You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2011.

A new poem by Tess Kincaid. Read more on her blog Life at Willow Manor.

I like to stand
outside in the rain
without a coat
let it trickle
down my skin
all the way to the street

where it curls up
in silver drops at my toes
like mercury
from a broken thermometer

pools around my legs
and tickles electricity
through my lips and nose
till my float valve detects a flood

it’s okay to forget the umbrella
yeah, even the new red one
you gave me on my birthday

because they say
there’s 100% chance
of precipitation

Click to embiggen (recommended)

(The Grauniad, 29 September 1971)

Citing a “profound lack of political, social and economic equality for women”, feminists across Britain announced their intention of staging an indefinite humour strike from next month.

The strike, directors of the recently formed Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM) said, will be halted when women are treated as equal to men in all areas of society.

“Until the day comes when we are treated with the same respect as men, we will refuse to find the humour in anything,” SCUM spokeswoman Rita Fairclough said. “This bold move will force British society to re-think its attitude to women, just as Gandhi’s hunger strike forced the post-imperial British government to re-think their colonial occupation of another land.”

Items that will not be accepted by the humour strikers are jokes which refer to women in the workplace, women in the home, women’s relationships with men, childbirth, child rearing, family life, and sex.

In addition, jokes about the feminists’ lack of humour itself will not be tolerated.

We are standing beside the coffin of a man beloved. For the last time his life, his battles, his sufferings, and his purpose pass before the mind’s eye. And now, at this solemn and deeply stirring moment, when we are released from the paltry distractions of everyday life, our hearts are gripped by a voice of awe-inspiring solemnity, which we seldom or never hear above the deafening traffic of mundane affairs. What next? it says. What is life – and what is death?

Have we any continuing existence?

Is it all an empty dream, or has this life of ours, and our death, a meaning?

If we are to go on living, we must answer this question.

(Gustav Mahler)

Mahler, brought up in the Jewish faith, had recently converted to Roman Catholicism when he wrote this.

Ivor Gurney (1890-1937)

Behind the name Ivor Gurney lies the tragic story of a composer and poet whose life seemed full of promise, but who ended his days in a lunatic asylum. His work was influenced by two contrasting landscapes – the beautiful countryside of his native Gloucestershire, and the desolate terrain of the Western Front during the First World War. He was wounded at the battle of Arras (the poet Edward Thomas did not survive the same battle) and later in 1917 he was gassed and returned to “Blighty”. Although when he died in 1937 he was just beginning to be acknowledged as one of England’s finest song composers, it is only in recent years that his stature as a war poet has been fully appreciated. He was certified insane in 1922, and after running away from Barnwood House, an asylum near Gloucester, he was committed to the City of London Mental Hospital in Dartford, Kent, where he remained until his death from bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis, on 26 December 1937. His body was removed to Gloucester, and in the bleak unlovely churchyard at Twigworth, towards sunset on the last day of the year, he was buried.

In 1932, Helen Thomas, widow of the poet, went with Marion Scott to visit Gurney at Dartford (Gurney loved Edward Thomas’s work and set at least eighteen of his poems to music). In 1960 she recalled the visit for the Royal College of Music’s magazine:

We arrived at the asylum which looked like – as indeed it was – a prison. A warder let us in after unlocking a door, and doors were opened and locked behind us as we were ushered into the building. We were walking along a bare corridor when we were met by a tall gaunt dishevelled man clad in pyjamas and dressing gown, to whom Miss Scott introduced me. He gazed with an intense stare into my face and took me silently by the hand. Then I gave him the flowers which he took with the same deeply moving intensity and silence. He then said, “You are Helen, Edward’s wife and Edward is dead.” I said, “Yes, let us talk of him.” So we went into a little cell-like bedroom where the only furniture was a bed and a chair. The window was barred and the walls were bare and drab. He put the flowers on the bed for there was no vessel to put them in; there was nothing in the room that could in any way be used to damage with – no pottery or jars whose broken edge could be used as a weapon. He remarked on my pretty hat, for it was summer and I had purposely put on my prettiest clothes. I remember that although his talk was generally quite sane and lucid, he said, “It was wireless that killed Edward.” This idea of the danger of wireless and his fear of it constantly occurred in his talk. “They are getting at me through wireless.” Before we left he took us into a large room in which was a piano and on this he played to us and the tragic circle of men who sat on hard benches against the walls of the room. They gave no sign that they heard the music. The room was quite bare and there wasn’t one beautiful thing for the patients to look at.

Ivor Gurney longed more than anything else to go back to his beloved Gloucestershire, but this was not allowed for fear he should try to take his own life. I said, “But surely it would be more humane to let him go there even if it meant no more than one hour of happiness before he killed himself.” But the authorities could not look at it in that way.

