Thursday, 25 June 2015

Things are looking up…
(or ‘That’s Entertainment’…)

Once, in a particularly insalubrious pub, an old man with a face like a wet leather satchel gripped my forearm, locked his milky blue eyes on mine, and enunciated very precisely: “Never forget to look up, son. Never forget to see what’s around you.” The utter drunken seriousness with which he imparted these pearls of wisdom gave me pause. I remember staring blankly at velveteen wallpaper and a middle-aged barmaid with a wide smile and a deep cleavage, and thinking that the oracle of the Nag’s Head had probably had enough votive lager. At the time, it sounded trite. [Now] it makes more sense than ever. I feel like I’ve rediscovered my own country, found a series of secret rooms in a house I’ve lived in for my entire life. The reality is that England has some of the most inspiring countryside and driving in Europe, if not the world. We have every type of road, and far too much weather. We have excitingly stupid wildlife, and views that make your jaw hit the floor while your brain struggles. But, best of all, we have the freedom to enjoy them, as long as we make the effort…. Put simply, we should heed the advice of small, drunk old men in pubs, and remember to appreciate what we’ve got on our doorstep. We should look up, and look around. And get out there and do it.
– Tom Ford: Top Gear magazine

You meet some funny (meaning ‘strange’; and sometimes ‘unusual’) creatures when out on walks – and not just in Tysoe, either. Earlier in the week, on this “slow-time Monday” – but not for the first time – I came across a group of Ents having what my dad would call a ‘confab’ (more properly, of course, an ‘Entmoot’).

The few, sparsely scattered, other folk following the park walk trails at Hanbury Hall appeared totally oblivious – were in too much of a rush to complete the course, their goal; or, even in their leisure, just weren’t interested in the “unhasty” nature of the discussion. And, to be honest, I would have passed them by, too – intently admiring the restoration of George London’s early eighteenth-century landscape; and listening to the busy birdlife and the sheep’s echolalia – were it not for the assembled young cattle, all singularly rapt in ruminative attention. There was obviously wisdom to be imparted, and to be absorbed.

If I had not “looked up” – habitually concentrating on avoiding bard-traps in the ridge-and-furrow, and putting my already-soiled boots once more unto the the copious amounts of sheep and cattle droppings – I would not have spotted the Ents’ wise and friendly faces above me: looking down (but not in the patronizing way that implies), welcoming all who would stop and tarry a while, as is their wont. We should therefore be grateful to “the Elves ‘curing the Ents of their dumbness’ [and] that it was a great gift that could not be forgotten”: for, if there are to remain guardians of this fragile planet, it is to them we should look and listen, and take great heed.

After mutual introductions had been made – at length; and in a relaxed-but-formal fashion very much to my liking (“Decided? No, we’ve only just finished saying good morning…”) – and after being complimented on dressing appropriately in raindrop-repellent ’roo bush-hat and showerproof fleece (there was a threatening Edward Seago sky: which would soon deliver on its dark promises) – the tallest of the Ents asked me if I had yet visited the last of their nearby wards: the black poplars, on the edge of the old deer park. I responded that I had; and that I had wondered – admiring them, their solitude and fortitude – what supernatural presence had protected these unfamiliar beings – “the most endangered native timber tree in Britain” – from prevailing destruction. Now I knew. And was thankful.

These trees, although commonly seen during the middle ages, found it difficult to adapt to modern agricultural and woodland management methods. Today they are rare so we hope to plant more using cutting from these trees.
– National Trust: Hanbury Hall park walks

As is their modest way, the Ents – as “Shepherds of the Trees” – regretted that their efforts had not been more successful, more numerous; but were pleased that – albeit almost too tardily – we humans (at least some of us) had finally begun to appreciate what lay around us; how such life – “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower… that blasts the roots of trees” – was precious beyond jewels, beyond anything man-manufactured. “Would that the trees might speak on behalf of all things that have roots, and punish those that wrong them!”

Eventually, I had to leave them to their concerned contemplations, and continue on my way. Their leader bowed from his great height, and held me gently by the hand – his bark much gentler, less craggy, than its sight would imply – and thanked me for my time. I replied that it was freely given; that I was grateful for their involvement; and that I would soon – by their measure – return. It was time well-spent, I said; and most, most valuable.

