Monday, 29 April 2013

Turn your head


Turn your head.  Can you see her?  
That little girl with the dark hair, running down the track? 
There, by the gorse bushes, air heavy with their scent of coconut,
Sunshine burning skin like a magnifying glass.
She’s gone, with a twirl of cotton skirt, round the bushes
In search of ponies.  Always ponies in her life.
 Always somebody else’s. 
There they stand across the valley, in the shade of the holly grove,
Eyes watchful, ears flicking backwards and forwards,
Tails switching flies on sun-warmed flanks,
Foals dreamily blinking and snoozing at their feet.

The stream takes her attention, warm peaty brown water
Swirling over the gravel pebbles, discolouring them, distorting them,
Forming little eddies around the rocks, tickling heather,
Bouncing the branches of broom which dangle over them,
Licking at the banks, curvaceously meandering,
Trespassing under tree-roots, plashing and splashing and
Clunking stones.  It is home to minnows and sticklebacks,
Waterboatmen and whirligigs, a drowner of insects,
Highway for flotillas of fallen leaves, stealer of shadows,
Thief of foxglove flowers, home of Guinness-coloured pools
And embroidered skeins of bubbles.


 The sultry breeze jangles the ash keys like loose change,
Tickles the willow leaves, combs the flossy hair of the bog cotton,
Chimes the heather bells, rattles the gorsepods till they explode like artillery,
Sidles round the bracken stalks and plucks at ponies’ forelocks.
 It carries the notes of the skylark, the scent of the Sweet-gale,
The wing of the buzzard and the hum of the bees.
It skips through the marshes and breaths on the peat-moss,
Exhaling a summer song under the trees.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Llandeilo Tal-y-Bont church, St Fagans

As a comparison for the frescos in Kempley Church - how they might once have looked Pre-Reformation - this is the church of Llandeilo Tal-y-Bont, originally by a curve on the River Llwchwr on the marshes at Pontardulais, and now faithfully rebuilt at St Fagans - the Museum of Welsh Life at Cardiff.  It was well known by Edward Thomas, who once famously wrote of sheltering in the porch in a thunderstorm and watching the incredible lightening across the marshes.  (He and Robert Frost were also very familiar with Kempley!)   I met a lovely lady recently, whilst I was volunteering, who knew this church well when it was still in use, and she told me that "everyone went to services there.  It was very popular with the young folk too, and the pathway to it was called "the monkey walk"!!!  I daresay a good few courting couples remember the church too.

Now, when the church  - which had sadly fallen into disrepair since being deconsecrated around 1970 - was being dismantled around 1984 prior to taking it to St Fagans, they found the most amazing Medieval paintings - all carefully whitewashed over of course from Cromwellian times.  They span quite a few periods, but most date from 1490 to 1530.  These pictures give you an idea of the colour and magnificence of some of our early churches.  Christ on the Cross and above him, Noah and his ark.

Imagine the chequerboard windows of Kempley in their full glory, like this archway.

The Last Supper, and is the previous one Christ's journey to Jerusalem?

St Christopher, who would grace the wall opposite the entrance, for the benefit of travellers and pilgrims.  Presumably you would need a bit of help to cross the River Llwchwr, which is still tidal at this point.  If you subsequently died, once you had seen St Christopher 's image,  you would then go straight to heaven

Saints (or disciples?) and scenes from Christ's passion. 

The name of the church, by the way, derives from the Llan (holy meeting place) of St Teilo, by the crossing place/bridge across the river.  Llandeilo tal-y-bont.  A church was on that site from the 6th century onwards, although the rebuilt church dates from the 13th C.

HERE is an interesting blog link, which gives you much ore detail about the church.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Someone has it in for me!

Well, I didn't think I would be posting today to say that instead of getting better on the steroids and antibiotics, I have actually gotten WORSE and now have Pleurisy!  I have spoken to my GP who didn't seem as concerned as I feel (!) and just said to up the steroids for another 3 days before gradually ending the course.  That should do it . . . apparently.  Let's hope so, as the pain in my back and behind my shoulder blades is rather unpleasant.

