Monday, March 31, 2008
There is a neighbouring front garden which (pleasing to me) is neglected. Earlier this year, violets grew profusely, and now prodigious dandelions are opening like aspiring sunflowers, as though cultivated with love and patience. In a way this garden answers Barrett Bonden's comment yesterday. A man accustomed to wind in the rigging, rope and tar, a tilting deck, the creak of rowlocks, the rudder under his hand and salt spray over his shoulder, may leave the land to landsmen, without guilt or misgiving. For want of the sailor's hand, the rose will flourish and the oak not perish.
In the garden through which I pass to get to the vegetables, I usually hear birds singing but to day the primary school up the road has its break, and the voices of school children are added to those of blackbirds and tits.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
This bollard, with its strange markings and expressive cavity is to be found on the roadside between Mount Pleasant and the entrance to Calverley Grounds. If it were a piece of sculpture rather than a neglected parking deterrent, people would come from far away to see it and remark on its human pathos and resonance.
In a flower bed in the front garden of a house in Belgrove, are some red tulips, which, now that their petals have opened and become loose, resemble flames.
Mr Crow, in the Grove, is enjoying the softness of the ground after the rain. Head in the air, he waddles up and down, no longer showing any interest in searching for worms. Instead, it is the pleasure of territory which he enjoys. "Mine, mine mine," he says to himself. And nobody challenges him.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Some narcissi from the WI Market were closed when brought home. Now fully open, their pale petals boldly sport dark orange trumpets.
The on-off growling of a strimmer, as as ear-muffed gardener trims the grass round the boles of trees in the Grove, is a sort of Spring song.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I notice on the top of a wall, at eye-level, a flourishing colony of moss. Little stalks, topped with spore bearing capsules, project a centimeter upwards from the green bed like flowers, only, as I learn subsequently from a reference book, they are not flowers. I think I have always had a soft spot for moss as it does for those who have cause to settle down upon it.
After the rain, the sun comes out. As I walk in the Grove, I hear the sound of water dripping from the trees and overflowing from the guttering of a house, and watch a stream flowing down the brick culverts at the edge of a path. The water is clean and bright in the sunlight.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
In Calverley Ground, I see a squirrel leap from one tree to another. For a moment it is flying.
After days of cold winds, the sun appears and you can feel it warm on your face. The warmth draws out the scent of hyacinths in the flower beds outside the town hall.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Daffodils and other spring flowers, which appeared earlier than usual this year, have, perhaps because of the cold weather, lasted longer than usual. That other daffodil poem - by Robert Herrick - which begins "Fair daffodils we weep to see you haste away so soon," is thereby contradicted. I shan't be so sorry this year when eventually they haste away.
In the window of a charity shop is a little piece of history. It is a faded box of old, 12-in records of ITMA, the radio show which nearly everyone in the country listened to during World War II. The dates 1939 -1949 are given and there is a drawing of the star of the show Tommy Handley on the label. I don't know what such things are worth, but for a collector, it strikes me that the price, £50, would not be a lot to pay.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Outside the garden shop in Chapel Place, is an old, weathered toboggan. But, despite forecasts, a biting wind and a few dramatic flurries, there is still no snow.
The leaves of lesser celandine, everywhere else in flower, are pushing through in the triangular shrubbery known locally as the Village Green. This is despite the efforts of the council gardeners who tried to eradicate the flowers in the Autumn. They prefer, it seems, bare earth, reminiscent of formal parks and gardens. But, with luck, we shall still see the golden star-shaped flowers this Spring.
Monday, March 24, 2008
The snow flakes, although they do not settle as snow, leave little droplets on the grass which glitter in the sun.
The scars on trees where branches have been pruned look like features on a human face - staring eyes, gaping mouths. The colours and textures of the exposed and weathered wood add expression to these shapes.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Buds probe the air, hungry as birds beaks,
Or poised, the shape of fish, in green shadow,
To shoot after prey in a brazen flash;
Trumpets that gape, bold, frilled with snarls,
That Satchmo himself might learn to blow;
Mad rhythms of dancing, empty heads;
The rumble and tap of their sequestered feet
Underground, where they, from sand and rock,
Draw strength to scream like Dionysus' girls,
In this violent, unstoppable, cruel time.
