Sunday, 29 December 2019

Farm Portrait, 1880



                                                                                          Potato Pickers




Dear Reader,

I had a truly wonderful Christmas Day staying with Rachel, Francis's daughter in Ross-on-Wye.  I  had a stocking in bed with a cup of tea and a fabulous view of the distant hills.  We walked in the sunshine and then had a perfect Christmas lunch with turkey and all its accompaniments. Presents after lunch and then later we watched "Where Eagles Dare" a good exciting film with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.   I hope you all had a lovely break and are now raring to start the new decade, I know I am.

December 30th, 1802 from Dorothy Wordsworth's journal:

'We ate potted beef on horseback and sweet cake.  We stopped our horse close to the hedge, opposite a tuft of primroses, three flowers in full blossom and a bud.  They reared themselves up among the green moss.  We debated long whether we should pluck them, and at last left them to live out their day, which I was right glad of at my return the Sunday following; for there they remained uninjured either by cold or wet.'


                                                                         *

Farm Portrait, 1880

That's me in the painting, a potato-picking wife,
dressed in clogs, a woollen shawl, a woollen shirt.
I stand on stony ground with my riddle and my knife,
put potatoes in my apron, worn over muddy skirt.
And that's my husband, wearing an old cloth cap
over pale face and wistful eyes, digging with our son,
while coughing Sarah holds within her lap
the swaddled, crying babe, until our work is done.
Our house is cold, dark, and full of mice,
the grind is hard, the winter weather harsh,
damp oozes from the walls, and we have lice,
the lonely peewit calls from the eerie marsh.
But, at dawn today, I heard a blackbird sing
and hope arose with thoughts of coming spring.

                                                                           *

With best wishes and a Happy New Year, Patricia

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Havana Cigars




                                                                                           Candlelit dinners

Dear Reader,

I can't believe it is Christmas time again so soon.  It seems to me that I have only just put away last year's Christmas tree, decorations and cards. In fact I didn't send any cards this year as it always seems such a lot of time and effort to find addresses, stamps and do the writing. So can I say here  a very happy Christmas to you all, and may 2020 be full of good things for you.  And thank you so much for reading this blog, without your support I would be bereft.

                                                                                  *

Horace Walpole wrote from Middlesex in 1748:

'Did you ever know a more absolute country gentleman?  Here am I come down to what you call keeping Christmas! Indeed it is not in all forms; I have stuck no laurel and holly in my windows, I eat no turkey and chine, I have no tenants to invite.  I have not brought a single soul with me.  The weather is excessively stormy, but has been so warm and so entirely free from frosts the whole winter, that not only several of my honeysuckles are come out, but I have literally a blossom upon a nectarine tree, which I believe was never seen in this climate before on the 26th of December.'
                                                                                *


1748 sounds a bit like this year.  I wonder what that says for global warming.

                                                                               *

Havana Cigars

A man walked past me
smoking a cigar,
puffing out the smoke
with its unique aroma
of luxury and opulence.

What memories it brings.

Candlelit dinners eaten,
Cuban cigars passed round
in silver boxes,
nestling in sandalwood.
Talk was of politics, shooting, fishing,
and dubious stories
generating laughter amongst the men.

Cigars at race courses,
smoke and racehorse sweat mingling.
Cigars after lunch and coffee,
the erotic smell of tobacco leaves
awakening desires.

Cigars enjoyed by old men
remembering younger days,
cigars in large country houses
with sunlit gardens embracing
the scent of gardenias and roses.
Evening dancing with
partners smelling of claret
and Havana cigars.

A time of grandeur
of abundance,

another time.

                                                                                *



With very best wishes, Patricia






Sunday, 15 December 2019

Buckinghamshire 1943






Dear Reader,

It was such a relief on Friday morning to discover that Boris Johnson had won a distinctive victory for the Tory party.  Not, I have to admit, being a consistent Tory voter over the years, more of a floating voter, depending on where I was living and what resources I had.

But the last three years have been so depressing and disturbing with the constant arguments, anger and vitriol.  I want whoever governs me to be a reliable, comforting body who takes rational decisions on my behalf.  And with the endless discussions about Brexit overriding everything else which should have been  discussed, such as the funding of the NHS, there has been little to feel joyful about.  I do hope, and I think he will, Boris will 'get Brexit done,' and then concentrate on the important things that have been neglected.  I, in particular, would like him to reintroduce the community centres where young boys can let off steam boxing, and play other sports. 

