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Friday, 29 August 2014

“This is Just to Say”

Born and died in Rutherford, New Jersey 1883 -1963
“This is Just to Say”  by  William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

This absolutely brilliant little gem of a poem by William Carlos Williams is a masterpiece in saying a lot with a few words. There is a whole back-story that you simply can't help hearing when you read it. One imagines it as being a scribbled note left on the kitchen work-surface and it speaks of some kind of blissfully happy domestic situation. You can taste the plums and somehow you know that she won't be angry when she reads the note. Apparently she wrote a reply:

Dear Bill: I've made a
couple of sandwiches for you.
In the ice-box you'll find
blue-berries--a cup of grapefruit
a glass of cold coffee.

On the stove is the tea pot
with enough tea leaves
for you to make tea if you
prefer--Just light the gas--
boil the water and put it in the tea

Plenty of bread in the bread-box
and butter and eggs--
I didn't know just what to 
make for you. Several people 
called up about office hours--

See you later. Love. Floss.

Please switch off the telephone.

This is very sweet and also, in it's way, tells a bigger story. I love the last line about switching off the telephone.
Some may ask whether "This is Just to Say" is really a poem at all but have no doubt that it is a great one. The lines all appear to be fairly similar but they contains lots of different metres but, somehow, it still seems to have a kind of rhythm  when read. Incidentally, I think the first line can be read as a part of the poem. This poem has probably been over analysed since being written in 1934; it has even suggested that it's sub-text is about sexual frustration!
I prefer just to read it and smile.
Continuing my experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's: Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Boroughs of London (1): Barking & Dagenham

Welcome to my new project which is a tour of all of the Boroughs of London since Greater London was formed in April 1965. I will be looking at interesting buildings and other stuff (to be frank I'm not sure how this will pan-out yet!) London has been described as a series of villages and each Borough contains several different areas or districts all of which were probably actual villages at one time. There are 32 Boroughs and I will also include the City of London which is not actually a Borough but an administrative area (much like the status of Washington DC in the US).
In alphabetical order, Barking and Dagenham is where we start:
As the name implies, Barking and Dagenham were formerly two separate boroughs before the creation of Greater London. They were then within the county of Essex, one of the 'Home Counties' which is the name given to those counties which surround London in the south-east of England. Hand-axes and other tools have been found in the area dating from the Palaeolithic era about 10,000 years ago and the names both date from Anglo-Saxon times before the Normal invasion of 1066.
Eastbury Manor House, Barking, built 1573 during the reign of Elizabeth I
Eastbury Manor House was originally in an isolated position, on rising ground with views of the Thames across marshland to the south. Rescued from ruin in 1918 by the National Trust, the exterior retains its original appearance. Tree-ring analysis shows that the roof timbers were felled in the spring of 1566.  It's now used as a meeting and community centre.

The other truly remarkable building in the borough is (the ruins of) Barking Abbey. Like so many ancient monastic buildings in Great Britain it fell into ruin in 1539  when Henry VIII was instrumental in starting the English Protestant Reformation when the Pope would not grant him a divorce. Barking Abbey was a very important community and a major land-owner in the area with it's influence spreading for many miles around. The ruins shown below are less than five minutes walk from Barking Town centre.

Barking Abbey operated for nearly 900 years and was a vastly wealthy community

Continuing my new experiment of naming the music I am listening to while posting or commenting - right now it's: The Proclamers 'Sunshine on Leith'. Listen on You Tube:

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Painting of the Month (48) August 2014: Gainsborough

Mr and Mrs Andrews, Thomas Gainsborough c.1750
The National Gallery, London
This very interesting painting remained in the family of the sitters for two hundred years and did not become generally known until the twentieth century. It combines two genres of painting; the landscape and the conversation piece, usually showing a group of at least two people in an informal pose. Basically Mr Andrews is showing off his assets and I refer to his estate as well as his wife. She sits stiffly submissive; she too is a possession placed on a fancy Rococo-style bench. The dog in art is a symbol of loyalty.  
Thomas Gainsborough was only twenty-one when he painted this early masterpiece and it was quite pioneering in showing the realistic changeable elements of British weather.
Difficult to see in  the background (although if you can enlarge the picture you can see more clearly) are cattle and sheep on the right, middle-distance and I can just make out a couple of horses below the trees to the left. Mr Andrews has got his world under control and now he can relax although he doesn't appear comfortable holding the firearm.
Thomas Gainsborough, self-portrait 1754
Note the similarity to Mr Andrews.
One fascinating aspect of the painting is that a part of it is unfinished. Look at her lap. What could be intended for adding into that space. Embroidery? Knitting?
It was probably the hope that a small child would be added later.
Incidentally the oak tree which they stand in front of is still there today on the Essex-Suffolk border in Eastern England.
The marriage of this couple was not for love. It was a business decision that brought together two great estates. You are looking at Mr and Mrs Andrews Inc. They don't look happy do they?
As an experiment I am going to be mentioning the music that I am listening to (usually on Spotify or You Tube) as I post. Right now its Luciano Pavorotti duetting with Bryan Adams at Sydney Opera House in a 'live' recording of 'O Sole Mio'. Don't care for it much....