Sunday, 18 December 2016

Realization

Dear Reader,


                                                                                            Celtic Crosses


As this is our Christian season I thought a word or two about the Celtic Cross would be in order.  The Celtic Cross is a symbol used today in many contexts, both religious and secular.  The cross itself is just like a traditional cross but with a ring around the intersection of the stem and arms, and the whole cross is often decorated with ornate Gaelic patterns.  The Celtic Cross is also called the "Sun Cross"
by some people who interpret the ring to represent the sun.  Irish legend says that the Celtic Cross was first introduced by Saint Patrick, who was attempting to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity.  Some of the pagans worshipped the sun, so it is said that Saint Patrick combined the Christian Cross with the circular pattern of the sun as a way of associating light and life with the Christian Cross in the minds of his converts.  Once when I was walking on Dartmoor I saw a cross very similar to those  in the photographs, and thought how lovely and inspiring it was.

This is my favourite Celtic prayer to share with you:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.



I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and thank you very much for your support during 2016.  I won't be writing my blog on Christmas Day, but will start again on Sunday January 1st, and hope you will join me then.

                                                                              *

Realization

I am
part of the whole.

I am
in the first light,
the bird's first song,
the sun's first dart
through the 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.

                                                                             *

 Very best wishes, Patricia




Sunday, 11 December 2016

Sideburns, 2014


Dear Reader,


                                                                    A 20th-century man with sideburns


                                                                              Thomas Hardy,  1840-1928                                  


                                                      Thomas Hardy's birthplace, Upper Bockhampton
                                                                                    Dorset



I thought you might like to read this extract from Thomas Hardy's journal written on December 7th, 1886:

"Winter.  The landscape has turned from a painting to an engraving:  the birds that love worms fall back upon berries:  the back parts of homesteads assume, in the general nakedness of the trees, a humiliating squalidness as to their details that has not been contemplated by their occupiers."

This also seems to be the case where I live, a small market town, where lots of things I would rather not see are completely obscured in the summer months by beautiful trees and plants, but not so now the leaves have fallen.

Incidentally, I see that Larry, the Downing Street cat, has been joined by two other cats, Ossie and Evie.  Larry has not turned out to be a proficient mouser, in fact he is useless, and would rather spend his time terrorizing the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Phillip Hammond's,  two dogs who also live in No. 10 Downing Street.  The cats came from a rescue charity and on arrival had little publicity.  They were, a source said, "quietly getting on with their job".  So mice - Beware!


                                                                              *

Sideburns, 2014

Astonished, I see the sideburns,
the slicked up hair,
the ill-fitting suit,
large red hands
jolting it back on the shoulders
with awkward gesture,
at a young man's funeral
in the village church.
White lilies fill the air
with their sweet scent,
while soft music plays.
I see tears on every cheek,
sad young women, and men too
there to seek some comfort
from the vicar's words.

I blink and thought
I saw Thomas Hardy standing
in a nearby pew,
back in time from his day.
The ancient poet seemed to be
embodied in the blood and lives
of this congregation,
among whom nothing has changed over the years,
not the people, nor the service,
and death is still great sorrow.

But there is tea and beer
at the Bull Inn,
gossip and laughter
tears and memories, as
life's cycle keeps turning,
our beginnings and our endings
the only certainties.

                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Suit, Waistcoat, Tie

Dear Reader,
                                                                                     Mr Joe Bartley, 89

Perhaps you all saw the wonderful story this week about Mr Joe Bartley, but for those who did not, here it is.  Joe Bartley, 89, an army veteran from Paignton in Devon, posted a job advertisement in the local newspaper, The Herald Express.  He had lived alone since his wife died and was lonely and said that he was "dying of boredom".  He wanted to work for 20 hours a week and could do cleaning, light gardening, and DIY.  He had several offers of work made to him but chose a cafe in the town after the owners of the family-run business spotted his request.  He is looking forward to starting work there this week.  Well done, Mr Bartley, I salute you!

My mother worked in an antiques shop just off Sloane Street in London until she was 82.  She walked there from her flat, a distance of a mile or two, started at 9.30 and worked until 5 pm, when she walked home.  For this she earned £12 a day, not in 1900 but in 1994!  I don't think she knew much about antiques nor did she really need the money, luckily, but she loved the responsibility and importance of working.  After she stopped working she became ill, I suspect from boredom like Mr Bartley, and never recovered her high spirits.
                                                                            


                                                                                *                                                                         

Suit, Waistcoat, Tie

Why wear his best suit, waistcoat, tie
at a talk on Nuclear Waste?
The village hall crumbles,
lit by dusty neon lights,
tea is served from cracked cups
and dull biscuits offered.

