Sunday, 14 July 2019

Rose Coloured spectacles






Dear Reader,

There were two extraordinary stories in the newspaper this week, and both, I think, are absurd.

If you did read about them skip this bit but if you didn't here is the gist:

A Christian doctor who is suing the Department for Work and Pensions says he lost his job after a recruitment agent asked whether or not he would call a bearded man 'madam'.  "No I would not," he said.   He was then sacked for refusing to call people who were born male 'she' even if they now identify as female. He was suspended as a disability claim assessor said it would be irresponsible to address people based on preferred pronouns.
                                                                         
                                                                      *

The other story is about a senior Northern Ireland civil servant who was paid £10,000 compensation for having to walk past portraits of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in his line of duty  Mr. Hegarty's complaints are said to have led to the portraits being removed and replaced by pictures of the Queen meeting people.  One of those was Martin McGuinness, former Deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and an ex-IRA commander.   The case brought by the complainant was settled secretly and the sum of £10,000 was handed over,  presumably for hurt feelings and distress.

I just wonder where the UK is going.  It all seems so mad to me, and so sad.


                                                                      *

Rose Coloured Spectacles

For her he was such a hero,
caught the biggest fish,
rode the fastest horse,
made people laugh,
procured lots of money,
knew the elite
made them his friends,
no weaknesses were known
or seen.
Yes, he was somebody.

But who is without a flaw?
He was insensitive to others,
spoke out of turn, hurt feelings,
and didn't care or notice.

She sadly learnt her hero's crown
was not made of gold.
Found her spectacles had slipped,
that she needed a new pair
with clearer vision.


                                                                       *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Moment




                                                                                         Nomad Bees


Dear Reader,

It seems that Britain's rarest bee is under threat because of habitat loss at the only location it is found.  It used to be scattered across southern England but is now only found in one place. The location is on the cliffs at Prawle Point in South Devon.    Nomads are known as 'cuckoo' bees as they lay their eggs in other bees' nests.  When the nomad's larvae hatches, it eats the pollen stores that the host bee gathered for its own young.  The nomad's choice of host is the long-horned bee, which is threatened itself, since it only feeds on a few wild flowers in the pea family such as everlasting pea and kidney vetch.

In the nomads last refuge in South Devon, the cliffs provide the perfect habitat for the long-horned bees to breed.  But even here, both species are disappearing.  Farm fields have squeezed closer to the cliffs, removing legume-rich grasslands the long-horned bees depend on.  If this continues, the nomad bee faces extinction in Britain.

With wild animals disappearing, and birds and butterflies fewer every year, what kind of world are we
leaving our grandchildren and great grand children?

                                                                          *

Moment

The church is cool from the summer sun,
organ music plays.

We walk down the aisle
enjoy the scent of lilies
filling the holy air
point out ruby stained-glass windows
depicting Christ on the cross,
examine oak and stone carvings
plaster heads of saints
the altar cloth rich in green and gold.

He runs up the pulpit steps
says a few words in Latin.
I laugh
then we kneel together in a back pew
say a prayer.

He takes my hand.

                                                                            *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 30 June 2019

A Proud Family Portrait

Dear Reader,







We went to visit Kelmscott Manor, Oxfordshire,  this week in lovely sunny weather, and what a treat after the rain of the last few days.  This was the summer home of William Morris,  signing a joint lease with Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the summer of 1871.  William loved the house as a work of true craftsmanship, totally unaltered and unspoilt and in harmony with the village and the surrounding countryside.  He considered it so natural in its setting as to be almost organic,  and it looked to him as if it had " grown up out of the soil".  Its beautiful gardens, with barns, dovecote, a meadow and stream, provided a constant source of inspiration.  In the house there is an outstanding collection of the possessions and works, including furniture, original textiles, pictures, carpets and ceramics.

We had lunch in the village pub, The Plough Inn, and it was excellent with good and quick service.

                                                                               

                                                                         *

A Proud Family Portrait

It wasn't a Reynolds or Gainsborough.
There were no silk or satin dresses,
no elaborate hairstyles, large jewels,
or velvet neck ribbons.
There was no piano,
and no one reading a book.

Sitting at a wooden table
the ladies wore dull cotton dresses,
the man a black suit.
There were no silk hats, no smiles.
Solemn-faced this family
was merchant class,
had succeeded with hard work.

