Sunday, 30 December 2018

Questions





Dear Reader,

My poem this week mentions butterflies so I thought I would do a little research on them for both you and myself.

Apparently some butterflies have inhabited the planet for at least 130 million years.  They showed up about the same time as did flowering plants.  This is known because of fossil records that butterflies left behind.   Many butterflies migrate for long distances and these migrations take place over thousands of generations and no single individual completes the trip.

Culturally, butterflies are a popular motif in the visual and literary arts.  In ancient Egypt 3500 years ago,  butterflies appeared in art form.  In the city of Teotihuacan the brilliant coloured image of the butterfly was carved into many temples, buildings, jewellery and emblazoned on incense burners.  The butterfly was sometimes depicted with the jaw of a jaguar and some species were considered to be the reincarnations of the souls of dead warriors. One Japanese superstition says that if a butterfly enters your guest room and perches behind the bamboo screen, the person whom you most love is coming to see you.  In the English county of Devon people hurried to kill the first butterfly of the year to avoid a year of bad luck.

                                                                        *


 Questions

Was the summer different then,
did the sun shine more, when
wet and cloudy days were few, when
butterflies took wing, and warm winds blew?

Did the bees collect more honey,
did we laugh more, were more things funny,
was the sea less rough, more azure,
did finer shells bewitch us on the shore?

Did roses fade so soon, wind or rain blown,
or were hedgerows so rich and pretty, grown
when all the summer days were bright,
not awash with rain, but drenched in light?

Were the days so cold and dreary,
and did we ever feel so weary
of days of heat and sun and sea,
picnics, sandcastles, flasks of tea?

Did dreams then, sometimes, come true
when love would find us, hold us too,
and make our whole world seem completely new,
when butterflies took wing, and warm winds blew?

                                                                           *


A very happy New Year to you all.

With best wishes, Patricia




Sunday, 23 December 2018

Inheritance

Dear Reader,


                                                                       An 1834 painting of a Gloucester Old Spot Pig


The Gloucestershire Old Spot is an English breed of pigs which is predominately white with black spots.  It is named after the county of Gloucestershire.  The Gloucestershire Old Spot pig is known for its docility, intelligence and fertility.  The pigs are white with clearly defined black spots.  There must be at least one spot on the body to be accepted in the registry.  The breed maternal skills enable it to raise large litters of piglets on pasture.  Its disposition and self-sufficiency should make it attractive for farmers raising pasture pigs.

The first pedigree records of these pigs began in 1885, much later than it does for cattle, sheep and horses because the pig was a peasant's animal, a scavenger and never highly regarded.  No other pedigree spotted breed was recorded before 1913, so today's Gloucestershire Old Spot is recognised as the oldest such breed in the world.  The British Pig association says: "Although if old paintings are to be trusted, there have been spotted pigs around for two or three centuries......".

                                                                           *


Inheritance

What was it that made me
think of you, who
are bone-dust now,
with no statue or monument
to bear your witness?
Was it the apple-bruised spots
on the Gloucester Old Spot pigs,
their legacy from apple orchards, long ago,
to mark them out?

In the afternoon sunlight
as I bent to touch their skin
I saw that my hands, brown spotted,
were your hands, identical.
Was this your legacy to me,
something to say that you were here?

More precious than possessions,
you passed to me our inheritance
from some ancient eastern shore.
Your brownness, your hands, brown spotted,
which marked you.

                                                                       *

With very best wishes and a very happy Christmas,  Patricia

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Bird Of My Loving

Dear Reader,






A very dear friend of mine, Mary Sheepshanks, poet and author, wrote the poem I am sending to you this week.  We met on the Island of Iona many years ago during a week's retreat from the world. And we have been friends ever since although it is difficult for us to meet because she lives in Scotland, a long way from Oxford.  The theme of the poem is one that has always interested me.  


I think we want to belong to someone without being overprotected by them.  We want to feel free to go wherever we want to with their blessing and so to return to them, refreshed, with a happy and loving heart.  There is a moving poem by Richard Lovelace (1618-58)  writing from prison which says in the first line of the poem:  Stone walls do not a prison make/nor iron bars a cage.  He says if he has freedom in his love, then his soul is free.  In this very technical and practical age we tend to forget about our souls - what are they after all?  But my soul plays a large part in my life and I take heed to what it tells me.

