Eastern windows

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And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.

Arthur Hugh Clough
Say Not The Struggle Naught Availeth

Hereabouts, this Bank Holiday weekend has seen the return of the crazy temperatures we had early in the summer. We should be getting back to normal by next weekend, thankfully.

I have been thinking about the ebb and flow of long-term goals and whether it is possible to minimise the impact that a short-term imperative will have upon them. In the short term I know that I need to settle into my new job and reset my routines and that doesn’t leave me a huge amount of time for my long-term goals of creative writing and knitting. In an ideal world we would be able to split our attention perfectly and achieve all of our desires; in this slightly less perfect version, it is important to deal with the most important things first and perhaps accept that sometimes the things we value most highly may not be the most important things.

For me, the past year has been dominated by an urge to come to a conclusion about what shape I want my life to be. Yet, as the sun is pouring down its last hurrah on us before retiring into its mellow autumn days, I am facing the fact that I will probably never really know what shape I want my life to be. In fact, I need it to be a mutable thing, with no fixed lines; something that can change with the seasons and adapt to changes in the world around me. In this, I am fighting a battle with myself because my natural inclination is to be totally inflexible about absolutely everything – the more rules the better. I put that down to my Aquarian roots – we are always marked as one of the “fixed” signs of the zodiac and, whilst I respect everyone’s right to their own opinion about such things as horoscopes, I do display the vast majority of typical Aquarian traits.

As I said in my previous blog post, things do not disappear entirely when you take your eye off them. I am allowing my writing and, to a large extent, my knitting, to take a rear seat for a few weeks, but that doesn’t negate the hard work I’ve put into them, nor reduce my committment to them. The fact is that I value them so highly that I feel they deserve my attention and it is best not to slog at them in a half-hearted manner. It is important, though, to work hard on the short-term imperatives so that I can quickly get back to working on my long-term goals and make sure that I don’t simply fall into an inescapable cycle of fire-fighting.

All that being said, I do have a little knitting progress to show on Wednesday, and whilst I was walking home with my groceries this morning I thought of a little piece that I need to write down to include in my novel, so whilst I am looking out of Arthur Clough’s eastern window, the land to the west is brightening all the time.

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Revelation

Wroxham Broad
Wroxham Broad

The list of things I haven’t done the past week is enormous. I haven’t exercised anywhere near enough. I haven’t been faithful to my diet. I haven’t finished reading Midnight At The Well Of Souls (by Jack L Chalker, thrilling 1970s sci-fi). Indeed, for the past three days I haven’t even written or knitted. Instead I have done more important things, more urgent things, and more fun things. Unfortunately, none of them are the stuff that stories are made of. So, instead of writing about progress, I’m going to present you with a small revelation.

One of my favourite poems is Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. For many years I have loved the part which became the popular Edwardian song, Come Into The Garden, Maud. I am also very keen on the section that John Fowles quoted in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. So it is unfathomable to me that I have never actually read the entire poem.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise because it is a long poem and the readibility is patchy; the bits I know are probably the highlights. However, I have decided that I owe it to myself to read it through just once, and so last week I started from the beginning, which is sombre in mood as the narrator relates how he dislikes a particular part of the wood where his father had fallen once to his death. It is very evocative and draws the reader in as all good beginnings should.

The poet is considering whether it would be best to leave his childhood home when news reaches him:

“Workmen up at the Hall! – they are coming back from abroad;
The dark old place will be gilt by the touch of a millionaire:
I have heard, I know not whence, of the singular beauty of Maud;
I play’d with the girl when a child; she promised then to be fair.”

Things creep up on us in just that way, and we cannot know whether the future will be delight or pain, all we can do is walk forwards and live it.

I am looking forward to this poem being my future companion for a while.

Quote of the Week – Us Two

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“Us Two” by A A Milne, from the collection “Now We Are Six”

Yes, it’s a Quote of the Week this Monday, rather than a Word of the Week. Why? Who knows? Just felt like it.