A loaf is left too long to prove. The baked loaf looks alright, but reveals a gaping hollow under the crust when the first slice is taken, like the empty loft of a house.
For a few minutes big snow flakes fall, but not for long. I go to the front door to photograph them falling against the hedge and bay tree. But they melt away on contact with the ground. "Où sont les neiges d'antan!"
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Following the fashion for six-word autobiographies, here is mine: I looked and looked and look.
The two bookshops in Chapel Place, The Oxfam bookshop and Hall's, are full of people browsing and chatting to escape from the rain, hail and snow, all of which are taking turns outside this afternoon. In Hall's, Sabrina, the owner and David, a neighbour are reminiscing about Calverley Grounds, the larger of the two neighbouring parks. In particular, they recall a couple of years ago, a one eyed fox called The Major. The park keeper had tamed him, and he used to sit around on his haunches like a dog. He would sometimes go into people's houses, and once nicked a Kit Kat bar from someone's table.
Friday, March 21, 2008
The sound of visitors being greeted as I pass an open front door, where two or three people in overcoats are bunching before going in. "Lovely to meet you," says a woman's voice. In the backgound is a man with a friendly, smiling face.
Sprays of broom with buds like yellow scales.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
This morning against the base of a wall, I spot the remains of a tennis ball. It is cut open and a tuft of its soft covering sticks up like an ear. It reminds me of the West Country, nature photographer, Johny Kingdom, who, the other night on TV, showed how he had cut open a tennis ball and left it suspended in the woods in the hope that a dormouse might nest in it.
In the Grove I meet an artist friend, who tells me that she has been watching a crow chasing a squirrel round a tree. I realize that it is the crow I call Mr Crow, who, as she speaks is waddling across the grass with Mrs Crow not far off. "I've never seen a crow chasing a squirrel," she says. I explain that Mr Crow owns the Grove and has to keep the squirrels and others in order.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Through the crack in the top of a desk-drawer, a red tail betrays the presence of a ball of red string.
Teas stains are always good value. On a yellow post-it note, a sepia stain from a tea cup needs only a dot for an eye, three lines to make a snout, and I have a bear's head,
Monday, March 17, 2008
"...We saw a few daffodils close to the waterside, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them. They looked so gay ever glancing ever changing."The poem was not written until 1804. William we are told, in this context, would often make Dorothy read out a passage from her journal to revive his memory. For merit and freshness Dorothy's words may seem, in our less polished age, to have the edge over her brother's.
The ink from the roller ball pen on one page of my note book was not dry when I closed the book . An interesting script appears on the opposite page. What does it say, in what language, belonging to what beings, in what remote corner of the universe?
Someone shouts across the road at a parking meter attendant, who is busy noting car numbers: How do you sleep at night?" Horlicks," says the meter man. Disarmed by his sense of humour, the hostile note dissappears. "Something a bit strong in it, I expect," laughs his antagonist.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
On one side of the Compasses pub is a window, in the centre of which is a circular area of burgundy, stained glass, edged by a ring of lead. I had not noticed this detail until I passed it this afternoon. In the centre of the circle is the pub's insignia, a pair of compasses, in lead relief.
I sit beside the window with a book. Every now and then I look up to see the rain, faint against the bay tree and the hedge behind it. On the wisteria, raindrops hang at regular intervals.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
In one of his mysterious, densely structured Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges describes an imaginary novel, where one of two antagonists will not refute the sophisms of his opponent "so as not to be right in a triumphal fashion."
In the Grove, this afternoon, I stand still for a moment, look around me and listen. There seems to be a ballet in progress. Children on swings; families strolling with and without push chairs, each at a different pace; boys throwing balls at one another, turning, diving and catching; dogs scampering, birds on the wing, in the wings. The music is provided by the shouts and cries of children, the gruff calls of adults, the song of birds. The choreography is self-defining.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Surveying the label, this lunchtime, on a container of sweet pickled herrings (one of my favourite things to eat, because, in the right mood, they make me imagine I'm a sea gull), I read, under the heading "Allergy Advice", the simple statement, "Contains fish".
