Spring again, as beautiful as ever

I can’t resist the cherry trees or A.E. Housman so here they are again.

Loveliest of Trees

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my three score years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

A.E. Housman

Spring and Fall 

Forsythia blazes golden in my garden,
Daffodils bob and sway, the hedge unfurls

Into a tender tangle of green curls,
Old fruit trees creak as new buds swell and harden.

Now finches fall in showers, thrushes sing
And blackbirds bounce in conflict, shrieking shrill,
Ponds fizz with tadpoles, squirmingly alive,
Trout leap, lambs stagger, piglets roll and thrive.
The whole world gleams and wriggles, nothing’s still
In the dizzying effulgence that is spring.

But I lie dormant, thirsting for the call
That does not come. I hang in winter air,
Flung between rigid patience and despair,
Hoping to spring yet fearful of a fall.

Postscript to a Spring Sonnet  

Snowdrifts prove me wrong
To have dreamed a spring song,
Too early, careless sung,
Too late knowing.
Nestlings halt small lives
Under sleet knives,
Buds stain and fade
Hacked by snow-blade,
Blossom’s blighted brown,
Fry and tadpole drown.
And lambs freeze to death
Before they can draw breath,
Too early given tongue,
Too soon going,
Killed by the icy swing
Of unpredictable Spring
In two cruel days.

Whom Gaia breeds, she slays.

 

I’m sorry to strike a sad note at the end but I am rather down, having had to face the fact, that since Mr Powell of the Felpham Village Conservation Society put his article in Felpham in Focus there is nothing I can do to save poor Blake’s Cottage.

This entry was posted on April 19, 2017. 5 Comments

Two fishy stories

Two stories for the price of one today and the first really is about fish, rather pretty ones and rather a lot of them and I thought they were dead. Boo hoo.

To begin at the beginning. I’ve lived in this house and loved this garden for thirty years and the pond my son dug for me when we first moved in, has been one of the great joys of it. My grandchildren helped me to buy the fish for it and fed them diligently every time they came to visit, so they soon became rather fat fish and very contented. We had newts that swam happily among the fish and frogs that covered the surface of the pond with their spawn every spring and produced lots of tadpoles. It was a great pond and Larry nurtured it, cleaning it every other year and keeping it in good order. But for the last six sad years it has been horribly neglected, because he was too ill for gardening and died three years ago. I think of him every time I see the pond.

Unfortunately untended ponds deteriorate and this spring I had to face the fact that my one was in a bad way, full of mud, covered in a tangle of weed and slimy with algae. Now and then I caught a glimpse of an orange back struggling below the surface, but that was all. It was time to call for help.

And such good help it was. From a real pond expert. His name is Roy, like my old darling, and he originally came from Barbados, and he was so patient and thorough, it was a joy to stand out in the garden and just watch him at work. I told him I was afraid I’d killed all my livestock with neglect, but he assured me that if the fish and the newts were there he would find them and rescue them. Which he did. It took him hours and he seemed to be smiling all the time, as he removed one small shape after another from the mud and transferred it into the huge tank he’d set waiting for it. To my delight he found 30 fish, 10 newts, masses of tadpoles and 2 frogs, who scrambled out of the pond and into the garden before he could transfer them to the tank, but sneaked back in as soon as the pond was completely clean and filled with fresh water. When two of my great grandchildren arrived to visit the next day they spent most of their time transfixed by the sight of so many creatures in the water, which I have to admit to my shame, they had never seen before.

And the story doesn’t end there, because my splendid gardener rescued the pump and the waterfall too and restored them to their original glory, so now I spend far too much of my time out in the garden enjoying the sight of his restoration. It’s almost as if I’ve stepped back in time to the days when the two men I loved most in my life, were still lovingly with me.

The second story is nowhere near so pleasant, but it is certainly fishy, because it concerns poor old Blake’s Cottage. Ever since I read Mr Glynn Powell’s page in Felpham in Focus I have been trying to find out if the “donation” that the BCT were reported as having “secured” actually exists. Nobody I have contacted – local reporters, trustees of the Blake Society, the Felpham Parish Council, the local member of the triumvirate – seems to knows anything about it. And the cottage is still not being repaired.

The oddest thing about this story is that after I contacted the trustees of the Blake Society, which is chaired by Tim Heath, one of them sent an email to me to say that they’d had a committee meeting at which my request for information had come up. The trustees had been advised, presumably by their chairman, who is Tim Heath, that they were to tell me to approach the BCT and ask them for information, which is very odd indeed, because the chairman of the BCT is none other than Tim Heath, who is also the chairman of the Blake Society.  How peculiar is that? Downright fishy if you ask me!

