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.

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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.

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Pirates & Piracy #pirates #Hastings #records #drummers 

Piracy in Hastings Old Town has become a mid-July, summer celebration and each year, along buccaneer mile, a little variation keeps it ever-exciting and wildly entertaining. Pirates from all over the country, county, cities and o’er the seas come to revel and rollick.
This year includes, ‘The Tigers’ free-fall parachuting, and landing on the end of Hastings pier; fierce and feisty drummers – Section 5; drinking gin before 11am; beards, parrots and real wooden legs; the creation of the largest pirate flag in the world on the beach and filmed from air; drinking whisky after 11am and everything else onwards; dancing and a full pirate orchestra performing Pirates of the Caribbean music as well as folk band, The Pyrates from Holland, and ‘light’ Opera (Pirates of Penzance); Jack Sparrow and entourage in drunken swagger parading along the seafront. He really looks like Johnny Depp.

Arrrgh…a jolly good time had by all!’

Please take note Hastings features in The Guinness Book of Records for the most recorded pirates in one place … that’s 14,231 Pirates.  I was one of them.


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Pirates party before pub refreshments.

Sweet-talking #sweets #spangles #retro #adverts #British #taste #tradition #RobertOpie #America

This photo shows the Magazine Advertisement for ‘Spangles’ – part of ‘The Robert Opie Occasion Series Collection of British Nostalgia and Advertising Memorabilia’ (bit of a mouthful). It celebrates the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the final lifting of sweet rationing in 1953.
Spangles were a brand of fruit-flavoured, translucent, boiled sweets of a rounded square shape with a circular imprint (sounds delicious) and made by Mars Ltd in the UK, from 1950 to 1984.

Their arrival on the confectionary scene came at a time of sweet rationing. Sweets were bought using tokens or points from a ration book. The humble Spangle required 1 point while other sweets and chocolate were 2 points. Naturally the popularity of Spangles soared, alongside smart and effective advertising – using American cowboy actor, William Boyd to front the eating-sweets-campaign.

At first the sweets were not individually wrapped, later they were covered in wax paper. Each packet held a traditional assortment: strawberry, pineapple, blackcurrant, orange etc to single varieties such as, Barley sugar, liquorice and tangerine. Grown-up English single varieties appeared too: mint humbug, pear-drop and aniseed. A mouthwatering delight to serve generations of sweet-lovers for over a 30 years.

Spangles are, as I write, the only sweet known to feature in a national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ of the United States of America. Of the course the two are unrelated, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner‘ poem was written in 1814, but America, like many other countries, does have a bit of a sugary-sweet problem. They sing about it all the time…


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Signs that Stick (Out) #OnThisDay #War #signs #life #death #Hastings

Speedy lives, racing around, lots to do, no time to stop, then one day or some odd day, or some particular day comes along and in it there’s a sign; you stop to read it – twice, no more than a simple 3 minutes of your time, but what it says is striking…

On this site stood

The Swan Inn

& 1,2 & 3 Swan Terrace

destroyed by enemy action 

at about mid-day on Sunday

23rd May 1943 with consider-

able loss of life.

After that, you walk away much slower, much softer and much more removed from all around you, and furthermore you contemplate a situation of absolute pain, horror and devastation precisely 83 years ago, down that same path you casually wander today.

The land on which you stand has played many a-parts.

Pass with a new eye and a different tread.

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Looking Rosy #poetry #roses #quotes #March #England #London #Shakespeare

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Act II, Scene II ‘Romeo & Juliet‘ by Shakespeare).
But I do particularly like ‘The Poet’s Wife’ (Auswhirl) grown by David Austin, English rose aficionado of Great Britain (see photo). This variety was introduced in 2014 and is the first yellow rose of his collection since the ‘Charles Darwin‘ of 2003.

‘Beautifully formed’ ‘Strong and unfading’ ‘Rich and Fruity’ 

Now is the time to start planting these beauties … there are some wonderful names to choose from. Take a stroll around Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park, London and find hundreds of wonderfully named bedded buds (not yet in bloom, of course, but perfect in sunny June).

‘Why June is the time for a rose to bloom’

The rose is adored by poets from Robert Burns to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  

Who is this poet and who is his wife? 

Ans. ‘Naturally rounded’ and a very fine inspiration for his work, perhaps.