They were a proud family
painted as they were,
to remind themselves
and others what they had achieved,
their dining table
a treasured possession,
their oak coffer,
their mahogany sideboard,
a Bible,
their precious gems.

                                                                       *

With very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 23 June 2019

A Valediction









Dear Reader,

Visiting Lyme Regis museum again last week I found out about an amazing woman called Mary Anning and I thought I would tell you a snippet about her.


Mary Anning was born on 21st May,1799 in Lyme Regis, Dorset.  Her father, Richard, was a cabinet maker and amateur fossil hunter.  He often took Mary and brother Joseph fossil hunting around the cliffs of Lyme Regis.  They sold their finds to tourists.  Mary became an expert fossil hunter and found her first complete Plesiosaurus skeleton on December 10th, 1823.  Over the course of her life she made incredible discoveries and this made her famous among scientists of the day.  She died of breast cancer at the age of 47.  Her death was recorded by the Geological Society (which did not admit women until 1904) and her life is commenorated by a stained glass window in St.Michael's Parish church in Lyme.

SEAGULL news.   Whilst we were eating our lunch on the sea front we saw a seagull swoop onto a man's bread roll and the bird took it clean out of his hands.  And I read that an elderly couple, Mr and Mrs Pickard, from Morecombe Bay, have been forced to stay in their home because otherwise they are attacked by two herring gulls as soon as they open the front door.  At one point Mr. Pickard was so viciously attacked that he ended up with a head wound which required hospital treatment. 

The gulls seem to be winning.

                                                                        *

A Valediction

To innocence
to childhood
to youth
to skipping about
to making daisy chains
to looking in the mirror
seeing someone pretty
to wearing gypsy clothes
feeling exotic in them
to flirting and being flirted with
to kissing someone new
drowning in that indescrible
feeling of lust and love
to smoking king-size cigarettes
to being passionate about something
daydreaming about a bright future
to changing the world
making poverty unknown
the poor rich.

But knowing now the truth
about old age being shite
hello to fudge and ice cold gins,
small pleasures and quieter things.

                                                                              *

With very best wishes, Patricia

P.S.   You can get my new book  'The Ragbag of a Human Heart' on Amazon.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

The House



                                                                                  Frida Kahlo

Dear Reader.



I went to the most interesting lecture this week about a Mexican painter called Frida Kahlo.

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (1907-1954) painted many portraits, self portraits and works inspired by
the nature and artifacts of Mexico.  She employed a native folk art style to explore questions of identity, post colonialism, gender, class and race in Mexican society.  She was disabled by polio as a
child and had a traffic accident at the age of eighteen which cause lifelong pain and medical problems.  In 1927 she joined the Mexican Communist Party, where she met and married a fellow
artist, Diego Rivera.  Her work as an artist was relatively unknown until the last 1970s when it was re-discovered by art historians and political activists.

                                                                             *

The House

Was it the sound of Chopin
filling the street air,
escaping from a large keyhole
in the weathered front door,
or the first glimpse of pale
stone flooring and a rocking horse
in the hall corner, or was it the
Easter lilies rising tall out of
white enamel jugs, and books
everywhere, everywhere?

Was it the ancient dog
in front of a small log fire,
protected by a staunch Victorian fireguard,
or the scrubbed table and gentian-blue
hyacinths peeking out of a copper bowl,
Rockingham pottery plates
each one different,
or the sculpture of an unknown woman
young, rounded smooth,
placed lovingly on a window shelf
catching a flicker of the January sun?

Or was it the smell of beef stew,
a nursery smell dredged from childhood,
or the sight of home-grown pears
floating in sugared juice?
Or was it the feeling of safety,
warmth and love
everywhere, everywhere
that overwhelmed me?

                                                                       *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Bus Stop Princess




Dear Reader,

I thought this piece from Francis Kilvert's diary on June 12th, 1874 was rather funny and hope you do too.

'Bathing yesterday and to-day.  Yesterday the sea was very calm, but the wind has changed to the East and this morning a rough 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 out of the water. '
                                                                           


                                                                             *



Bus Stop Princess

She waited, unnoticed, invisible.
Her fluffy green jersey egg-stained,
uninteresting trousers and sensible shoes
inviting no attention.
She was a brown paper parcel,
loosely string-tied.

