Artist

Alexander Averin

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Days

Dear Diary,

Sorry I have been absent for so long. I blame the season, is it safe to come out now?

To wish you all a Very Happy and Peaceful New Year, here are just a few pictures of the hoary frost that has hung around all day. Last night's dark fog turned into bright beauty and it stayed with is all the day long. We took the dogs for a walk up in the forestry.


The walk begins.



This is 'our river' further downstream and the rest are views from a 'high spot'.



I'll leave you with a poem by the late John O'Donohue whose words are still missed.


The Inner History of a Day


No one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.


John O'Donohue

1954-2008


Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Cait

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Birches and a river view




Dear Diary,


I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow
to keep an appointment with a beech-tree,
or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.

Henry David Thoreau, 1817 - 1862




Just pictures and a poem today.

The poem is by the great American poet Robert Frost and was introduced to me by Mountainear in a comment on my last posting. Thank you Mountainear; I love this poem.

The first picture is a photo of our river taken by M.



Birches


When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.


Robert Frost



Though a tree grows so high, the falling leaves return to the root.
Malay proverb




Do not be afraid to go out on a limb ... That's where the fruit is.
- Anonymous





Bye for now,

Cait.









Sunday, 14 December 2008

Poetry on ice

Dear Diary,





The most important tribute any human being can pay to a poem or a piece of prose he or she really loves is to learn it by heart. Not by brain, by heart; the expression is vital.

George Steiner.


I am writing this with my dear cat Molly laying on my lap and I haven’t the heart to push her off so please accept my apologies if there are typing errors.

I just love Sundays, it is truly my favourite day of the week, especially in Winter when there are fewer folk around; no tourists, speeding motorcyclists, lorries and the like. Today I am blessed with another frosty, sunny day which draws me outside to see what treasures are awaiting me.

But Sundays have their own little routines. I fear I am getting Set in My Ways and there is No Hope. I have enjoyed a long lie-in with Edgar Sawtelle but this book is quite harrowing and I am getting in a bit of a state worrying about the outcome (you have to read it).



I breakfast on boiled eggs and listen to the tail end of The Archers (I am an addict) and then I just have to hear my favourite Desert Island Discs as I do a few indoor chores; today it is someone called Michael Healy, a film director. I am not well up on film directors but I gather he directed The Deerhunter. I quite like some of his music choices. He mentions he started school far too early and I am surprised when he says he was six years old! Then I realise he meant he was sent away to boarding school at the age of six and so grew up not having an idea of what family life was like and didn’t have a ’normal’ relationship with his mother and could never be a proper father himself. How sad is that? I had no idea of a normal family either so can empathise but my reason is an entirely different one.

Finally, chores over, I can layer up, gather the dogs and make my way out to the field. And as predicted, there is treasure indeed. As I enter the field gate with the dogs I look up in the sky, there are aeroplane trails in the sky and they are making a big cross sign - not a religious cross shape which might be appropriate for a Sabbath, but rather a huge kiss shape and it makes me smile.

The dogs and I have a good wander, well they mostly run and I mostly wander - there is ice underfoot, all the boggy parts and what we call the pond are still near-frozen though the brilliant Sun is doing her best to melt them. I come across a biggish puddle of ice and again I curse myself for forgetting to bring my camera because the shapes in the ice puddle are amazing. They resembles a lattice of highways criss-crossing each other, forming diamond shapes and other geometric patterns. How it has been formed I have no idea, it is not as symmetrical as a spider web, they also always look stunningly magical when frozen. Nearby is another little pool, this has rounded ice patterns, lots of little petal shapes. I consider going back to the cottage for my camera but with me laziness always wins and I make a mental note to send M out with his superior camera later on to see if he will capture this unusual phenomenon for me.  (The picture above is not taken here by the way).

We return to the garden, the sun is till shining, I haven’t seen one car and all is quiet and still. I do a bit of clearing up outside and fill up the bird feeders again. It is amazing how much time ‘just pottering’ takes, but on days like this it is a joy to be outside, the feel of warm sunshine on one’s face is such a treat in December.

I’ll sign off with a poem now.

I caught a part of Woman’s Hour this week and heard Daisy Goodwin talking about the BBC’s reading poetry aloud competition for schools. Back in the mists of time I was lucky enough to have an excellent grammar school education where the correct and proper use of English grammar was instilled in me. I have no complaints on that score, only a deep gratitude. My junior school education in South London was also excellent and we learned to spell (!) and to recite tables by rote so that by the time we left at eleven these things were second nature.

Unlike a lot of people I know I have never learned poems by rote and although I have such a passion for poetry now, I was never really inspired at school. For there we used to dissect poems, that much I remember and while doing so we would read them in class, taking it in turns - I remember the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner for one. I have studied English literature since leaving school, as a mature student and again it was all about pulling text apart and examining the use of language, something which to be honest, I have never quite felt happy with. I am always reminded of U A Fanthorpe’s poem when I get on this subject - I have blogged it before but for those of you who missed it, here it is again.


