No Blue Plaque

NO BLUE PLAQUE

No blue plaque here
but
in that house
in that room
I was conceived.
In the same house
in the same room
then I was born.

First child
Only child
Undistinguished house
undistinguished room
undistinguished birth.

But blessed with
the Conquering
Blood and Fire
General’s name.

It had to be that way.

Aren’t all births
distinguished only by their
unglamorous spectacle?

Not something I asked for
nor desired.
No regrets
but there were
Consequences.
Oh, yes.
Eighty years
of consequences.
My history
My responsibility
My river’s ride
through childhood rapids
to maturity’s turmoil
and turbulence.
Becalmed now
in dispiriting dotage
its stillnesses
its infirmity and nostalgia.

What follows
eventually
as I merge
with the looming ocean
waiting
to receive me?


Memories fade for me

Yet I know
some continuity remains
where these same images
 have been handed on
to those loved ones
who will remember.

But now
in moments of tranquility
my responsibility
for my past
presses hard
until those times when
 my love surges
to outweigh my guilt
and again
for good or ill
my scarred soul
returns to its past
and wonders.


… and time treads on
as I stare at the window
the nets shielding its secrets.
Now
just as they did then
So long ago.

Photographs … WHB – Yorkshire (2016) and Sussex (2009), UK

Love Autumn – Hate Novenmer

I Love the Autumn but hate November

I Love the Autumn but hate November.

Remember, remember the 11th November –

Gunfire. no reason, no Plot.

The waste of young lives sent forward and shot.

The fireworks and bonfires just serve to remind me

Of bombs and incendiaries, of the carnage to see,

Of the fear and the doubts, but the knowledge of duty

To do what they must to perpetuate beauty.

The beauty of freedom, of lives without limits,

Not theirs for the taking, nor lasting but minutes,

But those back at home who are counting on honour

To see the boys through, until they’re a goner.

Some came home broken, wounded and battered,

Wondering if everything was worth it or mattered.

Too quickly their country forgot what they did,

No support for de-briefing, no reward, God forbid!

They did it for duty, for love of their country,

For the King (or the Queen) to put it quite bluntly,

For a future of peace, tranquillity and love,

But the future of them was in heaven above.

Their light was snuffed out on the earth down below

But their  life we shall honour as the stars above glow

They shall live in our hearts and our minds here on earth

As November comes round to provide a new birth.

I don’t hate November; I hate that it hurts me.

They gave up their lives for our freedom you see,

But my hurt is as nothing compared to their war.

My heart’s full of love, for the young men, who gave all.

This poem was composed by, and published with the permission of, Caroline Miller-Tate, whilst contemplating the significance of our memories engendered during this year’s Remembrance weekend period . . . “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them”

Bombs Away

Retro Advert seen in a charity shop in Devon, UK … Photo – WHB 2016

Bombs Away . . . Keeping our boys Regular

A provocative
narrative
Re a sanative
laxative.

As an ex-airman I can say

Advertising ‘Bombs Away’

Should not be a cause of laughter

I have heard of nothing dafter.

I consider it a waste,

Certainly leaves a nasty taste.

This advert I would call a fail,

In fact it is beyond the pale.

So airmen of the world unite,

Stop them talking utter tripe.

Dropping Bombs is not a joke,

Save it for that Hitler bloke.

He’s the one deserves derision,

Not our brave boys on a mission.

Nothing regular about a war,

Always ends with blood and gore.

So don’t make fun of our boys in blue,

Or the next one missing could be you.

The Stable Door

‘Stable Door,Wiltshire’ (National Trust) . . . WHB – Pen & Watercolour, c.1990

THE STABLE DOOR

Red bricked  arch
Red rose adorned
Frames the entrance
Bringing enchantment
To meet history
In this secluded pile

Once-stabled steeds
Whinny in wonder
From their equine tombs
And boast of
times when
Bridle bit and brace
Had cause to adorn
These ancient crumbling
 Cobwebbed stalls

Long left to nature
And to fate
But now in trust
To a Nation which remembers
And celebrates
Its history

 

Tu Fu

Tu Fu ( or Du Fu), who was born in Gongyi in 712 A.D., was one of the foremost poets of the Chinese Tang dynasty. He and Li Bai, are normally thought of as the greatest of all Chinese poets. He died in Changsha, China, in 770 A.D.

I print below, two of his poems, both, as the majority of his poems,  exemplify his intense relationship with nature, wildlife, and with the seasons, even amidst the turmoil of the times in which he lived.

(Both designs are my own pen and wash drawings in an attempt at capturing a Chinese style.)

A Spring View

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
… After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.
… I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

A View of Taishan

What shall I say of the Great Peak? –
The ancient dukedoms are everywhere green,
Inspired and stirred by the breath of creation,
With the Twin Forces balancing day and night.
…I bare my breast toward opening clouds,
I strain my sight after birds flying home.
When shall I reach the top and hold
All mountains in a single glance?