The rest wear jumble-sale clothes,
too dispirited to care,
their appearance long abandoned.

But is there someone there
who has stirred his heart,
made him feel alive again?
The reason for his best suit,
his waistcoat and his tie,
his winning smile, his bright eye?

I like to think so,
hope so.

                                                                            *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 27 November 2016

When my Dad came home




Dear Reader,
                                                                                William Trevor, CBE

The Ballroom of Romance


                                                                      A More Romantic Ballroom

I read with great sadness about the recent death of my old friend William Trevor, the writer of novels and short stories.  His short stories have been likened to those of both Chekhov and Maupassant, with his themes being lost opportunity, self-deception, alienation, and regret.  He once said he was "interested in the sadness of fate, in the things that just happen to people".  I think his most well-known short story was "The Ballroom of Romance", certainly one I have read and re-read and really enjoyed.  It is set in rural Ireland in the 1950s.  The girl Bridie has been attending the local dance hall for years hoping to find a good husband who could help her on her family's farm.  But now, surrounded by younger and prettier women at these weekly dances, she realizes that all the good men of her generation have either emigrated or have got married, and her only remaining hope for marriage would be with the alcoholic and undesirable, uncouth Bowser Egan.  We don't know what choice she makes, but if it were I a single life, however hard, would be mine.

                                                                          *

When my Dad came home

he nodded off
in the old armchair,
any time,
forgot everything,
could name no names.

Tobacco smoke from woodbines
filled the house,
he drank malt whisky,
came home unsteadily from the pub.

He talked of cricket, he whistled
and hummed old country and western songs,
rocked in the rocking chair
and potted up red geraniums.

He ate junket and white fish
had headaches,
and he wept sometimes.

But we were good friends, my Dad and I,
night times he told me stories,
and tucked me into bed.
I never asked him about the war,
and he never said.

                                                                                  *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Emma

                                                                        Emma Deguara

Dear Reader,

I hope you will allow me a little indulgence this week, because I want to say a word or two about my granddaughter Emma.  There is so much adverse news about young people today and the terrible things they get up to, I thought, for a change, it would be a relief to know about an ordinary girl who brings so much joy to other people, through hard work, and great generosity of spirit to everyone she meets.  She went to the local school, gained good A-Levels,  then attended Brookes University in Oxford studying Graphic Design, and obtained a Distinction.  In the holidays she did some au pairing and worked as a waitress to earn some money to spend on her gap year.  Emma has had problems with her heart, but she never complains, accepts the situation, and gets on with her life.  In two weeks time she is going to Australia.  She is going on her own and intends to find work where she can.  In all those 1930s' plays people used to say to each other when one of them was going abroad:  Bon Voyage, have a good journey.  So I too say to Emma:  Bon Voyage, darling, and keep safe.

From Granny with love.

                                                                               *

 Emma

the little one
frightened to be left
at night
shared my bed
snuggled up with me
listened to nursery rhymes
on an old tape recorder

we went to the swings
sat on a bench
ate crisps
she grew and we went to
the Wildlife Park
stared at the monkeys

we watched Maizie Mouse
over and over again
and in her teens
The Sound of Music
she worked hard at school
had problems with her heart
but never complained

She went to college
got a Distinction
will continue her studies in Brighton
in September next year
is helpful, enthusiastic
puts her all into everything
is engaging and funny
she is Alpha plus

I loved her and looked after her
and now she looks after me


                                                                       *
With best wishes, Patricia

Links to my new book:

BLURB:


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Thanks, Private Norfolk


Dear Reader,




 
                                            Private 1432, Cecil Ernest Bullimore, who joined a Norfolk Regiment.
                                                        Killed in action on 12th August, 1915.




During my summer holidays in the 1950s I lived in a small cottage in Norfolk, next to a river, and really in the middle of nowhere.  My sister and I had ponies to ride, and in those balmy days there was little traffic on the roads or in the lanes, so riding through the wonderful, large golden wheat fields was a great delight.  Sometimes we would take a picnic, dismount and eat it sitting among exotic wild flowers before going home.  We also had a yellow pony trap and a small, fat, cross pony called Joey to pull it along.  Sometimes we would harness Joey and trot off to Buxton, our nearest village, to watch the farrier shoe horses,  and I can still remember the strong smell of burnt hoof and metal.  Our cottage had no mains electricity and we had to pump water into a tank by hand.  My father gave us a sixpence for 100 pumps.