Dear Mr Lee
Dear Mr Lee (Mr Smart says
it's rude to call you Laurie, but that's
how I think of you, having lived with you
really all year), Dear Mr Lee
(Laurie) I just want you to know
I used to hate English, and Mr Smart
is roughly my least favourite person,
and as for Shakespeare (we're doing him too)
I think he's a national disaster, with all those jokes
that Mr Smart has to explain why they're jokes,
and even then no one thinks they're funny,
And T. Hughes and P. Larkin and that lot
in our anthology, not exactly a laugh a minute,
pretty gloomy really, so that's why
I wanted to say Dear Laurie (sorry) your book's
the one that made up for the others, if you
could see my copy you'd know it's lived
with me, stained with Coke and Kitkat
and when I had a cold, and I often
take you to bed with me to cheer me up
so Dear Laurie, I want to say sorry,
I didn't want to write a character-sketch
of your mother under headings, it seemed
wrong somehow when you'd made her so lovely,
and I didn't much like those questions
about social welfare in the rural community
and the seasons as perceived by an adolescent,
I didn't think you'd want your book
read that way, but bits of it I know by heart,
and I wish I had your uncles and your half-sisters
and lived in Slad, though Mr Smart says your view
of the class struggle is naïve, and the examiners
won't be impressed by me knowing so much by heart,
they'll be looking for terse and cogent answers
to their questions, but I'm not much good at terse and cogent,
I'd just like to be like you, not mind about being poor,
see everything bright and strange, the way you do,
and I've got the next one out of the Public Library,
about Spain, and I asked Mum about learning
to play the fiddle, but Mr Smart says Spain isn't
like that any more, it's all Timeshare villas
and Torremolinos, and how old were you
when you became a poet? (Mr Smart says for anyone
with my punctuation to consider poetry as a career
is enough to make the angels weep).

PS Dear Laurie, please don't feel guilty for
me failing the exam, it wasn't your fault,
it was mine, and Shakespeare's
and maybe Mr Smart's, I still love Cider
it hasn't made any difference.

U A Fanthorpe

I wonder what you think? Were you put off poetry at school? Were you made to learn poems off by heart and did that inspire you to read more or to write your own? Did you leave school with a love of poetry, a dislike for it or an indifference?

I was indifferent to reading poetry until I reached the romantic, adolescent phase and I started writing my own and what absolute rubbish it was. Romantic nonsense, but it must have been a need to get something out of my system. Is poetry always a form of therapy?

I have been trying to think of a poem that I would like to learn by heart and read aloud but so far have not been able to come up with anything. I am still on the case though. Can you think of one that you love enough to learn and recite by heart? Not one you were forced to learn as a child, but rather one that you yourself would choose? Perhaps you have written something that would fit the bill?

Poets visit schools these days and from personal experience I find that they really inspire the children to express themselves. The children need enthusiastic teachers as well of course, to encourage them and if they have access to a library and all the wonderful books of poetry about nowadays it is even better.

Reading aloud surely gives children confidence in ‘public speaking’ but I would prefer them to have a choice - either to read their own work or the work of a published poet that they themselves admire.

I shall leave you now,
Enjoy your Sunday,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,
Cait.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Over the rainbow








There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Edith Wharton
1862-1937


I may have blogger’s block as I don’t seem to feel inspired to write on one particular subject. This may have to be a bit of a ramble so bear with me.

I rose early this morning even though I am on leave from work as I had to make a little journey in the car to pick up something from the library. I throw on some clothes - layers are the order of the day again and the only way to keep warm. A quick drink of fruit juice and a yogurt and I’m off, tea and porridge will have to wait for my return. It’s another cold morning, hardly above freezing and still ice lies about so I have to be very careful, especially underfoot. Luckily the main road has been gritted, our gritting angel comes regularly; another unsung hero is that man.

When I arrive back home about half an hour later it is still only nine o’ clock and I take the dogs for their run in the field. We don’t venture on the bridge in the garden as it is ‘skew wiff’ - it still lies at an angle where it was ‘moved’ in the Great Flood and it will also be icy. I know from past experience how quickly one can slip on (or off!) it so I am not taking any risks with myself or with Finn and Kitty . Much as Kitty loves water, I doubt that either dog would relish falling into an icy river.

So we go over the road bridge and enter the field gate. Everywhere is cloudy except one far side of our valley which is bathed in sunlight. These are the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains and they shine a rusty gold, interspersed with small blankets of green, the sky a bright blue; it is like a distant oasis of summer amidst the cold and grey of a chill November.

The dogs and I set off for a stroll around the five acre field. They run well together; Kitty is the more energetic, she is still young and being a border collie her energy is boundless. Finn is an elderly lurcher with the heart of an angel and he tolerates all Kitty’s tormenting as she play bites him and charges, tempting him to race with her.

It rains on and off, the sun peeps out at me from behind another hill and then as I turn to look again at the mountains I see the arch of a rainbow and it brings a little lurch of delight that I feel somewhere in my solar plexus (the sixth chakra?). A friend of mine saw a double rainbow last week, they are quite a rare sight and I am sure they would bring double delight in their wake.

I am still dreaming of rescuing two donkeys, I cannot make my mind up yet. I will think on it until the spring as that would be a good time to get some. Donkeys keep haunting me, as things do when you have them in your mind. The air is pure and crisp and I am tempted to stay outside but I have to do a few little jobs in the garden.

The first job is the replenishing of the bird feeders, the rate at which they get through the nuts and seeds is amazing and they adore M’s home made bread, I saw four blue tits fighting over a crust of it yesterday. Like everyone else I am trying to make savings but cannot bring myself to stop feeding the birds. I have even bought a new ‘feeding station’, (a grand name for a set of metal hooks), but the ground has been too cold for M to install it in what will be its new home by the river. This morning my little friend the robin speaks to me from the wooden bird table, I understand his language of course but invariably he says the same thing ‘Where is the food?’. Sometimes he appears at one of the cottage windows and just stares at me. There is no need for words.

The nuthatch is the first to arrive on the newly filled nut holder, even he is less shy than he used to be. I call him Norman, God knows why.

I have some new solar lights to install as well but that job will have to wait for a thaw.

It is raining steadily now but it is like my beloved Irish ‘soft’ rain, the kind I feel at home in and could be happy walking in all day but M is calling and is mentioning tea so, somewhat reluctantly, I go indoors, throw off my wellies and a few of my layers and plan the rest of my day over a nice big mug of Yorkshire Gold. (There is no tea like it except perhaps Barry‘s from Cork!).