Noticing, as I moved on, that they were not marked on the provided map, scrumpled into my jeans pocket (and now lying before me, as I write), I wondered where I would next encounter them. I was sure that, whatever their ubiety, the poplars would be well within their sight; and that, if necessary, they would find me.

Passing through the burgeoning woodlands, after skirting Goodwins Hill Coppice; and before ascending the grassy slope to St Mary the Virgin Church – beautifully situated, with gorgeous panoramas (over the Vale of Evesham, back towards the Cotswolds), and backed by the dense Church Coppice – the conversation stayed with me: and I viewed all the trees I encountered (the older ones often acting as shade and shelter to the estate sheep and their now well-grown lambs) with fresh vision. I wondered, though, if the Ents would approve of the beautiful decorative carpentry within: much of it – including a pair of eye-feasting, neck-breaking, barrel-vaulted chapel roofs – originating from the Vernon family’s (the founders and then residents of Hanbury Hall) major restoration of 1840. The land is now well-managed and -loved; but, all those years ago, were the originating woods replanted to replace those toppled in the name of creed and craft…?

It was only upon leaving the church that the foreshadowed rain finally fell. As I reached the bottom of the hill, just before I reached the avenue of fortunate oak trees (almost sold for timber, in the early 1960s, by Doris Vernon, the widow of Sir George Vernon, “to raise some extra funds”; but saved by the National Trust on “a surprise but well timed visit”), I walked into a grey wall of wetness. An unfortunate couple in lighter clothing had to be rescued by the farmer, who had been herding the sheep from field to field – bouncing the poor, drenched souls back to the comfort and respite of Hanbury’s servants’ hall tea-room, in his covered John Deere Gator (a vehicle I am still trying to persuade my dear Lady Bard to buy me for my birthday…!).

Was it purely coincidence that the trees saved me, with such perfect timing – like a lamb to the water… – from being soaked…?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

First-rate Ford…

In far too many reviews of Love’s Sacrifice, to my mind, the crux of the critics’ argument is that much-vaunted trope, that John Ford’s play is “second-rate Shakespeare” – but that, I think, is to miss the point completely (unlike a trio of the cast: who end up rather vigorously blood-stained…). Maybe people do purchase Škodas, regretting the fact that they have bought a ‘second-rate Volkswagen’ (although, when they drive it, they will not be disappointed; nor with its longevity); or flick through paperback books, wondering if the words would have jumped more livelier from the page if they had not succumbed to the cost-effectiveness of a ‘second-rate hardback’ (or even Kindle)? To compare Ford to Shakespeare (or Shelby (sorry)), though, is meaningless – and trite – a simple – nay simplistic – hook from which to hang your well-creased critical cloth.

Okay, I admit, it is difficult to attend a play at the Swan without bringing Big Bill to mind: but surely, “the play’s the thing”, and should be judged on its own merits? As Martin White – who directed a crucial student production of this “lost masterpiece” in 1997 at the University of Bristol – comments in the programme notes:

The RSC’s Swan Theatre was opened in 1986 with the aim of reviving plays from 1570 to 1750, and many of the productions staged there have offered audiences the chance to see some forgotten plays and so expand the repertoire of early modern plays…. In 1604 the playwright John Marston wrote ‘The life of these things consists in action’.

And, in his astute, erudite, thorough and entertaining introduction, editor AT Moore concludes that…

Long dismissed as a poor mish-mash of Jacobean tragic conventions, Love’s Sacrifice is a challenging, ingenious drama which touches on – but does not wholly articulate – perceptions of women as the bearers of authentic and defensible thoughts and feelings. The uncertainty raised by these perceptions haunts the play, contributing much to its uneasy mixture of baroque lyricism, mannerist doubt and even absurdity…. Ford has dared to put on stage what he imagined, however awkward or provocative that may prove to be…. Love’s Sacrifice manages to be both ethereal and worldly about romantic passion, and to express, in the contradictory fabric of its language, action and dramatic form, a capacious vision of love.