Norfolk in those days was a very quiet and peaceful county and had its own ways and its own accent.  I suspect it wasn't much different from the county, rivers, roads and lanes that the people who lived there in 1914-18 knew - those people, kind, uncomplaining and innocent, getting on with their lives in a traditional way.  The brave young men of Norfolk who signed up in 1914 and went to war would have had no idea what, for them, was to come.  In the two minutes silence today, when we remember those who died for us, I always say thank you to them all,  and hope, somewhere, they can hear me.

                                                                            *

Thanks, Private Norfolk

You left, singing, with your pals,
marching for good and glory.
You hadn't yet dug a trench,
killed an unknown soldier,
seen dead bodies, smelt their stench,
heard comrades' last sickening cries.

You gave your life with generous heart,
believed the lies
dispatched by loftier ranks.
And so to you, dear Private Norfolk,
I give salute,
and my deepest thanks

for swapping your mauve rain-skies,
your white-breast beaches, and beckoning sea,
your level fields of ripening corn,
to fight in foreign fields, for us,
for me.


With best wishes, Patricia
                                                                             *


PS.  Links to buy my new book below!

BLURB:


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

ANNOUNCEMENT - NEW BOOK

Dear Reader,

over the last few months, I have been working on an exciting new project with my granddaughter. I wanted to produce a new book with an updated collection of poems and illustrations, some of which have been published on this blog. 

It is with great pleasure that I can now announce that it is officially for sale. If you click on either of the links below, you will be taken to Blurb or Amazon, where you can buy it online.

BLURB:

Best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Bridal Red





Dear Reader,


                                                                               A Maasai Girl


Years ago I watched a documentary about a young girl from the Maasai tribe in Kenya.  I have never forgotten it and still think about this girl sometimes, even now.  She lived in a village, keeping watch over the cattle, playing in the river, loving and being loved by her mother and father and many brothers and sisters.  But then, when she was about fourteen, men from a neighbouring tribal village, about eighteen miles from her own, came looking for a bride and, after hard bargaining, she was sold. The girl was devastated and cried racking tears.  But she was covered in red sand, decorated in elaborate beads, and was made to walk over the mountains to join the man she was to marry.  The documentary did not show her in that village, but informed us at the end that she had died after being there only six weeks.  It did not tell us what the young girl died of, but I suspect of a broken heart.  The poem this week is one I wrote later, in great sorrow.


                                                                                   *


Bridal Red

I saw
a young girl smiling,
laughing, threading beads, minding goats,
chasing chickens, pulling feathers from their tails,
holding hands with sisters, friends,
chattering, gossiping, rough and tumbling
in bright sunlight.

I saw
scrub-plains, white rocks and blue,
blue mountains, straw huts,
men on haunches, chewing,
and thin dogs, fat babies,
loving families, happiness.

I saw
men, suddenly, appear from a distant village,
offering cows and sheep as an exchange
for a shepherd in need of a woman, a wife.
The girl was chosen,
a bargain was struck.

I saw
her stand silently, acquiescent,
red ochre paste and mud
plastered on her shaven head,
necklaces of golden wire
wound tightly round her neck,
ankle bracelets in profusion.

I saw
her sisters, her friends, not laughing now,
offering presents
a carved stick, a beaded purse.
At dawn she would leave as the sun rose,
to walk over the mountain pass
to an unknown bridegroom,
an unknown life.

I saw
as she left
her grief, her tears trickling,
then flooding through the paste and mud.
I saw her sorrow as the colour red,
and a crown of thorns her maidenhead.

                                                                                  *
With very best wishes, Patricia

PS.  Look out for a blog post announcement shortly.


                                                                           

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Spirit Suitcase







Dear Reader,


                                                                          A Spider and his Web


I am not a natural lover of spiders, but they don't seem to have understood this and have visited my house in hordes this month.  They seem to be everywhere, in every corner, and certainly have their favourite spots, the downstairs loo being one of them.  Some of them, of course, are not as horrible as others.  The ones with the small bodies and long legs I put down the lavatory, thinking vaguely that they will have another chance at life, swirling about in the water. This is probably not true but it makes me feel less guilty.  But those black spiders that scuttle sideways have no second chance when I have caught them ........

