Autumn is falling – Leaving London   #leaves #autumn #London #GreenPark #October

Between the green stretches of Hyde Park and St James Park in the city of Westminster lies Green Park, 47 acres of public strolling grounds.  

It is both a lovely green space in the heart of London, and the lungs of the city too, providing fresh country air – perfect for escaping Piccadilly madness.

There are no lakes, no playgrounds, no buildings and no planted beds (so no king may gather flowers for his mistress). There are 3 memorials.

Here is a quick history of the area:

In the 17th century it was a swampy burial ground for lepers.

In 1668 the area was part of the Poulteney family estate, who then surrendered the bulk of land to King Charles II, thus becoming a Royal Park, ‘Upper St James Park.’  Charles, in his turn, enclosed the parkland with a brick wall and built an icehouse for cold summer drinks (as one does).

By the 18th century it was an isolated area, haunted by thieves and highwaymen. Horace Walpole, writer and politician, was robbed here.

In the 18th-19th centuries there were public firework displays (in 1749 Handel composed music specifically for a Green Park display) and ballooning (up, up and away) and even duelling (sword fights).

In 1820 John Nash landscaped the area and in June 1840 from Constitutional Hill, Edward Oxford made an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria.

For me, in 2017Green Park (also a tube stop) is an excellent in-between walking route from Berkeley Square to Victoria, early in the morning when the squirrels are busy burying conkers and tourists are making their way to Buckingham Palace.

The plain trees are beginning to shred, scattering brown and yellow crinkly leaves along the pathway; there is an earthy dampness, a grey chill and a pale light filtering through the flaking canopy.  

Autumn is now the season to go strolling.  

Green Park offers everyone a green and pleasant land in London Town.

Follow my blogs http://www.katebarnwell.com

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Um – brella – come rain or shine #rain #sun #tradition #London #history #umbrella

Let me share a quote with you that seems appropriate in the current ‘crazy’ weather climate, affecting a vast number of people across the globe.

Here it is, direct from the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival, a sometimes quite rainy area of land inhabited by Scots: 

“I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it ‘brella’ but he hesitated.” 

Um, firstly I think it’s rather presumptive to assume it was a man, but let’s think of the ‘he’ collectively.

The name umbrella evolved from the Latin umbella – a flat-topped rounded flower and the term umbra, meaning shadow or shade. In Italian, Latin’s closest modern-day language, the term for shade is ombra and for umbrella, ombrella.

While we play with names and definitions here are a few more of notable interest:

Un Parasol (French and Spanish) protects against the sun, para means stop or shield and sol is sun.

Un Parapluie (French) is an umbrella, para (shield against) pluie (rain). 

A Parachute (English, French) – para (shield from) a fall.

The oldest reference to a collapsible umbrella is 21AD in Ancient China. Then we follow the umbrella, in all its forms, through the traditions and customs of dynasties such as Ancient India, Siam, the Middle East, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, the Aztecs and Europe.

In The Middle Ages (of Britain) a cloak, not an  umbrella, was often the desired clothing against rainstorms.

In 1768 a Paris magazine stated:

‘Those who do not wish to be mistaken for vulgar people much prefer to take the risk of being soaked rather than be regarded as one who goes on foot; an umbrella is a sure sign of someone who does not own his own carriage.’

It would not be long before umbrellas became a fashionable item; an accessory not only to shelter from the rain but to avoid the heat of the scorching sun (the sunbeams being particularly piercing in India, for example). 

By the 1750s the British people had got over their natural shyness and promoted the umbrella’s general use.

One such character, Jonas Hanway, founder of the Magdalen Hospital, dared the reproach and ridicule – the staring, laughing, jeering, hooting, heckling and bullying – of hackney taxi-cabs, of carrying an umbrella in London, everyday for 30 years, dying, nice and dry, in 1786.

