Saturday, 21 March 2009

Poem of the Week

Sorry not to have been around recently - new jobs = less time and a rather tired Oxford Reader. Also, shockingly, I've barely done any reading. It's taken me the best part of a week to read one Agatha Christie.

Anyway, hopefully will get back into the swing of things, and in the meantime, here's a poem - dedicated to the wonderful spirit that was and is Natasha Richardson.

They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.
Death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can spirits ever be divided, that love and live in the same divine principle, the root and record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that whch is omnipresent.
In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

William Penn, from More Fruits of Solitude

Sunday, 8 March 2009

A step back in time

There are times when I think I was born in the wrong era, and most definitely in the wrong class. It's all very well reading about people with big houses, holding wonderful soirees, having my portrait painted by John Singer Sargent or Joshua Reynolds. There are some wonderful houses in literature - Jane Austen has some fantastic examples, as do the Brontes, Henry James, Edwith Wharton and not forgetting some of our more recent authors, Agatha Christie, Evelyn Waugh, Daphne du Maurier and Kazuo Ishiguro - however, none of these compare to those in reality, and sometimes the stories that issue forth from places like Chatsworth are far more intriguing than anything an author could dream up.

Such a place is Cliveden - home of Waldorf and Nancy Astor, and the place where the infamous Profumo affair started. I went to lunch there yesterday (it's now a hotel) and feel that I can only belong in a place like Cliveden.

This is the entrance hall - not your usual setting for hanging your hats - and with Nancy Astor overseeing your every move, in the left hand corner, you wouldn't be cavorting too much.

A view from the upper terrace
This is Nancy Astor's butler - theirs was a volatile relationship, and on one occasion of his giving his notice (a regular occurrence) Nancy replied 'Where are you going to, for I shall follow you there.' Needless to state, he didn't go anywhere.

We sat in the middle window - a wonderful view ...
As can be seen below ....

One day - all this shall be yours*

It is, I think you will agree, beautiful and completely beyond most of our grasps. So it's back to the novels to give us what we want. Which literary mansion would you wish to live in? For my part, I think Dartington Hall, from 'The Remains of the Day' would be perfect!

*What, the curtains? (ten points for telling me where that's from!)

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Birthday note

Hello all, just a quick note to say that if you stop by today, I hope you will help me celebrate and have a cup of tea (or something stronger) and a brownie with me. I made plenty last night, and below are a few photos of the making process! Happy eating! Here's to another wonderful year of book reading, and happy birthday to Dovegreyreader, who is three today!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


People at work are sending me lovely things in the wake of me leaving, and one (the lovely Alice) obviously thinks I need a bit of calming down. Here is an email she sent me earlier today.

Max Ehrmann's inspirational poem - Desiderata

The common myth is that the Desiderata poem was found in a Baltimore church in 1692 and is centuries old, of unknown origin. Desiderata was in fact written around 1920 (although some say as early as 1906), and certainly copyrighted in 1927, by lawyer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) based in Terre Haute, Indiana. The Desiderata myth began after Reverend Frederick Kates reproduced the Desiderata poem in a collection of inspirational works for his congregation in 1959 on church notepaper, headed: 'The Old St Paul's Church, Baltimore, AD 1692' (the year the church was founded). Copies of the Desiderata page were circulated among friends, and the myth grew, accelerated particularly when a copy of the erroneously attributed Desiderata was found at the bedside of deceased Democratic politician Aidlai Stevenson in 1965.

Whatever the history of Desiderata, the Ehrmann's prose is inspirational, and offers a simple positive credo for life.

Desiderata - by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann c.1920

It reminds me, in some ways, of that song that did the rounds in early 2000 - 'Everyone's Free to Wear Sunscreen', although I think the above is much truer.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Poem of the Week

In the wet-faced hours of the night

considering love, or the lack of it;

in these steep and solitary hours
come the raw questions.
And sorrow surfaces as tears,
and moonlight finds me, stretched
like some trussed Gulliver, among
the little, scampering, bossy needs of life;
the pinpricks of the new day’s coming cares.

And yet.
The day will dawn. A bird will sing.
A hundred different clich├ęs spring to life.
Even in this January,
light, unstoppable, will show
the old camellia, up against the wall,
a shout of lipstick red.

By Ann Alexander