A poem before I go?

It has to be William Blake.

On Another's Sorrow


Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrow's share?
Can a father see his child
Weep, nor be with sorrow filled?

Can a mother sit and hear
An infant groan, an infant fear?
No, no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

And can He who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small bird's grief and care,
Hear the woes that infants bear -

And not sit beside the nest,
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near,
Weeping tear on infant's tear?

And not sit both night and day,
Wiping all our tears away?
O no! never can it be!
Never, never can it be!

He doth give His joy to all:
He becomes an infant small,
He becomes a man of woe,
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.

O He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.

William Blake
Songs of Innocence


And will there be blessings?

I try to be original in my choice of blessings but the same ones do keep recurring and I apologise for that. Is there a limit to the blessings one can receive in this life?

Rainbows. Need I say more? There has been sad news all around lately and I hope the rainbow is a symbolic message that all shall be well.

The great writer Maya Angelou was at the Hay Festival a few years ago and she spoke of rainbows. She said

"When it looks like the sun isn't going to shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds,"
She also said that poetry had become a rainbow for her. I can identify with that.


The power of the group. Community. Even an online group can carry great energy, can be a comfort, can bring about friendships that would otherwise never be. What a great force for good the Internet can be and it has been life enhancing for so many. So Purplecoo you are a special blessing and not just for today.

Talking of groups I must mention the book group. We met last night in the library and it was another very enjoyable meeting. We discussed Martin Booth’s Industry of Souls, a very good book that was shortlisted for the Booker some years ago.

Talking of good books I am reading a great one at the moment. It is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wrobleski, I am only half way through it, it’s a long one but it is one of those books you don’t want to put down. If you are a dog lover you may get more from it but even if you are not I would say it is a must read.

A new song that can lift the heart, A new voice that can touch one.

But here’s an old one. A song for you all. Enjoy.

Bye for now,
Go mbeanna Dia duit,
Cait

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Sing for You - Tracy Chapman





My daughter just sent me this song, one I had not heard before.  I've always been a fan of Tracy Chapman.

This song is catchy and will make you feel happy, there's something about it.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

In the Bleak MidWinter - Corrine May

On beauty and pain

Dear Diary,



(All photos are by M).


The pain passes but the beauty remains
Pierre Auguste Renoir



It takes pains to be beautiful.

I remember that saying from somewhere in the distant past that was the childhood or the adolescent period of my life. Was it something to do with the pain in having one’s hair coiffed or brushed? From whence it comes I know not but perhaps beauty and pain do go together. Perhaps anything worth achieving carries its price in pain. I am suffering from the cold but the beauty of Winter is all around.

When the temperature drops below freezing, this little stone cottage is harder to heat, it has no central heating and we rely on the ancient Rayburn in the snug which is alight all year round and the woodburner in the parlour which we light at nightfall or earlier on very cold days such as these. Each year we say we really must install some kind of 'proper' heating system but then the temperatures rise to a comfortable level above freezing point and Winter seems easier to bear. But if these too-cold days persist I think we may have to consider central heating of some kind even though the cost of coal and electricity has rocketed and oil is always a worry. Nothing is anything like cheap and never will be again methinks but at the moment we are paying a lot because, as well as buying coal and logs, we use expensive oil filled radiators elsewhere to provide much-needed extra warmth.

I woke this morning to an unforecasted heavy frost, another one that followed yesterday’s which was -2.5 degrees on my journey to work in the car and which remained only barely above freezing all day. I am still recovering from a nasty stomach bug so I didn’t venture outside and when I returned home after work which, being Saturday, was thankfully only half a day, I retired to the warmth of the parlour and its logs (M had kindly lit the fire) and I indulged myself in a spot of rugby watching. What a result. Wales beat Australia! (Apologies to any readers in Australia, it is nothing personal you understand).

My appetite is returning but strange foods attract me, crisps. crackers, mashed potato, fish, soup. And I want to drink Coke., preferably flat - a well known remedy for tummy problems.
But Just for Today, Sunday, I shall not moan. A brisk walk in the frozen air is called for. Hopefully I can capture a few photos while the dogs enjoy a good run. Then when I come back I can always retire to the warmth of that sofa again.

Blessings? There are a few.

The beauty of the elements. Fire, earth, water and air. Their mix always varies and delights in equal measure. Whether it is sun and rain bringing rainbows, cloud and rain bringing mists and deep, fast-moving shadows over the hills or sea and wind bringing huge waves. Today there is sunshine, mist and frost, always a winner with everyone,






Winter trees - to me they are a special work of art and one I only have to look out of my window to see.





Sleep. As the Irish say, it is always the best thing and such a healer.

Appetite for food. Sometimes it disappears, one of those things we take for granted and when it does come back, even if we crave odd foods, it is such a welcome relief.

Surprise gifts in the post! I received one yesterday from a very dear Purplecoo friend. She bought it for me online from an American blogger and it can be seen below in its new home.








Shall I end with a poem?

In the bleak midwinter


In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart

Christina Rossetti



There was a list published this week of ‘top carols’ chosen by so-called ‘experts’ and I was surprised and pleased to see my top carol at number one. I love this poem by Christina Rossetti and it seems appropriate for today. So far we have no ‘snow on snow’ but I feel it won’t be long in coming.

If you also like this carol do go and view the (YouTube) Corrine May video in my post above.
So beautiful it brought a tear to my eye.

Stay warm,

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,
Cait

Friday, 21 November 2008

On Cats and Life




There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats.