But she smiles at me
with such sweetness,
such a smile of goodness,
I saw her sensible shoes
become sparkling slippers,
her shabby clothes
turn into a ball dress
fashioned from sunlight,
stitched up with love.

Not then a story-book princess
but a real princess
glimpsed at a bus stop.


                                                                            *

Very Best wishes, Patricia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Kitchen Clean.








Dear Reader,

I am putting the photo of my new book on again because I forgot to let you know last week what my email address is.  Well here it is if you want to email me about buying it instead of writing.

patricia.huthellis@googlemail.com

                                                                        *

We have been watching a series of films about Colditz, the notorious prison in Germany where British prisoners were sent when caught in the 1940/45 war, and it was supposed to be somewhere where no one could possibly escape.  But guess what?  Many of the men, (officers) spent their whole day thinking of ways to get out.  In fact this is a true story and one officer, a Captain Patrick Reid,
did escape and as did several others later.   Many others made elaborate and dangerous plans which they carried out, but to no avail and they were, it seems, always caught, and sometimes shot.   Now my question is this: would I have spent my days there thinking how to escape?  Perhaps, because I am not a brave person, I would have just obeyed the rules and stayed there quietly supporting the escapees.  The prison itself looked very much like some of the many boarding schools I went to, and endured.  Perhaps also it is because I am a woman.   So are men braver than women on the whole?  I wonder.

                                                                          *

Do you remember I wrote about the netting that a council had put up to stop the sand martins nesting in Bacton Sands in Norfolk?  Well the good news is that the first sand martin chicks have been born there since the netting has been removed, thanks to many nature lovers who complained about it.  The martins have been seen removing waste from the nests, which is evidence the first chicks have been hatched.
                                                                           *

Kitchen Clean

He made a chicken supper
vegetables and pudding
lots of dirty saucepans
and bowls strewn around
the kitchen.
Lovely food and terrible mess.
Left it.

Three a.m. couldn't sleep
pattered down to the kitchen
and there it was
an immaculate picture of
cleanliness ad tidiness
he had worked on
when I had gone to bed.

My heart filled with love.

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 26 May 2019

The Ragbag of a Human Heart









Dear Reader,

It was rather an exciting time for me this week because my new book had just come back from the printers.  It is rather a strange feeling seeing your work published in a book after all the hard work that goes into the completion and the editing.  If you feel  inclined to buy a copy I hope you will enjoy the poems, some of them you may have read but perhaps there are some new ones
that you have not yet seen.

You are invited to send £10 from within the UK.  For overseas purchases please send £12.50p equivalent.  These prices include postage and packaging.

The address is:            36 Ticknell Piece Road,
                                     Charlbury
                                     Chipping Norton
                                     OX7 3TW

Looking forward to sending you your book by return of post.



                                                                                       *

I wrote this poem after thinking about the complex and complicated way we humans think and behave.  I find myself difficult to understand sometimes as I am sure we all do.  For all modern psychoanalysis, understanding human behaviour is a subject still in its infancy.

                                                                                        *

The Ragbag of the Human Heart

He saw the girl
young, beautiful, innocent,
inflamed her with clever words,
caught her
seduced her
smiled, walked away.


At the bus stop
he saw an old lady
waiting in the rain,
offered her a lift,
drove her back to her house,
made her a cup of tea,
hugged her,
smiled, and walked away.

                                                                                        *

With very best wishes, Patricia





Sunday, 19 May 2019

Attic Trunk


Dear Reader,






Dear Reader,

I asked a couple of fairly new and lovely friends for coffee this week from the same village that I live in.  We talked in general terms about holidays we had been on, Brexit, and exchanged ideas and experiences of dementia.  But it wasn't until the visit was nearly at its end that we discussed our respective families.  I asked them about their children, how many they had and what did they do.  And they asked me about mine.  It was all very interesting and illuminating.  But what we all discovered was that nobody else ever asked us these questions.  I once travelled up to Stratford with a new friend and although I asked her about her children, she didn't ask me about mine the whole car journey to and from Stratford. This is very strange, I think and know now why we like our old friends best, the ones who know our history and what is precious to us. 

