THE CANAL HORSE

On the Great Western Canal at Tiverton, Devon . . .  Photo – WHB – 2013
 

THE CANAL HORSE

Sedate
And ponderous
He carries his weight lightly
But without pace
It is summer work
Plying the bank
Subject to the weather
And his master
Apparently contented
But perhaps sad
Would he rather be elsewhere
But what would he know
Of elsewhere
This has been his life
His only life
Since brought into this world
Delivered as a foal by a mother
Who knew only this very same life
Tutored on this very canal bank
Learning the towpath’s bends
Its tricky turns
The track ruts to avoid
The necessary manoeuvres
When hitching up
H is purpose in life
Why else was he brought into this world
He knows his master
Trusts and
Respects him
Always by his side
His every command
Gentle but firm
A tug on the lead
A wary grunt
They tread the canal bank
The towpath to pleasure
Other’s pleasure
His Pilgrim’s Way
The daily round
His common task

On the Great Western Canal at Tiverton, Devon . . . Photo – WHB – 2015

Broken only at the terminus
A half-way respite
By the bridge
A brief uncoupling
A hay bag
A nuzzle
A few photographs
Then the return
The narrow boat his carriage
Its passengers his charges
He carries on
Always carries on
Trundling his life
In peace
In tranquillity
His boat
His harnessed heritage
Disturbing the reeds
And the ducks only
Creating a minor slipstream
Before the end
Disembarkation
Then a brief hiatus
Before the ever echoing pattern
Repeats itself
As do the days
And the months
Until
Darkness descends
And time
Ceases to exist

On the Great Western Canal, Tiverton, Devon . . .  Pen & Wash by WHB – 2013

This canal ride is offered during the Summer months on one of the last Horse-Drawn Barges in Great Britain.  Scheduled rides on the canal boat start and end from the point where the Great Western Canal commences, in Tiverton, East Devon.  Details of what is on offer  at this delightful site and timetable of the canal trips can be found on the website below  . . .

http://www.tivertoncanal.co.uk/floating-cafe-bar

A BBC TV Video of this canal barge experience is also made available via this website

FOUR HAIKU – ONE STORY

The sun’s open arms 
Embrace the emerging day
Seeking lost sunbeams

Clutching at ripe fruit
Ever hoping to regain
Spent and mislaid strength

Hopeless task to set
Once spent never recovered
Now feeding our homes

Caught by our panels
Sustained by the human race
Lost to Mother Earth

The pen & wash sketches are by WHB  (aka Roland).  In order they are of …


Top:  South Bishop Lighthouse, Pembrokeshire, Wales (1993);
Centre:  An English Dawn . . . (1991)
Bottom:  Lamlash and Holy Isle, Isle of Arran, Firth of Clyde, Scotland … (2001)

Two Londons

View from Decimus Burton’s Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner,  Adrian Jones’s sculpture of ‘The Angel of Peace Descending in the Quadriga of War’ (Watercolour – WHB)

LONDON  2017

In all that bright and glorious sunshine,
amongst those trees, those parks, those sculptural delights,
Hidden below that Impressive skyline,
Beneath and among those imposing sights,
How much deprivation is still concealed

As that which was to Blake revealed?

( Pen and Wash drawing and the accompanying verse above are by WHB)

What was revealed to William Blake as he wandered the streets of late 18th and early 19th Century London, he wrote about in the following poem.  It was first published in his ‘Songs of Experience’ in 1794

London-Seven Dial early 19th Century – Sketches by Boz

London    . . .   By William Blake

I wander thro’ each charter’d street
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

The Applegarth

Guisborough Priory, N.Yorkshire

The APPLEGARTH

When morning
meets my melancholy
I must refocus
dispel my clouds
and reconnect to nature
through her glory

The garth gate invites
pledges enchantment
such memories harboured here
once the cloister garden
of my medieval monastery
now still the repository
of the priory’s peace
ancient orchard
now transformed
but still a place
to rejuvenate the soul
to touch
feel and taste
nature’s serenity

   The morning mist
lingered low
over the once fallow fields
then no longer virgin earth
but become thick with apple trees
and those
long gone
and autumn dormant now
awaiting its wheat-carpeted
summer season

The morning advances
only half-appreciated
until the
the priory arch
proud against the sky
bursts through the mist
into the weak sun’s gaze
the veiled sky
allowing
the gathering sunlight
slowly
to prove its strength
and bring clarity
to a waiting world

And The pathway
its ancient course
 piercing its length
into the shrouded distance
remembrancer now
of those Augustinian brothers
traversing
this ancient orchard

who with such care
tended nature’s gifts
now bare of fruit
but never fruitless
no longer cosseted
by priestly presence
and full of nuanced context still

For me …

The Applegarth
my own memory
of this sanctified place
sings of golden corn
bordering that arrowed path
where also was
the winning post
the last gasp
of those long-past
teenage
distance running races
marking my triumphs
measuring my success
against the countless strides
I had wrenched
from my straining body
to accomplish
to lead the race
the end of endeavours
signifying my own
my personal
accomplishment.

The Applegarth,
a trope
my metaphor
for my life.

