Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Pubs Around Nunhead: 6

The Pyrotechnists Arms

To be honest, not my favourite pub.  A little on the damp and dull side inside (but concomitantly cheap).  I did  use to go there more regularly when I was a school Governor and the drinkers amongst us required somewhere handy to repair to where we would be certain to get a seat (it is also rarely full).

I fear the most interesting aspect of the pub is its name.  By repute it is built on or near to the site of Brock's Fireworks (and Brock Street is close by).  Brock's, founded by John Brock, has the reputation, apparently of being the oldest British fireworks manufacturer.  Established in the 18th Century, the company then later moved South.  Finally bought out by Standard in 1988.  I remember boxes of Brock's on Guy Fawkes night when I was younger.

There has been some doubt cast on the story of the Brock's factory on other Web sites.  However, to quote from the Mr C. T. Brock himself: 

"The success of the fireworks at the Crystal Palace having become an accomplished fact, I built extensive works at Nunhead and commenced manufacturing on a  scale never previously dreamt of in the trade - the vast expanse of the locale of my displays obviously necessitating extraordinary expenditure of material" 

(Pyrotechnics: The History and art of firework making by A. st H. Brock, (London, 1922), p.47)

According to this book, the factory was the site of a great series of experiments from the early 1870s which lead to the development of the Explosives Act 1875.  The factory was apparently built with especial regard to safety and as a result of the Act fireworks accidents decreased markedly.

What I still haven't been able to find is the exact location of the factory.  Apocryphaly the pub stands on the site, but that seems a little small, and why is Brock Street on the other side of the Green?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Try Vote For Policies. It's a Web site that allows you to express your preference for a policy without knowing which party espouses it.  You can identify which policy areas matter to you, then choose between the published policies of the National parties in each area - without knowing for sure which is which unless you are a real wonk.

Some are easy to guess (usually UKIP 'cos they are mad). Others are harder. 

I went for five policy areas (Democracy, Economy, Education, Environment, Health) and was wholly unsurprised when I discovered my preferred policies were 80% Green and 20% Labour.

Sigh, doesn't stop me or anyone else voting tribally of course.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Poem of the Week

A Kumquat for John Keats

Tony Harrison

Today I found the right fruit for my prime,
not orange, not tangelo, and not lime,
nor moon-like globes of grapefruit that now hang
outside our bedroom, nor tart lemon's tang
(though last year full of bile and self-defeat
I wanted to believe no life was sweet)
nor the tangible sunshine of the tangerine,
and no incongruous citrus ever seen
at greengrocers' in Newcastle or Leeds
mis-spelt by the spuds and mud-caked swedes,
a fruit an older poet might substitute
for the grape John Keats thought fit to be Joy's fruit,
when, two years before he died, he tried to write
how Melancholy dwelled inside Delight,
and if he'd known the citrus that I mean
that's not orange, lemon, lime, or tangerine,
I'm pretty sure that Keats, though he had heard
'of candied apple, quince and plum and gourd'
instead of 'grape against the palate fine'
would have, if he'd known it, plumped for mine,
this Eastern citrus scarcely cherry size
he'd bite just once and then apostrophize
and pen one stanza how the fruit had all
the qualities of fruit before the Fall,
but in the next few lines be forced to write
how Eve's apple tasted at the second bite,
and if John Keats had only lived to be,
because of extra years, in need like me,
at 42 he'd help me celebrate
that Micanopy kumquat that I ate
whole, straight off the tree, sweet pulp and sour skin-
or was it sweet outside, and sour within?
For however many kumquats that I eat
I'm not sure if it's flesh or rind that's sweet,
and being a man of doubt at life's mid-way
I'd offer Keats some kumquats and I'd say:

You'll find that one part's sweet and one part's tart:
say where the sweetness or the sourness start.

I find I can't, as if one couldn't say
exactly where the night became the day,
which makes for me the kumquat taken whole
best fruit, and metaphor, to fit the soul
of one in Florida at 42 with Keats
crunching kumquats, thinking, as he eats
the flesh, the juice, the pith, the pips, the peel,
that this is how a full life ought to feel,
its perishable relish prick the tongue,
when the man who savours life 's no longer young,
the fruits that were his futures far behind.
Then it's the kumquat fruit expresses best
how days have darkness round them like a rind,
life has a skin of death that keeps its zest.

History, a life, the heart, the brain
flow to the taste buds and flow back again.
That decade or more past Keats's span
makes me an older not a wiser man,
who knows that it's too late for dying young,
but since youth leaves some sweetnesses unsung,
he's granted days and kumquats to express
Man's Being ripened by his Nothingness.
And it isn't just the gap of sixteen years,
a bigger crop of terrors, hopes and fears,
but a century of history on this earth
between John Keats's death and my own birth-
years like an open crater, gory, grim,
with bloody bubbles leering at the rim;
a thing no bigger than an urn explodes
and ravishes all silence, and all odes,
Flora asphyxiated by foul air
unknown to either Keats or Lemprière,
dehydrated Naiads, Dryad amputees
dragging themselves through slagscapes with no trees,
a shirt of Nessus fire that gnaws and eats
children half the age of dying Keats . . .

Now were you twenty five or six years old
when that fevered brow at last grew cold?
I've got no books to hand to check the dates.
My grudging but glad spirit celebrates
that all I've got to hand 's the kumquats, John,
the fruit I'd love to have your verdict on,
but dead men don't eat kumquats, or drink wine,
they shiver in the arms of Prosperine,
not warm in bed beside their Fanny Brawne,
nor watch her pick ripe grapefruit in the dawn
as I did, waking, when I saw her twist,
with one deft movement of a sunburnt wrist,
the moon, that feebly lit our last night's walk
past alligator swampland, off its stalk.
I thought of moon-juice juleps when I saw,
as if I'd never seen the moon before,
the planet glow among the fruit, and its pale light
make each citrus on the tree its satellite.

Each evening when I reach to draw the blind
stars seem the light zest squeezed through night's black rind;
the night's peeled fruit the sun, juiced of its rays,
first stains, then streaks, then floods the world with days,
days, when the very sunlight made me weep,
days, spent like the nights in deep, drugged sleep,
days in Newcastle by my daughter's bed,
wondering if she, or I, weren't better dead,
days in Leeds, grey days, my first dark suit,
my mother's wreaths stacked next to Christmas fruit,
and days, like this in Micanopy. Days!

As strong sun burns away the dawn's grey haze
I pick a kumquat and the branches spray
cold dew in my face to start the day.
The dawn's molasses make the citrus gleam
still in the orchards of the groves of dream.

