Mere English

'You may very well think that...'

I have always loved Queen Elizabeth’s description of herself as ‘mere English’. Never was a character less mere! Since last week’s invitation to thumbnail a portrait from two names failed to bring any volunteer out of the shadows, or put down his/her pint for long enough, I have decided to reverse the process. If this poem evokes a person (and it did describe one, originally) why not give him/her a name? If not, I hope you just enjoy this very un-Elizabethan character, who could well find a place in Trollope or Austen, or Henry James, but would be un-noticed by George Eliot!

Mere English                                    You want to watch those oars

You would not care for Africa, you say;
the narrowness of mind that travel brings…
No persuasion had you venture forth
from Dorset and her soft enclosing hills.

‘Why precipitate adventure when instead
monotony so benignly passes time?
Why think, when thought pricks restlessness
or worse, provokes an impulse to the day?’

The winds of soft-stirred longing which arose             No doubt the vulgar has its place
were raiment of an English tempered muse.
Metered music and the symmetry of stone…
The dim glimmer of a chancel, summoning…

Were all the pulse allowed the dying risk of age.

No oceans all engraved with serpent coils…
Terror incognita, (I know it well…)
The map but not the diction: Heavens, names and foreign foods!
the spaces better blank to seed with certain platitudes.

Setting out My Blog-Stall

Come by..Come by

Setting out a Blog-Stall… 

I have now taken on board the received wisdom that suggests that blogging, like writing must FOCUS. Of all the wares we might display we must choose the brightest shiniest, most needed. If that was not enough, we should put a box of free offers where the passer by cannot but trip over it, and human nature, being acquisitive, will undoubtedly buy one to get one free.

BUT, and this is important, one must stay well hidden beneath the potatoes, or behind the fly screen, emerging or raising a reluctant head to admit we might be willing to sell but only ‘ if you’re really really sure?’

I would challenge any passer by (and they are few and far between) what, reading my latest attempt to focus— which is my bright and shiny new tag line— I might be willing or able to offer? What d’ya reckon philosophy is worth? Poetry is a dime-a-dozen, and synchronicity depends upon…well… unforeseen forces. Unmistakeable when it happens but it happens unpredictably. I can’t count on it to oblige once a week.

The ‘World of Ideas’ is an AliBaba cave of possibilities but hardly focussed! ( But because I cannot resist a challenge I have started with a real big one…the truth and relevance of the Mayan Long Count Calendar…see Paul Drewfs incredible book reviewed here:)

When I write a novel (and I have…three…none published) the greatest comfort is when the characters take matters into their own hands. They tell me, with pursed lips and schoolmarm glaring, what they would say and to whom. They take it into their heads to buy a puppy I never expected to clean up after; they meet eccentrics who editors say are ‘not plausible’, and have themselves a time, at my expense.

As I am constitutionally incapable of telling anybody how to live their lives, why would I start with my characters? They are the most interesting people I know. Now I have the germ of an idea…

On Fridays…yes since this is a Friday and blogs, I gather, must be as regular as you-know-what… I will introduce some of them. They are much more fun than I am. Feel free to argue with them or invite them for a walk or a night on the town. I’ll just listen. Once a reader wrote to tell me (long after finishing a book) that he missed Vernon terribly…felt bereft without his best friend…no-one to drink with. That was a high point

Maybe I don’t need a publisher. Are you sitting comfortably? Next week I’ll begin…

Too high to reach?

Sailing Folly Cottage.

Sailing Folly Cottage

Boat, below the saddle of hill, rides the sway-back hummock grass
Moored against the end of the lane; tilts a chin to the drifting cloud,
Blows smoke kisses to the wind and rain; hails all elements as friends
None entering or passing by need wipe off feet or hands.

The door in permanent spasm can neither close nor stay ajar.
Bless-me sun has a needle stuck on a gap-tooth grin of spring
Shadows that have shed their shoes pull at bramble and wild colt,
Bulging tool-shed tethered with chain on the off-chance it might bolt.

Two gumboots, silent gaffers, relax on the broken step
Ignored by planters, iron pots, overflowing matted grass…
Closing their sun-blinded eyes; chew at smothered bulb…
The old boat rocks at anchor strain, its song a creaking hull.

Kneaded by fingers of babbling babes; kicked by bruising boys,
Stage for smashing arguments; quiet nights of mutual bliss…
Wringing out cold compress to bleeding black-eyed divorce;
Serene it coasts vicissitude; gives two masts to local reproach.


Beyond the marina of teak-oil stone; exiled by the well-heeled wharf,
The flotilla of circling circumspect homes; each with a view of the green,
Sailing across the well clipped grass where shaggy goats were tethered…
The Common much less common since corduroy Colonels moved in.

Beyond the watch at double door the Labrador flicks a frown
To passing ladders, green eyed cat; the Thatcher with next season’s quote,
Pop-in friend with lists and flowers…
The trial of the fancy-dress demand of the children’s annual fete…


A narrow jetty stretches into the hill to the quarantined boat, patently ill;
Moored out of sight; buckled by hedge, swift sluicing course…
Peeling skin in scrofulous flakes onto cracked and rising flags,
Rusting pails and harness for the broken-winded horse.

An isolated case of trust in a simple right to decline
In company with the Captain who is eighty (if a day)
She’s the tiller on her children’s lives, the tea-caddy of their coin;
She wears a waxed all-weather cape below a sharp white crown…

She doesn’t stop to give a damn, nor does Sparky her clown.

Horse and Boy- The Derby and Camelot.

Was there ever a more appropriate name for the winner of this particular season’s Derby, but Camelot? Was there ever a boy more in tune with his mount? From the moment he was lifted to the saddle Joseph O’Brien quietly took command of the race before it had begun, directing Camelot to the far rails, away from distractions, like any keyed up athlete, needing calm concentration. Watching his controlled canter to the start, one knew this was a master at work, deeply sensitive to the moment, and the needs of his superlative horse. It reduced me to tears.

The romance of horse-racing lies in many things, the poetic pictures of Degas, the traditions of the colours, and the co-ordination of stable boys, grooms, trainers and jockeys, but ultimately it is the celebration of the horse. The superlative aristocracy and beauty of the animal, that challenges all our human sense of superiority, by something aesthetic, intelligent, alive and peerless is what holds mankind in thrall, and so it should. No greater tribute to the Queen’s greatest love will be given for all the razzmatazz. That race will live with me forever, and that boy’s gentle modesty.

Photo reproduced under Creative Commons Licence

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