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Do you have a favourite poem? There are plenty to choose from, whether you prefer Wordsworth or Pam Ayres.
One of my favourites is Primo Levi’s ‘To My Friends’. It starts:
To My Friends
Dear friends, I say friends here
In the larger sense of the word:
Wife, sister, associates, relatives,
Schoolmates, men and women,
Persons seen only once
Or frequented all my life:
Provided that between us, for at least a moment,
Was drawn a segment,
A well-defined chord.
You can easily find it on the web if you’d like to read the rest of it. To me the feelings in it are true for us all. We have friends we’ve known for a long time, and who have influenced our lives, our views, our outlooks.
The poem resonate with me because it makes me think about people who we meet. Maybe they are not what we think of as friends; some may even have been unfriendly or caused us some harm. However, they may have made some real impression on us. They have touched our lives, and left a footprint on our souls.
Even a fleeting acquaintanceship may affect our thinking and feeling for the rest of our lives and we’ll never forget that person. In fact, maybe we have never even met the person, but they have touched us in some way. That happened recently in the UK and elsewhere too, when a young man, dying of cancer, set about raising funds for other youngsters, rather than sitting in self-pity. Stephen Sutton must have been a remarkable young man, who sadly passed away, but left such an impression on the world that the money he raised went on up and up.
If you’ve not read the poem, I really recommend that you do at some time.
The peony on the left was taken a month or so back in the garden. Its beauty is almost decadent, exotic, like a dancer in a glamorous ball-gown. I just love the way the petals unfurl. Each flower has its own beauty.
Those people who know me are aware that I love animals. In particular I have a real passion for dogs. With that in mind I thought I would tell you of the first dog in my life.
Skipper James was our family dog when I was a child. His name came about because we, the James family, lived on a yacht. He loved it. The wonderful golden Labrador used to rest on the deck when he wasn’t racing around like the crazy animal he was.
Skipper was very long-suffering too. My brother and I used to play pirates, and we dressed the poor dog up as well. He was so good-natured. We have a photo of him with our Mother at the wheel of the yacht, living up to his name.
Later we moved to a house with a large garden. He loved it there too, exploring the plot and often returning with an unharmed hedgehog in his mouth, the fleas from said creature running along his nose. He had to be prevented from bringing it into the house. We didn’t want to be infested. The hedgehog was returned to the wild part of the garden.
In those days it was not unusual to see dogs out on their own, without an owner or a lead in sight. Traffic was nothing like it is today. Skipper frequently took himself for a walk, having discovered the butcher’s shop where our Mother bought her meat. He was often given a bone, and carried it home, having crossed the main road at a pedestrian crossing. The only trouble was that he considered neighbours’ kitchens to be open to him and one day brought home a string of sausages from a lady over the road. She was not best pleased, but forgave him when they were replaced promptly with fresh ones.
Skipper lived until he was 15 and I was about to leave school. Knowing now the grief and pain caused by losing a family pet, my poor Mother must have been devastated. She spent so much time with the lovely animal and was so upset that she never had another dog. For me though, it was the start of a lifetime’s love affair with dogs, although it was to be many years before I realised just how much I cared for them. But that’s another story.
Incidentally, I have fairly recently updated my ‘Jottings’ page, if you would care to have a look.
Last week we visited West Bay, about half an hour away by car along the Dorset coast. This is the first visit this year; we wanted to see if the coastline looked different following last winter’s fierce storms. Thankfully the cliffs are as imposing as ever. We noticed little change although we are aware that there have been many rock falls and slippages along the Jurassic Coast. People do have to take care when walking and pay attention to any warning notices, both on the shorelines and the cliffs above.
What we did notice was the bank of shingle thrown up by the tides. Cottages which previously looked directly at the sea in some cases now look at a mound of sand. No doubt other tides will even this out.
The Jurassic coastline continues to inspire artists, writers, geologists and fossil hunters. From the white chalky cliffs of the Purbeck area to the west end of this coast, where the soil in Devon is deep red, there are many variations of hue. The striations are unique to each cove or cliff and artists utilise this in their work. We visited an art exhibition in West Bay which demonstrates this very clearly.
We ended our morning out in suitable fashion – enjoying locally-caught fish, and beautifully cooked chips, from one of the many kiosks providing food to tourists and locals alike.
Firstly, my apologies to those of you who read my last post before I’d returned to edit out the glaring spelling mistakes. I used to be good at spelling, but I think my brain cells are becoming old and tired! I put it down not just to the passing of the years, but also too many anaesthetics over those years, and it looks as if another one is on its way. (Not if there’s an alternative of course. Enough is enough.)