                                                                        *

The Bird of my Loving

To all the air I vainly cried:
"This octopus possession strangles me.
Can't I be loved and love
And still be free?"
But no one heard or listened
None replied.
Until upon the green horizon of my view
You came to stand.
The bird of all my loving flew to you.
You held it for a moment
In your hand,
Then opening up our fingers
To the sky you said:
"Our love is liberty.
feel free to fly
But know that I am true."
Because you never tried
To pinion it
The bird of  all my loving
Stays with you.

                                                                        *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Overheard

                                                                              Happy Christmas to you all

Dear Reader,

After our lovely summer and glorious autumn, the weather has decided to step in with rain and storms
to remind us that this is a sceptred island and that means fog, damp, rain and snow, as well as  exceptional beauty when the sun shines.

This is a piece I read from Francis Kilvert's journal, 1872.

" ...... at about half past four began the Great Storm of 1872.  Suddenly the wind rose up and began to roar at the tower window and shake the panes and lash the glass with torrents of rain.  It grew very dark and we struggled home in torrents of rain and tempests of wind so fearful that we could hardly force our way across the Common to the Rectory.  All the evening the roaring S.W. wind raged more and more furious.  It seemed as if the windows on the west side of the house must be blown in. The glass cracked and strained and bent ...... Now and then the moon looked out for a moment wild and terrified through a savage rent in the Storm.

Glad I didn't live then.
                                                                         *

Overheard

The woman sat
on a number 3 bus.
She settled comfortably,
the seat next to her vacant.
Another woman got on
not known to her.
She squeezed over and the
two sat cosily together.
'I'm off to the doctor', said one,
I need new tablets.'.

'Yes,' said the other:
'tablets keep me going too.'.
The two women talked animatedly
about their ailments, until one
of them reached her destination.

'I'm off now', she said, 'but lovely
meeting you.  Such an interesting talk.'.

Both women were happy.
Exchanging tablet talk
had invigorated them,
their shared experience
made them feel content.

                                                                    *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 2 December 2018

A Curse





Dear reader,

The emancipation of women is generally considered a relatively modern phenomenon but a new burial site in Lincolnshire has shown that females were already enjoying high social status, wealth and power in their own right.  Obviously these sites were only used by the rich and in Scremby, women buried at the 5th century cemetery were extensively dressed and surrounded by riches including amber necklaces, hundreds of glass beads, silver buckles and ivory clasps.

Dr. Hugh Williams, senior lecturer in European historical archaeology, from the University of Sheffield said:"What is particularly interesting is the significant proportion of very lavish burials which belonged to women. In what is seen as a masculine warrior society, the women were clearly held in high regard"

I suppose it should be of some comfort for us females to know that at least one time in history, albeit the 5th century, women were held in high regard.

                                                                             *

A Curse

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

A curse on those who disturb
and steal gently-bandaged 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


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Hotel Room


                                                                              Affronted sheep in the village of Wool?



Dear reader,

If you haven't read or heard about the story of the village Wool in Dorset this week, I feel I have to tell the story to those who haven't heard it because it is so absurd.  And so amusing.  Animal rights activists have declared the village's name an affront to sheep the world over, claiming it promotes animal cruelty.  They have asked that the village is renamed Vegan Wool, forcing the local parish council to debate the issue.  Elisa Allen, director of Peta (the animal rights charity) has written to Wool parish council to request the change in order to "promote kindness to sheep".  Cherry Brooks, a member of the Dorset county council said the proposal would be discussed at the next council meeting. What.....?

Incidentally, the name 'wool' was derived from the ancient word "welle" and had nothing to do with the wool industry. Wool in Dorset takes its name from the Anglo Saxon word Wyllon meaning spring or well, because of the many springs that rise nearby.  The name is first said to be referenced in Saxon writs fro 1002 to 1012, where it appears as Wyllon.