Anyway, I can manage to post a few photos.  This top one is a patch of wild Daffodils near Kempley in Gloucestershire (right on the border with Herefordshire).  This indiginous wild sort would have been the ones that Wordsworth wrote about - throw all thoughts of the gaunt modern King Alfreds from your mind please.

We went to Kempley Church first.  Still too early for a big mass of daffodils I think, and without my friend J we didn't know the best places to look, but they will be there next year . . .  Kempley Church was very quiet this time.  No special atmosphere that it had last year. 

I don't know what it is about such spots, but they truly seem to link in with the landscape.  There are several places I could name (York Minster for one, parts of Avebury - nay, the entire area of Avebury, Gloucester Cathedral, and this church) where there seems to be a connectivity to . . . a divine feeling.  That's the nearest I can come to describing it.  At York it is like a pillar of pure energy flowing up through in one spot in - I think it's the Chapter House.  This little church has it too, but it is more of an . . .earth energy . . . almost like a heart-beat.  Strange.  There's a little church on the Devon coast my friend went to, which had this feeling in such bucketfuls she nearly passed out . . .  Explain it we can't, but it's there all the same.

Someone (on the Parish Council?) had decreed that it be limewashed in pale pink.  I didn't like it.  It might work in Suffolk, but not here.  Bring back the white, say I.

I hope that you can read this or are able to enlarge it if you can't.  Of the beautiful tympanum (guess who forgot a photo?) it says:  'The entrance to a Norman church was a focal point for symbolic imagery.  The carved tympanum at St Mary's, between the arch and the lintel over the south door, depicts the Tree of Life, a symbol of Christ's salvation'.  It dates to around 1130 and is similar to that at nearby Dymock church (which I visited, and also failed to take a photo as I was concentrating on the Dymock poets exhibition end of the church . . .)  Smacked wrists!

The lovely Gothic Norman archway between the Nave and the Chancel (which looks deliciously wonky, as I dare say they didn't bother with footings much in those days.)  You can just see the chequerboard of the Norman wall paintings and the echoes of others in the Nave. These are apparently "the most complete set of Romanesque frescos in Northern Europe.  Here is a LINK to the history of Kempley from Wikipedia.

And here is the other side, with paintings, looking back to the little escape doorway? at the end of the nave, leading into the tower.  Probably defensive - there is one just like it in the 12th C church opposite Manorbier Castle in Pembrokeshire. 

This LINK will tell you all about the wall paintings, which  span two dates.  The ones in the Chancel date from the 12th C and were painted directly onto wet plaster. 

The Wheel of Life, above, in the Nave, dates from the 13th C, when all the frescos were painted using tempera (egg albumen mixed with pigments) on dry plaster.  The Wheel of Life shows the ten Ages of Man.

One of the window apertures showing the  painting of  Heavenly Jerusalem.

How much we have lost over the Millennia, with the painting over of such frescos by the zealous Parliamentarians.  What colour.  What design.  What craftsmanship.  When I was younger, I used to poke fun at the old people who used to be interested in Church architecture and history.  Now I am one of them!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Car booting and crafting

AT LAST!  Spring is with us, and a green blush is beginning to spread across the land, highlighting the wood margins and hedgerows, and creeping across meadows.  I have millions of tadpoles in both ponds, the Marsh Marigolds have turned the wet woodland to gold, and the Swallows are back.  Not "our" stable ones yet, if they have survived the journey to and from Africa, but other local ones, and it lifts my heart to see them swooping and soaring above the house and farm.

Saturday was a warm sunny day from first light onwards, though it began with a frost and a temperature of minus one.  I know this for a fact, as we dragged ourselves up at 5 a.m. to go down to the big car boot sale in Swansea.  We had a great morning down there, just strolling around the stalls.  We used to go there regularly when the children were younger, but hadn't been down there for years.  Unsurprisingly, it was very busy for it usually is by this time of year.  Sellers have to be there by 6 a.m. at the latest and by mid-summer, I dare say it is an even earlier hour.  Folks used to say if you weren't there by 3 a.m. to sell, don't bother.  Personally, if I had to spend most of the night trying to sleep in my car in a car park to get a pitch,  I would want a guarantee of selling everything I had packed!!!  But we went to buy . . . which is a different matter.

