Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Perfect B&B

Dear Reader,



                                                                                             B&Bs


I have had many an enjoyable stay in England's and Scotland's B&Bs, they are cheaper than hotels and, in many ways, better and more fun.  The tradition of extending hospitality to strangers goes back to the earliest recorded history for almost all religions and cultures world wise.  Other than soldiers or religious pilgrims travel for business or pleasure started in the 1700's.  Lots of stagecoach inns common in England and the eastern United States provided stabling for horses and lodgings for travellers, but these accommodations were extremely modest (at best).  The advent of the railroads provided a huge boost to travel comfort, and hundreds of hotels were built close to train stations to accommodate growing numbers of travellers.

Travel to Europe boomed after World War II,  a strong dollar allowed millions of Americans to discover England's and Ireland's B&Bs, and equivalent accommodation on the continent.  Throughout the 1980's, the seeds for the B&B growth were planted.   Interestingly although B&Bs in the United Stated began as informal, inexpensive places to stay with shared baths and minimal amenities, they are largely now luxurious and very comfortable, with a high level of service and delicious breakfast food.
                                                                                *


The Perfect B&B

Soft red brick, covered in roses,
the hall floor Cotswold stone,
the doors and furniture
applewood, mahogany, old pine,
chintz curtains in pretty bedrooms,
thick woollen carpets
and large white towels,
long and lovely views of distant hills,
sweet smells of lilies and lavender,
fresh asparagus for dinner,
duck and strawberries.

On the garden table,
its soft green feathers
ruffling gently in the wind,
lies a dead linnet.

                                                                              *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Universal Truth

Dear Reader,



Autumn

Autumn has arrived, Keat's 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness', is here.  Certainly the Cotswold's are looking very beautiful at the moment, full of very colourful red and gold trees.  This year's harvest moon  - the name for the first full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox was a classic, bathed in rose gold.  The name 'harvest moon' derives from the fact farmers used to rely on its light to work late into the night collecting crops ahead of winter.  In autumn the moon's orbital path in comparison to the earth means it rises sooner, and brings noticeably more illuminated nights.  At the time of the harvest moon it rises almost as soon as the sun sets, hence the bright orange overtones.
When the moon shines full above our heads, humans react in strange ways.  In some hospitals and psychiatric wards it is still an accepted school of thought that full moons lead to busy nights.  That is why we refer to a state of madness as "lunacy".

From Dorothy Wordsworth's journal, 1800 (Westmorland).

'We pulled apples after dinner, a large basket full.   We walked before tea by Bainriggs to observe the many-coloured foliage.  The oaks dark green with some yellow leaves, the birches generally still green, some near the water yellowish, the sycamore crimson and crimson-tufted, the mountain ash a deep orange, the common ash lemon colour, but many ashes still fresh in their summer green'.

                                                                             *

Universal Truth

Everyone knows that Philip Larkin wrote:

"The 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 best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Unfettered



Dear Reader,
                                                                                     Julius Caesar


                                                                                 The Rubicon River

 Not sleeping very well at the moment I was listening to the World Service at 3.30am (about) last week when I heard a very interesting talk about Julius Caesar 'crossing the Rubicon".  Not knowing much about 'crossing the Rubicon' I investigated and found a little something about it.  Here it is for those of you who don't know already.

It means 'crossing the Rubicon River' (between Italy and Gaul) in 49 BC, thereby starting a war against Pompey and the Roman Senate.   On January 10th General Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River, the boundary between the Cisalpine Gaul province to the north and Italy proper to the south, a legally proscribed action forbidden to any army-leading general.  Caesars Civil War (49-45   BC) is also called the Great Roman Civil War where Julius Caesar fought against the senate supported legions of Pompey the Great.  This war lasted for four years until Caesar finally defeated Pompey and became Dictator of Rome.  The famous moment in the war was when Caesar crossed the Rubicon river.  This meant he was going to war against Rome.   Today the term "crossing the Rubicon" is still used to say that someone has reached the point of no return and cannot turn back.               
                                                                                 

