Sunday, 5 April 2020

The Mind Cupboard










Dear Reader,

     As someone who has had mental problems over my life, in particular, problems with anxiety  I have put my poem 'The Mind cupboard' on the blog today.  I think in this very strange time of Corona virus many of us will be feeling slightly unstable.

Perhaps we don't have a garden and there are no suitable places to walk, our homes are small and we are having to share them with a large family.  This is not the case for me, but I can visualize this scene.  It is not a good one.  But, from what I have read in the newspapers, things will get better and normality will be resumed by the end of the summer if not before.  Cheer up.

Next week the weather is going to be sunny, the birds are having a lovely time so open the windows and listen to their joyful songs. And here is a tip I feel I can give you if you have Netflix.  Watch 'Anne with an E' before you go to bed and you will probably sleep well.



April 12th, Dorothy Wordsworth writing in Somerset, 1798

'Walked in the morning in the wood.  In the evening up the Coombe, fine walk.  The Spring advances
rapidly, multitudes of primroses, dog-violets, periwinkles, stitchwort.'

April 12th, Nathaniel Hawthorne writing in York, 1857

'(Easter Sunday)  This morning was bleak and most uncongenial; a chilly sunshine, a piercing wind, a prevalenc of watery cloud, - April weather, without the tenderness that ought to be half revealed in it.'

*

The Mind Cupboard

My mind cupboard overflows
with unwanted debris.
It needs a spring clean.

I will brush away the cobwebs
of cheerless thoughts.
Scrub out the stains of childhood.

I will replace the brass hooks
corroded with salt tears,
empty all the screams
hoarded through the years.

I will replace the accumulated ashes
from the worn shelf-paper
with virgin tissue.

I will chase and catch the wasps,
relieve them of their stings.
I will refill this cupboard
with love, and learnt, brighter things.

*

Very best wishes, Patricia








Sunday, 29 March 2020

Invocation to Iona




Dear Reader,

The excitement this week was photographing this woodpecker who came to feed on our seed tray for at least ten minutes.  My adult children always say I exaggerate but, on my word, it was ten minutes that he was there.  The bird on the feeder above is a goldfinch, sometimes there are five at a time eating and pecking away.

This is the third week of isolation, and how are you all doing?  In the first week we did go to the Co-op and to a local shop for food and milk but decided it was too risky.  So now we rely on our wonderful neighbours who have started a messenger help round for local neighbours. Lots of them very kindly fetch things for us so we see and speak to no one.  In particular I would like to thank Nikki and Pete Moran who have organized this, and who bring us milk three times a week.  They are the neighbours everyone would like to have.

On the advice of The Telegraph newspaper I was reminded, in a piece on things to watch, of Kenneth Clark's series called  'Civilization".  We started watching it last night and it is indeed wonderous.  Marvelous pictures of ancient buildings and of a small island in the north of Scotland where the first Christians built stone houses.  These they lived in to get away from the Barbarian hordes and other marauding tribes. There are lots of discs so we are in for a fascinating sofa travel to all parts of the world.  I thoroughly recommend it, do get it if this sort of thing appeals to you.

                                                                               *

Invocation to Iona

"Iona, sacred island, mother,
I honour you,
who cradle the
bones of Scottish Kings,
who birthed coloured gemstones
to enchant bleached beaches,
who shelter puffins on your rocks.

I wrap myself in your history,
and knot the garments with
machair rope-grass.
In the Port of Coracle
your southern bay,
I hear the wind-blown cormorant's cry,
and draw a breath.
I see Columba's footsteps
in the sand, and weep.
Tears overflow,
I am spirit-engulfed.

I ask you, Iona,
"is this then, or now,
what is, or what has been?
Does the rolling salt sea-mist
cover the uncounted time between?"

                                                                               *

With very good wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 22 March 2020

England Dear to Me






                                                          Afternoon tea with scones and strawberry jam



Dear Reader,


It is a very strange time we are living in, isn't it?  So I have put my poem 'England Dear to Me" on the blog today to remind us all of some of the things that make England so precious.  I expect you can think of lots of other things to add to my list, which could make us, perhaps, nostalgic for the many things we took for granted.  As you probably know, if you often read this blog, that I absolutely love being by the sea.  We had booked a holiday in glorious Lyme Regis in May but of course that is now cancelled.  So I will look at the evocative and wonderful photographs of the sea taken by Kaye Leggett and buy some DVDs depicting sea views of lonely places and deserted beaches especially of the Northern Isles of Scotland.