The evolution of spiders has been going on for about 400 million years, and there are at least 45,700 spider species.  Most spiders live for about two years, and their best known method of ensnaring prey  is by means of a sticky web in which they capture different insects.  The male spider identifies himself by a variety of complex courtship rituals to avoid being eaten by the females, and they only survive a few matings, which are limited by their short life spans.

"Weaving spiders come not here
hence you long-legged spinners, hence
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor Snail, do no offence."

From: Midsummer Night's Dream   (1595/6)

Thinking of Shakespeare, I am reading a really funny and interesting book about his life and the little that is known about it, by Bill Bryson.  He says that Shakespeare didn't scruple to steal plots, dialogue, names and titles, or whatever suited his purpose.  I didn't know that, and apparently George Bernard Shaw once said that Shakespeare was a wonderful teller of stories so long as someone else had told them first.  Could we all say that about the tales we tell, I wonder?

                                                                         *


Spirit Suitcase

A sturdy key
locks the spirit
in its suitcase.
It floats and dances,
dives low, climbs high,
is forever candle-lit.

The suitcase, new, shines,
leather polished,
locks and fittings brass-bright,
unbruised.
But through use, it gets kicks,
scuffs, scratches, and slowly fades.
Its original shape
is just recognizable,
only just there

while the spirit dances on ........   

                                                                  *

With best wishes, Patricia                                                               

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Camel




Dear Reader,




                                                                                            A Silverback Gorilla


I feel very drawn towards Kumbuka, the 29-stone Silverback gorilla that escaped from his enclosure at London Zoo last week after a cage door was left open.  He found his way through two unlocked gates, and let himself into the food store, where he consumed nine pints of undiluted black currant squash during his hour of freedom.  Armed police were called to the zoo and Kumbuka was found, tranquillized, and moved back to his 'Gorilla Kingdom'.  Apparently he is a lovely gentle character and, although he bangs tree trunks and windows, it is just 'display behaviour'.  The life span of a gorilla is normally between 35 and 40 years, and they are considered highly intelligent animals.  Like other great apes, gorillas can laugh, grieve, and have rich emotional lives, developing strong family bonds.  I hate to think of any beautiful, clever, sensitive animal being shut up in a small unnatural space for people to gawp at and only wish poor Kumbuka had leapt over the enclosure wall and escaped to the freedom to which he is entitled.  I must say, though, that I feel comforted knowing that he found his way to the undiluted black currant squash and then obviously thoroughly enjoyed drinking it.

                                                                            *

Camel

The woman stares at me
into my rheumy eyes, my sad face
sees a dusty, dirty animal
mud sticking to my coat
my miserable tail hanging loose
my hooves cracked, hump matted.

But I want her to know
that this is not me.
I came from a land of warmth
of sun, of sand,
my Arab owner loved me
understood me
he spoke to me softly
he stroked my coat.
He rode on my back
Kelim rugs hugging my haunches
water in large panniers
strung to my side.
We rode to oases, to Petra Rose,
he was my friend
I weep for the want of him.

The woman walks away
but something glistens on her cheek.

                                                                             *

With best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 16 October 2016

Throwing Away

Dear Reader,


                                                                              The Battle of Borodino, 1812

This week my husband finished reading to me out loud Leo Tolstoy's book "War and Peace" and, as you all probably know, it is a very long read.  Thinking now about the book, what it taught me is that, as in the book "Men are from Mars, Women from Venus", men and women are so, so different in their approach to life and its struggles.  Tolstoy's account of the Battle of Borodino, which was fought in September 1812, during the French invasion of Russia, was astonishing.  For me, the most interesting part was what the soldiers were thinking and doing before the battle, knowing that they would probably be slaughtered by the thousands the next day.  The Russians suffered terrible casualties during the fighting, losing over a third of their army.  Suffering a wound on the Borodino battlefield was effectively a death sentence, since the French forces didn't have enough food for the healthy, much less the sick or wounded, so soldiers starved to death or died of their wounds.  But, and this is the interesting part, on the night before the battle the soldiers apparently made camp in the woods, lit fires, sang, and lots of laughter was heard.  I know this account was in a novel but suspect Tolstoy knew it to be true, and I consider this behaviour very brave.  Of course, I can't speak for other women,  but if it had been me, not being of a courageous disposition, I would have tried to find a bottle of vodka, drink it and quietly pass out somewhere, hoping the battle was over when I came to my senses.

