Monthly Archives: September 2018

Early One Morning (Just as the Sun was Rising)

It’s Sunday and, as usual, I’m up far too early.

The students are back in town and at 6am some of them were still making their way home. I don’t really notice them most of the time, they are just background clutter in my life, but this year I’ve noticed them more. It’s probably another stage in my decline towards senility.

At this point, in search of a wider vocabulary, I looked up leitmotif as it seemed a good word to use. Ten minutes later I found myself better informed, more confused and less likely ever to use the word.

My age-related confusion is, I think, destined to remain a theme. It’s easier to spell and doesn’t involve Wagner. However, I’m glad I thought of it, as I found the word leitwort. Any day that includes a new word is a good day, but not all good words are words that I will use. If I ever become Oxford Professor of Poetry I might slip it in, but apart from that I can’t see I’ll ever use it again.

Anyway, enough about that.

Today’s subject is sunrise. There was a nice one today, and I didn’t have my camera.

Taking the long way home from dropping Julia off I drove along the high ground to the north of Nottingham and looked down as the ground fell away.

In the darkness of the vally, amongst the mist, a few lights sparkled.

Above that, in the lower part of the sky, a narrow band of salmon pink formed a slightly understated sunrise. The sky above that moved from grey to blue and cloud formations were picked out in pink.

It sounds fairly bland when I describe it, but that’s the fault of the prose, not the sunrise. It was an exquisite moment that reminded me of so many things.

I thought of using my mobile phone to take a photograph but my phone camera is specially designed to remove the colour and beauty from any scene. (It truly is a product of the modern world).

That seemed a good subject for my Sunday morning post, so I came home and started writing.

 

Smugness

I recently had a message to congratulate me on four years with Word Press. I’ve written 1,304 posts in that time. That’s, conveniently, 326 a year. If I’d written one more, or one less, it wouldn’t have worked out so well.

The fact that I find this important probably means that I need to relax more.

As a child I used to avoid the cracks in pavements and, coming from an unpoetic family, I didn’t even know about the bears; I just didn’t step on cracks.

Anyway, any milestone is welcome as it gives me a chance to reflect and write a lazy post.

At this point I intended to start using photographs from the last few years, but the curse of WP struck my media library, again, and everything ground to a halt. They need some more details from me, including what happens when I try a different browser.

I get confused, that’s what happens.

And I can’t get into the blog because I’ve forgotten how to do it and what the password is. I have it set up on the only browser I use and I can get straight in. Changing this is an uncomfortable experience. I will have another try tomorrow.

I’m beginning to see a pattern here, and that’s not the end of it.

I’ve been trying to address letters in the manner specified by the post office. They say:

  • The name and address go on the bottom left corner of the front of the envelope or parcel.
  • Use a clear and easy to read hand writing (or font if you are printing the address).
  • Use a pen or ink that is clear against the colour of the envelope or parcel.
  • Left align the text (no centred or ‘stepped’ lines).
  • No commas or full stops.
  • Leave a generous margin around the address.
  • Place the correct postage on the top right.

Obviously we make a few changes, as you may have noticed from my photos. We tend to stick the address to the right and the “generous margin” can be a bit tight at times. I posted 70 florins overseas today. It cost £16. You try getting 30 stamps on a envelope and leaving a “generous margin”. Not going to happen.

The thing that really causes grief is the fifth one – “No commas or full stops”. I did a couple, but the need to punctuate properly made it a very uncomfortable experiment. I’m back to proper punctuation, as beaten into me fifty years ago, and it feels much better.

I’m seriously beginning to think I have to relax a bit more, step outside my comfort zone and let go of my comma fixation…

 

 

 

Memorial Garden – Old Hunstanton

While we were cruising round Hunstanton on our recent holiday we ended up in Old Hunstanton. It’s called that because it’s the original part of the town that used to exist before they built the new resort.

I knew there was a lighthouse there but I have no recollection of the ruined chapel. It must have been there, because it was built in 1272. It’s dedicated to Saint Edmund, King of East Anglia. He reputedly founded the village of Hunstanton before meeting his end at the hands of the Great Heathen Army of the Danes.

It was not a pleasant end, featuring torture, shooting with arrows and beheading, as he refused to renounce Christianity. Even if he had renounced Christianity it’s difficult to believe that his death would have been any different.