On the bird table at lunch today I saw: three goldfinches, two green finches, two wagtails, one chaffinch, and lots of blue tits and coal tits.  In the week I saw a woodpecker on the bird tray feasting himself for several minutes.  He was black and white with a red cap on his head.  This was the first time I saw him and I haven't seen him since.

*

March 21st, l762, Richard Hayes wrote from Kent:

'This day I saw a yellow butterfly.....My rooks, by the cold weather and snows, did not begin building till last Sunday(14th).'

March 21st, 1798, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote from Somerset:

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

*

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 prayer,
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.
*


 Good luck this week in all you do, and are
Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Quickening





                                                                                           Primroses



Dear Reader,

I wrote the poem 'Quickening' on a very gloomy day in February 2016.   I think I was feeling the need for some light relief from a dank winter, and it is probably what we all need to feel today in  March, 2020.  What with the floods and corona virus to contend with there is not much to laugh at, but I think we must look on the positive side of things.  As I am eighty now and have only got a lung and a half.   I am one of the most vulnerable the media talks about.  So Francis and I are going to self-isolate and see no one until the virus has run its course.

We are going to read some books we have been meaning to read, try to do The Telegraph crossword, not only do the exercises we do already, but invent some new ones, walk when it is not raining and the cold east wind is not blowing, in the fields nearby. We are going to watch our favourite DVDs, perhaps even watch 'Anne with an E' again although I think that might be a step too far for Francis.
We are going to cook some interesting meals from Susan Campbell's cook books from the 60s and bake some fruit tarts.   We are going to listen to beautiful Mozart music and find some jazz to dance to after supper.  So all that should keep us going and we will be fine.  And I will sort out lots of cupboards.

Good luck with finding new things to do, it might even be fun.


                                                                                 *

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.  

                                                                                  *

Blessings and Good wishes, Patricia                                                
                                                                        

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Second Childhood




Dear reader,

Two exciting things happened to me this week.   The first one was a letter from Her Majesty's Inland Revenue to tell me that with my up coming birthday I am now going to receive 25p more per week in my pension. Naturally I am thrilled but what can one buy for 25p I wonder? Ah yes, probably one loo roll if there are any left after the bulk buying that seems to be going on.

And the other excitement was flooding the lawn with grass seed.  There is one large muddy patch in the middle of the lawn where the sun never shone because of a beech tree taking all the light.  The tree is no longer there and although I was very sad to have it cut down it was 'a lovely tree in the wrong place' as the tree surgeon said.   I am convinced the seed will grow at a great pace and we shall have a beautiful lawn by May.

Although professionals say this will not happen. Ah well we shall see....

*

Richard Hayes, 1766 in Kent.  March 9th,

'Very pleasant sunny warm day.  My rooks for the week past have been very busy a building.  And the butterflies have turned out. Crocuses and spring flowers appear.  I now look upon this to be the pleasantest time of the year.'

D.H. Lawrence, 1916 in Cornwall.  March 9th

'This morning the world was white with snow.  the evening the sunset is yellow, the birds are whistling, the gorse bushes are bristling with little winged suns.......   The new incoming days seem most wonderful, uncreated.'


*

Second Childhood

I don't want to read anymore
books about war, violence,
sex, murder or broken relationships.
They depress me.

I want to re-read
Moorland Mousie, the Exmoor pony,
Anne of Green Gables,
The Wind in the Willows.

I want to get lost in fairy land,
to sing and laugh
with Ratty and Mole,
join them on their adventures.

I want the innocence
lost years ago, when
compassion and wonder
were in my heart.

I want to be a child again.

*

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Leaving







Dear Reader,


I have been reading an excellent book this week by Anne de Courcy, about 'Chanel's Riviera, Life, Love and the Struggle for Survival on the Cote d'Azur, l930-1944'.  The interesting bit for me was not the shenanigans of the very wealthy with their constant round of parties and lovers but of the occupation of the French by the Germans at the beginning of June, 1940.

