Saturday, 9 December 2017

January Weather

Dear Reader,



                                                                                   Winter Scenes


I have decided to take a break until Sunday, January 14th.   I have very much enjoyed writing this blog for the last two years, but I feel that since my husband passed away this summer it has been a trifle dull, as I have been myself.  It has been difficult for me to concentrate on the blog and its contents since I have found grieving all consuming, apart from all the administration I had to deal with too.   So a Christmas break seemed a good idea.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and lots of good things in the New Year, and I hope you will enjoy this last poem about January weather.

                                                                               *

January Weather

We know from recorded history,
that in St. Merryn
a hundred years ago,
there blew great winds
and the sea was smoking white.

We know it was warm in Kent
where the thrushes thought spring
had come, and piped away.
And primroses were a yellow carpet
in North Norfolk,
or so the parson wrote.

We know of cutting winds in Hampshire,
of icicles and frost, and
in Skiddaw on a mild day,
a brown spotted butterfly was seen.
We know that hungry church mice
ate Bible markers,
hungry people died of cold.

And we know that this dark winter month
had days of snow, that wild clouds
gathered in the sky unleashing icy rain,
churning up the plough.

An yet, again, we also know
the sun shone in that distant year,
it was warm enough to push through
early snowdrops, and the Holy Thorn.
Light was glimpsed, here and there,
all life struggled for its moments.

                                                                                *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 3 December 2017

A Grimsby Fisherman's Wife, Mrs. Ethel Richardson

 Dear Reader,




                                                                                      Fishermen's Wives




The contemporary wave of the woman's movement began in the late 1960's when Hull fishermen's wives protested about women's poor labour conditions.  These women started an uprising led by a Mrs Bilocca following the sinking of three Hull trawlers in as many weeks, with the loss of 58 lives in the dark winter of January and February 1968.  The sinking of the ships was a devasting blow for Hull's fishing community.  The wives and daughters of local trawler men launched a petition that attracted 10,000 names in three days.  They also picketed the docks to ensure departing ships carried radio operators, and then marched on Parliament to meet ministers who ordered trawler owner to implement new safety arrangements with immediate effect.
                                                                          
                                                                                   *


December 3rd, 1869    John Ruskin, Denmark Hill, Surrey.

'Down at 7 exactly, and foggy, not only cloudy.  Note, there is much light in the sky even now, though not three three weeks to the shortest day.'

                                                                              *
A Grimsby Fisherman's Wife

During the day she knitted
her life into rough wool sweaters,
Fear of north-east gales,
- more forecast -
fear of no return,
and Fridy night beatings,
were turned with a collar,
stiched 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, pearl 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 very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Invocation to Iona

Dear Reader,

                                                                                          Beluga Whales



A Beluga whale living in captivity with a pod of bottle nose dolphins has learned their language of whistles and clicks. The four-year-old whale was moved to live with dolphins in the Koktebel dolphinarium in Crimea in 2013 but, to begin with, found it difficult to communicate with her tank mates.  However, within just a few months she had begun to copy their whistles in clicks.  Scientists think it could be the first example of an animal changing its vocalisations in an attempt to "talk' to another species.  Dolphins have signature whistles, like names, which they use to call to each other.  After just a few months the beluga had stopped using its own calls and switched to dolphin signatures.  Beluga whales are highly intelligent and have been known to imitate people, other animals and other sounds.   This beluga whale has given up speaking "beluga" to fit in with her new friends the dolphins.
                                                                           *


Invocation to Iona

"Iona, sacred island, mother,
I honour you,
who cradle the
bones of Scottish Kings,
who birthed coloured gemstones
to enchant bleached beaches,
who shelter puffins on your rocks.

I wrap myself in your history,
and knot the garment with
machair rope-grass.
In the Port of Coracle
your southern bay,
I hear the wind-blown cormorant's cry,
and draw a breath.
I see Columba's footsteps
in the sand, and weep.
Tears overflow,
I am spirit-engulfed.

I ask you, Iona,
is this then, or now,
what is, or what has been?
Does the rolling salt sea-mist
cover the uncounted time between?"

                                                                             *

With best wishes, Patricia

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Fudge and Food for Thought



Dear Reader,



                                                                             Mali the Military Dog

I am always thinking of ways to keep young, and as healthy as I can with the advancing years, and very happily now understand that keeping a dog is a very good way to do so.   Apparently dog owners are less likely to die early or suffer a fatal heart attack or stroke, a major study has found. Keeping a dog cuts your risk of an early death by a fifth, while fatal cardiovascular disease is slashed by 23 per cent. By licking you or bringing dirt into the house, a canine companion helps to provide good bacteria needed to stay healthy, scientists believe.

