The small locomotive engine, Number 4, came clanking, stumbling down from Selston with seven full waggons. It appeared round the corner with loud threats of speed, but the colt that it startled from among the gorse, which still flickered indistinctly in the raw afternoon, outdistanced it at a canter. A woman, walking up the railway-line to Underwood, drew back into the hedge, held her basket aside, and watched the footplate of the engine advancing. The trucks thumped heavily past, one by one, with slow inevitable movement, as she stood insignificantly trapped beneath the jolting black waggons and the hedge; then they curved away towards the coppice where the withered oak-leaves dropped noiselessly, while the birds, pulling at the scarlet hips beside the track, made off into the dusk that had already crept into the spinney.
First lines of "Odour of Chrysanthemums" by D.H.Lawrence (1910)
See above. These were the first lines I read as I began my A level English Literature course at Beverley Grammar School in the East Riding of Yorkshire in September 1970. For some odd reason, I have always remembered that reference to Selston and today I visited the place for the very first time.
I had just driven Frances and Phoebe down to nearby Sutton-in-Ashfield where they met up with Stewart ahead of a long drive down to Surrey. They are spending the weekend down there with several members of Stewart's family. Our rendezvous was the "Costa" coffee shop by the A38.
I expected Selston to be a grim post-industrial mining village which had had the heart ripped out of it by Thatcher in the eighties but it turned out to be quite a pleasant place with many nice private houses along with streets of social housing. The days of coal mining are long gone now and if he could rise from his grave in New Mexico, D.H. Lawrence would hardly recognise "The Country of My Heart" as he once called this corner of Nottinghamshire.
By the way, when Frances was getting the coffees in "Costa", two women - probably a mother and daughter - cooed with delight when I lifted Phoebe from her car seat. They commented on her lovely eyes and her general cuteness. As a proud grandpa, I was, as folk will often say in England, "right chuffed".
Looks like a lovely day for a drive. Grandpa should be right chuffed. Being a grandparent brings much more pleasure and must less work, or at least less worry.ReplyDelete
Well you know what you are talking about thanks to Jack.Delete
How wonderful to have a gorgeous granddaughter and have others recognize that!ReplyDelete
Yes. Delightful Margaret.Delete
In Homer horses may talk, gods may kick down battlements, and rivers can come alive and wrestle with a man as Jacob wrestled with the angel.ReplyDelete
After Blake, Coleridge, Shelley we had D.H. Lawrence, though we don't talk about him any more, except to say he was a proto-fascist sexist with no sense of humour.
The first bit may be true, but he did have a sense of humour.
Hounded out of England, Lawrence died horribly of T.B. in his 45th year.
He said it would be 500 years after his death before we understood him.
The Once and Future Lawrence.
*Anthony Burgess Speaks: 1985 - The Rage of D.H. Lawrence (1/4).*
The lady who volunteered to look after the Birthplace Museum in Eastwood impressed me deeply.
Sadly, I believe that the birthplace museum is now closed down. At just 45 you might say that Lawrence had completed his apprenticeship. The best was still to come.Delete
Malcolm Muggeridge said he wept when he heard of Lawrence's death, and then he turned against him.ReplyDelete
Leavis, who was gassed in the trenches, championed Lawrence's early work.
What would Lawrence think of England now?
He would say England had ceased to exist and that a hideous No Place had replaced it.
When billionaires retire they live on farms and raise pigs.
Lawrence's England is a rich man's fantasy.
I doubt those rich men would have thought that after reading "Odour of Chrysanthemums" and the other early short stories. They would have seen an image of England that was unrecognisable to them.Delete
I've never read that book of Lawrence's. I've only read the more prurient ones, I guess. Should I give it a try?ReplyDelete
Lovely post. And I have to say that I very much like the word "chuffed." It's one I wish we had adopted on this side of the pond. And I am sure that Phoebe is as cooed over and admired as any baby in history.