Well there are masses of things we can all think of that need planning and money to make things fairer for all, so good luck to all politicians whatever their preferences.
                                                                      

                                                                          *
December 19th,1802

From Dorothy Wordsworth, in Westmorland

'as mild a day as I ever remember.  We all set out to walk.... There were flowers of various kinds - the topmost bell of a foxglove, geraniums, daisies, a buttercup in the water....small yellow flowers (I do not know their name) in the turf, a large bunch of strawberry blossoms.'

                                                                         *


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, 8 December 2019

Screams Unheard






                                                                             Imperial War Museum

                                                                                      
 Do not stand
 about here.
 Even if you are not hit
 Someone else will be.



Dear Reader,

We have been watching some wonderful old war series on DVDs shot in the 1970s.  "Enemy at the Door' is our favourite with some wonderful heart-warming stories about the occupation of Guernsey Island near France, in the second world war.  I often do think of both world wars and the incredible bravery of our soldiers, ( I suppose for all soldiers wherever they came from) and gasp at the things they did to help our side.

My father fought in the first WW as I told you on Remembrance Sunday and I so wish I had asked him about his experiences, and what he did to obtain the medals I found in his room after he died.

The poem for today I wrote after visiting a war museum in France, near Caen.  I was so upset that I had to leave before I had seen the whole museum and wept bitterly in the car park.  The friend I was staying with thought I would enjoy the outing - well how wrong she was.  She never did understand why I was so disturbed which proves, I suppose, that we are all so different, so diverse.


                                                                           *

Screams Unheard

It is very well done, she said,
the War Museum,
we will visit one afternoon.
Visit the dead?
I know the grief and loss war cause,
I remain silent, pause
then say, yes why not.

We did visit,
people crowded everywhere.
Schoolchildren were
chewing gum, shouting,
scribbling on odd pieces of paper,
bored with the uncool dead,
and old history.

We lunched in the restaurant
on hot soup, buttered buns,
then hurried downstairs
to inspect tanks and guns.
Under lowered lights
in ominous gloom,
sepia scenes of uniformed men
hung in a darkened room.

Underground now,
the bowels of the earth.
Ah, the virtual reality attraction
the gas chamber.
Permission to touch
the white tiles, the copper pipes
where the gas could come
not very nice, but very well done.

A teenager laughed,
licked his ice cream,
then wandered away,
obscene, obscene.

Normandy landings next
on film,
Sea-sodden soldiers, exhausted, cold,
weary young faces, made old,
blasts of noise, terror and blood,
bulleted corpses floating in mud.
Screech, more aircraft over,
some of  "our boys" after the Hun.
Very clever, very real,
very well done.

We should have gone to the Dolls
Museum, she said.
Perhaps more entertaining
than the dreary dead.

Did anyone else hear the screams,
or feel the grief, the anger, the fear,
all of the things I felt there?..........


                                                                             *


With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Knossos

Dear Reader,

                                                                                           Knossos



We have a bird table outside the kitchen window which affords us much pleasure.  Before it was installed I thought birds just flew about all over the place with no particular agenda in mind.  But I have discovered that I was quite wrong.  Birds seem to have a very definite routine, our birds like eating between 7.30 am to 10 am and then they go AWOL until after lunch.  And different breeds have different social habits.  The most timid are the blue tits who swoop down to peck out a seed and then are off in a great hurry.  The goldfinches on the other hand fly down onto the perch, have a good look around and then start their pecking.  They might stay there for several minutes much to the annoyance of the coal tits and blue tits, and sometimes there is a fight between all of them.  Not being much of a one to watch the television I find watching birds an enormously enjoyable pastime.  If you haven't tried it do give it a go.

                                                                          *

Jane Austen wrote a letter to James Stanier Clarke on 11th December, 1815

'Dear Sir,

My "Emma' is now so near publication that I feel it right to assure you of my not having forgotten your kind recommendation of an early copy for Carlton House and that I have Mr. Murray's promise of its being sent to His Royal Highness, under cover to you, three previous to the work being really out.'