I loved the story this week of Mali, the military dog who is to be honoured with a PDSA Dickin Medal.  Although in fierce fighting of the Taliban Mali sustained quite horrendous injuries, he absolutely stayed by his handler's side and forged forward with him to help him carry out his duty.  It is for that gallantry he has been awarded the equivalent to the Victoria Cross.  In the spring next year I am intending to purchase a labrador to be my friend and companion, and to go on long walks together in the lovely Cotswold countryside near my house.

                                                                                *


Fudge and Food for Thought

In the night, captive
I think of all the fudge I ate,
all the feelings of guilt I had
in my teens, my middle age, old age,
all the sdaness at my weakness
my inability to resist temptation.

Tossing uneasily in my bed
I think would I be more comely
if I had resisted,
more desirable, prettier, more amusing,
would I have had a happier life
without fudge in it?

I mean is fudge made largely
of butter, sugar, all things not allowed?
Not prescribed by those in the know,
the dreary food police who warn us
every day about something
we must not do, or eat, or say?

At dawn, I think, what the hell.
Now in my seventies, does it matter
what I ate to make me fatter?
Because now I am where I want to be
plump, happy, peaceful, and guilt free.

                                                                      *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Identity

Dear Reader,

                                                                                          Donkeys

In the summers of the 1950's I spent numerous holidays on beautiful English beaches where many a donkey ride was to be had.  My sister and I found this to be a great treat and thoroughly enjoyed our selves.   Beach donkeys and donkey rides have been available since 1886 in Weston Super Mare and since 1895 in Bridlington.  The tradition started in Victorian times and it is thought that the donkeys on offer were originally working draught animals in the cockle industry around the coast.  I do love donkeys and so apparently did Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Karl Marx. A final fact I can share with you is that since 2005 donkeys in Britain have been required to have a passport.

                                                                              *

Identity

"Why hello", she said, "how are you.
what have you been doing,
how are the 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.

                                                                      *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Small Moments of Warmth

Dear Reader,

                                                                                Pony and Trap


Peeping into other people's gardens this week I noticed that the one flower flourishing and still giving colour was the Michaelmas Daisy.  Michaelmas, the Feast of Michael and All angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year, and as it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening days,  in England it is one of the quarter days. There is something old-fashioned and charming about Michaelmas daisies,  they are mostly blue and purple which look exceptionally good in the  low autumnal sun.  Michaelmas daisies banish autumn blues, they are vibrant, cheerful, and loved by butterflies.


Someone wrote to me last week asking for more stories of my eccentric Irish grandmother.  So here is a snippet.  She used to go shopping at Fortnum and Mason every morning, although what she needed or bought goodness knows since she was living at the Ritz Hotel at the time.  To go there she wore a long red velvet coat with a train trailing behind her, and on her head a black hat with a veil.  She also carried a walking stick which she pointed at people who were in her way, and stopped buses in their tracks when she wanted to cross the road. But however strange she was, she did live until she was 98.

                                                                           *

Small Moments of Warmth

I remember a little warmth,
Joey trotting the family through Norfolk lanes,
the small yellow trap swaying in the sunshine.

I remember picnics on Yarmouth beach
with enough blue sky "to make a sailor's trouser".
We ate cucumber sandwiches.  Penguin biscuits.

I remember dark evenings,
the small warm flame from a Tilly lamp
lighting the kitchen, and sometimes for supper
we had chicken, chocolate mousse.

I remember a warm holiday in France
squeezed into the back of a car,
singing old thirties love songs.

But will these small moments of warmth,
at the end, be enough to heat and split
the heavy stones that circle the human heart,
allow salt tears to trickle through the cracks?

                                                                             *

With very best wishes, Patricia                          

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Loved Unlocked

Dear Reader,

I know that this is one of your favourite pictures of a summer field in the Cotswolds.  In it, as I have mentioned before,  Ratty and Mole can often be seen having a picnic, and sometimes Badger comes too.

I heard a funny story this week about the ubiquitous seagulls and I thought I would share it with you. Seagulls apparently love eating worms so, in order to attract them to the surface of the ground, the seagulls pad their feet up and down to resemble the sound of rain.  The worms who do not like rain in their burrows wiggle up to the surface and get snapped up by the seagull.  Rather a clever ruse I thought.

