The Lily Pond

Lily Pond at Hestercombe House, Taunton, Somerset . . .   Watercolour  -WHB  c.2003

No murmur breaks the silence
the afternoon is still
the pool reflects the calmness
which hovers in the air

The colours
and the scent of flowers
speak only of serenity
and peace
the splendour of the garden
throbs with Nature’s pride
a statement of the passion
and the pleasures of creation

Tall distinguished Iris
goddess of the rainbow
clutch the water’s edge
radiating their vibrant heritage
stealing the sun’s power
to enhance their golden presence
their stature
their boldness
speaking their nobility
and proudly defining
their cool distinction

Whilst languid water lilies
blanket the pool’s surface
coveting recognition of their worth
their foot pads
watery meniscus
a haven for the diffident carp
shading all the pool’s life
from the sun’s keen scrutiny

And then recalling
their antique role
in baiting
that languorous youth Narcissus
by encouraging the pool’s mirror
to reflect his admiration
bolstering his vanity
and tempting him
to his destruction

Anthropomorphic Feelings

I sometimes think and wonder
How do other creatures feel
When they meet a rather common human trait?
Do they moan and feel like us
Do they ponder, think, discuss,
Or is it that they can’t articulate?

#   #   #

Can a caterpillar cry
Does it ever feel regret
In its small world does it feel as we do feel;
Can it laugh when it is glad
Does it cry when it is sad
Does it ever feel it’s getting a raw deal?

And what about a cat,
Does it worry when it’s fat,
Does it tell itself to change its attitude?
Does it think “Well. Fancy that,
I’d rather like that rat,
But I really must cut out the fancy food?”

And take the little wasp
When it’s supping from your glass
Does it ever think “Well, that’s enough for me,
I’d better get back home,
For I’ve left the wife alone.
I don’t want her propositioned by a bee?”

When a spider gets leg cramp
Does it leap up and foot stamp,
All eight feet drumming till the sharp pain goes?
You can’t tell an arachnid
To be placid,(is that hackneyed?),
Or to stretch its legs and wiggle all its toes.

Does an anchovy not wonder
When it’s swimming in the sea
Why so many of its mates just disappear?
Or why every little fish
Should end up in a dish
And swigged down with a glass of frothy  beer?

Does a mayfly feel quite old
When it gets to twelve o’clock
Knowing well it’s reached the end of its short span?
Does it ever feel regret
Does it not feel ready yet
To end up in that final garbage can?

Does a badger when it hibernates
Need to get up for the loo,
Or does it just imagine digging holes?
‘Cos I bet it can’t be troubled
And is just a bit befuddled
While dreaming of those tasty juicy moles.

When a greenfly knows it’s pregnant
Does it dare to tell its mum?
Is it frightened to be seen with that big tum?
Does it go into retreat
Does it hide its little feet
And just sit tight until its time has come?

And what about mosquitoes
When they take a bite or two
From any passer-by, and without question?
Do they ever stop and think
Now what did this chap drink
That’s giving me this awful indigestion?

Does a rabbit ever worry
When it’s losing all its hair?
Does moulting make it think it’s going bald?
Perhaps it dreads the thought,
Gets upset and overwrought,
Completely overwhelmed and quite appalled.

#   #   #

So when I’m beset with sorrows,
Feeling there’ll be no tomorrows,
I’ll just think of how these creatures get along.
When feeling a bit off
With a headache or a cough
I’ll  know it’s to creation I belong.

From the cover of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ …Published in Penguin Books, 1951

All My Love

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones … ‘Love Among The Ruins’  1894  …   Wightwick Manor, West Midlands, National Trust, UK.


I cannot promise ‘All my Love’;
It’s not that I don’t care,
But love is not an empty word;
What love I have I share.

A love for family and friends 
That cannot be gainsaid;
That still will be a part of me 
When other loves do fade.

There is a love of all mankind
Which brings a certitude 
That life’s not just for you and me,
But nature’s plenitude.

There is a love that touches me,
A love of all creation,
Recalls for me such longing and
Sustains my inspiration.

There is a love that teaches me 
To think of others first;
To curb those venial thoughts I have 
My nature at its worst.

There is a love beseeches me 
To face up to my errors;
To open up my damaged heart 
Confront my hidden terrors.

There is a love which reaches me 
Across the mighty ocean; 
That gives to me a lasting hope, 
A clutching at emotion.

There is a love of life itself,
A love I hold and cherish,
And pray for strength to face its end
When at last I perish.

There is love which distresses me,
Seeks more than I can give;
Demands I offer up my soul,
Smothers the life I live.

