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Archive for March, 2013

Having mistakenly thought I had come to an end when I finished reading the last essay, I’m now re-reading some of them – and delving a little deeper…

In 1922 TMP wrote an essay about a ‘corduroy road’:

“…built of logs by the Engineers, [which] lay like a dusty ribbon in front of us, barely wide enough for our passage four abreast.”

The essay concerns moments during which CCF and his men are forced to stop – in the open – while crossing the Ancre Marshes under enemy fire. Incredibly, writing several years later TMP recalls the beauty of the scene:Extract from 'A Road' 1922 - p1

Extract from 'A Road' 1922 - p2

Suddenly all hell broke loose as the two sides exchanged fire over the valley:

Extract from 'A Road' 1922 - p3

Miraculously, CCF and his men were not harmed and during a lull they were able to continue to Thiepval Wood. It must have been a terrifiying experience but, true to form, TMP defies the norm and recollects a

“…wonderful summer’s day, so happy and serene in the midst of so many and so great dangers.”

He then wistfully describes the destruction of the area wreaked when the Germans returned two years later: Extract from 'A Road' 1922 - p9

When ‘A Road’ was written CCF was fifty-one years of age and endeavouring to re-establish his practice as a solicitor in Leeds. His King, George V, was fifty-seven and had dominion over a quarter of the globe. Just four years after the WW1 ceasefire, the King travelled to Belgium and France, without pomp or ceremony, to visit the battlefields.

A page from The King's Pilgrimage 1922

King George V during The King’s Pilgrimage in 1922, when he visited the war graves and memorials of many nations in Belgium and France

Viewing the acres of graves where lay his fellow countrymen and ‘…the gentlemen from out of all the seas’, the King declared:

I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”

‘The King’s Pilgrimage’ as it became known, was commemorated in a poem of that name by Rudyard Kipling (a favourite poet of Charles Clark Frank’s) who, through his involvement with the Imperial War Graves Commission (now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) was part of the entourage. Just weeks after their return, the poem was published in a book with a commentary by Frank Fox and poignant photographs supplied by various press sources. ‘By his Majesty’s desire’ proceeds from sales of the book went to organisations which enabled relatives travel to the cemeteries.

You can see the original book as a PDF at: http://archive.org/details/kingspilgrimage00foxf – it is beautiful in its simplicity and worth looking at – or you can read it online at the same site, although it doesn’t give quite the same experience.
Very moving.

Surrounding the serried rows of sentinel crosses a stealthy enemy lurks to this day. Every year since the First World War, an ‘iron harvest’ is reaped by French and Belgian farmers. The swamp-like conditions of trench warfare during the War had swallowed weapons which landed in the sucking mud so that the earth now gives up unexploded shells, barbed wire, shrapnel balls and bullets during ploughing, and rusting shells pollute the land and the water table around the Ypres Salient and the River Somme. Sometimes escaping mustard gas still spreads its killing cloud, and many people have died while clearing or disposing of these destructive remnants.

War is never really over.

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Whatever happens I shall never be anything but glad that I did get my chance to go to the War – it robbed me of my good prospects in life, but I am still alive : where so many gave up their lives in all the splendid promise of their youth.


And it might be that in the after time, by reason of my thus having simply done my duty (and God knows that it was also my pleasure!) some one who loves me may say, in charity, that ‘His life had some smatch of honour in it’
.”

So ‘Jottings from my Autobigraphy’ ends. I believe I have come as near to loving someone I’ve never met as may be possible, and now it is “the after time”, and I say – in truth, not in charity – that my grandfather’s life had an abundance of honour in it, and I give thanks for him with all my heart.