This is a small piece from Francis Kilvert's diary, on Michaelmas Eve, 1872, which I thought you might like:

"Dora said Syddy Ashe is fairly mad with disappointment at not having seen the 13th Hussars when they passed through Langley on their way to Colchester.  'I would have given a great deal to have seen one' she said, 'it would have been happiness to have seen one soldier, but to have missed the chance of seeing them all!  It is too much.'  And she nearly cried with vexation".

Women and girls have always loved soldiers.  I suspect it is not only the uniforms that seem so attractive but also the brave and courageous personalities that go with them.

                                                                             *

Throwing Away

the letters,
those billets doux,
the photographs,
the dance programmes,
the theatre tickets,
the postcards,
is a formidable task,
and weeping is not forbidden.

Before discarding
these once precious things,
the proof of special moments
lived in earlier times,
memorize them all with care.
And afterwards, relive
this solitary, remembered road,
and weeping is not forbidden.

                                                                             *

With best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 9 October 2016

That July




Dear Reader,
                                                                               Judge Jeffreys  1645-1689



Archaeologists have apparently discovered that about 7,000 years ago, an Alsatian dog went on a 250 -mile journey from York to Stonehenge.  This piece of information came from a tooth found, dating back 2,000 years before Stonehenge itself was built.  It was a bit of a surprise to the team from the University of Buckingham, because they didn't know that Mesolithic people travelled such long distances.  Anyway, this tale brought to mind a story about my own Alsatian dog, Kaiser.  Years ago I lived in an old manor house in the New Forest, near Beaulieu.  It was large, had been built in the 17th century, and had wings added at a later date.  And it was haunted.  There was a panelled spare room which Kaiser hated going into, if he would at all.  He barked and growled and put his hackles up, and preferred to sit on the landing outside.  It has been said that Judge Jeffreys, "the Hanging Judge", stayed in the house when he was on his way in l685 to preside over the autumn Assizes in the West Country.  This was to conduct the trials of captured rebels after the Monmouth Rebellion.  Judge Jeffreys was notorious for his brutal and harsh sentencing, and was a feared and hated magistrate.   Perhaps Kaiser sensed something of the judge and his malevolence, as a man who may have slept in that room.


                                                                               * 


That July

we planned to walk
along the river bank,
play bridge,
stay overnight in
a superior hotel,
eat in a white
linen-clothed dining room,
exchange gossip, news,
make jokes.

But someone-other
planned other-wise.
No river walks, or talks,
or jokes.
A fatal illness struck,
marked "no reprieve",
with no allowance
for two days under a sunny sky,
our special summer treat,

that July. 


                                                                            *

With best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A Proud Family Portrait


Dear Reader,
                                                                                  The Avebury Stones

Staying away in Wiltshire last week I went to visit the Avebury Stones.  Avebury is a World Heritage Site and is an astonishing and fascinating place.  Nothing much is known about the people who built Avebury, or what language they spoke, or what their clothes looked like.  It is thought that it may have been a place for celebrating important times of the year, or for marking important times in peoples' lives, or even their departure from life.  Another theory is that they were making contact with their ancestors, or with supernatural beings or forces, often with the hope or intention of influencing matters in their own lives.  Why they chose Avebury is also a matter for speculation, but a bank and a ditch were created around a circular area about 400 years before the first stones were erected.  I put my arms around one of the stones and thought how very strange it was that they had been standing here for so long and that some ancient person might have done just that all those thousands of years ago.  If you haven't been to Avebury, do try to go, because it is an uplifting and marvellous experience.



                                                                             *

A Proud Family Portrait

It wasn't a Reynolds or Gainsborough.
There were no silk or satin dresses
no elaborate hairstyles, large jewels,
or velvet neck ribbons.
There was no piano,
and no-one was reading a book.

Sitting at a wooden table
the ladies wore dull cotton dresses,
the man a black suit.
There were no silk hats, no smiles.
Solemn-faced this family
was merchant class,
had succeeded with hard work.

They were a proud family,
painted as they were
to remind themselves
and others, what they had achieved,
their dining table
a treasured possession,
their oak coffer,
their mahogany sideboard,
a Bible,
their precious gems.