That selfish love, demanding all,
I still cannot allow; 
For love’s an abstruse concept and
Mine is prescribed now.

All these are loves I’m asked to give, 
Demanding that I care,
But I have only so much and 
I have no love to spare.

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones … ‘Love Song’  1868-1877  …  Metropolitan Museum Of Art, New York, USA.

Father William

A Japanese ‘Father William’ …  Pen & Ink – WHB – 2014

Are Old, Father William” is a poem by Lewis Carroll that appears in his book  ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865).

You are Old, Father William

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
Do you think, at your age, it is right?

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door —
Pray, what is the reason for that?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment — one shilling a box —
Allow me to sell you a couple?”

“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak —
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose —
What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father. “Don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs.”

By Lewis Carroll


Canonteign Falls, Dartmoor, Devon . . .  Pen & Wash by WHB


Humble in its origin
on the heather moor
rolling gently down towards
the valley’s deep green floor

Suddenly the land gives way 
beneath its watery tread
and  leads it down the rocky face
towards the river bed

Down the limestone outcrop
over mossy stones
beside the yellowing bracken
it bubbles sighs and moans

Until at last its downward race
is given a pause for rest
before it has to carry  on
with renewed force and zest.

My Cold-hearted Lover

My cold-hearted lover has gone
She left me this wreath in the snow.
She said if I changed,
My life re-arranged,
It might be worth letting her know.

Those years we have lingered together;
Those times I have thought we were one;
But now it would seem
That was merely a dream,
A mirage now dwindled and gone.

For when the snow melts in the sun
No longer will our love exist.
Just a moment of fun,
A brief glimpse of the sun,
Just a chapter of love in the mist.

So a new life awaits me I’m hoping,
One without ties or distraction.
What I’m looking for,
What I’d love and adore,
Is an ending with deep satisfaction.


 You remember those verses I wrote
Just a couple of moments ago?
Well I’ve got a confession,
It’s taught me a lesson,
I do jump to conclusions I know.

In fact I had got it all wrong;
She’d never intended to go.
She said when she went
She never had meant
To cause me a great deal of woe.

So what can a bloke like me do?
And can I pretend it’s not so?
Can I be uncouth,
And tell her the truth,
And say that I really must go?

For I didn’t take too long to find
Someone else to be with for ever.
Who never says no,
And who strokes my ego,
A much less intolerant lover.

So it’s no good her saying she’s sorry
Soon after she threw me right out.
She knows I’m respectful,
In no way neglectful,
It’s not as though I’m a big lout.

So I consider now that’s it’s over
I didn’t do bad from the deal.
I get a new dolly,
While she keeps the holly,
I tell myself that’s just ideal.


Triassic Red Rock at Exmouth, Devon … Photograph WHB – 2010

Offcut of the Jurassic coast
Orphan of the distant cliffs
Detached from its mother lode
Now an imposing sentinel
A majestic rock
A Triassic red rock.

Descendant of the Devon Cliffs
Ancestor of a million pebbles
Reliving its life in isolation
Facing the diurnal tides
Confronting Poseidon’s rage

Andromeda’s chains now long cast off
This pedestal of the shoreline
Now serving a valued purpose.

Harbouring shore life
A haven for gulls
Cosseting kelp
Succouring seabirds
Sheltering shellfish
Anchoring limpets
Its periwinkles

Feeding on its algae

Minimally diminishing with every tide
Yet serving its constituency
With resolution.
And promising
Its adherents
A fitting future.

Runswick Bay & Staithes

These are my Pen & Wash sketches of two quite different but equally fascinating coastal villages of North Yorkshire, England.  Below them is a short article about their history of attracting and inspiring artists. 

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Runswick Bay. N.Yorkshire – Watercolour – WHB: 2013


These two villages lie only a few miles north of Whitby and within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.  The villages, only about 4 miles apart, each grew up around an inlet of  Yorkshire’s North Sea Coast.  Both villages have a distinctive character and are fascinatingly atmospheric.  At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries  they nourished separate artistic communities, which are now considered to be of greater significance than has previously been recognised because of the number of artists who worked there and the paintings they produced.

One of the best known of these was the Yorkshire-born artist Arthur Friedenson who visited Runswick Bay to work many times.  Friedenson was initially apprenticed as a sign writer, before training as an artist in Paris and Antwerp. However, it was in this lovely Yorkshire coastal village that Friedenson met his future wife, and after they married in November 1906, he returned to Runswick Bay the following spring in order to paint the picture below. It was much admired at the Royal Academy that year, and purchased for the nation.


An interesting website, which contains a lot of material about the art galleries and museums in the area, can be found at:     Staithes & Runswick Bay Art Galleries