Alexander Averin

Friday 30 January 2009

The Sixteenth Letter

Dear Diary,

I am writing this in the Parlour, it’s a mid-winter mid-afternoon, the light is fading fast and would you believe it we have a Power-cut. In my little winter-dark cottage I can just about see to write but will soon have to light some candles which will be no hardship as I so adore candlelight. I miss my computer though and withdrawal symptoms will surely come upon me if the leccy is off for too long. It’s Peaceful though and I have company - the dogs are cooched up at my feet on the rug in front of the Rayburn.

Peace is a Big Word. A big ‘I wish for the world’ word. I Ponder on Peace and that old, but somehow ever-young, song comes to mind. written by John Lennon, God rest him,


You may wonder why I am capitalising all these ‘P’ words?

This is why.

Mountainear has written a brilliant post - she was set this task

1. Write about ten things you love that begin with a given letter.

2. Post the list on your blog.

3. When people comment on your list, you assign them a new letter and the game continues.

I was so inspired by what she had written that I thought I would have a go and Mountainear sent me the letter ‘P’. I was Pleased.

Never one to obey rules, I have bent them a little. I haven’t counted my ‘P’s’ and I have included disliked ‘P’ words as well.

Mountainear and I are both members of Purplecoo and after my first love (Poetry of course!) Purplecoo was the next thing that leapt into my mind. Such is the Power of the Purple, don’t you know.

Perhaps I had better get the ‘bad stuff’ out of the way first. It’s all about balance and there are some rather ‘negative’ ‘P’ words that surfaced when I had a good think (OK, OK, I lie … when I frantically searched the dictionary). I’ll just list them shall I? Dwelling on negatives is a Bad Thing - that way depression lies. So, in no particular order these are my ‘disliked’ ‘P’ words:

Politicians (don’t laugh, not all of them, not Tony Benn, Vince Cable who seems to be making sense or Obama of course).

Pain (no-one can argue with that one, only a masochist maybe?).

Poverty (will it ever end?)

Panic (Actually I don’t do panic).

Pessimism (a scourge).

Privilege (another scourge).

Phobias (so many abound, amongst us all).

Pity (for sometimes it can annoy).

Poison (but good, or rather bad, for rats?)

Prohibition (And all things Big Brother)

That’s got those out of the way. Can you think of any more?

And so back to the the more Pleasing ‘P’ words.


I am an Aries with a Moon in Scorpio which makes me Pretty Passionate. Passions are something I like to pursue, nurture, develop and share (and possibly bore you with) on this wee blog of mine. I’ve mentioned Poetry so need not say too much more. I try to write it, I read plenty and post any that I think you may also enjoy. But there is also Prose, of course; I love that too. Ah, the pleasure that can leap off a Piece of Paper on a Page of a book.

Magical Passion appeals too. Am I a bit of a Pagan on the quiet? Psychic, into Potions, given to Prophecy and a believer in Pixies?

I’ve started a new Passion just recently, you may have noticed? I’m taking Photographs. I live with an expert Photographer with many years’ experience which he gained way before the digital age so I haven’t dared dabble in the past. But now I own a small Nikon compact digital camera which, although I am a technophobe and all fingers and thumbs, makes it easy for me to just point and click. I can even transfer the images to the computer and there is the joy of being able to delete the rubbish. It’s an instant kind of gratification, so different from the old days when we had to wait days or weeks for a film to come back (and then they were always a disappointment).

I love looking at Paintings too and Pictures are another thing I love to blog. Here is one by my favourite Irish artist Paul Henry. It is a view of one of my favourite places inthe world, close to my (maternal) family roots, it is Great Blasket Island in County Kerry, Ireland.

Paradise is a word I might over-use as some days I think I live there; I never take my beautiful environment here in Wales for granted, possibly because I was born and grew up in the ‘Smoke’.

What else do I wish for in this world? Positivity. May we all be optimistic and hopeful and may everyone achieve their Potential. Why else are we put here on Earth but so to do?

There are Pampery words too. It’s not all deeply serious. I am thinking of soft Pillows and heady Perfumes. Scent is so important to me, I like to surround myself with oils, scented candles, sometimes a scented Pomander or even a bowl of Pot-Pourri will be enough. With candles can come flowers of course. I love Pink Poppies in Summer; Purple Pansies in Winter.