                                                                         *

With best wishes, Patricia



































Sunday, 25 September 2016

Resolution





Dear Reader,

Of late I have been thinking about fantasy and reality and how it plays a part in our lives, and in some lives more than others.  A.N. Wilson, writing about Beryl Bainbridge in The Spectator magazine, said that her life was a borderline between fact and fiction.  Apparently she was incapable of having experiences without shaping or changing them into some sort of fantasy.  Perhaps we all do this to some extent.  It made me think of the Archers again.  Large parts of the country have been mesmerized by the story of Helen and Rob and the subsequent court case, because Helen stabbed Rob out of fright, fearing for the life of her son, Henry.  I think over five million people have listened to this story in awe and anguish, all knowing that Ambridge and the Archers do not exist.  But somehow they exist for me and I presume for them too.  But what upset me this week and made me think how strange we human beings are, was the fact that there is going to be another animal in the new Winnie-the-Pooh stories.  There is going to be a penguin.  I particularly love the Hundred Acre Wood where Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore live and I do not like the idea of sharing this magic place with a penguin.  I really do like penguins, I just don't want one in the Hundred Acre Wood. 

                                                                          *
Resolution

I need to breathe salt sea air,
run down the shell-strewn beach,
let the sharp east wind blow through my hair,
run for the horizon away out of reach.

I need the sound of the seagull's cry,
the music of waves rolling on sand
to help with questions of whether and why
I should change my direction, and stand

up for what I believe in.
I need the strength I know I will find
on that quiet sunfilled beach,
to be resolute, make up my mind.

Enveloped in peace, silence and sea
I will whisper to the listening wind,
"I have made the decision, watch over me,
I'm taking the path I've determined".

                                                                      *

Very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 18 September 2016

Amarillo



Dear Reader,



                                                                  Amarillo


I am very proud of my granddaughter, aged 16 and just starting her A-Level work, who has got a Saturday job at a coffee shop.  She has to make drinks, coffee and tea, clean the tables, wash up, and serve the customers. For this job she is being a paid £7.70p per hour.  So I have been thinking back to my first job in 1958, which was as a secretary in a soft paper company in Knightsbridge.  I was paid for a five-day week, 9 am to 5.30 pm, £7.7s.6d.  I had, in addition, fifteen shillings a week luncheon vouchers.  I spent them in a cafe where for a bowl of soup and a piece of bread the three shillings (which today is worth 20p) was ample.  My granddaughter pays approximately £2.50p for a sandwich for her lunch.  It seems astonishing to me just how the value of money has changed in these last fifty years, and I still haven't quite got used to it all, even yet.

Only just bearing up with the hot weather we were having last week, I thought I would share with you a quotation from Jane Austen written in Kent in 1796:  

"What dreadful hot weather we have! - It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance." 
Quite so.
                                                                         *



Amarillo
(written in exasperation)

Is this the way
to Amarillo,
or is it past the Royal Oak,
turn left or right,
somewhere here, or there,
or is this the way to Basingstoke?

I this the way
to a wiser life,
a slimmer me,
to be a better wife?

Is this the way to Paris, France,
the way to ski,
or learn to dance,
ask friends to tea,
slay someone with a single glance?

Is this the way to anything or anywhere?
Some would say they do not care,
what does it matter?
And as for me, I must agree
with the latter.


                                                                                  *

Very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 11 September 2016

Identity




                                                                                   Women spinning wool


Dear Reader,

This week I read that Prince Charles did a strange experiment to establish the comparative qualities of wool and synthetic fibre.  Six months ago he buried two jumpers of each material in a flower bed at Clarence House, thinking and hoping that the woollen jumper he buried there would be recyclable and biodegradable when he dug them up six months later.  In fact the woollen jersey had biodegraded itself to nothing, whilst the synthetic jersey was still completely intact, and I think he must have been pleased at this outcome, which was the result he wanted.  In 1571 his ancestor Queen Elizabeth I passed a law demanding that most of her subjects wear woollen hats on a Sunday to support the English wool trade.  In medieval England wool had become big business.  There was enormous demand for it, mainly to produce cloth, and everyone who had land, from peasants to major landowners, raised sheep.  I myself wear woollen and cotton clothes as much as possible, since synthetic materials don't suit me.  They make me either too hot or too cold - either way rather uncomfortable.

                                                                                *

 Identity

"Why hello", she said, "how are you,
what have you been doing,
how are your family, is your sister
still writing, I love her books,
and George, I expect he is as
busy as ever, and the twins, heavens
how are they, and your grandmother, does
she still live in Acapulco, breeding
donkeys, and your dog, is it alive and well?
Ah good, good, good.
Gosh look at the time -
I really must fly, but so
lovely to hear all about you,
and your life."