Get searching and share your favourite named roses…
(See previous blog Captivated by Roses -November 2015).

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March Mothers, no stress #poetry #sculpture #MothersDay #March

English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born on 6th March, 1806 (210 years ago today). She was mother of a boy called Robert and nicknamed Pen (!)

‘How I love thee? Let me count the ways…’


Italian painter, sculptor, architect and poet, Michelangelo Buonarotti was born on 6th March, 1475. Here is a poetical piece by him, in sculptural terms giving birth to a beautiful figure of Carrara marble. Listen to him explain it, my lady…

‘My lady it’s the taking 

away that gives the marble grace

and bares the figure’s face

to grow beneath the flaking.

And like the figure I’m encased:

so hard the rough excess

of carnal appetite,

which closes me from light,

that straining is no use.

But lady you can carve distress

away and sculpt me lose.’

Carve away all stresses and strains and enjoy a peaceful day of mother’s love this Mother’s Day; long wonderful hours, united under an umbrella of happiness.  

No phones at the table, focus on the here and now; the happening not the must-have need of a small piece of matter (iPad, mobile phone etc) allowing you to exist in a mammoth technological space.  

The only world you need today is the mothering one.

A bigger and greater world is made in sharing time and being together.

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No mothers were harmed or alarmed in the taking of this ‘shop window’ photo.
  

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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Paths of Autumn  #poetry #Autumn #OnThisDay

American poet, Henry Van Dyke was born on this day, 10th November 1852 (died, 10th April 1933).
I recently discovered a seasonally-fitting, romantic poem by this man entitled:

‘Autumn in the garden’

‘When the frosty kiss of Autumn in the dark

Makes it mark

On the flowers and the misty morning grieves

Over fallen leaves…’


He imagines himself, on an autumn day, walking around his garden and along the paths once paced, traced, and wandered by previous generations; their thoughts and feelings, their struggles and strife as they dealt with own lives, treading these same paths.  

There is the sense of passing and of grief; of patience, sadness and sorrow, all delicately enhanced by the imagery of Autumn. The season in which the trees renounce their brown leaves and the naked flowers give their bodies to the earth, enriching the soil.
My favourite lines come at the end, after a gentle, contemplative stroll through the garden with him…


‘Let us walk in the garden, dearest heart
Not apart!

They who know the sorrows other lives have known

Never walk alone.’ 

Perfect.  

After Autumn, and Winter, we shall have the re-awakening, new life and hope of Spring.  

For now we have the vibrant-leaf colours, the moist clouds and damp earthiness of Nature’s cycle.

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Enchanted Castles #castles #poetry #travel

Fairytales may well be exaggerated and magical distortions of the sensible and practical truth but…

Knights of the realm, fair maidens, damsels in distress, valiant heroes, brave warriors, honourable citizens, villainous invaders, victorious intruders, are all part of the rich history of life, in all its many forms; figures from the past merge into the people of today.

Here, on a forested valley, sits a perfectly peaceful castle, steeped in mystery, and inquisitive questioning, and full of many possible and impossible imaginations…

Far, far away, then reachable; pungently powerful in the daylight, then disappearing at night; soft and mellow like a child’s sandcastle then fortified, strong and sharp like a gentleman’s brandy; sometimes imperious, foreboding and stern then vulnerable, touchable and tame; teetering on the edge, ready to crumble to dust, or basking in the might of centuries of vigorous invincibility.

How encouraging to be conquering the adventurous journey of the world’s road with a little fairy magic

“Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger, across a crowded room.”

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Cafe au lait, au lait! #art #travel #quotes

The most famous French cafe on the tip of the Mediterranean, Les Templiers (Knights of the Realm) in the Catalan fishing village of Collioure. Home to sun-seeking artists extraordinaire of the early 1900s including Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Dufy – inspired by the light, the warmth, the sweet wines, the traditional music, the scents of jasmine, caught by the nose and a sea-salt aroma, touched by the tongue.

The bar is adorned in artwork, donated by generations of artists who could not pay for drinks.

Scottish artist and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret escaped the smoggy atmosphere of London, to visit Collioure in the spring of 1924…

“We think it is one of the most wonderful places we have ever seen.”


