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)

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