The limes, like Galway after weeks of rain,
glow with a greenness that is close to pain,
the dew-cooled surfaces of fruit that spent
all last night flaming in the firmament.
The new day dawns. O days! My spirit greets
the kumquat with the spirit of John Keats.
O kumquat, comfort for not dying young,
both sweet and bitter, bless the poet's tongue!
I burst the whole fruit chilled by morning dew
against my palate. Fine, for 42!

I search for buzzards as the air grows clear
and see them ride fresh thermals overhead.
Their bleak cries were the first sound I could hear
when I stepped at the start of sunrise out of doors,
and a noise like last night's bedsprings on our bed
from Mr Fowler sharpening farmers' saws.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Evening on the Rye

So I wandered out on to the Rye a few evenings ago.  The church spire is St John's by Goose Green.
This tree sits lonely in the middle of this part of the Rye.
The bark is interesting, close up.
Although the automatic flash rather ruined the textures in this shot - I didn't have a tripod with me.:
Getting darker.  The white building on the far right is the converted King's on the Rye pub.
And darker still.
This path cuts diagonally across the Rye, from broadly the Clock House to Nunhead Lane.
But by then it was so dark that a 343 bus on the East side just appeared as faint lights to the camera (on a normal setting).

Thursday, 22 April 2010

On Tolkien, Harry Potter, Books and Films

Famously, the tone of voice Tolkien uses changes dramatically between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In the former he often uses a chortling, avuncular tone of voice, occasionally twee, and from time-to-time addressing the reader directly. Chosen at random:
“You will hardly believe it, but poor Bilbo was really very taken aback. So far all his thoughts and energies had been concentrated on getting to the Mountain and finding the entrance. He had never bothered to wonder how the treasure was to be removed, certainly never how any part of it that might fall to his share was to be brought back all the way to Bag-End, Underhill.”
(The Hobbit, p.192)

‘You will hardly believe it’, ‘poor’ Bilbo – ‘very taken aback’. Examples multiply throughout the story.

The published text of Lord of the Rings is very different, of course. Although the first chapter or so does border on this style (I know several people who have found the first chapter so annoyingly twee they couldn’t get past it), it quickly settles into the more epic (cod archaic?) prose style that we know so well. Again at random:
“The host rode on. Need drove them. Fearing to come too late, they rode with all the speed they could, pausing seldom. Swift and enduring were the steeds of Rohan, but there were many leagues to go”
(The Two Towers, p.131 – near the beginning of ‘Helm’s Deep’)

It took Tolkien some time to achieve this shift (and to be fair an argument can be made that it began in the later chapters of The Hobbit). For example, looking at the manuscript evidence published by Christopher Tolkien:
“It is no good talking to hobbits about dragons: they either disbelieve you, or feel uncomfortable; and in either case tend to avoid you afterwards.”

(From the second version of A long-expected party, The Return of the Shadow, p.19)

If the direct address to the audience tails off fairly quickly as the story proceeds (and mostly disappears after Bree in the first draft), the full tone of the final work still took a while to be achieved. Famously, Aragorn originally – and for some time - was a hobbit called Trotter.

J K Rowling does something similar in the Harry Potter series. When Harry arrives at Hogwarts for the first time and is waiting to be sorted, she writes:
“A horrible thought struck Harry, as horrible thoughts always do when you’re very nervous. What if he wasn’t chosen at all?”
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, p.90)

That aside (“as horrible thoughts always do when you’re very nervous”) parallels the Tolkien writing in  The Hobbit. Rowling is in semi-parental mode, reassuring the reader. By the last few books of the series the tone is of course very different. These direct addresses disappear completely (at least I can’t find any).

However, I think something else also happens in the Harry Potter sequence. To explain it, it is necessary to look at the sequence of book and film publication:-

1997 Philosopher’s Stone (Book)
1998 Chamber of Secrets (Book)
1999 Prisoner of Azkaban (Book)
2000 Goblet of Fire (Book)
2001 Philosopher’s Stone (Film)
2002 Chamber of Secrets (Film)
2003 Order of the Phoenix (Book)
2004 Prisoner of Azkaban (Film)
2005 Half-Blood Prince (Book); Goblet of Fire (Film)
2007 Deathly Hallows (Book); Order of the Phoenix (Film)
2009 Half-Blood Prince (Film)
2010 Deathly Hallows part I (Film, planned)
2011 Deathly Hallows Part II (Film, planned)

By 2002, when presumably Rowling was writing the fifth novel, the first of the films was out. Certainly, by the time she was writing the last two books, two or three films were circulating. And I think this has a subtle effect on how she writes some of the key characters in the novels.

Take Severus Snape. The Alan Rickman performance in the films is very strong, and to a degree helps to fix our picture of the potions master. And I think this has an effect on how she describes him in the later novels. For example, in the first book his hooked nose is described several times (see eg p.94) and in Chamber of Secrets he is:

“… a thin man with sallow skin, a hooked nose and greasy, shoulder-length black hair.”
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p.62)

But Rickman isn’t thin, and doesn’t use a false nose in the films. Aa a result, I would argue, in the later novels, these elements of Snape’s description are, mostly, quietly dropped (although the young Snape is described as thin and “stringy” in book seven). Instead, the descriptions concentrate on his thick greasy hair, pallid face and glittering black eyes.

If the physical descriptions of Snape change after the films begin to come out, I believe something similar happens to his patterns of speech. In Harry’s first potions lesson we have:
Snape, like Flitwick, started the class by taking the register, and like Flitwick, he paused at Harry’s name.
‘Ah yes,’ he said softly, ‘Harry Potter. Our new – celebrity.’
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, p.101)

Rickman delivers that pause and sneer brilliantly, of course, and his performance through the whole scene is extremely powerful. I suspect his delivery here and in other scenes from the first three films begin to subtly affect the way in which Snape is written in the latter novels. Certainly that end-of sentence pause seems to occur more towards the end (where possible).

Also I don't want to dismiss Rowling's use of the different responses of Fliotwick and Snape to the presence of Harry in their respective classes to quickly define some of the differences between them - I merely want to focus on a different aspect here.

