Archive for August, 2010

Tuesday Poem – Like the touch of rain

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Like the Touch of Rain 
by Edward Thomas

“Like the touch of rain she was

On a man’s flesh and hair and eyes

When the joy of walking thus

Has taken him by surprise:

With the love of the storm he burns,

He sings, he laughs, well I know how,

But forgets when he returns

As I shall not forget her ‘Go now’.

Those two words shut a door

Between me and the blessed rain

That was never shut before

and will not open again.”


This poem imprinted deep into my memory the first time I encountered it, and I often return to re-enter the small, perfect world of joy and loss that it evokes. Edward Thomas is best known for ‘Adlestrop’ and for his war poem ‘Rain’, and I think this one uses similarly crystal-clean imagery – so simple, and so effective.

Edward Thomas died in 1917, in the battle of Arras in northern France, when he was 39. I believe this poem was inspired by his loving friendship with Eleanor Farjeon.

Try as I may – and believe me I have – I cannot get the three separate stanzas to register on screen. You’ll just have to imagine them: three stanzas each of four lines, OK? And if you’d like to look at other Tuesday Poems, you know by now exactly what to do!

Blogroll cloud

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

It’s not only the words in the blogroll, it’s also the names of the categories under which I log posts. But it’s kind of pretty, isn’t it? Like an incidental artwork.

An ice cream loyalty card?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

I’m not sure exactly how this happened, but since last night I am the proud and excited owner of an ice cream loyalty card. Perhaps I ought to be ashamed at freely admitting an allegiance to something as frivolous as ice cream but I’m not; not at all. I can justify it, I swear I can. I can even proselytise about it – everyone should have one of these cards – honestly, you should. And if you’re sitting comfortably, preferably with a truly excellent ice cream to hand, I’ll explain.

My love of ice cream dates from childhood. My mother used a recipe that involved junket and sweetened condensed milk, and came from a friend of my grandmother’s. It was called Mrs Morgan’s ice cream and it was absolutely delicious, although I’d probably find it too sweet if I made it now. The distinctive texture and taste that comes from using condensed milk – grainy and dense – is unusual now but I found it a few years ago in the ice cream sold from carts on the streets of Trinidad, and it’s a texture that goes well with tropical flavours like mamey and sugar apple.

The best commercially available ice cream I know these days is made by Kohu Road in New Zealand: a small – well, smallish – range of great flavours made by hand from largely organic ingredients. (Kohu Road were thinking of expanding to the UK but I haven’t heard more about that for a while – if anyone else does, please tell me.)

But my most recent ice cream pleasure (and my loyalty card) come from Gelupo in Soho’s Archer Street, which is related to Bocca di Lupo, the smart Italian restaurant across the road. Gelupo have a glorious range of flavours (ricotta, coffee and honey: pine nut and fennel seed: sour cherry granita: blackberry sorbet) and it’s the real deal with added sprinkles of fairy dust. I’d say it was worth the journey, although I admit that depends on where you start from. If it’s from Auckland don’t even think of it, just buy a tub of Kohu Road to take home – I especially recommend the golden syrup flavour, although the vanilla haunts my memory. If you’re in London, no question: Archer Street’s your goal of choice. In between Auckland and London, though, you’ll have to suss it out for yourselves. I’m too busy filling up my Gelupo loyalty card so that I’ll qualify for a freebie.

Tuesday Poem: Resurrection Song by Thomas Beddoes

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Resurrection Song, by Thomas Lovell Beddoes

“Thread the nerves through the right holes;

Get out of my bones, you wormy souls.

Shut up my stomach, the ribs are full;

Muscles be steady and ready to pull.

Heart and artery merrily shake,

And eyelid go up, for we’re going to wake.

His eye must be brighter -one more rub!

And pull up the nostrils! his nose was a snub.”