You can easily tell we are living in a recession by what people are selling.  There were a LOT of mums selling childrens' clothes (and toys too).  In fact, there were quite a few dealers selling 2nd hand clothing generally, and I would say a good half of the people walking round were buying clothing.  Heck, even I bought clothing!  Mind you, I was after stuff to "upcycle".  I don't care for that word - "re-use", turn into something else (the rag rug book I bought 2 weeks ago has REALLY got to me!)  I got several pieces - old dresses and skirts - as colourful as possible - for 50p or £1, and they're now washed and I have started unpicking the stitching.  (All I could do yesterday, as I was stapled to the sofa with my brain in another room as I am back on Steroids and anti-biotics for a chest infection, and 3 hours sleep does nothing for the mental processes . . .)

Anyway, as always at such places, there were lots of dealers who just sell new stuff like batteries, nails, cheap tools, garden stuff, bird food and pet food, dog beds - that sort of thing.  Then there are the dealers with the house clearance items - some general with bits of furniture, bedding, curtains and others more rusty old tools and  implements and boxes full of more rusty objet rubbish . . .  These stalls are a magnet for my husband and I usually leave him to ferret around whilst I go on further and normally get drawn in by boxes of old books.

Right in the middle of the boot sale is a burger bar, which has a few chairs for customers to take their ease on.  It looks rather incongruous having patio chairs stuck in the middle of a sea of people, although the view across Swansea Bay on such a day was sublime.  On a clear day, the North Devon coast is clearly visible and I always wish myself there .  .

So, as we wandered round, my husband bought a few old tools, as is his wont, and two really good woodworking (turning) chisels at £2 each were a real bargain.  He is the furniture-mender here, and has turned some junk into gems down the years.  We marvelled at the size and strength of the man who had once wielded a scythe whose handle had been made from the BIG swingle-tree from a cart.  The scythe handle is normally a turned and shaped pole with the length being critical to the height of the person wielding it - imagine having to work all day with something that is just a couple of inches too long or too short.  Your muscles would soon be screaming.  This swingle-tree handle was something else, since it was made from oak! From this stall an old pitchfork came home with us. 

I couldn't resist a couple of cookery books - the Gordon Ramsey "Great Escape" book on Indian cookery - brand new and only TWENTY PENCE!!! and what was probably an unwanted Christmas present from another stall, "Boutique Baking" for a pound, which had some gorgeous looking confections - you never know, I may be called in to do the wedding feasts for my offspring, and then this would come in handy . . .

I found a gorgeous modern collapsible lampshade (new) in a pretty print, for T's new rented house, and an old Victorian jug in a design I've always admired - stag and dalmations (well, spotty dogs anyway), which because the handle had been off at one point and reglued, was only £1.  Once up on my beams, the broken handle isn't noticed. I even bought my first Tomato plant for the season (Moneymaker).  I put my plastic greenhouse up last week and it is full to bulging with seed trays already, so one was all I have room for until I get the other seed stack up in the yard.

A few speculative buys too, and all in all a day well started.  I even got to do the grocery shopping at Sainsburys, which is my preferred supermarket, but the nearest one is at Swansea.  I treated myself to a copy of "Making" magazine.  A real indulgence, but it had some good ideas in, and I tend to keep my craft magazines for years and years (if not forever) so I look on it as an investment . . .

There is still more of my birthday outing to yet report, but hopefully I may get a chance to put up some photos later today.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

St Mary's Tithe Barn, Abergavenny

After looking around the church, we made our way to the Tithe Barn, which has been beautifully restored and turned into a Foodhall with local produce, and with a display about the history of Abergavenny upstairs.  We were most impressed, and my husband (NOT a foodie by any means!) even said he would have liked a meal there if we hadn't been going on into Herefordshire.  So we shall return.  This magnificent tapestry sketches out the history of Abergavenny and the Marcher Lords, and its place in Welsh history.  You can clearly see the Jesse figure on the bottom left, and Owain Glyndwr is mounted on a beautiful chestnut cob on the far side.  The town is in the centre, with a backdrop of the Brecon Beacons, and a Red Kite flying above it all.  How wonderful to have been involved in creating such a beautiful heirloom. A team of some 60 needlewomen dedicated nearly four years into stitching this.