I wonder if you remember me writing about my eccentric grandmother who lived for eighteen years in the Ritz Hotel, London?  Thinking about banks last week I suddenly remembered that Granny was the last woman in this country to bank with the Bank of England.  Each week she used to go down to the Bank taking the bus from Piccadilly, to inquire after her fortune.  When she had found out what it was she took the bus back to the Ritz.   If things had gone well, and she was in the money when I visited her, she would give me half a crown instead of the usual two shilling piece.


                                                                         *


Love Unlocked

What can I say about love
that has not been said?

I have little to add except
my sweetheart proffered
a unique key
to the door of possibilities,
through loving me.
                                                                           *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Grief

Dear Reader,


                                                                        A Mill owner



From Francis  Kilvert's diary - October 23rd, 1874

'When the Squire came to see John Hatherell last Sunday he reminded the old man of the nights they patrolled the road together 45 years ago during the machine-breaking riots.  Robert Ashe led a patrol of six men one half of the night, and Edward Ashe headed another patrol of equal strength the other half.   One night when Robert Ashe was patrolling the village with his men and keeping watch and guard against the machine-breakers and rioters, who were expected from Christian Malford and other villages, he seized by mistake old Mr. Eddels, taking him in the dark for a machine-breaker or incendiary.   The old man had come out at night in the innocence of his heart to get some straw from his rickyard.'

The Luddites (machine-breakers) were a group of English textile workers and weavers in the 19th century who destroyed weaving machinery as a form of protest.  Luddites feared that the time they spent learning new skills of their craft would go to waste as machines would replace their role in the industry.  But it is a misconception that the Luddites protested against the machinery itself in an attempt to halt progress of technology.   The Luddite movement began in Nottingham and culminated in a region-wide rebellion that lasted from 1811 to 1816.   Mill owners took to shooting protesters and eventually the movement was suppressed with military force.

I myself feel very Luddite about modern technology.   I know it is marvelous in many ways, especially where medicine is concerned, but I dream of a world with less technology, but simpler, kinder and more considerate, more thoughtful.  Ah well....

                                                                            *


Grief

Grief bridles you
holds the reins
is an unwanted guest in your head
releases uncontrollable torrents of tears

is ever present
your albatross

you glimpse a slipper
under the chair
study the wedding photographs
count the claret bottles
no longer wanted
and you weep.

                                                                              *

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  

Sunday, 30 July 2017

When my Dad came home

Dear Reader,








                                                                        Whisky bottles




Whisky has been distilled in Scotland for hundreds of years.  There is some evidence that the art of distilling could have been brought to this country by Christian missionary monks in early medieval times, but it has never been proved that Highland farmers did not themselves discover how to distil spirits from their surplus barley.  The earliest record of distilling in Scotland was in 1494, when an entry in the Exchequer Rolls stated: "Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae", which is Latin for "water of life".  This was enough malt to produce 1500 bottles of whisky and clearly indicates that distilling had already become a well-established practice in Scotland.

Whisky soon became an intrinsic part of Scottish life and was frequently used for medicinal purposes or as a reviver and stimulant during the long, cold, harsh Scottish winters, and it began to feature more in everyday social life in Scotland.  Until the advent of the patent still in 1831, all the whisky produced in Scotland was of the malt variety.  Now two kinds are made, malt and grain, and malt  is widely regarded as the superior.  Certainly "aqua vitae" was my father's favourite tipple - he drank a large glass (or two) every night.

                                                                                *

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.

                                                                                *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 23 July 2017

This man

Dear Reader,






I ask for your indulgence this week because I am writing about something strange that happened to me, and which I thought I would share with you.  Any of you, dear readers, who have followed my blog in the last few weeks will know that my husband has been very ill in hospital.  During one of the nights that I was alone and he was in intensive care,  I awoke at 3 a.m. with the poem I am putting on this blog, dictated by a voice in my head.  I rushed into my study and wrote it down as best I could, convinced that this voice came from our Good Lord.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964), a Scottish mathematical biologist, said in his essay "Possible Words":  "Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose... I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy."