Something similar – and perhaps a little more apparently - happens to McGonagall. Unlike Snape, her appearance doesn’t change in the later books, unless it may be that she seems slightly older, as there are few physical differences between Maggie Smith and the Head of Gryffindor as described. But I would argue that as the sequence progresses the writing makes her sound more and more like Miss Jean Brodie. Consider:
‘Potter!’ whispered Professor McGonagall, clutching her heart. ‘Potter – you’re here! What -? How -?’ She struggled to pull herself together. ‘Potter, that was foolish!’
‘He spat at you,’ said Harry.
‘Potter, I – that was very – very gallant of you – but don’t you realize -?’
‘Yeah, I do,’ Harry assured her. Somehow her panic steadied him. ‘Professor McGonagall, Voldemort’s on the way.’
(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pp.477-8)

‘Foolish’ – and even more ‘Gallant’ - are words that seem written for Smith/Brodie. It isn’t that they are wholly out of character for McGonagall, rather here her characterisation is subtly adjusted, warped towards that of Muriel Spark’s character.

How conscious this is on Rowling’s part – or, indeed, the consistency or extent of the change in general – is not part of my argument. Although I could go further and discuss the Dursleys, for example, in a similar manner. I just wanted to note that these changes do seem to be there.

So, finally, if a film of The Hobbit had been made before The Lord of the Rings had been written, how would the resulting epic have been different?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

How Sunny was it this weekend?

Well, oldest managed this with a cheap magnifying glass... A clean image when we looked at it 'cos it was sunny.... in the extreme

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Poem of the Week

The Miller's Tale
Geoffrey Chaucer

The Prologue to the Miller's Tale

Whan that the Knyght had thus his tale ytoold,
In al the route ne was ther yong ne oold
That he ne seyde it was a noble storie,
And worthy for to drawen to memorie;
And namely the gentils everichon.
Oure Hooste lough, and swoor, "So moot I gon,
This gooth aright; unbokeled is the male,
Lat se now who shal telle another tale,
For trewely the game is wel bigonne.
Now telleth on, sir Monk, if that ye konne
Somwhat to quite with the Knyghtes tale."
The Millere that for dronken was al pale,
So that unnethe upon his hors he sat,
He nolde avalen neither hood ne hat,
Ne abyde no man for his curteisie,
But in Pilates voys he gan to crie,
And swoor, "By armes and by blood and bones,
I kan a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale."
Oure Hooste saugh that he was dronke of ale,
And seyde, "Abyd, Robyn, my leeve brother,
Som bettre man shal telle us first another,
Abyd, and lat us werken thriftily."
    "By Goddes soule," quod he, "that wol nat I,
For I wol speke, or elles go my wey."
Oure Hoost answerde, "Tel on, a devel wey!
Thou art a fool, thy wit is overcome!
"Now herkneth," quod the Miller, "alle and some,
But first I make a protestacioun
That I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun;
And therfore, if that I mysspeke or seye,
Wyte it the ale of Southwerk I you preye.
For I wol telle a legende and a lyf
Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf,
How that a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe."
The Reve answerde and seyde, "Stynt thy clappe,
Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye,
It is a synne and eek a greet folye
To apeyren any man or hym defame,
And eek to bryngen wyves in swich fame;
Thou mayst ynogh of othere thynges seyn."
   This dronke Millere spak ful soone ageyn,
And seyde, "Leve brother Osewold,
Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold.
But I sey nat therfore that thou art oon,
Ther been ful goode wyves many oon,
And evere a thousand goode ayeyns oon badde;
That knowestow wel thyself, but if thou madde.
Why artow angry with my tale now?
I have a wyf, pardee, as wel as thow,
Yet nolde I for the oxen in my plogh
Take upon me moore than ynogh,
As demen of myself that I were oon;
I wol bileve wel, that I am noon.
An housbonde shal nat been inquisityf
Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf.
So he may fynde Goddes foysoun there,
Of the remenant nedeth nat enquere."
   What sholde I moore seyn, but this Millere
He nolde his wordes for no man forbere,
But tolde his cherles tale in his manere;
Me thynketh that I shal reherce it heere.
And therfore every gentil wight I preye,
For Goddes love, demeth nat that I seye
Of yvel entente, but that I moot reherce
Hir tales alle, be they bettre or werse,
Or elles falsen som of my mateere.
And therfore who-so list it nat yheere,
Turne over the leef, and chese another tale;
For he shal fynde ynowe, grete and smale,
Of storial thyng that toucheth gentillesse,
And eek moralitee, and hoolynesse.
Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys;
The Millere is a cherl, ye knowe wel this,
So was the Reve, and othere manye mo,
And harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
Avyseth yow, and put me out of blame,
And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game.

