Monday, 16 November 2009

An excerpt fromThe Wilful Walks of C.J. Duffy part twenty three

* An Association of Sizes: Great and Little Henny, Great and Little Maplestead *
* Mindful of Middleton and in league with Twinstead: thatched cottages in abundance *
* Pebmarsh; the Normans and the Severed Head *
*A matrimony of villages: Sible and Castle Hedingham *
* Edward de Vere and the mystery of William Shakespeare *

I could, if I wanted, as I leave Borley with its ghosts and mysteries behind, follow the northern curve of Essex as it touches Suffolk, trailing the border between the two counties. I decide not to and instead turn my ox-blood DM’s toward the small villages of Great and Little Henny. There is something quite delightful and dotty about the collection of old villages that hang around the neck of the Essex/Suffolk border like a string of pearls. Perfectly formed and tiny as they appear, are, to all intents and purposes, throwbacks to another age; an age when Britain was far more rural, less cosmopolitan perhaps and still in touch with the concept of communities. The roads are small and traffic low. The rivers and streams dance and sparkle with a glorious lustre. Above me, a phalanx of ducks (is that the correct collective noun for ducks?) fly across the eggshell blue sky. One or two quacks crack the air. I watch as they fly on heavy wings from left to right and across my horizon. As I look away, I notice by my feet a rose that has fallen to the pavement; my boot has crushed a part of the head. The damsel soft petals splay out on the tired tarmac as though they are spilt tears. Nature is such a curious thing; both fair and kind while cruel and harsh.
My eldest daughter is a cardiologist and has achieved great things in her twenty six years. She has always been, just like Mean Mister Mustard’s sister, a go getter; always focused, forever hardworking. She has strived to do better for herself and she has, much to her credit and my insane pride, succeeded. My chest fills every time I speak to someone new about her and I have to remind myself not to bore people with endless amounts of all her achievements. She ran for both school and county and also swam for both and she, unlike me who was expelled from school, has so many qualifications that you could fill a bag with them. I have always called her, since she snuggled in the womb, Thumbscrew: the first, the fastest and also the feistiest of all my children.
Then there is Squid, my third child and my princess. If ever God had a sense of balance or irony then he employed it here with these two siblings, these two beautiful daughters of mine. Squid has learning difficulties, speech problems and also a mild form of epilepsy known as absence seizures. She will never scale the academic heights that Thumbscrew has. She will never soar high in an industrial career.
All I and her mother can hope for is that she achieves the greatest gift of life, happiness. At the end of the day though, with or without a bevy of grades to her name she is still my princess, still my pride and joy and I am so blessed to have four such beautiful kids to my name. I do worry though just how the hell she will get by when either my wife or I aren’t there to help her. Sometimes she snuggles up to me for a hug and upon smelling the garlic bread that I have recently eaten announces in a loud and derogatory voice, “Your breath stinks, Daddy.” She is right of course but then again, sometimes, so does nature.
Anyway, after all that sentimental stuff I think I need a drink and here is just such a place. The delightful public house called “The Swan”