 

 

 

This entry was posted on April 12, 2017. 3 Comments

Being shut out

I was a bit surprised when I read the April edition of the Felpham freebie magazine to find that the editor had given someone (unnamed so I can’t tell you who) from the Felpham Village Conservation Society a free platform from which to inform the village that everything with Blake’s Cottage is perfectly all right.  The FVCS has ‘created a working group to liaise with the owners,’ he wrote. And a little further down the page he reported the BCT ‘has now secured a donation that at last lets them appoint architects.’ It must be a very large donation, I thought, to cover the £50,000 fee that Tim Heath wrote about on the BCT website. And I wondered why the news hadn’t been noised abroad in the local papers.

 

So I asked around and discovered that the reporter at the Observer hadn’t heard about it. Then I wrote – twice – to Mr Johns but he didn’t answer, which was odd. So I tried a few of the Trustees of the Blake Society to see if they’d heard of it and they hadn’t. Curioser and curioser.

However being told that the BCT were expected a large donation is nothing new. On June 16th 2016 the Bognor Observer reported that the cottage ‘is to be fully restored after a £500,000 investment was pledged this week’ and Mr Johns was quoted as saying ‘the Trust hopes to have permission to start work on the roof within days.’  But nothing was done, as we all know, and we heard no more about the investment, which didn’t surprise me a bit. I have to say I don’t think we shall hear any more about the new ‘Donation’ that has been ‘secured’.either. Such an odd word to use. If you’ve been given a donation you usually say just that.

So the next thing I did was to ring up the editor of Felpham in Focus and ask if I could write an answer to the article. She said I could but was plainly nervous and stressed that she could only let me have 200 words and I wasn’t to say anything critical about the FVCS so I agreed that I would make it as anodyne as possible.

I wrote a list of events in chronological order so that the working group would at least know the history of what has been going on before they liaise with the owners. But she was horrified by it and said she couldn’t possibly published it. It is now obvious that I am not going to be allowed to tell anyone in the FVCS what has actually been going on. As you might remember I wrote to the Chairman of the Society and offered to talk to the Society so that could have a better idea of  what has been happening. But he turned me down flat. Now two doors have been shut in my face. It’s horribly discouraging.

However I let her have my anodyne 200 words. So I thought I’d let you see them too.

 

When Blake was put on trial for sedition the locals went to the court in Chichester and perjured themselves to get him off. It was a very brave act because it could have got them into serious trouble.

Now the locals, some of them descendants of Blake’s villagers, are concerned about the state of his cottage. To give them a chance to voice their concern I set up a petition on September 12th 2016. It said ‘William Blake’s cottage in Felpham was bought by funds from public subscriptions and a charitable donation of £400,000. It is seriously in need of repair having stood empty for three years but nothing is being done.  We the undersigned require immediate action to save this hugely significant building before it is too late and we lose the birthplace of ‘Jerusalem’ ‘

Over 500 Felpham people signed it. May I use this magazine to thank them publicly?

 

And may I say to any of them who are reading this, could you spread the word that I will enlighten any of the members of the FVCS  and anyone else in the village who would like to know what is really going on. I am still here and still available to them. All they have to do is answer this blog.

 

This entry was posted on April 7, 2017. 2 Comments

The latest news about Blake’s Cottage

I have been asked to give an update on what is happening to Blake’s cottage so I feel I must tell you what I know.

I wish I could say the news is good or encouraging but sadly, I can’t. No repairs of any kind have been done since the Blake Cottage Trust took over on September 21st 2015,which is now eighteen months away – except for putting in those steel supports to hold the roof up ‘pro tem’. The 500 strong petition that I gathered last year was presented to Tim Heath ion November as publicly as I could do it, so that he couldn’t say he hadn’t seen it, but I was wasting my time and that of all the concerned people who signed it, because he has totally ignored it.

So now what can any of us do? It’s obvious that the BCT hasn’t been able to raise the funds to repair our Blake’s cottage. Nothing has been said about it by any of them, but, if they’d collected any money at all, Tim Heath would have blazoned it all over the newspapers. And he hasn’t said a word. English Heritage haven’t got the money to help and no other organisation seems to be even remotely interested in it.