Albert Schweitzer



Dear Diary,

OK, it is time for a confession. It has been a long time since my last blog posting. I have no excuses, ’twas just Life getting in my way.

This morning I wandered in the field with the dogs. It was cold, sunny and there was a stillness of air that was punctuated by some very strong gusts. I smelled Ireland in its breath, it was as if Her turf fires were wrapped in the wind and there was even a scent of snow at its hindmost. Only yesterday I had smelled Spring, what is happening to our weather? My magnolia is in bud again and I still have roses clinging on to the bushes.

I called on my Magic Crab Apple tree and paid my respects for I had not visited for ages. There seems to be a multitude of crab apples, all scattered at its feet now, save for a few bundles that have landed in little hollows in its trunk where they resemble little birds nests filled with eggs.

A couple of my friends have been on retreats lately and I am rather envious. Even though I live in a fairly peaceful location I hanker after a (temporary) removal to just ‘be’. Perhaps it is just solitude I crave because I need it in regular doses.

I lost a friend recently, that may be why I am thinking about Life and Death and all that. She was not young but she was certainly much too young to die so suddenly and it shocked the community in which she lived. Although we were not close friends we had stumbled on a common bond between us and we both had slightly similar secrets to share which made her feel ‘special’ to me. I spoke to her the very morning of the day that she passed over and the last thing she said to me was ‘Take Care’; funnily enough she had never ever said that to me before. Her funeral was on Wednesday. I dread funerals as I am usually taken over (embarrassingly) by emotion but this one was a true celebration of her life and I came away feeling positive. Even the weather was kind, bestowing upon us bright sunshine and blue skies.

R. had started writing a book about her life and it would have been a best seller (I can tell you that much) and I am so sorry that she will never finish it. One of her sons spoke at some length about his Mum, it was moving and completely unrehearsed. Another read a passage from the Bible. I was surprised to learn that R had ten grandchildren.

Anyway enough of all that.

On to cats.







A dog, I have always said, is prose; a cat is a poem.

Jean Burden



This is a photo of Layla, a kitten belonging to my brother and sister-in-law. Layla was born in the Welsh hills, not far from here, but now lives in leafy Surrey; she is thoroughly spoilt I have to say and enjoying the very best of everything with plenty of cuddles too. She is a very pretty, highly intelligent cat and strangely behaves more like a dog than a feline. She is very knowing.

She has Big Ears. I wonder if she is half-wild…..…do wild cats have big ears, does anyone know? M says she is half rabbit but I think he is joking…..

Here is a photo of her, see what I mean?












I shall sign off now with a poem that I read on the most scrumptious blog that is
Willow’s. It is written by one of my favourite poets but I had not come across this one called Praying. I hope Willow will not mind me posting it here.



Praying


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.



Mary Oliver






Bye for now,
God Bless,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,
Cait.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

President Barack Obama




Dear Diary,


I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

Martin Luther King

(for full speech see Footmote below)




Politics aside, whatever your personal views, a 47-year old Afro-American, a great orator, a visionary and a poet has been elected as President of the USA.

Today is an historic day, a victory for democracy. A day I am proud to see. Would that we had politicians who could be so inspirational. Is there anyone in the UK that you would stand in line for four hours to vote for? I think not.

I celebrate this day.

I also celebrate with my friends across the pond the demise of George Bush’s rule, a man who has blighted our lives and damaged our world. I am deeply ashamed of the things he has instigated in my name.

M switched on the radio during the night; we enjoyed a cup of tea and listened for an hour before going back to sleep. The results were looking hopeful then for Obama but were still not yet certain. I listened to Erica Jong as she spoke slowly and wisely and she called Bush and his entourage ‘morons‘.

Barack Obama has an awareness that has been lacking, an intelligence, a creativity, a broadness of mind and view.

At 7 am the clock radio woke us again and we heard a recording of Obama’s voice giving his acceptance speech in what was described as a voice ‘rough-edged with tiredness’. It sounded good to me.

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, the irony of the date is not lost on me. If we have an effigy to burn let it be for the death of all the ‘bad’ that has gone by and may a New World arise, like the proverbial Phoenix, from the ashes.

And forgive me if I slip in what I have always seen before as a sickly sweet cliché

God Bless America.

Bye for now,
Cait


PS. This is a transcript of Martin Luther’s speech. It is long but it is worth a read, when you can spare the time, on this historic day.







I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!



Martin Luther King



Footnote, taken from the Observer March 2008.

King had arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, to support a strike by public sanitary workers. He led a series of protests. The aim was that they should be peaceful, although some were marred by violence. On 3 April, 1968, the day before his assassination, he delivered his famous 'I have seen the mountain top' speech in Memphis. Many people have since claimed the words seemed to eerily predict his death, as King warned: 'I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you.'

King was felled by a single bullet as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, just outside his room. His last words were to some supporters in the car park below, when King called out to one of them to make sure he played the spiritual 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' at a church meeting planned for that evening.

A white escaped convict called James Earl Ray was arrested at London's Heathrow airport two months after King was killed. Ray pleaded guilty to avoid a trial and a possible death sentence. Later, he protested his innocence and claimed that King had been killed as part of a government and mafia conspiracy. Prominent members of the King family have supported that idea, as have civil rights leaders such as the Rev Jesse Jackson. Ray died in jail in 1998.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Ghost Story




A Ghost on a Stair?
Maybe. Maybe not.
(Not my ghost though but do read on.)


Dear Diary

By the way, before I start, if you want to listen to my Music Library as you read, click on the Play list (top left of player) and then when you reach the page click Library. For some reason the Playlist is not playing but the Library is.



Halloween was a lovely day weather-wise. I ventured out into the sunshine to sweep up yet more leaves from the back yard, much of them are a soggy mess.

