Flood in South Nutfield


I remember the thunderstorms and heavy rain and how Mid Street became like a mighty river rushing near our house.  The flood swept down the road and over the pavements and was very impressive to me at the age of eleven. We had recently moved from Leicester and if this was anything to go by then South Nutfield was going to be an exciting place to live.

This postcard features another young lad at the junction of Mid Street and the Avenue during the same flood. The bridge over Nutfield Brook is overflowing behind him. Wikipedia has more on The Great Flood. (All Rights reserved to Pamlin Prints)

Oxford’s Magdalene College Choir Virtual May Day heard from a bedroom

The revelling crowd reduced to one
In bed with his computer on.

The breakfast beer cans strewn around
And egg smeared on his dressing gown.

The facebook video played at six …
Some tweeting birds, a choirboy mix,

Recorded several days before,
Each choirboy stood alone, unsure –

How weird it was to sing alone!
But digitised they found their tone –

The virtual choir sang Latin Prayers –
Protected from the germ purveyors.

‘… Immensum hoc mysterium
Ovante lingua canimus’.

He listened and quite unrehearsed
The tears came naturally at first.

He missed the solidarity,
He missed the man dressed as a tree*,

He missed the champagne on the grass,
He missed the chance to make a pass,

He threw himself into a heap
Began to blubber and to weep:

He missed the Leeds star Norman Hunter
Killed by the virus – six feet under.

He missed the Stranglers Keyboard player
For both of them he said a Prayer

And worst of all he might succumb
Before his old man and his mum.

* (leader of Oxford University Morris Dancers comes dressed as a tree to May Morning)

Theme for Abingdon Share a Poem in May is May and I wrote this after watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEBsmxAfGiY

Leeds United 1972 – updated July 11th

Gary Sprake 03.04.1945 † 19.10.2016
Jackie Charlton 08.05.1935 † 10.07.2020 Yesterday
Terry Cooper 12.07.1944
Norman Hunter 29.10.1943 † 17.04.2020.
Paul Madeley 20.09.1944 † 23.07.2018
Paul Reaney 22.10.1944
Billy Bremner 09.12.1942 † 07.12.1997
Johnny Giles 06.11.1940
Eddie Gray 17.01.1948
Mick Jones 24.04.1945
Peter Lorimer 14.12.1946

Lechlade-on-Thames


We began the walk through the churchyard of St Lawrence’s Church in Lechlade-on-Thames. There is a plaque to say that this is called ‘Shelley’s Walk‘ after the poet wrote ‘A Summer Evening Churchyard‘ here.

The walk then followed a tree lined path beside a steam or ditch. The air was crowded with small flies and midges – a sign that Spring had arrived. Birds sang and could enjoy the easy pickings .

We crossed a wooden footbridge beside a screen of poplars.

Then followed the Thames Path back through St John’s Lock, the highest lock on the River Thames, where a statue of Father Thames lay with a plastic paddle.

The ground was soft and the driest place to walk was near the bank of the River Thames where we passed several fishermen. The spire of St Lawrences could be seen across the even land.

I wondered whether it was the same St Lawrence that I knew from Caterham Surrey but realised I didn’t know much about him either. From wikipedia I discovered Saint Lawrence (d. 258), the Christian martyr, after whom all others are named; Saint Laurence of Canterbury (d. 619), second Archbishop of Canterbury, and more.

We walked under the footpath arch of the Halfpenny Bridge, so called because until the town’s people protested and got their way, a half penny was charged for going over the bridge.

Larger barges and river craft do not usually go much further beyond this point.

We walked through a couple more fields than crossed the Thames by a wooden bridge, and headed back to Lechlade over a path called ‘The Seven Styles Walk‘ – here were no styles, just open gates separating small fields.

Back in Lechlade I took a picture of the Christmas Shop. It is open all year round, but was closed when we went by. The business first started in 1985, selling traditional German Christmas products.  Christmas all year round has become an eccentricity of Lechlade.

In town, we went inside St Lawrence’s Church where there was an interesting painting ‘Presented to Brigadier John Cooper by the congregation in gratitude for his ministry – August 2010’. 

We visited the Londis store where there were plenty of toilet rolls available. Abingdon has run out due to Coronavirus panic buying so this was a relief.

We also had some excellent soup and sourdough bread at Lynwood & Co, and then drove home.

Faringdon and Folly


Faringdon seems a normal and very pleasant market town until …

you approach the Pump House where there is a stone diving helmet and some words that when you first read them do not make sense … ‘a man who never has an occasional flash’  … ‘of’  … ‘silliness’ … ‘Mistrust’.

But start at the right place and you get ‘Mistrust a man who never has an occasional flash of silliness.’

In the Pump House is an exhibition about Lord Berners who lived in Faringdon House.

He was a composer , painter, and author. Besides writing an opera and five ballets , he composed the film music to “The Halfway House ” in 1944. As an artist he staged at least three exhibitions in various London galleries. His writings included First childhood, The Camel, The Girls of Radcliff Hall, Far From the Madding War, Percy Wallingford and Mr. Pidger, Count Omega, The Romance of a Nose and A Distant Prospect. To his parties were invited many famous people we still know of to this day, such as Igor Stravinsky, Salvador Dalí, and H. G. Wells.

The museum has displays to remember how he dyed pigeons at his house in Faringdon in vibrant colours and entertained Penelope Betjeman’s horse Moti to tea and painted its portrait.