From the Abergavenny Tapestry page, the following details:

  • St Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order of monks. St Mary’s Priory, founded in 1087, as a Benedictine priory.

  • One of the world’s finest pieces of medieval sculpture, the Jesse Tree is a 15th-century carving of Jesse, the biblical father of King David and ancestor of Christ. It rests in St Mary’s Priory Church.

  • Owain Glyndwr, the leader of the Welsh rebellion against the English in the 15th century, who sacked Abergavenny in 1404.

  • Sir Harry Llewellyn, the famous showjumper and his horse Foxhunter, who won Olympic gold in 1952.

  • The effigy of Margaret, betrothed to John de Hastings at the age of 12. Her pet squirrel is said to have caused her death in a fall from the castle ramparts when she was 13. Her tomb lies in St Mary’s Priory Church.

A close-up of the beautiful carving of Jessie.  Above him flies the red dragon of Wales.  There are little individual panels all along the bottom of the tapestry, but sadly I didn't study them too closely to tell you what each is.  You can just see the little red squirrel of Margaret (got it wrong the other day, when I thought it was Eva de Braose's)  below Jessie's head. 

Close up of the centre portion, showing the Sugarloaf mountain, the Castle on its motte, the town behind it, a fox hurriedly leaving the picture, and black and white Friesian cattle in the foreground, with the bridge across the River Gavenny.

A rather blurry close-up of Sir Harry Llewellyn and his famous show jumper "Foxhunter" who won Britain a Gold in the 1952 Olympics at Helsinki.  I remember them well.  Foxhunter had a split in the top of his ear.  He is buried on the Blorenge mountain and a nearby car park bears his name. 

There's a Welsh Cob for you - Owain Glyndwr surveys the scene . . .

I hope you have enjoyed.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Better than jewels by far

Just a quick update before I go on to Part II of my birthday bash!  I wish it was as green along the river now, as in this photo above, but we are slowly getting there.

We had a good morning at the car boot sale yesterday, despite torrential rain, and I have to say, getting bargains is better than jewels by far to me!  I found a Karen Maitland book I'd been looking for - hardback too - Falcons of Fire and Ice; a brilliant book on Rag Rugging (all sorts of projects in there and in typical Aries fashion I want to make them ALL!).  I found a virtually brand new slow cooker for T for a couple of pounds (works well, as I tested it yesterday and made a beef casserole in it).  Then a pretty very early Victorian jug (small one) which has gone up on a beam; and half a roll of 1985 Laura Ashley material - chestnut brown with  a thin black and white stripe and oak leaves either side of the stripe.  Looks nicer than it sounds.  I also got T a 1970s round cushion with broderie anglaise edging and a crochet centre with a ribbon through.  JUST her sort of thing as she loves vintage.  My husband got plumbing bits and a cracking old Victorian axe made by Gilpins of Cannock.  I shall have to behave myself now!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Part II of my birthday outing - the Misericord figures at St Mary's Priory Church -

Apologies for the delay in getting this all set up but I've had a busy week, with a Horspital appt, blood tests etc and offspring visiting and leading me astray with celebratory red wine!  Anyway, hopefully I will be able to post a few more photos today without having to store them on Picasa first!

I fell in love with this little dragon carving on the Misericords (top photo).  Like the Jesse figure, he dates from the 15th Century.  I think this lion-headed one is an English dragon.  He looks like his head and possibly wings have been cut off and then stuck back on or even re-carved (bless them) - perhaps the ravages of the Cromwellian henchmen in the area.  And he has friends . . .

This twisty dragon looks a nastier piece of work altogether!, although it would appear he too was decapitated at some time (and possibly lost his tail too).  Perhaps this one is the fierce Welsh dragon!

Then there is a lovely Mastiff:

He is worn smooth from years of stroking . . .

Opposite him is this little lion,  another one who had his head knocked off and had it replaced in later times judging by the change of colour.  I love his tawny tresses.  So beautifully carved.

