Sunday, 26 March 2017

Katie's Angels

Dear Reader,


Someone asked me the other day whether I had ever sought the help of my Guardian Angel, and I had to say I had not.  In truth, I know very little about Guardian Angels and what they are supposed to be or do.  As a Christian, I have never felt the need of an angel to intervene on my behalf.  Nevertheless I thought I would like to know a little more about them, and this is what I found.

According to Saint Jerome (347-420 AD) the concept of Guardian Angels is in the "mind of the church".  He said "how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth, an angel commissioned to guard it".   And he also said that "every soul was assigned a Guardian Angel the moment it was put into a body".  A Guardian Angel would therefore seem to be a created being, non-human, non-corporeal, that has been assigned to guard a particular person, especially to help that person avoid both physical and spiritual dangers, and so achieve salvation.

The Guardian Angel concept is present in the books of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament and its development is well documented.  Writing of angels as guardians Thomas Aquinas once said: "On this road man is threatened by many dangers from within and without, and therefore as guardians are appointed for men who have to pass by an unsafe road, so an angel is assigned to each man as long as he is a wayfarer."

Perhaps, in these difficult times, we all need the help of our Guardian Angels more than we know.


Katie's Angels 

At dawn, driving eastwards,
mist still covering the fields,
trees ribboned in cobwebs
sky blue and white,

she saw a rabbit, a pigeon,
and two hen pheasants,
but no cherubs, no bright light.

Much later, lost, tired,
rounding a corner she saw
gathered in the road
twenty white doves.

They flew up,
a breath of sunshine tipping their wings.
Ecstatic, she recognized the sign;
recognized her angels.


Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 19 March 2017

I wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth

Dear Reader,


I have put lots of daffodils into jugs around my house this week, and how cheerful and pretty they look.  I expect you have too.  Daffodils are certainly telling us that spring is here, and surely that is what we all want to know.  It wasn't William Wordsworth who first saw the daffodils in this famous poem I have printed below, it was his sister Dorothy.  She wrote in her Grasmere journal of seeing "daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness, and they tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing".

The Roman army was responsible for introducing the daffodil to much of the known world.  Native to southern Europe, the daffodil (narcissus) was believed to have medicinal properties, and the Roman apothecaries, and later priests, carried bulbs in their supplies and planted them wherever the army was stationed.  But this in fact was not a good idea, as the plants are highly toxic.  These hardy bulbs naturalized all over northern and western Europe, and we even get the familiar name "daffodil" from the Dutch (affo dyle), which means "that which comes early".   When the plants arrived in England around l629, the population embraced them as it does today. 


I am not a nature poet, so I have chosen this very famous poem by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) as the best one I know about daffodils, and which I thought you would enjoy.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
and then my heart with pleasure fills,
and dances with the daffodils.


With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 12 March 2017

My Husband and Other Men

Dear Reader,


In the 1970s I took part in a daily television programme called "House Party" on the Southern Network.  I am not sure why I was chosen to be on it, and can only say my performances were rather poor.  But the point is that today I am writing a few thoughts about wigs, and on the programme, so that my hair would always be neat and look the same, I had to wear a wig, and I did not find this a good thing to do.  My wig had a mind of its own: it frequently scratched me, and often moved its position on my head, making me look ridiculous.  And it was hot under the bright lights where we had to work, so the wig and I were not friends.

The wearing of wigs by men started to be very popular at the end of the 17th century.  However, Samuel Pepys bought a wig in 1663 when wigs were still uncommon.  It was such a novelty that he feared people would laugh at him in church, and was greatly relieved to find they did not.  He also worried that the hair of wigs might have come from plague victims.  In fact, wigs could be made of anything from human hair, cotton threads, goat hair, or silk.  The more substantial the wig, the higher up the social echelon one stood - one literally became a bigwig.  But all wigs tended to be scratchy,
uncomfortable and hot, particularly in summer, and people who couldn't afford them tried to make their hair look like a wig.  From about 1700 it was fashionable to powder the wig and the main powdering agent was flour.  By the late eighteenth century hair powders were commonly coloured, blue and pink being especially popular, and they were also scented.

In Britain today judges' wigs are made of horsehair and cost about £600.  To make them appear old and well-worn, lawyers wishing to look experienced often soak their wigs in tea.


My Husband and Other Men 

My husband is from heaven,
well, he is close to God;
but goodness me, even so,
I do find men are odd.


Very best wishes,  Patricia

PS.  I forgot to say that mice often made wigs their home in the 17th century.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The Panelled Room

Dear Reader,
                                                                           17th-Century Bedroom

                                                                         14th-Century Peasants' Bedroom

                                                            Dutch Mattress 18th Century

From time to time I have stayed in hotels and found the bed uncomfortable, and the mattress lumpy and not conducive to a good night's sleep.  And I have done a bit of grumbling about this to my husband in the morning.  But if we had lived in years gone by, we really would have had plenty to grumble about.  Mattresses in the 19th century were havens not only for bedbugs, fleas and moths (which loved old feathers when they could get at them) but for mice and rats as well.  Apparently, the story goes, an American woman reported in 1867 how she and her sister took armloads of shoes to bed each night to throw at the rats that ran across their bedroom floor.  Historically, the most common filling for a mattress was straw, whose pricks through the ticking was a torment, but people used whatever they could find.  I thought it was very interesting to learn that as late as the 19th century people staying in inns were obliged to share their beds with complete strangers.  Can you imagine some of the problems that might create today?  Political Correctness police would, of course,  have lots of warnings and advice on this matter.


The Panelled Room

He asked me to tea
in his college room.
Two china cups
a small white teapot
and a bowl of sugar
on a Russian tray,
perched on his desk.

Outside the window
small flakes of snow
fell silently
into the dusky twilight.

There was a cupboard
in the study with a wooden door.
"It leads to a panelled room
where a man with a flute
who sings sweetly, lives"
he said.

Holding hands we slipped
through the door.
The room was lit
by a hundred candles, and
while the flautist played softly
we danced under
holly berries and green garlands
threaded with red ribbons,
holding each other tight.

"This room is my secret," he said
"tell no-one you have seen it.
It houses my heart
to be shared one day
with the lady I love."

Later, in the panelled room
I saw from the window
a hundred stars,
and a crescent moon.

While he poured out the tea.


With best wishes, Patricia