…and I agree. I know that many critiques, nowadays, rely majorly on comparison and derivation: but that’s not really my way. Just to say: yes, there are echoes, for example, of Othello – but should we say that about every play that features a jealous husband? – as well as Hamlet – but do we roll that out every time our melancholy hero spirals into madness and dies? – but Ford is a much, much better writer and dramatist than that (as Moore intimates); and the scattered plot references are no mere mimicry: they are developed, used sparingly, commented upon, sometimes twisted, and used as devices in themselves – all facets that its original seventeenth-century audience would have appreciated, understood, acknowledged… and then patted themselves on the back for recognizing and being so fantastically intelligent! Martin White explains that Ford “expects his audience to ‘read’ his plays with that awareness”. But this doesn’t mean that modern patrons won’t ‘get the joke’ – even though current repertory is so different – or, to be honest, that it matters if they don’t. They will see the play through modern eyes; through a modern performance that shows them, gives them, what they need. And this one does it in spades….

For a thoroughly period production, it is a brave step – but one that works incredibly well – to feature such contemporary, almost Bartókian, chamber-music – by Alexander Balanescu – a string quartet of stunning passion, with supplemental, atmospheric percussion (and uncredited voices). This was in no way ‘incidental’, but key to driving the action on – and, if I did have any sort of comparison in mind, it would be some of the better episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

The set design by Anna Fleischle – with ingenious echoing, diminishing arches and mood-ramping back-projection – partnered with Lee Curran’s perceptive lighting – including a rather inventive chess motif (which, sadly, may not have been entirely visible to those not in the gallery) – showed that the creative team (including director Matthew Dunster, making his RSC debut) had taken the play at its merits, and enthusiastically given their all.

The company (many of whom can still be seen in the rip-roaring The Jew of Malta – reviews here and here), too, demonstrated their intensity, their belief, their immersion, at every opportunity. In fact, it would be hard to criticize any of them: but special mention must go to Matthew Needham’s ardent Duke of Pavy – “I am Caraffa, he, that wretched man” – Jonathan McGuinness as slimy, conniving “arch-arch-devil” D’Avolos; Andy Apollo as “overworked gigolo” Ferentes – “Chastity? I am an eunuch if I think there be any such thing” – and, of course, Matthew Kelly as “old antic” Mauruccio, whose redemption of sorts – “Adieu to all, for lords and ladies see My woeful plight, and squires of low degree” – feels deserved, despite his “musty theatricality”.

I would normally, therefore, recommend that you grasp the chance to see this production with both hands: but, “Pity o’ my wisdom”, tonight is its last performance. Stupidly, I had taken its earlier criticism at face-value; and only a spur-of-the-moment decision prompted us to go. Having read the text, though (especially in Moore’s wonderful edition), I had been utterly drawn in; my expectancy utterly rewarded – and should have known better, and to trust my own judgment. You won’t find me making that mistake again!

No age hath heard, nor chronicle can say,
That ever here befell a sadder day.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Composed upon Stannals Bridge, June 23, 2015…

I have rested on your bench so many times:
     faced the blind sun;
          dreamt of poor rhymes;
     but never really thanked you,
          or those you left behind –
who really miss you still – for being quite so kind

as to leave this limping poet a handy place to sit,
     when halfway round his walk,
          to rest a bit… –
     So thank you, Dan Diamonds:
          a shining soul so worthy of such name;
I am glad for your memory; and happy that you came.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Woke up this mornin’…

The Adrian Mitchell blues (Christmas 2008)

I use rock and jazz and blues rhythms because I love that music.
I hope my poetry has a relationship with good-time rock’n roll.
Adrian Mitchell (Shadow Poet Laureate; 1932-2008)

Woke up this mornin’
Got a space within my bed
Woke up this mornin’
Got a face that’s full o’ dread
Woke up this mornin’
Got a bass within my head
Playin’ the Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues


Thumpin’ out the Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues


Trumpin’ out the Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues

Woke up one mornin’
And found that you were dead
Woke up one mornin’
And found a world of lead
Woke up one mornin’
And found all you had read
Writin’ the Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues


Poundin’ out the Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues


Soundin’ out the Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues

But now my head is better
Read so much of what you wrote
Nearly every single letter
Heard the words sing from your throat

I’ll always be your debtor
You will always get my vote
The perfect antidote
Our greatest ever… pote

Floatin’ out the Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues

Floatin’ out
     the Adrian Mitchell
               in all
                    their laureate hues
The Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues
The Adrian Mitchell blues

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Horde of the Dings: a Highway Code for pedestrians…?

The usual rights and privileges of citizenship do not apply here… a great wall surrounds this place, and most of what goes on within the wall is unknown to those outside it. What follows is a message from over the wall.