The story of the red cardigan. I have, for many years, owned a red, woollen cardigan. It is a comfort garment for cold evenings. For a long time, I could not bring myself to use it, because it reminded me of an unsympathetic sub-editor, who, on arriving in the office, would, every day, put on a garment, which happened to be of the same colour. I think it must have been to save wear and tear on his suit, an indication of his Dickensian malignity and compulsive meanness. As time went by my memory of the sub-editor faded, and I went back to my cardigan. It has since become a favorite again. So much so that a vast hole has appeared in one of its sleeves, something I am prepared to live with. Not Heidi. She can see the hole while I, the wearer, can only feel my elbow sticking through it. So last night she cobbles the hole and can look at the me without shuddering at her ragged consort. Now she threatens to look for a new one. But new clothes are never the same. Old ones with their associations and familiarity, their knowledge of your protrusions and inclinations, are irreplaceable.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wake this morning to the song of blackbirds.
Satisfaction this afternoon at having cleared a line of books that has accumulated on my desk. Now only two stand by - Chambers Dictionary and Petit Larousse.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
There is a pedestrian crossing controlled by traffic-lights on the route which links the traffic free Pantiles with the traffic free Chapel Place. The pavement is very narrow, and this afternoon a crocodile of well behaved, nicely chattering French school children, queues to get across obstructing other pavement users. Coming up behind, a school teacher shepherds the children to one side against a railing, "laisser passer, laisser passer," he shouts at them. I make my way to the edge of the crossing as the lights change. "Vite, vite, vite " says the teacher, and then to me: "Sorry! You're not one of our kids." "Quel dommage," I say.
Jorge Luis Borges is one of may favourite authors and his little (in size) book Ficciones is the one which I might well choose to take with me to a desert island. The short stories, complex explorations of mind, language and culture, are so dense, that they can be read again and again.
My current copy of the book is published by Everyman as part of its Millennium Library. The publishers gave complete sets of its titles on the occasion of the millennium to a number of schools for their libraries. Unfortunately many schools saw no use for these handsome editions, and sold them on. Mine has the stamp of Bradbourne School, Sevenoaks on the fly leaf. It is otherwise in pristine state. There is no sign of any child having opened it. In the preface by John Sturrock, I read; Something to be remembered about Borges, even in the casual context of a preface, is that he used so few words that all of them must be attended to." That no one at Bradbourne School attended to any of his words, may have appealed to the ironical, searching multi-layered mind of the author.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
"O Wazir," broke in the other, "this old man is in his dotage. He does not know what he says. I alone killed her and must pay the penalty."
The provenance may be a give away. If anyone is in doubt I can reveal it later. I am supposed to tag five others in the hope that they will take up this interesting exercise. I'm sorry, Lucy I can just about muster four suitable people with access to the internet: Lucas, the poet; Barrett Bonden, the nautical man; Tristan, the cavalier of the road, and Clare, originator of the three beautiful things theme for bloggers. The mechanical procedure of tagging defeats me, but I hope that they may pick this up, and pursue it in one way or another. It should make an interesting anthology.
"Customers wanted. No previous experience needed." So reads a billboard outside the Mind charity ship in the High Street.
In the post office where the queue is long and irritable, a little girl suddenly hugs me round the legs. "Wrong person, darling", says her mother.
Monday, March 10, 2008
In a the windscreen of a car a giant spider straddles the glass from roof to bonnet. It is the reflection of telephone wires radiating out from the telegraph pole beneath which the car is parked.
In Mount Sion a big delivery lorry bears the inscriptions "Bed Centre. Sleeping solutions.uk.com"
I think of John Donne's poem which begins:
Busy old foole, unruly sunne,
Why dost though thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us...?
...Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere:
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy spheare."
Sunday, March 09, 2008
In the Grove, it is just beginning to rain. Two small children on a single skateboard, precariously sitting, one in front of the other, hurtle down a sloping path. They scream with a mixture of delight and fear. One holds upright an open, pink umbrella.