The next time I went with Miss Scott I took with me Edward’s own well-used Ordnance Survey maps of Gloucestershire, where he had often walked. This proved to have been a sort of inspiration, for Ivor Gurney at once spread them out on his bed and he and I spent the whole time I was there tracing with our fingers the lanes and byeways and villages of which he knew every step and over which Edward had walked. He spent that hour re-visiting his beloved home, spotting a village or a track, a hill or a wood and seeing it all in his mind’s eye. He trod, in a way that we who were sane could not emulate, the lanes and fields he loved, his guide being his finger tracing the way on the map. It was deeply moving, and I knew that I had hit on an idea that gave him more pleasure than anything else I could have thought of.

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

The speediest traveller in the universe is a beam of light. In the double tick of a clock it can go round the earth more than seven times. Sound travels through the air at about 1,100 feet a second, more than ten times the speed of the fastest railway trains; and yet sound seems to stand still, when light goes by.

The first person to show that light actually takes time to go across space was a Danish astronomer, Ole Roemer. That was in 1676, but it was not until 1849 that a method was found to measure the time that light takes to travel a distance on the earth. This was done in Paris by a French professor, Armand Fizeau. He chose two high towers or stations something more than five miles apart. At the first he had a bright light, and at the second he placed a mirror, which reflected the beam of light directly back to the first station.

Then, he put at the first station a revolving toothed wheel, a sort of cog wheel, so arranged that the beam of light went out through the openings between two teeth. It was reflected back through the same opening, when the wheel was at rest. But, when the wheel was revolved rapidly enough, the light that came back found that a tooth of the wheel had moved into the place of the opening; thus, no light could be seen reflected from the second station.

The time which the light took to travel from the first station to the second, and back again to the first station, was thus the time that it took a tooth of the wheel to move to the place of the opening. By doubling the speed of the wheel, Fizeau could again see the reflected light, because a second opening had now moved into the line of sight. From a speedometer he could get the number of revolutions of this toothed wheel and thus calculate the time that it takes the light to travel between stations and back.

How are we to explain light? Let us go back for an idea to a sport of our childhood. The boy throws a stone into a smooth pond to watch the waves it makes on the surface of the water. These waves go out in circles, and these circles travel outward until they are deflected by some floating plank, or, perhaps, not until they reach the shore. In Holland about 250 years ago there was a great mathematician who found in water waves a suggestion of what light is. This great man was Christian Huygens, who in 1690 published a book in which we find the wave theory of light which scientific men hold to-day.

How do we get light? Our chief source of light is from hot bodies. The greatest source is the sun, which is hotter than any body on the earth, hotter even than the electric arc, hotter even than Nigella Lawson. But not all sources of light are hot. The dazzling little fireflies that are seen in thousands on a summer evening in many parts of Europe have little, if any, heat, and yet the firefly gives off considerable light. There are also so-called phosphorescent substances, such as are used in luminous paints, which glow in the dark without measurable quantities of heat. But no man has yet produced a source of bright light without heat.


Faster than light particles found, claim scientists

Click to embiggen

Another revolting 1970s recipe from my complete set of Good Housekeeping cookery cards; beautifully photographed in full colour with wipe-clean surfaces, they are designed to help you in two ways: to provide you with a repertoire of delicious recipes selected from Good Housekeeping magazine’s famous Creative Cookery series, and also to simplify the complex business of planning perfect menus. For Good Housekeeping cookery cards have an extra value – each one includes ideas for two more suitable courses to make up a complete three-course meal, linking the recipes to other cards in the series.

You don’t have to be an expert cook to produce these superb dishes. All recipes have been double-tested. All are clear and easy-to-follow. All include oven temperatures, cooking times, and number of servings.


4 dozen mussels, about 6 pints
4 shallots or 1 medium onion, peeled
1 bottle dry white wine
chopped parsley
2 sprigs thyme, if available
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper
2 level tsp flour


Place mussels in a large bowl and under running water. Scrape off mud, barnacles, seaweed and “beards” with a small sharp knife. Discard any that are open or even just loose (unless a tap on their shell makes them close) or are cracked. Rinse again until there is no trace of sand in the bowl.

Finely chop shallots. Melt a large knob of butter and sauté shallots until soft but not coloured.

Add wine, a small handful of chopped parsley, thyme, bay leaf and several turns from the pepper mill. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Add drained mussels, a handful at a time. Cover and steam, shaking often until shells open (about 5 minutes).

Remove top shells over saucepan to catch juices and place mussels in wide soup plates. Keep warm.

Strain liquor and reduce by half, thicken a little by adding a small knob of butter creamed with 2 level tsp flour, whisked in, in small pieces. Adjust seasoning. When cooked, pour over mussels.

Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve at once. Use forks for mussels, soup spoons for the juices. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.

I recorded another Tess Kincaid poem. It’s hard to get hold of this elusive poet. Now you see and hear why she is my Blog of the Century.

My barometer
hovers in space
between hot and hotter

I rummage for tepid words
the dictionary people
are not pleased

to find me
looking aimlessly
at pictures of exotic places

with naked snake charmers
daydreaming kisses
like soft sweet leeches

I stare and cross my legs
become a holy man
too hot for anything

except swearing

Facebook Have I Loved…

From my new Blog of the Month, by Sarah Palma.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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