And I also read that you could be prosecuted if you feed your cat on vegan food .

Has England gone mad?  It certainly seems so to me.

                                                                              
   * 

  
Hotel Room

Imagine the cellars, 1718
storing meat
fruit and onions,
apples on slats
maturing, ripening
within peeling walls.
Mouse holes and
a smell of damp and decay

A smaller room attached -
a game larder,
where pheasants, snipe,
partridges, rabbits, hares
and ducks are hung on hooks
or from the rafters.
Large clay pots sit in the corner
full of earth and potatoes.

See the rooms, basement now, 2018.
Pristine white walls, Farrow and Ball,
arches and pillars over large bed
black sofa, black cushions,
lush bedside lamps,
the bathroom heats underfloor,
large bath, rolled white flannels
gold taps.

Which is most magical?

No prizes for guessing.

                                                                                              
                                                                                                           
*


With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Collection

                                                                                     Afternoon Tea


Dear Reader,

It seems as if the British seagull has decided to leave our shores and depart to France.  At the French seaside there are much richer pickings than there are, say, in Bournemouth, because, perhaps, of the many notices there are around our seaside towns and villages alerting people to nefarious seagull activities.   Notwithstanding the fact that the gulls ignore such notices, the French authorities are trying to get rid of the offenders too.  For instance in Trouville-sur-Mer in Normandy, northern France, claims  have been made that it is the first town to test a special drone that can spot seagull nests and spray them with steriliser, as its deputy mayor warned that the birds could "make off with a baby".

Seagulls are profoundly changing their living habits from eating fish and building nests on cliffs, to livings in towns and becoming carnivorous.   In England local fishermen in seaside locations
say the gulls regularly dive-bomb them on their trawlers but they can do nothing but shout at them because the gulls have been a protected species since 2009.

David Cameron is said to have called for a "big conversation" on the issue after gulls killed a Yorkshire terrier in Newquay, a chihuahua puppy in Devon and a pet tortoise in Cornwall.  British MPs recently called for a change in the law to allow the protected status of seagulls to be axed so that their populations could be better controlled.

                                                                            *

D.H. Lawrence wrote this in Oxfordshire, 1915, and I thought after Remembrance Sunday last week it would be of interest.  Lawrence was a conscientious  objector.

"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: this house (Garsington Manor)- it is England - my God, it breaks my soul - their England, these shafted windows, the elm-trees, the blue distance - the past, the great past, crumbling down, breaking down, not under the force of 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 darkness of winter -no, I can't bear it.  For the winter stretches ahead, where all vision is lost and all memory dies out."

                                                                         *

Collection

The little girl waits
peers down the road
sees the other children
collected
as mothers hug them
help them into cars
drive away for family teas
to houses where
warmth and love abounds

she puts her satchel down
takes out a sweet for comfort
a small tear rolls down her cheek
someone will remember, surely
she thought,
but the dusk gathered
and nobody came.

                                                                         *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Soldier's Meditation


Dear Reader,


As it is 11th November today, Armistice Day, and all my thoughts are for the fallen in WWI,  I always think about my father, Harold Huth, who was a soldier in that terrible war.  He served as a major with the Royal Army Service Corps and was mentioned in Dispatches on three occasions.  I have a letter written in January 1916 congratulating my grandparents, from a Colonel Harrison and his other officers, on their son's distinguished conduct and gallantry.  So today I am thinking of you, Dad, and thanking you for the part you played to give us the freedoms we now enjoy, and am sending you my love.


                                                                               *
When you go home,
tell them of us and say:
For your tomorrow
we gave our today.

                                                                               *


Soldier's Meditation

My cigarette time-burns,
my body trembles,
only minutes now
until the action starts.

Am I brave? No, not brave
I am shit-scared,
my body reeks.
The last drop of whisky
wets my parched lips.
I light another cigarette.

I hold this gun to hide behind.
With it, I will aim and slaughter
someone unknown, someone's son,
mother, father, daughter.

If killed, I want no part in bands playing,
or speeches glorifying my sacrifice.
I want no weeping, seen or unseen,
pitying those who were,
those who had been.

