Sunday, 25 June 2017

Beach Mirror

Dear Reader,




                                                                                      Carpet bags




 On June 24th, 1874,  Francis Kilvert wrote in his journal  : 'Went to London by the 11.5 mail.  I left my carpet-bag at the Paddington Cloak Room and went straight to the Academy exhibition at Burlington House which I reached shortly before 4 o'clock.  There was a great press of people, 100 or more, round Miss Thompson's famous picture  'Calling the Roll after the battle of Inkerman'.  A policeman stands on duty all day by this picture from 10 o'clock till 6 in the evening saying, "Move on ladies.  Ladies, please move on".  I met Teddy in the Exhibition and we dined together at the Criterion.  Not a bed to be got at the Great Western Hotel, so I put up at the Norfolk.'

The carpet bag is a travelling bag made of carpet, usually from an oriental rug.  It was a popular form of luggage in the United states and Europe in the 19th century.  Invented as a type of baggage light enough for a passenger to carry, like a duffle bag, as opposed to a wooden or metal trunk which required the assisstance of porters.   In 1886, the "Scientific Amercan" described it as old-fashioned and reliable:  the carpet bag "is still unsurpassed by any, where rough wear is the principal to be studied.  Such a bag, if constructed of good Brussels carpeting and unquestionable workmanship, will last a lifetime provided always that a substantial frame is used."  I would love to own a carpet bag, it looks so exotic, beautiful, and beckons me to romantic places I would like to visit.

                                                                            *
The latest news on the seagulls misbehaviour is that they have been swooping on children at a school in North Wales, frightening them and their parents.  However, they need not worry unduly as the local council is "looking into it".
                                                                             *


Beach Mirror

I see myself, a young woman,
recognize the long skirt,
the three blonde children,
one on her hip,
two holding hands,
all laughing, hugging, arguing,
her hair dancing in the wind.

Swirling thoughts about time past
consume me.
I kick at pebbles,
pick up oyster shells,
gaze at the everlasting point between sea and sky.

I have aged, certainly,
but, feeling the warmth of the sun,
watching the sea and the tides,
it seems these things
are ever the same as they were,
all those years gone by.
                                                                             *


Very best wishes, Patricia




Sunday, 18 June 2017

Not One of Us

Dear Reader,

                                                                                     Greensleeves


I have read numerous articles about boarding school lately, and all its horrors. An author and journalist, Alex Rankin, has written a book called "Stiff Upper Lip" which tells numerous tales of woe, of beatings, of cruelty, of bullying, of not having enough to eat and the dreadful homesickness felt by the boys, and years later by the girls, when they were sent to boarding school.

I was sent to boarding school when I was seven and stayed at different ones until I was sixteen.  On the whole they were enormously unpleasant but by far the worst one was a convent I went to aged eleven, situated in Paris.  It was grim and cold and the nuns were strict and cruel.  I always thought after reading "Jane Eyre" that the Lowood Institution for poor girls, would have been almost civilized compared to my convent.  I slept in a dormitory with about forty other girls and we were allowed a bath once a fortnight.  A nun slept with us to see we couldn't escape, I assume, and morning prayers were at 6.30 am in the freezing chapel.

After getting very ill I was brought back to England and sent to a school in Ascot, Berkshire.  I did make a friend there so it wasn't so horrible as the last three I had been to, but I left with few happy memories of childhood, the teens, and boarding school.

                                                                            *

My husband is now out of Intensive Care and, Thanks Be to God, seems to be on the mend.  The last few weeks have been frightening and horrific, but the sun shines today and hope springs again in my heart.

                                                                            *

Not One of Us

A small figure at school in
a hot, strange land.  The
children left her alone,
she didn't speak their language
or know their games or rules.
She was not one of them.

Winter now and an English
boarding school, where the rules
were known, but not by her.
She was clumsy, wore spectacles,
couldn't tie her tie, dropped the netball,
couldn't master dance steps gracefully
to the music of "Greensleeves",
was not as asset, wouldn't do.
She was not one of them.

She simply asked,
why do the safely-grounded
hear the beat of a terrified heart
and seek to silence it?  Is the beat
too loud, something not understood,
something to frighten?
Are things better when the group
destroys the alien in it midst?

She never knew,
she was not one of them.

