I recently started my second free course with the Open University at futurelearn.com
The first course was “Start Writing Fiction“, which was a hands-on course focused on the central skill of creating characters. My current course is “Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing.” The course aims to explore how poems, plays and novels can help us understand and cope with deep emotional strain.
Readers who were used to following my blog weekly will have noticed that I have written nothing since I lost my little Dachsund, Dayna, who was the subject of my last post. Maybe other pet owners, especially dog owners, will understand the depths of my despair at losing Dayna.
I am blessed to have a husband, adult children (albeit three of them live abroad), supportive friends and adorable grandchildren. But, although I love them all dearly, after losing Dayna I was inconsolable. I gradually slipped into a downward spiral of despair and lost interest in going out, seeing friends, talking to people, cooking or even eating. All I wanted to do was stay at home and curl up under a blanket wallowing in my misery and solitude. I felt bereft and ridiculously lonely. Hence my interest in finding ways to cope with ‘deep emotional strain’.
All of my children are dog lovers and my eldest daughter volunteers at a rescue centre in California. They recommended that I get another dog – not as a replacement because my precious Dayna is irreplaceable, but as a companion. So I started to search. How I found my new dog is a long story which I will save for another day but suffice it to say she is NOT Dayna
My new puppy was 10 weeks old when I got her, and supposedly a Corgi crossed with a Dachsund. However everyone including the local vet is convinced she is a Beagle cross. I personally think there is a bit of shark in her too. She is very cute and slightly crazy most of the time but totally adorable of course. My grandson, Stanley, christened her Toffee and instantly fell in love with her. Well who wouldn’t?
Anyway, I started the course and I am finding it very stimulating. It is brilliantly put together with input from poets, authors, doctors, psychiatrists and research scientists, as well as the wonderful actor Sir Ian McKellen, and the amazing Stephen Fry who defies categorisation!
There are countless opportunities for online discussion with other course participants and it was a discussion about the poet Edward Thomas that led me to drive to Adlestrop today.
Edward Thomas was primarily a nature poet and he wrote his famous poem Adlestrop when the train he was travelling on stopped there unexpectedly on 24 June 1914, just before the outbreak of WW!. Instead of getting irritated, he used all of his senses to take in his surroundings and wallow in the details.
Edward Thomas joined the Artist’s Rifles in 1915 and sadly was killed in action in France in 1917. Interestingly, his widow, Helen Thomas wrote two books after his death reportedly to help her recover from her deep depression.
Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Edward Thomas 1878 – 1917
Of course Adlestrop Station is no more although the railway line still passes through nearby fields. Today the fields and the railway line were underwater, flooded after the week of heavy rain we have had in Gloucestershire. But there is a wonderful bus shelter at the entrance to the village where the old station bench and sign is preserved and a brass copy of the poem displayed.
I went there today as I live just 20 miles away. It was a cold, cloudy day, and the rain was drizzling down. But the journey was worth it. There were swathes of snowdrops by the roadside and in the churchyard. There is a Yew tree shaped like a cross by the gate to the church. The writer, Jane Austen was known to worship here when she visited her uncle, the Reverend Thomas Leigh. There is a beautiful Cotswold stone manor house and a thatched village shop housing the ‘new’ post office. There were young riders in red jackets exercising the racehorses from the beautiful Adlestrop stables
Here are the photos from Adlestrop