Saturday, May 31, 2008

A country walk in Bristol

My niece invited me to go along on a health walk with her and her son, with a group of people, meeting up outside a supermarket at ten in the morning and following a couple of leaders. It was an interesting route, past the Barton Hill Settlement - a local community centre which has lots going on, along a path by the Feeder Canal, to the river Avon.
We passed this tree with a wall in the middle of it, and lunched at a bar and tea-room by the river. Unfortunately the river was too high and fast for the tiny ferry to be running.
Then we had to give up part way through as Finn was not well. One moment he was fine - the next refusing to eat and too quiet for a three-year-old. One minute he wanted to be held upside down, the next he was miserable. Turned out he was developing an ear infection, though it was almost two days before this was clear. He's fine again now.
Since we were with a group we hadn't bothered to bring a map, so our return walk on our own was not the most direct route.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wainwright and his Lakeland guides

We watched a TV programme about the legendary Alfred Wainwright, a man of mystery until very late in his life.

He worked as Kendal Borough Treasurer for years, but once he had decided to produce his guides he was a thoroughly methodical obsessive, and spent every weekend walking the Lakeland Fells, on his own, and every evening handwriting and illustrating his guidebooks.

Eventually he used the money he earned from the books to fund animal rescue centres.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

From Florence to Rutland Water

Last night, we watched some of the camcorder shots from Florence - a lot of them taken by Harry while we were wandering around the streets in the evenings. The 'old tart' put on a pretty good show. Plenty of street entertainment - from a bizarre act (hypnotism?) involving audience members behaving strangely, accompanied by the crowd's rhythmic chanting and clapping, to music from a brass group, and more from a solo classical guitarist.

This morning, the sight of the sun after three grey and wet days had us out at Rutland Water, roller-blading by nine o'clock. Esther, who was here for the weekend, took the opportunity to fit in a run. Back home for coffee and breakfast at 11.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A place, not a person

The old tart

She hasn’t changed her knickers
since the glory days. She’s locked her finery
away in display cabinets,
but her everyday wear is shabby and worn.
Her make up artist hasn’t changed since the '70s
and the cracks are showing.
Old habits live on.
Her grubby palm stretches out for pennies
and snaps them tight into her fist.
Yet as night falls and she is backlit by a softer glow
her old magic returns to draw the crowds.

An explanation:
It's Florence - no, not Nightingale, the city.
The display cabinets are the museums and art galleries, which are brilliant.
The make-up is the shabby appearance of some of the frontages and public spaces - even parts of the well-known ones. It didn't help that there was constant dust from building work, I suppose. The reference to the seventies is something quite unconnected - I've been watching a DVD of the 1976 TV adaptation of I Claudius and was thinking of the make up worn by Sian Phillips as Livia.
The grasping for money is a combination of the expense (perceived by me and of course with the exchange rate so poor), and the (immigrant?) beggars in public places. Even the car hire had an extra charge for being in a historical area.
Old habits die hard - well, I've recently read some bits about European history, and so much seemed to be about the money and power.
Yet at night, with less traffic, and softer lighting the place is magical to walk around in spite of all this.

And I'm still not sure the whole thing isn't sexist, but with a name like Flo' ...

Social housing

Headlines scream, '1 million more on housing waiting list' but how do our figures compare to Europe?

How much 'council housing' is there here? Apart from, clearly, not enough.

And in Germany or France or Spain? Is it such a disaster to live in social housing? It used to be a respectable part of the housing stock until Thatcher and following governments decided to institute the 'right to buy' and helped to turn the less desirable council estates into something like sinks for the poverty-stricken, the feckless and the hopeless.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Procrastination and all that

a whole load of stuff including why Truman Capote didn't finish his great novel Answered Prayers. Just the thing to browse through when you're trying to put something off.

There's even an article on the compulsion to play Spider solitaire and Freecell. Oh, the hours, the hours.

One from three years or so ago:

(Wasting time)

On my computer screen
I deal out the cards
Three two ace , ace two three
I make patterns,
Jack queen king ,king queen jack
I connect chains,
black red black red black red
I build up suits
Clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades
I order the screen world
I win some I lose some.