Heere bigynneth the Millere his Tale

Whilom ther was dwellynge at Oxenford
A riche gnof, that gestes heeld to bord,
And of his craft he was a carpenter.
With hym ther was dwellynge a poure scoler,
Hadde lerned art, but al his fantasye
Was turned for to lerne astrologye,
And koude a certeyn of conclusiouns,
To demen by interrogaciouns,
If that men asked hym in certain houres
Whan that men sholde have droghte or elles shoures,
Or if men asked hym what sholde bifalle
Of every thyng; I may nat rekene hem alle.
   This clerk was cleped hende Nicholas.
Of deerne love he koude and of solas;
And therto he was sleigh and ful privee,
And lyk a mayden meke for to see.
A chambre hadde he in that hostelrye
Allone, withouten any compaignye,
Ful fetisly ydight with herbes swoote;
And he hymself as sweete as is the roote
Of lycorys, or any cetewale.
His Almageste, and bookes grete and smale,
His astrelabie, longynge for his art,
His augrym stones layen faire apart,
On shelves couched at his beddes heed;
His presse ycovered with a faldyng reed
And al above ther lay a gay sautrie,
On which he made a-nyghtes melodie
So swetely that all the chambre rong;
And Angelus ad virginem he song;
And after that he song the Kynges Noote.
Ful often blessed was his myrie throte.
And thus this sweete clerk his tyme spente
After his freendes fyndyng and his rente.
   This carpenter hadde newe a wyf,
Which that he lovede moore than his lyf;
Of eighteteene yeer she was of age.
Jalous he was, and heeld hire narwe in cage,
For she was wylde and yong, and he was old,
And demed hymself, been lik a cokewold.
He knew nat Catoun, for his wit was rude,
That bad man sholde wedde his simylitude.
Men sholde wedden after hire estaat,
For youth and elde is often at debaat.
But sith that he was fallen in the snare,
Her moste endure, as oother folk, his care.
   Fair was this yonge wyf, and therwithal
As any wezele hir body gent and smal.
A ceynt she werede, barred al of silk,
A barmclooth as whit as morne milk
Upon her lendes, ful of many a goore.
Whit was hir smok, and broyden al bifoore
And eek bihynde, on hir coler aboute,
Of col-blak silk, withinne and eek withoute.
The tapes of hir white voluper
Were of the same suyte of his coler;
Hir filet brood of silk, and set ful hye.
And sikerly she hadde a likerous ye;
Ful smale ypulled were hire browes two,
And tho were bent and blake as any sloo.
She was ful moore blisful on to see
Than is the newe pere-jonette tree,
And softer than the wolle is of a wether.
And by hir girdel heeng a purs of lether,
Tasseled with silk, and perled with latoun.
In al this world, to seken up and doun,
There nys no man so wys that koude thenche
So gay a popelote or swich a wenche.
Ful brighter was the shynyng of hir hewe
Than in the Tour the noble yforged newe.
But of hir song, it was as loude and yerne
As any swalwe sittynge on a berne.
Therto she koude skippe and make game,
As any kyde or calf folwynge his dame.
Hir mouth was sweete as bragot or the meeth,
Or hoord of apples leyd in hey or heeth.
Wynsynge she was, as is a joly colt,
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
A brooch she baar upon hir lowe coler,
As brood as is the boos of a bokeler.
Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye.
She was a prymerole, a piggesnye,
For any lord to leggen in his bedde,
Or yet for any good yeman to wedde.
   Now, sire, and eft, sire, so bifel the cas,
That on a day this hende Nicholas
Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleye,
Whil that her housbonde was at Oseneye,
As clerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte;
And prively he caughte hire by the queynte,
And seyde, "Ywis, but if ich have my wille,
For deerne love of thee, lemman, I spille."
And heeld hire harde by the haunchebones,
And seyde, "Lemman, love me al atones,
Or I wol dyen, also God me save!"
And she sproong as a colt dooth in the trave,
And with hir heed she wryed faste awey,
And seyde, "I wol nat kisse thee, by my fey!
Why, lat be," quod she, "lat be, Nicholas,
Or I wol crie 'out harrow' and 'allas!'
Do wey youre handes, for youre curteisye!"
   This Nicholas gan mercy for to crye,
And spak so faire, and profred him so faste,
That she hir love hym graunted atte laste,
Ans swoor hir ooth, by seint Thomas of Kent,
That she wol been at his comandement,
Whan that she may hir leyser wel espie.
"Myn housbonde is so ful of jalousie
That but ye wayte wel and been privee,
I woot right wel I nam but deed," quod she.
"Ye moste been ful deerne, as in this cas."
   "Nay, therof care thee noght," quod Nicholas.
"A clerk hadde litherly biset his whyle,
But if he koude a carpenter bigyle."
And thus they been accorded and ysworn
To wayte a tyme, as I have told biforn.
   Whan Nicholas had doon thus everideel,
And thakked hire aboute the lendes weel,
He kiste hire sweete and taketh his sawtrie,
And pleyeth faste, and maketh melodie.
   Thanne fil it thus, that to the paryssh chirche,
Cristes owene werkes for to wirche,
This goode wyf went on a haliday.
Hir forheed shoon as bright as any day,
So was it wasshen whan she leet hir werk.
Now was ther of that chirche a parissh clerk,
The which that was ycleped Absolon.
Crul was his heer, and as the gold it shoon,
And strouted as a fanne large and brode;
Ful streight and evene lay his joly shode;
His rode was reed, his eyen greye as goos.
With Poules wyndow corven on his shoos,
In hoses rede he wente fetisly.
Yclad he was ful smal and proprely
Al in a kirtel of a lyght waget;
Ful faire and thikke been the poyntes set.
And therupon he hadde a gay surplys
As whit as is the blosme upon the rys.
A myrie child he was, so God me save.
Wel koude he laten blood and clippe and shave,
And maken a chartre of lond or acquitaunce.
In twenty manere koude he trippe and daunce
After the scole of Oxenforde tho,
And with his legges casten to and fro,
And pleyen songes on a smal rubible;
Therto he song som tyme a loud quynyble;
And as wel koude he pleye on a giterne.
In al the toun nas brewhous ne taverne
That he ne visited with his solas,
Ther any gaylard tappestere was.
But sooth to seyn, he was somdeel squaymous
Of fartyng, and of speche daungerous.
   This Absolon, that jolif was and gay,
Gooth with a sencer on the haliday,
Sensynge the wyves of the parisshe faste;
And many a lovely look on hem caste,
And namely on this carpenteris wyf.
To looke on hire hym thoughte a myrie lyf,
She was so propre and sweete and likerous.
I dar wel seyn, if she hadde been a mous,
And I the cat, he wolde hire hente anon.
This parissh clerk, this joly Absolon,
Hath in his herte swich a love-longynge
That of no wyf took he noon offrynge;
For curteisie, he seyde, he wolde noon.
   The moone, whan it was nyght, ful brighte shoon,
And Absolon his gyterne hath ytake,
For paramours he thoghte for to wake.