"Odour of Chrysanthemums" is a short story. Lawrence wrote several short stories based upon his childhood environment before becoming an accomplished novelist. Since I read those short stories - when I was seventeen - I have always had a special affection for Lawrence so I am rather biased.Delete
The house is very interesting. It appears to lost its mates on either side. It must be nice to have your progeny admired.ReplyDelete
I thought the same when I spotted that lonesome house.Delete
I see that you have been collecting more members for the Princess Phoebe Fan Club. You should maybe think about asking for subscriptions.ReplyDelete
There'll be T-shirts, keyrings and of course a monthly magazine called "Phoebe News".Delete
Could the slim house once have been a Toll House on a Turnpike road YP?ReplyDelete
I can see where you are coming from with that Dave but somehow I do not think so. The house was there in 1888 when there were few other houses around. It may have been the gatehouse to some gravel pits that lay behind it.Delete
Perhaps it was the gravel pits gatekeepers house where you paid for your cart load of gravel? I once worked on a big country estate and my job was to count the pieces of gravel on the drive!Delete
That sounds exciting!Delete
Well Grandpa Yorkshire Pud, rightly chuffed you should be! There was romantic writing about old England's landscape and its beauty that today's writers cannot capture. I still love Edward Thomas and of course good old Betjeman.ReplyDelete
That simple, comfortable England seemed to have a kind of harmony that has gone now... or was it always an illusion?Delete
Someone said that we only talked about community when communities had disappeared. Is it not the same with social harmony?Delete
I was born in 1951 in the neighbourhood Kelvingrove-Yorkhill.
Nobody in 1951 said, *This is a real community and there are many like it all over Glasgow.*
Nor did folk talk about the importance of family.
All these things were a given. Like law and public order. And civic pride.
In a BBC documentary on Muriel Spark (YouTube) the journalist Alan Taylor said the Edinburgh of Spark's childhood was *a grey place*.
I have heard the same thing said of the 1950s and I respectfully disagree.
Strict social convention underpinned community and harmony.
But it wasn't grey. Just look at the first colour photos of our cities.
*Nottingham Slab Square 1950s.* YouTube.
I felt I was back in time, ready to drop into a Lyons Corner House for a cup of tea and lardy cake.
Thomas Harding has a terrific history of the Lyons empire, *Legacy*.
Commentators will often think in cartoons and generalisations. Take "The Swinging Sixties". They weren't swinging in East Yorkshire. People were just getting on with their lives.Delete
Historians do not think in terms of decades.Delete
Yet the Sixties changed everything : It did not change back again.
The Sixties were also a shared myth for those at a formative age.
Len Deighton said the Fifties looked grey (that word again) by comparison.
I.F. Stone wrote an iconic book, *The Haunted Fifties: 1953-1963*.
Stone hated Cold War rhetoric, House UnAmerican + political conformity.
After 1963 we sold the Beatles, Cilla and Dusty Springfield to the USSR.
No, things were not swinging in East Yorkshire or the West of Scotia.
But the bairns could go out to play by themselves in the Swing Park.
As my mother used to ask my father in the 1990s, *Where are the children?*
She missed their merry laughter.
Something had vanished from our neighbourhood.
A *shared myth* is a tautology or at the very least a pleonasm.Delete
I meant that the Sixties gave rise to a plethora of psycho-social myths.
Meritocracy. The Sexual Revolution. We are all divine. Tune in, drop out.
We celebrated being young in a very public way: Youthquake.
We had the Pill or the girls did, hashish, LSD, colour TV, Hendrix.
The big names shared their success, Carnaby Street, Mary Quant, Habitat.
We were deceived by the Eastern gurus or followed les events in Paris '68.
There is a book I never got around to reading but I like the title:
*Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius*.
BBC Two HD The Many Primes of Muriel Spark (2018).ReplyDelete
DiMarco Documentaries. YouTube.
That house looks rather odd, on its own like that.ReplyDelete
Did you get a chance to take a closer lookmat the church?
How did Phoebe react to her admirers?
I walked around the church but unfortunately the door was locked. Phoebe seemed non-plussed by the admiration and did not react. Apparently she had released an enormous poo by Milton Keynes. Frances said that the clean-up was a two man job. Lovely!Delete
So that's what Phoebe thinks of her admirers! Let's hope she grows out of that kind of comment before she hits teenage!Delete
Interesting the various comments about how England has changed. Apart from occasionally passing through Heathrow on my way elsewhere, I haven't been back since 2003. I keep up with current news, but realise that if I come back permanently now, it will seem like a foreign country inhabited by aliens speaking a language I only vaguely recognise!
I find the narrow house interesting. As I age I don't want to deal with stairs. I live in a timber community. Although it has change over the years. Now it seems to bring in retires from other areas.ReplyDelete
Coffee is on and stay safe