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Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Well now. I’ve read, scanned and logged six more essays (‘Cats’, ‘The SES’, ‘Laughter’ and ‘A Dramatic Situation’ all written in 1929 and ‘Anticipations’ and ‘School Days’, both 1931), but I haven’t posted on the blog for a few days. I confess, I had become distracted by the temptations of daily blogging to the detriment of the main job in hand – namely reading, scanning, logging and researching the essays. But balance has now been restored.
So this is where I’m at now: ‘Cats’ and ‘Laughter’ are self-explanatory and a pleasure to read, but ‘A Dramatic Situation’ is somewhat darker. It is the story of CCF’s capture on the battlefield of the Somme in July 1916, told in the third person (he assumes the name of ‘Jim Strickland’), 13 years after the event. It almost has the air of a confession, particularly as he has written a slightly defensive note on the front of the essay:

Qoute from A Dramatic Situation 1

After all, it wasn’t the ‘done thing’ in those days to admit to feelings or talk through emotions – and the nation is suffering as a consequence, even now. CCF reports ‘Jim’s’ thoughts in a bluff, almost hearty style – almost like the ‘speech bubbles’ of a comic book character. The account is workmanlike, bare and factual. He describes ‘Jim’ waking up disorientated in a shell hole and blundering into an enemy trench, shooting, killing and being wounded and captured.
When the word ‘sobbing’ suddenly appears, we get an abrupt and shocking insight into the lonely terror countless thousands of soldiers must have experienced in the hell of the trenches:

Extract from essay by Charles Clark Frank, 1931

On a lighter note, I had high hopes of finding out about the background of the Scarborough Essay Society when I started reading ‘The SES’ – but, although the essay is entertaining and interesting, it didn’t help much with my research! It does, however, show the great comradeship which existed between the members:

Extract from essay by Charles Clark Frank, 1931

Extract from essay by Charles Clark Frank, 1931

I have found another avenue of enquiry, though. Apparently ‘Paul Pry’ called the Society ‘out of abeyance’ after the War by sending a ‘judicious letter’ to the Spectator (it seems the response was so great that at least one other similar group had to be formed!). Frustratingly, that’s all I have though, and I suspect many man-hours of searching through Spectator archives would be required to yield any more information.
As is the strange way of serendipity, TMP mentions his ‘defective education’, and the next essay I read was ‘School Days’. Actually, I lie. It was ‘Anticipations’, – but more on both of these stories later… 😉
So – at last, here’s a post. I have actually missed making my little daily forays into the blogosphere (in a masochistic sort of way). However, I like to take time over what I write, although whether or not that is a good thing remains to be seen. The benefit of entering the Family History Writing Challenge was derived from trying to write to a deadline, which is good practice. However, in order to post every day as required by the challenge – I simply wittered. So, while my grey matter’s been galvanised by entering FHWC, I am releasing myself from the challenge’s benign repression, with a positive and hearty metaphorical pat on the back!

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It’s weird up here in the blogosphere. It’s strange to think there are millions of us tapping away at keyboards worldwide (over 61 million WordPress blogs alone, apparently!) Some blogs have been going since 2003 – unimaginable verbiage! I wonder what happens to the ones that fade. Maybe they’re invisibly gathering dust in some celestial garage. Or perhaps they’re lost forever. But what gems may be among them?

Who cares! Does it really matter?

When I started the blog, it was just a sort of repository of ‘stuff’ that occurred to me as I read the essays – things to research, points to ponder, that kind of thing. I had no idea about the actual workings of it. I was quite happy just doin’ my own thing.

Then I joined the Family History Writing Challenge and felt a little gentle pressure to ‘perform’. It was good – it made me sit and write every day. Then I read some blogs and Pandora’s Box was well and truly opened. I’ve been swept along in a delicious current of cyber soup – there’s so much out there! It’s VERY time-consuming!

I’ve had a mad day today – I found myself adding tags to old blog posts – like it mattered! I then realised I’m getting sucked into the ‘pick me, pick me’ (I want a donkey like Donkey in Shrek!) shenanigans of blogging. I gotta get a grip!

So – it’s back to basics. Focus. Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest! These essays have mouldered away in any number of real (as opposed to celestial) garages for the best part of a hundred years. Instead of being buried in the dust, they’ve surfaced, and I find that I do care, and it does matter, and I believe there are gems among them.

Still gonna tag stuff, though 🙂

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At the beginning of the previous century the ‘hitherto secret forces of the Universe’ were tamed, sufficiently to give rise to radio broadcasting, and about a hundred years ago the masses began to listen reverentially to the words of the few. As grandfather observed in an essay:extract from essay

He wrote these lines in 1928 – oblivious to just how ‘common-place a thing in our lives’ broadcasting would become, and radio’s now only a tiny part of it.
The essay is ‘On Public Speaking’ and (in addition to helpful suggestions for success, such as ‘Stand up, speak up, shut up’!) is full of observations about speakers such as Mr Gladstone, Lord Rosebery, Lord Balfour, Lord Charles Beresford, Lord Birkenhead, Lord Curzon; Lloyd George; Stanley Baldwin; Fridjiof Nansen (Norwegian explorer and Nobel Prize winner), and actors including Sir Charles Wyndham, Edward Compton, Sir Henry Irving, and a sweet reference to a speech by Anna Pavlova. He was there. He saw all these people. They were real? But surely they’re just history book characters! I remember getting a similar shock once years ago, when I saw footage on TV of George Bernard Shaw – someone who seemed buried in the mists of time, and there he was on the screen – moving!
The thing I’m finding so enriching about reading grandfather’s essays (three more scanned today – getting there!) is the context – what was happening in the world during the time he was writing.
I’m also amazed at how emotional it can be – I got a bit teary over a rusty paper clip on the essay, which clearly hadn’t been removed since it clipped the papers together 85 years ago. Then a full-blown weep ensued when I read another essay in which his love of his birthplace just shines though – even his fellow SES critics felt it:

Qoute from A Corner of England crit

I never knew any of my grandparents, so it’s very special to have these documents – although it’s an odd feeling, getting to know a relative in this way. Typically, at the end of the essay – he takes a wry pleasure in a typo…

Quote from On Public Speaking - typo

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I joined the Family History Writing Challenge (a post a day for the whole of Feb) after one too many. Clicks, I mean. Clicking around various blogs, I saw FHWC and thought – yes – that’ll be a good excercise. And so it is.
But it’s absolutely doing my head in!
Words  – they’re slippery little sods. They’re all around me all the time – written, broadcast, blethering away in my head. Then I get a chance to sit down and write and, as soon as I try to corral some for my own use, they’re off – gone – scattered to the four winds. Bastards.
Hang on, though. Now I’m wondering – maybe its not just Words at fault – aha – maybe they’re in cahoots with Thoughts! Everything’s so clear when I’m walking the dog, having a little think about what I’m going to write in my blog today. It all makes sense, and I’m happy. But come the time to face the keyboard, and – nothing. Emptiness. Space, the final frontier. Even my notes make no sense.

Perhaps it is Words, after all.
Perhaps it’s a conspiracy.
Or perhaps it’s just Friday and I’m knackered.
Whatever.
Tomorrow is another word…

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