                                                                             *




Attic Trunk

Searching through her mother's attic trunk
she recognised a dusty, broken cricket bat,
saw a tiny knotted shawl that must have shrunk
and a youthful photo of Aunt Dora, looking fat.
She found silver shoes wrapped in a crimson gypsy skirt
and a purple box housing a worn-thin wedding ring,
a Spanish fan trimmed with lace, and a grandad shirt
embracing faded love letters, tied with ageing string.
From sepia postcards she studied unknown folk,
and pulled out, lovingly, a greasy-tweed cloth cap,
her father's penny whistle, a badger carved from oak,
and brass rubbings, rolled up in a parchment map.
Precious things we keep are candles on our life's tree,
their discovery tells secret stories, provides a key.


                                                                               *

With very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 12 May 2019

Loss




Dear Reader,

It was announced this week that an archaeological treasure had been found in England during road widening works in Essex, between Aldi supermarket and a pub. Do you remember dear reader when I wrote about Richard III's bones that were found under a car park in Leicester two years ago?

Well this treasure, found under the supermarket, is what archaeologists believe to be the earliest Christian royal tomb ever unearthed in the UK.  The site  at Prittlewell, near Southend, discovered in 2003, has uncovered a trove of artifacts providing an unrivalled snapshot of Anglo-Saxon England at the end of the sixth century.  In the chamber they found an ornate lyre, a painted box and a flagon thought to have come from Syria, and gold foil crosses.  The body (possibly King Seaxa) had been laid in a wooden coffin with  small gold foil cross over each eye. The box in the tomb is the only surviving example of painted Anglo-Saxon woodwork in Britain.

Sophie Jackson, the museum's director of research said: "It's a really interesting time when Christianity is sort of creeping in and this is all possibly before Augustine sent his mission to Britain to convert the country to Christianity, so they would have been just on the transition between having pagan burials with all your gear but also having these crosses."

                                                                             *


Loss

The old woman
totters slowly down the path,
holding her hand we
go into the field
pick daffodils and buttercups,
spring is on its way.

Later in the kitchen
she tries to say something, to find words
which seem to flutter away,
escape her, but she manages:
"I don't live
in this house, I live elsewhere."

She lies down on the sofa.
"I like looking at the sky" she murmurs,
and closing her eyes she falls asleep.
I kiss her on her pale, cold cheeks,
and weep  .......

                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Small Pleasures in Old Age



Dear Reader,

From Dorothy Wordsworth's journal, 1820, May 5th, Westmorland

"A sweet morning .......The small birds are singing, lambs bleating, cuckow (sic) calling, the thrush sings by fits, Thomas Ashburner's axe is going quietly (without passion) in the orchard, hens crackling, flies humming, the women talking together at their doors, plum and pear trees are in blossom - apple trees greenish."

From Francis Kilvert's diary, l870, May 9th, Radnorshire

"The turtles were trilling softly and deeply in the dingles as I went up the steep orchard.  The grass was jewelled with cowslips amd orchises (sic).  The dingle was lighted here and there with wild cherry, bird cherry, the Welsh name of which being interpreted is 'the tree on which the devil hung his mother'.  The mountain burned blue in the hot afternoon."

Our weather has been so strange lately hasn't it?  Easter weekend was so hot and lovely, and now I am back in my winter clothes, vest and all.  And the heating is on again!.

                                                                               *

Small Pleasures in Old Age

Listening to Mozart's Andante
in front of a log fire

hearing the robin's call
in early spring
spotting the first violets, first primroses

walking in the woods
sitting under the trees
whilst the bagpipe utters

their unique spiritual sounds
watching the deer hurrying
through the undergrowth

following the antics
of the Archer family
eating peanut butter sandwiches

watching the goldfinch spitting
out seeds, and laughing
at the absurdity of life itself

exchanging family news
proudly loving the grandchildren
and their stories

small away holidays
with Francis, by the sea
in Dorset

And, perhaps, most of all
not saying yes to things
when I mean no

                                                                      *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Rooks





Dear Reader,

After a pretty trying week looking after my sister who has dementia, Francis and I went down to my favourite place in Dorset, Lyme Regis.  Enjoying a well earned rest we stayed at an airbnb in the town, and spent much of our time in the sunshine on Charmouth and Lyme beaches.  Francis played his bagpipe on the beach, which amused lots of people.

But the interesting thing to recount to you was the absence of seagulls.  This is the reason.  Two enormous birds of prey called Winnie and Kojak patrol beaches in Lyme Regis to prevent visitors having their sandwiches, fish and chips, or ice cream stolen by the gulls. Apparently through the summer months the eagles will patrol the promenade on their owner's arms.  Their presence is enough to stop hundreds of seagulls from swooping down, tests have shown.  The Lyme Regis Town Council has tried other methods to deter the gulls but nothing has worked as well.