Last time I was in hospital, about 9 years ago, I learned a valuable lesson for writers. We were living in Spain and I developed cellulitis in my right foot. Evidently hot climates can make this worse. I didn’t know what it was, only that my foot was covered in a rash, becoming discoloured, and that I had a raging fever. It was only when I presented myself at the hospital, and was immediately admitted, that I learned what was wrong.
For a week I lay in that bed, with my leg raised at a precarious angle, on intravenous antibiotics and my foot gradually changing colour until it was black to above the ankle. All the surface skin later peeled away.
Fortunately I made a good recovery, which had not been guaranteed.
And the lesson I learned? After I had recuperated at home I thought I would write an article about it. Having done this, I tried several magazines. As I write mainly factual articles, I should have realised that nobody would pay me for such a feature without photographs. I was not much into photography then, having taken it up as a result of my realisation that articles sell much better with illustrations or photographs.
When I was in hospital it had not occurred to me to ask my husband to photograph the offending foot! If indeed I’m to have surgery again soon, I’ve already asked him to make sure he takes pictures of me if I’m unable to do it myself, however ghastly I may look. Lesson learned.
On the writing front I have had a small success with a couple of poems. One has been accepted for an anthology again, and another will be paid for by a magazine, hopefully. Never say for sure until the money arrives!
I’ve been wanting to take a picture of this flower for a few days. Actually we’ve had loads of flowers on the plant, but the weather has not been right for photos. Yesterday I thought I would do it anyway, but had to hold the stem as the enemy of photographers, the wind, was blowing like crazy. No editing on this one, I’m going back to basics to a certain extent.
Cemeteries may seem dismal places; it’s true of course that sad events take place there. However, visits on less traumatic occasions may divulge interesting facts. Many cemeteries are beautiful.
Most of us are familiar with Charles Darwin, but how many know much about Alfred Russel Wallace? Wallace was the joint author with Darwin of a paper on the theory of natural selection. He never achieved the fame which Darwin earned, but without his encouragement when he discovered the same facts as Darwin, the book on the subject may never have been published.
Wallace’s grave lies in Broadstone Cemetery in Dorset. It’s easy to find as it has a 7 foot fossilised tree from Portland on top of the grave.
Wallace was born in Usk, Monmouth in Wales, but lived in Broadstone from 1902 until his death in 1913. He was actually a renowned British Naturalist, and has a hypothetical boundary between Oriental and Australian zoogeographical regions named after him – Wallace’s Line.
Broadstone Cemetery is an attractive resting place; trees are interesting to me and the shapes and bark on some of them is wonderful.
On the subject of my blog, I’m deleting the ‘links’ page, as it is not what I want. I don’t think many viewers will miss it!
During the ferocious gales of this last winter, the shoreline around the UK has changed irrevocably. Dorset is no exception; the Jurassic coast has suffered along with the rest of the country.
As yet I’ve not had the chance to check out how much it’s changed, but hopefully with the advent of spring (hooray) I’ll be getting out and about soon to find out. In some areas of course it’s dangerous to get too close for fear of further landslips. Here are a few photos of some scenes as they were before the winter.
There have been cliff falls at Burton Bradstock, and at West Bay and Charmouth.
It’s not just the coast which has suffered of course. Many people were flooded out of their homes inland too, and remain so. Farmers have lost their crops and the ability to feed their animals, so it’s been a hard winter for many people although not cold. Let’s hope these unfortunate folk will have a brighter year ahead now.
As a child brought up around Poole Harbour, which was at that time classified as the second largest natural harbour in the world, I was always aware of Brownsea Island. This is the largest island in the harbour. When I was a child I was saving my pocket-money in the vain hope that I could buy the island!
I loved Brownsea, and its air of mystery was deepened by the knowledge that trespassing was prohibited. At that time Brownsea was owned by a reclusive lady, Mrs Bonham-Christie. She had guards patrolling the shore-line. Whether I ever actually landed on the island in those days I’m not sure. I like to think that I did, on a beach as far away from the castle where the owner lived as could be.
Nor was I the only person to be fascinated by Brownsea. Enid Blyton spent many holidays in the Purbeck area of Dorset and the countryside inspired her work. In her book ‘Five Have a Mystery to Solve,’ published in 1962, she wrote about an island sometimes referred to as Whispering Island and it’s likely that this was Brownsea Island.
The castle on the island was built during the reign of King Henry VIII for coastal defense. Forces were stationed there in times of conflict from that time, even when it was privately owned.