The Felpham Village Preservation Society,  which is the local organisation that should be at the centre of local agitation about it – their motto being Protect Preserve Promote – is silent. One reason for that is that very few of them know what is actually going on – or, to be more acccurate, what is not going on and why. I have offered to meet with them and tell them what I know but my offer has been sternly refused by their Chairman – even though there is a sub-group within the organisation that is specifically committed to ‘keeping a watching brief on Blake’s cottage.’ It is a total impasse and leaves me feeling demoralised and exhausted.

I fear that the BCT’s inablity to raise funds will mean that the cottage will continue to be neglected in the months ahead. And eventually it could fall into such a very poor state that it will be condemned as dangerous and pulled down. That would be a very sad end to the most prestigious and historic building in Felpham village. But is there anybody out there who is prepared to help it now?

This entry was posted on March 27, 2017. 7 Comments

A Sense of Proportion

WarchildrenThe events on Westminster Bridge and in the grounds of Parliament that we witnessed on TV on Wednesday were indisputably shocking. We felt deeply sorry for the people who had been injured and full of pity for those who were killed and for the anguish that their families would now be suffering, but we were also full of admiration for the way the police, the ambulance crews, and ordinary men and women in the street took action at once and rushed to help the injured. Yes, we were aware that all this had probably been caused by one man in a frenzy of hatred but we were also witnessing scores of other people at their very best, skilled, compassionate, immediately helpful, calm and kindly.

But – and it’s a very big but- it was not a terrorist attack, despite what the pundits and some of the reporters were saying. It was one frenzied 52 year old man determined to kill and injure.  A terrorist attack is a very different matter and a much more destructive one. A terrorist attack is the deliberate use of guns, high explosives and incendiary devices to destroy houses and kill hundreds and thousands of people in order to subdue them. It’s what we’re seeing in various places all over the world. And we’ve been seeing it for most of my lifetime. Although we didn’t call it a terrorist attack when I was a child, we called it Guernica when it happened in Spain, and the Blitz when it happened in London

I hope you’ll forgive me if I quote some figures at you but I think it will help you to see what I mean when I say that what we need now is a sense of proportion.

Between September 7th and November 14th 1940 London was bombed every night bar one by hundreds of German bombers.  On that first night more than 400 people were killed and 1,600 seriously injured. After that the raids didn’t come every single night but they went on hideously steadily until May 10th 1941. By that time 28,556 Londoners had been killed, 25,578 had been seriously injured and more than a third of the houses had either been destroyed or were uninhabitable. But – and this is another big but – there were no reporters striding about in the ruins enjoying the vicarious drama, nobody panicked, people were remarkably and admirably calm. They joined the ARP, the Auxiliary Fire Brigade, the WVS, and thousands of them came out in the streets every time there was a raid, to fight the fires, which were formidable, to gather up the bodies and bits of bodies, to dig their neighbours out of the wreckage and comfort them through the shock they were in, to serve tea from temporary canteens, to find temporary shelter for the homeless, and all of it while the bombs were falling all around them and they knew they could be killed at any moment – as many of them were. There were thousands of them. J.B.Priestly called them the Citizen’s Army explaining that ‘this war, whether those in authority like it  or no, has to be fought as a citizen’s war.’ The Lord Mayor declared that every single one of them should be given a medal. They had worked calmly through the longest terrorist attack in history.

So what is the point of my story? It is this. It isn’t reporters and pundits bigging up the event and talking wildly about it being a terrorist attack who are important. It’s time to  ignore them. It’s the ordinary and admirable men and woman who immediately came out to help who have earned our attention. It’s our quiet citizen army. Respec’!

This entry was posted on March 24, 2017. 5 Comments

How do you cope with a deformed character?

No, it’s not a typo. I don’t mean a reformed character. I mean a DEformed one. What I’m going to try to write about today are characters who have been emotionally and psychologically deformed by the appalling and often cruel way they’ve been treated as children. Child abuse is no longer taboo nowadays, so it is possible for the subject to be  discussed and that means we’re beginning to understand that abuse varies from family to family and affects abused children in different ways. I’m going to concentrate on one particular example, which I call the spoilt brat – hence the picture of Violet Elizabeth Bott.

I’ve been inspired by an excellent and revealing article in the Family section of yesterday’s Observer. Do get hold of a copy if you can. Written by Joanna Moorhead, it examines the work being done by two pioneering women, a psychologist called Alyson Corner and Angela Levin who is a journalist, who have set up a website http://www.myhorridparent.com  to help the victims of childhood abuse to survive. In it, they offer seven practical suggestions that might help teenagers and adults to come to terms with what has been done to them and move on. Stay calm: learn to accept your situation: don’t retaliate: look to your future with hope: believe in yourself: talk to someone you trust; look after yourself. All very sensible but no use at all to a small child stuck at home with an abuser. They have to accept their situations. There’s nothing else they can do. The can’t retaliate, their adversary is too big and too strong. They can’t look after themselves. Often they’re not allowed to talk to anyone about what’s being done to them. They are stuck.

