A Lego Doughnut

lego_finished_model-3707x2471px

 

I have made a rather obscure link to this week’s photo challenge theme, which is ‘security’.  But, as regular readers of my blog know, I will use any excuse to write about my grandchildren!

One of the many advantages of spending lots of time with the grandchildren is that I can have fun playing with their toys.

Currently I am enjoying Lego Duplo with Stanley who is 4 and Thea who is 2.  The sets are a far cry from the uninspiring little pieces I remember from when my children were young.  They are so colourful and child friendly now, with animals and themed sets.   Yet they still stimulate the imagination and encourage a world of creative play.

Fortunately I don’t have a tablet, or an ipad, or a kindle, or any of the gadgets they seem to get addicted to as soon as they can hold them these days.  And, horror of horrors, I only have terrestrial TV channels, not games on demand!  So at grandma’s house creative play still rules.

Thea is particularly enjoying the Forest Park and Family Pets sets because she loves animals while Stanley loves the vehicles and characters.  But, however many sets they get, their first desire is still to build the tallest tower!

My older grandson, who has reached the ripe old age of 13, is also into Lego.  He has a bedroom full of it and is very expert.  I don’t even attempt to meddle with his models though, as they are very technical and way beyond my skills.

So, you can imagine how impressed I was to hear recently that part of our national security agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is based near my home, had set it’s employees the challenge of modelling the building out of Lego. This is not just any regular building,  it is shaped like a doughnut, which must be really difficult to model.  But they did it and the result is impressive as it would be with all their skills brought to bear.

I can’t take credit for the photo as it was on the official GCHQ website, but I do have permission to use it.  I think it is brilliant, especially as it was created in order to raise funds for a local charity, Elisabeth’s Footprint, which is very dear to my heart.

Do click on the links to see more blogs on the theme of ‘security’ and if you want to know more about the Doughnut Lego model, or the inspiring story of the marvellous woman behind Elisabeth’s Footprint.

What else can you do with grandchildren in the absence of gadgets? Well, We build dens, paint, play with sand and water,  picnic in the woods, take the dog for walks, or go to farms, parks and forests.  If it is cold or wet we make up stories, poems and fantastical adventures…

What did you do today?

Did you go to the airport with an alligator,

Or go to the beach with a bear?

Did you eat in a café with a camel

And frighten the people there?

 

Did you build a den for a dinosaur,

Or run through the grass with emu?

Did you go to the fairground with a fox?

Did he win a goldfish for you?

 

Did you play houses with a hedgehog,

Or go ice-skating with an impala?

Did you drive a jeep with a jellyfish,

Or fly a kite with a koala?

 

Did you eat lunch by the lake with a lamb,

Or play marbles with a monkey?

Did you go on a nature trail with a newt?

Now that would be quite funky.

 

Did you eat an orange with an octopus,

Or splash in a puddle with a pig?

Did you quiver and quake at a queen bee,

Then go out and dig?

 

Did you ride the rails with a reindeer,

Or go to the seaside with a snake?

Did you climb a tree with a tiger?

Now that would be a mistake.

 

Did you race upstairs with a unicorn,

Or drive a van with a vole?

Did you make a wish with a wallaby,

Or did you do nothing at all?

 

Did you swim with an x-ray tetra,

Or sail on a yacht with a yak?

Did you go to the zoo with a zebra?

Tomorrow ~ are you coming back?

 Poem by Brenda Kimmins.

As Pure as Driven Snow

Shakespeare used snow as a symbol of purity many times in his plays.  Hamlet says to Ophelia,

Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow

my summerhouse

This week I have chosen a photo I took some years ago in my garden.  There is nothing so pure as a fresh fall of snow, and when it surrounds my sanctuary it is perfect.  This is a place where I found pure peace, in which to rest, reflect and recuperate.  You can find the story behind it, and more photos here… http://wp.me/p2gGsd-eV

Musicians,  poets and artists have often taken inspiration from snow.  To commemorate the centenary of WW1 there was an original play titled Will Harvey’s War performed at our local theatre.  I was lucky enough to play a singing farm-worker in that play.  We sang some beautiful songs reminiscent of the times. One of them was “Oh Snow”, with music by Edward Elgar and words by his wife, Alice Elgar.  It was exquisite to sing.   The music is absolutely beautiful and, with complex harmonies (I sang the Alto part) arranged by Caroline Edwards, our rendition was very moving.  The purity of the music perfectly captures a fall of fresh snow drifting and whirling in the wind.