But it is perfect and even though the Wind is coming from the north-east, He is warmed by the rays of the Sun and I spend a Happy Hour sweeping, but not with my besom for I shall be needing that later tonight when I take off into the skies. I did tell you I was a witch!

Sweeping all done I have a quick tidy-up, more of a lick though and a promise to carry on at the weekend.

It’s the end of Autumn now according to Pagan traditions and I will be putting my garden to bed soon, making her nicely cosy and then it really will be my time to start enjoying a partial hibernation with Winter. I do not fear this though because if time goes by as quickly as it has been this year then Spring will be here before we know it.

The Spirits arrived in the far too early hours this Halloween morn; it was still dark of course and hours to go before dawn but my clock radio came on all by itself. I listened to about three sentences of news from the World Service (BBC news about the BBC again!) and then it switched itself off. M and I both heard it so it was not my imagination.

I am used to family spirits making themselves known so I was not worried at all; usually they make our chiming clock do strange things or interfere with my CD player. This is the first time that clock and radio were affected simultaneously and they actually woke me. They say the veil between this world and the Spirit World is thinnest at Halloween.

Speaking of which, I promised you a Ghost Story and a true one. It may not be much of one but I shall tell you what happened and you can make up your own mind. However, you are honoured to hear it as I only tell special people, those who will trust me and will not think I am being delusional or lying.

I have experienced many psychic experiences in my life, ever since I was a child in fact but I have only ever seen one ghost (so far).



Hereford General Hospital (originally known as the Infirmary)




Hereford old General hospital is no more as it was demolished a few years ago but I was lucky (?) enough to be sent there for my orthopaedic ward placement in the mid-nineties during my RGN training. The building was a huge Victorian brick building in the middle of Hereford and it was set alongside the River Wye. My main place of training was the nearby County Hospital, parts of which were the old Victorian workhouse. Gilbert Harding was born there actually as his parents ran the workhouse - only those of a certain age will know who I am talking about, he was a radio personality, long before the Ross and Brands of our day but well known on the BBC Home Service and also BBC TV, none the less.

The ward I was to work on in the General was on the top floor and to reach it I had to climb many flights of stone stairs. As soon as my feet were on these stairs I felt uneasy, my ‘otherworldly’ feeling came upon me and the feeling increased at each turn on the staircase. Finally at the top the discomfort increased even more.

The ward was large and a bit of a sprawl, obviously as the result of old walls having been removed at some stage of ‘modernisation’. Not that the hospital was very much modernised; it still had the air and the appearance of the life it had in Victorian times. There were several generously-sized side-rooms used for wards for single-occupancy patients.

The staff were friendly, the ward well-run and the actual nursing I was to carry out there was much enjoyed during my month-long stint. They seemed geared to Project 2000, the nursing course that, for my sins, I was studying. This course was academic-based, not a bad thing in itself but it did not teach us enough of the practical hands-on skills needed for basic nursing. Sure, I enjoyed the academic side and did very well but I lacked confidence where the nitty-gritty practicalities were concerned. The course has now been scrapped/altered, thank God.

I digress.

Each day as I would come on duty I would feel uncomfortable in this one end of the hospital and especially on the stairwell. I also felt the same un-ease in the lift which I avoided using unless I was forced to - accompanying patients to and from theatre for example.

Another funny thing on that ward were the patients’ buzzers that would go off in the side wards quite often. I would hurry along to see what was wanted and the patients would swear blind that they had not buzzed. These rooms seemed ‘cold’ to me and I would have hated to have been a patient in one of them. I felt pity for these people, it was a far ‘warmer’ atmosphere on the main ward, even though that ‘sprawled’ and was made up of little ‘areas’ all tucked in little corners.

The training was good. I learned a lot about orthopaedics - this branch of surgery has a very good reputation in Hereford. I observed a hip replacement operation, (noisy stuff!), took patients down to theatre and cared for them pre and post-op. I had no complaints on that score and as I say the ward’s staff were all genial and kind.

After my first week had nearly ended I was set to work a couple of late shifts (1.30 to 9 pm).



After my first late shift I was tired (of course) and eager to go home as I made my way to a little side room where my coat was hung. It was in the deep of winter and I was not looking forward to my hour’s drive back to our smallholding in the Welsh hills. I washed my hands at a little sink and as I stood there all alone with the open doorway behind me, I ‘felt’ a person behind me. I’m sure you have all felt this sort of thing when something makes you look round?

So, drawn to look round, I did so and half expected to see another member of staff, a cleaner or someone. As I looked at the doorway I saw a figure walk by, but she was incomplete, she was grey and misty but still recognisable as a figure. She seemed to glide yet she moved in a nurse-like fashion, a kind of slow bustling, controlled, it’s hard to explain. I could make out she was female by her dress.

What did I feel? Acceptance and certainly not fear. I was used to psychic phenomena and I had experienced several during my nurse training. I instinctively knew there was nothing to fear from this woman. What I did fear though was mentioning it to my fellow nurses on the ward in case they might think their new student nurse was a little cranky or mentally deranged. I wanted a good report! Also I was desperate to get home. So I made my way back down the stone staircase (there I did feel afraid) and out into the cold, dark night. I couldn’t wait to get home to Wales and to tell M. Funnily enough, only a few weeks before this happened, I had been saying that I had never seen a ghost (M has on more than one occasion) and kind of wishing that I could.

My next shift the following day was also a late one so I could have a lie-in and recover my strength before I would make the journey back to Hereford.

The following day my afternoon and evening shift passed well and without incident nursing-wise but buzzers still occasionally went off with people saying they hadn’t buzzed. The whole building breathed its history and I could sense its voices round every corner. The canteen area was terrible, I only went in there once. It was not a comfortable place to work but the brightness of my colleagues and also the lovely friendly Herefordshire patients lifted me. I knew I had only three more weeks to endure.