The legend is that the East Anglians recovered the King’s head with the help of a wolf. Accounts vary, but there’s usually a touch of the supernatural about the wolf in the legend. From there a cult of sainthood grew up round the dead king. The abbey at Bury St Edmunds housed his shrine until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. One notable pilgrim was King Canute, who converted to Christianity, rebuilt the abbey and, on a visit in 1020, offered his crown as a penance for the acts of his ancestors.

That is why there is a carved oak wolf by the archway.

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St Edmund’s Wolf, Hunstanton

The area around the chapel was made into a memorial garden in 1915 by a local vicar, the Reverend Alfred Toms. It was supposedly because his two sons were killed, but as they didn’t die until 1916 and 1917, this can only be part of the story.

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War Memorial Garden, Hunstanton

The story probably starts with one of the benches in the garden.

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Memorial bench – Nurse Edith Cavell

Nurse Edith Cavell was executed by the Germans on 12th October 1915. She was seen as a martyr at the time, having helped around 175 people to escape from the German occupiers of Belgium, her adopted home. This was a gift to allied propagandists at the time, though a British investigation after the war considered it perfectly legal. We had, after all, executed twelve German spies during the war – eleven shot at the Tower of London and one hanged in Wandsworth Gaol.

Nobody really comes out of a war with clean hands. Ask Mata Hari.

 

The other bench commemorates Captain Charles Fryatt , who was executed in 1916. He was a Captain on several ferries travelling between the UK and the Netherlands, who were neutral in the Great War. Once he outran a German ship and on another occasion he tried to ram a U-Boat that was attempting to sink him. Finally his luck ran out when he was trapped by five German destroyers. He was tried for the “crime” of sinking a German submarine, even though he only forced it to dive. The verdict, predictably, was death by firing squad.

He was famous at the time, but is now largely forgotten compared to Edith Cavell. I’m not sure if they are still about, but at one time he did sometimes crop up on badges and brooches at antique fairs.

Finally, what’s the link between Edith Cavell, Charles Fryatt and the Unknown Warrior?

Answer – their bodies all travelled back to the UK in the same railway carriage.

 

 

 

Horsey Wind Pump

The Fens and wetlands of eastern England has depended on a system of pumps and drains for three hundred years. They are electric now, having also used steam and diesel engines, but they used to be powered by wind. Horsey was one of the wind-powered pumps.

This mill was built in 1912 on the site of a previous one, which had become dangerously unsafe, and was assisted by steam and in 1939 a diesel was fitted. In 1943 the diesel took over completely after the mill was struck by lightening and in 1957 an electric pump was fitted.

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A bench after my own heart, and a marker

This bench shows how much water the drainage removes. You can see that from the level of the water in the drain of the header picture – the water level is considerably higher than the path – higher than the line on the seat suggests. I think I read somewhere that the drainage reduces the water level by seven feet, which seems about right.

There’s not much to see, as the mill is still under repair, but it was reasonably interesting and there were lots of dragonflies in the garden by the toilets.

 

I learnt a new word in the toilets – cubical. It means cube-shaped. I didn’t know that, though it makes sense. It wouldn’t show up on the spell checker if you were trying to type cubicle.

There was also a disappointing lack of Marsh Harriers and Cranes in the toilet.

As for the baby changing table, it is OK as long as nobody needs access to a cubicle.

Julia has suggested that toilet interior shots might not be considered a bit strange, particularly by people who are using them at the time. I suppose she has a point…

I’m tentatively identifying these as Common Darters because they are roughly the right colour and there were lots of them.

 

Lack of Sleep and an Accidental Poem

After rising at 4.40 am yesterday I expected to sleep well last night. I didn’t.

First waking at 3am I was up again at 4.30, 5.30 and 7.30. Good bit of planning there – I missed 6.30 and slept through the alarm.

You’d have thought that after 60 years I’d have got the hang of sleeping, but it appears not.

As part of my cruise through poetry I now know that if I add a haiku to this post (and grandiloquently call the post an essay) it becomes a Japanese-style poem called a haibun.

Following on from yesterday’s condensed sonnet I’m going to condense another well known poem into haiku form. I originally tried to condense Daffodils, but it kept trying to turn itself into a Limerick. This one worked better. If I acknowledge a debt to John Keats it will reveal the base poem, even if the first line doesn’t.

mist and fruitfulness

poppies and the cider press

swallows gathering

It even falls into 5-7-5 format, even though I wasn’t aiming for it.