O snow, which sinks so light,

Brown earth is hid from sight,

O soul, be thou as white

Be thou as white as snow

******************

Then as the snow all pure,

O heart be, but endure

Through all the years full sure

Not as the snow, not as the snow.

Glorious Gloucestershire

I have written about the Gloucestershire poet, FW Harvey before but today I was reminded of him strongly when I visited Hartpury, which is the village where he was born on 26th March 1888. Harvey was a contemporary of the great War Poets, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Ivor Gurney and Rupert Brooke; indeed he became a close friend of Ivor Gurney and his fellow composer Herbert Howells while he was at King’s School in Gloucester before the First World War.

As I have written in a previous post, Will Harvey fought in the trenches of Flanders in that horrific war and was a prisoner for some time.  As I wandered through the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Hartpury on this idyllic afternoon in beautiful Spring sunshine, I couldn’t help but think of him.  How dreadful it must have been for Will and all the other young men to leave their homes and be transported to a living hell in the trenches.  No wonder Will Harvey wrote so fondly of Gloucestershire and the beautiful English countryside, as in this moving poem.

After Long Wandering:
I will go back to Gloucestershire,
To the spot where I was born
To talk at eve with men and women
And song on the roads at morn.
And I’ll sing as I tramp by dusty hedges
Or drink my ale in the shade
How Gloucestershire is the finest home
That the Lord God ever made.

I’ll drink my perry and sing my song
Of home and home again,
Pierced with the old miraculous pleasure 
Keen as sharpest pain;
And if I rise to sing on the morrow
Or if I die in my bed,
‘Tis all the same: I’ll be home again,
And happy alive or dead.

I went to Hartpury to see the Bee Wall or shelter that was moved some years ago from Hartpury College to the graveyard at the village church.  It was in a dreadful state the last time I saw it, but now it has been beautifully restored to its original state.  It is a truly unique structure built by a bee-keeping stonemason named Paul Tuffley in the mid19th century, using  locally quarried Cotswold stone.  The bee shelter was meant to house wicker hives or skeps in which the bees would lay down their honey.  It is incredibly decorative with carvings on both sides.  7.3 metres long, 2.5 metres tall and 75centimetres deep, it has 28 sections or ‘boles’ for the hives or ‘skeps’ to go in.

Today there were just 2 skeps in the boles but there were plenty of bees buzzing around the beautiful churchyard.  According to the Domesday Book, Gloucester paid 12 sesters, or 24lbs, of honey every year to King Edward.  And in 1260 it is recorded that tenants from Hartpury Manor held land in return for payments in honey.  So bee-keeping has been a feature of Gloucestershire life for a very long time, and still is.

I hope you enjoy my photos of the Bee Shelter which I took today and find it as fascinating as I do.

Pain

stellas wooden statue 1

Pain is messy

A rebellious teenager, appearing

Defiant, disruptive

Causing chaos

Pain is invisible

A malevolent spirit haunting

Nagging, gnawing

Stealing sleep

Pain is antisocial

An angry mob descending

Erratic, uncaring,

Restricting movement

Pain is cunning

A bully stalking

Defeating doctors, confounding consultants,

Making fools of pharmacists,

Pain is relentless

A silent enemy

Heartless, challenging

Limiting life

It’s the middle of the night and as i can’t sleep my default mode is to get up and write.