At the end of my second late shift I did exactly the same thing as I had done the night before; I went to get my coat and wash my hands. Once more all alone, I stood at the sink and this time I looked round first before I felt anything. Yes, you’ve guessed it….. the ghost walked by again! It was exactly the same time as the previous evening. Feeling braver this time I rushed out after her but she had turned a corner of the corridor and she would have gone on to the main ward and I could not very well re-appear there in my coat. I would not have been able to explain myself to the newly-arrived night shift.

So I made my way home, eager to tell M that I had seen this ghost again!

I had three more weeks on this ward but I didn’t see her again. Straight after that I was back in nursing college, back ‘in school’ as we called it. I was back with my friends and fellow students again, always a pleasure to be free from the hard physical work and the stress that being a student entailed. Whilst sharing my orthopaedic experiences with J. a woman who like me was a mature student, I told her about my ghostly experience; she was the only person outside my famiy that I told.

J seemed totally accepting and she nodded knowingly.

‘Ah that’s the Grey Lady’ she said.

(I must tell you that J is a Herefordshire ’native’, a community auxiliary nurse who was doing the RGN course. She is an absolute treasure of a person, a real ‘angel flying too close to the ground’ if ever there was one).

‘The Grey Lady is well known in the General‘, she said. ‘But only some nurses actually see her‘.

She then told me the story of the Grey Lady.

Apparently she was a nurse working there at, if I am correct, the time of the First World War. It could have been the Boer war, I can’t remember what she said. She was however, over-conscientious and had experienced a complete nervous breakdown because of stress and over-work and it ended with her throwing herself from the top of the huge stone stairwell (the creepy stairwell) to the bottom.

Her spirit will not leave, she is still too conscientious and will not give up work. Apparently she tours the hospital helping out as she goes, from Accident and Emergency where she moves heavy equipment about, to the Orthopaedic wards where she still cares for patients. On the wards she will open or close windows, place blankets on patients in the night etc. It is quite common for patients to thank nurses for some such task that has been done for them in the night only to hear that the nurses have done no such thing! She sets buzzers off though as her ‘energy’ is so strong and seems to cause all sorts of electrical goings-ons - as spirits do. Only a few nurses actually see her though.

J said that one of the consultants, then soon-to-be-retired, was compiling a book about her and I did mean to contact him to tell him I had seen her but I never did. I still have to seek this out.

So that is the end of ‘my ghost’. It was only a fleeting sight but a memorable one! And it was heartening to know that she did exist and I was not the only one who saw this poor soul. I think her spirit should have been exorcised, in a kindly way of course; perhaps I should use the phrase ‘put to rest’ rather than exorcise. But there was something nice about the fact that a spirit could still be around caring for poorly people while they sleep.

But I don’t need convincing, I know that spirits are always around us and they make themselves ‘known’, especially at times of need.

I haven’t seen a ghost since and I have no desire to do so. But the Grey Lady wasn’t evil which is why she didn’t scare me. I was however very uncomfortable in the area where she had ended her life, the stairwell, that still carried the traces of her deep depression, her lone desperation and her untimely tragic death.

The building is no more and new buildings are in its place. I wonder what happened to that poor woman’s spirit? Where will she go now her place of work is gone? Will she remain in the same area? Does she still come on duty each evening in some other place?

I would love to know,

God Bless her.


Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,
Cait.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Halloween



The witch's familiar



Tonight I will just post these pics and a couple of poems, one by M and another by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge.









Old postcards



The Witch


The night was dark and cold and wet and the clouds were racing across the moon , pushed, chased, by a fierce west wind and moving shadows ran across the land revealing a cottage here or an oak tree there and frightening cattle into motionless clusters in their muddy fields and the witch flew high, clinging tight to her besom , intent on her mission , no choice but to do what witches do. No fireside chair tonight. No warm bed or comfort. Cold, old, ageless face, black eyes seeking a guiding mark momentarily lit by the teasing orb, only witness to her pain, of the tears torn away by her flight, of the soundless cry of her despair.


M




The Witch


I HAVE walked a great while over the snow,
And I am not tall nor strong.
My clothes are wet, and my teeth are set,
And the way was hard and long.
I have wandered over the fruitful earth,
But I never came here before.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!

Her voice was the voice that women have,
Who plead for their heart's desire.
She came--she came--and the quivering flame
Sunk and died in the fire.
It never was lit again on my hearth
Since I hurried across the floor,
To lift her over the threshold, and let her in at the door.


Mary Elizabeth Coleridge



I shall write about my sighting of a ghost tomorrow, Samhain, the 1st November, the beginning of Winter.

But it is already nearly midnight so I must bid you goodnight and be away on my besom........

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,
Cait

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Twinkling toenails

Dear Diary,


Just a quick blog as I am off to library-land very soon.





The true poet is all the time a visionary and whether with friends or not, as much alone as a man on his death bed.
~William Butler Yeats


Who can tell the dancer from the dance?
~William Butler Yeats



Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toenails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared, and forever all your own.”
Dylan Thomas


And now a poem.

I am quite excited because I have just discovered a much-praised poet I had not come across before (shame on me I say). She has been shortlisted for this year's Dylan Thomas Prize.
She is very young...... and her talent?

I leave you to decide.