In fact, I was reciting this to myself as I carried out a reconnaissance mission on Saturday to find the office I will be working at for the next month. As I was walking along on my own, it might not seem the most apt poem to be thinking of, and this is emphasised by the fact that I don’t entirely agree with the sentiment that it isn’t much fun for one because an awful lot of things are very pleasant to do on your own. Of course, in the context of the poem it makes much more sense, because Pooh has been doing something he wasn’t keen on (looking for dragons, finding dragons, saying “Boo” to dragons, etc) and it is always better if you have an ally when you are doing something that worries you. That ally doesn’t have to be a real person, and even if they are real, they don’t have to be standing beside you in your moment of need. Most of us have people in our hearts who we are confident would cheer us on if they knew we were feeling trepidation, and knowing that is enough to enourage us.

So, if you come across dragons this Monday morning, think of your allies and then remember to shout “Boo! Silly old dragons!” and it will probably turn out that they are only geese.

I packed my bag and in it I put…

Pack my bag

Today being the first Saturday in the month, I went off to Norwich Castle Museum to my writing class. I thought before I set off that it might be fun to take a photo showing what I pack in my bag when I’m off to class, so here it is.

Bag: Knomo “Antwerp” cross-body bag

Contents from top left moving clockwise:

  • Woollen fingerless mitts — similar available from my Etsy shop
  • House and bicycle keys on lanyard
  • Wool felt beret
  • Cath Kidston small leather purse
  • Wizzard little tool for repairing glasses
  • Mark and Fold A6 stitched notebook printed up with monthly diary
  • Mark and Fold A5 linen-cover stitched notebook
  • Cath Kidston glasses case
  • Pappersbruk top-bound spiral notepad
  • DIY tinted lipbalm
  • Waterman Hemisphere fountain pen in Rose Cuivre finish
  • Swizzels Parma Violet sweets
  • Avon Encanto hand cream
  • Envelope containing Waterstones gift cards

In our class today we studied objects in the current exhibition Viking: Rediscover the Legend. By the end of the class I had written the following poem,

This supple leather had, in previous days,
Cradled the calloused foot of Ivar’s father
As he traveled the familiar paths of a city
Many miles, many years, from home.
Each morning Ivar watched as the shoe
Was drawn with barely audible creaks
Onto the foot it had sworn to protect,
And the bone of a long-dead sheep
Passed through a loop of hide
To join foot and shoe in solemn matrimony.
It went thus each day, until one day
Foot and shoe did not return
And Ivar, in his grief,
Walked the path in his father’s stead.

I have to say I am loving my monthly get-together with other local writers and the chance to focus on things that I wouldn’t perhaps be drawn to on my own.


How was your Saturday?


 

Need inspiration?

11-02-19 Inpiration
Do you have an inspiration board?

I’ve been working recently on re-composing my inspiration board. The board itself is marvellous with a lovely summery beaches-and-boats fabric. When I was a little girl I had a dress with a sailboat print, and I keep looking every summer to see if anyone manufactures anything similar to bedeck the more mature me. Until that day, the board is going some way towards meeting my need for yachts.

At the moment the board mainly represents my ideal office space, with one photo of a real office I worked in in the mid-1990s and the other my fantasy office at Manhattan South (courtesy of Kojak). Both of these images remind me of the kind of space that I am happiest in; there is technology, but there is paper too.

Today, though, I’m really taken with the quote “Smite the sounding furrows” on its happy yellow background. This is my ‘get up and go!’ quote and it chimes better with me than many of the popular so-called boss-girl quotes which abound on the internet. It is a line, from Ulysses by the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, about setting off on a voyage and not being sure of the destination, but with a determination that knows no bounds. I believe it holds us accountable to our own potential. This is no easy voyage, indeed “it may be that the gulfs will wash us down”; we need to work hard to get to our destination.

For those not too familiar with nautical terms, the phrase means to take a reading of the depth of water, particularly useful when navigating close to the shore, leaving or coming into harbour. In this case, the sailors will know they are on their way as the readings show the water deepening. There is a similar need with the things we choose to do when we are on land – we have to take regular readings to see how we are progressing.

