Sunday Poem 227

An amusing video poem today by a charming, clever man called Harry Baker (dob very young).  Don’t be put off by the opening lines – he is displaying self-irony.


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I am temporarily infested.  I tried to download Google Earth and inadvertently chose a rogue version and now the entire forces of the Trojan Army have descended on me.

I have sent for the IT equivalent of The Achaeans.

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Sunday Poem 226

A Kind of Quickening – by Pauline Stainer (b. 1941)

Put your ear to the quoins.
You might think
a redundant church
would be loud
with the sound of silence,
but sacred cantatas
rise to the spandrels.

Look through the squint.
St. Mary-at-the-Quay
in her field of windscreens,
where crane-drivers
glide over the hammerbeams
as if sighting eternity

Smell the mown grass
in the roofless nave,
when children circle-dance
like Wisdom before the Lord
until the sea-fret rolls in
and they pull-up
their pearled hoods.

And the weepers on the tomb –
do they look up
in sunlight
as we repair the fabric,
salt-laden limestone,
an altar frontal
transfigured by the silkworm?

We still celebrate
the energy of otherness.
That shadow on
the lime-washed chancel
not simply Christ
as makeweight
on the flowering tree

but a jazz-singer,
dress blue as hyssop
against the downbeat dusk,
while on the skyline
wind-turbines turn
to the preaching
of the swallow.

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The Ten Minute Review – 24: Fifty Shades of Grey

TimerI was taken to this film, against my will – which is strangely appropriate – by Mrs Cecil who insisted that I see it in order to have the right to an opinion.  Quite right too.

There is so much wrong with this film, I hardly know where to start, although my criticisms are perhaps not the feminist objections that you might have encountered.

Firstly the lead characters, Christian and Anastasia are supremely unattractive people.  Christian is smug, creepy and full of hubris and Anastasia is one of those women who looks and sounds as though she is going to burst into tears at any moment.  I would never tire of slapping either of them.  The fact that Christian is super-rich and, allegedly, handsome  is also clichéd and obvious and the criticism that if he were poor and sloppily dressed the focus would be different, is entirely justified.  It also suggests that women will submit to practically anything if enough wealth and glamour is attached to it, which whilst sadly true in some cases, is offensive to most of us.

The dialogue is stilted, cliché-ridden and delivered with all the realism of a school play and consequently, even though there are moments where one might have begun to engage, I found myself having to refrain from groaning for entirely the wrong reasons.

As for the sexual activity itself, I really don’t know what all the fuss was about.  The only scene which bore any resemblance to something more pervy than an, admittedly intimate,  middle class bedroom romp was unpleasant and distressing, because it wasn’t a game.  I also have the continuing problem that film-makers feel that it’s perfectly alright to show every inch of a female body but  are still positively blushing at the prospect of a penis.  This has the dual impact of devaluing women’s bodies and, I would suggest, giving the impression that penises are hidden and dirty or, at the very least, unlovely, which by implication, devalues men.

I am not without exposure to the bdsm environment and I am a stolid proponent of the idea that anyone should be able to express their sexuality in any way, and with anyone, they choose, providing that the experience is a happy and consensual one.  Anastasia may not have signed a form, but she was undoubtedly consenting, even if that consent was given from a viewpoint of unwordliness, innocence and lack of self-esteem.  The inherent problem was that, for him, it was not a game, it wasn’t healthy role play.  It was an expression of psychological trauma and mental illness that he was wrapping up in the scarlet tissue paper of fetish.

It didn’t help that the auditorium at the cinema was almost entirely female.  The women next to me were giggling and sniggering and ooh-ing and ah-ing in a way that I found quite distasteful, as were most of the audience.  I felt uncomfortable watching it in a public place as the atmosphere had a toned down similarity to a performance of male strippers.

This is a ghastly film,(based on ghastly badly-written books) which has shamelessly and cynically set out to titillate the chattering classes without at any point taking the opportunity to discuss a subject that is really rather interesting.  Please will someone out there make another film on the same subject that is both erotic, intelligent and beautiful.  Oh and with a script full of words that real people might actually say.  Thank you.

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34There is something completely wonderful about  women’s breasts.  I’m not saying this in a pervy way, just as a general appreciation of their shape and cuddliness.  As a Steampunk, there are a lot of lovely bosoms on show and, although it is undeniably sexy, there is also something comfortable, womanly and earthy about seeing all those curves everywhere.

I grew my first pair* when I was pregnant with Boy the Elder, and The Father of My Children marched me into John Lewis where I was measured for my first bra – aged 32.  Up until then I had been very slim and flat-chested and had no need of structured foundation garments, favouring camisoles and crop tops for the sake of decency.  I have talked about the importance of well fitting bras before, but I must admit that it felt rather grown-up making my first purchase and realising that it heralded not only the advent of a new body shape but also the first physical evidence of ensuing motherhood.

And this is the interesting and perennial problem when talking about breasts.  Undoubtedly they have function as a feeding station for young humans, but why do we find them so sexy, and why do some people love little pert ones and others favour a more ample pair?  Boobs induce sniggering from a very early age but are often a most un-funny distraction from a woman’s actual personality or value.

They are evidence of sexual maturity, of the potential to nurture, and size has no impact on sensitivity.  Really large ones can cause back, shoulder and neck problems, small ones make it easier to detect lumps.  The nipples on them are all shades from pink to brown, and range from tiny to bigger than other women’s entire breast.  It makes no difference.  They are uniquely ours and are as individual as our eyes, our hair or our characters.

Humans are inherently tactile and certain shapes and textures cry out to be touched.  Sculptures, carvings and fabrics sometimes prove irresistible for our hands, our skin thrilling to the feel of marble or the surface of beautifully planed and polished wood.  Why should bodies be any different?

JWWaterhouse mermaid 12 x 18 inI enjoy looking at breasts in the same way that I enjoy looking at faces and paintings or listening to music.  I find a beauty there which arouses the same chemical and emotional response as a piece of Mozart or Waterhouse’s ‘Mermaid’.

I am also a very ‘huggy’ person.    I have a Steampunk friend who, as well as being an utterly delightful person, is also tall, statuesque and has a magnificent bosom.  When we trade at the same shows, I can’t help but keep hugging her throughout the day; her shape perfectly fits mine and my arms go exactly round her waist and it’s a bit of a wrench, frankly, to go back to my needy customers.  I do hug her husband as well, who is also tall, charming  and cuddly, but somehow, somehow, it’s just not the same.  It’s the boobs wot do it.

Also, as a woman, I feel perfectly comfortable pointing out to another woman that she has fabulous tits and the responses have always been positive and often followed by a conversation about them.  I was discussing this with Boy the Elder and The Father of My Children who both said  “If we said that, we’d get our faces slapped!”.  Possibly true, although I do believe that ‘it ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it’.  If a man approached me in a gentlemanly way and complemented me on my décolletage and proceeded to converse with me in a nice way, I wouldn’t be in the least offended, particularly if I was wearing my Steampunk gear, which draws attention to my relatively recent bosoms.  If, however, a bloke on a scaffold yelled at me in the street “Oi, show us your tits darling”,  I would not feel attractive and appreciated because this is objectification not genuine appreciation of myself as a whole woman.

I’m not going into a long diatribe about the fetishism or politics of breasts, the Freudian interpretations of mother or child fixations, although there is a great deal to be said, but I would urge women to rejoice in their bodies, whatever shape they are, present them as they choose to, on show or demurely covered.  Just don’t allow yourself  to be defined by them.

*This sounds disconcertingly as though I have grown several pairs over time.  This is not the case.



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Sunday Poem 224

At the Millennium – by Anthony Thwaite (b. 1930)

It was a dead time.  Ice on the river,
Snow on the banks, snow on the far field,
Sky white to the top, trees bare.

And nothing moved.  Stiffly, the landscape held
Steady as rock, steadier than ice.  The wind
Had dropped into a wide unmoving stare.

Till something moved: a thing with wings came down
Looking for something there, whatever it was.
There on the snow a brilliant patch, a stain

Concentrated, and still.  And there it lies,
One spot of colour, gathered, focused, where
Whatever happened happened.  What it was

Disturbs the landscape, hides itself away.
It is as if some angel in the air
Came to its aim on the appointed day

And touched the other’s tongue with a cinder of dead fire.

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A Little bit of Luxury in Lancashire

I have just booked this hotel for the second year running for my trip to Burnley in June.  It is so lovely, I thought I’d tell you all about it in case you find yourself looking for a place to rest your head in the north west.

Rosehill House Hotel, Burnley, Lancashire

Rosehill House Hotel, Burnley, Lancashire

Rosehill House is one of those wonderful ‘boutique’ hotels which drips with charm and lushness.  Everywhere you look, there are beautiful tiles, lavish plasterwork and decorative touches of all kinds.  I stayed there in June last year and as soon as you are welcomed into the reception area, you are left in no doubt that you are going to have a Nice Time.

The house was built in 1856 for a wealthy cotton mill owner, Adam Dugdale.  The house went through several changes of ownership until its occupation by the Home Guard during the Second World War.  Rosehill was converted into a hotel in 1963 and happily much of the elaborate decor has been preserved  giving the visitor the experience of Victorian style but with all the comforts of the twenty-first century.

Room 23

Room 23

The rooms have carefully placed pieces of china, objets d’art and paintings which have clearly been chosen by someone with exquisite taste and everywhere you look there are things of interest – books, ornaments, china, wallpapers and fabrics – which give you the distinct impression that this could be someone’s home.

Every room is unique and none of the thirty-one bedrooms is the same.  Last year I stayed in a delightfully quirky room with a huge four-poster bed and gilded angels flying out of the wall.  I had a lovely window with elegant chairs placed by it and I sat contentedly, sipping my morning coffee as I enjoyed the view. The bathroom was spotless and stylish  and, again, I had the feeling that I was staying at a private house.

The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Breakfast was served in the extravagant dining room by friendly, attentive staff, who were sympathetic to the fact that my normal morning zombie-state had been augmented by a massive hangover.  I cured myself with a scrumptious full English breakfast and an imperial gallon of orange juice and good coffee.  There were plenty of other guests who were pleasingly diverse and I chatted amiably with several of them as I slowly regained vital life signs and prepared to check out.

Room 22

Room 22

It was a working weekend for me, as I go to the Queen Street Mill Textile Museum every year for a Steampunk event.  Queen Street is the last surviving 19th century, steam-powered weaving mill in the world and provides a wonderful backdrop for the madness of the Steampunk market.  Trading for two days is fun and exhausting in equal measure and the calm and luxury of Rosehill House was a blissful wind-down on the Saturday night.  Consequently, wild horses would not have stopped me from staying there again this year, and it will be an especial treat as it will also be my 50th birthday weekend.  I can’t think of a nicer place to be.

Visit the website for details of accommodation and local attractions and I strongly advise you to make a long weekend of it.
Rosehill House.  It’s really rather reasonable.

Rosehill House
Rosehill Avenue
Burnley BB11 2PW

Tel:      01282 453931 / 01282 455628

Email:  (do not be afraid – this is not a political email!)

Room 35

Room 35

Room 31

Room 31

Room 5

Room 5

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Leave those Dandelions!

They are a wonderful diuretic and also taste delicious in salads.


Dandelions and Bees

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Hands Across the Sea

Tasmanian giftsThis afternoon I received a parcel from my cousin in Tasmania.  It was my Christmas present which had travelled across the stormy seas, probably on a huge container ship, loaded onto a big truck, sorted by a robot and finally delivered to my house by a cheerful, red-jacketed Postie.

It was a lovely parcel, containing Tasmanian (and therefore foreign and exotic) things.  There was a book of Ghostly Tales and a guide to the spiders of the country which has some of the most revolting photographs I have ever seen.  She knows my utter fear and loathing of spiders and sent it because she is a twisted and sadistic individual.  There were also some Freddo chocolate frogs (MUCH bigger over there), some Mint Patties and a packet of Tim Tams which look like they might be more generously dimensioned Penguins.

The best thing about this parcel is that it represents so much more than a box of goodies.  Some years ago, I started looking into my family tree.  I began to contact members of the family to whom we had not spoken to in years, to share stories and re-establish friendships.

I contacted several branches of the family on my mother’s side and can report quite truthfully that they are all gorgeous.  One of the first people I wrote to was my mother’s cousin, Gladys, in Tasmania.  I had never spoken to her before; she was in her late eighties and I knew that she had a daughter and was a widow.  I was delighted to receive several long letters from her telling me about her life and what she could remember about the rest of the family, and we even had a long telephone conversation, the memory of which I treasure.

In the course of this correspondence, I discovered that she had three children, two daughters and a son, all of whom have been over to visit.  Despite the distance and separation, I feel a real connection to them and like them very much indeed.  The son has been over to stay with me three times now and I can honestly say that if I had ever had a brother, I would have wanted it to be him.  We are so alike in attitude and temperament, that it’s quite hard to believe that we only met a few years ago.

On his last visit, he brought his daughter to stay and, thanks to the magic of Facebook, we often message each other and share jokes and news, and it is she who sent me the parcel today.  I’m so happy to have found them and hope one day to be able to visit them myself  –  as long as the spiders don’t get me.

Tasmania - land of things that bite and sting.

Tasmania – land of things that bite and sting.

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Sunday Poem 224

The Kraken – by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep,
The Kraken sleepeth : faintest sunlights flee
About till his shadowy sides : above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height ;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant fins the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep ;
Then once by men and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

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