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

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