*

Can’t help wondering what on earth ‘smatch’ means. It has to be a typo, surely – but no, apparently it’s simply another word for ‘smack’!
There has been a long delay since I was last able to actually work on the essays, but during that time I was aware of a strange mixture of feelings: I’d nearly finished reading them and was keen to complete the circle, but I didn’t want to get to that apparently final point. I was also getting really frustrated that there has been no opportunity recently to get on with it!
Glimpsing my grandfather’s “richly stored and variegated rag-bag” of a mind through his essays has been a hugely rewarding and at times deeply moving experience which I started very reluctantly – and rather erratically – when I brought home several carrier bags crammed with filthy, dusty old papers, sometime in 2010, I think. There are still a few papers to sort, but I believe all the complete essays are now read, scanned, logged, labelled and filed in date order.

So now it is done.

The Essays

The Essays in their serried ranks. Behind are 4 boxes – and many photos to sort!

Or is it? I need to start sorting the photos! But that’s not the last of the essays – in fact, I now feel as though I’m starting a different phase. I shall be re-reading some of them, researching further, and continuing the blog. I wonder where the search will this lead me now?  To Wikipedia  –  and beyond!

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I think there’s only one essay left to read (unless further sorting reveals more). Feels weird – I thought they’d last way into the future. I realise I don’t really want to finish them.

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I came across this blog post and thought it was really interesting in the light of the essay ‘A Dramatic Situation’ (post: 19/02/13 – Flunk, Bunk, both or neither)

People-triggers

“It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble, it’s the things we do know that just ain’t so.” —Mark Twain

MythsSome (very reputable) psychologists are absolutely convinced that DNA is destiny. Other (very reputable) psychologists are convinced that your personality is shaped by what happens to you as an infant – or perhaps even in the first few minutes of life. This is what I love about psychology: the theories are all over the map and yet somehow everyone is still credible.

One very interesting dimension to personality has to do with the stories that we tell ourselves. Research has increasingly revealed that our personal life stories – our mental self-narratives – contribute substantially to our personalities and behaviors. An excellent New York Times article from 2007 summarizes much of this current research.

As the interpreter of our world, the mind is very…

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As I read CCF’s later essays, I’m getting a sense of strain and pressure. I’ve just read scanned and logged two more, dated 1931. The first is shorter than usual, ‘King Cups and Brown Water’- written very quickly and up against submission deadline, and ‘Remembrance’, which he actually wrote and submitted to the SES in 1923.
In 1931 CCF was 60 and struggling with the daily grind – including all the joys and difficulties of having a four-year-old son. He probably didn’t know it at the time (although I wonder if he was already wrestling with the notion) but he was to resign from the SES in 1933, as he felt he just could not continue to commit the time or energy to his writing. I think there are only three more essays left for me to read. However – I’m hoping the next session of sorting through the remaining miscellaneous papers might yield more…
‘Anticipations’ which I mentioned a couple of posts ago, was written in the spring of 1931, and delightfully captures its theme:

essays

He is, of course, anticipating a weekend’s fishing – what else! This city-dwelling countryman is joyfully looking forward to revelling in the restorative powers of his natural habitat.

essays

And who can blame him – he reveals that he is currently presiding as temporary Chairman of the Court of Referees in Hull “which is the only tribunal to allow or disallow claims, under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, to the out-of-work benefit, commonly called by the recipients (but not by the Court) ‘the Dole’.” On the day of writing the essay, he had heard – and taken all the notes for – 50 claims, and says his is an “an honourable as well as difficult position” in which he feels like “…a cat walking along a wall newly guarded with broken glass!” He is a solicitor, and is working alongside two barristers.
According to one of the many articles about the inter-war years on the internet, unemployment peaked at around 3 million in 1933 – while England was in the grip of the Great Depression – which was about approximately 20% of the working population. Many of those who had fought for their country were unable to find work.
CCF seems to have been a very altruistic and sensitive person, and being in such a position where “…it must always be borne in mind that every claimant is out of work, and that every decision of the Court is of very grave importance to him or her.” must have been a huge strain – indeed, he mentions his “tired brain and soul”.
No wonder he was looking forward to “getting away into the open air for some days, [and] to feel and hear the water rippling past my waders once more!”

River Dove, Ryedale Yorkshire

Not fishing but eating – a pause in our walk along the River Dove

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