Prennez le petit dejeuner, chocolat chaud, assiette de fromage
…soak up the ambiance, the distinctive style and the air-borne inspiration, drink in the magic of many artistic worlds.

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Day and Night #Equinox #poetry #time

The 23rd September 2015 is the date of the Autumnal Equinox, when day and night are of equal length.
In Hastings, East Sussex the sunrise is 06.45 and the sunset 18.55.
Drive 59 miles north to central London and the sunrise is 06.48, the sunset 18.58.
At night the moon is half full, by day we are struggling for sunshine; there is a grey light by which to live, however today is purposefully bright and sunny!

By small degrees every day is altered, although we can never tell these slight variations. In a week from now the days will be shorter and the nights longer and on occasion this will be noticeably more defined.
Whether you are enjoying a totally absorbing life or finding each day harder and more complicated, remember to take things as they come, all things pass…

All things pass
A sunrise does not last all morning
All things pass
A cloudburst does not last all day
All things pass

What always changes?

Earth… Sky… Thunder…
Mountain… Water…
Wind… Fire … Lake

Theses change
And if they do not last

Do man’s visions last?
Do man’s illusions?

Take things as they come

All things pass

All Things Pass
Lao-Tzu (6th century BC, translated by Timothy Leary 1920-1996)

This may be a poem, a prayer, a statement, a short speech, or even a personal prescription.
Whatever it may be, it is essential communication: the means by which all things pass.

Back to Blake #onthisday #WilliamBlake Finding Paradise

On this day, 18th August 1782, 25 year old William Blake married Catherine Boucher (she was 21). They had known each other only a year. It was a perfect match, although of their time spent together (Blake died in 1827) Catherine said honestly, “I have very little of Mr Blake’s company. He is always in Paradise.”
Blake had a life-long struggle with the division between the head (sense) and the heart (sensation), the sciences (formula) and the arts (creativity)…perhaps finding a peaceful paradise in writing poetry (perfect)…

‘To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour…’

From Auguries of Innocence

Heart to Heart

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died on the 29th June 1861, in the arms of her beloved husband, Robert Browning.  This was a couple truly devoted to each other and the beautiful love poetry they individually produced is testament to their strong union.  They secretly married in 1846, defying her possessive father, and eventually settled in Florence.  She wrote to her sister “ours is a true marriage and not a conventional match.  We live heart to heart all day long, and every day the same.”

She penned one of the most romantic love sonnets ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways’ (which even featured in the film ‘Roger Rabbit’ with actor Bob Hoskins – a 19th century poem in a 20th century Hollywood movie, that’s quite a passage!  It is a poem with so many ‘I love thees…’

Today we shall remember (thanks to the beauty of poetry) the line that makes her and love eternal 

 ‘ – I love thee with the breath, 

Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God chooses,

I shall but love thee better after death.’

It’s time we told each other, more often, how much we love them…

An evening with Yeats

2015 marks 150 years since the birth of Irish poet W.B.Yeats and last night I was able to meet the man through his poems, READ ALOUD & presented by The Josephine Hart Poetry Hour at The British Library.

The readers were Dublin man, Bob Geldof (Band Aid, Live Aid), Irish actress Lisa Dwan & the lovely deep, mellow, moving voice of Patrick Kennedy (films: War Horse, Atonement; TV: Parades End, Downton Abbey.)

Naturally Yeats’ life is echoed forcefully in his poems with Irish charm, honesty, beauty & a resonating realism – from a childhood of folklore came a ‘surrealist imagination;’ 

to love ‘when a soul is lost to a woman all is lost’, thus inspiring some of the greatest love poetry… ‘Never Give all the Heart,’ ‘O Do Not Love Too Long,’ (unreciprocated love had quite an effect):

‘Wine comes in at the mouth

Love comes in at the eye…

I lift the glass to my mouth

I look at you and sigh.’

…to politics and Irish nationalism (he was a romantic and poetical advocate) 

and then facing old age, he matured as a poet; ‘maturing as a whole man…out of his intense experiences, expressing universal truths, he served his art with an entire integrity.’ Spoke T.S.Eliot.

‘When you are old and grey and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire…’

William Butler Yeats seems to me a great, passionate man who would write a line, a verse, an elegy, a poem, always something so fitting for anyone and everyone to understand.  The chances are at some point in your life, this man will not ‘pass you by.’ 

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