Happy New Year from London, England #BigBen #NewYear #London #poetry

To avoid the crowds this year, a jolly, good fellow has made me a model of The Houses of Parliament, which means Big Ben, (St Stephen’s Tower) a little imagination and ‘the bare necessities (of life) have come to me’ …(see pic)…

On the last day of the year in 1865 (1 day after Rudyard Kipling’s birth in Bombay). Poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) wrote the poem ‘I Stood on a Tower’

‘I stood on a tower in the wet,

And New Year and Old Year met,

And winds were roaring and blowing;

And I said, “O years, that meet in tears,

Have you all that is worth the knowing?

Science enough and exploring,

Wanderers coming and going,

Matter enough for deploring,

But aught that is worth the knowing?”‘


The last 4 lines of this poem shall be the feature of tomorrow’s blog, on the 1st January 2016, with a photo that best suits the passing of the wet, weary Old Year and the revealing of the shiny New.

12 days of Christmas, 12 bells of New Year…

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One ‘If,’ no ‘buts’  #Kipling #poetry #December #history

‘If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on others…’

From ‘If-‘ the masculine ideal poem written by Rudyard Kipling in 1895 and based on Dr Jameson, leader of the fiasco which came to be known as the Jameson raid, (1895-1896) in the war with South Africa.

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (now, Mumbai) India on 30th December 1865, 150 years ago today.  

His parents, John Lockwood Kipling and Alice MacDonald, first met at Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire (North England) in 1863; a popular place for courting with its rowing boats, funfair, brass band concerts and dozens of tea rooms.

By the end of the 1800s, 20,000 excursionists bought cheap train tickets to Rudyard Lake. Blondin, the world’s greatest trapeze artist, fresh from his feat crossing Niagara Falls on high wire, came to repeat his achievement at the lake.

Rudyard Kipling would take his very British name and his strong legacy into world history.

(Poetry– ‘My Boy Jack’, ‘If-‘, Literature– ‘The Jungle Book,’ (the last-animated-film made by Walt Disney in 1966) the book ‘Kim’ as well as The War Graves Commission in World War I). Along the way, at some point, everyone will meet Rudyard.

Keep ‘keeping your head’…and keep the peace…two days to New Year.
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Time to rage against the ‘dying of the light’  #solstice #poetry #December #Hastings

In the UK, the 21st December is the shortest day of the year – the ‘winter solstice’.

In Hastings, East Sussex – beside the sea and looking out about 40 miles across the channel to the northern beaches of France – the sun rises at 07.58 and sets at 15.54.

Every day the sun will set exactly one minute later, ‘come rain or shine’ as Sinatra once sang. However sunrise works at a much slower pace increasing (not decreasing yet) by one minute every few days.  

In the first week there is no noticeable difference, but you are happy in the knowledge that ‘the days are getting longer.’ What a great relief!

Naturally the sunset and the sunrise do not determine the weather conditions – these are a whole other phenomenon.

So whatever you are doing – indoors or out – you’ll be gaining priceless light minutes in which to do it, which will add up along the way…!

‘As the blinding shadows fall,

As the rays diminish,

Under the evening’s cloak, they all

Roll away and vanish.’

From ‘Night And Day’ by R.L.Stevenson

‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light…’
Dylan Thomas

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7 days till the 1st day of Christmas #Christmas #poetry 

Christmas Day, 25th of December, is officially the 1st Day of Christmas and only one week away (from today). So after all the carolling you’ve been doing, you’ll soon have the chance to be counting the days of Christmas, from the 25th to epiphany on the 6th of January, plus humming and singing to the well-known, usual tune.

Starting with ‘a partridge in a pear tree’ 

I do hope everyone’s enjoying the festive windows which are truly ‘winter wonderful,’ and preparing a very happy ‘holiday season’ without too much chaos. Maybe hide away with a book of poetry and a bit of port; the only drink that can be made out of the word poetry –

 P O E T R Y – before the real Christmas days arrive…

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A Square Tree #Christmas #London #Norway 

“This tree is given by the city of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45.
A tree has been given annually since 1947.”

In Trafalgar Square, stands a 50-60 year old Norway Spruce. It is shipped across the North Sea, travels up to London and is adorned simply in the Nordic style with 500 white lights.

Around this tree congregate Carollers (singers of traditional Carols), happy school children, rockers, onlookers and fundraisers, proving that under the protection and beauty of green, spiky branches all sorts of people can come together safely.

Each year new poems are displayed on banners about the base.

