3 July 2020

Bovril

There used to be a children's programme on British television called "The Wombles". The Wombles were lovable furry creatures that spent much of their time cleaning up after litter louts on Wimbledon Common in London. They even had a hit single in 1973, called unsurprisingly - "The Wombling Song"

I thought that The Wombles were no more but now there's a new Womble living in West Hampstead, not far from Billy Fury Way and Fortune Green. There's another one called Northsider in West Cork, Ireland. The London one wombles around his neighbourhood with a squirrel hound called Olga scouring the streets for the detritus of modern life. 

Back in May, he stumbled across a small cache of old bottles - including several vintage "Bovril" bottles. He blogged about them here.
"Bovril" is a black meat extract paste - first marketed in Britain in 1889. You can spread it on toast or mix it with boiling water to make a savoury drink. Traditionally, this warming beefy drink was always available at football matches and popular with supporters too. Sadly, its popularity has faded in modern times but you can still buy it at halftime  in many football stadia.

At lunchtime yesterday, our postman rang our doorbell before scurrying away. He had left a box on our doorstep. At first, I thought it might be some sort of explosive device, but after carefully opening it I discovered, to my delight, that it contained two of the aforementioned "Bovril" bottles - kindly sent by The West Hampstead Womble. They will be added to my collection of antique bottles for the wonderment of house guests and other visitors.

Thank you Stephen G.Reed! Very thoughtful.

2 July 2020

Serendipity

Just yesterday, a remarkable co-incidence occurred. It is almost breathtakingly bizarre. I received the following comment from a fairly new visitor to this blog. The commenter is called John. He's a freethinking, well-read fellow from Glasgow, Scotland. John wrote this:-
Now here comes the weird bit. Just an hour before John posted the comment, I had been sitting on a bench by the duck pond in Whirlow Brook Park where I finished reading that very same book. In translation it is a haunting little novel with various different titles including "The Lost Domain", "The End of Youth" and  "The Land of the Lost Contentment". However, I was reading "The Wanderer" which I bought from a secondhand bookshop in Bloomington, Indiana in August 1976. Like "the lost domain" that bookshop no longer exists. You may only find it in memory or imagination.

In French, the book is usually known simply as "Le Grand Meaulnes" - Augustin Meaulnes being the central character whose adolescence and troubled quest for love and contentment in rural France is observed by the narrator - Francois Seurel. Interestingly, the title of "The Great Gatsby" was inspired by "Le Grand Meaulnes" which was published in 1913 and written by Alain-Fournier who was soon to die in World War I. It was the only novel he ever published.

In the summer of 1976, after the summer camp outside Cleveland had shut down, I was staying with my American girlfriend in Bloomington - south of the bookshop on  South Washington Street. Her name was Donna Smith. Years later, in this very millennium, I discovered by accident here on this blog that the maiden name of  my lovely correspondent Peace Thyme was Donna Smith! Not the same one but even so such a hell of a coincidence. Serendipity once more.

I completely lost touch with my Donna Smith but like Meaulnes and Yvonne de Galais, dismissing her from my memory has proved both impossible and tormentous. 

1 July 2020

Scanning

Up by Fulwood Lane, a sitting bull peacefully scans two Yorkshire gentlemen peering over the wall. One is 66 years old, the other is half his age. It's me and the son-in-law.

Yesterday afternoon Frances and Stewart returned from London with a special picture containing a scanned image of the foetus child taken yesterday morning at the Whittington Hospital between Archway and Highgate Cemetery. The babe is now the size of a small lemon.

After the drive back, Stewart was keen on taking a short walk. We didn't drive far and the walk was only a couple of miles in familiar territory. Below, white foxgloves bloom by windy Houndkirk Road, looking down from the moorland to Sheffield.
Stewart studied geology at university but he had never seen The Ox Stones on Burbage Moor before. Remnants of a primordial ocean, they sit  like beached whales above the heather. I cannot help believing that ancient men and women gathered there to shelter or pay homage to ancient gods or simply to the sun and the moon and the passing seasons. They are phenomena you really can believe in. My theory is strengthened by the fact that within shouting distance of The Ox Stones there are several known Bronze Age sites
And finally here he/she is. The lemon child, growing imperceptibly in amniotic fluid, already looking forward to meeting his/her grumpy grandfather. The feeling is mutual.

30 June 2020

Fifteen

I first began blogging fifteen years ago. I didn't really know what I was doing or why I was doing it or whether or not I would be blogging fifteen weeks or fifteen months later. But here we are. Fifteen years of my life have passed under the bridge - much of it documented via this blog.

Here's my very first post:-
As you can see, I even attracted one comment. It was from someone called Hadashi in Japan. To receive that comment from faraway was kind of magical. Encouraging too.

Four days later I posted a picture of myself being interviewed at work and the first verse of a poem about work by the late Philip Larkin who spent his most productive days in The East Riding of Yorkshire.
That post also attracted a single comment - from Zandrea! in Brookline, Massachusetts. Zandrea! was in fact two people - Zara and Andrea. Perhaps they were lovers or someone with a split personality. They or she stopped blogging four years ago.

