16 February 2021


 A sad tale's best for winter....

These are the last words spoken
Soon I’ll be out of sight
A simple farewell message
Good night, my love, good night

I am sure there are those who know about these things, but I still find it fascinating that Black-headed gulls simply do not have black heads in winter......

Also, it may be perverse of me.  But the fact that Common gulls are not that common perks me up, just a little......

However.....  Here we are.  Life is not necessarily what we expected, or wished for, and winter conditions exacerbate that dull numbing feeling that swimming from the Titanic tends to excite....

There are clouds on the horizon.  They may not eventually blow our way, but they instil in us a sense of boding that exceeds the usual fore.....

Dark clouds are drifting
Across the bright blue sky
Soft breezes gently sigh
In the dark forest

But then the sky can suddenly be filled with the blare and honk of passing V signs, v signs to cold, to coronas, to contrariness.  We should go with the flock.....

Lynn (does it need the King's?) is cold and empty - of life, or trade, of laughter, as is to be expected in these ghastly days.

In 'my' village (how presumptuous can you get after three weeks?) no one knows what to do with themselves....  It could be worse.  It may well be colder, or wetter, or darker, or more infected, tomorrow, but we will worry about that..... tomorrow.

At least the Herdwicks don't grumble....

And on the coast there's Dunlin in good numbers to remind us that the essential is food.....

Not far away Castle Rising stands clear of the snowy carpet.  It's a hulking lump of masonry with some of the most splendid earthworks for sledging anywhere in these troubled isles. 

I photographed this keep one summer long ago for Treccani, the Italian Encyclopaedia of Medieval Architecture, and, for some reason I thought at the time that this had been the last home of Henry VIII's surviving wife, Catherine Parr, to whom I can claim a link. 

Funny how time plays tricks?  Catherine never lived here.  She died, aged 36, at Sudeley Castle, from complications following the birth of a daughter.  We are still related, but not quite as I remembered!

Not far away, close by another well defended castle, is Castle Acre Priory.  A Cluniac foundation that dates from 1049, and which was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII in 1537.

These 'romantic' ruins stand empty in the winter snows.  We are finding our way around this corner of England, exploring as far as we dare, without the excesses of a Cummings. Our daily exercises are not distant from our new home, but we go just far enough to call it a winter journey. 

Schubert's song cycle Winterreise is painfully beautiful and perfectly fits my current mood. I listen to Ian Bostridge's interpretation, and read something he wrote about it in The Guardian....

Winter Journey – a cycle of 24 songs for voice and piano based on poems by Wilhelm Müller, was composed by Franz Schubert towards the end of his short life. He died in Vienna in 1828 aged only 31. Piano-accompanied song is no longer part of everyday domestic life and has lost its one-time primacy in the concert hall. What Germans know as Lieder – is a niche product, even within the niche that is classical music; but Winter Journey is an indispensable work of art that should be as much a part of our common experience as the poetry of Shakespeare and Dante, the paintings of Van Gogh and Picasso, the novels of the Brontë sisters or Marcel Proust.

The 24 songs are forerunners, in a sense, of all those songs of love and loss that have been the soundtrack of generation on generation of teenagers. But the loss of love, which is only sketched ambiguously in the first song, “Goodnight”, is just the beginning of it. Schubert’s wanderer embarks on a journey through a winter landscape that leads him to question his identity, the conditions of his existence – social, political and metaphysical – and the meaning of life.

Schubert himself wrote the following, in a manuscript of July 3rd 1822 entitled My Dream: With a heart filled with endless love for those who scorned me, I ... wandered far away. For many and many a year I sang songs. Whenever I tried to sing of love, it turned to pain. And again, when I tried to sing of pain, it turned to love.

There are no trains at Wolferton Station.  The snow lies untouched across the rails.  No Queen steps from the royal carriage.  No fat controller punches my ticket.  There is no journey here.

Is this nothing?
Why then the world and all that’s in’t is nothing:
The covering sky is nothing, Bohemia nothing,
My wife is nothing, nor nothing have these nothings,
If this be nothing.

The Winter's Tale

(Leontes, Act 1 Scene 2)

8 February 2021

Life's a Beach.....

A Moving Experience.....

Dear Friends,

Let this be a letter to you.

Nothing is what it seems.  Nothing really matters.  Our mothers give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more, (Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot).....

But every silver lining has a cloud.  We may be brief candles, and our creeps may be crepuscular, but there are gleams....

Life's a beach, and then one buries one.....

To the point. We have moved, and there is no going back, as the bard did say, O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.

For the record, in a shutnell, the move went as well as could be wished.  Days of preparation and packing culminated in a final trauma of finding that the guys who removed the washing machine at the last minute had kicked a joint on the central heating piping causing soaked carpet and a potential flood.... But we had to go, and then we had to arrive, and we were here, with an avalanche of boxes in every room, and no where to put things.

Of a sudden, apart from everything else, I realised how trammelled we are, how materialist and cluttered our (my?) life has become.  I have possessions that possess me; possessions from my grandparents, from my parents, from my children, from my past and from my present.  Such a mountain of ultimate uselessness that I cling to, as if it defines me, as if it matters.

A goose flies over my head.  No baggage.  Just living.  

More geese honk past.  

Not one of them with so much as a handbag. Not one clutching a phone or a water bottle.... Naked as nature intended....

And flying on from day to day, heedless of the perils of tomorrow, unfettered by the imagination of the past.  It may not be a 'better' life, but what does that mean?  We live; we die; we come; we go.  What makes me more or less than a silly goose?

We are lucky if we have homes. However grand....

We are fortunate if we can afford luxuries - however small......

And there is always someone worse off.

At the time of the Bosnian war I lived in Rome, and sometimes we thought we could hear the conflict.  When things were difficult for us, I used to tell myself that things could be worse: we could be in Bosnia.  

As things are, Amanda has struggled with our move.  She still just wants to go 'home' and she has yet to settle into a routine. We have had doctors and paramedics involved, and are now being advised by Chatterton House, but, I hope, she will adapt, and life will go on. 

And despite all that, I dedicate this piece to two of my dear friends who have recently come up against the big C. Forza amici! Un abbraccio forte forte.....

There is always someone worse off....

I wish we could all be together. Some whirling big dance in a natural space. Some laughter, some wine (some beer, perhaps?) Nothing viral.  Just clean air and smiling faces.  

It cannot all be bad.

As I said,

Let this be a letter to you.  To you, my friends.

We are OK.  

I hope you are too.

With love from


We are all born mad. Some remain so.

Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot (1955)