Go, action, ready, time to start.
Dear God, do leaden wings always fly
a universal soldier's heart?

                                                                                 *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Bath, Somerset

Dear Readers,

I am going to be away in Bath this weekend so won't be able to write a blog.  It is a small holiday after traumatic summer in hospital and in recovery.  I am stronger now and hope to see some wonderful  things in Bath with Francis, my good friend.

I will be back on Sunday, 11th and hope you will join me then.

Best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Misconception



                                                              Samuel Pepys 1633-1703

Dear reader,

Apparently people who lived in Restoration England (1660-1700) had a very strange sense of humour.  Practical jokes and any sort of jape that exploited someone's foolishness or ignorance were considered most amusing.  Reading about Samuel Pepys it seems he didn't do humour or his jokes are either very poor or in very poor taste.  For instance an uproarious joke for Pepys was that a man might helpfully offer to gut another man's oysters to stop them stinking. 

One Nick Ward was in a London coffee house listening to someone playing the violin badly when two sailors, spying a stout hook driven into wall above the fireplace, seized the fiddler and hooked him up by the back of his breeches.  Eventually he got free and fell to the ground, hurting himself, and everyone laughed and laughed.  The same ill-shaped humour was found in almost every inn, tavern, alehouse and drinking establishment in the country.

A society lady, Catherine Sedley, is most surprised that James, Duke of York, the future James II - takes her as his mistress.  She wonders what he sees in her,  saying "It cannot be my beauty for he must see I have none. And it cannot be my wit, for he has not enough to know that I have any."

                                                                       *


Misconception


The woman thought when she left
the office building would explode,
blood from her willing heart
would drip from the ceiling,
pieces of her goodwill,
her ready smile
possibly her arms and legs,
would drop into waste bins,
flow out of filing cabinets,
strew the carpet with bits of herself.
The atmosphere would be dank
with tears for the loss of her.
She knew her worth.

In the spring, Sandra met her.
Karen, from Accounts,
now has her job, she said.
She is brilliant, everyone loves her.

The woman walked away,
mantled in her goodness,
surprised at what poor judgements
people make.

                                                                   *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Pleasures great and small

Dear Reader,

Here I am back again after a two month absence due to illness.  I hope you will now be with me from time to time when I write my weekly blog.  I will try to catch up with any seagull news of interest, and find other things to amuse or captivate us during the week or, perhaps, even something that happened thousands of years ago. 

Just a thought.  Whilst in hospital I found what was needed was patience and courage.  I hope I found both of these attributes in myself whilst I was there, but I am not sure, I just hope so.  My partner, Francis, came every day,  and generally helped me to get through the ordeal.  Thank you, Francis, your warmth and kindness overwhelm me.

From Francis Kilvert's diary, 1874

When the Squire came to see John Hatherell last Sunday he reminded the old man of the nights they patrolled the roads together 45 years ago during the machine-breaking riots.  Robert Ashe led a patrol of six men one half the night, and Edward Ashe headed another patrol of equal strength the other half.  One night when Robert Ashe was patrolling the village with his men and keeping watch and guard against the machine-breakers and rioters, who were expected from Christian Malford and other villagers, he seized by mistake old Mr. Eddels, taking him in the dark for a machine-breaker or incendiary.  The old man had come out at night in the innocence of his heart to get some straw from his rickyard.
       

                                                                        *

Pleasures great and small

What pleasure it is to skip,
to jump, run across a field,
climb a tree, to dance,
pour a cup of tea.

But we don't think
about these pleasures,
they are part of us
taken for granted,
not thought of,
used as a right.

When constrained in a hospital bed
I felt great pleasure
when I could move my
head from side to side
from left to right

at all.

                                                                        *

With very best wishes,
Patricia

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Time

Dear Reader,

This is just to let you now how I am since horrific operation and its aftermath.  What I didn't know was that so many complications would occur, and as a result I had to stay 14 nights in hospital and came home last Wednesday.

I think writing my blog is still too difficult for me at this time but hope in two or three weeks I will have enough energy to write it.  And also write some new poems, but not many I hope about hospitals.

