Northumberland – Bamburgh

[ Photo Blog #56 ]

The coast of Northumbria on the North-East of England bordering with Scotland is atmospheric and highly impressive.  It was described by Janet Street Porter on ITV’s ‘Britain’s Best View’ as having ‘a coastline ravaged by nature and steeped in history.  There’s a story round every single corner … you’re not just looking at a view, you’re standing in the footsteps of kings, and all on one of the most dramatic coastlines nature has to offer.’ 

Bamburgh Map

I have visited many times, usually on the way to or from my tours of Scotland.  For me, one of the highlights of a visit to this part of the country is the small town of BAMBURGH. The following photographs I took there in 2003 on one of these visits when I stayed in this historic town for several days.

Bamburgh is a stunningly attractive small town within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.   In fact it is even perhaps just a village, with a population of only about  450.  It is dominated by its magnificently imposing Castle, once the seat of the former Kings of Northumbria, that can be seen for miles around.  It would be hard not to be impressed by the sheer size of the Castle and there is so much to tell about its long and amazing history.  On the seaward side of the castle and town there are impressive stretches of pure golden sandy beaches with rolling sand dunes and views across the sea to both the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and to the Farne Islands.   The town also houses a museum dedicated to its great heroine, Grace Darling.

To read the story of Grace Darling and of how her heroism caught the attention of the Victorian public, click on this link . . .   The Story Of Grace Darling


Bamburgh Castle from the North Sea shore


Looking eastwards towards the castle from the town


The defensive landward side walls of Bamburgh Castle in the evening sun


The seaward walls of Bamburgh Castle from the seashore


Looking north to the castle across the coastline dunes


The beach of the North Sea at Bamburgh


Looking eastwards across the North Sea from the sand dunes


Driftwood marker on Bamburgh beach


The Bamburgh Sandman (See my earlier blog of October 29th 2016 at: The SANDMAN   )


This elaborate cenotaph commemorates the life of the early 19th Century lifeboat heroine, Grace Darling, who is buried nearby.


Bamburgh rooftops and castle battlements outlined against the rising sun


The Castle at Sunrise 


Sunrise over the North Sea from Bamburgh




Bamburgh Castle . . . Pen and Wash – WHB:  2014   ©




Nearly A Limerick

(No.54 of my short poems)
A bit of fun to start the week – a Near-Limerick by Gray Joliffe … reproduced from a recent issue of the Daily Mail.   Graham Jolliffe is an illustrator and cartoonist. His work includes ‘Chloe & Co’, and the Wicked Willie character that first appeared in the book, ‘Man’s Best Friend’ in 1984.


Ruthless Rhymes

Ruthless Rhymes


In his book ‘Word Play‘ (Pub. Coronet Books, 2015) Gyles Brandreth talks about his love of short pithy rhymes which he calls ‘Potted Poetry’ or ‘Terse Verse’.  He particularly enjoys those which he calls ‘ruthless’ and which make a pungent point in just 4 lines.  One such which he quotes is:

‘I had written to Aunt Maud
Who was on a trip abroad
When I heard she’d died of cramp –
Just too late to save the stamp.’

He goes on to invite his readers to compose their own ‘ruthless rhymes’.  I doubt if the following could be considered as ruthless as his examples, but here are a few which I managed to create . . .


Winston Hawden Archibald Hughes
Revelled in a life of booze;
One night he downed a bottle of gin,
The landlord rang his next of kin.

I pressed the bell just for a lark,
‘Twas 8 o’clock and after dark.
A lady answered in her nightie,
But sadly she was over ninety.

I longed to kiss her slender neck,
To take a bite not just a peck,
But when I got the chance to do it,
My vampire teeth just weren’t up to it.

Well, tell me now what you would do
If your old man had said to you,
“I no longer want you for a wife” –
I’d stab him with my butter knife.



The original ‘Ruthless Rhymes’ were composed by Harry Graham and his book ‘RUTHLESS RHYMES FOR HEARTLESS PEOPLE’ was published in 1898.  It contains many short rhymes, all wickedly cruel and completely without morals.

