NUMEROPHOBIA

‘Teaching Maths’ … Collage by Clive Butler – c.1984

NUMEROPHOBIA

When numbers leap up at me
I often feel scared;
They can be aggressive
Maker thinking impaired.

I try not to fluster
To think these things through,
But I can still end up muddled
Not having a clue.

In the shop I try hard
To keep check on my spend,
But I’m easily distracted
And I have to pretend
That I know what I’m doing,
Mind and brain won’t agree;
Are two for the price of one
Same as buy one get one free?

When I’m with my bank statement
Checking up what I’ve spent,
Deducting those refunds
Allowing for rent,
Assuming some interest,
Checking those bills,
It gives me a headache –
Cue for some pills.

Life should be much easier.
If only I’d been
An attentive student
I could have foreseen,
That time spent with maths
In school in my teens,
Might have paid off –
Unless it’s my genes!

Three score years and ten
I will not see again;
At least I know that
My bible’s my brain.
My life is a number
Too large to keep count
It’s approaching seven dozen –
I demand a recount.

The DARK and the LIGHT

Winter Farm … Ink – WHB – Feb.2017

The DARK and the LIGHT

Wintertime
today
I found myself
following a blind man
with a stick
this morning
in the shopping mall
he bumped into a white fence
surrounding a display

He stumbled
muttering to me
as I asked if I could help
“I can see a black line
but I can’t see a white fence
why do they
make these fences white?”

A blind man
fearing white
desiring the dark

Shopping Mall, Surrey … Photo -WHB Feb.2017

Wintertime
snowtime
and out in the fields
if it is not white
it is black
silhouettes are for the winter
as well as the twilight
black against the white
darkness loses silhouettes

As the snow settled
I wondered
could I see white
or could I see only the black
the black giving definition
white reduced
to filling the spaces in between
not colourless
devoid of colour
contrast emphasised
no subtlety
but strength
black has become the positive
black bringing context
and meaning
against the white backdrop

As with the blind man
it is possible
for the darkness
of winter
to bring
conviction
certitude
and hope.

The Quinzaine

After my attempt at a cinquaine in a recent blog, I turn to another verse form, sounding rather similar but conforming to a different set of rules.

A Quinzaine is an un-rhymed verse of fifteen syllables. The word comes from the French word quinze, meaning fifteen. The syllables are distributed over three lines so that there are seven syllables in the first line, five in the second line, and three in the third line (7/5/3). The first line makes a statement. The next two lines ask a question relating to that statement. From: Wikipedia).

Below are 4 of my attempts at a quinzaine, each related to one of my own photographs 

Cardiff Waterfront

Look! The sun is coming out
Isn’t it home time?
Dog: Food time?

Watchet Harbourside, Somerset

I just shot an albatross
Does that mean bad luck?
Isn’t life short?

Funeral Urn – Churchyard, Surrey

Resting place for my ashes
Will I end up there?
Who can tell?

Stone Owl – Yorkshire

The owl is a wise old bird
Does a stone one count?
Can he hoot?

NORTH CAPE … A Cinquain

The steep cliff of  NORTH  CAPE  (or Nord Kapp), in Norway, is often referred to as the northernmost point of Europe. There is some contention about this, according to how this is defined.  However, the North Cape is the point where the Norwegian Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean, meets the Barents Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean.  The midnight sun can be seen here from 14 May to the 31st of July. The sun reaches its lowest point here from 12:14 – 12:24 a.m. during those days.

North Cape is inside the Arctic Circle.  On a visit there in 2002, I took the photograph below of a Mother and Child statue, where the child is pointing Northwards towards the Pole, still over 1000 miles away.

Based on this scene, I wrote the following verse, in the poetic format of a cinquain.

REACH OUT
AT THE NORTH CAPE.
POINTING THE WAY HOMEWARD?
NO; HE’S POINTING TO THE NORTH POLE;
WORLD’S END.

Cinquain: a short, usually unrhymed, poem consisting of twenty-two syllables distributed as 2, 4, 6, 8, 2, in five lines. It was developed by the Imagist poet, Adelaide Crapsey, who was born in 1878, the third child of an Episcopal clergyman. She graduated from Vassar College, returning to her high school boarding school, Kemper Hall, to teach literature and history. A few years later, while teaching a course entitled, “Poetics: A Critical Study of Verse Forms” at Smith College, she began a study of metrics which led to her invention of the cinquain as we know it.