                                                                                *

With best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Realization

Dear Reader,
                                                                   Patricia Huth Ellis

                                                          
This week I will not be writing a blog, just a few words and a poem.  My husband has been taken ill and is in hospital battling for life.  We never know, do we, what is round the corner, as they say.  Enjoy every moment because life is precious, and short.

                                                                                  *

Realization

I am
part of the whole.

I am
in the first light,
the bird's first song,
the sun's first dart
through he curtain crack,
in the music of summer trees.

I am
part of the alpha,
the birth,
the awakening,
the growing and spreading,
the throbbing of life.

I am part of all suffering
hands blood-stained.
Part of the love
humanity shares and
of all good things.

I am
part of the omega,
the closing, the last light,
the call back from the dark
to the bright, eternal night.

                                                                              *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Attic trunk

Dear Reader,
                                                                                   Vintage postcards


Postcards became popular at the turn of the 20th century, especially for sending short messages to friends, and were quickly acquired by collectors of pop culture, photography, and wartime memorabilia or local history.  Novelty postcards were made using wood, aluminium, copper or cork.  Silk postcards, often embroidered over a printed image, were wrapped around cardboard and sent in see-through glassine paper envelopes; these were especially popular during World War I.  In the 1930s and l940s postcards were printed on brightly coloured paper designed to look like linen.  In 1903, when the postcard cult was near its peak, the number sent through the post had grown nearly ten times since 1871, when the total had staggered the Post Office.  The total sent that year was over 600 million.  In 1905 alone it was estimated that the post offices of the world coped with over seven billion postcards!

I am really sad that postcards hardly ever fall through my letter box these days.  I did so enjoy getting postcards from friends in all sorts of strange places, and not so strange.  There was something very exciting about seeing a card on the mat, and wondering who had thought about you and from where.  And then there were the 'potential lover' cards so much looked forward to, and perused over and over again - perhaps to find some hidden meaning in the words about the weather, or the enjoyment of a book they had taken with them.  Emails, I think, are not the same at all; you can't pick them up and put them on the mantlepiece or place them under your pillow as I did with some of the postcards I received.

                                                                           *


Attic Trunk

Searching through her mother's attic trunk
she recognized 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 best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 27 May 2017

A Valediction

Dear Reader,


                                                                                      Passion


After all the horror of this week I thought a small piece from Francis Kilvert's diary for Thursday, 28th May, l874, might lift the spirits.

"At the dairy is was butter morning and Fair Rosamund was making up the sweet rolls of rich golden butter.  Mrs. Knight says the butter is so golden at this time of year because the cows eat the buttercups.  The reason why the whey is so sweet and wholesome in May and June is because the grass is so full of flowers and young sweet herbs.  When I go to the Common Farm to drink whey I think of my grandmother, my mother's mother, Thermuthis Ashe, then a fair beautiful young girl, and how she used to come across the meadows from the Manor house to this very dairy, and drink whey here every morning during the sweet May Month."

Whey is the liquid remaining after the milk has been curdled and strained. Throughout history it was a popular drink in inns and coffee houses.  When Joseph Pratley was at Daventry Academy (1752-55) he recorded that on the morning of Wednesday, May 22nd, 1754, he "went with a large company to drink whey".  This might have been "wine whey" which was popular then.  Dairy whey remaining from homemade cheese making has many uses.  It is a flour conditioner and can be substituted for skimmed milk in most baked recipes that require milk such as bread, pancakes or muffins.

And we all know the nursery rhyme by Dr Thomas Muffet (1553-1604) written for his stepdaughter:
                                                   
                                                       Little Miss Muffet
                                                       Sat on a tuffit
                                                       Eating her curds and whey ......
                                                       Along came a spider
                                                       Who sat down beside her
                                                       And frightened Miss Muffet away


This was first printed in the "Songs for the Nursery" collection published in 1805.  And no wonder Miss Muffet ran away; it probably wasn't the spider that frightened her, but the thought of having to eat curds and whey for breakfast.

                                                                       *

A Valediction

To innocence
to childhood
to youth
to skipping about
to making daisy chains
to looking into 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 indescribable
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 best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Goats


 Dear Reader,



                                                                               Wild mountain goats in Andalucia.