The thing that struck me most was how very hungry everybody was for five years. They had next to nothing to eat.  Carrots were almost unfindable and in one woman's diary she wrote that they ate many acres of turnips, boiled, sliced or mashed. So scarce was food that elderly patients left their rations to other patients in their wills.  Cough syrup which substituted for sugar gave out, and people started using children's laxatives such as Syrup of Figs or Syrup of Apples.  As a consequence all but the most robust suffered violent diarrhoea. I think everyone knows that cats and dogs were eaten in Paris but I didn't know that all the rats disappeared too.

I feel so grateful to have been born in 1940 and didn't really know anything about the war.  Of course I had a gas mask, a mickey mouse gas mask, but I don't think I suffered much from shortages or anything else for that matter. And then we have had peace ever since, at least I have felt we have had.
And I feel very blessed.

*


Leaving

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

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

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

After twenty years of marriage
that was her spoils.

Oh, and the kettle.

*

With very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 23 February 2020

Gentleman of the Road








Dear Reader,

I had a very old friend to lunch this week which was a delight.  We caught up on family news and laughed a great deal.  She always looked pretty and still does and I hope to see much more of her as my own years are diminishing; I am going to be eighty in March.  I can't really believe it.  I try to look back on my life but find it difficult.  I would rather look forward to tomorrow and enjoy today as best I can.  Francis and I exercise every day (not for long!) and walk in the fields behind the house, we try to eat fruit, vegetables, chicken and fish but sometimes treat ourselves to something special.

I have put images of willow trees on the blog this week and if you read the poem you will know why.
This poem is a true story and took place when I was working as a volunteer at the Porch, a cafe for the homeless in Oxford.

*

February 24th, 1798, Dorothy Wordsworth, Somerset

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

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.'


*

Gentleman of the Road

The old man shuffled into the cafe
head bent, shoulders hunched
with a weather-beaten face
and straggly beard
he looked sad and lonely.

In a deep voice he said
he would like a sandwich.
I made him one, and
sat down beside him.

"I am a gentleman of the road,' he told me,
'been on it for fifty years or more.
I have walked the byways of England,
watched the sun come up
watched the sun go down.'

He told me his life story.
Often being cold and hungry,
frightened when sleeping
on a city street,

how he felt old and
out of sync with the times
how he hoped to die
in the countryside, under a willow tree.

When he left I hugged him
and tears came into his eyes,
'I haven't been touched by another
human being for over thirty years,' he said.

And tears came into my eyes

*

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Universal Truth






 Apple Blossom time


Dear Reader,

Wondering what to watch after supper this week we ran out of DVDs so tried to find a good film on Netflix.  We saw that the  'Pianist' was a possibility and put it on.  But although the story is obviously admirable about a Jewish pianist living in Warsaw during the last war, unfortunately I couldn't watch it as it was too violent, the scenes of Gestapo brutality were revolting.  At least they were for me.  So we turned it off. We looked for something else and I saw a film called 'Anne, with an e', which seems to be the story of Anne of Green Gables.  And it is glorious.  I remember reading the book in my teens and these sixty years later I still find myself moved by it, and love every minute.  Do give it a try if you haven't seen it.


*
D.H. Lawrence, 1916 in Cornwall.
'Here the winds are so black and terrible.  They rush with such force that the house shudders, though the old walls are very solid and thick.  Only occasionally the gulls rise very slowly into the air.  And all the while the wind rushes and thuds and booms, and all the while the sea is hoarse and heavy.  It is strange, one forgets the rest of life. It shuts one in within its massive violent world.   Sometimes a wave bursts with a great explosion against one of the outlying rocks, and there is a tremendous ghost standing on the sea, a great tall whiteness.'

*



Universal Truth

Everyone knows
that Philip Larkin wrote:

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

And what Philip Larkin knew
I know to be true.

*

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 9 February 2020

In Her Spare Room


                                                                                        Speckeldy Hen






                                                                                  The Wind in the Willows


Dear reader,


While staying on holiday years ago, in a rented house in Norfolk,  I wrote this poem.


In Her Spare Room

I see these books,
draw in a breath,
as cherished memories
race into my head.

These are:

Akenfield
Portraits of an English Village
Swallows and Amazons
The Speckledy Hen
The Little Flowers of St. Francis
My Friend Flicka
The Wind in the Willows
Tales of Old Inns


The owner of this house
is unknown to me,
but her collection
of treasured books
tells me a little of her,
what makes her who she is,
what makes me who I am.


