Monthly Archives: February 2017

Oh Dear; Deer.

 

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My mother used to sing an old Irish folk song: –

I know where I’m going
And I know who’s going with me
I know who I love
And my dear knows who I’ll marry.

I have stockings of silk
And shoes of bright green leather
Combs to buckle my hair
And a ring for every finger.

O’ feather beds are soft
And painted rooms are bonnie
But I would give them all
For my handsome winsome Johnny.

Some say that he’s poor
But I say that he’s bonnie
Fairest of them all
Is my handsome winsome Johnny

For some reason, instead of “and my dear knows who I’ll marry”, my mother used to sing “but the deer knows who I’ll marry”.

I always wondered who “the deer” was. I’ve only just discovered her mistake…

©Jane Paterson Basil

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Out there (Stream of Conciousness)

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In the enclosure below, white buses wait for children playing soldiers, intending to defend a country that doesn’t know where it’s going. Behind red brick and jagged wire, Army green shreds of a greedy empire cling, ragged, to their skin. Sergeants scream at lagging lads, as the keen stand to attention, toy guns polished and ready for the killing game, never questioning that they are on the right side. Whatever the cause, they will blunt their bloodied swords and raise the tainted flag of false victory, as the foe breathes his final breath, to find the only peace he will ever know, in death. Yes, they will say they have killed the beast, yet our fear will continue to fester, until we learn to live together.

Along the road, cars drive by, intent on many urgent or indifferent missions, while buses carry harried housewives home with their cache of nutritious food; but I am forgetting – those days have receded into history. The women are working, or fearfully trailing, to the Jobcentre to be sanctioned for something they didn’t understand, wondering how they will buy bread next week, knowing they may have to join what they see as the queue of shame for a free food handout. These days, the buses drag students to and from uncertain lessons in subjects they don’t want to learn, and can’t, because the courses are substandard, except for the fortunate few, who have up-to-date tutors and superior curricula.

Meanwhile, in a city we used to call The Smoke, due to the smog that hung over it, parliament buildings rumble with government people who shoulder the true blame, yet walk without shame. They jumble justice and shuffle the cards; each card bearing the name of an unwilling servant whose choice has been stolen by corrupt officers with too many ticks in too many boxes, pencilled in by people who thought only to make their own lives richer, but didn’t think to look for the truth behind the lies. Too late to take back the mistake they made, their spirits turn to sludge as they trudge though Satan’s paperwork, getting tripped at every step.

Outside, rain dulls the senses, though the day is brightened by a fading line of bright sky on the horizon. Through dripping windows I watch the traffic lights go by, to sweep around the roundabout nearby.

Suddenly I catch sight of the golden glow on the central island, and I wonder how, or why, it passed me by. My eyes are awash with yellow narcissi, trumpeting silently, promising that Spring will come, as it always does.

I feel shame; it is the daffodils, and not me, which have become the change I want to see.

I let the feeling trickle through me, feed me, maybe improve me.

The rain ceases, the sun shows its face, painting the sky blue again, making the trees glisten with drops of nature’s liquid saviour.

The world turns at its usual speed, and even with our destructive nature, we are tiny, and we cannot slow it. We can kill the deer, and ourselves, but the planet will endure until infinite space holds up its hand.

But that is not enough for the deer,  or for you and me.

Image: The least attractive  portion of the view from my window, showing the army cadet building on the right, with the white buses below, and the daffodils on the traffic island behind.In summer the trees cover a lot af the scene, leading the eye toward green hills on the horizon.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Not too Late

This one’s a bit experimental. I’ll probably nIggle away at it until it feels completely right – it was written quickly; posted before I had time to change my mind  – and dedicated to my sister, who is a wonderful artist, and has a WP blog which you can find HERE.

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Let’s pretend we can start again;
pull our high-heeled dreams from the rusty trunk of ways we may have lived,
don our festive frocks of freedom,
our pristine raiment of wishes we will fulfill
in our re-invented innocence.
Maybe we can make it real – achieve those ordained successes;
we will reach, and, this time,
silken ribbons in rainbow shades will wrap around our snapping fingers
for us alone to weave.
We’ll leave the agony and angst behind,
forget historic sins which cut us to the core,
ignore our petty weaknesses and flaws,
we’ll make them go away, and think of them no more.

There is still time to believe we are great, and if we believe,
we can make the very grass beneath our feet
dance in time to new music.
Between us, we can paint the sky in colours never seen,
and write our way into the gleaming sunshine.

Please, tell me it’s not too late
to feed the little ones a feast of beauty,
which will carry them, gleaming, into the future,
breaking the tainted chain of feotid failure.

Tell me there is a way to erase those sneaky edits,
scratched throughout our early days
by our itchy father’s leaky pen,
sweep away the debris, and start again.