                                                                              *

Rooks

I was fourteen,
when I first heard
the call of the rooks
caw-cawing
their eerie cries.

From a Cornish cottage garden
I walked down through
dark woods to the beach,
a remote place,
just dunes, sand, the sea
and me, a confused, angry teenager,
with the rooks caw-cawing in my ears
disturbing my thoughts.

Even now, in later years,
whenever I hear whispers from the wind,
or sea lapping over large grey stones
ever forward, ever backward,
glimpse a faraway horizon
and see twilight descending
darkening the sky,
the rooks in large black groups
flying high towards
their evening bed,
cawing, cawing, cawing,
my heart misses a beat
and an unexplained sadness
overcomes me.

                                                                      *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Friday, 12 April 2019

England Dear to Me









Dear Reader,


 I am writing my blog this week not on Sunday, 14th, but on Friday, 12th.  This is because Francis and I are going to look after my sister, who has dementia,  and won't be anywhere near a computer until the 25th of April.

Do you remember in March this year I wrote about Tesco putting up netting to stop birds nesting in their buildings, and I said I hoped no one else would think of doing this.  Well this week I see that the North Norfolk District Council has put up netting on the Bacton cliff, stopping the sand martins from returning to their nests after their perilous journey from Africa. Apparently many of these sand martins die of thirst and exhaustion on their way across the seas and arrive in Britain very weary.  A Prof. Ben Garrod, of the University of East Anglia, said the sand martins discovered in Europe in the 16th century had been in the area "longer than the people have".  He also said that they had been nesting in the cliff for hundreds of years, and likely more.

I expect you all read the reports in the newspaper this week so I won't say anything further but I am appalled and sad about our England.   Richard II's  "blessed plot, sceptered isle" .....no more

                                                                                 *

England Dear to Me


It is the robins, blackbirds, blue tits,
hopping and grubbing in the garden
that lurch my heart
make England dear to me.
It is the velvet of green moss,
oak trees, old with history,
the first cowslips,
hedgerows filled with dog rose, foxgloves,
and shy sweetpeas in China bowls.
It is finding tea rooms in small market towns,
enticing with homemade scones and strawberry jam,
or suddenly glimpsing church spires
inching their way to heaven.
It is finding a Norman church,
full with a thousand years of prayers,
and a quiet churchyard mothering its dead.
It is small country lanes, high hedged,
views of mauve hills, stretching skywards,
sheep and lambs dotting the green,
and bleached Norfolk beaches,
silence only broken with a seagull's cry.
It is the people,
their sense of humour,
their way of saying sorry when you bump into them,
their fairness, and once or twice a year
their "letting go",
singing "Jerusalem" with tears and passion.

It is these things
that lurch my heart
make England dear to me.
                                                                           *

With very best wishes, and Happy Easter
Patricia
                                                                  

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Life's Bran Tub



Dear Reader,

Finally I have come to realize that you, the reader, do not like the photographs I put on this blog if they are of a gloomy nature.   Of course I quite understand this point of view but the photographs are always to do with the poem of the day, and some of my poems, if not most of them, do have a serious message.

But I thought this funny piece from Francis Kilvert's diary might amuse you today - it is cold and wet here and staying in by the fire is, I think,  just the ticket.

Wednesday, 9th April, 1873

"While we were sitting at supper this evening we were startled by a sound under the sideboard as if a rat were tearing and gnawing at the wainscot or skirting board.  The noise ceased and then began again.  Suddenly Dora uttered an exclamation and a strange look came into her face.  She seized the lamp and went to the sideboard pointing to a white-handled knife which lay under the sideboard and which she said she had seen a moment before crawling and wriggling along the floorcloth by itself and making the tearing, gnawing, rending noise we had heard.  No one knew how the knife had got under the sideboard.  As four of us stood round looking at the knife lying on the floorcloth suddenly the knife leaped into the air and fell back without anyone touching it.  It looked very strange and startled us a good deal.  We thought of spirit agency and felt uncomfortable and compared the time expecting to hear more of the matter, until Dora observed a very tiny grey mouse taking the buttered point of the knife in his mouth and dragging it along and walking backwards.  Then all was explained."