Jocelyn Henry Clive ‘Harry’ Graham (1874–1936) was an English writer. He was a successful journalist who is now best remembered as a writer of verse full of black humour.  At the time of publication of this and several follow-up collections of verse written in a similar vein, Harry Graham was compared to W.S.Gilbert, Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. It has also been suggested that his verse and prose, all exhibiting a delight in language, was an early influence on P. G. Wodehouse.  More information on Harry Graham can be found on the Ruthless Rhymes website and on Wikipedia



The Dentist’s Chair



Reclining in the chair
My head below my knees
Waiting for the needle
Feel I want to sneeze.

TV Screen above me
Fixed onto the ceiling
Scene of pure composure
To nullify my feeling

Dentist leaning over
Says “No worse than a sting,
Just a gentle tug,
You’ll hardly feel a thing.”

I feel the pincers grasp it
That remnant of a tooth
Left over from extraction, 
Botched up in my youth.

And then the tugging starts, 
A rip, a tear, a yank,
I felt a sudden rumble
Like the revving of a tank.

He showed me what he’d dug out
Of my poor infected jaw,
A bloody piece of bone
Covered in spit and gore.

All I wanted then was
To get out of his chair;
Escape his gloating clutches,
No more of this nightmare.

It’s taken nearly two weeks, 
No longer feeling sore.
An abscess on one’s gum
One cannot just ignore.



A Jigsaw – What Is It For?




I don’t wish to lay down the law,
But a jigsaw –
What is it for?

Yes, I know it’s a test,
You can call it a quest,
A puzzle at best.

No doubt it’s extremely tactile,
And it can your senses beguile,
But really, is it worthwhile?

Well, I thought by-and-by
I’d give it a try,
Show I’m the wise-guy.

So I planned one long Sunday
I’d sit down and play,
Show my family the way.
Well, I found out the hard way
It by no means is child’s play,
For to my dismay,
After one hour’s play …

I’d hardly got started.
All wisdom departed,
Leaving me broken-hearted.

‘Cos the task was too hard,
It had caught me off guard.
I felt like a retard.

My worry increases
What, one thousand pieces?
I couldn’t get going,
My tears they were flowing,
My nose wanted blowing,
My hubris was showing.
 It was terribly tough.
 I had thought I could bluff,
Thinking – only kid’s stuff;
But that wasn’t enough,

And my theory was certainly challenged;
My ego was massively damaged;
I ended up mentally ravaged.

I found it defied explanation
It sure gives a losing sensation
I say that without hesitation,
After that, my  first visitation.

So I called on my grandson aged nine,
With a visage so calm and benign,
But the offspring of old Frankenstein,
Soundly he did me outshine.

Those little irregular pieces,
His ability to fit them increases,
His eyes move like lightning to find
Pieces that he then combined.
To me he said, “I’m not being unkind,
But I leave you so far behind.
It’s a pity you say you’re so good,
You’ll never reach grandparenthood
If you can’t fit together some wood.”

In his confidence he slotted them in,
I could see I never would win.
So I buried my pride,
Let him take me for a ride.

I finally  got him to agree
That for just a very small fee
He’d let everyone see
How slick I could be –
A devilish Jigsaw devotee.










Having a Whale of a Time

There are many idioms in our language designed to express the joys of a Happy Life.  I have attempted to use a number of these phrases in rhyming couplets, hopefully to emphasise the light-hearted joy of each idiomatic phrase.



I’m having a whale of a time,
Playing with poems, with rhythm and rhyme.

Yes, I’m as happy as that proverbial Larry
To be extending my vocabulary.

So now I’m living on cloud nine,
My life is full of women and wine.

And here I am in seventh heaven,
On holiday in Glorious Devon.

I’m really feeling tickled pink,
No need to take me to the shrink.

I’m absolutely on top of the world,
My finest nature’s now unfurled.

I feel like a dog with two tails,
Would you like the details?

Yes, I am feeling over the moon,
My life is now with pleasure strewn.

And I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat,
‘Cos I’ve paid the piper tit-for-tat.

And now I want to jump for joy,
I fancy a piece of that Helen of Troy.

And yes … now I’m full of the joys of spring,
Since I gave my Helen an engagement ring.



Penelope Fitzgerald – The Kitchen Drawer Poem

 (Poem No.50 of my favourite short poems)

Kitchen Drawer

‘The Kitchen Drawer’ – Penelope Fitzgerald


The nutcracker, the skewer, the knife,

are doomed to share this drawer for life.