A battered turquoise car of the sort, which boasts headlamp-covers is parked in Mount Sion. The mechanism, which raises the covers automatically is working only for one lamp. The other one is raised like a pronounced eyelid. The overall effect is a car winking.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
The wood anemone plant, perhaps my favourite flower, which I found in garden shop has settled down nicely in a relatively sunless spot beneath the bay tree next to some pale yellow primulas.
It is one of those days when , though it doesn't rain properly, drops of water seem to blow in the wind. I retire indoors and open an anthology, which I haven't looked at for some time, in search, I suppose, of advice It is The Rattle Bag edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. The advice which I find is from Ogden Nash and brief. It is entitled Notes on Ingenuity.
Here's a good rule of thumb
Too clever is dumb.
Friday, March 07, 2008
In a telephone kiosk, abandoned on the shelf beside the phone, is an empty bottle of Irish Meadow. What is a Irish Meadow? According to the label, " A smooth blend of fresh cream with white wine and Irish whiskey."
Pondering my life so far, I say to myself this morning, that I have been wrong more often than I have been right, and that I have been fortunate to reached the present more or less intact. In fact, were I to need a motto I can think of nothing better than Muddle Through
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Beauty is better for a rough edge, and sweetness for sour thoughts.
A man takes big bites out of a cucumber as he walks down Regent Street.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
A soft, white feather, wedged into the base of an unopened bud, waves in the wind - a strange surrender.
A pigeon, pecking at a sandwich-crust in the gutter, without bothering to use its wings, hops out of the way of a car on to the pavement, and returns to finish its meal when the car has passed.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
The sun shines on magnolia buds on the verge of opening. Profiled against a bank of dark clouds, the buds look like pink candle flames.
An elderly man whom I sometimes meet in the Grove, in the face of an icy wind this afternoon, says: "My mother used to tell me never to wear a scarf. When you take it off , she'd say, you'll feel the cold."
Monday, March 03, 2008
I do not often have the chance to speak French and doubt that when I do, I do it at all well. I often forget and wonder if I ever knew, when I first learnt French at school, that it is usual to put the emphasis on the last syllable of a French word. I'm not sure that many English people are used to this feature of the language either. The other day I happened to mention Emile Zola to a German professor who pulled me up. "Who"? he asked. "Zola," I said. "You mean Zola, " he said placing the emphasis on the "a". He wasn't being pedantic. He genuinely didn't understand me. Yesterday on the telephone I mentioned Zola to an old friend, an extremely well read and accomplished English woman. I took care to place due emphasis on the last syllable. "Who?" she said.
Through a dense leylandii hedge weave a few golden flowers of forsythia.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
In Calverley Park, a young woman in a smart red jacket is flying a long string of small paper kites (about six inches x 9 inches) attached to the fine yellow cord at regular intervals. Each kite has a short green tail. There must be at least 30 kites, which stretch up into the sky and sway in the wind. She doesn't have to move at all to keep the kites aloft. She is on her own. No children or other interested parties are in sight. After a while she begins to haul the kites in, stacking them neatly in one hand and allowing the cord to dangle in tidy loops below. I have always loved kites, but I've never anything like this.
It is not just old age. I have always been a bit dim. I'm more than half way through L'Oeuvre by Emile Zola, and I'm beginning to congratulate myself on how few words I am having to look up in the dictionary, when suddenly I am confronted by amabi and lité one after the other. No clue in the dictionary. I read the passage again. The context suggests that some quality is being described. I note that amabi comes at the end of one line and lité at the beginning of the next line. You will be there before me. My only excuse is that there was no hyphen linking the syllables to make the word amabilité.
Saturday, March 01, 2008
A flowering cherry, still little more than a sapling, mingles its white flowers with the shiny leaves of a laurel. It is an uneasy liason, like a young and pretty girl on the arm of a sleek businessman.
"Mummy, you've got your slippers on," says a little girl to her mother who is seated on the bench opposite the entrance to the Grove. "Mummy, ypu've got your slippers on." And so she has. " Yes I know, darling," she says, " I just had to run out of the door with you didn't I."