And forth he gooth, jolif and amorous,
Til he cam to the carpenters hous
A litel after cokkes hadde ycrowe,
And dressed hym up by a shot-wyndowe
That was upon the carpenteris wall.
He syngeth in his voys gentil and smal,
'Now, deere lady, if thy wille be,
I praye yow that ye wole rewe on me,'
Ful wel acordaunt to his gyternynge.
This carpenter awook, and herde him synge,
And spak unto his wyf, and seyde anon,
"What! Alison! Herestow nat Absolon,
That chaunteth thus under oure boures wal?"
Ans she answerde hir housbonde therwithal,
"Yis, God woot, John, I heere it every deel."
   This passeth forth; what wol ye bet than weel?
Fro day to day this joly Absolon
So woweth hire that hym is wo bigon.
He waketh al the nyght and al the day;
He kembeth his lokkes brode, and made hym gay;
He woweth hire by meenes and brocage,
And swoor he wolde been hir owene page;
He syngeth, brokkynge as a nyghtyngale;
He sente hire pyment, meeth, and spiced ale,
And wafres, pipyng hoot out of the gleede;
And, for she was of towne, he profred meede.
For som folk wol ben wonnen for richesse,
And somme for strokes, and somme for gentillesse.
   Somtyme, to shewe his lightnesse and maistrye,
He pleyeth Herodes upon a scaffold hye.
But what availleth hym as in the cas?
She loveth so this hende Nicholas
That Absolon may blowe the bukkes horn;
He ne hadde for his labour but a scorn.
And thus she maketh Absolon hire ape,
And al his ernest turneth til a jape.
Ful sooth is this proverbe, it is no lye,
Men seyn right thus, 'Alwey the nye slye
Maketh the ferre leeve to be looth.'
For though that Absolon be wood or wrooth,
By cause that he fer was from hire sight,
This nye Nicholas stood in his light.
   Now ber thee wel, thou hende Nicholas,
For Absolon may waille and synge 'allas.'
And so bifel it on a Saturday,
This carpenter was goon til Osenay;
And hende Nicholas and Alison
Acorded been to this conclusioun,
That Nicholas shal shapen hym a wyle
This sely jalous housbonde to bigyle;
And if so be the game wente aright,
She sholde slepen in his arm al nyght,
For this was his desir and hire also.
And right anon, withouten wordes mo,
This Nicholas no lenger wolde tarie,
But dooth ful softe unto his chambre carie
Bothe mete and drynke for a day or tweye,
And to hire housbonde bad hire for to seye,
If that he axed after Nicholas,
She sholde seye she nyste where he was,
Of al that day she saugh hym nat with ye;
She trowed that he was in maladye,
For for no cry hir mayde koude hym calle,
He nolde answere for thyng that myghte falle.
   This passeth forth al thilke Saterday,
That Nicholas stille in his chambre lay,
And eet and sleep, or dide what hym leste,
Til Sonday, that the sonne gooth to reste.
This sely carpenter hath greet merveyle
Of Nicholas, or what thyng myghte hym eyle,
And seyde, "I am adrad, by Seint Thomas,
It stondeth nat aright with Nicholas.
God shilde that he deyde sodeynly!
This world is now ful tikel, sikerly.
I saugh today a cors yborn to chirche
That now, on Monday last, I saugh hym wirche.
   "Go up," quod he unto his knave anoon,
"Clepe at his dore, or knokke with a stoon.
Looke how it is, and tel me boldely."
   This knave gooth hym up ful sturdily,
And at the chambre dore whil that he stood,
He cride and knokked as that he were wood,
"What! how! what do ye, maister Nicholay?
How may ye slepen al the longe day?"
   But al for noghte, he herde nat a word.
An hole he foond, ful lowe upon a bord,
Ther as the cat was wont in for to crepe,
And at that hole he looked in ful depe,
And at the laste he hadde of hym a sight.
This Nicholas sat evere capyng upright,
As he had kiked on the newe moone.
Adoun he gooth, and tolde his maister soone
In what array he saugh this ilke man.
   This carpenter to blessen hym bigan,
And seyde, "Help us, seinte Frydeswyde!
A man woot litel what hym shal bityde.
This man is falle, with his astromye,
In som woodnesse or in som agonye,
I thoghte ay wel how that it sholde be!
Men sholde nat knowe of Goddes pryvetee.
Ye, blessed be alwey a lewed man
That noght but oonly his bileve kan!
So ferde another clerk with astromye;
He walked in the feeldes, for to prye
Upon the sterres, what ther sholde bifalle,
Til he was in a marle-pit yfalle;
He saugh nat that. But yet, by seint Thomas,
Me reweth soore of hende Nicholas.
He shal be rated of his studiyng,
If that I may, Jhesus, hevene kyng!
Get me a staf, that I may underspore,
Whil that thou, Robyn, hevest up the dore.
He shal out of his studiyng, as I gesse"
And to the chambre dore he gan hym dresse.
His knave was a strong carl for the nones,
And by the haspe he haaf it of atones;
Into the floor the dore fil anon.
This Nicholas sat ay as stille as stoon,
And evere caped upward into the eir.
This carpenter wende he were in despeir,
And hente hym by the sholdres myghtily
And shook him harde, and cride spitously,
"What! Nicholay! what, how! what, looke adoun!
Awak, and thenk on Christes passioun!
I crouche thee from elves and fro wightes.
Therwith the nyght-spel seyde he anon-rightes
On foure halves of the hous aboute,
And on the tresshfold of the dore withoute:
"Jhesu Crist and seinte Benedight,
Blesse this hous from every wikked wight,
For nyghtes verye, the white pater-noster!
Where wentestow, seinte Petres soster?"
   And atte laste this hende Nicholas
Gan for to sike soore, and seyde, "Allas!
Shal al the world be lost eftsoones now?"
   This carpenter answerde, "What seystow?
What! Thynk on God, as we doon, men that swynke."
   This Nicholas answerde, "Fecche me drynke,
And after wol I speke in pryvetee
Of certeyn thyng that toucheth me and thee.
I wol telle it noon oother man, certeyn."
   This carpenter gooth doun, and comth ageyn,
And broghte of myghty ale a large quart;
And whan that ech of hem had dronke his part,
This Nicholas his dore faste shette,
And doun the carpenter by hym he sette.
   He seyde "John, myn hooste, lief and deere,
Thou shalt upon thy trouthe swere me heere
That to no wight thou shalt this conseil wreye;
For it is Cristes conseil that I seye,
And if thou telle it man, thou art forlore;
For this vengeaunce thou shalt han therfore,
That if thou wreye me, thou shalt be wood."
"Nay, Crist forbede it, for his hooly blood!"
Quod tho this sely man, "I nam no labbe;
Ne, though I seye, I nam nat lief to gabbe.
Sey what thou wolt, I shal it nevere telle
To child ne wyf, by hym that harwed helle!"
   "Now John," quod Nicholas, "I wol nat lye;
I have yfounde in myn astrologye,
As I have looked in the moone bright,
That now a Monday next, at quarter nyght,
Shal falle a reyn, and that so wilde and wood,
That half so greet was nevere Noes flood.
This world," he seyde, "in lasse than an hour
Shal al be dreynt, so hidous is the shour.
Thus shal mankynde drenche, and lese hir lyf."
   This carpenter answerde, "Allas, my wyf!