Later in this letter she hoped people would like Emma, but wasn't quite sure if they would.  Not as much anyway as 'Pride and Prejudice" and 'Mansfield Park'.  Gosh, if only she knew.  The sales of her books, I think, go into the millions. 

                                                                          *
Knossos was a very difficult poem to write.  I don't know quite whether it works but here it is anyway.


Knossos



It was hot,
a brilliant sun shone,
sky a bright blue.
We wandered
across ancient pathways
wild flowers abundant,
climbed over pink stone walls
marking Minoan burial sites
from a thousand years ago.

We separated and I found
tucked away,
a stark white room.
It was deathly cold and
I shivered violently.
A spirit seemed to envelop me
strangle me, clasp me round my neck.
Fearful I ran away screaming,
my heart pounding.

This was the room
I later learnt, 
used for a human sacrifice,
a young man's bones lying there
bearing witness.
                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Porridge


                                                                               Winter photograph



Dear Reader,


I read this piece by Jane Austen this week written on 6th November, 1813.  I thought you too might enjoy it.

'I had long wanted to see Dr. Britten, and his wife amuses me very much with her affected refinement and elegance.  Miss Lee I found very conversible; she admires Crabbe as she ought. She is at an age of reason, ten years older than myself at least. She was at the famous Ball at Chilham Castle, so of course you remember her.  By the bye, as I must leave off being young, I find many Douceours in being a sort of Chaperon for I am put on the Sofa near the fire and can drink as much wine as I like.  We had Music in the Event, Fanny and Miss Wild played. and Mr. James Wildman sat close by and listened, or pretended to listen'.
                                                                     
What is the Age of Reason?   I wonder if I have got there at 79.

                                                                                *

In the last two weeks I have been having dizzy spells especially in bed at night if I turn my head quickly. Apparently it is quite common and called vertigo.  There is not much to be done about it except exercises which make a dizzy fit come on.  So I am not doing them and just hope it will go
away soon.

                                                                               *


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 imagines her husband
taking the train, office-bound,
making important telephone calls,
lunching with partners Lucy and George
in the Italian bistro, discussing deals,
drinking white wine, laughing, living.
She weeps.

                                                                                *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Betrayal

                                                                      Dove Cottage




                                                                   Beatrice Potter's house

Dear Reader,

Fingle Woods on the northern fringes of Dartmoor National Park should be an ideal habitat for hedgehogs, yet for decades no evidence of them has been recorded.  But now they have finally been detected in a centuries-old forest in Devon.   Hedgehogs are a great indicator of a healthy ecosystem due to their reliance on an abundance of invertebrates which, in turn, rely on dead wood and leaf litter.

But mild weather this autumn could prove fatal for hedgehog as it interrupted their hibernation. Hoglets need to be above 1lb before they hunker down for the winter, and if they are too thin they are not likely to survive. After struggling with flooding, which has ruined many of their nests, they also face the threat of warmer weather, which means they stay awake when there is not much food around causing them to use up their reserves.

                                                                          *

I have been struggling with a poem this week.  It is a bit of a ghost story which really happened to me on the island of Crete, long ago.    If I can't make it work as a poem I will tell you the story in next week's blog.

                                                                          *

Betrayal

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

We trvelled 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 heartbeat.

But you have gone.
Now I 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 best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 10 November 2019

When my Dad came home





Dear Reader,

Every year on Remembrance Sunday I think of my father, Harold Huth, an actor and film producer after the first World War.  He served in 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   My father never spoke about his war memories but was made ill from the gas he inhaled
all his life.

Thank you Dad for the small part you played allowing me to live in freedom, and thinking of you today I send you all my love.

                                                                               *



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 best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Grief





                                                                                          Claret Bottles






Dear Reader,

It is said that 'loneliness can be every bit as debilitating as a physical ailment; as bad, it is estimated, as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day'.  Reading this piece today immediately makes me remember what it was like to be lonely after the death of my husband.  Terrible, is the word that springs to mind.   I just couldn't get to grips with the situation at all.  Get a dog or a cat was the advice I got from kindly friends, but can a dog or a cat discuss the politics of the day or help me decided if I need a coat to wear that day?  No they can't.  

