Sunday, 15 May 2016

A Grimsby Fisherman's Wife, Mrs. Ethel Richardson

                                          St. Mary's Chapel, Capel-y-ffin, Black Mountains, Wales

Dear Reader,

I have been staying for the last few days in Hay-on-Wye, meeting two good friends who live in Clyro, where cleric Francis Kilvert also lived and worked for several years in the nineteenth century.   On Monday and Tuesday it rained all day, as it often does in Wales, but on Thursday we were blessed with wonderful sunshine for our trip into the Black Mountains, to see an Augustinian priory at Llanthony.  The narrow road from Hay-on-Wye winds up and down through moorlands of windswept bracken, wild flowers in abundance, and only ponies and sheep to be seen.  This was, apparently, one of Dorothy and William Wordsworth's favourite walks, likewise Francis Kilvert's and, more recently, Bruce Chatwin as a teenager walked here and felt it was "one of the emotional centres of his life".  We stopped on the way back from the priory to visit St. Mary's Chapel at Capel-y-ffin, which as you can see is totally delightful, with a lop-sided belfry.    It was built in 1762,  is surrounded by ancient yew trees, and has two small headstones carved by Eric Gill.  The inside of the chapel is very small and the front pew is completely occupied by a range of teddy bears of different sizes.   I don't know why they were there, but they seemed quite happy.


A Grimsby Fisherman's Wife
Mrs. Ethel Richardson

During the day she knitted
her life into rough wool sweaters,
Fear of north-east gales,
- more forecast -
fear of no return,
and Friday night beatings,
were turned with a collar,
stitched with sober wools.
Knit one, purl one.

Men known to her, sea-taken;
the grief of loss for
a babe or two; and
winter storms and
treacherous rocks that
albatrossed a fisherman's life,
were knitted into sleeves,
into polo necks.
Knit one, purl one.

At night, from her narrow bed,
she knitted dreams of exotic places,
warm from the summer sun.
She danced on beaches, cockle-free
and knitted love
into her dream sweaters,
with wools, brightly coloured,
corals, blues, pinks, and red.
By night she knitted pumpkins.
Knit one, pearl one.


With best wishes, Patricia


Rebecca Abrey said...

What a wonderfully original image of the knitting of feelings into something real. I think a lot of women will relate to this. Thank you, and I hope you had a wonderful break!

Anonymous said...

What a powerful and dramatic story you tell so cleverly. It's the wonder of poetry, to paint a life so clearly in so few words. Mrs Ethel Richardson - I feel I know her. X

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