Last year, I mugged up intensively on the Highway Code – there’s an app for it, as well, you know… – as part of taking an advanced driving course; and, although pedestrians do feature in it (although I doubt any have read it who have not also learned to drive), I sometimes – as a partially deaf human-being with a stick: who seems to find himself a moving obstacle (an impediment; a stumbling-block; a remora), as far as many apparently abled-bodied people are concerned (especially in busy places, such as supermarkets) – wish there were similar codified guidance (requiring a thorough, probing examination, before you’re allowed out in public without having to wear a bright-flashing light on your head – which is then reinstituted, when you’ve committed several offences, and gained too many points on your ‘walking licence’…) for those of an ambulatory nature.

Sorry: that was a very long sentence – packed with clauses and sub-clauses (and parentheses) – so feel free to go and put the kettle on (or fire up your De’Longhi coffee machine, if you’re that way inclined…) whilst you re-read it!

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let me begin.

One of the key recommendations in the pedestrian-related bit of the existing Highway Code states that you should “Always show due care and consideration for others…” – and it’s this that I wish to expand on.

“You say the ring is dangerous, far more dangerous than I guess. In what way?”
     “In many ways,” answered the wizard. “It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it. It would possess him.”
– JRR Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Somehow, instead of having to wear magical jewellery on my hand, all I need to do to become invisible to other pedestrians is have my walking stick in my hand, and be doing my habitual impersonation of a slightly inebriated penguin. Suddenly, people – who, in all likelihood, have just reflexively given way to their peers – cannot see me, and (therefore?) do not move aside.

The sight of damage, of something gone wrong, induces an excited disturbance in such onlookers. Sometimes there is a turning away, a fear and a hostility, a sometimes spoken wish that such sights should be hidden from public view; there is a fear of catching the damage….

In fact, I have to agree with my eighty-odd-year-old mum – who uses a crutch – and say that it’s difficult not to become convinced that people are deliberately blocking your path: as they avoid eye-contact at all costs, and just plough on in your direction. How a disabled person who walks painfully (and obviously, to others, painfully slowly…) is swiftly meant to manoeuvre out of the way – or ‘Disapparate’ (although the only “distinctive cracking or popping sound” is likely to be my spine or splintering walking stick) – is beyond me; but it seems to be part of the unwritten constitution of society (that I, as an enfeebled outlier, have not been instructed in): especially as embodied in the routine institutional prejudice doled out to those who are ‘different’ (whether through gender, race, class, or capacity).

After my recent disability hate crime run-in (‘limp-in’?) – which is now under official Police investigation: so I will (and can) not say much more – perhaps, you may think, I have become a tad paranoid. But I actually started drafting this post a year or so ago: and I have found little, in the intervening time, that does anything but confirm my suspicions.

I consider ‘Stratford-upon-Heaven’ my home town: but, when it is busy, and filled with people soaking up the sun (I will not blame the tourists: all are equally liable, it seems…), it is more akin to Stratford-upon-Hell; and a part of me starts to meretriciously envy those in mobility scooters who appear to see no harm (revenge, perhaps?) in scything their way up Bridge Street, with metaphorical blades attached, Boudica-style, to the hubs of their wheels. How I wish I were Moses, able to part the throng for an easy passage. But it is not to be.

But why is it so? Is it really “prejudice”; discrimination; a lack of tolerance? It would seem – sadly – that it is: that disability, invisibility, mobility, incivility and hostility all combine (egged on by the Government’s élitist ‘scrounger’ propaganda and deep-seated, well-fuelled hate) to form an obstacle course, in turn, for those who wend their way through life either on a divergent, less-taken path; or are themselves out of the ordinary, anomalous: ripe, tasty cheeses amid the insipid crumbling chalk of society.

But, then, even amongst what you might assume is the solidarity of the ‘differently abled’, there are stratas of distinction and dispute – and the following tale of abuse echoes my own frequent, repetitive experiences (not that I would claim to “look good” or “be under the age of 45” – not quite…):

I am shocked and disappointed that people have shouted at me for parking in a disabled bay when I have a valid badge, walk with a stick, stopping frequently because of pain, or I’m in my wheelchair. So why would people have something to say you may ask? Because I make the effort to look good! Yes, that’s correct, you can’t look half decent, be under the age of 45 and be disabled, apparently! It seems that without me even being out of the car people have made an assumption and feel they have the right to voice their opinion to me in whatever way they feel. Astonishing! Apparently I don’t really look (face wise) disabled!
– S Howell: Disabled Motoring UK (May 2015)

When you are not safe amongst your own kind, then the only lesson I feel I can learn from all this (I’m a very slow study (as well as walker)), and the less-than-pitiful regard that my infirmity provokes (rather than the sympathy – and empathy – I had gullibly, initially expected), is that everyone (else) feels themselves superior to – and more deserving than – those they should know themselves to be – in reality – merely equal to; that there are both real and perceived hierarchies in every aspect of our lives. As a cripple, I am the lowest of the low; and should know my place. I contribute nothing; but take everything. I deserve no better.