Very best wishes to you all,

Patricia

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Perfect Pace

Dear Reader,
                                                                   Old Harry Rocks in Dorset

I am having an operation on 22nd August and so won't be writing this blog again until the end of September.  I hope you all have a peaceful and happy end to the summer and feel refreshed and ready for the autumn to come, and that you will rejoin me then.

And thank you for all your support this year.
                                                                           
  
                                                                               *
   

Perfect Pace




Orphaned, blind
the small elephant,
cosy under kilm rug,
slowly follows the man's tapping stick
on their daily walk
through the bush.

They rest for a while.
The man shields
the small elephant
from the heat of the sun
with a big blue umbrella.
Unhurried, they walk on.

Oh, what envy for this man,
slowly walking, quietly tapping,
sleeping in a stable with the small,
blind elephant.
Each bound to the other,
with love.

                                                                           *
With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Spirit Suitcase

                                                                             A winter sea in Cornwall




Dear Reader,

This is from Francis Kilvert's diary, August 1873.

Went to see Mrs. Pearce at Landsend, Mrs. James Knight's sister.  She told me her sad story. Born in better circumstances, the daughter of a substantial but litigious farmer, her mother died while she was yet a child.  Then her husband died young leaving her with two children and a farm at Shaw to struggle with.  Her cows caught the distemper and she was forced to drench them with her own hands. Next the rent of her farm was suddenly and greatly raised by her own brother-in-law and she was in consequence thrown out of business and reduced to comparative poverty.  'Twas a sad history and when she had asked me about my own family and learnt that my Father and Mother were both living, she said with a sigh, 'How different some people's circumstances are'.  'I used,' she said, 'to look across the road to the churchyard where my husband was sleeping and think how he was lying at rest while I had all the cares of the farm and the family to struggle with.  And I thought my heart would break.'

                                                                          *
 A little Seagull news:   Apparently seagulls flock into cities when they know that a storm at sea is brewing.  So if you see them in your town perhaps an umbrella would be useful for the outing.

                                                                          *

I put this photograph on today's blog because the weather has been so hot, and it continues to be so,
that I thought the spray looked refreshing and cool.

                                                                          *

Spirit Suitcase

A sturdy key
locks the spirit
in its suitcase.
It floats an dances,
dives low, climbs high,
is forever candle-lit.

The suitcase, new, shines,
leather polished,
locks and fittings brass-bright,
unbruised.
But through use, it gets kicks,
scuffs, scratches, and slowly fades.
Its original shape
is just recognisable,
only just there

while the spirit dances on .......

                                                                       *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Photograph by Kaye Leggett

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Word-dancing




                                                                                       Shire Horses


Dear Reader,

You will remember  that I wrote about Shire horses last year but have just read a new piece about their welfare which I find most disconcerting.  These horses were once the powerhouse of Britain, driving ploughs, barges, trams. carriages and ale carts.   But Shire horses which came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066 could be extinct within ten years.   Only 240 Shires, 199 Clydesdales and 25 Suffolks were born last year since these horses started dying out because of mechanisation after the Second World War.   However, the Shires - which were used for centuries in battle as living armoured tanks before more modern weapons made them obsolete - continue to play an important role in the Army, policing, equine therapy and even commercial logging.   The Shires are good riding animals as well and could become useful in an era where riders are becoming heavier.    The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is collecting genetic material to store so that it could be possible to bring back an extinct breed.

Wouldn't it be terrible shame if these beautiful horses were no more?  

                                                                             *

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 very best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 21 July 2018

You will be there

Your favourite countryside pictures



Dear Reader,



I love making bread, kneading the dough and then it producing a lovely warm, delicious smell in the kitchen.  I have just read that the oldest bread in the world has been discovered in a Middle Eastern desert.  Its 14,400-year-old charred crumbs when found contained wild wheat, barley and oats.These findings show humans made bread from wild seeds long before we started growing crops some 4,000 years later.  This discovery was made at an archaeological site in the Black Desert of north-eastern Jordan.   The scientists who found them uncovered two well-preserved buildings each containing a circular stone fireplace within which the crumbs were found.   In the 24 crumbs analysed they found signs of grinding, sieving and kneading.  Previously the oldest evidence of bread making had come from a 9,000-year-old Neolithic site at Catalhoyuk in Turkey but the new discovery is the earliest evidence of baking. Obviously the Natufian people who lived then knew some of the good things in life.