The Dome of St.Paul’s Cathedral, London

Dome of St.Paul’s … Pencil – WHB – 1958

The dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, is an incredible structure, a true work of art in the sense of it being both lovely to look at and requiring incredible precision and workmanship in the design and the construction.  Sir Christopher Wren, principal architect, originally produced several different designs for his dome before eventually settling on the one we have today, and of course he used a team of architects, who, through seemingly endless discussion, trial drawings, modelling, and debate, eventually produced this, certainly one of the greatest glories of London. (See photograph below).

From 1710, when the present cathedral was completed, until 1962, St.Paul’s Cathedral was London’s tallest building. 

The dome of St.Paul’s is built in 3 sections (see side section view below) …

Stage 1: To the Whispering Gallery;  259 steps.  Circles the dome’s interior at 30 metres above the floor of the cathedral transept.

Stage 2: Further up to the Stone Gallery; another 119 steps at 53.4 metres above the ground.

Stage 3: To the Golden Gallery, reducing in size as we get higher .  This runs around the highest point of the outer dome.  It is 85.4 metres (280 ft) from the cathedral floor below and there are another 150 steps to climb to reach it. 

That is a total of 528 steps in all!

Having made the journey to the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral only once in my lifetime, and having also once climbed to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, which claims to have the tallest dome in the world, I found it interesting to make some comparisons between these two domed buildings.

St.Peter’s, Rome, has a height of 448 feet (or 136.5 metres) to the top of its cross.  It has 551 steps from the floor of the cathedral to the top of the dome

St Paul’s, London, is 365 feet (or 111 metres); It has 528 steps from the ground floor to the top of its dome.

FOOTNOTE:

On the basis of these figures, I calculate that the average height of the steps of St.Peter’s is approximately 8 inches, whilst the steps of St.Paul’s have an average height of about 8 1/2 inches.  So with St.Paul’s having 23 fewer steps to climb, but each one requiring your foot to be raised an additional ½ inch, which steps are the easier to climb?  . . .  AND ANSWER CAME THERE NONE!


There are several videos on YouTube which will take you up and down these steps to the Dome of St.Paul’s and which give panoramic views of London from the top.

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.

The THREE HARES

The’ Three Hares’ Motif … Marker Pen – WHB – 2017

The THREE HARES

Three hares, three ears, How can that be?
Look at the picture you will see.

And yet I know that they have two,
So look again … and so they do.

Chasing each other in a circle,
A never ending race eternal.

This ancient image can be seen
In many places you’ll have been.

In Devon churches they are found,        
You only have to look around.

Germany too has these three hares,  
You may come across them unawares.    

Window at Paderborn Cathedral, Germany

All over Europe and in France
You’ll see them do their threesome dance.

They’re found in China and Japan,
And even in Turkmenistan.

In synagogues and Buddhist caves,
New Age revels and Gothic raves.

In Devon where the tin miner inhabits
They  oft are called the Tinner’s Rabbits.

From east to west and west to east,
Along the Silk Road as trade increased.

Iran – On The Silk Road

They travelled wide in many guises,
Large and small, in varied sizes.

Yet no one seems precisely sure;
Why they are there is still obscure.

What does it mean to have three hares
Cavorting with six ears in pairs?

Yet only three that we can see,
It seems an oddity to me.

They can be seen as an illusion,
Which often leads to much confusion.

Or is it just they are a puzzle,
Certain to test your thinking muscle?

Some say they have a great affinity
With the Christian symbol of the Trinity.

Or they the three realms do unite
Earth, Sea and Sky together aright.

Others say they pledge fertility,
And that does have some credibility.

Certainly they are mysterious rarities,
Perhaps these hares were ancient deities.

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know,
It’s a mystery of long ago.

A puzzle with no attribution,
No context and no resolution.

But most of us will think, “Who cares?
Let’s not end up splitting hares!”

Devon – South Tawton Church roof boss – medieval wood carving

Jenny Kiss’d Me

LEIGH  HUNT  (1784–1859)  was an essayist, journalist and poet of the Romantic Period in English Literature.  Not perhaps one of the leading Romanticists, but he, nevertheless, did much to bring their poetry to prominence in the early 19th century, particularly through his friendships with Shelley, Keats and Byron, and by means of his editorship of the influential literary magazine, The ‘Examiner.’

A short poem of his, which I’ve long enjoyed for its sweetness and simplicity, is Leigh Hunt’s verse, originally entitled ‘Rondeau’, but more generally known as ‘Jenny kiss’d Me’.

This charming poem is said to have been inspired by a meeting, following an illness, with the wife of his friend, the eminent historian Thomas Carlyle.

JENNY KISS’D ME  . . .  By Leigh Hunt (1838

Jenny kiss’d me when we met,

Jumping from the chair she sat in;

Time, you thief, who love to get

Sweets into your list, put that in!

Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,

Say that health and wealth have missed me,

Say I’m growing old, but add

Jenny kiss’d me.