There is a small street in London’s Fitzrovia, leading from Oxford Street winding itself to Tottenham Court Road, called Hanway Street, reputed to be named after our man. His popularisation of the umbrella was more successful than his attempt to introduce stilts into London, keen to avoid the muck and grime of the 18th century streets. 

Clearly he likes the theme of ‘avoidance.’ 

Ironically Umbrellas are the most ‘left’ items in taxi-cabs. 

They are sometimes extremely annoying but desperately useful articles, not everybody wants to ‘sing in the rain’ or have ‘raindrops keep falling on their head’…
Global National Umbrella Day is 10th February.

Follow my blogs http://www.katebarnwell.com

Firstly… The 1st of March 2017 #daffodils, #leeks, #StDavid, #Lent, #AshWednesday, #Wales, #history #tradition

Today, the 1st March 2017 marks many points of calendar interest.

Firstly, March 1st is St David’s day, the patron saint of Wales. He is remembered by the wearing of a daffodil. However for many centuries the leek was regarded as the national emblem. But Why? 

Well glad you asked. St David is supposed to have won a great battle and ordered his soldiers to wear leeks as distinguishing marks.

The daffodil, or Lent lily, is probably related to the lily of France, for Welsh soldiers are believed to have brought it home after fighting the French battles of Henry V.

Also Welsh for leek = cennin and for daffodil = cennin Pedr … extremely close in spelling and sound.
Secondly March 1st of 2017 is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Some people may still follow the custom of ‘giving up certain foods’ during the Lent period.

Lent comes from the Saxon word ‘lencten‘ because the days of Spring are now ‘lengthening‘. The days are getting longer, we have more natural light!

The ‘Ash‘ refers to the ash from the palms of the previous year’s Palm Sunday. At church Lent starts with the marking of a cross with a finger dipped in ashes on the forehead of those attending.

It is important to remind ourselves, whether we partake or not, of the historical and religious connections of these named-day diary events…“Just in case you come tête-à-tête with a daffy!”


Follow my blogs http://www.katebarnwell.com

Hare & Hawthorn have it! #books #bookshops #poetry #story #Hastings #local #AleisterStratton #EastSussex #history #hare

It is with great pleasure I now happily announce that my two poetry books, Poems & Lyrics, and Ever Truly Yours and my short story novella: The Case of Aleister Stratton (special, signed pre-release copies) are now available to buy in a lovely, local bookshop and bindery in Hastings Old Town, ‘Hare & Hawthorn.’ A unique little shop with beautifully bound new and old classic books, illustrated paper, mugs and pens all chosen and selected to the owner’s taste. This special, individual shop is found down one of the many twisted alleyways in one of the oldest towns in Great Britain.

Hastings of East Sussex, known as the 1066 county, celebrates its 950th anniversary in October, 2016. It is wonderful to be part of its fabric of history.

Follow my blogs http://www.katebarnwell.com

Check out… ‘The Case of Aleister Stratton’ http://www.aleisterstratton.com

High on a Hill #Hampstead #London #signs #history

Here I stand (head in hand) high on a hill, Hampstead Heath, on the last day of August 2015. What lies before me is the misty silhouette of the best city in the world LONDON, ENGLAND!
From the Shard to the left to the BT tower on the right lies a pulsing, vibrant, demanding, high-energy city in which many men and women have made their home over the centuries. With close inspection you can see a tiny St Paul’s, a mini Big Ben clock tower (St Stephens) and the curve of the Millennium Eye wheel.

Of course it is in London that ‘the streets are paved with gold.’

Near here, Mr Richard (Dick) Whittington (1354-1423) and his black cat heard the church (Bow) bells, calling him to ‘Turn again Whittington, Lord Mayor of London.’
Indeed he did become Lord Mayor, not once but three times (as the bells predicted) during the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.
He also made his fortune…this is a perfect ‘rags to riches tale.’

What happy cries, chimes, signs and symbols will you be listening for…wherever you are?
Step back and look at the bigger picture…are your answers lying there?

Performing Poetry #StratfordPoetryFestival

“Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears!”