The targeting of disabled people has happened while society has looked the other way. Disability hate crime was the invisible crime that people looked straight through because they could not recognise it for what it was. Now it is coming into focus, and we can ignore it no longer.
     Because the crime is, at the same time, both ancient and modern, it has been difficult for us to accept that it exists. Disabled people have been maliciously stereotyped for centuries. This has meant that they have never been accepted as equal citizens even when such equality is enshrined in law. So when they are attacked, they are seen, on some level, as ‘fair game’ or as ‘asking for it’ – and many disabled people, tragically, even internalise those feelings.
     Despite all the best intentions of the disability rights movement, disabled citizens are mostly not seen as ordinary people wanting to live ordinary lives.

What is therefore required is not “a Highway Code for pedestrians” as I originally posited: but just plain, common or garden civility and mutual respect – that “due care and consideration for others…” – and everywhere… not just on our streets.

However (he said, cynically), altruism and empathy – especially in this arena – have been so browbeaten out of us, that Tamworths will sprout feathers before this happens. Life is nasty, brutish and short: and, it seems, so are many of those living it. More pity them. I am not willing to be subsumed by such passive, malevolent tosh, though: and so, tomorrow, walking wobbly, and leaning on a big stick, I will venture out into the world again: forearmed… and three-legged…. Wizard!

You cannot pass…. I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.

Monday, 8 June 2015

It’s just a restless feeling…

Call me Ishmael. Or, more appositely, Ahab, if you will: hunting the legendary – perhaps mythical – White Whale of a good night’s good sleep. Down this Main Street a man must go

…in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.

As “a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man”, at four o’clock on the first Sunday in June, as the day and the light break, what I remember most is the ubiquity of blackbirds – their insistent clucking and proud, tuneful whistling: attempting to dominate the dawn chorus with their conversations – gingerly skipping a couple of further feet away from me, as I prowl by. But I am more of a nuisance than a threat; and am mostly ignored. Not to be outdone, within reach, a robin – and, somewhere distant, a wren: remarkably powerful for its diminutiveness – puts up a very good sally of intense melodiousness as counterpoint. A great tit, in the tree by the church gate, repeats its two-tone call – a squeaky pivot seesawing in the breeze – as it hops from branch to branch, perch to perch: perhaps to hide, or gain a better vantage? Rooks chatter and natter constantly – occasionally one peeling off from the cohort; and flapping lazily and lonely towards the Edge Hills. Collared doves and wood-pigeons coo insistently; accompanied by the paranoiac clapping and flapping of wings as I near their roosts. Goldfinches twinkle both audibly and visibly in the freshening light; and their cousin chaffinches rapidly rehearse their sweet run-ups. The swifts are too busy breakfasting, and too high – too spaced out – to yet begin their compulsive screaming arguments: reserved for the evening gatherings where a pecking order of sorts is debated; but seemingly never resolved. And, finally, a running obbligato of chirps and cheeps emerges, as Tysoe’s multitudinous dunnocks and sparrows accompany me: scurrying in and out of hedges, on foot and on wing, to escape my possibly predatory gaze.

The only non-avine note – the only unreliable inflection, to my ears – is the steadfast squeak, the irregular measure, of my heavy leather boots; that is, until I stop and sit in the churchyard, and realize that there is an insistent mother-and-child bleating, too: echoing from the sheep below Old Lodge Hill. Before I can assimilate it – incorporate it into my sunrise soundscape – the clock notes the half-hour above my head. For one seductive second, there is silence: seemingly suppressing the birds’ refrain. A moment crystallized.