As well as being a composer, painter, and author, he also built the last ever major folly tower in 1935.

He built the folly tower on the hill overlooking Faringdon.

He liked silly notices and there is a notice ‘Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.’
Nearby is a piano. The keys no longer play after a long time out in all weather. Lord Berners had a small clavichord keyboard in his Rolls-Royce.

When you look about you can see that Lord Berners continues to influence the people in the town in the number of dyed pigeons and silly notices.

Moonstruck

Late last night mingling with drunks,
amazed at all of the things that they said,
I looked at the ground and the mottled sky
with the moonshine in a puddle of cloud.
I saw again the man in the moon and remembered
how he lost his way going too far south.

And did we sit on a cow that jumped over the moon
or was that a dish and a spoon and not the moon
sitting together on the side of the road to Norwich,
spooning porridge, or were we supping pea’s pottage
in the moonlight that made us into moon prophets?
Moonstruck, moonchildren, mooning moonbeams.

Moony man in the moon his mooneye dark and empty –
dark and cold until a cloud came across and he winked.
He winked! Ha! The man in the moon winked at us.
Clouds clearing away back to the drunks and their blabbering.
Sad eyed figures that call me away to you then when
We were as friends, as one.

(written for Abingdon Share a Poem Group with theme Moon but not read as I was not confident about it)

Helen Keller Romance Backlash

Now that I am quite enfeebled
I fall in love with you again.
You the skilled finger speller –
Our only way of being friends.

I remember you – the charming lover,
And how we soon began a dream
A secret marriage, of three children –
To fill the world in between.

The Boston Press learned our Secret.
My family banned you, except in brail –
A go between brought your letters
But plans to meet would always fail.

Carers did what they thought proper –
I was deaf. I was blind.
To stop us having deaf blind children,
Was I foolish, and were they kind?

Now that I am quite enfeebled
I feel your touch on me so slow –
Lightly spelling, playful, talking –
Touch – the greatest thing I know.

(Helen Keller and a temporary male assistant called Peter)

The gold tooth is still mocking me

I pull out my purse and take out two coins,

One silver, one bronze, put them on the counter.

The Bar Man looks straight through me.
“It’s going to cost you more than that, friend.”

I pull out a gun. Aim at his heart.
The band strikes up a rolling rhythm.
He turns away to serve another customer
As I have the bullet trained on him
At the gold tooth that’s still mocking me.

 He serves the drinks and comes back.

 “How much then?” I ask.

“Look!” he says “Read my thoughts!”

I read his heart and see a garden in a council estate.
He stands with watch in hand, bird feed in the other,
Watching the clouds for a glimpse.

Then a woman with red hair, misty strange,
Otherworldly, could be dead. She haunts him still.

 I put down gold. “Is that OK?”

Written for share a poem at St Ethelwolds.

John Ruskin’s 200th Birthday Celebration


There were children from Coniston C of E Primary School singing, and reading poetry. There were also children from the John Ruskin School, Coniston performing on brass instruments. They had a day of Ruskin Celebration and church was one part of it.

Rather than be buried in Westminster Abbey John Ruskin chose St Andrew’s Church, Coniston. He lived beside Lake Coniston.


After the service, some of the congregation gathered round the wonderful Ruskin Cross for a prayer and to lay some flowers.

A lot of his ideas are still very relevant today. Speaking at the service, a lady from the Ruskin Museum in Coniston  traced back some of the twentieth centuries great achievements to Ruskin’s social reforming ideas: the founding of universal education, the minimum wage, the NHS and welfare state. As an art critic and painter he taught many people how to see and appreciate nature and art.

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”  John Ruskin.

Berlin – first visit

Between the 11th and 18th of December we were staying in Berlin.

We saw many reminders of Berlin’s turbulent recent history. The facade of the Anhalter Bahnhof  (railway station) has been left as it was after WWII bombing. The rest of the building has been demolished. From here 9,600 Jews were transported from 1941 to 1945.

A Holocaust Memorial has been created on land near the old Berlin wall. The memorial is made up of a grid of concrete blocks of different heights. In the centre they tower over you and it is bleak and disorienting to walk through.

Most of the Berlin Wall, constructed by East Germany to stop citizens going to the west, has been removed. The East Side Gallery, painted by many invited international artists, is the largest section of Berlin Wall still standing. This picture depicts Leonid Brezhnev (USSR Leader) and Erich Honecker (East German Leader) greeting each other with a fraternal kiss. It reads ‘Mein Gott, hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben’, which in English means ‘My God, help me survive this deadly love’.

There are also bits of the wall to be purchased in various sizes. That these have become tourist gifts does nothing to remove from some people’s memory how threatening it felt at one time with the border guards and spies. People were shot trying to cross the wall or swim the River Spree.

The most famous Berlin landmark is the Brandenburg Gate. The wall ran down there too cutting it off in no man’s land.Even the Reichstag was off limits until reunification, when by a small majority it was decided to move parliament back from Bonn to Berlin. The Reichstag interior was rebuilt and a dome added. The dome has a spiral walkway that gives views down into the chamber and out across the city. This is now the place were the German Government meet.

During the visit I was reading Leaving Berlin, a novel which tells of the start of the cold war and the competing Russian, American and fledgling East German agents and informers.  I finished the book on the return trip from Berlin Tegel to Gatwick Airport.