Patchwork is another love of mine, would that I were Patient enough to make my own quilts and throws. Patience is a virtue word of course and a most important one.

And colours? Pastels appeal, they are both soothing and flattering both to wear and to surround oneself with. But I still have a need for warm/hot reds/pinks and deep purples

Thank you for reading. If you have got this far then congratulations. But many reading this may be descendants of Pioneers, those brave, strong People who Persisted against all odds and never gave up.

I can't leave you without a Poem:

Promises, Promises by Paul Muldoon
I am stretched out under the lean-to
Of an old tobacco-shed
On a farm in North Carolina.
A cardinal sings from the dogwood
For the love of marijuana.
His song goes over my head.
There is such splendour in the grass
I might be the picture of happiness.
Yet I am utterly bereft
Of the low hills, the open-ended sky,
The wave upon wave of pasture
Rolling in, and just as surely
Falling short of my bare feet.
Whatever is passing is passing me by.

I am with Raleigh, near the Atlantic,
Where we have built a stockade
Around our little colony.
Give him his scallop-shell of quiet,
His staff of faith to walk upon,
His scrip of joy, immortal diet—
We are some eighty souls
On whom Raleigh will hoist his sails.
He will return, years afterwards,
To wonder where and why
We might have altogether disappeared,
Only to glimpse us here and there
As one fair strand in her braid,
The blue in an Indian girl's dead eye.

I am stretched out under the lean-to
Of an old tobacco-shed
On a farm in North Carolina,
When someone or other, warm, naked,
Stirs within my own skeleton
And stands on tip-toe to look out
Over the horizon,
Through the zones, across the Ocean.
The cardinal sings from a redbud
For the love of one slender and shy,
The flight after flight of stairs
To her room in Bayswater,
The damson freckle on her throat
That I kissed when we kissed Goodbye.

And a Posy

I’ll sign off now,

I wish you Peace and Prosperity (but in the Present economic climate that may be just a wish too far?),

Bye for now,


If you fancy having a go at this letter lark let me know. I shall take great delight in choosing one of the 26 just for you.

Sunday 25 January 2009

January Sunday

Ivy growing inside the forge

Dear Diary,

Just a few photos and a poem tonight. I took the photos when I was over collecting logs for the woodburner this morning. We store the wood in the old forge and the sun was shining inside, so, with the theme of shadows still on my mind I popped back indoors for my camera.

Views from within

It has been such a lovely Sunday. Quiet and peaceful with an air of calm about the day and 'twas so pleasant to be outside that after I had run the dogs in the field, I spent a few hours in the garden again, sweeping, tidying up borders, clearing away soggy leaves and stalks, wind blown sticks etc. I am afraid I am a bit of a fair weather gardener. I planted some allium bulbs; just hope I am not too late with them. My snowdrops have started flowering, always a time of joy for me, the white lungwort is in flower and the daffodil shoots are a few inches in height. I can't help but feel the growth of stirrings of excitement myself and it is still only January.

I'll leave you with a poem that could have been written for me ( or by me. were I so talented). I stumbled across it, as you do, on the Irish Salmon poetry publishers website.

Fire, Ashes

Sometimes, I wonder if I should have lived
like the others who just set a time-clock
or flick a switch to summon heat;
not have to fret over damp turf or kindling,
nor struggle with slow fires, erratic smoke
and ashes gathering in the grate.
But if I’d done that, what would I have known
about fire’s glow and afterglow, or sparks
being moulded to blazing sods;
the whoosh and thunder when dampers open;
or, after lengthy vigil, breaking through
to flow and pulsing in the rads?
Patrick Moran

This poem rung a bell with me. For only this morning as I returned with my firewood I had thought to myself that if I did not collect logs each day I would miss the chance to see the rays of the sun highlighting the ivy hanging down inside the forge, I would not notice the blue sky peeping through, I would not feel the presence of past blacksmiths, I would not get my circulation going in the cold, I would not feel the satisfaction of filling my barrow with a mix of logs, some heavy, some light, some dry, some not-so-dry. but which I know will all bring me the warmth and the magic that only comes with a real fire.