                                                                            *
Unfettered

I need to unbind myself
to let him go free
to fly away
on angels wings

return to me
settle his soul with mine
unfettered with ties
each of us single

each of us to be
paired again in
God's heaven

one day

                                                                              *


With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Rooks

Dear Reader,

 




                                                                                               Rooks


The rook is similar in size or slightly smaller than the carrion crow, with black feathers often showing a blue or bluish-purple sheen in bright sunlight.  The feathers in the head, neck and shoulders are particularly dense and silky.  The legs and feet are generally black and the bill grey-black.  For food the rook predominately eats earthworms and insect larvae which it finds by probing the ground with its strong bill. It also eats grain, small amounts of fruit, small mammals, acorns and small birds and their young.  In urban sites, human food scraps are taken from rubbish dumps and street, usually in the early hours when it is relatively quiet.  Rooks nest in flocks at the top of trees.  Branches and twigs are broken off, very rarely picked up from the ground, although as many are likely to be stolen from nearby nests as are collected from trees.   Eggs are usually 3-5 in number and appear by the end of February or early March and both adults feed the young.

                                                                              *
                                                                                  

Rooks

I was fourteen
when I first heard
the call of the rooks
caw-cawing
their eerie cries.

From a Cornish cottage garden
I walked down through
dark woods to the beach,
a remote place,
just dunes, sand, the sea
and me, a confused, angry teenager,
with the rooks caw-cawing in my ears
disturbing my thoughts.

Even now, in later years,
whenever I hear whispers from the wind,
or sea lapping over large grey stones
ever forward, ever backward,
glimpse a faraway horizon
and see twilight descending
darkening the sky,
the rooks in large black groups
flying high towards
their evening bed
cawing, cawing, cawing,
my heart misses a beat
and an unexplained sadness
overcomes me.

                                                                                    *

I am going to Dorset next week so shall be able to let you know how bothersome the seagulls are, and whether they attack me for my egg sandwich.

With best wishes, Patricia







Sunday, 17 September 2017

For You, Everyman

Dear Reader,




                                                                                     Allotments

Dear Reader,

I see that the Charity Commission has supported a recommendation which could make many thousands of community allotment plots lost across the nation. These allotments were transferred to parish councils in 1895, called  "allotments for the labouring poor."  But the Charity Commission has decided that allotments no longer fulfilled the purpose of relieving poverty, and they should now be sold.

Allotments have been in existence for hundreds of years with evidence pointing back to Anglo-Saxon times.  In 1939 there were 819,000 allotment plots cultivated.  Based on experience in the First World War the government immediately called on allotments again, to help with food supplies.  Another half a million plots were created.   This was coined the "Dig for Victory" campaign by the press and the slogan was adopted by the government.  The plots were created anywhere possible, and parks and recreational areas were once more dug up to feed Britain.  Even some of London's Royal Parks were dug including Hyde Park, St. James's Park and Kensington Gardens.  There were even allotments in the moat of the Tower of London.

My daughter, Jessica and a friend, have an allotment producing lots of wonderful vegetables and fruit for their families. I think it would be terribly sad if these allotment sites were sold, for whatever reason.  They bring a great sense of fulfillment to their owners, who work in the fresh air, make friends and produce marvellous food for both their families, neighbours and friends. 

                                                                            *

For You, Everyman

My smile is for you.
Yes, you, the man on the omnibus,
You, the woman ion the crowd,
You, the small child playing in the dust,
You, the homeless, the tramp unbowed,
You, in the business suit, you in kaftan,
You, the tall, you, the short.

Yes, You, Everyman.

The exchanged smile
acknowledges shared humanity
in this fleeting recognition.
No words needed.

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Miracle

Dear Reader,


                                                                                    Swallows


Since I wrote this blog a month ago, very sadly my husband of thirty years has died. We had been out for a picnic lunch, had a short walk on this sunny August day, then I left him watching the cricket on the television in his favourite chair.  I found him passed away half an hour later. 

