24 December 2020

O still small voice of calm.....

The Narrow Road to Deepest Norfolk

A squadron of geese flies under the radar....  It wakes my wanderlust.....

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!


John Greenleaf Whittier



From our current home to where we are going to be living at the end of January, much of the journey follows the A10, a narrow route to the north. Shrouded in the mists of Cambridgeshire we pause at Ely, on the way, an aspiring island rising from the swampy realm of Hereward the Wake, a kind of pre Brexiteer in reverse, as he resisted the Norman invasion....

How times change....  This celestial lantern is not lit by smoky reeds.....

Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home


Matsuo Basho

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Yes, home is where the heart aches....  And, to take our minds off the miseries of modern times, we have decided to go back in time, to upsize, to live it large.... We are moving house and home, cat and all....

As some will know, Amanda is a victim of Frontotemporal Dementia (semantic variant) and last summer I made the executive decision that we needed to have room to comfortably accommodate residential carers, and for our daughters to stay and help with her care without us all tripping over each other.  This meant moving further from the London region, and, for various reasons, I found what I was looking for in Norfolk, not far from King's Lynn.

There was something appealing about this property, once the village bakery, with its locally quarried Carr stone facade, and sufficient space to park an horse and cart.... So, after several months of indecision, complications with surveyors and builders, the arcane ways of solicitors and the difficulties of Covid, we now find that we have exchanged contracts and are committed to move....

The locals seem tranquil.... (when they're not whooping that is....)

There is a gentle air about the place which makes me think that my increasingly cantankerous nature may be calmed here....

(Non, I have no egrets....)


Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.

Matsuo Basho



The local residents come in all shapes and sizes.  A senior doctor in the surgery just down the road is also the Queen's personal physician.  While another old fellow regularly takes the waters at nearby Blakeney Point.....

In fact, as our deal is sealed, other seals deal with the sea.... (please don't look at me like that....)

While others bathe in the shingles of time (which can be irritating)....

And yet others display what looks suspiciously like post-natal depression (if you can pardon the anthropomorphism.....)  

Or is it just that it is Sunday afternoon and the kids won't let you sleep?

Whale.... it takes all sorts, and you can't win everything all the time....

Winter solitude-
in a world of one colour
the sound of the wind.

Basho Matsuo



It's a wintry kind of landscape, brushed by cold winds from the far north, shrouded by frets and fogs and muddy airs....

There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.

Matsuo Basho

But I think we may find peace here.  I hope so.  The skies are immense,

And the village glows with a kind of subtle Christmas cheer that gives me hope that, on balance, the years to come may not all entirely be a waste of breath.....

We are now committed to move in a month.  I will let friends know the address when it is all over.....

16 December 2020

A Christmas Card from through the (looking) glass

Anniversaries and Angels.....

Three tiers for Christmas!  London is abuzz.

Visitors abound.  Loving themselves and each other.  They so belong here.....

Though Churchill's brazen memory still leans towards FDR's ear in the drizzle.....

And anti-socially distanced queues line the dark streets eager to part with their valueless inheritances.

While the most important thing is to make contact with those who are not near.....

And receiving such is a lonely drag on an unhappy cigarette. 

Though for some everything Rolls on so easy....

Stop the bus!  I want to get off.....

Help me up?  It's a cold cold world....

Meanwhile, back home in the country, I fail to celebrate my 36th wedding anniversary.  It's a question of memory, I guess.....

But we walk across the muddy, watery landscape, sniffing the sunlight and clouds....

It is what we do.  Every morning.  36 years, and counting.  Whatever else, I still love the trees, and the light.....

The land's sharp features seemed to be

The Century's corpse outleant,

His crypt the cloudy canopy,

The wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth

Was shrunken hard and dry,

And every spirit upon earth

Seemed fervourless as I.

The Darkling Thrush

Thomas Hardy

Of course, some days, some mornings, are brighter than others.....

Some are misty....

And some, perhaps, are sparkling.....