I can’t sleep because of the relentless pain in my shoulder which is the result of an injury to my rotator cuff.  I’d never heard of this unseen but essential part of my anatomy until it was injured.  According to Wikipedia, the rotator cuff is a group of muscles and their tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder.  Like me, you have probably never given them a thought; but, if they are inflamed, torn or damaged like mine, you will certainly know about it!  The pain in my shoulder is excruciating, especially if I try to lift or lower my arm or twist it behind my back.  It is worse at night because I tend to turn over and lie on the right side and it is my right shoulder that is injured.  I guess it will improve over time and with some simple exercise, but at the moment the pain is hard to manage.  The hospital doctor gave me Co-codamol but they made me sick and most over the counter analgesics don’t even dull the pain.  So I guess I will just have to live with it.

On the bright side, it does not affect me much when my arm is by my side so I can still write ~ YIPPEE!  I think if I was unable to write I would go crazy.

Miss Margaret’s New House

When I was a student in the 1960’s I started collecting nursery rhymes and poetry which I could use once I started teaching.  I built up quite a collection in a folder.  I also got into the habit of cutting poems out of the daily newspaper if they appealed to me.  One poem impressed me so much I have treasured it for the last 50 years.  I still have the original cutting.  Brown with age, I’ve now laminated it so that it doesn’t get damaged.  It is called Miss Margaret’s New House and it chimed with me really strongly.

As regular readers of my blog will know, my much loved mum died in 2012.  She lived just a couple of doors away from me, which was really handy when I was caring for her.  But once she had died, the house being so close was a constant source of sadness which I could not escape.

The house was empty and forlorn for months but now new people have bought the house to ‘do up’ and live in.  It seems to me that there will be nothing left of the original house soon.  It now has a huge extension on the back, the lovely hardwood window frames have been replaced with white plastic and the leaded lights are gone.  The kitchen has been ripped out and a new one built in the extension.  The wall between the bathroom and toilet has been knocked through and all the fittings have been replaced.  The climbing roses have been cut down and the rambling hedgerow tamed and trimmed.  All the carpets are gone and modern wooden flooring installed and the walls have all be painted in neutral tones.

I’m sure it will all be lovely by the time they move in, but no longer will it be ‘my mum’s house’.  This is a blessing in a way as I will no longer feel those pangs of sadness as I pass by on my walks with the dog or my grandson.  Every trace of my mum’s taste and personality has gone from the house now, along with her fixtures and fittings, into the skip.

Her style was plain and simple.  She loved the soft pink on the walls, pale green on the floors ~ always Wilton, always 80/20 wool.  She loved roses in the garden, flowers in the house, and dark oak Ercol furniture.  She loved soft cushions and silver ornaments.  Her door, like her heart, was always open to visitors, especially her family.  She never forgot a birthday and was generous to a fault.  Not a day goes by when I don’t miss her.

Now to get back to the poem!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

 She never liked The Firs.  She said

‘Give me simplicity.

Pretentious roofs and leaded panes…

Lord, how they sicken me!

 

I’ll have an honest house one day.

Clean-shaped outside and in.

Where need shall take its dues, and oust

The merely finikin.

 

A downright house, a compact house;

A small house – I am small;

The lone pea in its vasty pod

Is not my role at all.

 

Nor yet for me pert painted doors,

Flame yellow, scarlet bright;

A low house with white window sills,

And trees to left and right.

 

A quiet house, a peaceful house…

Cool in the August heat,

But snug and safe when parching winds

Drive brown leaves down the street…

 

This will I have’, she said and let

It cost me what it may

I shall not grudge that dwelling’s price…

She moved in yesterday.

 

It took the sum of all she had,

But well content she seemed;

She has them all-the sheltering trees,

The quiet that she dreamed;

 

The low pitched roof, the straight bare walls-

All hers, and perfect, save

For the white window sills.  There are

No windows in a grave.

By Ana Jackson

Miss Margaret's House? No, its mine!