And shal she drenche? Allas, myn Alisoun!"
For sorwe of this fil almoost adoun,
And seyde, "Is ther no remedie in this cas?"
   "Why, yis, for Gode," quod hende Nicholas,
"If thou wolt werken after loore and reed.
Thou mayst nat werken after thyn owene heed;
For thus seith Salomon, that was ful trewe,
'Werk al by conseil, and thou shalt not rewe.'
And if thou werken wolt by good conseil,
I undertake, withouten mast and seyl,
Yet shal I saven hire and thee and me.
Hastow nat herd hou saved was Noe,
Whan that oure Lord hadde warned hym biforn
That al the world with water sholde be lorn?"
   "Yis," quod this Carpenter, "ful yoore ago."
   "Hastou nat herd," quod Nicholas, "also
The sorwe of Noe with his felawshipe,
Er that he myghte gete his wyf to shipe?
Hym hadde be levere, I dar wel undertake,
At thilke tyme, than alle wetheres blake
That she hadde had a ship hirself allone.
And therfore, woostou what is best to doone?
This asketh haste, and of an hastif thyng
Men may nat preche or maken tariyng.
   "Anon go gete us faste into this in
A knedyng-trogh, or ellis a kymelyn,
For ech of us, but looke that they be large,
In which we mowe swymme as in a barge,
And han therinne vitaille suffisant
But for a day - fy on the remenant!
The water shal aslake and goon away
Aboute pryme upon the nexte day.
But Robyn may nat wite of this, thy knave,
Ne eek thy mayde Gille I may nat save;
Axe nat why, for though thou aske me,
I wol nat tellen Goddes pryvetee.
Suffiseth thee, but if thy wittes madde,
To han as greet a grace as Noe hadde.
Thy wyf shal I wel saven, out of doute.
Go now thy wey, and speed thee heer-aboute.
   "But whan thou hast, for hire and thee and me,
Ygeten us thise knedyng-tubbes three,
Thanne shaltow hange hem in the roof ful hye,
That no man of oure purveiaunce espye.
And whan thou thus hast doon, as I have seyd,
And hast oure vitaille faire in hem yleyd
And eek an ax, to smyte the corde atwo,
Whan that the water comth, that we may go,
And breke an hole an heigh, upon the gable,
Unto the gardyn-ward, over the stable,
That we may frely passen forth oure way,
Whan that the grete shour is goon away,
Thanne shaltou swymme as myrie, I undertake,
As dooth the white doke after hire drake.
Thanne wol I clepe, 'How, Alison! how, John
Be myrie, for the flood wol passe anon.'
And thou wolt seyn, 'Hayl, maister Nicholay!
Good morwe, I see thee wel, for it is day.'
And thanne shul we be lordes al oure lyf
Of al the world, as Noe and his wyf.
   "But of o thyng I warne thee ful right:
Be wel avysed on that ilke nyght
That we ben entred into shippes bord,
That noon of us ne speke nat a word,
Ne clepe, ne crie, but be in his preyere;
For it is Goddes owene heeste deere.
   "Thy wyf and thou moote hange fer atwynne;
For that bitwixe yow shal be no synne,
Namoore in lookyng than ther shal in deede,
This ordinance is seyd. Go, God thee speede!
Tomorwe at nyght, whan men ben alle aslepe,
Into oure knedyng-tubbes wol we crepe,
And sitten there, abidyng Goddes grace.
Go now thy wey, I have no lenger space
To make of this no lenger sermonyng.
Men seyn thus, 'sende the wise, and sey no thyng:'
Thou art so wys, it needeth thee nat teche.
Go, save oure lyf, and that I the biseche."
   This sely carpenter goth forth his wey.
Ful ofte he seide 'Allas' and 'weylawey,'
And to his wyf he tolde his pryvetee,
And she was war, and knew it bet than he,
What als his queynte cast was for to seye.
But natheless she ferde as she wolde deye,
And seyde, "Allas! go forth thy wey anon,
Help us to scape, or we been dede echon!
I am thy trewe, verray wedded wyf;
Go, deere spouse, and help to save oure lyf."
      Lo, with a greet thyng is affeccioun!
Men may dyen of ymaginacioun,
So depe may impressioun be take.
This sely carpenter bigynneth quake;
Hym thynketh verraily that he may see
Noees flood come walwynge as the see
To drenchen Alisoun, his hony deere.
He wepeth, weyleth, maketh sory cheere;
He siketh with ful many a sory swogh;
He gooth and geteth hym a knedyng-trogh,
And after that a tubbe and a kymelyn,
And pryvely he sente hem to his in,
And heng hem in the roof in pryvetee.
His owene hand he made laddres thre,
To clymben by the ronges and the stalkes
Unto the tubbes hangynge in the balkes,
And hem vitailled, bothe trogh and tubbe,
With breed and chese, and good ale in a jubbe,
Suffisynge right ynogh as for a day.
But er that he hadde maad al this array,
He sente his knave, and eek his wenche also,
Upon his nede to London for to go.
And on the Monday, whan it drow to nyght,
He shette his dore withoute candel-lyght,
And dressed alle thyng as it sholde be.
And shortly, up they clomben alle thre;
They seten stille wel a furlong way.
   "Now, Pater-noster, clom!" seyde Nicholay,
And "Clom," quod John, and "clom," seyde Alisoun.
This carpenter seyde his devocioun,
And stille he sit, and biddeth his preyere,
Awaitynge on the reyn, if he it heere.
   The dede sleep, for wery bisynesse,
Fil on this carpenter right, as I gesse,
Aboute corfew-tyme, or litel moore;
For travaille of his goost he groneth soore
And eft he routeth, for his heed myslay.
Doun of the laddre stalketh Nicholay,
And Alisoun ful softe adoun she spedde;
Withouten wordes mo they goon to bedde,
Ther as the carpenter is wont to lye.
Ther was the revel and the melodye;
And thus lith Alison and Nicholas,
In bisynesse of myrthe and of solas,
Til that the belle of laudes gan to rynge,
And freres in the chauncel gonne synge.
   This parissh clerk, this amorous Absolon,
That is for love alwey so wo bigon,
Upon the Monday was at Oseneye
With compaignye, hym to disporte and pleye,
And axed upon cas a cloisterer
Ful prively after John the carpenter;
And he drough hym apart out of the chirche,
And seyde, "I noot, I saugh hym heere nat wirche
Syn Saterday; I trowe that he be went
For tymber, ther oure abott hath hym sent;
For he is wont for tymber for to go,
And dwellen at the grange a day or two;
Or elles he is at his hous, certeyn.
Where that he be, I kan nat soothly seyn."
   This Absolon ful joly was and light,
And thoghte, "Now is tyme to wake al nyght;
For sikirly I saugh hym nat stirynge
Aboute his dore, syn day bigan to sprynge.
   So moot I thryve, I shal, at cokkes crowe,
Ful pryvely knokken at his wyndowe
That stant ful lowe upon his boures wal.
To Alison now wol I tellen al
My love-longynge, for yet I shal nat mysse
That at the leeste wey I shal hire kisse.
Som maner confort shal I have, parfay.
My mouth hath icched al this longe day;
That is a signe of kissyng atte leeste.
Al nyght me mette eek I was at a feeste.
Therfore I wol go slepe an houre or tweye,
And al the nyght thanne wol I wake and pleye."
    Whan that the firste cok hathe crowe, anon
Up rist this joly lovere Absolon,
And hym arraieth gay, at poynt-devys.
But first he cheweth greyn and lycorys,