Clouds beyond clouds above me,

Wastes beyond wastes below;

But nothing drear can move me;

I will not, cannot go.


Emily Bronte

There was a time, for me, when the world was beautiful, and full of hope.  It is harder now to feel so confident.

The dreamed Christmas,

flakes shaken out of silences so far

and starry we can’t sleep for listening

for papery rustles out there in the night

and wake to find our ceiling glimmering,

the day a psaltery of light.


Gillian Clarke 

Though not impossible.....

The roads are still there, to travel down.  And I sometimes think I could ride off, into the horizon.....

So, though the skies are dark, there's light behind the trees and maybe not all is lost.

Imagine how it must have been, aeons ago, when there was no Regent Street full of Angels, no Prime Minister's Question Time, no such place as Barnard Castle.  A time when a bed of ferns in a mud and sapling hut was luxury.   Imagine how limited hope might have been when life had no expectancy and Accident and Emergency was the rhythm of the day?  No Sage could decipher the pandemic and a plague was on all our houses.

The brilliance of dementia is that none of this has any meaning.  

Come on, baby, take a chance with us

Come on, baby, take a chance with us

Come on, baby, take a chance with us

And meet me at the back of the blue bus

This is the end, beautiful friend

This is the end, my only friend

The end

How she told me that one day we would meet up again

And things would be different the next time we wed

If I only could hang on and just be her friend

I still can't remember all the best things she said


Bob Dylan

3 December 2020

Flying Lootenant Pietro Gibbchki, and other matters

My Heart Leaps Up


My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The Child is father of the Man;

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth

Well, that rainbow was a little while ago, and I have to admit that with this dreary weather and all it's hard to keep smiling....  

But....  Two things.  First we are still managing to get out and to commune with nature, which has many attractions.....  Whether it is this young chap in the woods near St Paul's Walden.....

Or one or two of his big brothers in the park at Knebworth.....

Then there's the ever changing world of vegetation around us, sometimes bright and startling:

Sometimes bejewelled with frost:

And sometimes shrouded in mist as this tree on Nomansland Common:

And then there is the wonderful avian world, sometimes little splashes of colour picking seed heads, like these charming Goldfinches by the Grand Union Canal:

Or this dark, whirling, semi-murmuration of starlings near Redbournbury:

Or this sleek Kestrel near Ivinghoe Beacon.....

Or this V bomber taking off on Wilstone Reservoir:

Hotly pursued by this scramble of Greylags:

Ah yes....  The joys of natural surroundings....

And, on the subject of flying..... back home, sheltering from the darkness outside and all around, I have been sifting through papers and memorabilia, trying to find some glimmer of hope in the past, and also trying to dispose of the trappings of too much memory.....

And I came across this faded, creased, moth-eaten piece of paper which I had long thought lost.  My esteemed pater, in a miasmic moment when far from home, aged about 19 or 20, filled in the first part of this previously Top Secret and highly sensitive Classified  Report:

We have to remember that there was a war on, and that it was almost certainly second nature to padre mio to use code, though I have some vague recollection that he may have told me that this report was filed during the sea passage from North Africa to the Italian mainland.  In any case, he was not alone.  The handwriting is not familiar, and, although I am not certain, I suspect that some measly Petty Officer or less was responsible for this capitalised inky blue.....

It is rather embarrassing to say, in this time of national pandemia, when we need to pay respect to our greaters, that my progenitor, a Hertford College Man, might have indulged in some excess....  But, there was a WAR on!  So, Heil Doughnuts!

It kind of puts our current constipation (constitution? Ed?) in perspex (perspective? Ed.)

The last page, again in a foreign (sic!) (and probably third) hand, would appear to be a pastiche of "'Allo! 'Allo" but then, as no one in the EU has ever had a sense of 'umour (or so the Brexiteer Brigade might have us believe) I can only assume that this too is code....

However, now that Bletchley Park is a tourist attraction, how can we ever know what was meant by this drivel?

Deer me!

At least I can still hold my head up.... (just)

The Child is father of the Man;

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth