Sunday Poem 219

I love this man so much.  This poem seems long but the lines are short!

Books make good pets – by John Agard (b. 1949)

Books make good pets
and don’t need
going to the vet.

You don’t have to keep
them on a lead
or throw them a stick.
They’ll wag their tails
When you flick
Their dog-eared pages.

Books make good pets
and don’t need
going to the vet.

One curious look sets
them purring
on the cushion of your eyes
as if to say dear browser
you’ve picked me up before
and thrown me aside
but I have more than nine lives
and no need to keep twiddling
that piece of string

Books make good pets
and don’t need
going to the vet.

They’ll burrow their way
through the dust of your mind
nibble at old ideas
to let in the new
and you don’t have to empty
any droppings on a tray.
No thank you.

Books make good pets
and don’t need
going to the vet.

They’ll hibernate
in the shell of their covers
and patiently wait
as long as centuries
to be rediscovered
in their own good time
when some reader rolls them over
on their cracked spine.

Books make good pets
and don’t need
going to the vet.

They’re easier to care
than tropical parakeets
and sometimes come in pairs
but they prefer to breed
in stacks and piles.
You don’t have to feed
them sunflower seed
and just about anywhere
will serve as a nesting site
and from the perch of a shelf
they’ll help you take flight
among the branches of yourself.

Books make good pets
and don’t need
going to the vet.

They’re as colourful as goldfish
in all their stillness
And believe me this is no whim
Books can glow and swim

in the bowl of your imagination.

Comments { 1 }

Last Posting Dates Christmas 2014 – from the UK

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Comments { 5 }

The Archers: an institution in danger?

I’m sorry if this article is a little irrelevant to my international readers, but I’m afraid the plot lines of the 60 year old radio soap ‘The Archers’ could bring the mother country to its knees.

The ArchersI have been listening to ‘The Archers’ on and off since I was seven.   Because of my mother’s illness, I used to miss a lot of school and consequently I spent the occasional week staying at the home of my class teacher (imagine that happening now without the input of a social worker!).  We had a lovely evening routine; I would get into my nightie, and come down for a cup of Bournvita, served in a green utility cup and saucer, whilst we listened to ‘The Archers’, then we would play Scrabble until bedtime.

‘The Archers’ was about as far away from the life I knew as it was possible to get, and I was entranced by the antics of the young David and Shula, of Walter Gabriel, The Grundys, Phil and Grace, of Brookfield, Grange Farm and Lakey Hill.  Boarding school put a stop to my enjoyment for the next eight years and then being young and wild kept Ambridge from me for a few years more.  But then in 1987, being in full possession of my own radio, with no interruptions, I found them again and have been listening ever since.

The longevity of a programme like ‘The Archers’ is based upon change, development and relevance to the audience and Archers’ fans are a fiercely protective of their characters and storylines.  We listen to it because we are attached to the characters and care about what happens to them.  We have watched the Archer family grow, fight, marry, divorce and die and we have enjoyed, drama, humour , tragedy and sometimes the mind numbing routine of the minutiae of village life.  We know it’s not real but the programme represents twelve minutes a day of escapism and a good continuing story, which, because it is radio, doesn’t prevent us getting on with other things.

But we will not have the piss taken out of us by the writers and producers who are trying to turn ‘The Archers’ into a rural version of Eastenders.

They played a very dangerous trick when they killed off Nigel Pargetter in 2011 and lost a lot of listeners.  The accident that killed him was completely out of character and there was some suspicion that Nigel had been knocked off because he was one of the ‘posh’ ones in the series, and there were murmurs that the new writers were simply trying to shock their listeners in the 60th anniversary year.

Nigel was indeed posh; posh, eccentric and rich.  He was also kind, loving, loyal, innovative and ecologically aware.  More importantly, he was very, very popular and a genuinely positive voice in the ongoing tale of country folk and actually more representative of what is actually happening in rural communities than anything you’ll find in Emmerdale.

Now we are being presented with major characters,  Ruth and David selling up and moving to Northumberland, Peggy getting increasingly frail, Helen in an abusive relationship (again), Debbie in Hungary being sacked, Tommy and his bloody sausages going to Canada and now, to top it all, Tony has been crushed by a bull and may possibly be left paralysed.

It’s too much, too quickly and it’s foolhardy.  Archers fans do not want daily death and destruction, we do not want drama at every turn and we certainly don’t want shocking out of our loyalty.  We listen because the cast is wonderful, the storylines are believable and entertaining  and we’re not left feeling slightly grubby for enjoying it.

Is it possible that The Archers is perceived to be elitist in some way?  Is it possible that the views of 5 million listeners are being discounted  as ‘too middle class’?  And, and this is a long shot, is it possible that the longest running soap in the world is being surreptitiously wound down?

Pull yourselves together Production Team and remember who you’re writing for.

The Archers - archive

Comments { 11 }

Sunday Poem 218

The Poplar-Field – by William Cowper (1731-1800)

The poplars are felled, farewell to the shade
And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade:
The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves,
Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.

Twelve years have elapsed since I first took a view
Of my favourite field, and the bank  where they grew,
And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade.

The blackbird has fled to another retreat
Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat;
And the scene where his melody charmed me before
Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more.

My fugitive years are all hasting away,
And I must ere long lie as lowly as they,
With a turf on my breast and a stone at my head,
Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.

‘Tis a sight to engage me, if anything can,
To muse on the perishing pleasures of man;
Short-lived as we are, our enjoyments, I see,
Have a still shorter date, and die sooner than we.

Comments { 1 }

Important quote about the Arts

“The Arts are not takers of money,
they are givers of dreams.”

Jenny Lee – former politician and wife of Aneurin Bevan (father of the NHS)

The arts are as necessary to the world as air and water.  Art, in all its forms, is not a luxury but a human need.   Everything we have is designed by someone, whether it is our computer keyboard, the chair we’re sitting in or the knickers we’re wearing.  Every culture on earth has music in some form or other and dance is a universal formal of expression from joy to grief, from storytelling to political protest.  Painting, drawing and sinking our hands in clay entrance us from cradle to grave and the arts provide an outlet for emotion and expression that heals and revitalises.  To cut arts funding is to dismember the body and amputate the soul. And that is all.

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Don’t go in the basement

Today I am going to clear the basement to make room for storing stock.
I fear the basement.
There are spores.

I used to have my office, ‘The Bunker’, down there, but the damp eventually overwhelmed my poor asthmatic lungs and I moved up to the kitchen (which is actually more practical).  But I have a whole room down there which has become full of the detritus of a messy family and it must be stopped.  If I put my Steampunk stock in plastic boxes with little dessicant sachets in them, all will be well.

I’m going down there now.
I could be some time.

Comments { 6 }

A Victorian Computer Revolution

I thought you might enjoy this fascinating article about computing machines in the 1800s  (from PC Pro Magazine Issue 237 July 2014).
Robo Rabbit passed it to me a little while ago, knowing my interest in the Victorian Mathematician and Engineer, Charles Babbage.

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And I’m back in the room!

Hello Everyone.

I’m sorry that I’ve neglected you all so appallingly but I do have my reasons which I will explain in an article in due course.  Suffice to say that I am back on track and firing on all cylinders… and any other cliches you can think of!

You will have noticed that the website header has changed but you will still be able to find me through the Wartime Housewife as usual.  My proposition has broadened somewhat (as have I !) and The Wartime Housewife is a brand within the Biff Raven-Hill Empire.  Oh yes, I said Empire, but it will be benign and without the oppression.

Thank you for sticking with me xxx

Comments { 6 }

Sunday Poem 217

On the Lancashire Coast – by Norman Nicholson (1914-1987)

The rocks crawl down the beach,
Taking a thousand years to move a yard:
The sea-weed clogs their flippers; each
(Blind, dumb and yet gregarious) lifts an ear,
Like a bat’s ear that measures space by echoes,
To catch the effervescence of the sea
Against a neighbour’s ribs and shoulders.
Beside such boulders human life
Seems shorter than the suds of foam
Burst by blowing sand:
And yet these fingers (five
New to the touch of five) that bend
One to another like a lip
To speak a kiss, these hands
Shaping the deaf-mute language of the heart,
These wrists that time will strip
Quicker than it smooths the wrinkles on the stones,
Live with a vertical bright permanence
That cuts through death like a knife.

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Back to school

Last night was a restless night and, knowing that I had to be up early this morning, I went to bed early, had a hot drink, read quietly and had my light out before midnight (early for me).  I then proceeded to toss and turn, waking up every couple of hours, thirsty, restless needing the loo etc etc.

This morning both my boys were starting at their, same, new school; Boy the Younger in Year 7 and Boy the Elder in the 6th Form.  Boy the Younger has been excited for about a week and has all his uniform laid out in piles i n the sitting room awaiting his first day at secondary.  He went on the school bus on his own and I waved him off discreetly from along the road, trying really hard not to fret.

I had to take Boy the Elder in until we’ve got his bike fixed and I drove him to the school gates and watched him lope off up the drive.  This is BTE’s fifth school and the fifth time he’s had to walk into a school full of people he doesn’t know.  His last few years at private school have boosted his confidence no end but it is still incredibly daunting for a teenager to go into a roomful of other teenagers, many of whom have known each other since primary, and hope against hope that you’re not going to be seen as a prat.

This is why I didn’t sleep.  I wasn’t like this when they started in Primary; then, I marched to the gate, hugged them fondly and walked out, knowing they’d enjoy school and relishing my free time.  Although BTY is a very different character to BTE, he is deep thinker and doesn’t always  express his fears or worries and will often manifest anxiety with bad behaviour.  I also still have the memory of the bullying that BTE suffered at secondary which is why I sent him to private school.  BTE is still self-conscious among his peers and can become despondent quite quickly and if he hated his new school, I really don’t know what the next step would be.

As a parent, there is only so much we can do.  We give them all the information they need to deal with new challenges and then have to sit back and let them run with it.  We have to release them into the wild and make their own way, on their own terms and keep well out of it until we’re needed.

I waited with baited breath to find out how they’d got on.  To my relief and joy they had both had a brilliant day and had been made to feel welcome and at ease.  And neither of them had felt like a prat. Now breathe out……

Comments { 5 }