The woman scratched her fingernails
down her cheek,
a spot of blood
splattered in her hand,
she pinched her arm, sensed the pain,
she stamped the ground,
felt paving stones beneath her feet,
and drawing near she saw a 23 bus.
These things were proof of her
existence, weren't they?
So she was alive, was there,
just invisible.

                                                                              *

Very best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 4 September 2016

butterfly trousers




 

 

Dear Reader,

a very warm welcome back to my blog.  I have missed writing it over these recent weeks and hope that you, likewise, have missed reading it.  I will try to write something interesting or amusing, or both, each week for you to enjoy, and hope that you will also read the poems and get pleasure from them.

I expect you have had a good and interesting summer, with lots of wonderful things to remember  when autumn and then winter really set in.  When the evenings are shorter, darker and colder,
we long for a fire to sit round, a drink in hand, and a quiet time to think perhaps about our holiday and possibly get out the photographs to remind us of those balmy days.

The pictures today are of those memorable characters from the "Wind in the Willows", that favourite book written by Kenneth Graham.  I was thinking about them yesterday.  What is strange about them, I thought, is that not one of them has any form of partner.  Now I think Mr Badger could do with a wife.  She should be responsible and reliable, and would organize his world well.  She could pick up his handkerchiefs and polish his spectacles. Then Ratty.  He would need a sporty bohemian type of female rat, a good companion on some of his adventures.  I know today that gender identity is an important issue, and don't want to make all the partners female; but I feel sure Mr Mole would want a modest and pretty lady mole who enjoyed a spot of cooking and dusting, and sang in a sweet voice to him after supper.  But Mr Toad ... that is more difficult.  I can't imagine anyone of any gender wanting to share their life with him.  And probably he is happy on his own.  If, of course,  these delightful animals did share their lives with someone, it would not be the magical story of "Wind in the Willows" that we know and love.  So I think I will put the idea of partners for them out of my mind and leave them there on the river bank, messing about in boats, their strong friendships enjoyed with each other.

                                                                          *

butterfly trousers

the photograph stands on the table
in a very special place
a little girl with boots on
a sweet smile on her face

she wears her favourite trousers
small butterflies in red
a squirrel brooch on her jersey
a peaked cap on her head

she fished in a pool for tadpoles
brought them proudly back in a jar
she patted the new born foals
skipped in the meadows but didn't go far

in the garden shed she raced her snails
their names were Trusty, Ben, and Sue
she jumped her pony over posts and rails
rode in the forest by the river Brue

At bedtime I read her a story
tucked her in tight
kissed her tenderly
turned out the light

BUT WHERE IS SHE NOW?

that little girl with boots and cap
butterfly trousers in red
time has taken her youthful years
but those memories live on in my head

                                                                                *

With very best wishes, Patricia








Sunday, 26 June 2016

Farm Portrait

                                                                            A 19th-Century Hay Wagon



Dear Reader,

I am now going to take a break for two months from writing this blog and will start again on September 4th, a Sunday.  Lots of you very kindly encouraged me to keep going, so that is what I am going to do, and hope you will join me again then.

I thought I would end  my first year's weekly blog by writing about the Harvest Festival which is sometimes celebrated in the summer months or more often in September.  In Britain we have given thanks for a successful harvest since pagan times, and the Festival is traditionally held on the Sunday of or nearest to the Harvest Moon.  This is the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox (22nd or 23rd September).  Celebrations on this day usually include singing hymns, praying, and decorating churches with baskets of fruit and food in the festival known as the Harvest Festival, or Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving.  This Festival is held to celebrate the fact that the hard work of the harvest is over for another year, and until the 20th century most farmers celebrated the end of the harvest with a big meal called harvest supper, to which all who had helped were invited.  Years ago church bells could be heard on each day of the harvest, and Harvest Festival reminds Christians of all the good things God gives them.

                                                                           *

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.

                                                                          *

Farm Portrait was the most popular poem I selected for my blog, the one you all liked best, so I thought it would be a good one to finish with and, possibly, for you to read again.

I wish you all a very happy summer time and hope that in September you will feel refreshed and eager for whatever good things autumn brings. 

And thank you for your support, emails, and comments, all of which were greatly appreciated.


With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 19 June 2016

A curse



Dear Reader,


 
                                                             The Mad Hatter



As a bit of a recluse I had, for me, an adventure this week.  I travelled up to London on a Great Western Railway train to Paddington, where I was going to meet my very dear stepson, Jeremy, who was taking me out to lunch at a smart restaurant in Baker Street.  So sitting on the train I had plenty of time to observe the other passengers, who seemed to be pretty ordinary until we got to Long Hanborough station, where crowds of young people got in.  Presumably they were all going to Ascot Races, since they were wearing an assortment of amazing hats.  There were bright flowers and feathers, big hats and small hats, all worn with tremendous confidence, the wearers chattering loudly like magpies.  

