Sunday, 26 June 2011

Membury Services M4

Wing walker above the Membury Services in West Berkshire.

Yesterday, Saturday 25th June, Marilyn, Alice, Abigail and myself drove west along the M4 across England to Wales.We needed to go to Newport where Alice is at university doing fashion design. She is very good. I know, that's her dad talking!!!!!

Alice is moving out of her halls of residence this year and moving to a small Victorian terraced house in Newport with three friends for next year. She needed help in moving. Her mum, dad and youngest sister were roped in to help.

The M4 is an iconic motorway slicing across England from London, in a virtually straight line, over the Severn Estuary Bridge and into South Wales and it keeps going as far as Camarthen in the western tip of Wales. It is a 300 mile cross section of the country.

I must admit at my age, I need motorway stops,often, to use the loo and dose up on strong coffee, to keep me going.

It was a lovely day yesterday and our first stop was at the Membury Service Station in West Berkshire, the beginning of the Cotswolds, about 80 miles west of London. It is situated amongst a miriad of villages and historic sites. The White Horse at Uffington is just north of it. Straight Soley, Chilton Foliat, Whittonditch, Crooked Soley, Great Shefford, Froxfield, Ramsbury and Knighton are all villages nearby. As we parked, there was a roar overhead. We looked up and caught sight of a yellow biplane zooming past, low above us with a,"wing walker," standing erect, arms out in cruciform style atop the uppermost wing. The plane and man swooped, circled, climbed and dived around a circular course, all about us. I whipped out my camera and took as many pictures as I could.

All the best.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Mark TwainMark Twain famously lashed out with vehemence against Jane Austen in a most startling and shocking statement.

"Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone."
However he had a down to earth , solid view of life and helps all of us to perceive our situation better.
Here is one of those life maxims you can find peppered throughout Twain's work. This comes form Tom Sawyer.

"He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it--namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain."

So true, so true!!!!


I must apologise. Raquel has pointed out to me that I attributed the above salacious, damnable quotation by Mark Twain to Walt Whitman. However I like this Whitman poem so much I don't want to remove it. So, in honour of that snowy bearded, gentle looking, old man in the picture above, Walt Whitman, towards whom I hold no grudge, hatred or dislike here is one of his marvellous poems.


by: Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

      N the beach at night alone,
      As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
      As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future.
      A vast similitude interlocks all,
      All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
      All distances of place however wide,
      All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
      All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
      All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
      All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
      All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
      All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
      This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann'd,
      And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.

Some say Ted Hughes killed Sylvia Plath. He didn't, she killed herself but his womanising could possibly have pushed her over the edge. She was prone to suicidal thoughts and yearnings. The great majority of us would not have committed suicide in the same instance no matter how shitty life was. His poetry is the best poetry I have ever read about wildlife and nature.

Hawk Roosting by Ted Hughes
I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

The convenience of the high trees!
The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth's face upward for my inspection.

My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot

Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads -

The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:

The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.


Ernest Hemmingway was a drunkard, an alcoholic, a mysogynist, a liar, a wife beater,a self promoter with a massive ego and he wrote some of the most intense novels I have ever read. Stories that reached deep inside my consciousness. In them I recognised the essence of true human endeavour and life. The Old Man Of The Sea and For Whom The bells Toll.Our world would be a much much poorer place without them.

"Now is the time to think of only one thing. That which I was born for."
(The Old man of The Sea by Ernest Hemmingway)

"I will learn from Pilar what I should do to take care of a man well and those things I will do," Maria said. "Then, as I learn, I will discover things for myself and other things you can tell me."...
(For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

William Cowper

William Cowper was the favourite poet of both Jane Austen and her father the Reverend George Austen. Cowper wrote about highly religious themes and was sermonising in his tone. I can imagine The Reverend George Austen quoting from Cowper in his sermons in his little church at Steventon.

Here is a short poem by Cowper. I wonder if Jane used sentiments from this poem when she invented the character of Elinor in Sense and Sensibilty?

A Comparison. Addressed To A Young Lady
Sweet stream that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng:
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes;
Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass,
And Heaven reflected in her face.
William Cowper

He also wrote poems about nature which would appeal to a country girl like Jane. Jane would feel empathy for this goldfinch caged and out of it's natural environment. The same thing was to happn to her when her father suddenly removed them all to Bath.

William Cowper

On a Goldfinch, Starved to Death in His Cage

In a letter to the Rev. William Urwin, Nov. 9., 1780, William Cowper explains
"I wrote the following last summer.
The tragical occasion of it really happened at the house next to ours." (82)
Time was when I was free as air,
The thistle's downy seed my fare,
My drink the morning dew;
I perch'd at will on every spray,
My form genteel, my plumage gay,
My strains forever new.
But gaudy plumage, sprightly strain,
And form genteel were all in vain,
And of a transient date;
For, caught and caged, and starved to death,
In dying sighs my little breath
Soon pass'd the wiry grate.
Thanks, gentle swain, for all my woes,
And thanks for this effectual close
And cure of every ill!
More cruelty could none express;
And I, if you had shown me less,
Had been your prisoner still. (632)