You cannot pierce, the skewer says,

or cause the pain of in one place.

You cannot grind, you do not know,

says nutcracker, the pain of slow.

You don’t know what it is to slice.

to both of them the knife replies,

with pain so fine it is not pain

to part what cannot join again.

The skewer, nutcracker, and knife

are well adapted to their life.

They calculate efficiency

By what the others cannot be

and power by the pain they cause

and that is life in kitchen drawers.

By Penelope Fitzgerald

 Printed in @London Review of Books’ – 3rd October, 2002.


Penelope Fitzgerald (1916 – 2000) was an English Booker Prize-winning novelist, poet, essayist and biographer.  In 2008, The Times included her in a list of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945”. In 2012, The Observer named her final novel, ‘The Blue Flower‘, one of “the ten best historical novels”.  She also wrote a splendid biography of the Victorian artist Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones.




‘Alphabet Soup’ … WHB – 2017  ©


 The English Oxford Living Dictionary defines a LIPOGRAM as ‘A composition from which the writer systematically omits a certain letter or certain letters of the alphabet.’

Its origin is stated to be from the Greek lipogrammatos ‘lacking a letter’ – from lip- (stem of leipein ‘to leave (out)’) + gramma ‘letter’.

Although any letter, or even a group of letters, can be omitted in a Lipogram, the letter E, which occurs five times more often than any other letter in the English language, presents the greatest challenge for lipogram writers.

Many writers have struggled within such constrictions to compose works of both poetry and prose.  The exercise of doing so is certainly taxing, particularly when translating into such a format  from an already extant original.  It is said that the Spanish poet and dramatist, Lope de Vega, in the 16th Century composed five complete novels, which, in turn, excluded each of the 5 vowels a, e, i, o, u.  De Vega in total also wrote more than 1,500 plays!

In a much more modest way, and as an exercise in writing within certain well-defined constrictions, I have composed 5 different versions of the well-known opening verse of  ‘Casabianca’ by Felicia Dorothea Hemans.  Each, in turn, omits one of the five vowels.  At the same time I have tried, with limited success, to retain the same A-B-A-B rhyme scheme.


 The opening verse of   ‘Casabianca’ by Felicia Dorothea Hemans.

 Original version

 The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Shone round him o’er the dead.


A omitted

The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence the rest were newly left;
The fire it lit the fighting’s wreck,
Shone round him o’er the bereft.

E omitted

This lad sat on that burning pall
From which all folk had run
That spark that lit this conflict’s fall
Lit up his night with combat won.

I omitted

The boy stood on the deck ablaze,
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that sparked the battle’s haze,
Shone round the gruesome dead.

O omitted

The lad strutted the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Encircled him beside the dead.

U omitted

The boy stood on the flaming deck,
Whence all beside he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Shone over him o’er the dead.


Readers who care to have a go at this type of exercise, would enjoy reading the section on ‘LIPOGRAMS’ in Gyles Brandreth’s book, ‘WORD PLAY’ (published by Coronet – Hodder & Stoughton) in 2015 (Paperback in 2016).

Amongst numerous other examples, Brandreth quotes  a version of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ by A. Ross Eckler, omitting the letter ‘s’, as follows:

Mary had a little lamb,
With fleece a pale white hue,
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb kept her in view.

 To academe he went with her,
Illegal and quite rare;
It made the children laugh and play
To view a lamb in there.’



G.K.Chesterton: ‘Wine And Water’

 (Poem No.47 of my favourite short poems)

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 – 1936), was an English writer, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, theologian, biographer, and literary and art critic.  He was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches and weighing over 20 stone (130 kg).  His girth, perhaps in part due to his great fondness for wine,  occasioned a famous incident when he remarked to his friend George Bernard Shaw  “Look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England.”  Shaw retorted, “To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it”.


Wine And Water

Old Noah he had an ostrich farm and fowls on the largest scale,
He ate his egg with a ladle in a egg-cup big as a pail,
And the soup he took was Elephant Soup and fish he took was Whale,
But they all were small to the cellar he took when he set out to sail,
And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
“I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

The cataract of the cliff of heaven fell blinding off the brink
As if it would wash the stars away as suds go down a sink,
The seven heavens came roaring down for the throats of hell to drink,
And Noah he cocked his eye and said, “It looks like rain, I think,
The water has drowned the Matterhorn as deep as a Mendip mine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.”