There is a beautiful female effigy (well two actually) in the Lewis chapel, which is believed to be that of Eva de Braose, who died pursuing her tame red squirrel around the castle walls (she fell . . .)  "Someone" (we can guess who was to blame) chopped that squirrel off, but she still wears the chain around her waist, to which it was attached.  I forgot to get a photo as we were so stunned by the Jesse figure.  Next Time.

If the name of de Braose seems familiar to you, it may be because you have read Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine (her best book, in my opinion).  I have read it several times now and it has a lot of immediacy for me, because I know the area quite well.  William de Braose (who would have been a benefactor of this church) was a thoroughly nasty piece of work, for all his (sham?) piety  . . . 

 Because of the connection between the Lords of Abergavenny and the Tudors, the Priory became the Priory Church at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.    The Herbert chapel was saved from damage because of Sir Richard Herbert's connection with the young Henry Tudor (they were raised at beautiful Raglan Castle together) and Henry became Henry VII after Bosworth.  In the details about St Mary's on Wikipedia, Sir Richard Herbert's support of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth was noted.

Some of the stone carvings were a little . . . ambivalent?  I think this was a lion, or a lamb, though it looks like a camel with modified ears too!!!

I think this was a calf (fatted or otherwise?) as it had a cow-type tail.  Might be a sheep though . . .  St Luke had an Ox as his symbol and St. Mark had a Lion . . .

Another photo to try and give you an idea of how large the carved animals in the footrests are. As you can see, this is one of the memorials which got hacked about a bit and two arms are missing . . .

Another one with a calf/lamb??? query over it.  Though you could say that's a dog's tail . . .

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

My birthday outing

Friday saw my husband and I setting off for foreign parts - e.g. England! - for my birthday outing (a few days early).  We were heading for Herefordshire - the Dymock area near Much Marcle, above Ross-on-Wye, to see two churches there, and hopefully a few of the beautiful Dymock daffodils on the way.

We stopped off in Abergavenny on the way, to visit St Mary's church, as a television documentary the previous week had shown the most amazing 15th C carving - done on an entire huge oak tree - of Jesse, the father of King David.  It is a unique piece, and probably one of the few remaining late Medieval wooden carvings remaining not just in Britain, but in Europe/the world.

 Sadly the tree with branches of Jesus' family which was once a tall branch sprouting from Jesse's hands, was sawn off - quite probably after Oliver Cromwell's troops were in the area.  With the window behind it, the light was very bad for taking photographs, but I hope these two show some of Jesse's majesty and the skill of the carver.

Below is a motif carved into the stonework of one of the ?????  This signifies the transition of the spirit from the physical world into the next spiritual realm.  These days we would be more familiar with it as a tattoo or a motif (for good luck!) on the back of a Hell's Angel's jacket. 

Anyway - more to follow - chasing my tail right now!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

We found him - "old" George Bird that is

We were about to go home after meeting up with our son in town yesterday, when out of the blue my husband suddenly suggested that we go to the Records office and see if we could find "Old George Bird" - his great grandfather.  For some reason he had been very elusive in the Death registry and we simply could not find him where we thought he ought to be!  Born in Herne Bay, Kent about 1848, by the 1861 census his parents had already relocated from Canterbury to Poplar in London.  There he was, aged 13, with one of his older brothers, Walter 18, parents Samuel (41) and Maria (36) and her brother George Brown, a painter.  They were living at 2 Elizabeth Terrace.

We had tracked him through until we lost him in the 1911 census, nowhere to be found.  My husband suggested that as he was a joiner, who usually worked on ships in the Dockyards, perhaps he had been taken on a voyage to do running repairs.  We will have to keep looking for those missing years.  In 1901 he was in Limehouse, lodging with Mrs Bennett and her husband (an Ironworker) and young family.  Family history has it that Mrs Bennett was a member of the Dickens Society and apart from his daughter, the only other person at George's funeral.  George was also listed as an Ironworker on the 1911 census, so he obviously turned his hand to whatever might earn him money.

