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‘Er… Grandfather?’

His face is screened by the newspaper he’s reading.

‘Hmm?’

‘Um, you know in yesterday’s post…’

A corner of the newspaper is folded down, and he regards me with his stern courtroom frown.

‘Ye-es.’

‘Well, I, I… I guess I was being a bit of a smart-ar… erm, smart-alec.’

Do I detect the ghost of a smirk on his face as his eyebrows slowly rise? I can’t meet his eyes – I look down at the floor.

‘Well. Go on’

I’m squirming with discomfort. ‘It’s the first paragraph in your essay. I, well, I didn’t read it properly and then I took the mickey about what you’d written. I mean – you’d already made the point, hadn’t you?’

‘I had, lass.’

I rush on ‘I was just being stupid – making a silly joke about your ‘tall stature’, and…’ I gulp ‘…and then adding a winking face icon.’ I cringe. My cheeks are burning and I’m overcome with shame.

Silence.

‘I’m so sorry.’ I say, and brave a glance at him.

‘Ah well, lass. Don’t fret.’

He turns back to his newspaper and straightens it with a shake.

He clears his throat, and then exclaims indignantly: ‘But, as for the Bob Flowerdew bit – now, that’s a different matter. I mean – the man wears his hair in a pigtail!’

Extract from 'Some Easily Grown Flowers' 1923

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I heard a particular word on the radio this morning and it made me smile – so much so, it stayed with me all day, and now insists on being published – so here it is:

faff 

 It’s a word I use quite a lot, but don’t often hear. It’s also an activity I indulge in frequently   😉

Ho hum, better go ‘n’ walk the dog…

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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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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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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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I wish I could share an actual scent – words sometimes just aren’t enough. Today, in the first sunshine we’ve had since the Dark Ages I drank in the sweet perfume of Winter Honeysuckle. Literally – I stuck my head into the middle of the shrub and breathed deeply. It was like taking in a draught of pure delight (I soon stopped when I was hailed by a fellow dog walker!) Sadly, though, until someone invents a way of sending scent over the web (a slightly scary idea!) all I can share is a photo:

Not much to look at, but wow - what a scent!

Not much to look at, but wow – what a scent!

The Winter Honeysuckle’s lucky – it’s tall and throws its delicious scent out loud and proud and gets itself noticed. Before my nose was hijacked by its sweet aroma, I’d actually been thinking about snowdrops. I’m always cheered when I see them – and I think of my dad. He gave us some from his garden, and they now flourish in ours.

If ever there was ‘…a flower… born to blush unseen, / and waste its sweetness on the desert air’ it’s the snowdrop. It’s so short! You have to take time to appreciate its true essence. A major design flaw, in my view! Snowdrops – tiny but brave. Like people sometimes.

Strangely, neither snowdrops, nor a favourite of my father’s – Lily of the Valley – feature anywhere in CCFs essays about flowers or gardening so far. I’ve still got about 12 or so to read and scan, so we’ll see, but I have a feeling they’re not going to be in the same lyrical vein as ‘An Ideal Garden’ or ‘Some Easily Grown Flowers’.

Snowdrops

Thank you

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