cold comfort, is that they may not be alive today were it not for their aching limbs.  Researchers have discovered that a gene mutation which increases the risk of arthritis, evolved during the most recent Ice Age to help protect our ancestors from frostbite.  Around half of all European people carry a variant of the gene GDF5 which nearly doubles the chance of developing painful joints and also reduces their height by approximately 1cm.   And, said Dr David Kingsley of Stanford University : "This gene variant is present in billions of people, and it's likely responsible for millions of cases of arthritis". So that piece of information will cheer up all of us who are plagued by arthritis, just to know that our ancestors weren't troubled with frostbite.


The Butler,

Mr Welfare,
was an old man
with a wise and kindly face
who wore grey striped trousers
white shirt, black tie
highly polished shoes
and over all a green beige apron
tied in the front with tape.

He worked long hours,
every day he burnished
the silver cutlery with great care,
Goddard's Plate powder mixed to a turn, dried,
shaken off with a yellow duster.

He washed and cleaned glasses, dried them
with a white linen tea towel,
made the salt cellars
and table pheasants sparkle.

But what was the purpose of all this
hard and careful work?
What were they used for these precious
pieces of silver, these glasses, these ornaments?

For parties of society people,
who didn't give them a glance.
Arrogant, drunk and vapid
they noticed nothing,
lived their lives in a trance.


With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 2 July 2017

A Curse

Dear Reader,

                                                                    Waltham Abbey in Essex and King Harold II

There seems to be some dispute about where the body lies of King Harold II, (1022-1066) the last Anglo Saxon King of England.   He is buried at Waltham Abbey Church, but two amateur historians claim that Harold, who was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, may not be buried there.  In a development reminiscent of the body of Richard 111 (see my former blog) dug up from under a Leicester car park in 2012, a solicitor and a private detective are now fighting to prove that four tombs under St. Michael's church in Bishop's Stortford, Herts, contain the bones of Harold and his family.  They think his wife, Edith the Fair, who lived at the Manor of Stortford, had him buried there.  They want to conduct a radar analysis on the coffins to prove their point but so far the church, thank goodness, has declined their request.  Why can't people just leave bones and coffins and whatever is in them alone?  Hence this poem once again.


Seagull news.  After the Glastonbury festival the seagulls had a marvellous party eating the disgusting litter left by the carefree eco-revellers and their friends.


A Curse

on those who plunder the earth,
and violate sacred places .........

A curse on those who disturb
and steal gently-bandages skulls,
legs, arms, and finger-bones,
jewels: perhaps a pearl bracelet,
a coral ring, hair pins, or a mosaic plate,
set out lovingly with food
for the long journey home.
Who have lain there, at peace,
for many thousand years,
the sand, the desert winds, the rains,
nature's bed.

A curse on those whose
laughter and excitement
fills the air, stealing these remains,
transporting them to people
in white coats,
who dissect their dignity,
stick labels on them,
give them to museums
to enlighten an ice-cream-licking public.


With very best wishes, Patricia