I will sign off now,
Go mneannai Dia duit,

Friday 23 January 2009


Dear Diary,

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

I slept in late and didn’t even wake till a quarter past nine, probably because I was up last night watching Question Time and then I went to bed with my little torch and Adrian Mole - I am so enjoying the latest by one of my favourite authors, Sue Townsend. It is of course The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole - nearly every page has me laughing out loud.

The heavy rain that was forecast for us (with the usual risk of localised flooding) doesn’t seem to have materialised as the river level hasn’t risen. As soon as I comment to M about the rain not arriving I see a few spots starting to fall but it seems to be a battle as the Sun is doing her best to shine. The wind is joining in too and the boughs of the pine trees are swaying a little more than gently. There is one treat though; I can see one of the collared doves in the garden feeding on bird food that has fallen from the ‘feeding station’. Haven’t seen him for months.

The rain and Sun are fighting it out. They come, they go. In the end no doubt they will happily co-exist together, and there will surely come a rainbow or two today. I must get out with my camera and try to capture one or two. I’m also looking for shadow photos as I have promised to post one or two for Elizabeth.

Here are a few shadowy ones I have found while digging around in my files. They are only snaps.

This is part of a ruin in France, at the top of a steep hill in the mountains. I forget the name of it but will look it up and post the location.

Taken in S.W. France, I forget the name of this place too. Anyone recognise it?

A couple of our garden. Why the first is on the left I don't know....

The next one is a view of an oak wood near our cottage and was taken by M.

Lane has a photo Meme - one must post the fourth photo in the fourth file in one’s online album - my photo filing system is haphazard to say the least but here goes.

This is M's fourth pic in his fourth album. It is our river.

Here is mine. It’s of my cat Molly in her (upstairs) sleeping place in the little study. At night she sleeps in the snug in a cosy fleecy nest on a chair by the Rayburn.

It’s a cat’s life isn’t it? I do envy her sometimes.

A borrower said to me yesterday ‘It will soon be Spring’ and do you know, she is right! This sunny lady is in her eighties and is another role model for me when I reach that age I feel. She is a great reader and plantswoman and is eagerly awaiting the warmer days when she can spend time in her garden.


Seasons and Change - even in one day it is never boring. I would hate to live somewhere where there was not such a ‘varied’ climate.

Weather? I seem to love it all, especially its extremes. Heavy rain, gales, storms. I love rain, both the soft kind and the torrential. I love to walk in the rain (it does wonders for the complexion!). The only thing I can’t stand is extreme heat; I blame my Irish genes for that.

A new chair for the computer, I bought it online from Viking because it was very much reduced. I spend a lot of time at the computer and my neck (which has been broken in the past) is starting to be affected, but now I am not suffering - I am really spoilt. It’s so comfy, is adjustable height-wise and swivels round a treat so I am having great fun with it - wait till the girls discover it’s fun element.

Scent. Someone recommended an online company selling ‘natural’ beauty products and at last I have found something that I have been searching for for ages. It is a lavender and rosemary cologne made in Jersey. Years ago I used to wear a lavender cologne that had a hint of ginger with it, so it was soothing and yet spicy at the same time, (bit like me?). It was discontinued and I haven’t been able to find anything like it. This one is lavender and rosemary but is just perfect and not too expensive; it’s suitable for men or women. I always have liked the men’s aftershavey type scents.

One last blessing?

The things President Obama has done already. I am pleased because there is no time to waste. I read that he is a Derek Walcott fan. I am too, I posted one of his poems once on this blog, I will try to dig it out. Obama is also a friend of the poet Elizabeth Alexander who read the Inauguration poem on Tuesday. I love this.

Praise Song for the Day

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.

Elizabeth Alexander

Barack Obama is like a ray of sunshine and I wish him well in trying his best to cast away the shadows that have been blighting this world.

Sunshine and shadow, it’s what life is all about I guess.

Bye for now,
Go mbeannai Dia duit,

Monday 19 January 2009

A Special Day

Dear Diary,

Today is a special day.  (Ignore the date at the top of this blog, it is the 20th January 2009.  I posted this just after midnight as the day arrived but the computer must have been late catching up).