*
You will be there

When I wake
wonder where I am
why my chest hurts

You will be there

When tears fall
as physic tells of treatment
radiotherapy, chemotherapy

You will be there

When I want loving
arms around me
kissing my lips, my body

And you will be 
ever there


*

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Crossing the Bar - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Dear Reader,
                                                                                          Pictures of Rural England

One of the few poems I have learnt by heart of late is Alfred, Lord Tennyson's :  Crossing the Bar.  This poem is very poignant for me - it seems to touch somewhere inside my heart and by its end I am always in tears.  So I thought I would share it with you this week. 

More than any other Victorian writer, Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) has seemed the embodiment of his age, both to contemporaries and to modern readers.  In his own day he was said to be, with Queen Victoria and Gladstone, one of the most famous living persons, a reputation no other living poet writing in English ever had.  As official poetic spokesman for the reign of Victoria he felt called upon to celebrate a quickly changing industrial and mercantile world with which he felt little in common, for his deepest sympathies were called forth by an unaltered rural England; the conflict between what he thought; of as his duty to society and his allegiance to the eternal beauty of nature seems peculiarly Victorian.  Even his most severe critics have always recognised his lyrical gift for sound and cadence, a gift probably unequalled in the history of English poetry, but one so absolute that it has sometimes been mistaken for mere fantasy.

                                                                             *

The bar, by the way, is physically a bar of sand in shallow water.   That is all I can find out about it.
Tennyson wrote this poem three years before his death.


Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call to me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea.

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Ramparts

Dear Reader,







                                                                
                                                                               Thomas Hardy's Cottage


Francis and I visited Dorset this week, staying in a cottage near Lyme Regis.  Whilst there we visited Thomas Hardy's house in Higher Bockhampton.   It is a small cob and thatch building where he was born in 1840 and where he lived until he was 34.  During this time he wrote two novels:  Under the Greenwood Tree (1872) and Far From the Madding Crowd(1874).   He left home to marry Emma Gifford, the daughter of a solicitor.  The cottage was built in 1800 by his great-grandfather, and  has a typical cottage garden, the interior of the house has furniture of the period although not from the Hardy family.

Even although there were numerous other tourists in the house when we were there, I found it completely charming and peaceful.  It was all so simple and I think not much different from when Hardy lived there.  There were three small bedrooms, white washed, with quilts as bedspreads, china chamber pots, and a Bible by the beds.  All one wants in a bedroom I would say.  In the kitchen there was a small table and a big stove for cooking on, oh and a shelf or two. The floor was made of flagstones, now a faded pink and, I found it easy to imagine Thomas walking over them, pipe in mouth. I looked out of the very small window where he did his writing and saw flowers and woodland.  There I thought was his inspiration for his first novel: Under the Greenwood Tree.  And I really felt him there beside me.  If you are in Dorset and haven't been I do recommend it as a lovely outing.




                                                                          *

Ramparts

To keep people out,
medieval man built castle walls,
dug moats, constructed drawbridges.
"No admission" was understood
from oaken doors, black studded.

Modern man spoils streets,
violates the countryside
with "keep out" signs.
Things do not change.

Ramparts encircle people.
"No admission" written on their faces,
and looks are exchanged with
a private label.

These rejections, solid or implied
do not threaten me,
"Keep out" outdared by my skylark spirit.
It flies free.

                                                                        *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Katie's Angels


Dear Reader,





Just a little about myself this week to put you in the picture.  I have been diagnosed with lung cancer and. at the same time,  have found a wonderful new partner called Francis, a Professor of Social Psychology.  He is also a widower who nursed his wife through dementia, and is prepared to look after me through my obviously difficult times ahead.  I put the picture of the piper on the blog as Francis plays the bagpipe and did so for me, by a lake,  in the Forest of Dean this last lovely sunny week.  So good and bad news but I am determined to fight whatever comes up and to get through the eye of the storm.  

