the beck my beck North England Old English bece Dutch beek German bach my beck my early life my once-upon-a-time world
it was all things to me my territory my front line against the outside world fell in fished out fished in fishes out tiddlers minnows sticklebacks countless times jumped it daily dammed it constructed waterfalls floods flooded floods receded dredged repaired renewed
succoured my imagination my coliseum my Olympic stadium succeeding my umbilical chord as my link to the world it ran through my heart and past my house gave me a ballpark my own adventure playground complete with running water subterranean tunnels waterfalls dams stepping stones overhanging trees to climb to suspend myself dangling over the running water sandstone-walled bridges for carving initials routes to explore in both directions crossings to navigate ledges to crawl along overgrown banks forbidden sections Rubicon for gang warfare Lethe at dusk
above all suspending my belief in dreams for this was my reality
In a cleft in the scarp slope of the Cleveland Hills, surrounded on three sides by steep tree-clad hills, now part of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, lie a small number of houses. Now highly desirable properties, two miles from the nearby market town where I grew up. It is said that this secluded spot was, in medieval times, inhabited by a small community of lepers. In past times leprosy was thought to be both highly infectious and incurable. Lepers were required to remain within the confines of their village and never to come into direct contact with other human beings. Well meaning townsfolk would, from time to time, leave food beside a stone set up to mark the limit beyond which all lepers were never to venture. Such a ‘Leper Stone’ still stands at this spot as do several similar stones in other parts of the British Isles. Whilst there is some dispute over the truth of this story, there does appear to have been a leper colony here in medieval times and certainly such places and such stones can be found in other parts of the country. My verse below attempts to convey something of the desolate, bleak, despairing nature of existence for those who in past times were afflicted with this dreaded
The LEPER STONE
I live a lazar isolated shut off from life from the world’s reality in that ancient Chernobyl as a hermit monk an eremite
my path not of my choosing but chosen for me by disease by circumstance life’s throw of the dice or perhaps it was death’s for my existence is a living death my isolation whilst I wither unknown untouchable confined in this cleft in the hills one carucate of land one oxgang to roam to till to survive
let no one in lest I corrupt all contamination’s child my daily burden to see what morsels of discarded waste have been left for me on the leper stone pig swill yesterday nothing today tomorrow I may not be here tomorrow
my family similarly afflicted now passed on released from their sentence myself inheriting their misfortune their bleak history their misbegotten future
ancient ice increasingly encircles as we move silently with stealth into the ice fiord hesitantly making a zig-zag passage towards the unstable terminus of the glacier as it erodes into the ocean’s edge
increasingly smotheringly enclosed by walls of white and blue immense ridge-flanked jagged-backed menacingly still a maze through which the miniscule craft threads a passage towards the minotaur the glacier’s lowering face as it crumbles tumbles its fronting phalanx fragmenting with the occasional sudden grinding cracking turmoil of yet another frozen offshoot adding to the welter the crowded pack of new-born creatures as the ice mass breaks and calves to join the myriad of off-spring in the ice ocean
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.
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.
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 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!
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.