No one told me what grief was like - it comes in great waves overwhelming me, and I hope that time will make this less terrible, as people say it will.  I shall continue to write the blog as I know he would have wanted me to.

From John Clare's journal, 1824  (Northants) September 10th.

'The swallows are flocking together in the skies ready for departing and a crowd has dropt to rest on the walnut tree where they twitter as if they were telling their young stories of their long journey to cheer and check fears.'

Swallows must be amongst the most popular birds - their arrival each spring in the northern hemisphere indicates the onset of summer.  Swallows are easily recognised by their slender bodies, long pointed wings and forked tails; martins tend to have much less forked tails. All swallows are strongly migratory making many journeys of several thousand miles a year.  They migrate by stopping frequently en route, unlike other passerines.   Before crossing the Sahara Desert or the Mediterranean Sea they will fuel for several days to ensure they have enough fat for the crossing.  During migration, and in their winter quarters, birds will gather in large roosts, particularly in reedbeds and some types of crop for the night.

                                                                        *

Miracle

Rich in England's spring
cowparsely entrancing
in dog-rosed hedge,
the fecund earth lush green,
a baby swallow
hatches in a Suffolk barn,
to the cries of gulls
flying over mudflats,
over sea-lavender.

This small bird grows
embracing our summer warmth,
swooping on insects caught
above rolling grasslands.
It dips and tumbles gracefully,
trouble-free.

But what instinct tells of winter's cold?
This bird, hand-sized, will
fly over the Pyrenees,
thirst through the parched Sahara,
soar and glide on trade winds,
south to The Cape of Africa
drawn, inexplicably, to the heat
of the southern sun.

In early spring does
this swallow's courageous heart
grow restless, homesick for
a Suffolk barn?
Is it a miracle that some force
of nature returns this minute bird
to its birth-nest by the English sea?
Who knows, but it seems so to me.

                                                                          *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Safe Harbour





Dear Reader,





                                                                                       Deck Chairs


I see this week that beach deck chairs are going to be phased out by local councils amid plans to make seaside resorts more 'continental'.  In my childhood, my parents took me and my sister to Great Yarmouth beach in Norfolk, for picnic lunches, swimming and sandcastle play. They paid for two striped deck chairs and sat happily in them all day, for the sum of about one shilling and sixpence (9p in today's money).  This is what English people did, and still do, and still like to do, I would think.  If we wanted to be more 'continental' we would go to the continent and sit in cafes, watching people go by.  But sitting in a deck chair, on an English beach, eating an egg and cress sandwich, watching the tide ever changing and hearing the seabirds cry, is a peaceful and very enjoyable experience, especially if you are sitting in a comfortable traditional stripey deck chair.

Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of British Hospitality, recently said: 'We celebrate the deck chair as a British icon.  Instead of trying to remove the emblematic part of our culture we should be celebrating its striped contribution to the 250 million visits made to our coast each year, which generated £17 million for the UK economy.'  Incidentally, ancient versions of the deck chair have been discovered by archaeologists dating back as far as classical Rome.  Their modern name was born in the mid-19th century when they became popular among passengers on ocean liners.

                                                                           *

Safe Harbour

Old love settles for a safe harbour,
a place of quiet embracing
rocked in a gentle sea.

Young love is daring, dangerous,
rich in its fullness,
sticky in substance, ripe with seed.

Old love has a slower pace,
enriched with years of touch.
No need to preen and strut the hour.

The rib cage joins,
the bone becomes one bone,
the breath one breath.
Calm waters still seduce.
                                                                           *

I will be taking a summer break now until Sunday, September 10th, and hope you will rejoin me then.
Have a good and peaceful holiday, and thank you for reading my blog in the last year.  It gives me great pleasure to know that people from all over the world enjoy it.

With very best wishes, Patricia