Of course there are lots of things I could have done to possibly made myself less lonely and I did sometimes play bridge or ask a friend in for tea or coffee.  But what about all those many many hours by yourself?   I went for a daily walk, wrote a poem or thought about the start of one, cooked a bit for myself, but thinking about the rest of my life on my own filled me with dread and sadness.  What would be the point, just filling in the time until perhaps, mercifully, one died.  What about your children and grandchildren, people might think?  Well I love them to bits but they are all very busy.  They do visit sometimes at the weekends but in the week, they do not. 

My darling granddaughter Emma had just got a boyfriend on Tinder.  Why don't you try for one, she said,  I will help you.  And that is how I found Francis on The Telegraph Dating website. And now life is so joyful and such fun. We walk and talk together, cook new things, put on 60s music and dance after supper in the sitting room, watch WWII DVDs  and are genuinely grateful to the Good Lord that we found one another. 

So my friends if you are lonely try computer dating.  It has made the complete difference to my life
finding a loving companion in Francis.

                                                                            *


Grief

Grief bridles you
holds the reins
is an unwanted guest in your head
releases uncontrollable torrents of tears

is ever present
your albatross

you glimpse a slipper
under a chair
study the wedding photographs
count the claret bottles
no longer wanted
and you weep

                                                                             *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Yes, the Neighbours






Dear Reader


Aren't the autumn colours we can see in woods and hedgerows this year wonderful?  Perhaps they always have been, and I quote here from one or two journals and diaries from yesteryear to prove a point.

October 26th, Gilbert White, 1783 in Hampshire.

'If a masterly landscape painter was to take our hanging woods in their autumnal colours, persons unacquainted with the country would object to the strength and deepness of the tints and would pronounce, at an exhibition, that they were heightened and shaded beyond nature.'

October 26th, William Cowper, 1790 in Buckinghamshire.

'A yellow shower of leaves is falling continually from all the trees in the country....The consideration of my short continuance here, which was once grateful to me, now fills me with regret.   I would live and live always.'

October 30th, Dorothy Wordsworth, 1802 in Westmoreland.

'It is a breathless, grey day, that leaves the golden woods of autumn quiet in their own tranquillity, stately and beautiful in their decaying; the lake is a perfect mirror.'

                                                                                   *

Animal news:   The rare greater Horseshoe bat has been recorded in Kent for the first time in more than 100 years, according to the Bat Conservation Trust.  The reason for the presence of the species in Kent is not known.  It is possible that an individual bat was blown off course or has travelled from France, or that a bat has dispersed across Britain from strongholds in the west of England or Wales.

                                                                                   *

Yes, the Neighbours

were very nice

two lovely children
playing quietly in the garden
a large friendly dog
no loud music
no noisy cars

I can't think
who would do this
to them

such a happy, smiling family
such a shame
such a waste

I am so sorry

But, of course,
we never spoke to them
she said.

                                                                                    *

With very best wishes, Patrica.


Sunday, 20 October 2019

Table for One






Dear Reader

My blog is about domestic rabbits this week, and it appears that they are not having a very good time. Apparently the first pet rabbits were discovered by the Romans. Rabbits brought here from Spain were reared in walled enclosures and then served as a gourmet dish.

But today domestic rabbits often lead miserable, disease-ridden lives because their owners wrongly believe that they need minimal care and handling.  The VetCompass study revealed that the average lifespan of pet rabbits was just 4.3 years and that the majority of health problems were due to inappropriate housing and feeding.  

Dr. Dan O'Neill, VetCompass  researcher at RVC said: "For years rabbits were considered as the perfect child's pet: fluffy, cute, passive and only needing minimal care and handling whilst being fed muesli-type food in a hutch in the garden where it is generally kept on its own".

Dr. Jo Hedly said: "better owner education is necessary if we are to improve rabbit health and welfare in future years."  

I have to own up to having several rabbits in my childhood.  I'm sure I didn't clean the hutch out often enough and fed them dandelion leaves amongst other things and, I suspect, they had a tough and lonely life.  But in my defence I knew no better.