Photographs by WHB . . . 2016



 

. . . And Then There Were Four

London, Victoria Embankment, late 19th Century … Pen & Wash – WHB – 2014

Late autumn evening
treading wet leaves
on the broad embankment
 beside the dark river;
starry sky
and the pavement spotted
with lights
dark pools between
those balustrade sentries
the eighty year old
yablochkov candles
(the country’s very first

electric street lights)
still throwing the trees’ shadows
across the road
to Victoria’s gardens.

Perhaps memory twists my tale;
mike, dave, wally, ray,
with me five of us,
fresh lads
freshers too
up from the far country
to study
to see the big city
to re-start a life
men now
together
soliciting knowledge
tempting experience.

Interned for a Chelsea month,
then the anticipated incursion,
our first excursion
into the great city
set for new challenges
no plan
just exploration;
for the moment
nothing cerebral
just life in the moment
awaiting a happening
neophytic
greenhorns.

Walking where Victoria walked,
or did she ever really
enjoy her gardens by the river?
thrilling evening
walking that promenade,
drinking the sights
eating the sounds
devouring the smells and tastes
soaking up the river
and the beer,
Victoria’s Embankment Gardens.

We didn’t know it then
nor did any of us suspect
it was to be ray’s swan song
sweet Thames run softly
and be his swan song.

Turned up Villiers Street,
Kipling’s and Evelyn’s street,
tumbled into The Trafalgar,
seedy then,
well, rare student prices,
waitress in black and white
I remember
the white cap with lace
and black band
the tiny white apron
on black dress
alluringly short
wiping her hands
by rubbing them seductively
on her aproned thighs,
“what can I get you lads?”
… ribaldry …
ray “what time do you finish?”
… her answer
no more than a half-smile;

After the spam fritters
and the glorious knickerbockers
and more small pink hands
attentive hands
rubbed clean
on lacy white apron,
ray’s eyes never taken off them
then drinks
nothing heavy.

Ray fell
must have done
from a great height
smitten I would say
to his adam’s apple core,
eyes only for a pretty face
and those lacy edges.

Conversation ricocheted
across the tables
voices spurted out their verbiage
as those yablochkov candles
expended their light,
more raucous than uncouth.

Then the attempt to close
to dispense with customers
we head for the street
ray stays in his seat
“’bye chaps, I’ll see you.”

… But he never did.

Nor we him.
Ever again.

The Thames Embankment is a work of 19th Century civil engineering which reclaimed marshy land next to the River Thames in central London.  It follows the North Bank of the river from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge.

The Victoria Embankment Gardens , built also in the latter part of the 19th Century, separate the embankment and the road running alongside from the buildings on the south side of Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and The Strand.

Villiers Street is a short connecting thoroughfare, now mainly pedestrianised, running from the Thames Embankment and Charing Cross underground Station uphill to the Strand, Charing Cross Mainline Railway Station  and Trafalgar Square.  It contains many restaurants and eating establishments.  
The Trafalgar Cafe, however, can no longer be found there.

Poem by WHB and re-published in memory of Dave and Mike – now passed on to where all memories are filed and all mysteries are resolved.

Westminster Chorus – Oh Love, That Will Not Let Me Go

Today . . . a plug for my favourite choir – the Westminster Chorus – with their moving rendering of ‘Oh Love that will not let me go’  . . .

The Westminster Chorus, singing a David Phelps arrangement of the George Matheson Hymn, “Oh Love, That Will Not Let Me Go” in the Petrikirche, a Protestant church (start of construction 1322) in Dortmund, Germany. The church is famous for the huge carved altar (known as “Golden Miracle of Dortmund”), from 1521. It consists of 633 gilt carved oak figures depicting 30 scenes about Easter.

 

 

 

The ROCK

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.

Liverpool

Liverpool Docks . . . Watercolour – WHB: – 2011

The Port of Liverpool Building (formerly Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Offices, more commonly known as the Dock Office) is a Grade II* listed building in Liverpool, England. It is located at the Pier Head and, along with the neighbouring Royal Liver Building and Cunard Building, is one of Liverpool’s Three Graces, which line the city’s waterfront.[1] It is also part of Liverpool’s UNESCO-designatedWorld Heritage Maritime Mercantile City.

The SPIRE

Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, England . . . Pen & Wash : WHB – 2015

THE SPIRE

This work of man
Exultant spire
Sings to the world’s
Celestial choir.

Man’s needle point
It pricks the clouds
Defies the lightning
Lures the crowds.

Commands the heavens
Upholds the sky
Tells the world
Don’t fear to die.

This vibrant sky
These bright moonbeams
Define our souls
Colour our dreams.

This work of man
Exultant spire
Sings to the world’s
Celestial choir.

Salisbury Cathedral, is an Anglican cathedral in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, and one of the leading examples of Early English architecture.  The main body of the cathedral was completed in 1258.  Two men filmed themselves climbing 404ft (123m) to the capstone of the Cathedral’s spire to replace a faulty weather meter.    I add below a link to this video giving the spectacular view captured by these conservators working at the top of this, Britain’s tallest spire  . . .

CLIMB to the top of the SPIRE

The footage shows the breathtaking views only usually experienced by the Cathedral’s peregrine falcons.

ART by the SEA

I include below images of just a few of my pen and watercolour sketches of a variety of waterfront scenes in different parts of Europe to which I have travelled.  Click on any one to view a slide show of all the images and locations in larger format . . .