                                                                                *


Life's Bran Tub

Under a cowl
a glimpsed face,
ploughed with hardship.
A grim mouth,
with broken teeth,
thin and hungry looking,
eyes dull, destined
to assured adversity.                            

Under a crown of hair,                      
a glimpsed face,
round and fair,
with milky skin,
bright yes, white teeth,
and confident smile
of assured security.

                                                                                *

 With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Fudge and Food for Thought



Dear Reader,

I am back reading about the Tudor Age.  What is it about the Tudor Age that is so compelling I wonder?  Perhaps it was because it was such an exciting time, never knowing, for instance, what
Henry VIII would do next.  About food this week:  apparently ordinary Englishmen ate well during the Tudor Age.  They lived on beef, mutton, capons and pigeons. They ate wheat bread and rye bread, butter, cheese, eggs and fish.  A Frenchman who came over to England in 1598 remarked that the English ate more meat and less bread than the French, and had better table manners.  He also noted that they put lots of sugar in their drinks, which he thought was the reason why so many Englishmen and women, including the Queen, had black teeth.   A good deal of honey was eaten and as English honey had a reputation for being particularly good, it was exported in large quantities to France and other countries.

The Englishman had a reputation throughout Europe for gluttony; it was said that overeating was the English vice, just as lust was the French Vice and drunkenness the German vice.

                                                                         *



Fudge and Food for Thought

In the night, captive,
I think of all the fudge I ate,
all the feelings of guilt I had
in my teens, my middle age, old age,
all the sadness at my weakness
my inability to resist temptation.

Tossing uneasily in my bed
I think would I be more comely
if I had resisted,
more desirable, prettier, more amusing,
would I have had a happier life
without fudge in it?

At dawn, I think, what the hell.
Now in my seventies, does it matter
what I ate to make me fatter?
Because now I am where I want to be
plump, happy, peaceful, and guilt free.

                                                                        *

With very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 24 March 2019

For You Everyman




Dear Reader,

I am sharing with you some entries which I thought were interesting especially as our weather is so strange these days.

March 21st, 1762,  Richard Hayes in Kent:

This day I saw a yellow butterfly......My rooks, by the cold weather and snows, did not begin building till last Sunday.

 March 21, 1798, Dorothy Wordsworth in Somerset

We drank tea at Coleridge's.  A quiet shower of snow was in the air during more than half of our walk.

March 24th, 1872, Francis Kilvert in Radnorshire

A snowy Palm Sunday on the Palms....I saw what I thought was a long dazzling white and golden cloud up in the sky.  Suddenly I found that I had been gazing at the great snow slopes of the Black Mountain lit up by the setting sun and looking through the dark storm clouds.

                                                                       *
The newspaper I read tells me that we are now in for a warmer and sunnier spell of weather.  The birds seems to have started to make their nests.  I see the blackbird is getting moss from the lawn and picking up twigs so spring really has arrived.

                                                                        *





For You, Everyman

My smile is for you.
Yes, you, the man on the omnibus,
You, the woman in the crowd,
You, the small child, playing in the dust,
You, the homeless, the tramp unbowed,
You, in the business suit, you in Kaftan,
You, the tall, you, the short,

Yes, You, Everyman.

The exchanged smile
acknowledges shared humanity
in this fleeting recognition.
No words needed.

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Miracle



Dear Reader,

Swallows spend the winter in Africa before beginning to arrive on our shores between April and May- bringing the first glimpse of summer.  Migrating swallows can cover some 200 miles a day, flying at average speeds of 17-22 mph.  Britain is 2,500 miles from say Senegal (where they gather in the winter) so with a fair wind they might complete the journey in less than a fortnight. But the question is what welcomes them to our shores?   Tesco supermarket has, apparently, installed netting to stop swallows nesting in the roof of its trolley station where the birds reared their young last year.
There have been several such examples of netting at bird nesting sites elsewhere in the country in recent weeks.

Swallows and other migrating birds who fly here with the arrival of warmer weather are in steep decline.  Habitat loss, climate change and the decline of the insects upon which they rely are wreaking havoc.   The swallows come all this way, take this long and perilous journey to arrive with us, hoping for a welcome, and what do they get?  Lets hope Tesco's is the only supermarket to install
nets to stop swallows nesting.