The sun won’t get out of bed for another eighteen minutes – officially: our hills delay its advent. However, it has been bright enough to walk easily for a while. And the Moon got to its feet four hours ago – it will set just after ten, this particular morning – a large waning gibbous, glowing, deflating, again-hoary balloon: currently almost due south, in Capricorn. How long – when it is 231,219 miles away – would it take to fly me to it, I wonder. (Being of a certain age, high amongst my heroes are Armstrong and Aldrin – but not forgetting the brave Collins, sitting alone in his tin can. So I stare: reliving them, unbelieving, setting boot into chalky, crunchy regolith; marking eternity. Were they aware of the miracle they were making? Is my globe still in my parents’ attic, marked with the Apollo 11 landing-site; alongside my grandad’s binoculars?)

The drama’s done. Why then here does any one step forth?”
– Herman Melville: Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

The clock marks the three-quarter-hour above my head. My quarry is nowhere in sight; but, as I return home, I know my quest will conclude with contentment.

There is an intimation of frost tarnishing the parked cars, glistening in the gleaming air; clarifying my thoughts, clearing my head. My warm breath forms fleeting wafts of fog. It is summer, though; there are no other clouds; and, like me, the rime should not be here. Its Whiteness – like the down quilt I should be wrapped in, instead of my thick, padded, blue jacket – is as vivid as the Whale’s; and just as confounding. But nothing is amiss. All is fair and faultless. All is as it should be in Tysoe… at this time… of this special day.

Sunday morning
Praise the dawning
It’s just a restless feeling
By my side

Early dawning
Sunday morning
It’s just the wasted years
So close behind

Watch out the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you
Who will call
It’s nothing at all

Sunday morning
And I’m falling
I’ve got a feeling
I don’t want to know

Early dawning
Sunday morning
It’s all the streets you’ve crossed
Not so long ago

Watch out the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you
Who will call
It’s nothing at all

Sunday morning…
– The Velvet Underground: Sunday Morning

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Dull would he be of soul…

One of the most wonderful aspects of living in ‘The Three Tysoes’ is the amount of history – even if you excised my own sweet Will from the landscape – we are immersed in and surrounded by: and this is epitomized, I believe, by the National Trust, whose local range of properties provides me with ongoing inspiration; whose large swathes of gardens and parkland help keep me mobile; and whose diverse eateries keep me suitably sustained.

Over the last couple of weeks or so, my health has been good enough (and the weather kind enough) for me to do a mini-tour of some of my favourites – including our neighbour, Upton House and Gardens (top photograph), with its remarkable, evolving vistas; my habitual wonder-as-I-wander spot, Charlecote Park (at the bottom); the beauteous Baddesley Clinton (above – perfect for just sitting, reading, and thinking); Hidcote (the greatest garden I know – with such wonderful rooms and blooms, below – which is why I return so frequently); and Packwood House (next photograph): where it is easy to escape from the throng gathering for the Sermon on the Mount, and immerse yourself in the typical, Warwickshire landscape of rolling meadows, overflowing, at this time of year, with cow parsley, buttercups, and almost-hidden delights of tiny pale blues and purples ensconced deep within the myriad grasses.

It would be easy to take such places for granted, to treat them as the sole purview of the tourists who form the seemingly endless snaking backbone of our economy – but, as I have said several times over the last month, we are “so very fortunate” to have such settings to saunter through at our own leisure; at our own convenience; and so near at hand (and foot).

There are not many moments quite as thrilling as that when you realize you are the only soul in a garden such as Hidcote on a rainy day, or in Charlecote’s deer park in the snow: imagining that, however fleetingly, this is yours, and only yours; that this is your domain; your backyard (and not just in it…). Living in close proximity, we have that luxury: that we can indulge ourselves when others may find such places too remote or unseasonable; seeing each place anew again and again – and not just for their innate, crafted beauty; or their extensive historical context; but for the rich, relevant relaxation and deserved, diversionary depth they can bring to our restive lives.

Monday, 1 June 2015

If we had mice, they’d never stop smiling…

After dropping my tiny migraine meds for the umpteenth time this week

In my palm I have some pills:
But not the kind that give you thrills;
These ones should stop my hands from quaking,
But I cannot pop them without shaking.

I may catch one, I may catch two;
But some will fly to join the few
Rolled under chair and under table.
Because my grasp is so unstable

I cannot take the answers to my ills
Without the probability of spills.
The irony is not beyond me:
Although my failure does despond me.

But until they make my tablets like Maltesers
I shall have to learn to medicate with giant tweezers.