                                                                            *

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 best wishes, Patricia

                                                                     


Sunday, 13 October 2019

Goats






                                                                                         Shepherd Boy and Flute


Dear Reader,

There was an Extinction Rebellion meeting in our village hall last week and we went. Two Oxford dons seemed to be running it and they both had an hour to speak and show us slides. The pictures of the fires, floods and famine all over the world were horrific and and their gloomy foreboding of things to come was very disturbing.  But what we were not told was what each one of us could do, in a small way, to improve things.  Extinction Rebellion seems to be causing chaos on the streets of London
and many other cities, not just in England but around the world.  Obviously members of the government will take note of these activities and I sincerely hope they do, but perhaps this isn't the right way.  People wanting to get to work and ambulances wanting to get patients to hospital have been impeded and this probably does nothing to further EX's cause.

Climate change is a very serious subject which must be addressed by all the world leaders and come to some agreement about what to do, quickly.

Animal news:  Apparently with all this wet weather  spiders are hurrying into our homes for warmth and comfort.  But not only spiders, rats too like the comfort of your home. So keep the doors shut
or you might have unwelcome visitors.

Nothing on the gulls this week except I read about a poet who loved them.  He wrote poetry for them and apparently they understood every word.  Well there is no accounting for taste.

                                                                            *

Goats

The goats pick their way up
the steep mountain path
nibbling and bleating, tails wagging
silver bells chiming as they stop
to graze, skip and jump upwards.

White mignonettes, freesias, lavender bushes
grow in abundance along the well-worn track,
and small taranaki flowers nestle
in the undergrowth.
Overhead a black kite cries
circles and swoops
and the pungent smell of goats
fills the warm lavender air.

I see the shepherd boy
swarthy, brown and handsome
sitting on a stone, playing a flute.
He watches his precious goats
with a sharp and knowing eye.

As I pass I smile. He waves.
I dance a step to his music
and with light heart follow the goats,
on my own journey upwards.

                                                                             *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Truth Modern


                                                                                              Murky waters



Dear Reader,

 On October 5th, 1872, Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote in his journal:

' A goldencrested wren had got into my room at night and circled round dazzled by the gaslight on the white ceiling; when caught even and put out it would come in again.  Ruffling the crest which is mounted over the crown and eyes like beetlebrows, I smoothed and fingered the little orange and yellow feathers which are hidden in it.  Next morning I found many of these about the room and enclosed them in a letter to Cyril (his brother) on his wedding day'.

My poem today is about truth.  Oscar Wilde said:  'Whoever let truth get in the way of a good story..... ' and as someone who exaggerates a little (my family would say quite a lot) I agree with this sentiment.  But in today's world the truth about almost anything seems to have got lost altogether.
More is the pity...who can we believe and trust nowadays?

                                                                                  *

Truth Modern

Through a kaleidoscope's
shifting, bright colours,
set close to the eye,
the viewer's truth is reflected,
assuring the mind of its veracity,
acknowledging its fantasies
as realities, seeing truth
not as it is, but as we would
like it to be,
spinning words,
detaching truth from its moorings,
setting it loose in murky waters.
Illusions of truth
sandwiched between lies
is the authentic truth
of our times

                                                                                *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Stone





                                                                                              Guernsey

Dear Reader,

The reason I couldn't write the blog last Sunday was because I was having a holiday in Guernsey.  We were lucky with the weather.  The sun shone for five days which made our many bus journeys and sight seeing interesting and fun.  Gosh, what a story Guernsey has to tell.  We went to five museums, all of which were so beautifully done, with abundant military costumes on models and where appropriate, authentic weapons from the occupation. The German Occupation museum was most interesting - what a terrible time the Guernsey people must have had when occupied.  One poster I particularly noticed said ' If you are found outside after the curfew, you will be shot'.  And everything seemed so dirty and grim.

We don't know we are born today, do we?  All the quarrelling about Brexit seems so puerile, so pathetic.

                                                                            *


Stone 

I wrapped the stone in linen cloth,
the picnic I wrapped in plastic bags.
We made for the river the stone and I.
My arm ached with the weight.

We sat on the bank,
watched the river run.

I fed myself tomato sandwiches,
shortbread, spring water.
The stone was still and silent.
I fed it words.