The blog will continue as usual next week. 

         *
                                                                             

The RSPB has given gulls a better press than they have been having lately.  Apparently they are intelligent and adaptable and we should learn to understand them.  'Clever gulls have learned that humans can be messy, leaving discarded food on the streets or in overflowing litter bins, and also that sometimes we will feed them' said a spokesperson for the RSPB.  Gulls are skilled scavengers, however they have a soft side and mate for life.  The male helps incubate the eggs, then later takes it in turn with the female to look after and feed the chicks. Obviously the modern male, then!


      *

Katie's Angels


At dawn, driving eastwards,
mist still covering the fields,
trees ribboned in cobwebs,
sky blue and white.

She saw a rabbit, a pigeon,
and two hen pheasants, 
but no cherubs, no bright light.

Much later, lost, tired,
rounding a corner she saw
gathered in the road
twenty white doves.

They flew up,
a breath of sunshine
tipping their wings.
Ecstatic, she recognised the sign,
recognised her angels.

                                                                             *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Not One of Us


                                                                                       Greensleeves



Dear Reader,

I thought you might enjoy this piece from Francis Kilvert's diary on Friday, 12th June,1874.

' Bathing yesterday and to-day.  Yesterday sea was very calm, but the wind has changed to the East and this morning a rough and troublesome sea came tumbling into the bay and plunging in foam upon the shore. The bay was full of white horses.  At Shanklin one has to adopt the detestable custom of bathing in drawers.  If ladies don't like to see men naked why don't they keep away from the sight? To-day I had a pair of drawers given to me which I could not keep on.  The rough waves stripped them off and tore them down round my ankles.  While thus fettered I was seized and flung down by a heavy sea which retreating suddenly left me lying naked on the sharp shingle from which I rose streaming with blood.   After this I took the wretched and dangerous rag off and, of course, there were some ladies looking on as I came up out of the water.'

                                                                                 *

There is a persistent belief that Greensleeves was composed by Henry VIII for his lover and future consort Anne Boleyn.  Boleyn allegedly rejected King Henry's attempts to seduce her and this rejection may be referred to in the song when the writer's love "cast me off discourteously". However the piece is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after Henry's death making it more likely to be Elizabethan in origin.

So what does the song mean?  One possible interpretation of the lyrics is that Lady Green Sleeves was a promiscuous young woman, perhaps a prostitute.  At the time the word 'green' has sexual connotations, most notably in the phrase ' a green gown' being a reference to the grass stains on a woman's dress from engaging in sexual intercourse outdoors.
                                                                                    *
It has to be said that things have changed dramatically in England in the last few hundred years.   For the better, I wonder?
                                                                                    *



Not one of us

A small figure at school in
a hot, strange land.  The
children left her alone,
she didn't speak their language
or know their games or rules.
She was not one of them.

Winter now and an English
boarding school, where the rules
were known, but not to her.
She was clumsy, wore spectacles,
couldn't tie her tie, dropped the netball.
Couldn't master dance steps gracefully
to the music of "Greensleeves',
was not an asset, wouldn't do.
She was not one of them.

She simply asked,
why do the safely-grounded
hear the beat of a terrified heart
and seek to silence it?  Is the beat
too loud, something not understood,
something to frighten?
Are things better when the group
destroys the alien in its midst?

She never knew,
she was not one of them.

                                                                            *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Betrayal

                           The Battle of Sedgemoor           Residents laundry hanging outside of a shop
                                                                                                              in Colyton

 Dear Reader,

I so enjoyed the story this week about Claire Mountjoy from the Devon village of Colyton, the single mother who hung her washing out to dry over her front door.  But local traders instructed her not to hang her washing out to dry because it would lower the tone of the neighbourhood.  In response to this instruction hundreds of residents have taken to displaying bras, nighties, pants and other item of laundry outside their  homes as a show of solidarity with Ms. Mountjoy.  The person who sent the letter claimed that the sight of her underwear was likely to offend passing tourists. The tourists must be easily offended and I think Ms. Mountjoy deserves a medal for showing initiative and brightening her front door up with her laundry.