In fifteen years I have created 3421 blogposts, receiving 1,822,114 visits. It has been quite a journey - something to look back on with a degree of satisfaction. I did that!

Only sometimes do I pause to think: Should I have done that? All those hours of blogging and reading other people's blogs, perhaps I should have saved up that energy and poured it into writing - stories, novels, poetry. Precious time has slipped away like sand in an hour glass. Fifteen years older and the end is nigh. What is there left to say?

29 June 2020

Poem


Up North

Ragged sheep graze moortops
Midst windbent gorse and heather
Lowry figures trudge to work
Heads bowed against the weather.

Stone walls form the skeleton
Of our blue remembered hills
Where terraces crawl up valleysides
From dark satanic mills

I heard a curlew calling
Her plaintive song of yore
Above these hallowed counties
Where Vikings went before

Her chorus contained questions
Of where our truth might be
Embroidered in our accents
Or lost to history.

We are the children of Captain Cook
And of Emily Davison too
Heirs to soil and industry
In this landscape that they knew.


To grinning caricaturists
We never shall succumb
Up North is where the heart is -
Great Britain’s beating drum.


___________________________________________________________________

I wrote this poem today - June 29th 2020. The photograph at the top is of John Crowther Mill at Marsden near Huddersfield. It was taken on November 7th 2013.
Lowry - refers to the northern industrial paintings of L.S. Lowry (1887-1976)
Captain Cook - James Cook, the Yorkshire seafarer and explorer (1728-1779)
Emily Davison - suffragette martyr buried in Morpeth, Northumberland (1872-1913)

28 June 2020

Petty

The late Tom Petty - "I Won't Back Down"
Western leaders are meant to uphold the law, to lead by example. Somebody should have told the forty fifth president of the USA. Not only does he arrogantly refuse to wear masks in environments where masks are required, he and his support team blatantly defy music copyright laws in their efforts to whip up their circus-like rallies. They just do not seem to care that the rights to "You Can't Always Get What You Want" are owned by The Rolling Stones and the rights to "I Won't Back Down" are owned by the estate of Tom Petty.

In this matter, Trump has been legally instructed to desist before  but he appears to believe that he is above the law.

Ironically, the two songs highlighted here are most un-Trumplike. Take that Rolling Stones song. The message is that sometimes you simply have to make do, lower your expectations because life is such that "you can't always get what you want". You have to move on in spite of your frustrations. One thinks of the southern border wall which will never be completed.

The Tom Petty song blasted out at Trump's recent and embarrassing rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma is a song about digging in, holding your ground and general defiance.  Tom Petty died in 2017. His philanthropy was well-known and he supported causes that are clearly at odds with Trump's main interests - including adoption, fostering, orphans, at-risk/disadvantaged youths,  creative arts education, environment, homelessness and unemployment support.

Trump will "back down" because fair-minded Americans will vote him out in November - proving that you really "can't always get what you want".  To paraphrase The Gospel of Matthew - he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. I wonder if there's a song with that message in it. If there is, they should play it at future Trump rallies - with permission of course.

YouTube links:  "I Won't Back Down", "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

27 June 2020

Birdlike

They often say that some people are owls and others are larks. Larks rise with the morning light and are out and about doing things while owls languish in their beds. And while owls inhabit the night hours, buzzing with ideas and mental energy, larks slumber in their nests.

I am very much a night owl. Always have been. In this sense I am rather like my mother who always seemed to be up late making things - lampshades, leather gloves, baskets or simply knitting. All my childhood, it was my father who was up bright and early to make his sons' breakfasts. Mum was always in bed. Unsurprising really as she had probably climbed the staircase to bed in the early hours of that morning.

I like the peacefulness of the nighttime. For me it's a good time for reading, writing, surfing the internet, watching a late film or looking up at the night sky. Sometimes I will even lock our front door and toddle off on a short  night walk through the silent suburbs - with very few lights to be seen in windows. It can feel as if I own the night and everyone else has gone. A fox will dart between cars. A faraway train will rumble towards Doncaster or Derby. Perhaps an owl will swoop by - a night owl like me.

Larks might claim that the best part of the day is the early morning and may cajole night owls for missing it. But I feel no guilt for I cannot help my attraction to late nights. I haven't been to bed before midnight in a long, long time. This was even true during my working years when I needed to be up and about soon after 7am. I would have been much happier if my working day had begun at 10am and finished at 6pm but frustratingly I didn't make up the rules.

It seems to me that larks and owls are at the extreme ends of a spectrum. I guess that most people are somewhere in the middle - neither a lark that rises in the early morning nor a night owl in the moonlight. If I am right then I think those in-between people require a different bird symbol. Let's call them crows. They sit on fences between fields.

Which are you? A lark? An owl? Or a crow?

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