But Noah he sinned, and we have sinned; on tipsy feet we trod,
Till a great big black teetotaller was sent to us for a rod,
And you can’t get wine at a P.S.A., or chapel, or Eisteddfod,
For the Curse of Water has come again because of the wrath of God,
And water is on the Bishop’s board and the Higher Thinker’s shrine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton


To reinforce Chesterton’s delight in the drinking of wine, I quote a verse from another of his poems on the same subject . . . 

“Feast on wine or fast on water,
And your honour shall stand sure …
If an angel out of heaven
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.”




RAF Hednesford 1953


Eight weeks I bashed that square,
Pounded that acre of ground.
Hurt and ached and bled,
The experience was profound.

“Serve your country’s need”
That is what they said,
“Don’t let the enemy win,
Suffer pain instead.

We need more cannon fodder,
Don’t let your country down,
So let’s see what you’re made of,
And get rid of that frown.”

And so I did my service,
My nation needed me.
Became a lowly sprog
By government decree.

Placed in a special POM flight
Given ‘housewife’, fork, and knife,
With such items in my kit-bag
I was number-stamped for life.

“Lay your kit out pronto
Neatly on your bed.
I want to see you bleeding”,
That’s what our corporal said.

Then out to the parade ground,
Twice daily we would drill
Until I ached all over,
Felt positively ill.

I pulled out all the stops,
To keep in step I tried,
But what I wished to do was
To run away and hide.

Route marching was no joke,
‘God Bless the Union Jack’.
I sweated and I faded
With full pack on my back.

Assault Courses were great fun,
Not for us, for our tormentors,
Braving tunnels, barbed wire and mud,
They crucified dissenters.

I cut the grass with scissors,
Painted pebbles white,
Ironed my boots with polish,
All this to help me fight.

I did my share of jankers,
Scrubbed latrines that stank,
Peeled countless grey potatoes,
Flushed out the septic tank.

Cleaned my rifle daily,
Bren guns I dismantled,
Was oft confined to barracks,
All leave and passes cancelled.

This was my National Service,
It taught me to obey.
At the time it was a penance,
It was the British way.

Perhaps it made us what we are,
My fellow sprogs and me.
Did we in our small way help stop
The start of World War Three?



A ‘SHOUT’ of Drill Corporals

GLOSSARY of Military Terms and Jargon

National Service:   National Service was peacetime conscription. All able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 30 were called up. They initially served for 18 months. But in 1950, during the Korean War (1950-53), this was increased to two years.  From 1949 until 1963 more than 2 million men were called up to the British Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force.

Square-bashing:  Marching drills and other military exercises practised on a parade ground.  At the outset of their 2-year service, all N.S. recruits were required to go through an 8 week course.

Housewife’:  The Housewife holdall/pouch contained all that a soldier would require to carry out any repairs to his clothing when necessary. Inside it would contain a thimble, two balls of grey darning wool (for socks), 50 yards of linen thread wound around card, needles, brass dish buttons (for Battledress) and plastic buttons for shirts.

POM – Potential Officer Material:  National Service recruits who had attained sufficient GCE level passes in leaving school examinations were all considered as POMs and placed in separate units from other recruits.

Sprog:  Military slang for new recruits or trainees.

Jankers:  In the British Armed Services, jankers is the term used for the official punishment or restriction of privileges for a minor breach of discipline.

Bren gun:  Light machine gun made by Britain in the 1930s and used in various roles until 1992.

Corporal:  A non-commissioned officer in the armed forces. This rank was typically placed in charge of the drill training of new recruits.

Number-stamped:  New recruits were all given a service number which was stamped on their individual possessions, including their ‘housewife’ and their own set of cutlery.

Military Assault Course:  Used in military training to increase fitness, to demonstrate techniques that can be used for crossing very rough terrain, and to increase teamwork and self-confidence.  Often undertaken whilst thunderflashes are being let off in close proximity, and incorporating obstacles representing the most likely difficult terrain that a soldier might come across.

[ With acknowledgement for the assistance given by Des – Sarum5254 ]