                                                                              *

A few things you might not know about swallows.  In the past it was believed that harming swallows would bring bad luck.  And in the north of England, up until the 1960s they believed that killing a swallow would lead to cows producing bloody milk or no milk at all.

Male swallows have a dark side as they go to extreme efforts to ensure that their genes are passed on to the next generation.  Males without a mate will often visit the nest of other swallows to associate themselves with a female already paired.  However, the majority of the time the only way a female will accept a new mate is if their current mate dies or if the nest fails, thereby 'divorcing' the established pair.  

                                                                           *

Miracle

Rich in England's spring
cowparsley entrancing
in dog-rose hedge,
the fecund earth lush green,
a baby swallow
hatches in a Suffolk barn,
to the cries of gulls
flying over mudflats,
over sea-lavender.

This small bird grows
embracing our summer warmth,
swooping on insects caught
above rolling grasslands.
It dips and tumbles gracefully,
trouble-free.

But what instinct tells of winter's cold?
This bird, hand-sized, will
fly over icy Pyrenees,
thirst through the parched Sahara,
soar and glide on trade winds,
south to the Cape of Africa
drawn, inexplicably, to the heat
of the southern sun.

In early spring does
this swallow's courageous heart
grow restless, homesick for
a Suffolk barn?
Is it a miracle that some force
of nature returns this minute bird
to its birth-nest by the English sea?
Who knows, but it seems so to me.

                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Letter to India after the British Raj disgrace




Dear Reader,

You may have watched 'The Jewel in the Crown" series on TV years ago. You may have felt   incensed, as I did, at the way that British people treated the Indian population,   Obviously it is not a true picture of the way things were, but true enough I would think to show us, in the main, the appalling way the native Indians were treated.

For those of you who don't know the history of the British Raj here are a few lines about a very long and complicated story and I apologise for making it so brief.

The British Raj refers to the period of British rule on the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.  The system of  governance was instituted in 1858 when the rule of the East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria who, in 1876, was proclaimed Empress of India.

India was called the "Jewel in the Crown" because it had so much wealth in the form of spices, textiles, cotton and opium.  The British bought opium to sell in China to enable them to buy tea.  In August, 1947, the British left after three hundred years in India and the subcontinent was partitioned into two independent states: Hindu majority, India, and Muslim majority, Pakistan.


                                                                           *

Letter to India after the British Raj disgrace

Dear India,

Forgive us as
we marched into your country,
forced our laws
our customs upon you,
were arrogant and superior,
destroyed your traditions,
treated you badly,
spoke to your people rudely,
lacked compassion,
and felt disdain for anyone
with a brown skin.

For these many sins
and others I know nothing of,
dear India, forgive us
forgive us please.

with very best wishes,
Patricia

                                                                        *
and very best wishes to you, my friends,
Patricia

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Word-dancing




Dear Reader,

The stripes on zebras are long thought of as a form of  camouflage, but now another explanation has been found.  So instead of baffling lions and leopards the stripes may be a way of keeping a much smaller, but no less bloodthirsty, creature at bay.  It is thought that biting insects could be dazzled as they try to land on the animals.  Scientists found that horse flies gathered around domestic horses and zebras at a similar rate- but landed on zebras only 25 per cent as often.

When uniformly-coloured horses were given 'zebra coats' flies made far fewer landings.  Video footage showed that flies confronted with stripes came in too fast, often crashing into their prey or missing the landing altogether.  This indicates that stripes may disrupt the flies' abilities to have a controlled landing.  Theories about the striped purpose include camouflage, a means of confusing predators or signalling to other zebras, and a system of heat control.

                                                                        *
                                                                             
Francis and I had our first dancing lesson this week and it was great fun.  We have taken up dancing again but don't really know the steps of traditional dances.  As we couldn't join in with an experienced group,  we wanted to learn the steps with a teacher and then will be able to do so.  I would advise anyone who wants a little exercise and amusement to give dancing a try.

                                                                         *

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 best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Chawton Revisited



 Satin slippers

Dear Reader,

There were hopes that something interesting, or even an intimate secret, would be revealed when six lines of a note, recently unearthed, were written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra.  But in fact the findings were very mundane.  Writing to her brother Henry she says "I have given Mde B my Inventory of the linen, and added 2 round towels to it".  Part of Jane Austen's charm was her domesticity, making small trivial observations into an art.