Standing up I said:"Stone
you have been my life companion.
My fetter, me, chained to you.
Hurling you into the river
will be my resurrection".

                                                                           *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 15 September 2019

The Fence








Dear Reader,

I wrote today's poem after I had read an article in the Spectator magazine written by a woman who
had changed her London home for a country cottage.  She had had many hopes of a perfect life but it didn't turn out the way she had envisaged. 

Why, I wonder, do so many people leave city life thinking that living in the country is going to be idyllic? Then they find that they don't like the church bells waking them up, the cockerel crowing at 6.am, farmyard smells, or ugly old trees preventing their view of far distance hills.  Surely they could have thought about these things before they moved.

                                                                                *

From 'The Little Book of the Cotswolds' by Gillian Broomhall

'By the time twenty-one-year-old Harriet Tarver of Chipping Campden was dispatched in April 1836 for murdering her husband, Thomas, the punishment of the day had been reduced to the supposedly more humane sentence of hanging.  Mrs. Tarver clearly also believed the way to stop a man's heart was through his stomach, for she laced her husband's rice pudding with arsenic having apparently been giddified by some other fellow's irresistible charms.'


                                                                                  *

The Fence

The lively young couple
pursuing an idyllic dream,
came down from the city,
bought a country cottage
with roses at the door.

They envisaged a
more peaceful,
meaningful life
amongst the village people,
intending to join in all activities,
arrange church flowers,
bicycle to events,
raise money for charity.

But, alas, not knowing
the consequences,
they pulled down
an old, bedraggled hedge,
albeit much loved by village folk,
and put up a modern fence.

The villagers were appalled.
They loved the old hedge
it was part of their heritage.
They hated the new fence,
raised petitions against
the culpable thoughtless couple,
snubbed them in the village shop,
 even the vicar avoided them.

Upset and angry
at this outrageous behaviour
the young couple and their
two small children
fled back to the city
from whence they came.
Back to their reality world,
leaving their dreams behind.

They never understood
that in pastoral reality
cockerels crow at 6.am,
pigs smell strongly,
traditions take a long time to die,
and that country neighbours can be
flawed people, just like them.

                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

P.S.  When I lived in a cottage in this country town, we had a beautiful pear tree climbing up the wall.
Neighbours called to say they hoped we would never chop it down and, if we had any pears to spare,
could they have them.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Emma Alpha Plus


                                                                              The Sound of Music



Dear Reader,

Apparently several examples of stocks can be found in the Cotswolds.  I know a two-holed version can be found in the square in Stow-on-the-Wold which we intend to go and see one bright September day.  Stocks were once found in practically every town or village and were widely used in the punishment of minor offences for both women and men.   Apart from being humiliated whilst in the stocks you could be pelted with whatever detritus the locals thought fit.  One such miserable wretch is reported to have died from injuries while in the stocks at Stroud in October 1832.

                                                                            *

We went to a flamenco guitar concert this week but I was bitterly disappointed as flamenco music was not at all as I had imagined it to be.  Once you have heard one piece.......

                                                                             *

Emma Alpha Plus

Emma
the little one
frightened to be left
at night
shared my bed
snuggled up with me
listened to nursery rhymes
on an old tape recorder

we went to the swings
sat on a bench
ate crisps

she grew and we went to
the Wildlife Park
stared at the monkeys

we watched Maisy Mouse
over and over again
and in her teens
The Sound of Music

she worked hard at school
had problems with her
heart overbeating and never
complained

she went to college
got a distinction
will go to Brighton to study
in September next year

she is helpful, enthusiastic
puts her all into everything
is engaging and funny

she is alpha plus

I loved her and looked after her
and now she looks after me

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Monday, 2 September 2019

Katie's Angels


                                                                                          The Clee Hills


Dear Reader,

Francis Kilvert was writing about the Clee Hills, Radnorshire, in his diary on the 5th September, 1871.  This is such a beautiful part of our English countryside which I visited not long ago and I thought you might like to read this extract:

'The day was lovely and I went over to Newchurch.....A solitary fern cutter was at work on the Vicar's Hill mowing the fern with a sharp harsh ripping sound.   In the first Newchurch field the turkeys, black and grey and fawn-coloured, were mourning in the stubbles and a black pony was gazing pensively over the hedge.  I passed through two fields of thin stunted wheat choked with sow thistle which covered me with its downy blossom.  From the Little Mountain the view was superb and the air exquisitely clear.  The Clee Hills seemed marvellously near.  The land glittered, variegated with colours and gleams of wheat, stubble and blue hill.