‘Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree thy leaves are so unchanging…’

Here she will stand until 6th January 2016, if you are about come and take a look at Trafalgar Square’s perfect triangular Tree for 2015 – day or night! Follow the star

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Fancy a swim? #NewYear #Lifeboats #charity #sea

On New Year’s Day, precisely 3 weeks today, the 1st of the bright 2016 Year falling on a Friday, hearty Hastings folk like to take a New Year sea dip (this is when I show my London side and profusely refuse to remove even a sock).

All in good faith and despite the sign below, bathing takes place, money is raised, and a donation to the ‘Lifeboats’ (RNLI) charity is given.

Everyone makes a brief, but splendidly supportive effort, a swig of whisky is included, warm towels lie in wait and enthusiastic cheers abound.

I recall one member of the party covering himself in organic goose fat “to lock in the heat” … 

“Yes, but when did a goose ever swim in the sea? Incidentally does a goose cluck or quack? If the fat doesn’t work, try feathers instead!”

It will be interesting to see who turns up this year for the swim, I’ll wait for the warm Caribbean and a cold piña colada …perhaps…perhaps…perhaps…

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Things I moose do… #Christmas #OperationSmile #charity #poetry

Sometimes a list is the best way to deal with this busy time of year, primarily called Christmas, although it can take on other names such as ‘Noel’ and ‘The Holiday Season.'(yuk)

It’s never too soon to think it all through, write it all down, and then tick it all off, bit by bit!  
Expect some surprises, and last minute things too.

Selecting and highlighting TV programmes comes soon.

Shopping and preparing the meal is last of all, if it’s you…Good luck.

If you’re the guest…remember your oohs, ahhs, pleases and thank yous, always take a gift and say ‘yes‘ to everything (including charades, scrabble, a recital of some sort, jokes and clearing up) – it is Christmas! (apparently).

Make everyday a ‘good-morrow’…

‘… all pleasures fancies be.

If ever any beauty I did see,

Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.’

from ‘The Good-morrow’ by John Donne (1572-1631)

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A Birthday In The Bleak Mid-Winter #Rossetti #December #OnThisDay #poetry #music

On the 5th of December 1830 (85 years ago today) Christina Rossetti, the youngest of the artistic Rossetti family, was born in London.
She wrote the well-known, wintry, Christian lyrics of the carol ‘In The Bleak Mid-Winter.’  The widely-hummed music was composed by Gustav Holst (1874-1934).  Holst was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and is most famous for his composition ‘The Planets.’
The words and the melody come together perfectly to form a delicate, soft and slowly journeying hymn. There is nothing too trying for the vocal chords, one could almost read the verses over a log fire with the cold wind locked outside.

‘In the bleak mid-winter 

Frosty winds may moan;

Earth stood hard as iron,

Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter,

Long ago…’

First verse of In The Bleak Mid-Winter’

It is perhaps appropriate to mention that Christina also wrote a poem entitled: ‘A Birthday’

‘Because the birthday of my life 

Is come, my love is come to me.’

There is plenty of singing and rejoicing this time of year; we are deep in the heart of poetry, music and storytelling.
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Scarves, coats, gloves, hats, Sea Fever and Lines for Winter  #December #poetry #poets #Winter #sea

Welcome to December.  

If you are living on Earth, in the northern hemisphere of a temperate climate disposition then this is most definitely a Winter month.

And the wind, rain, grey, dull temperatures, and lack of light confirms it…. 

Sunrise 07:38 Sunset 15:55

‘Tell yourself 

as it gets cold and grey falls from the air

that you will go on

walking, hearing

the same tune no matter where 

you find yourself – 

inside the dome of dark

or under the cracking white

of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow…’

From ‘Lines for Winter’ by Mark Strand (US Poet Laureate from 1990-91)

Poetry, in many forms, can bring a lot of light into your ‘darkened’ world.

A source of comfort and pleasure, on your own or openly with friends and family…start choosing a ‘party piece’ to share this Christmas.

In other news…

Leigh Hunt’s ‘Young Poets’ published 1st December 1816, named John Keats as one of three “young aspirants … who promise to revive Nature and put a new spirit of youth into everything.”

On 1st December 1902, the poet John Masefield was not hopeful the book, ‘Salt Water Ballads,’ which features his most popular poem ‘Sea Fever’, would sell.

He wrote: “they are a rough and tumble lot of ballads dealing with life at sea and drunken sailors…not much romance about them.”

The 500 copies were sold out by the end of the year (ie. a month later).  

Find your Winter Spirit and Keep Warm!

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