For my part there is nothing nicer than ironing in the kitchen, the sheets and the shirts piling up whilst listening to a play on Radio 4 (especially if it is raining).  I always enjoy tidying my drawers whilst thinking of a new poem, or even plumping up the cushions, ready to sink into.  I like washing the kitchen floor and seeing it shine, and re-arranging everything in the fridge gives me great satisfaction.  When all is order in the house, all is well with me.   Jane Austen was a wise woman indeed.

                                                                           *

Chawton Revisited

Do you remember Chawton, Jill,
forty years ago,
discussing Emma, Miss Bates, Fanny?
Do you remember
our mutual dislike of Aunt Norris
and her devious ways?

Do you remember the sitting-room, Jill,
with the round writing table
small, mirror-polished,
set in a garden-view window, or
the satin slippers tied with a ribbon,
the lace collars
embroidered by hand?

Do you remember the walk
to the church in the afternoon cool?
We sat on a bench in the late summer sun,
and mused on her death,
wondering why did she die, so young.

Do you remember Chawton, Jill?

Alone, alive, having tea in the tea room,
I feel you here with me still.


                                                                     *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 17 February 2019

In This Salford Street

Dear Reader,






There are so many lovely images in the following quotes that I thought I would share them with you.

February 24th, 1798, Dorothy Wordsworth (Somerset)

......The sea, like a basin full to the margin; the dark fresh-ploughed fields;  the turnips of a lively rough green.

February 24th, 1870, Francis Kilvert, (Radnorshire)

The Black Mountains lighted up grandly, all the furrows and watercourses clear and brilliant.  People coming home from the market, birds singing, buds bursting, and the spring air full of beauty, life and hope.

February 24th, 1916, D.H.Lawrence (Cornwall)

Just at present it is very cold.  It has been blowing here also, and a bit of snow.   Till now the weather has been so mild.  Primroses and violets are out, and the gorse is lovely.  At Zennor one sees infinite Atlantic, all peacock-mingled colours, and the gorse is sunshine itself, already. But this cold wind is deadly.

                                                                            *

In This Salford Street

the houses have no eyes,
windows and doors, boarded up.
These houses were home
to someone,
people grew up here,
played life's games, made love, made babies,
made friendships last to the end.

They are all demolished now,
other people saw to that,
damp bricks and mortar,
which had served their time,
dispensable.

Nothing is left.
No shops, no pubs, no parks,
no prettiness,
nothing but rubble, dust, sadness
everywhere,
and a river running with tears.

-----------------------------                                  *

As we have seen nature is so beautiful, urban reality less so.

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Quickening



Dear Reader

Since I have become an enthusiastic bird watcher  I purchased something on line which allows me to hear the song of the garden bird.  I then decided I would learn the songs of which I knew nothing, had no idea which song went with which bird.  But, dear reader, I have found it very very difficult. 

Francis and I test each other every evening and every evening I get them wrong.  At least I thought I knew the song of the blackbird, but no I didn't.  I remember as a child learning that one bird seemed to be saying: 'a little bit of bread and no cheese', but I can't remember which bird it was supposed to be.   Could you let me know if you know the answer.

I mention the "peacock's plume" in my poem for today.  First originating in India, peacocks can trace their history back to biblical times.  They are mentioned in the bible as being part of the treasure being taken to the court of King Solomon.   Peacocks were an important symbol in Roman times, most commonly representing funerals, death and Resurrection. 

Perhaps what peacocks are best known for historically, is their long connection with the sins of pride and vanity.  This arises not only from the their great beauty but also from a tendency to strut when displaying their magnificent plumage.  In his 1836 book On the mental illumination and moral improvement of mankind,  Reverend Thomas Dick calls the peacock "the most beautiful bird in the world'.


                                                                            *

Quickening

I want the pulse of life that has been asleep
to wake, embrace me, put on the light.
To hear the thrush, song-repeat, to keep
my trust in God to hurry icy winter's flight.
I want to glimpse, under sodden leaves, green shoots
to announce life's circle, its beginnings, have begun.
I want to run barefoot, abandon boots,
to walk through primrose paths, savour the sun.
I want to take off winter's dress, change its season,
to see the coloured petticoats of spring, bloom
and show us mortals nature's reason
to start afresh,  admire the peacock's plume.
Cellar the coal, brush the ashes from the fire,
I want to intertwine, my love, quicken, feel desire.

                                                                         *

With very best wishes, Patricia