To smellen sweete, er he hadde kembd his heer.
Under his tonge a trewe-love he beer,
For therby wende he to ben gracious.
He rometh to the carpenteres hous,
And stille he stant under the shot-wyndowe -
Unto his brest it raughte, it was so lowe -
And softe he cougheth with a semy soun:
"What do ye, hony-comb, sweete Alisoun,
My faire bryd, my sweete cynamome?
Awaketh, lemman myn, and speketh to me!
Wel lithel thynken ye upon me wo,
That for youre love I swete ther I go.
No wonder is thogh that I swelte and swete;
I moorne as dooth a lamb after the tete.
Ywis, lemman, I have swich love-longynge,
That lik a turtel trewe is my moornynge.
I may nat ete na moore than a mayde."
   "Go fro the wyndow, Jakke fool," she sayde;
"As help me God, it wol not be 'com pa me.'
I love another - and elles I were to blame -
Wel bet than thee, by Jhesu, Absolon.
Go forth thy wey, or I wol caste a ston,
And lat me slepe, a twenty devel wey!"
   "Allas," quod Absolon, "and weylawey,
That trewe love was evere so yvel biset!
Thanne kysse me, syn it may be no bet,
For Jhesus love, and for the love of me."
   "Wiltow thanne go thy wey therwith?" quod she.
   "Ye, certes, lemman," quod Absolon.
   "Thanne make thee redy," quod she, "I come anon."
And unto Nicholas she seyde stille,
"Now hust, and thou shalt laughen al thy fille."
   This Absolon doun sette hym on his knees
And seyde, "I am a lord at alle degrees;
For after this I hope ther cometh moore.
Lemman, thy grace, and sweete bryd, thyn oore!"
   The wyndow she undoth, and that in haste.
"Have do," quod she, "com of, and speed the faste,
Lest that oure neighebores thee espie."
   This Absolon gan wype his mouth ful drie.
Derk was the nyght as pich, or as a cole,
And at the wyndow out she putte hir hole,
And Absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
Ful savorly, er he were war of this.
Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys,
For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd.
He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd,
And seyde, "Fy! allas! what have I do?"
   "Tehee!" quod she, and clapte the wyndow to,
And Absolon gooth forth a sory pas.
   "A berd! a berd!" quod hende Nicholas,
"By Goddes corpus, this goth faire and weel."
   This sely Absolon herde every deel,
And on his lippe he gan for anger byte,
And to hymself he seyde, "I shall thee quyte."
   Who rubbeth now, who froteth now his lippes
With dust, with sond, with straw, with clooth, with chippes,
But Absolon, that seith ful ofte, "Allas!"
My soule bitake I unto Sathanas,
But me were levere than al this toun," quod he,
"Of this despit awroken for to be.
Allas," quod he, "allas, I ne hadde ybleynt!"
His hoote love was coold and al yqueynt;
For fro that tyme that he hadde kist her ers,
Of paramours he sette nat a kers;
For he was heeled of his maladie.
Ful ofte paramours he gan deffie,
And weep as dooth a child that is ybete.
A softe paas he wente over the strete
Until a smyth men cleped daun Gerveys,
That in his forge smythed plough harneys;
He sharpeth shaar and kultour bisily.
This Absolon knokketh al esily,
And seyde, "Undo, Gerveys, and that anon."
   "What, who artow?" "It am I, Absolon."
"What, Absolon! For Cristes sweete tree,
Why rise ye so rathe? Ey, benedicitee!
What eyleth yow? Som gay gerl, God it woot,
Hath broght yow thus upon the viritoot.
By seinte Note, ye woot wel what I mene."
   This Absolon ne roghte nat a bene
Of all his pley; no word agayn he yaf;
He hadde moore tow on his distaf
Than Gerveys knew, and seyde, "Freend so deere,
That hoote kultour in the chymenee heere,
As lene it me, I have therwith to doone,
And I wol brynge it thee agayn ful soone."
   Gerveys answerde, "Certes, were it gold,
Or in a poke nobles alle untold,
Thou sholdest have, as I am trewe smyth.
Ey, Cristes foo! What wol ye do therwith?"
   "Therof," quod Absolon, "be as be may.
I shal wel telle it thee to-morwe day" -
And caughte the kultour by the colde stele,
Ful softe out at the dore he gan to stele,
And wente unto the carpenteris wal.
He cogheth first, and knokketh therwithal
Upon the wyndowe, right as he dide er.
   This Alison answerde, "Who is ther
That knokketh so? I warante it a theef."
   "Why, nay," quod he, "God woot, my sweete leef,
I am thyn Absolon, my deerelyng.
Of gold," quod he, "I have thee broght a ryng.
My mooder yaf it me, so God me save;
Ful fyn it is, and therto wel ygrave.
This wol I yeve thee, if thou me kisse."
   This Nicholas was risen for to pisse,
And thoughte he wolde amenden al the jape;
He sholde kisse his ers er that he scape.
And up the wyndowe dide he hastily,
And out his ers he putteth pryvely
Over the buttok, to the haunche-bon;
And therwith spak this clerk, this Absolon,
"Spek, sweete bryd, I noot nat where thou art."
   This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart,
As greet as it had been a thonder-dent,
That with the strook he was almoost yblent;
And he was redy with his iren hoot,
And Nicholas amydde the ers he smoot,
   Of gooth the skyn an hande brede aboute,
The hoote kultour brende so his toute,
And for the smert he wende for to dye.
As he were wood, for wo he gan to crye,
"Help! Water! Water! Help for Goddes herte!"
    This carpenter out of his slomber sterte,
And herde oon crien 'water' as he were ,
And thoughte, "Allas, now comth Nowelis flood!"
He sit hym up withouten wordes mo,
And with his ax he smoot the corde atwo,
And doun gooth al; he foond neither to selle,
Ne breed ne ale, til he cam to the celle
Upon the floor, and ther aswowne he lay.
   Up stirte hire Alison and Nicholay,
And criden "Out" and "Harrow" in the strete.
The neighebores, bothe smale and grete,
In ronnen for to gauren on this man,
That yet aswowne lay, bothe pale and wan,
For with the fal he brosten hadde his arm.
But stonde he moste unto his owene harm;
For whan he spak, he was anon bore doun
With hende Nicholas and Alisoun.
They tolden every man that he was wood,
He was agast so of Nowelis flood
Thurgh fantasie, that of his vanytee
He hadde yboght hym knedyng-tubbes thre,
And hadde hem hanged in the roof above;
And that he preyed hem, for Goddes love,
To sitten in the roof, par compaignye.
    The folk gan laughen at his fantasye;
Into the roof they kiken and they cape;
And turned al his harm unto a jape.
For what so that this carpenter answerde,
It was for noght, no man his reson herde.
With othes grete he was so sworn adoun
That he was holde wood in al the toun;
For every clerk anonright heeld with oother.
They seyde, "The man is wood, my leeve brother";
And every wight gan laughen at this stryf.
Thus swyved was this carpenteris wyf,
For al his kepyng and his jalousye;
And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye;
And Nicholas is scalded in the towte.
This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!