Thomas Lovell Beddoes was unknown to me as a poet until last week, when I posted Ronald Allison Kells Mason’s lovely poem “Song of Allegiance”. This poem mentions Beddoes in illustrious poetic company, and in the same line as Coleridge and Tennyson, and in a following comment Frances asked what he was doing there. Frankly I had no idea, so I looked him up and discovered this wonderful poem, which I quoted in my reply to Frances’s comment. But I don’t suppose many blog readers scroll through all the comments, and I didn’t want the poem to lurk unseen, so I’m posting it now in its own right and hope lots of people will enjoy it.

One website says that Thomas Lovel Beddoes (1803–1849) is “…mostly remembered now as much for his death obsession and his manic depressive tendencies (probably abetted by frustrated homosexuality and culminating in his suicide by poison) as his literary achievement”, and that his life “was almost as Gothic as his darkest literary creations”. And OK, Resurrection Song is somewhat gruesome, especially to modern sensibilities, but it’s also surprising sweet – the notion of tidying up your body ready to make a good impression at the resurrection is very cleverly sustained. And I think Stanley Spencer would have loved the poem: it perfectly fits his Resurrection in Cookham painting.

If you want to read more of Beddoes’s work the website to go to is http://www.phantomwooer.org/index.html

And if you want to look at other Tuesday Poem blogs, you know what to do!

Hurrah! New intro pics!

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Thanks, Greg, for updating these: I expect Jon’s not the only reader who will be so, so glad that spider pic has gone.

I’ll talk about all the new photos in time but I’m starting with this one because its subject reflects late summer so prettily. The other week one of my favourite columnists, the food writer Nigel Slater, said he could smell the edge of autumn in the air – and I was frankly horrified. It’s still summer, for pity’s sake! What’s more, it’s one of the best summers we’ve had in London for years! How could he mention autumn? What foolhardy coat-trailing is that?

But I have to admit that because August is officially late summer a few signs of autumn are already on the scene, breeze, whatever.  I’ve certainly noticed that spiders (sorry, Jon) have started web construction outside our bedroom window, which is an autumnal event. The fruit flies that plagued us in the kitchen during July have all vanished. The salad greens in our garden have gone to seed. I even found myself looking out a cardigan on a recent, oddly chilly, morning. So OK, Nigel, I’m not embracing signs of autumn, but I accept they exist.

These glorious flowers belong to one of our plot neighbours at the community gardens where we grow veggies. I’ve been photographing their flowers for some months now, and I think this recent one reflects an undeniably late summer display of colour. (It also displays just how good the camera in my iPhone is – amazingly so, much better than my old, regular camera.)

So: enjoy the last of the golden weather is what I recommend (with a nod to Bruce Mason’s classic play, “The End of the Golden Weather”).  Enjoy! Enjoy! I’m off to Italy next week in search of sun-ripened figs, but that’s another photo.

Tuesday Poem: Song of Allegiance

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Song of Allegiance by R.A.K. Mason

Shakespeare Milton Keats are dead

Donne lies in a lowly bed


Shelley at last calm doth lie

knowing ‘whence we are and why’


Byron Wordsworth both are gone

Coleridge Beddoes Tennyson


Houseman neither knows nor cares

how ‘this heavy world’ now fares


Little clinging grains enfold

all the mighty minds of old …


They are gone and I am here

stoutly bringing up the rear


Where they went with limber ease

toil I on with bloody knees


Though my voice is cracked and harsh

stoutly in the rear I march


Though my song have none to hear

boldly bring I up the rear.


I was going to use this poem for the New Zealand Poetry Day, but then I found the Rex Fairburn one and realised I had to use that instead. But this R.A.K. Mason poem is also one I’ve known for years, and I was very pleased to receive permission for its use from the Hocken Librarian at Otago. I love the rhythms of its development, and the contrasts of humour and seriousness. And I suspect Ronald Allison Kells was a poets’ poet. Either way he was also, apparently, a ringer for my Dad.