It is my daughter's birthday.

There is also something going on in the USA.

I make no excuses; I am copying for you below the same post that I put up on the 5th November of last year.

I have read Barack Obama's books since that day and I am so impressed with his command of the English language; not only is he eloquent he can also write like an angel.

He will not be able to change the world on his own, how could one man possibly bear that responsibility? He will need support at home and and positive thinking from all over the world.

Good luck to him and may the angels keep him safe.

5th November 2008

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,

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.

Sunday 18 January 2009

She Moved Through The Fair

For Camilla whose birthday was yesterday and for my lovely special daughter whose birthday is tomorrow.

She Moved Through The Fair

My young love said to me,
My mother won't mind
And my father won't slight you
For your lack of kind"
And she stepped away from me
And this she did say:
It will not be long, love,
Till our wedding day"

As she stepped away from me
And she moved through the fair
And fondly I watched her
Move here and move there
And then she turned homeward
With one star awake
Like the swan in the evening
Moves over the lake

The people were saying,
No two e'er were wed
But one had a sorrow
That never was said
And I smiled as she passed
With her goods and her gear,
And that was the last
That I saw of my dear.

Last night she came to me,
My dead love came in
So softly she came
That her feet made no din
As she laid her hand on me
And this she did say
It will not be long, love,
'Til our wedding day

Padraic Colum

Friday 16 January 2009

Just Five Questions

Where I'd like to be (and how I'd like to look!)

Dear Diary,
Don't clamour for an interview. Instead search for the inner view.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba
I was going to blog about de-cluttering today as I am on such a mission - the urge to simplify my life even more has come upon me and I am, yet again, clearing out every little thing that is not used or needed. This is both a physical and a spiritual exercise and the effects of ’getting rid’ are truly liberating. It’s a New Year thing and I guess I am not alone in my endeavours. But dear Willow has asked me five questions in the form of an interview so I shall do my best to answer these below in a form of a blog and in no particular order, bit of a ramble as usual.
These are the questions:
1. How did you find your charming blacksmith's cottage in rural Wales?
2. What do you enjoy most about being a librarian?
3. If you could choose just one writer to have dinner with, who would it be and why?
4. Other than your loved ones, what is your most treasured tangible possession?

5. Before blogging, what if any, was your main mode of personal expression.

How did I find my cottage in rural Wales?

I believe that there are so many things that we are led to in life, would you agree? Books are just one of these, I am always being drawn to certain books that hold a message for me, either on shelves in a bookshop or by word of mouth or in the media. The same thing happens with those people who I am sure are soul mates, folk that we may meet by chance but feel we ‘recognise’, even on a first meeting. They often go on to become great friends in this life. I believe we are led to whatever is meant for us and everything becomes part of the great Learning Experience that is our present Life on Earth. However, if you don’t believe in any of this, or in reincarnation then you will not agree with me.
I am digressing. I will come back to this subject another day.
I feel I was led to this wee cottage - Ty’r Gof could be its correct Welsh name. House of the blacksmith. Its true title however is a description of where it is, also in Welsh but for obvious reasons I will not give you that.
It is a long and rather a personal story, but suffice it to say I was definitely not looking for a house, not even planning to buy one but was walking down the high street of a local market town twelve years ago when my eyes were physically drawn, pulled really, to a photo of the cottage and its details, tucked away at the bottom of an estate agent’s window. Because it was in a local area that I knew well but I didn’t seem to recognise the cottage, I was rather curious and when I had finished my shopping this curiosity got the better of me and I went to ask for a copy of the agent’s details.
Its pull on me persisted and so, a few days later, on a bright autumn afternoon, I went to view it with my daughter and my new (first) granddaughter. It was a very ‘tidy’ place as they say here in Wales, with a rather neat riverside garden. The owners were moving for health reasons; a lovely elderly couple who had lived here for over forty years.
What did I love at first sight? Its riverside location (I’ll say that word only once but you get the picture) and also its ‘atmosphere’. My baby granddaughter fell straight asleep as soon as we put her baby seat down in the little snug and we were able to take a tour round. I am highly sensitive to the auras around people and places and this cottage has the most wonderful vibes; it is very comforting and relaxing, everyone says so.
The five acre field the other side of the river came with it and also the old blacksmith’s forge across the road. When we first escaped to Wales eighteen years ago M and I had bought a 7-acre smallholding high up in the hills, several miles away but this purchase had been a mistake, the vibes of that old farmhouse were not good (I did not go with my instincts in those days, more‘s the pity). We left there after a three years and in not pleasant circumstances as we both went our separate ways for a couple of years.
It is a long story but in the end M and I (together) bought this little blacksmith’s abode in its magical valley and a happy ending for our little family was only just beginning. Ty’r Gof drew me in magnetically, as things do. And now I love being at home so much that it is hard to get me from here.