He had married Emma Righton, in Scarborough, and they had a son (George Brown Bird) and a daughter, Maria Margaret.  She married him in Poplar, but couldn't live there (hated it).  They moved back to Scarborough, and apparently HE didn't like it there, but I think, looking at the photo, he was a fairly uncompromising personality and so perhaps the marriage failed and he went back home to Poplar.   Quite how they met I can't say, but she let rooms in her Oxford Street house and was a laundress, and perhaps he was following the work on the boats and they may have been dismantling them at Scarborough and he took a room with her.

Anyway, poor Emma continued to take in washing after George moved out, and unfortunately when she took in the washing from the travelling circus (which must have been a regular occurrence as Doodles the Clown once asked her to marry him, pre-George one assumes) it was infected with Smallpox and she caught it.  Family history tells of meals being pushed along the top of the wall with a pole, so that the family were fed.  This was due to the kindness of her neighbour, but the neighbour risked catching Smallpox too - perhaps they soaked the plates in disinfectant before they were returned for the next meal?  Emma died the following year, from kidney problems resulting from the Smallpox I believe. 

In 1916, his son, George Brown Bird was killed in the early days of the Somme offensive.  By this time Maria Margaret had moved to Manchester, as a Scarborough laundry owner was setting up a new laundry there and wanted her to run it for him.  Old George turned up on her doorstep, very upset over his son's death, and wanting to see his daughter (possibly one last time) before he went off to fight the Hun and avenge his son's death.  He looked younger than his age - he was 68 when he enlisted but took 10 years off (he was 70 in the photo above), and they obviously believed him as he was signed up as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers and sent out to Mesopotamia, Chronic Bronchitis and lack of stature (he was 5 feet and 1/2 an inch tall)  not withstanding.  He served with the Royal Engineers for 2 years before catching Malaria and being discharged on medical grounds and sent back to convalesce at Netley Hospital (a couple of miles from where I grew up and where I used to walk the dogs as it was demolished and the grounds turned into a park before I left Southampton for good).  Whilst at Netley Hospital he caught Scabies . . .  His initial Army pension was 27/6 (about £1.35) for just the first week, looking at his Army service record, and then 11/- (11 shillings - about 60pence these days) to be reviewed about 48 weeks.  Presumably that was enough to scrape by on.

We have assumed he went back to the familiar streets of Limehouse, and "got by".  Family memories say that Maria Margaret went to London to collect her brother's medals at the Palace (George had been a brave and capable leader of men - the Army was his career, and music his great love) and within a year or two she was back for her father's lonely funeral at Bow Cemetary.  My husband had always assumed that the medals were awarded a year of so after young George's death, but it is more likely to have been a year or so after the very end of the war.  Anyway, we had been looking too soon for Old George's death, and weren't sure if his age would have been put down as actual age or what-he-told-the-Army age . . .  In the event, we finally found him yesterday, George Bird, in the July-Sept. 1/4 of 1922, age 74, in Shoreditch.  Horrified to find price of his death certificate will be £13.99 (12 days before delivery).  If we want it by the weekend, it will only cost us £74.99!!!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

A poem for April


Cosied in the hedgerow,
Rose Campion stands,
A foil for the trembling Cow Parsley.
A flock of Starlings jinks like a tantivy Whippet
And a crow, nightmare black,
Tiptoes on a treetop.
Mayblossom springs on arching sprays,
Hunched on a hillside
Like a Buzzard shielding its prey.
Buttercups freckle the fields
And tickle the noses of grazing cattle
In fields dissected by the slash of a hedgerow,
Curving past the memory of a long-forgotten cottage.

This is one from my Common-place book and improved upon a little as I typed it up today.  The photo of Campions annoyingly eluded me (I have so many photos on here), so this is Ox-Eye Daisies and Valerian on the cusp of May.

Tantivy, incidentally, is a little-used word meaning flat-out gallop, full-pelt . . .

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Queen of the Gypsies

I couldn't sleep last night. At 1 a.m. I took painkillers, but my mind wouldn't stop working and so I crept out of bed, and wrote this:


Gap-toothed and clothed in the black
Of perpetual mourning,
She lived a half-life,
In an old wooden cabin, behind
Greying net curtains and
Four waving pine trees.
I knew her for a witch.