Thanks for the inspiration,  Chris.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Scarlet Pimpernels

 

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So many sunny childhood days
I sat by that enchanted Spring,
gazing at the ruby blooms,
awaiting angels on the wing
to whisper Urith’s Holy truth;
sweet Urith, murdered in her youth.

Sweet Urith, murdered in her youth.
sliced by scythes whilst in her prime,
by pagan farmhands, fighting Christ,
a faith in God her only crime,
and where she fell, fast sprung a well,
and pimpernels, the deed to tell.

And pimpernels, the deed to tell,
grew where poor Urith’s life’s-blood lay
sprinkled by that virgin belle.
Though centuries have passed away,
the spring still trickles water clear,
and pimpernels bloom very year.

And pimpernels bloom every year.
These modest flowers mark the space
where Urith lay in silent death,
reminding all who pass that place
of Chittlehampton’s hallowed youth;
Saint Urith, martyred for God’s truth.

Yes! I’ve finally done it! I’ve written the poem I wanted to write about Saint Urith. I’m happy with this one. As soon as I’ve posted this, I’m going to do a little dance.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Tumbleweed

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I see you;
your retrograde ego recalling lost glories,
eyes dimming each time you walk past the mirror,
as you blind your dumb soul with the chill of your heart.

I see you;
your shallow charms, your grasping arms
~ your stance aping that of a gentleman ~
as you think to fatten each perceived victim,
in a bid to fill your stagnant harem.

I see you;
thinking to win them with takeaway treats,
or tasteless roast dinners plucked from the freezer,
speedily heated and served with fool’s flourish,
and free cigarettes, and cans of strong lager,
and cheapest milk chocolate, and liquorice sweets,
for every sinner who flies in to visit
your vinegar pickled, jerry-built web.

To them, no angel or devil are you;
but a simple, wrinkled trick;
a lewd wallet, spewing cash on delivery.
They belong not to you, but to the night;
buying their prize beyond your sticky sight.

I see you;
your ill-concealed arachnid fangs,
grinning lips seeping thin syrup with bitter stink.
Your organ of male greed may stretch, but it can’t reach me.
I hunger neither for drug money,
nor shallow wallow in semen-stained bed.

And why me?
Did you think I would be a cheaper option;
a practical economy,

or did my steel celibacy offend?

Was it one, or both, of the above,
or were you toying with a dream of love?
Pray, entertain me, sick Prince;
did
you really think
 you were in  the running
for even a sliver of me?

I see you;
sad, pale fake of a man.
Beating hearts have no place in your cold domain.
Feebly, you play the sly spider king,
clumsily spitting your flimsy synthetic silk toward  me,
but I break it with a breath,
hissed between clenched teeth.

I see you;
tumbleweed briefly tangling at your feet,
then, freed by a mild puff of wind,
rolling away to safety.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Spark

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My cup runneth over… Come to think of it, that must have been the only negative thing that occurred in my life today – as I was pouring a cup of coffee, it inexplicably flew all over the room,splattering everything in its wake, dripping off the worksurface and pooling on the floor.

Maybe it was my conscence telling me to clean the kitchen, and bring it up to the shimmering standard of my living room. I ignored it. I think I’ve done quite enough since I woke up this morning.

I have:

Sorted through my clothes, pulled out what I no longer want, and taken unwanted clothes to the Oxfam shop,where I had a cup of tea and bragged for ten minutes about how lovely Laura’s skin looks.

Been to the pharmacy to pick up my so called “anxiety” medication, rather than leaving it until a few days after I run out.

Been to the medical centre to ask if the medication can be put onto automatic repeat (again, rather than leaving it until after I run out). I don’t know why this hasn’t been done, unless it’s because I tend to take a med. for three weeks or so, then ring my GP and say I don’t like it, and I’m not taking any more.

Been to our local fabric shop, to enquire about muslin, as I’ve just started making my own yogurt, and I want to make Greek style this weekend. Greek yogurt is yogurt that’s had the whey strained out of it.

I wasn’t happy about the price, so I went on to Cookshop, but I was even less happy about the price there. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both great shops – they’re not to blame for the price of muslin. Anyway, I remembered that I may have a whole lot of it stashed away, in the form of curtains, so I decided to have a hunt when I got home.

I proceeded to go into three separate supermarkets for about five items. OK; to be more accurate, when I went in the first one, I forgot what I wanted and bought fish instead. The second one was on my route home, and while I was there, I remembered to get eggs and veg., but forgot the milk, so I had to go to onother one for that.

Looked for the muslin, only to realise I must have taken it to Oxfam three years ago, but it gave me the opportunity to sort through a few bits and pieces which I plan to (maybe) turn into art.

After I got home (could I have a drum roll, please) I managed to UPLOAD MY PHOTOS from my phone to my laptop – after over two years of vague attempts and failures. It took me two hours, during which my laptop told me several times that it couldn’t connect to my phone, and my phne said it couldn’t connect to my laptop. After freezing twice, and in the middle of my laptop telling me it wasn’t friends with my phone, the phone somehow sneaked in through the back door, and dropped the photos into dropbox. Laptop still says it will have nothing to do with phone. I’m just waiting for it to find out about phone’s devious trick. You’ll probably hear the screams of “Rape!” from Aussieland.