My writer dinner guest?

It would have to be my hero Tony Benn. Better known as a politician but he is also a great writer. I do love his politics though, also his eloquence, his great knowledge of history and his wide experience of life. I love too his warm heart and the way he still strives for peace in the world, God bless him.

This is a must-read book.

The best thing about being a librarian?

I started as a library assistant and had seven years experience of working in different departments of the library service until health reasons caused me to seek part-time work and this job as a branch librarian came up close to my home. The timing was perfect, yet again. I think I do have the best job in the world, for me it is anyway. As an ex-nurse I enjoy caring for people and books are my passion. I also love working with children (I worked in a primary school as a welfare assistant when my children were young). The little community library is attached to a primary school so my job involves a lot of liaison with the children. So this job was made for me in heaven and I am in my element working with books all day. They say nothing is perfect, but this job is pretty damn near. All libraries are under threat, especially small ones, so we do feel constantly vulnerable - we had one big scare a few years ago but the community put up a big fight and won the day. I think in the present economic climate, libraries are even more vital to society, do you agree?
How did I express myself before blogging began?

Was there life before blogging? I can’t imagine life without it now; it brings me so much pleasure, both in the writing of mine and the reading of others. It is addictive though and I spend far too much time on the computer but the Blogosphere is another place I feel truly at home in and I have made so many wonderful new friends, all over the globe. It all began when a journal I kept for a creative writing course was continued as a blog and it just kept going. I have always written, ever since I was a child when I filled loads of exercise books with stories. I try and write poetry which is my first love. I wish I could paint or draw but I am utterly useless at doing anything with my hands.
How we express ourselves could be a great subject for a blog in itself and a very relevant one for writers and artists. It’s what art is all about. It’s about a lot more than therapy this blogging lark, do you agree?
Last but not least, what material object do I value?

I am totally unmaterialistic and only photos spring to mind, a bit of a cliché really as everyone says this. But I treasure photos and documents relating to my mother. She and I were living in dire poverty and were forcibly separated when I was fourteen months old. I was adopted and she died when I was six. (I found that out when I was in my thirties).
They say an Irish mother is a blessing from heaven and although I have written in this blog and others about the many blessings in my life, my mother, who is with me in spirit), my children and my grandchildren are the greatest.
And with that final answer I must really get back to my de-cluttering,
Bye for now,
PS If you would like me to interview you, please leave a comment somewhere for me and I will get back to you. You will have to blog your answers and be prepared to ask other folk in turn.
Go on, it’s fun!

Friday 9 January 2009

Time for Change

Dear Diary,

'You must be the change you wish to see in the world'

Mahatma Gandhi

I had another bath this morning…I felt the need for more lavender and tea tree oils to start the day and as I soaked I listened to Radio 4 (I cannot live without Radio 4).

I have been listening to Book of the Week all this week which is:

And Did Those Feet: Walking Through 2000 Years of British and Irish History

By Charlie Connelly.

It has been a very interesting ’listen’ and his original style of writing really brings history, a subject that can be portrayed in a rather dull fashion, to life and no more so than this morning which was the Irish part of his journey where he writes about the Doolough famine walk in County Mayo. He retold the horrific truth of what happened to these starving folk in the west of Ireland. If you can possibly spare the time do Listen Again online. It's only just under 15 minutes long.

After a late breakfast I had a nice chat on the phone with my daughter and then spent a pleasant morning in the sunshine (!) and even managed to do a few jobs in the garden. Later the dogs had a good long run in the field while I took a few snaps.



The caravan that lives by the river; somewhere to escape to and good for sleepovers.