                                                                           *

Yesterday Francis and I went to an enormous car boot sale to try to sell some unwanted things.  I thought it was such fun and we made over £100.   I met some interesting and lovely people and hope to go to another one soon.   If you haven't been to a car boot sale do try to go, it really is a joyous outing.

                                                                           *

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 recognized the sign,
recognized her angels.

                                                                         *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Monday, 26 August 2019

War Rich, Peace Poor








Dear Reader,

Francis and I spent two delightful days with his daughter Rachel and her husband Richard in Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire.  On Saturday, we ventured forth to see Brockhampton, a medieval manor house with fantastic views over the surrounding countryside.  The house is relatively small and has been left by the National Trust much as it was, I imagine, in the war years.  Going into the study I was so reminded of my own family treasures, a wind up gramophone, and a large leather desk with an old fashioned black telephone on it.  If you are anywhere near there it is a very enjoyable outing.

Gilbert White, 1787, in Hampshire, August 27th, wrote in his journal:

'Timothy the tortoise, who has spent the last two months amidst the umbrageous forests of the asparagus-beds, begins now to be sensible of the chilly autumnal mornings; and therefore suns himself under the laurel-hedge, into which he retires at night.  He is become sluggish, and does not seem to take any food.'

William Cowper, 1782, in Buckinghamshire, August 27th,  wrote:

'It is so cold this 27th August that I shake in the green-house where I am writing.'

Ubrageous means affording shade.  
                                                                           
                                                                                 *


Seagull news:  There has been so much news in the newspapers about the behaviour of seagulls this summer I am sure you have read it or seen it all yourselves.  But I did read an article by a posh journalist in the Daily Telegraph who seemed to imply that seagulls were noble birds and we should all love them.  As I said last week, each to his own.

                                                                                  *

War Rich, Peace Poor


When war broke out
the rich woman volunteered,
drove ambulances,
nursed wounded soldiers.
She was busy all day
but she was happy,
fulfilled, her eyes sparkled,
she smiled at everyone.

Then in 1945 peace
was declared.
Her jobs disappeared,
no gossip now over tea breaks,
no excitement, no bombs
or air raids to avoid.

She should have been happy
that peace was declared
but she felt sad and empty.

                                                                               *

With very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 18 August 2019

English Weather


                                                                                    August Weather

Dear Reader,
 I thought I would write a bit about the weather this week.  And how strange it has been in the last few weeks.  When we travelled down to Lyme Regis last month it was on the day that the temperature was 38 degrees. (It seems that July was the hottest month recorded in Europe since records began).  For myself I find the heat troublesome, and I never sit in the sun.

On August 22nd, 1800, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal:

'Very cold.  Baking in the morning, gathered pea seeds and took up - lighted a fire upstairs.....Wind very high shaking the corn'.

August 23rd, 1879, Richard Jefferies wrote:

Rain steady all morning: heavy till afternoon - caused local flood.  Evening dry but cloudy.  The wood pigeons are now in the wheat in flocks (they beat the ears with bill).

August 27th, 1782,  William Cowper wrote:

It is so cold this 27th of August that I shake in the green-house where I am writing.


Seagull news.  Seagulls are now annoying the citizens of Paris with the noise they make and the chaos they create.  In particular it is the Belleville fish market which is one of their favourite haunts. They also enjoy the safe nesting opportunities afforded by the city's rooftops. 

What is to be done?

                                                                                   *

English Weather

rain, mist and fog
make my hair curl
my skin goes clammy
affects my liver and temper
produce a chill, a cold, a cough

while the sun cheers me
lightens my heart and mood
fills the house
brightens the corners
warms my body
reminds me of holidays
when I was young

but English weather
and all its seasons
are my heritage
in my blood, my natural habitat

I don't want want perpetual sun
blue skies, or monsoon rains,
or ice or snow
all year round

English weather suits me best.

                                                                               *

With very best wishes, Patricia