Colyton first appeared as an ancient village around 700 AD and features in the Domesday Book as 'Culitone'.  It was called the most 'rebellious town in Devon' due to the number of its inhabitants who joined the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.  The Monmouth Rebellion was also known as 'The Revolt of the West' and was an attempt to overthrown James II, The Duke of York.  Monmouth forces were unable to compete with the regular army and the rebellion ended with the defeat of Monmouth's army at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6th July, 1685.   Monmouth was executed for treason on 15th July, 1685.

                                                                            *

Betrayal

You were always there
for me, as I for you.
You read to me
you laughed with me
you told me stories
of magic and imagination.

We travelled north and south
to Scotland and the Western Isles
enjoyed Dorset, Devon, Cornwall.
Went to see the Lakes
peeped into Beatrix Potter's house
felt cold in Dove Cottage where
you put my hand in your pocket.

we were one heart beat

But you have gone.
Now I have to try to live
another life
with you not there,
with someone else perhaps
someone to fill the empty gap
you left me with

Please forgive me darling.

                                                                           *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Small Moments of Warmth

Dear Reader,
                                                                                  Lake Wanaka

This beautiful lake lies at the heart of the Otago Lakes in the lower South Island of New Zealand.  The township is situated in a glacier carved basin on the shores of the lake and is the gateway to the Aspiring National Park.  At its greatest extent the lake is 42 kilometres long.  Its widest point, at the southern end, is 10 kilometres.  The lakes western shore is lined with high peaks rising to over 2000 metres above sea level.

For Maori the Wanaka area was a natural crossroads. Until the nineteenth century Wanaka was visited by Ngai Tahu, the principal Maori tribe of the Southern Region of New Zealand.  They hunted eels and birds over summer returning to the east coast in reed boats.  Ngai Tahu use of the land was ended by attacks by North Island tribes.  In 1836, the Ngati Tama chief led a 100-person war party, armed with muskets, down the west coast and over the Haast Pass: they fell on the Ngai tahu encampment between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, capturing ten people and killing and eating two children.  Maori seasonal visits, no surprise, ceased after this.

                                                                               *

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 sucumber 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 the car,
singing old thirties love songs.

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

                                                                                *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Spring Fair

Dear Reader,

                                                                              Fairgrounds

Travelling fairs are 'the unwritten portion of the story of the people, bound to the life of a nation by the ties of religion, trade and pleasure'.  The tradition is living and dynamic and reflects the influence of popular culture in which it operates and, in many cases, it predates the history of the town or settlement in which it appears.

The majority of fairs held in the United Kingdom trace their ancestry back to charters and privileges granted in the Medieval period.  In the thirteenth century, the creation of fairs by royal charter was widespread, with the Crown making every attempt to create new fairs and to bring existing ones under their jurisdiction.  By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the majority of English fairs had been granted charters and were re-organised to fall in line with their European counterparts.

Currently, over two hundred fairs take place every weekend in the United Kingdom with the Goose Fair in Nottingham and Hull Fair growing in size and popularity every year.

The poem I am publishing today is the story of one of my daughters who, when we went to a fair years ago, just disappeared.  She returned in the morning seemingly no worse for wear.  I never did find out where she went.

                                                                          *

Spring Fair

The young girl
and her mother, holding hands,
hurry down the hill
where the bright lights beckon,
see the big dippers hurtling,
painted horses swirling, yellow
swing boats diving, swooping,
smell the grease and diesel
hear the loud beat of music,
the children's screms.

Young men of the fair,
long-haired, dark, a little wild,
eye the girls with bright,
knowing looks.
The air is full of restlessness, of quickening,
the urgency to act
before the end of the night,
when morning light will move them on.

Dusk falls, the young firl drops her mother's hand,
stirred by the primal desire of early spring.
Running silently she disappears into the night, eager
to share what ancient fires of life can bring.

                                                                             *

With very best wishes, Patricia