Thinking of hats, I wondered why those people who made hats in the 19th century were called 'Mad
Hatters', and the reason seems to be that mercury was used in the making of hats.  This was known to have affected the nervous systems of hatters, causing them to tremble and appear insane.  Apparently mercury can cause aggressiveness, mood swings and anti-social behaviour.  The use of mercury compounds in 19th-century hat making and the resulting effects are well established.   Mercury poisoning is still known today as 'Mad Hatters' disease.

Incidentally,  I read that another search for the lost remains of an English King, Henry I, is about to begin in another car park.  He has been buried since 1135, probably quite peacefully, and I think it is a travesty to disturb his bones.  My poem this week you may have seen before, but it does tell you just what I think about this, to my mind, unlawful act of plunder.

                                                                            *

A Curse

on those who plunder the earth,
and violate sacred places......

A curse on those who disturb
and steal gently-bandaged skulls,
legs, arms, and finger-bones,
jewels: perhaps a pearl bracelet,
a coral ring, hair pins, or a mosaic plate
set  out lovingly with food
for the long journey home.
Who have lain there, at peace,
for many thousand years,
the sand, the desert winds, the rains,
nature's bed.

A curse on those whose
laughter and excitement
fills the air, stealing remains,
transporting them to people
in white coats,
who dissect their dignity,
stick labels on them,
give them to museums
to enlighten an ice-cream-licking public.

                                                                          *

With best wishes, Patricia


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Universal Truth

                                                                                      Sweethearts




Dear Reader,

In 1946 Prince Philip, Princess Elizabeth's secret sweetheart,  proposed to her and she immediately accepted without consulting her parents, but they eventually married on 20 November 1947.  In the old days figurative words were often attached to the heart like, hard-hearted,  soft-hearted,  light-hearted and cold-hearted.  But love makes us giddy and often our hearts beat faster.  So the term "swete hert" meant a fast beating heart.  Francis Kilvert notes in his diary for 11 June 1873 that he saw in Gander Lane some of the 'Midsummer Men' plants which his mother remembered the servant maids and cottage girls sticking up in their houses and bedrooms on Midsummer Eve, for the purpose of divining about their sweethearts.

 I like to think that the Queen and Prince Philip are still sweethearts, that their hearts still beat faster for each other, even after sixty-five years of marriage, and perhaps they do.


                                                                           *

Universal Truth


Everyone knows
that Philip Larkin wrote:

"They 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, 5 June 2016

In Her Spare Room





Dear Reader,


                                                                              The Steam Engine
                                     
Several summers ago we decided to rent a cottage on the North Yorkshire moors and, as has happened before, the pretty cottage described in the brochure was, in fact, situated in a caravan park, and the weather was gloomy and the house was cold.   But nevertheless we had some good small adventures, and walking from Grosmont to Goathland after taking the steam train, a short twenty -minute ride, was one of them.  The railway line had been closed following the Beeching Report, but in 1967 a group of steam enthusiasts and local volunteers started its restoration, and today it carries more passengers than any other heritage railway in the United Kingdom.  It was an interesting walk with lovely scenery and great views of the steam trains hurrying by.  I always think steam trains are really romantic and would love to go on that long journey people enthuse about from Victoria Station to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian railway.

Dear readers, could you do something for me this week please?  I will have been writing this weekly blog for one year from the beginning of July 2015 and feel a rest might be in order at the end of this month.  So the question for you is: should I continue, starting again in September?  I would be very grateful if you could let me know your feelings by writing to my email address, which is:   

patricia.huthellis@googlemail.com

Just say yes go on, or we have had enough and I will take your advice.  Thank you very much.


                                                                      *



In Her Spare Room


I see these books,
draw in a breath,
as cherished memories
race into my head.

These are:

Akenfield
Portraits of an English Village
Swallows and Amazons
The Speckledy Hen
The Little Flowers of St. Francis
My Friend Flicka
The Wind in the Willows
Tales of Old Inns

The owner of this house
is unknown to me,
but her collection
of treasured books
tells me a little of her,
what makes her who she is,
what makes me who I am.

                                                                          *

Very best wishes,  Patricia