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Shakespeare,   Hamlet  

                                                                                *

this man

loved blue

it was a ship, a blue ship

that he sailed in

it was his power

made his heart beat faster

drove him along life's waterways


but he sailed away

came adrift

became shipwrecked

no power no heartbeat

this man

had lost the blue


but I made a small ship out of wood

gave it sails of the finest silk

an engine fired with love

now he sails again

his power came back


and I painted the ship blue

for

this man

                                                                  *

Very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Leaving



Dear Reader,







Suffolk Punch horses



I thought this was an interesting story and hope you do too.   Apparently for hundreds of years the Suffolk Punch horse has been used by farmers to till fields across the country.  But now Britain's oldest native breed is on the edge of extinction, because not enough females are being reared.  According to recent figures published by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, just 33 fillies were born between 2014-16, which is nearly half the number of males reared during the same period.  Nigel Oakley, a Suffolk Punch breeder said, 'that certain stallions with the "propensity' to produce male offspring might have to be 'held back' so that others with a track record of producing females have more opportunity. "These numbers do not bode well for the breed - this is our heritage", he added "Once they are lost they are gone forever and our grandchildren's children may never see them".  Years ago, living in the New Forest,  I knew a man who bred these beautiful horses, took them to shows, spent hours brushing them and then getting them to look glossy, fat, healthy and fit, but sadly I heard he is no longer with us and nor are his magnificent horses.

                                                                             *

    
 Leaving

The day she left
her heart hammered
tears streamed down her cheeks

the rain beat against the car windows
an east wind blew
the road was black ribbons.

She took a small suitcase.
It held a red skirt, two shirts, underclothes,
two cardigans, a duffle coat
and three favourite books.

After twenty years of marriage
those were her spoils.

Oh, and the kettle.

                                                                                *

With best wishes, Patricia
                                                                

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Butler

Dear Reader,


                                                                  

                                                                                       The Butlers


For many years I had arthritis until I discovered the wonders of Aspall Cyder Vinegar.   Taken first thing with a spoonful of honey every morning has, I believe, saved me from the tyranny of arthritis.  But I thought you might like to know that for the ten million Britons suffering from arthritis, a fact which maybe of cold comfort, is that they may not be alive today were it not for their aching limbs.  Researchers have discovered that a gene mutation which increases the risk of arthritis, evolved during the most recent Ice Age to help protect our ancestors from frostbite.  Around half of all European people carry a variant of the gene GDF5 which nearly doubles the chance of developing painful joints and also reduces their height by approximately 1cm.   And, said Dr David Kingsley of Stanford University : "This gene variant is present in billions of people, and it's likely responsible for millions of cases of arthritis". So that piece of information will cheer up all of us who are plagued by arthritis, just to know that our ancestors weren't troubled with frostbite.

                                                                              *

The Butler,

Mr Welfare,
was an old man
with a wise and kindly face
who wore grey striped trousers
white shirt, black tie
highly polished shoes
and over all a green beige apron
tied in the front with tape.

He worked long hours,
every day he burnished
the silver cutlery with great care,
Goddard's Plate powder mixed to a turn, dried,
shaken off with a yellow duster.

He washed and cleaned glasses, dried them
with a white linen tea towel,
made the salt cellars
and table pheasants sparkle.

But what was the purpose of all this
hard and careful work?
What were they used for these precious
pieces of silver, these glasses, these ornaments?

For parties of society people,
who didn't give them a glance.
Arrogant, drunk and vapid
they noticed nothing,
lived their lives in a trance.

                                                                            *

With very best wishes, Patricia

Sunday, 2 July 2017

A Curse

Dear Reader,




                                                                    Waltham Abbey in Essex and King Harold II


There seems to be some dispute about where the body lies of King Harold II, (1022-1066) the last Anglo Saxon King of England.   He is buried at Waltham Abbey Church, but two amateur historians claim that Harold, who was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, may not be buried there.  In a development reminiscent of the body of Richard 111 (see my former blog) dug up from under a Leicester car park in 2012, a solicitor and a private detective are now fighting to prove that four tombs under St. Michael's church in Bishop's Stortford, Herts, contain the bones of Harold and his family.  They think his wife, Edith the Fair, who lived at the Manor of Stortford, had him buried there.  They want to conduct a radar analysis on the coffins to prove their point but so far the church, thank goodness, has declined their request.  Why can't people just leave bones and coffins and whatever is in them alone?  Hence this poem once again.

                                                                            *

Seagull news.  After the Glastonbury festival the seagulls had a marvellous party eating the disgusting litter left by the carefree eco-revellers and their friends.

                                                                            *

A Curse

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

A curse on those who disturb
and steal gently-bandages 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 these 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 very best wishes, Patricia 



                                                                      

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