Pubs are not what they once were. No more the snug filled with a thick fug of smoke. No more ladies stuck together like laundry in a basket as they title tattle the day’s news, weaving gossip into gospel truths and facts out of widows fictions. No more the men with nicotine stained fingers and rheumy eyes that strain to see the good in a tankard of ale whose head is more froth than substance. The gathering of such folk is now the stuff of old books; of Thomas Hardy and James Joyce, of Dylan Thomas as he spins his words on cotton threads of verbs and adjectives. Today’s pubs are cool gatherings of the young and of families who visit, regular as a supermarket trip, to feast on high days and Sunday’s. Few people nowadays treat the pub as the meeting place after work; the place where one goes to relax, socialise and gather news.
The world changes and the people change with it. Old customs become careworn before becoming quaint for who needs dominoes when you can have Playstation? I buy a pint of coke, getting an odd look from the barmaid for my troubles, then I settle down to drink, think and observe. Gathered here with me in this hospitable, venerable establishment with its rare glass windows that allows in a frail light, are the future phantoms of a passing age; the ghosts to be as it were.. These are the techno-generation who will be remembered, possibly, as the lot who thought them selves so ingenious, with all their microscopic, miniscule inventions, only to find them selves patronised and replaced, by a subsequent generation. It happens to us all doesn’t it, eventually. I still think Dylan Thomas had it just about right though with his genius of a poem:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I have always struggled to write what I call proper poetry. I find it all a bit too mathematical for my liking, a bit too rigid and too structured. Perhaps that is my defence to say those things as the poetry I have written has little or no substance and I am far too lazy to bother to try to understand the mechanics of proper poetry. I love haiku but could never be bothered to attempt such a discipline but would rather create something like it that is similar but not the same. This is not an attempt at Haiku or at any other form of wordplay but is my attempt at poetry. I call my idea poetry, with not too much arrogance or vain pretension I hope, Minima-B.

Monday Poem One

Ticking time,
Traces of water on a window pane.
I drift away like sleep,
I drift away like smoke,
In my mind
A tattoo forms on an angels skin..
The sky folds into another day.
Light sticks my eyes like needles,
Like spiteful pine needles.
I wrap the cotton wool morning around my head
And break into the shower

My attempts are lame and so I put my pen away and leave the pub to the brittle bones and speak-easy angels of modern man. The road I take from north Essex weaves its crooked way around the fields like a sly serpent. The summer sun has retuned its self to the season and fills the sky with a blaze of gold. The heat is back and I feel it now licking my face and head with its false promise of a tan. The quilted country side lays silent and dormant as if dreaming of other seasons. It is late summer now, soon to be autumn but the sun is out and birds keep a lid on their jubilance and chirrup quietly as if observing some unwritten, unspoken law of nature. The hedgerows have grown tall making it difficult in places to see the fields beyond. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of the sleepy scene as it unfolds itself in colours of taupe, brown, green and eggshell blue. The best way to see England is by air as only then do you get the full view of the patchwork irregularity of this green and pleasant land. Suspended high over ahead a hawk hovers, its beady eye following the tiny movements of a shrew or vole or field mouse. Suddenly, as if by some distant command, it drops from the sky like death descending. Its wings folded back, its head thrust forward as it plummets downward in its merciless descent. For a moment it disappears from view beneath the inconspicuous grass. Then, seconds later it appears again as it wings its way back to its vantage point in the sky. I cannot see from here whether it has a meal or not but as it begins the whole exercise again I can only guess that it hasn’t.


all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.


Doctor FTSE said...

Truly sorry to read about your Princess. I empathise, C.J., for our youngest child. is very similarly aflicted.

I like the excerpts; Have you come across "Rings of Saturn" by W.Sebald. Describes his wanderings in East Anglia' A bit prosy - he's an academic - but very erudite, though "grasshopper mind-ish"

Thomas's villanelle "Do Not Go Gentle" is a favourite. I have Richard Burton reading a selection of Thomas's poems on CD. Hear him ALMOST break down at the end of "Fernhill". Wow. "Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea." A wonderful celebration of boyhood.

Good wishes, Happy bloggin'

The Doc

C.J.Duffy said...

Doc F>>>No, I have never come across anything by W. Sebald. Sounds interesting though.

Dylan Thomas is probably the only poet I know and genuiely like, not just his poetry but his short story's too.

I also love Under Milkwood which has been a huge influence on my Fekenham Swarberry tales.

weirsdo said...

I like your poetry, though your prose seems richer. And why not a bit of both, as here?

C.J.Duffy said...

Weirsdo>>>Possibly because the 'violin I play' sounds more like a fiddle when I attempt poetry and also because I once received some negative words regarding what I thought was poetry I had composed but apparently wasn't.

Need to toughen up don't I?

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