The Softness of the Morning




If the breeze through the trees were a tongue
it couldn't say a word. My bottom lip grew so long,
it wrapped around the rivers
and the wandering silent pilgrims set up picnics
in the curve of my mouth, each with a story to tell
of a journey that was never done.
In the softness of the morning, I entered the forest,
following my lip for the source of this taste,
I rode on a donkey that had once been a beautiful princess,
kept the heart of a nightingale inside my nostril
and gained a new gold tooth with every sniffle,
I ate apples from the poisoned shrub,
drank water from the holy spring, I washed my feet in quick sand,
and still my bottom lip stretched over mountains,
soundless and sore. I danced with sexless shadows,
phantoms with faces like soft holes
singing down my throat like the sighing
of a thousand ugly damsels trapped in turrets.
I shaved my eyebrows with a sharpened stick,
painted on a look of sudden surprise,
carved the deepest part of the ocean, crammed an oak into an acorn,
stitched my eyes with feathers, robbed a church,
picked a flower that could live without sun,
made love to a dwarf who nudged into my body
like a boat attempting to moor on my chest.
I filled my stomach with baby wolves,
sailed on a dew drop through acres of oil, bathed in perfume
until even my shit tempted mermaids,
found religion beneath a fallen log, stopped for a beer,
kicked August from the calendar,
stole a moment of joy from the breath of a swan,
injected moonshine into my ears, listened to butterflies swearing,
sat on a rock made of time, stuffed a glow-worm in my windpipe,
electrified the air. And still had nothing to say.
Just before lunch, I crawled back to the house,
planning to tell you with my hands instead,
make the sign of leaving, make the sign of regret,
make the sign of reasons not to stay,
but the gravel path had a saddening crunch,
the face by the window, a running tear.
You opened the door, my lip sprang out,
slapped me and said something wrong.


Caroline Bird


Well, did this one make your toenails twinkle?


Bye for now,
I wish you a happy (and maybe snowy)Tuesday,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,
Cait

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Nostalgia



A Strictly Tongue in Cheek look at Nostalgia


(This a fictional account of what happened when Cait last visited her GP.)


Picture the scene. My GP is looking not at me but at his computer screen and mentally setting a stopwatch maybe.

(How many seconds am I allowed for a consultation nowadays?).

DoctorKnowitall: Well Mrs Thinkyouknowbetter, what seems to be the trouble?

Cait: I might be wrong but lately I have been feeling what I think may be symptoms of nostalgia for the past, DoctorKnowitall, it seems all I want to dwell on are the happy times gone by; what has disappeared and never will be again, like the ‘lost’ childhood of my own children, how it passed far too quickly.

Even my old schooldays I am looking back on and yearning for.

I’m also getting what must be nostalgic pains over the Old Ireland that is gone, gone , gone.

And I’m playing my Beatles records over and over.

Sniff sniff.

It is so painful.

Tears start to fall.

Dr Knowitall fished out a tissue from the nearly empty box on his desk, passed it to me, smiled unfeelingly and then told me that I was not alone; he assured me it is a very common condition and he thrust a Patient Information Leaflet into my shaky hands:

Read this, keep a diary and come and see me if the trouble persists.

Oh and look out for these symptoms: Lack of regret, a joyful melancholy. Heartburning, attacks of Present Day ‘disheartenment’

(there’s a new word ?).

But don’t worry because if the heart becomes blocked a Peacemaker can be fitted.

(ref. The term Peacemaker - Pinched from my own very dear hero, Tony Benn. it is a family term apparently).

If Excessive Longing and Over-Sentimentality become too intense to bear then go straight to your local A & E because matters of regret may come to light at any time.


Cait: Eh? What A & E?

Dr Knowitall: What do you mean, it’s been closed? Phone ShropDoc.
But don’t forget to contact NHS Direct first! We don't want to waste doctors' time do we?



NOSTALGIA

PATIENT INFORMATION
LEAFLET


Nostalgia, found far too often among the jaundiced and the melancholic, is a little known psychological condition but one that can affect all the organs physically, mainly the heart where it can cause a weakness that varies in its effects among individuals. There is no scientific evidence as yet to say whether there is in fact a genetic predisposition but it is thought that it will affect one in three of us at some time in our lifetime.

It is presented most frequently by the elderly but the most common time of onset is middle age, long after the reproduction and parenting stage of life is over. It is interesting to note that in areas where peoples have been misplaced geographically then its incidence is much increased, among the diaspora of the world for example. It is rarely found in the young, hence the expression young at heart. It seems to be present in both sexes in equal measure.

The brain can sometimes be badly affected as well because it is too often overworked and stressed due to the intensity of the thoughts engendered on mind games and because it is often forgotten that pastime-travel is just as tiring as real-time travel. For this reason GP’s will often suggest patients throw away their rose tinted spectacles and their blinkers.

Also, as people age, the memory quite often shows signs of partial or complete failure.

(No? really?)

These symptoms worsen with age and the prognosis is therefore not good. There is no cure.

SYMPTOMS

Signs of yearning are always seen. Note these down in your daily diary. Raised levels are always a classic pointer to the condition.

TREATMENTS
.

Reminiscence therapy sessions of nostalgia-bombardment have been tried as an exercise in inducing boredom or resistance to the task - these traits being common in the elderly. It can work wonders! Remember, like almost everything else that we have to confront in life, this condition can also be seen in a positive light if one has the right attitude.

It’s good to talk. Group therapy has proved to be the best help of all. Most folk can find a likeminded soul in almost any social setting. Or in an online group. Genealogy sites are especially helpful.

TRIGGERS

Avoid old photographs like the plague, also old films and TV series,old friends and reunions of any kind. Old songs can prove fatal, especially if you are a child of the sixties.

(when life began as far as I am concerned).

Whooops I have digressed.

Back to it.

A life well spent with happy memories, especially those stemming from childhood are probably the most common triggers of this condition.

(I’ll be OK then!).