On my television screen
Instead of cards I see
Disasters , murders, bombings
One two three, three two one
Warlords presidents party leaders
King queen knave, knave queen king
Different cultures opposed
Brown white black ,black white brown
And shades in between
The world is disordered
Some win, and most lose.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Two wheels good

First time out on the bike for a while ( for me, not Harry). Perfect weather, sunny, warm, a slight breeze. The scent of pollen - cow parsley along the roadsides, wallflowers, lilac blossom - some lilac seems to have escaped to live among the wild hawthorns too.

across the hillside
splashes yellow paint
oilseed rape

Wisteria hangs theatrical fringes
Round the cottage window
Ready for the summer show.

I lick salt sweat from my lips,
Mixed with the taste of fresh brewed tea.

Writing 60 words

I sometimes post on a WD forum - 60 word fiction. Today, the prompt was 'Launderette'. I thought of several. Most recently in the US - in Brooklyn with Leonie while they were living in rented apartments before moving; in Eureka, California, during a holday in a rented RV; in New Hampshire last autumn, again during a holiday. All different.
Go back to student days, bedsit days, the days before tumble driers or disposable nappies.

So I wrote the notes, and gradually changed them to fit the format of 60 words fiction. It's not dramatic enough to satisfy me, but it's interesting (for me) to see the thought process.

Travel in an RV – the luxury of carrying your home around like a clumsy snail – but without the mod cons. You daren’t use the toilet since you don’t want to be stuck trying to empty the tank. And you certainly don’t have a washing machine. Much better to use the facilities in a campground. So why do they bother fitting these behemoths with bathrooms?
Then the laundry piles up until you find a launderette – well Laundromat if you’re stateside. We found one in the small college town of Eureka on the Northern Cali coast.

Laundromats attract all sorts.
Families without a washing machine.
Tourists – the kind who don’t stay in hotels and pay them to do the laundry.
And another kind of wanderer – whose life, complete with dog, fits in a supermarket cart.
I put the money in the slot.
On the wall: Nothing in driers unless it’s been washed. Including sleeping bags.

Half way to fiction (and it is sixty words)
They parked the RV. Wide street, a laundromat, a thrift store.
Sal put the clothes in the machine, quarters in the slot. Like the locals, she bought a coffee from the automat.
A woman came by, pushing her life, and dog, in a supermarket cart.
Sal read the notice: Nothing in driers unless washed in our machines. Including sleeping bags.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Striding out

Three people in two days have greeted me with the words, 'You're striding out well today.' Do I really walk differently from other people?

But it has meant a conversation about walking on or off roads, alone or in company, safety considerations and the state of village to village roadside footpaths (almost non-existent). Then somehow we touched on composting as a communal village activity, allotments and recycling.

I shall continue to stride out.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I hope it's a haiku.

two short weeks away
skimmed milk of blackthorn blossom
turns full cream of may.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Siena in the rain

Perhaps the least enjoyable day of our holiday. But still, the less successful visits are often more fun to write about. This poem is evolving daily.

Siena sotto la pioggia

(I hope the Italian is correct - it's supposed to be a silly dig at TS Eliot's use of other languages, just to show I'm not a monoglot.)

The guidebook shows
sunlit postcard views
the campo from the tower,
the palio.
Twelve horses career around the sloping square
for glory and honour,
Flags blazing gold and red on black,
sharp shadow shapes.

we park.
Five escalators
clatter and clank
us up to steep streets,
cobbled and
gleaming dank

tall buildings
to hold the sun at bay
why bother?

The campo
reflects the palace tower
in hints of light and shade.

Umbrellas sprout,
generous fungi
bright, determined, cheerful
despite the clinging drizzle.

They wait in lines
or play a game of dodge
along the streets.

Washing at high windows
so picturesque
above the tourist throngs
so wet.

The duomo's marble is fresh washed,
its glorious gilded frontage,
backed by a crane.
They are everywhere
in Tuscany this April.

A covered market place,
shelters crowds from the drips;
kids run and throw food,
or wait for a bus.

Below a sign
via dei malcontenti
I stop and pull a face.