Mrs Bonham-Christie gained possession of the island in 1927 and proceeded to set it up as a nature reserve, evicting most of the islanders and just retaining those she needed. When she died in 1961 she left it to her grandson. In 1962 the National Trust took it over.
Another claim to fame for Brownsea Island dates from before the time of Mrs Bonham-Christie. The very first Boy Scout camp was held there in 1907, under the supervision of Robert Baden-Powell. Twenty one boys attended, a mixture of boys from public schools and ordinary working-class local boys.
Now it’s said to be our favourite nature reserve run by the National Trust. It’s a beautiful island, a lovely day out. You never know which birds or animals you may see, even the fairly rare (in the UK) red squirrel.
Welcome to 2014. The photos I’m posting today are from a day out last year. The beach on the left here was crowded all the summer, but what a difference when the tourists have gone. The photos are a reminder that after the gloom of the rain, wind and floods we will see the sun again!
Lord Baden Powell held the first camp for Boy Scouts on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour. More information in a future post!
At this time in the New Year, I suspect that a lot of us feel like Janus, the two-faced Roman God. Although we don’t have the advantage of two faces – one facing back to the last year and the other forward to the New Year, we do look back at our aims from the same time last year. We judge how much we achieved and how we’ve not lived up to our aspirations.
We’re probably also making plans for the coming 12 months. Let’s hope that some at least come to fruition.
As regards my own aims for last year, I did at least manage to submit some writing each month, but it didn’t lead to fame or fortune. Never mind, they are not the only measure of success in life.
In December I submitted a poem to another competition, had a letter in the Purbeck Gazette, and another letter in the Daily Mail. So far in January I have had a letter in the Purbeck Gazette, and an article in Crystal, with a photograph to illustrate it, and another photo on the front cover.
For this year, the main aim as regards both writing and photography is to try to perfect my work and to enjoy the journey.
Do you ever feel that other people have more hours in their day? I know I do, but of course we all have the same 24 hours. It’s just that I’ve become slower with age, and very annoying it is too. Work has definitely expanded to fill the allotted time!
During November I had an article about William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army, published in Crystal Magazine. Also I submitted a poem to a magazine. I’ve had no reply, and one of my jobs for the end of the year/beginning of next year will be to check my submission list, to see who has replied. Not too many I suspect, but I shall begin to follow up with enquiries and submit elsewhere.
I finished the article I’ve been working on for some time, but having studied my target magazine again, I realise I have some changes to make in the lay-out before I make my pitch. So, it’s not quite finished after all, not until I’m happy with my editing.
A friend in Australia has sent a lovely calendar of Australian flowers; this has inspired me to make my own during the coming year. I like macro photography, and while I don’t have a dedicated macro lens, my Nikon takes some really good pictures, so I shall be starting work on that in the New Year.
At the end of the year it’s time to review the efforts we’ve all made. Will you be making resolutions or goals in the New Year?
All around the world this month, people are writing like mad. How many of you writers are talking part in NaNoWriMo this year? If you think you cannot write enough words to complete the exercise, think again. It is very good practice and you may well surprise yourself. On top of that, you may end up with a novella ready to edit before publishing. It’s not too late – it finishes at the end of November, so you’d need to get cracking if you want to try it. 50,000 words are the goal.
I did complete it for two years running, but shame to say, the two efforts are still sitting on my PC with little polishing or editing. It is my hope to look at them again and see what I can make of them. The first year I took part I had several hospital appointments, and used the waiting time to scribble away like crazy. It certainly helped my word count.
Now I’d like to say a big thank you to Tania Walsh – her blog is http://tmewalsh.wordpress.com/
Tania has kindly nominated me for an award – Award Winning Blog.
Recently Tania has released two of her books on Amazon Kindle. They are ‘For All our Sins’ and ‘The Principle of Evil’ and I anticipate a good read with both of them. I can’t comment too much at present as I have only just begun to read ‘For All our Sins’. Judging by her previously released ‘Broken Palace’, an exciting short story, I am in for a treat.
I made little progress with my writing in October. I submitted an article to Crystal Magazine. The only success I had was a letter published in the Daily Mail. Sometimes when I am involved in longer work, I also try to write letters to newspapers and magazines. On occasions they pay quite well. Sadly not on this occasion!
How do you reward yourself when you’ve had a success, or finished a big project? Enjoying a glass of wine sometimes(!) I keep a bottle of bubbly – usually Cava – in the fridge. Unfortunately the current bottle is having a long wait, but it will be opened soon. After all, I can’t risk it deteriorating can I?
Finally, an autumnal photo for you. The small acer tree is in our back garden, and sometimes the colour is just wonderful. Happy writing, enjoy autumn.