 

Things Fall into Place

Sorry, in the earlier version of this post I may have been a bit sloppy and given the impression that the haiku I wrote was the one in this post. In fact I did write the haiku in the post, but merely by taking words from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 19 to illustrate how he used a lot of words that he could have used for something else.

My haiku, which won’t be published until October, is not as good. Though it does have ducks in it.

I just had a poem accepted for publication, my first in fourteen years.

This isn’t as bad as it may seem at first glance, as I actually didn’t submit anything for fourteen years. After a few years of limbering up and writing limericks I decided to give it a try again.

The first two submissions came back so fast it felt like they were on elastic. In the days when we had to use post it was all much more stately. So I tried again and seem to have sneaked in under the quality bar.

It’s only a haiku as I’m famously lazy and can’t see any point in writing more than I have to. Three lines, ten words, fourteen syllables, no rhymes.

In terms of effort it beats a sonnet hands down.

This is Sonnet 18 cut down to a haiku. It’s ninety-nine words shorter and though it’s not going to achieve immortality, it’s an example of what Shakespeare could have done if he’d have set his mind to it.

(Looking at it, I wish I’d thought of doing this sooner as it’s a lot easier than writing one from scratch).

a summer’s day

rough winds shake buds of May

eternal lines

If Shakespeare had written haiku instead of messing about with sonnets he’d have had more time to write things like a spin-off from Henry V where Sir John Falstaff opens up a small hotel on the south coast, with hilarious consequences. Falstaff Towers could have been so good…

 

Back in the Groove…

Well, it looks like I’m not quite back in the groove, as I wrote this last night and then forgot to post it.

Ah well, if it’s a bit confusing try adjusting it by 24 hours.

Looks like it’s five days since I last posted. Sorry about that – I have plenty of things to write about, loads of photos and plenty of typing fingers (even if I don’t actually use nine of them) so there’s no excuse.

It’s a bit like being trapped in a chocolate factory – so much choice I just can’t get to grips with it.

However, I do have a plan. I’m going to start by writing a short paragraph about not writing posts and I’ll see where that takes me. In fact I just did that.

Now for Part II.

The day started, as so often, when Julia’s alarm clock went off early. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but she has a problem with setting alarms. For some reason her alarms always seem to go off ten minutes early, which is why the alarm went off at 4.50am. I’m beginning to suspect she does it deliberately.

Having had a poor night (two trips to the bathroom during the early hours) I muttered my suspicions about her setting of the clock and went back to sleep for another 20 minutes, where I dreamed of urology. I’m going to have to put myself in their hands again I fear, and have mixed feelings on the subject.  Actually, that’s not quite true. I have feelings on the matter but they aren’t particularly mixed.

I dropped her off at 6am and went to pick Number 2 son from work. There were nine pied wagtails in the car park, all seeming to find food. There was also a woman wearing a sheepskin jacket and pyjama trousers, which was strange. It reminded me of a scene out of Dawn Patrol (if I recall correctly) where David Niven goes out on patrol in his pyjamas and returns to the squadron, still wearing them, after being shot down.

Next, off to the launderette. I was the only one in there and took advantage of that by using the big machine and doing the hot wash with pre-wash. It takes over an hour but Julia is always complaining the short wash doesn’t do things properly. She may be right, but the truth is that you normally have to rush it to get a drier.

Today I only just got a drier, as the place suddenly filled with people just as my machine finished. It would have been annoying to have missed out.

Julia had slipped a rainproof top into the washing. It was dirty and had plastic tape on the seams. It is now clean and, after the tumble drier, no longer has plastic tape to worry about. It probably isn’t waterproof now either.  We will no doubt be discussing it further.

While I was waiting I made notes, planned a menu for the week, wrote a shopping list and read a book on Vikings. I bought it for 50p yesterday whilst shopping at Sainsbury’s – there were some good books on the charity table yesterday.

Then I nipped along to the cafe for a bacon and black pudding cob with brown sauce and a nice big mug of tea.

The diet, in case you were wondering, could be going better.

This took me up to 10.30 am. That’s probably enough excitement for one post.