A couple of views from the field (spot the magic crab apple tree).

Tonight, coincidentally, I watched the final part of the story of the Diary of Anne Frank which has been serialised on BBC1. And following on, straight afterwards, I watched an excellent two hour documentary on BBC4, narrated by Kenneth Branagh, about Anne’s (short) life. I could not stop watching this even though it could not have been more horrific. While watching both these programmes I was reminded of the words that Charlie Connolly had quoted in relation to the treatment of the Irish and which I heard as my day begun, while relaxing in my bath.

It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.

Mahatma Gandhi

It surely is a time for a change, why doesn't Man ever learn from history?

Bye for now,
Peace be with you,

Wednesday 7 January 2009

The cold continues

Dear Diary,

We spend January walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential. ~Ellen Goodman

No, it’s not me. This is a photo of the woman who is always to be found in next door’s garden and who sits by their duck pond most of the year. (Luckily she doesn’t seem to feel the cold). Probably to celebrate Christmas she has recently had a new outfit and her make-up has been re-touched; she is rather a beauty don’t you think?

It was minus 9.5 last night, I slept under a mountain of duvets and a quilt and cuddled my hot water bottle. Even so, my body was crying out for a hot bath this morning so. as it is a non-work day, I indulged its desires. I ran a bath and added some of my new lavender bath stuff that my daughter bought me for Christmas and mixed it with a couple of drops of my much-loved tea-tree oil. The water was deliciously warm and certainly got my (poor) circulation going. I have always had poor circulation, it must be an inherited thing. As I relaxed into the water I listened to Woman’s Hour which I always enjoy and I have to say it was a real morning treat. I vow to take more baths in future, either in the mornings or the evenings as they are so relaxing and warming, especially at this time of year. So that can be my first resolution, to have more baths. It is a rather pathetic one isn’t it? Other resolutions? I haven’t really made any but I must put my mind to 2009 because it is a subject for writing homework.

The river is frozen again and now there are parts that weren’t affected before that have succumbed. I keep forgetting my camera when I take the dogs for their run in the field. The birds are getting through their food at an alarming rate so we made a special trip out on Monday to stock up with more peanuts and seeds and M even bought a loaf of white sliced 'plastic' bread for them. I have to say that the message from the birds this morning was ‘What do you call this then? Not bread surely!’ They are used to M’s delicious home-made bread you see.

This is Sammy Squirrel proving that he can climb up the pole and reach the nuts. See how he rests his bottom on the iced up water tray - it must be cold!

All is quiet around these parts but I think that local plumbers have been kept very busy dealing with burst pipes. Some schools have not re-opened for the new term - two of my grand-daughters are still off school, much to their delight.

I’m reading a delicious book at the moment, it is Oystercatchers by Susan Fletcher, (a rather ‘plain’ name I feel for such a gifted writer); she wrote the excellent Eve Green, that is another ‘must-read’.

Before I go this is a poem by Caroline Bird who won a Young Poet prize recently, it may have been the Dylan Thomas one. I heard her on Woman’s Hour on Monday where she read her moving poem ‘Women in Progress’ She is a wonderful poet, so young but with such amazing talent. For a New Year, 2009 poem this one beats all.

Women in Progress

(an exaltation for the 14 year old girls in my poetry workshops)

Gemma would take her hair-straighteners
to a desert island but she’s no stereotype.
I hope she nails her sonnet (and that lad) in 2009.
Maxie has a puppy-dog hidden
in the kennel of her chest. Publicly
she thumps her jewellery, roaring ‘your mum!’
I hope she acts herself in 2009.
Salena’s best friend betrayed her. Now
she must audition new friends in the lunch-hall.
I hope she finds hundreds in 2009.
Zoe shields her largeness with her library books
- Point Horror - walks the weaker kids home
through the path of least-bullies.
I hope her mum gets better in 2009.
People think Rachel’s got a Loser badge
pinned to her hoodie but I’ve read her poetry
and she’s got the perfect simile for sky.
I hope she goes to sixth form in 2009.
Because you’ll break my heart, 2009,
if you show me again those tired teachers flexing red pens.
And a drowning poet saying ‘you could be anything’
to an oversized class in an undersized room.
Don’t show me the future in their faces:
girls waving pom-poms at the fringes of the football field,
girls feeling fat behind tills. A knockers joke
in every Christmas cracker. Tell an honest one, 2009.
Tell me the one about the woman
who dug a tunnel through the system and set forth.
She had panda-eyes but an independent tear.