In the 1960s I went to stay with an artist friend who had an "estancia" in Andalucia, southern Spain, enfolded in the mountains above Algerceras.  It was a beautiful white house surrounded by bougainvillaeas, tropical trees and plants.  Apparently, it had originally been the hideaway of a smuggler and had been known as "The Smuggler's Retreat", but when I knew it it was called The Seraphine.  The thing I remember most about The Seraphine was the swallows.  Each year swallows nested in the drawing room above the fireplace on the mantelpiece, flying in through the open windows.  The male swallow sat watching, sitting on the lamp by the sofa as they swooped around the room, and you had to be careful of your drink and your head as they did so.  Behind the house were mountain paths supposedly made by the smuggler, but when I went there the paths were well trodden by goats which had large silver bells round their necks, chiming away, and looked after by a shepherd.

The wild mountain goats frequently found in herds across the mountains of Andalucia are Spanish Ibex.  The males are generally shades of brown around the body with black markings on the chest, flanks and legs, while the females are paler.  The adult males are approximately double the size of the females, but colour and size vary, depending on their whereabouts within the peninsula.  These wild herds spend their days moving gradually across the mountainside browsing on oaks, as well as grasses and flowering non-woody plants.  Both sexes have horns, those of the males larger than the females - as we might have guessed!

                                                                          *

Goats

The goats pick their way up
the steep mountain path
nibbling and bleating, tails wagging
silver bells chiming as they stop
to graze, skip and jump upwards.

White mignonettes, freesias, lavender bushes
grow in abundance along the well-worn track,
and small taranaki flowers nestle
in the undergrowth.
Overhead a black kite cries
circles and swoops
and the pungent smell of goats
fills the warm lavender air.

I see the shepherd boy
swarthy, brown and handsome
sitting on a stone, playing a flute.
He watches his precious goats
with a sharp and knowing eye.

As I pass him I smile.  He waves.
I dance a step to his music
and with light heart follow the goats,
on my own journey upwards.

                                                                             *

With best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Viking Footprints

Dear Reader,



                                                                                         Viking Boats

Isn't it strange what fear can do to us?  In our small and pretty garden the pigeons make themselves very at home, thumping heavily onto the flower beds, breaking the plants, pecking greedily at the newly sown grass, and having their bathtime in the water bowl I had bought for the smaller birds to drink out of.  As you have probably gathered, I am not fond of pigeons, so when a friend told me of a large plastic owl for sale that frightened pigeons when placed in a garden, I happily bought one.  The owl is large and stands in the garden looking very fierce, and there is not a pigeon in sight.  But the person whom it really frightens is me.  Every morning, having forgotten that it is there, I see it and my heart starts to overbeat and my hands to sweat.  As soon as I remember what it really is I revert to normal breathing, and my panic is over.

A Professor Steve Peters wrote an interesting book called "The Chimp Paradox", which explains that we have two brains, one the frontal (Human) and the other the limbic (Chimp). The human brain is the one that is rational, reasonable and practical, whilst the Chimp brain runs on emotions.  In fact,  the Chimp is there to protect us from any dangers we might come across, to put us on our guard.

But for some people the Chimp can overdo it, see dangers when they are minimal, and panic us when there is no need.  Unfortunately, I am one of those people and, at the moment, am trying to control the Chimp with positive thoughts.  It seems to be working well,  but if I did see a Viking on a lonely beach I would probably have the fright of my life, regardless. 

                                                                        *

Viking Footsteps

There it is: a windswept empty beach,
great fields of white sand dressed
in drift wood, seaweed, plastic bottles,
flotsam, pebbles, shells, stones, and kelp skeins.
It stretches away to the horizon.

Seagulls, gannets, terns, twist and fly,
make their repetitive cries, peck in the ground.
Small pools of seawater form
as the tide goes out, sea creatures swimming there.

But is that a long boat, red sails fluttering, I see?
And are those uncovered Viking footsteps in the sand?
And do I smell spitted meat, mead and honey
drifting past me on the salt-scented air?

The sand dunes hug their secrets silently,
letting the quiet southerly wind
rustle through the marram grasses.
I ask them, do Viking voices whisper on that wind,
sometimes, on an icy night under a starlit sky?

                                                                           *

With best wishes, Patricia  

PS.  A little more news on the seagull front.  Apparently in Aldburgh, Suffolk, it has been an offence to feed the birds for several years.  Here, if caught, feeding the gulls could cost you thousands of pounds.   But don't worry - I will keep you posted on this matter.