My mum painting in Painswick Rococo Gardens

My mum painting in Painswick Rococo Gardens

Pop, Poets and Plays

Community Choir at Tuckwell

Community Choir at Tuckwell

It’s been quite a cultural summer so far for me in the Cotswolds. I sang in a super concert at the local open air theatre, which was amazing. There were 150 of us aged from 5 to 90 singing together in the community choir. Sometimes we split up and sang in individual choirs, and we sang such a variety of songs. It was great to listen to the other choirs, especially the children. The setting was magical. We were in a dell surrounded on 3 sides by trees and with a stream running behind. On the fourth side was a tiered seating area. All the trees were sparkling with lights and there were candles along the paths and down the steps. The theme for dress was ‘festival’ so there were flowers in our hair and lots of pretty dresses. It took me back to my teenage years in the 1960s. I loved every minute of it. Sitting in the audience were two ladies who are direct descendants of a Gloucestershire poet who coincidentally is the subject of the rest of this post, Will Harvey.

There have been all sorts of commemorative events going on to mark the centenary of the start of World War One. Here in Gloucestershire I was involved in a production of a brand new play called Will Harvey’s War at our local theatre, playing the part of a singing farmworker! The play was based on a previously unpublished manuscript written by Will and only recently discovered. It has now been published as a book entitled The Lost Novel of F W Harvey

Will Harvey, better known as Frederick William Harvey DCM (26 March 1888~13 Feb 1957), was a local man, born in a small village called Hartpury in Gloucestershire. I have very fond memories of Hartpury, as my daughter did her degree in Equine Studies there at the college. The setting was perfect. There used to be a great village pub called the Canning Arms where live Jazz was played every Monday night. My husband and I used to go regularly to enjoy the music, the food, and to chat with the great licensees, John and Jean. Sadly, like many country pubs, after Black Wednesday the Canning Arms suffered in the economic downturn and closed. It is now a private house.

Will Harvey moved to Minsterworth and went to the King’s School in Gloucester, where he met Ivor Gurney, a chorister, who went on to become a noted Gloucestershire poet and composer. Along with Herbert Howells they became lifelong friends. Kings school, being a Cathedral school, has a strong music and arts tradition, but it was listening to Elgar’s, Dream of Gerontius that informed Will’s ideas on beauty and creativity. Coincidentally, I worked at King’s School for a time in the 1990’s and have written about it before http://wp.me/p2gGsd-Gp

After school Will trained as a solicitor, but at the age of 26, the First World War intervened in his life. Within days of the war starting in August 1914, Will joined the 5th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment as a private. After a few months training, the battalion was posted to France where Will proved to be quite a hero. He was awarded the DCM or Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery. Will was later trained as an officer then sent back to France. Unfortunately, during another brave venture into enemy trenches, he was captured and spent the rest of the war in various prisoner of war camps. Although he made several unsuccessful escape attempts, it was in the camps that Will developed his poetry and writing skills. His most famous poem is Ducks, which he wrote after seeing a picture of ducks on the ceiling of his prison hut, drawn by another prisoner

It is often thought that The Wipers Times was the first trench newspaper, but actually the Fifth Gloucester Gazette came first and Will Harvey was a contributor. It was fortunate that Will was allowed to send his poems home for publication. His first volume was, A Gloucestershire Lad At Home and Abroad, which was soon followed by, Gloucestershire Friends, poems from a German Prison Camp. https://archive.org/details/gloucestershiref00harv

He also wrote about his wartime experiences in Comrades in Captivity. Altogether Will had about 400 poems published. He wrote of war and nature and animals as well as poetry for children.

After WW1 ended, Will came back to Gloucestershire and settled in the Forest of Dean. His poetry was so popular that he was known as “the Laureate of Gloucestershire“. But, now married to a nurse called Anne Kane, Will went back to his career as a solicitor in order to earn a living. To his credit he became known as “the poor man’s solicitor”. Indeed, Will was so compassionate to those facing prison that he often gave his services free. This was great for his reputation but not for his business and eventually it had to be sold. After that, Will joined the BBC and spent years promoting the people of the Forest of Dean, its arts’ scene, culture and heritage. Will’s friends, Ivor Gurney and Howells both set some of Will Harvey’s poems to music. Even today his poetry is set to music by local folk musicians such as Johnny Coppin. He sings of Gloucestershire, its traditions, its people and its culture.

Will Harvey is remembered on a memorial stone at Gloucester Cathedral and a new biography is being published this year.

The whole cast on set at the end of the show

The whole cast on set at the end of the show