I will sign off now but send you the warmest wishes,


Sunday 4 January 2009

All Things Cold and a Prayer for Peace

Dear Diary,

I shall start with a poem today, I was inspired looking out of my window when I awoke.

Minus 12

Iced-up; the river seems un-moving.
Edged with lumps of white that are
sculptural; frozen and un-bowing.
The river slows ahead and stops
and at its bend surrendering,
so strangely still, she yields to Nature,
whose Chill is far too much a contest for her Dance
and she pauses in the ice-flow’s stony grip.
Proudly, a narrowed channel fights its way
and far beneath the great covering of white ice,
(those sheets where in my fancy
those water-nymphs may skate or skid),
I cannot help but trust she flows
and cannot help but pray that she will never sleep.

Everywhere of late there has been nothing else but the talk of the Great Cold. It has been so cold that 0 degrees is beginning to feel like warm to us. I wake this morning and somehow suspect it is more like -12 and I am amazed to see that the river is frozen. I vow to invest in a Max-Min thermometer; our neighbours have one hanging by their back door. There is some odd satisfaction in knowing or being able to relate to others what the temperature is/has been.

As a child of the fifties I was used to having ice on the inside of my windows but lately in the UK we have not been blessed with such ‘proper’ winters. I remember one in the 1980’s when, back in Sussex, the temperature was -8 for several nights.

It was -4 at 5 pm last evening, I know that because my car has a temperature gauge and I bore passengers by reading it as it fluctuates on my journeys up and down hills and mountains. It was -8 locally during the day. It feels like -12 today but I am only guessing. I have put an extra duvet on the bed and won’t go into details but I am well layered-up!

Molly the cat ventures out but soon returns. One dog is almost wrapped around the Rayburn; the other is cooched up on his pillows on the floor beside my bed, right next to the heater. He (Finn) was twelve on New Year’s Day and we spoil him in honour of his great age by letting him sleep in the bedroom and he lies on proper pillows (and has his own doggy pillow cases of course!). The two dogs rarely cooch up together, in fact the cat and Finn are more ‘loving’ to each other, regularly grooming and washing each other. (I will try and post you a photo).

I shall have to go and fetch more logs in as I think we will be getting through a lot in these coming days. We store them in the old forge across the road and carry them over in the wheelbarrow to store in the front porch. Snow is forecast for some areas, maybe tomorrow morning. Luckily our freezer is not empty and we have enough tinned and dried foods to see us through should we be snowed in. I have to replenish the bird feeders, run the dogs, and drive to the local shop to get a Sunday paper which is a little indulgence I still enjoy. Then I will retreat to the warm cottage and get a dinner cooking.

So are there blessings?

There always are. Here are just a few.

Duvets. I need say no more.

New Years. And their Resolutions or Predictions maybe? I shall soon be blogging about this as it is the subject for our writing group’s next exercise.

Hot Soups. Foods with a kick. Curries, Stews, Roasts. Dumplings. No more elaboration needed here either.

Sundays. My favourite day of the week. I have enjoyed this Christmas holiday period (did I really write that?) inasmuch as each day has merged and become like a Sunday and given over to a break from the much-despised routine that life can become.

Last... but never let it be said it is the least….. The joy that is Reading a Good Book. I get such pleasure in my job by seeing borrowers feel that same delight and anticipation of finding warmth, both physical and spiritual and a genuine comfort from escape into others’ creativity where others’ words can take them into others’ worlds.

Will that be enough?

I could add the wonder that is a great voice, a voice of an angel in fact, such as Leona Lewis’s who is singing to me as I type. I play Run over and over as I love the lyrics and the way the melody rises in volume and power.

That’s enough for now. Chores await.

I send you all warm wishes and also a huge prayer for Peace in the world.

“I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.”