In its simplest dictionary definition, a cinquain is a poem of five lines. Crapsey’s cinquain was more specific, a poem of five lines with a specific syllable count of 2-4-6-8-2, usually iambic. The ideal cinquain for Crapsey was one that worked up to a turn or climax, and then fell back. Similar to the “twist” that often occurs in the final couplet of a sonnet, a cinquain’s “turn” usually occurs during the final, shorter fifth line or immediately before it. Thus, the momentum of a cinquain grows with each subsequent line as another two syllables, usually an iambic foot, is added bringing the poem to a climax at the fourth line, falling back to a two syllable “punch line”.

There are several different forms of the Cinquain.    For more information on this, see the ‘Shadow Poetry’ website at:  Cinquain

OPORTO

Oporto, Portugal … Pen & Watercolour – WHB – 2015

OPORTO  is a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is situated along the banks of the Douro river estuary in northern Portugal. The city’s actual name is Porto, but when preceded by a definite article, ‘O’ in Portuguese, meaning ‘the’ in English, it is written as ‘o Porto’ meaning ‘the port’ in English. As a result, in English the city is usually referred to now as ‘Oporto’.   The city is known for its stately bridges, its port wine production, and for its monuments and buildings by renowned architects.  The city was also the birthplace of one of world history’s legendary figures, Prince Henry the Navigator.  In some city guidebooks it is also given as  the birthplace of that world-famous fictional character, Harry Potter, as the author, J. K. Rowling, was living in Oporto as an English teacher when she started writing her first ‘Harry Potter’ book. 

According to its travel bureau
Oporto’s a town on the Douro;
Praise be to Jehovah
It’s famed the world over
For port wine to banish your sorrow,

It’s Portuguese wine at its best;
If you try it you’ll want to invest;
You’ll go back for more,
Buy out the wine store,
And lay all your bogeys to rest.

But then you must explore the city;
It’s stunning, impressive and pretty;
Renowned architects,
Artistic projects,
Far too much to view – what a pity!

CHOICES

I wrote these rather pompous verses when I thought I was old;
Old enough to give advice to those younger than me.
I am now twice as old as when I first wrote this;
I am neither wiser nor more capable of giving advice now than I was then;
Believe me or not – it’s YOUR CHOICE!

Pen & Wash … WHB – 2017

CHOICES, or ‘Advice To The Young’

Every second in a life can be a turning point;
Chosen or unconscious it is there,
Make a choice – it’s up to you,
 Why not try out something new?
But never ever say that you don’t care.

You cannot stop your life from moving forward;
Time rolls on despite your efforts to stand still.
You can’t take a backward view,
Nor can you jump the queue.
You have to stay in line and climb life’s hill.

But life’s direction you can set about to change;
Tweek it here, a twist just there, you can try out.
The choice that you then make,
With a little give and take,
May well be something you can’t do without.

For when all is said and done, young man, you’re learning
To find a path in life that holds for you.
Just hold to your endeavour,
Never ever say “for ever”,
And keep your choices open to what’s new.

DEMOLITION – Man & Boy

Photographs; WHB 2015

DEMOLITION – Man & Boy

What is my joy in destruction?
Why does it give me a kick?
It grants me a sense of elation;
I once thought I was just downright sick.

As a toddler I remember I wanted,
As soon as a tower I’d built,
Just to knock it all over and giggle
Without any feeling of guilt.

Then when I’d taken up Lego,
I’d just love, after building my farm,
To smash it to bits with my mallet;
Didn’t think I was doing it harm.

And when in a History lesson
I said I’d like to have been
One of those men who wrecked churches and abbeys.
 The teacher near ruptured his spleen.

He sent me to see the headmaster,
Saying I must be beyond the pale;
For taking part in such Dissolution
He considered me right off the scale.

They decided I must be a vandal,
And said I would pay for my sins.
Abbeys and shrines were verboten,
I mustn’t wantonly damage such things.

Well, now I’ve left school and I’m happy,
My job suits me down to the ground.
I work hard with great satisfaction,
And no one will push me around.

For now I’m a demolition expert,
I can continue my hobby with pride;
Destruction now is my trade
As on top of a huge truck I ride.

Mechanical shovels and drills,
Excavators and large JCBs,
Bulldozers, cranes and dump trucks,
All these I can manage with ease.

And now that I’m married with children
I watch Joe build towers with his bricks,
Then demolish them with glee and I know
He’s a chip off the old block of tricks.