*



The plight or the flight of the bumblebee is in the news this week.  They are suffering mass extinction due to rising temperatures.  It is feared that some bumblebees could vanish in the next few decades - Britain has already lost two species and the great yellow bumblebee can now only be found in Scotland.  There are fewer bumblebee species in areas that have got warmer, with the greatest declines in areas which exceeded the insects' temperature limits.

Bumblebees are vulnerable to climate change because high temperatures can cause heat exhaustion or reduce the supply of flowers which they need for nectar.  Their numbers are also falling because of intensive farming which leads to habitat loss, toxic pesticides and killer parasites.  Bumblebees play a key role in pollinating crops, meaning their declining numbers could heavily impact the British food  industry.

*


Please take note if you keep a rabbit.

Giving rabbits a partner makes them happy as they are sociable animals and suffer from loneliness on their own.  The traditional practice of keeping one rabbit alone 'can cause misery' for the animals the British Veterinary Association said.


*

I used to have a rabbit, he was called Zambezee.  I think he had a miserable life; well he certainly didn't have a partner.  He just sat in his cage looking sad, no doubt wishing he had a female rabbit for company.

*



                                                                    

With best wishes, Patricia                                                                           


Sunday, 2 February 2020

Something Touching






Dear Reader,

It is interesting isn't it how people seem to be divided as to whether they like cats or dogs?  For myself I am very fond of dogs and don't feel affinity with cats.  Cats seem to be very independent and pursue their own lives without taking much notice of their owners, or anyone else for that matter.  I feel really sad not having a dog but living in a town house makes it too difficult, with dirty paws from constant walks to contend with.

From the diary of James Woodforde, February 1st, 1799 in Norfolk

'Very hard frost with much snow and very rough easterly wind.....I don't know that I ever felt a more severe day.  The turnips all froze to blocks, obliged to split them with beetle and wedges, and some difficulty to get them on account of the snow - their tops entirely gone and they lay as apples on the ground'.
                                                                          *


A bit different from this February then.  I wore a cotton dress yesterday and felt just about right.


                                                                          *


Something Touching

What is it about houses I visit
that catches me in the throat?

Jennie's four antique bears
sitting in the rocking chair,

orange flames brightening the room
a view over the Evenlode valley,

sweet smelling logs
and ginger biscuits, chocolate coated.

A happy cat, treacle-coloured eyes
strolled about, chose a chair
then curled up, slept.


                                                                          *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 26 January 2020

My Tenant







Dear Reader,

I wonder if any of you are poor sleepers? I can't remember a time when I really slept well without any help from some sort of sleeping draught.  To get through the many wakeful hours of the night I make up stories and compose poems in my head. The one you will see today is about an aunt, Aunty Anne,  I made her up and she comforts me with her wise words and often sends me to sleep. As Shakespeare said in The Tempest :...."we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is
rounded with a sleep.'

My Tenant

Aunty Anne
lives in my head
sits in a comfortable
velvet armchair

she is a wise woman
plump with a pretty face
wears a white lacy blouse
a long patchwork skirt
has her hair in a bun

she smells of lavender water,
face powder and barley sugars
and she gives me
good advice,

away with miserable
thoughts at night,
she says, think
of the sunshine,
the sea, characters you love in books,

then she puts
her arms around me
kisses my cheek,
murmurs she loves me
and all will be well

and it is,
I sleep.

                                                                             *

From Dorothy Wordsworth's journal, in Somerset, January 26th, 1798

'Walked upon the hill-tops; followed the sheep tracks till we overlooked the large coombe.  Sat in the sunshine.  The distant sheep-bells, the sound of the stream, the woodman winding along the half-marked road with his laden pony; locks of wool still spangled with the dew-drops; the blue-grey sea, shaded with immense masses of cloud, not streaked; the sheep glittering in the sunshine.'

                                                                              *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Sylvester, 1948






Dear Reader,


Francis loved going to see Sylvester when he was a little boy. I have written today's poem about this adventure and hope you like the idea of his jaunt to the cinema, by himself, as much as I do.


 Sylvester, 1948

The young boy, eight or thereabouts,
trots down the street
leaves Marble Arch behind him,
and heads for Victoria Station
two miles away.

He has a sixpenny piece
in his pocket to pay
for his weekly visit
to the Regal Picture House.

Sylvester, the cartoon cat
would be playing
and the boy loved Sylvester.