Albert Einstein
1879 - 1955

Go mbeanna Dia duit,

Friday 2 January 2009

New Year Ramblings

Dear Diary,

"I will seek elegance rather than luxury, refinement rather than fashion. I will seek to be worthy more than respectable, wealthy and not rich. I will study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly. I will listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with an open heart. I will bear all things cheerfully, do all things bravely, await occasions and hurry never. In a word I will let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common."
William Ellery Channing

I found that wonderful quotation on this wonderful blog. and had to share it with you.

Yesterday was New Year’s Day and was another gift of magic visually. We went to have a drink with some dear friends, it was only a short drive through the lanes but was such a treat as everything about us was still clothed in white. Flakes of frost floated about but were unlike snowflakes; they were more ethereal, and resembled the white feathers sent down for us by the angels in times of need. We were tempted to stop and take photos but we didn’t have time unfortunately. These days of frost are quite rare and we must make the most of them.

I have got used to the Arctic conditions now and rather love them, I never thought I would. It was - 6 over night and - 2.5 in the day. Donning layers is the answer - thick tights and socks and scarves (indoors) and gloves, hats and warmest coat and boots (outside). Hot drinks a-plenty throughout the day and I try and keep moving, it is fatal to be still unless one is curled up in a blanket by the fire! Our beloved woodburner and old Rayburn are vital of course, as we have no central heating but at the moment we are also relying on extremely expensive electric oil filled radiators to supplement these two stalwarts.

The poor birds are suffering though, the garden is ‘overflowing’ with our feathered friends seeking morsels of food. We have put out fat balls, mixed seeds, M’s home-made bread which they adore, peanuts, porridge oats and also my home made bird cake made with left-over beef dripping. We have a new ‘bird feeding station’, a grand name for a set of metal hooks. We thought it would be squirrel proof but Sammy has at last managed to climb up the pole and reach the nuts. Proof that where there is a will there is always a way. Freezing temperatures were probably the spur. Is this a symbol of how one can conquer what seems to be insurmountable if one persists? I think so.

I have really enjoyed this book…The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift and I would like to recommend it to you. A fellow blogger recommended it to me and I was not disappointed. Isn’t it wonderful the way word of mouth, or rather word of ’net’ works, especially with books - as a librarian I have seen how the love of a good book can spread like wildfire. Morville Hours is the story of the making of a Shropshire garden from scratch but is much more than that, the subjects covered are wide and all of interest, the author is knowledgeable in many areas and manages to tell part of her life story at the same time. It is an inspiring book and was a great read over Christmas.

Talking of inspiring writers, I am reading Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father at the moment. I will blog about this later but I will just say now that this man can write as well as he can speak. Not long now until he becomes President Obama.

As I write this I am playing ‘Run’ by Leona Lewis, the wonderful Snow Patrol song of course. I am feeling rather proud of myself as it is the first song I have purchased from Itunes because I hope to make up compilations of songs sometimes rather than buy whole albums. Needless to say my daughter helped me set this up; it is easy though, like everything is, once you know how. God, I apologise, this posting is riddled with cliches, my old writing tutor would be making much use of the red pen if she was reading this!

Still on the musical theme I’ll end, not with a poem, but with the lyrics to a song by Cat Stevens, one of my all time favourite singer/songwriters - he is now called Yusuf Islam of course but still making music.

M was playing Cat’s classic CD Catch Bull at Four yesterday morning; I know every line and the order of the songs by heart. This one resonated with me as the date was New Year’s Day.

Changes IV

Don't you feel a change a coming from another side of time breaking down the walls of silence lifting shadows from your mind Placing back the missing mirrors that before you couldn't find filling mysteries of emptiness that yesterday left behind And we all know it's better Yesterday has past now let's all start the living for the one that's going to last Yes we all know it's better Yesterday has past now let's all start the living for the one that's going to last Don't you feel the day is coming that will stay and remain when your children see the answers that you saw the same when the clouds have all gone there will be no more rain and the beauty of all things is uncovered again Don't you feel the day is coming and it won't be too soon when the people of the world can all live in one room when we shake off the ancient shake off the ancient chains of our tomb we will all be born again of the eternal womb

Here you can watch him performing the song live on the BBC way back when.

The feelings contained therein are still needed today in 2009.

When will the day come?

Bye for now,