The Great Orme

‘Dawn on the Great Orme’ … Pen & Wash – WHB – 2017

THE GREAT ORME

In the dewy dawn
Atop the Orme
Pen y Gogarth
Viking Sea Monster
Proud promontory
Welsh trees

Swept
By Irish winds
Farmer
And sheepdogs
Treading
The Trust’s territory
Toiling to
Keep faith with
Our heritage
Husbanding
The headland
Midst these
Stalwart
Tenacious
Welsh warriors
Bowed
But not defeated
Forever
Battling
Tempting
The wind’s torment
All
Inherent
Parts of
This heroic

The Great Orme (Pen y Goggarth in Wesh), named originally by the Vikings as ‘Sea Monster’, is a massive limestone headland which dominates the view from Llandudno on the North Wales coastline.  It is a wildlife paradise, now designated as a National Country Park and as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Heritage Coast Its varied features include rich heathland, limestone grassland and woodland, sheer sea cliffs, habitats which support flora and fauna unique to this area.  Rarely seen choughs . and the very rare spiked speedwell are found here, as well as the silver-studded butterflies, which can be found only here on the Great Orme.  It is the home also to the fearsomely-horned wild Kashmir goat, as well as a large flock of sheep.

The National Trust has recently acquired Parc Farm here and its grazing rights across the headland.  A tenant farmer has now been installed here to oversee the protection of the Great Orme’s fragile landscape and the threatened rare plants, insects and wildlife for the future.

ON  PARENTS   

‘My Parents’, David Hockney, 1977, Oil on Canvas, Tate Gallery, London

Leaving Larkin Alone

‘This Be My Verse’

We all do it
We pass on pain
From one generation
To the next
It is essential to
our rite of passage
backwards
to our parents
and forward
to our offspring

Leaving Larkin alone
Although I can see
Where he’s coming from
My mam and dad
Still
Loom large in my life
Even so long
After leaving it

They must have been lonely
Lovers of their son
Country child
Only child
Lonely child
Left so soon
Longing for London’s
Lively life
And a renewal
Of lost love

With some bitterness
No bile
No bombast
I recognise my
Ambitions
And accept
They damaged
Not destroyed
Their devotion

Through it all
Dedication to me
And to mine
Remained
How could I
Have acted differently
They set me up for this
Their ambitions for me
Self-harming
Through being
Selfless
Succeeding
To their own detriment

Now
I find myself
Bemoaning
With an intensity
Which hurts
More every day
My callous
Refutation of their need
For my love

If only
I’d not been
The only one
The only child
If I’d not deserted
That early home
With seeming
Eagerness
That cradle of my mind
Those roots of my soul
Now so full of meaning
So pertinent
To the man I have become

But when the conflict
Presented itself to me
I was by then
Committed
Other responsibilities
Crowded in
And parents
As happens to them
Take the rear seat

 And yet
I know
I had to go
To avoid
That tethering by love
Which smothers
More dutiful sons
It avoided
My hopes
Being stifled
Petrified
And pressed into
The backwaters
Of a life

Perhaps it must be so
For don’t we all do it

Think of those others
Leaving behind their roots
For pastures new
Able to look only onwards
Whilst leaving
The hurt
Of separation
From those who loved them
But would do nothing
But encourage their ambitions

Bennett
Showed how to escape
Walter and Lilian
Whilst continuing
To cull their histories

Hughes
With his animal instincts
Needing to roam free
Left William and Edith
For an itinerant life

Hockney
Soon found California
More suitable
To his calling
Leaving
Kenneth and Laura
To theirs

I claim
None of their skills
Their powers
To change the world
But my history
Reflects theirs
Grammarians
Tykes of a sort
And of an age
Seeking
Advancement
Searching for soul
For life
In pastures new
Neglectful of commitment
To our own past
Conscious only
Of our independent futures

It was ever thus
All took Larkin
At his word
Got out –
As early as they could
And
How odd
That two of them
Even followed Larkin’s advice
Eschewing
Parenthood
The essence of
Larkin’s dismissal
Of his own birthright
His reckoning
With Sidney and Eva
For giving him birth

But
Leaving Larkin alone
Again
Our legacies may prove
Our sense in cutting
The ties that bind
Perhaps the world is
Consequently
A better place.

Our parents
May not think the same
But what are parents
Other than
The future’s hope

Pub. Faber & Faber … 2009