Time spent in a much-loved place is probably the second most common trigger. Indeed it has to be said that thoughts of Times Gone By are to be avoided at all costs as they are at the root of most outbreaks. Personal relationships play a great part - lost loves and the like. As does the total lack of the benefit that is hindsight and the sometime- blocking of regrets. Cognitive therapy classes may help here.

RESEARCH


Very little research has been carried out on the subject. So there is an opening here for the waste…. sorry investment, of masses of our, sorry…. government, money to tell us what we already know, sorry…publish new research findings.

Perhaps a charity could also be set up in its name? RSPN? If it made enough money it could always be invested overseas in a fail-safe high interest account? Somewhere very cold and inaccessible maybe? It would have to be kept secret though.

Whoops, I think I am digressing again.

STOP PRESS

As this leaflet was being printed, news has reached the NHS that the stress of modern life is bringing about a nostalgia epidemic and it is on a near-global scale. It seems everyone is ‘harking back’. (sounds painful).

Nostalgia is being hailed as the new ‘silent killer’.


LAST WORDS


Remember, try not to use nostalgia as an antidote to your disgust with present life as you know it.

Lament and disillusion may be antidotes but could prove fatal, they may even be a suicide risk.

SELF-HELP

Nostalgics Anonymous may be one to try. Look for a branch near you.
Or you could also start your own.

A plug here for my own book!

I live with a nostalgic and how I cope with it
100 Tips to prevent the condition affecting you as well


ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS


Go down the pub, sink a few beers and just wallow.

Sing along to Bob Dylan singing the auld song

May You Stay Forever Young
.



Header picture, Connemara Farm is an oil painting by Elizabeth Ryan

Monday, 20 October 2008

Autumn

Dear Diary,




I’ll start with the cliché, get it over with, I say.

New England in the Fall.I would love to go there, I am sure I have past life memories of the place.



And now the Poem for Today.
A much-loved Welsh poet this one.

Poem in October


It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second In the still sleeping town and set forth.
My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.
A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
Summery
On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.
Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.
It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels
And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.
And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning.

Dylan Thomas


In the new book I bought, that I have been raving about (see previous post) Damien Enright quotes from quite a few poets along the way (well he is Kerry-born) and one line he mentions is from Dylan Thomas: ‘Though the town below lay leaved with October blood’. Can’t you just see the red of the leaves and also of berries?

*

I still have not come up with any ideas on the subject of rain for my writing group homework. Only one day left.

This post should be called I just can’t be inspired to write about rain so will write about autumn instead. Quite by chance my Purplecoo homework is to write about the smells of autumn so perhaps I can kill two birds if I can sneak in a few rainy references along the way? Perhaps that will be my mission for the day? Of course I won’t restrict myself to smells; I may get carried away, I usually do (perhaps I should be I hear you say?).

I spend a lot of time sweeping leaves from the back yard; apart from all the other trees there is an ancient laburnum just outside the back door that seems to shed itself continuously and the leaves blow indoors as well so I am always brushing out from therel. But I love sweeping, making piles, putting them on the compost heap or making separate heaps and leaving them to rot down and make that magical substance called leaf mould, much-mentioned by ‘proper’ gardeners. When the leaves are wet they make a really manageable mush that is easier to sweep up and organise. But when they are dry it is also enjoyable and is one of those more satisfying chores. Some chores I enjoy, some I resist frantically or even dread. Autumn brings some of the more pleasant tasks.

Much as I adore winter trees, life without leaves would be very miserable because I so love autumn’s colours: the burnished golds, the reds, the yellows. The sun shining on them is a little taste of our heaven-to come, I am sure.

The season is specially suited to the lover of the keen-scented amongst us. My hearing may be deteriorating but my sense of smell is still acute (sign of a true witch don’t you know!). It is a season for the sensualist you could say. Autumn leaves have their special smell don’t they, bringing echoes of childhood memories and the scuffling of the leaves underfoot, I used to love that so. Bonfire and wood smoke is also redolent of autumn. Folk round here (including us) have started lighting log fires and it is such a joy to catch a whiff of the wood smoke, there is nothing else like it.

I pray every year for an Indian summer and so far this autumn has come up almost to scratch - not too much rain yet (there I’ve mentioned rain!) winds have been gentle with us so far and we have had a fair amount of sunshine.

Everything is ripe and ready for preservation. It’s an instinctive thing isn’t it? This gathering in, preserving, conserving. The gathering of the hedgerow harvest, the berries and the fruits of the trees. It really is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness (what a glorious line). Here in the Welsh hills and mountains, our mists are a wondrous sight to behold as they hang either in the valley or atop a mountain. I have waxed lyrical about them so many times. One more won’t hurt.




The air, not yet chilly is cooler and fresher. A sense of newness in the air that is not just for the children, an excited anticipation of a New Term with its blank pages, new pens and clean, virginal notebooks.

And back in the garden I plant bulbs, something more to look forward to (see earlier post).

Always a fan of spicy, musky scents that have an autumnal note to them I wear patchouli again; it’s a love it or hate it perfume but one people always comment on.

Whoops I’ve digressed again.

Perhaps it is all about comfort and security, this all is safely gathered in feeling. (We could do with those feelings in this current economic climate). We have stocked up with logs too in case there is going to be a hard winter. The trees and hedgerows are heavily laden with berries which is meant to be a sign of a bad winter; we shall see. Watch this space.

One thing is for sure, Autumn has arrived and She brings with her a lull that is the between-time of Summer and Winter.

Between-whiles that we can while away at our leisure in deep thinking and contemplation, with planning for life’s new term and creating our very own interpretations.

Do you remember that childhood hymn?

Come ye thankful people come.

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God’s own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.
For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.
Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home

Bye for now,
Cait