With my inspiration board, I am currently under sail, but not nearing my destination. I think that next it needs something aspirational on the fibre/fashion side of things which I am looking forward to researching, and by research I mean pootling about looking at magazines, knitting books, and doubtless digging out my copy of Chic Simple Women’s Wardrobe which will remind me just how much I want some of the outfits in it.


 

The ultimate outsiders

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Continuing the theme I have been exploring of fitting in, or standing outside, both the insiders and the outsiders in Walter de la Mare’s poem are equally estranged.

The Listeners

“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
“Is there anybody there?” he said.
But no-one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phanton listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
‘Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For suddenly he smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head:-
“Tell them I came, and no-one answered,
That I kept my word,” he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.


 

Best poem for Christmas Eve

Christmas Tree
My Christmas tree, 2018

 

There is no better poem for Christmas Eve than the marvellous “King John’s Christmas” by A. A. Milne. Here it is in its entirety for you to enjoy. You can check out some other popular Christmas poems at Pan MacMillan.

King John’s Christmas

King John was not a good man –
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air –
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon…
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And fortune in the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They’d given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John was not a good man,
He lived his life aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing up the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack:
“TO ALL AND SUNDRY – NEAR AND FAR –
F. CHRISTMAS IN PARTICULAR.”
And signed it not “Johannes R.”
But very humbly, “JACK”

“I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don’t mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man –
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to his room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
A prey to hopes and fears.
“I think that’s him a-coming now,”
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
“He’ll bring one present, anyhow –
The first I’ve had in years.”

“Forget about the crackers,
And forget about the candy;
I’m sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don’t like oranges,
I don’t want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John was not a good man –
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell the waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,
King John said grimly: “As I feared,
Nothing again for me!”

“I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts.
I haven’t got a pocket-knife –
Not one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all…
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!

AND OH, FATHER CHRISTMAS,
MY BLESSINGS ON YOU FALL
FOR BRINGING HIM A BIG, RED
INDIA-RUBBER BALL!


It just remains for me to wish you all a joyful and peaceful Christmas, however and wherever you celebrate it.


 

Quote of the week – Snow by Macneice

Window.jpg

 

A wintery poem by Louis MacNeice.

Snow

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.


MacNeice is one of my favourite poets and made it into my 10 favourite books list earlier this year. His poems are so rhythmic and lyrical that he is among the very few poets that I can read without getting irritated by the sparse use of punctuation. He’s lovely to read aloud for those same reasons. I strongly recommend you read some of his work.


 

Quote of the Week – G K Chesterton

Snow in Costessey
After sledging, Costessey, 1980s

 

Here is the first of the Christmas quotes from A Child of the Snows by G K Chesterton.

Never we know but in sleet and in snow,
The place where the great fires are,
That in the midst of the earth is a raging mirth
And the heart of the earth is a star.

 


Credit is due to my daughter, the lovely Miranda, for reminding me yesterday about snowy days at our old family home in Costessey.


 

Quote of the week – He had a sort of look

Norwich street
The city I call home

Here’s a random shot of a Norwich alley to accompany a random quote; they only go together in so much as I took the photo yesterday and was reading the poem this morning in the bath.

Tomorrow I will start my December reading of a book of poems called “Christmas Please” and the next four weeks will be devoted to Christmas or winter quotes. I thought today I would keep it fun and appeal to the inner six-year-old in each of us. From A A Milne’s “Now We Are Six”, part of the poem “Forgiven” – Christopher Robin’s nanny has accidentally opened the matchbox wherein Alexander Beetle was living and Alexander cannot be found…

We went to all the places which a beetle might be near,
And we made the sort of noises which a beetle likes to hear,
And I saw a kind of something, and I gave a sort of shout:
“A beetle-house and Alexander Beetle coming out!”
It was Alexander Beetle, I’m as certain as can be,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought it must be Me,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought he ought to say:
“I’m very very sorry that I tried to run away.”


Are you still six? Do you own A A Milne’s poetry books? If not, why not?