What great enthusiasm and energy at The Stratford upon Avon Poetry Festival!

Directly outside Shakespeare’s birthplace in the heart of the town, we gathered an audience and recited a varied selection of poems, written by the choicest poets (from sonnets to comical rhymes). It’s not an easy task but it’s a great pleasure to join happy, like minded people for whom poetry is a joy.

Our T-shirts read ‘Shakespeare lives here, Stratford Poetry Festival 2015’

‘Not Waving But Drowning’ #poetry

On the 8th July 1822, the leading figure of the Romantic movement, Percy Bysshe Shelley, drowned in the Bay of Spezia, Italy, when his small boat foundered in a storm. He had just visited friends, poet Lord Byron and journalist and writer Leigh Hunt. In his pocket was found a volume of John Keats poetry.

Shelley was an extremely controversial figure…he disapproved of marriage, royalty, meat-eating and religion. In truth he was an absolute rebel and anarchist and his work reflects his intellectual courage and sharp sense of humour.

 ‘I weep for Adonais – he is dead!

O, weep for Adonais! though our tears

Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!’

Ironically, Percy Shelley quoted this section of his poem 17 months before on hearing of the death of the Romantic poet he so admired, John Keats (February, 1821).

In England, Shelley was hardly mourned, one obituary stated “Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned; now he knows whether there is a God or not.”

Today, Shelley is remembered as one of the most significant poets of The Romantic Circle, who has contributed enormously to English literary and intellectual life.

Today’s blog title ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ is the title poem by Stevie Smith.

A Quote from Oscar

Sometimes the wit and intelligence of Oscar Wilde is perfectly fitting in today’s world. I’m sorry that occasionally his pithy and creative genius is overlooked by the illustrious and flamboyant life he led. In 2015, 115 years after his death, he would have found Britain a much freer and accepting society with plenty of material to write about, but he was born of his era and his plays and society are of another time. But here’s a quote from him that is definitely unchanged,

“I’m not young enough to know everything!”

Try this (sarcastically) on the young! If they don’t understand it and you have to explain it, then chances are they need to grow up!

A ‘Carpe Diem’ poem

‘Carpe Diem’ translates as ‘Seize the day!’
Robert Herrick‘s poetry of the 17th century is full of exuberance, warmth and joviality. It is so lyrical – you almost feel it should be set to music and sung with gusto!
His Elizabethan language is more clear and understandable, particularly to the modern reader, than that of many of his contemporaries whose poetical style was the popular ‘metaphysical’ (inventive use of metaphors, similes and imagery on love etc.)
Herrick encourages us to make the most of our time and our life…love is splendid and the world is beautiful.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time ye is a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be a-dying.

from ‘To the Virgins to Make Much of Time’

Making time for Tea

Tea is finally getting the respect it deserves. Essentially it’s now being served in a proper teapot of ample space for seeping and resting – this is even true in France and America, who are not known as tea loving countries. Perhaps this is due, in part, to designer, snazzy painted teapots, rivalling collectors tea sets and the many competitive tea -serving cafes on the streets.

Originally tea was shipped over in ‘clippers’ travelling the perilous seas from far Asia; the delicate leaves were stored in clay pots, to keep them dry, for their western journey. On arrival in cold, damp, chilly England, the pots were brought ashore with great fascination, hot water added and a joyous, soothing drink was born, reformed, improved and blended to perfection over time. My point is this, the Chinese never meant for the pots to become a tool for tea, they were simply its container; they would have taken the leaves out and added them straight to a small cup. But cultural self expression and personal adaptation is a wonderful part of social evolution.

Thankfully the delightful, bulging, friendly teapot is a traditional, worthy favourite at the table. 

350 years on, the British have turned to a dried out leaf, grown high on The Eastern plains, added to it some hot water & splash of milk and in the process, after a few sips, put life to rights again. It’s seen them through everything on every scale (even the invasion of the coffee bean & it’s fancy, fashionable Italian variations). 

 Time for tea and inspiration…!