He stretches his thin arm up
to reach the counter
"Sylvester, please mister"
he would say and put
down his sixpenny piece.

Two hours later
promising himself he
would return next Sunday,
he trots home, happy.


                                                                                *


                                                        
 

This is a page in Francis Kilvert's diary, January 12th, l873

'When I came out the night was superb. the sky was cloudless, the moon rode high and full in the deep blue vault and the evening star blazed in the west.  The air was filled with the tolling and chiming of bells from St.Paul's and Chippenham old Church....I walked up and down the drive several times before I could make up my mind to leave the wonderful beauty of the night and go indoors.'

From Gilbert White, January 14th, 1776 in Hampshire

'Rugged, Siberian weather.  the narrow lanes are full of snow in some places.... The road-waggons are obliged to stop, and the stage-coaches are much embarassed.  I was obliged to be much abroad on this day, and scarce ever saw its fellow.'

                                                                                *



 With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Plumage






                                                                                       Birds of Paradise



Dear Reader,

I was watching a documentary on the Birds of Paradise last week and it struck me that the antics  of this species were not unlike the antics of the human male.  So I wrote the following poem and hope you enjoy it, it is supposed to be a bit of fun.

                                                                           *

Everyone I think will have their ideas on the Meghan and Harry saga.  Here is my two penny worth.
Obviously Meghan found it difficult to adapt to the royal regime, as I think anyone would, and I don't blame her for wanting to quit.  But sadly for Harry it is not so easy, trying to be half royal and half not royal simply wouldn't work.  If they don't want to be part of the Royal Family and all that it entails they must give up their royal titles, be financially independent and lead, as much as they could, a normal life.  They are either in or out.

What do you think?  Do let me know.

                                                                             *

Plumage

Deep in the humid forest
smelling strongly of rich earth,
the Bird of Paradise trips
backwards and forwards on a tree branch,
utters loud cries, jumps small jumps,
dances the pas de deux,
fans out his tail feathers
pink, aquamarine, blue and red,
yellow and green,
to entice female birds
to fall in love with him.

And sometimes they do.

The human male
getting ready for a date
might slick back his hair,
smile at himself in the mirror,
put on a bright-coloured shirt
red silk tie, and yellow waistcoat,
pat on scented after-shave,
hum a tune, dance a step or two,
and sally forth,
hoping some female will
fall in love with him.

And sometimes they do.


                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 5 January 2020

January weather



                                                                                         Snowdrops


Dear Reader,

I know it is still a bit early for snowdrops but because they are so entrancing, bringing the hope of spring, I long to see one peeping up in the garden.

Although we don't know whose hand it was that carried the first snowdrop bulb to Britain from Europe we do know that they were being cultivated in British gardens in 1597, the same year that Shakespeare bought his largest house in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Snowdrops were once called Candlemass Bells.  As a symbol of purity and light they were brought into churches on 2nd February - Candlemass Day - a Christian feast that commemorates the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of Jesus.  It also marks a more ancient festival celebrating the middle of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.

                                                                           *

I went to the panto this week to see Puss in Boots.  But I must say I was very disappointed.  I suppose I wanted to see a traditional panto with Cinderella, or somesuch,  falling in love with the prince and singing a sweet duet at the finale.   And not too much noise.  But this rendering I saw was noisy and I couldn't really follow the story as it was so convoluted, and difficult to hear.  But the audience seemed to love it so it must just be an age thing, and I will probably give it a miss next year.

                                                                             *

January Weather

We know from recorded history,
that in St. Merryn
a hundred years ago,
there blew great winds
and the sea was smoking white.

We know it was warm in Kent,
where the thrushes thought spring
had come, and piped away.
And primroses were a yellow carpet
in North Norfolk,
or so the parson wrote.

We know of cutting winds in Hampshire,
of icicles and frost, and
in Skiddaw on a mild day
a brown spotted butterfly was seen.
We know that hungry church
mice ate bible markers,
hungry people died of cold.

And we know that this dark winter month
had days of snow, that wild clouds
gathered in the sky, unleashing icy rain,
churning up the plough.

And yet, again, we also know
the sun shone in that distant year,
it was warm enough to push through
early snowdrops, and Holy Thorn.
Life was glimpsed, here and there,
all life struggled for its moments.

                                                                           *

With very best wishes, Patricia