So I’m sticking my oar in on their behalf.

I spent the first nineteen years of my life with a ‘spoilt brat’ physical abuser and, as there was nothing I could do except accept the situation I was in, and wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone about it, I tried to make sense of it by keeping a diary which I began when I was seven. Years later, when I read it as an adult I could see the patterns. So what had I learnt? Let me list it.

  1. Spoilt brat abusers  – like all abusers – are full of ugly negative emotions, like hatred, jealousy and a sense of grievance, which boil up into cruelty at hideously regular intervals. The psychologists are spot on about that.
  2. They belittle their victims and blame them for what is being done to them.
  3. They live in a fantasy world in which they are perfect and believe in it so thoroughly that it is easy for them to convince other people that it is true.
  4. Because they are so firmly locked into their fantasy, they have no ability to relate to or understand other people.
  5. They lie effortlessly because they have convinced themselves that what they say must be true because they are perfect.
  6. They are lazy. Other people exist to wait on them and look after them.
  7. If they don’t get their own way they throw temper tantrums or – even better – make themselves ill.

I have no idea how you can turn such a personality round so that they can face the sort of people they really are. But it is becoming increasingly clear that there are a lot of spoilt brats out there  and that some of them are not jokes like Violet Elizabeth but are men and women in powerful positions who are capable of doing an enormous amount of damage. Are there any psychologists out there who can advise us?

And for those of you who would like to read what I made of those diaries the link is amzn.to/1fMDLt4

 

 

This entry was posted on March 13, 2017. 5 Comments

A Box of Liquorice Allsorts at the V & A

I’m not sure whether this blog will be fun or serious. A bit of both probably. Like a box of liquorice allsorts. But to begin at the beginning.

I spent last Thursday morning in the hallowed halls of the Victoria and Albert Museum, not as a visitor, which would have been usual and familiar, but as a judge in a competition and not the sort of competition I usually get myself involved with. I’m well used to poetry competitions and find it relatively easy because I know exactly what I’m looking for when I start reading the entries but on this occasion I had been asked to judge book covers and illustrations and I was doing it without knowing what the criteria  were, which I have to admit was a trifle – shall we say – foolhardy.

But there I was, sitting in a small, well lit room, which is the office belonging to Martin Flynn, who not only runs and cares for the museum’s enormous library but also organises this annual competition. He is the sort of man anyone would like at once, gentle, learned, hospitable and with a trace of a lovely Dublin accent in his voice, and he had led me most carefully through the maze of back stairs and along a balcony overlooking a vast library full of quiet books and readers until we reached his office. It turned out to be a small cosy place, with a high window filling one wall and all three remaining walls ranged with ancient books. I’d have liked to have stayed there for days and just picked and read. But there was a small table set about with four chairs and stacked with the books whose covers and illustrations we had come to judge and it wasn’t long before the two other judges arrived and we began our work.

(Pause while I adjust my wig and hoist my red robe more comfortably over my shoulders!)

My two fellow judges were Lloyd Grossman, whom I recognised from the TV and Jane Scherbaum, the Head of Design at the V&A, who was both stylish and pretty with a very warm smile and made me feel almost at once that I was in good hands. As I was.

At first I simply listened hard to what the other two were saying. It quickly became obvious to me that my opinion of covers and what they were for didn’t fit this occasion at all. I’d always seen them as a sales adjunct to the book and judged them accordingly. These two were looking at them as works of art, which of course they were, and although the nature of the book came into their consideration, it was the quality of the art which was most important. So we progressed, each of us saying what we had liked about our particular favourite choice and listening to what the others had to say. I was quite gratified by how smoothly it all went.

We chose a delightful, eye-catching children’s book cover about a crocodile, which had been my second choice, so I was already halfway to liking it: a cartoon from the Daily Telegraph which showed Donald Trump as a witty and pointed version of Hokusai’s wave: and a set of reprints of Virginia Woolf’s novels, which I had rejected out of hand when I first saw them because there was no point of reference between the cover and the novel. But as Jane pointed out in her gentle way, the design was superb, unusual, unexpected and eye-catching.

So the deed was done and very satisfactorily. But then, I’ve always enjoyed liquorice allsorts.

This entry was posted on February 28, 2017. 2 Comments