On Sundays her sons came visiting,
With the dock-tailed cob and the trolley cart,
Leading Mandy to the shed around the back
They tied her up.

Dutifully they took tea,
Watching as Queenie mumbled seed cake.
Bringing her coal and kindling, they
Told her how their families got on,
Feeding her gossip eough for the week,
And left. 

If I was playing by the cherry tree,
She would always notice, and
Cross the road, fumbling her apron pocket  
And pinching my cheek with sandpaper fingers.
She would smile horridly, and
Press a pack of three wrapped biscuits in my hand.
They were always soft.  

This evokes such strong memories in me, and I am back living in the 1950s in my head this morning.  I can still feel the fear of seeing the "witch" coming towards me.. .  Bless her, she must have been so lonely, and had obviously been a loving mum.

Hopefully I have just got rid of the white background and green lettering that came from typing it up as an office document, and then cutting and pasting.

Monday, 1 April 2013

New Blog about Edward Thomas

I have just been tinkering with a separate new blog about Edward Thomas.  I have put the link on the side bar but you will have to cut and paste for the moment.  When you get there, the Header picture is enormous and I have to work out how to lessen it.  Posts so far are just copies (or partial copies) of earlier blog posts from here about the man and his work.

He has needed his own space for a while.  I shall be posting there regularly but not daily.

"To Edward Thomas"

I have just come across this beautiful poem to Edward Thomas, from the pen of Welsh poet Alun Lewis who died in 1944.  I know I should leave it until the 97th anniversary of his death, on 9th April, but in typical Aries fashion I cannot wait that long to share it with you.  I am beginning to think I should have a separate Edward Thomas blog so that those of you who are already tut-tutting and about to visit elsewhere in blogland will at least have a choice in future!  The picture above shows the band of yew trees amongst the beautiful woodland girdling Shoulder of Mutton hill, where the Edward Thomas memorial stone is.  Yew trees love chalk downland.

 To Edward Thomas
(On visiting the memorial stone above Steep in Hampshire)
On the way up from Sheet I met some children
Filling a pram with brushwood; higher still
Beside Steep church an old man pointed out
A rough white stone upon a flinty spur
Projecting from the high autumnal woods...
I doubt if much has changed since you came here
On your last leave; except the stone; it bears
Your name and trade: 'To Edward Thomas, Poet.'
Climbing the steep path through the copse I knew
My cares weighed heavily as yours, my gift
Much less, my hope
No more than yours.
And like you I felt sensitive and somehow apart,
Lonely and exalted by the friendship of the wind
And the placid afternoon enfolding
The dangerous future and the smile.
I sat and watched the dusky berried ridge
Of yew-trees, deepened by oblique dark shafts,
Throw back the flame of red and gold and russet
That leapt from beech and ash to birch and chestnut
Along the downward arc of the hill's shoulder,
And sunlight with discerning fingers
Softly explore the distant wooded acres,
Touching the farmsteads one by one with lightness
Until it reached the Downs, whose soft green pastures
Went slanting sea- and skywards to the limits
Where sight surrenders and the mind alone
Can find the sheeps' tracks and the grazing.
And for the moment Life appeared
As gentle as the view I gazed upon.
Later, a whole day later, I remembered
This war and yours and your weary
Circle of failure and your striving
To make articulate the groping voices
Of snow and rain and dripping branches
And love that ailing in itself cried out
About the straggling eaves and ringed the candle
With shadows slouching round your buried head;
And in the lonely house there was no ease
For you, or Helen, or those small perplexed
Children of yours who only wished to please.
Divining this, I knew the voice that called you
Was soft and neutral as the sky
Breathing on the grey horizon, stronger
Than night's immediate grasp, the limbs of mercy
Oblivious as the blood; and growing clearer,
More urgent as all else dissolved away,
--Projected books, half-thoughts, the children's birthdays,
And wedding anniversaries as cold
As dates in history--the dream
Emerging from the fact that folds a dream,
The endless rides of stormy-branched dark
Whose fibres are a thread within the hand--
Till suddenly, at Arras*, you possessed that hinted land.
Alun Lewis (1915-1944)