Heere endeth the Millere his Tale

Still in the Garden

It has been quite idyllic. 

No contrails, as mentioned, beautiful blue skies and the wildlife being all fecund. So we've been sitting out on the grass with the Family.
Surrounded by newly-opened flowers such as these forget-me-nots:
The silver birch has also, finally, come into leaf:
It also looks quite interesting, I think, when viewed through the underside of the trampoline:
The World turned upside-down:

The garden isn't only about nature and wildlife, of course:

But mostly, today, it felt like that, as in this unknown purple plant:

These grape hyacinths:

This flowering rosemary:

And even this dandelion:

Saturday, 17 April 2010

You Look Away for Just a Second...

... and look what they do! Local artist Randy Klein  has installed this archway/gateway/piece of art at the entrance to Nunhead station.  Well really, he could have asked first...

That being said it is a quite pleasant view from the platform down the tracks.  And I gather it lights up at night.  We shall see.

Clear Blue

I know it is caused by dust in the upper atmosphere, and that it is really unfortunate for those people who want to travel but can't, but the lack of planes in the sky - no contrails criss-crossing, no noise - combined with the beautiful sunny day we are having today, is very pleasant indeed.  A stunning, clear blue sky.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Pubs around Nunhead: 5

He got back into the little Fiat and drove away along the Grove and up to the Common where he parked outside the Rye... and entered the saloon bar...
He walked across to the White Horse and drank one bitter. Next he visited the Morning Star and the Heaton Arms.  He finished up at the Harbinger.
               (From the first page of The Ballad of Peckham Rye, Muriel Spark, (1960))            

As noted elsewhere, the Heaton Arms is now demolished, the Morning Star is now the Nag's Head, the Rye Hotel is now simply the Rye and the Harbinger is probably a composite.
(Note however that  this reference is wrong on other details.  The Clock House also overlooks the Rye and - re note [4] - Kings on the Rye/The King's Arms was demolished around 10 years ago, so it would have been around in Muriel Spark's time).

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Poem of the Week

Porphyria's Lover
Robert Browning

The rain set early in to-night,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me--she
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could to-night's gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshiped me; surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time by shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria's love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Bad Ideas Courtesy of the Tories

Yes, the election proper has started.  So far we have:-

- Wealthy business people telling us that they don't want their businesses to pay more tax - so everyone else will have to instead;

- Peter Gershon suggesting a range of cost-control measures in the public services that in many cases are already in place - and claiming reidiculous savings from them;

- A proposed reintroduction of the regressive 'married couples tax allowance'

Marvellous.  This will get much worse.

Spring Garden

So it is finally a day that feels like Spring in the garden.  Things are growing.
The pond is full of little creatures wriggling in the frogspawn.
The rosemary is flowering.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Poem of the Week

Twickenham Garden
John Donne
Blasted with sighs, and surrounded with tears,
Hither I come to seek the spring,
And at mine eyes, and at mine ears,
Receive such balms as else cure every thing.
But O ! self-traitor, I do bring
The spider Love, which transubstantiates all,
And can convert manna to gall ;
And that this place may thoroughly be thought
True paradise, I have the serpent brought.

'Twere wholesomer for me that winter did
Benight the glory of this place,
And that a grave frost did forbid
These trees to laugh and mock me to my face ;
But that I may not this disgrace
Endure, nor yet leave loving, Love, let me
Some senseless piece of this place be ;
Make me a mandrake, so I may grow here,
Or a stone fountain weeping out my year.

Hither with crystal phials, lovers, come,
And take my tears, which are love's wine,
And try your mistress' tears at home,
For all are false, that taste not just like mine.
Alas ! hearts do not in eyes shine,
Nor can you more judge women's thoughts by tears,
Than by her shadow what she wears.
O perverse sex, where none is true but she,
Who's therefore true, because her truth kills me.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

No Romana

Yesterday I noted that IMDb claims Lalla Ward had an uncredited role as Romana in The End of Time Part 1 - the first section of the two-part episode that ended David Tennant's time as the Doctor.

Later on that day we all watched it on BBC3.  Nope.  No Romana.  Just checked it on i-Player and she still isn't there.

Now, I have found a geeky blog from a while ago that was speculating on what would be in the episode when it broadcast.  It was known that the Time Lords would return, but the blog implied that Romana II would be the President during the episode.  Maybe that is where IMDb got it from - the rumours that preceded the show.

Either way, I don't think she was in it.

Friday, 2 April 2010

The DNA of Dr Who

A nice, if navel-gazing, piece on BBC Radio 4 just now.  About Douglas Adams' time as a writer and then script editor on Dr Who.  Introduced by John Culshaw who slipped from time-to-time into Dead Ringers mode to impersonate Tom Baker.  (Adams was part of the show during the tenure of the Fourth Doctor).

Several good stories, including John Lloyd remembering that DNA had asked Tom Stoppard to write an episode of the show - apparently he gave a very short reply.  Lloyd describe it as one of the few times that Stoppard turned down a commission from a writer better than he is.

Mostly sycophantic responses about what a wonderful writer Adams was, and ending with a puff piece for the more recent (2005 onwards) sequence, which was claimed as being in the mode of City of Death. That is, with a strong leavening of humour.  Stephen Moffat was very happy with the idea.  However it was also said that Adams did something only he could get away with - he broke a cardinal rule, allowing a funny Doctor in a funny situation.

One piece of information I hadn't known: Lalla Ward (Romana II) is married to Richard Dawkins, after meeting him at a party thrown by Adams. (Something like "He and Stephen Fry were having a head-in-the-clouds conversation two or three feet above our heads, so I had to talk to him"). 

More famously - not mentioned on the radio she was also briefly married to Tom Baker.

So anyway, I looked on the InterWeb which confirmed the story, also stating that it was Adams' 40th birthday party, and that Dawkins and Ward were the only ones who only turned up on time. 

And IMDb asserts that she had an uncredited part as Romana in The End of Time: Part 1.