I cooked a lovely meal of vegetables in killer cheese sauce. I ate it straight out of the baking dish – something which I’ve never, to my knowledge, done before.

I washed the dishes. ALL OF THEM! AS SOON AS I’D EATEN! And before you say, “Doesn’t everybody?” – no, they don’t.

But this is a prelude to what I did before all that.

I put two African wallhangings on the wall. That is to say, I drilled four holes in the wall, using my Bosch drill, pushed rawlplugs into them, and screwed in four hooks, then looped the hangings into two lengths of dowel which I’d cut, and put the hangings up.

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By normal standards, this is not a huge achievement, but lately, my standards haven’t been normal. I’ve lived here for over 21 months, and have put nothing on the walls. I’ve pinned and taped a few things to the sides of my bookshelves, but that’s all. Once upon a time I was a rabid DIYer. I knocked down walls, built new ones, designed and built storage units and shelves, altered cheap kitchen units to fit the kitchen space, added my own custom built units, built open fires in living rooms – well, one open fire in one living room. I stripped, sanded and waxed almost all the woodwork – doors, windows and skirting boards, in a four bedroom house. No job, as they say, was too big or too small. When I’d done everything there was to do in the house, I started on the garden. I didn’t rest except to go to sleep. I liked it that way.

Until today, I didn’t take the trouble to pinpoint when the collapse occurred, but I now know it was when I moved to Barnstaple – back to the town I’d left some thirteen or fourteen years earlier, to move home, to the countryside, where I belong. Town saps the life from me, but that wasn’t the major problem. It didn’t help that I no longer had a workshop, or sheds to store my timber, tools, and accoutrements in, but that wasn’t the major part of the problem either.

The real issue was that I was confronted, on a daily basis, by my children’s addictions.

I could tell you I’m back, but I’m not going to; I’ve said it before, and been mistaken. Instead, I’ll tell you I think I’m on my way back. The large empty space on the wall mirrored the large hole in my heart. I used to look at it and feel sad that I didn’t have the spark needed to put something beautiful in that space. Today I had the spark.

It’s a start.

Did I mention how lovely and healthy Laura’s skin has become?

What about the gym ball, and the jogging. I didn’t mention that…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Serenity is upset, because I haven’t mentioned her new dress. It’s not really hers, and it’s not really new. I designed and made it 40 years ago, for myself. It was my wedding dress. I got married in a registry office. If we were still together, we’d be celebrating our Ruby anniversary next month.

So here we have Serenity, showing off her favourite outfits.She’s very fond of scarves, but doesn’t wear them in the traditional way. In the top left picture, you see how cleverly she’s wrapped a gold and navy scarf, to make a rather attractive top. She’s done something similar with the beautiful piece woven, lightweight wool which I bought for her in Oxfam, last Autumn,and which she is wearing as a skirt in the first two images (she loves this garment, and refused to take it off for three months, until she saw my wedding dress). The panels at the front are finely embroidered in red, green and gold. I haven’t managed to date it, but if it was intended to be a shawl, I’d guess at the early 20th C, if it wasn’t in such good condition. Maybe it’s as recent as the 150s or 60s, but I don’t think so – its energy feels much older than that.

The top in the second image is silk, heavily beaded. I’d say it dates from the 1920s. Around the neck there is a an edging of slk velvet. Her necklace is silverand carnelian.

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Serenity is tapping her foot and looking impatient. I think she wants me to tell you about the wedding dress, in the main picture, below.

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This dress is made of a heavyweight cheesecloth, manufactured for clothing. The bodice and wrists are machine-tucked, and hand embroidered with a green, yellow and brown paisley pattern.

Here I am, rabbitting away about Serenity, and yet I haven’t formally introduced her to you:

Meet Serenity, my mannequin and housemate. I think she’s beautiful. We first met when she took up residence in my shop, and did me the service of luring customers in. That was when Laura taught her to make magic from scarves. Laura has a knack for unusual invention.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Urith

chittlehampton-from-southImage credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ChittlehamptonFromSouth.JPG
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

So often in my childhood days, I lay upon that ancient hill.
I knew its every dip and crag, and even now, by force of will
my spirit feels its rocky soil dig deep into my fleshy frame.
Though years have passed, the sacred space remains the same,
a tribute to its virgin Saint, so cruelly cut down in her prime
by farmhands of the tender sex, a faith in God her only crime.

The sun shone bright, a gentle breeze fluttered in her yellow hair,
the day she walked that track, with loving smile and ne’er a care,
to carry out her guardians task, with no suspicion in her head,
that ‘ere the morn’ was done, in bloody pool, she’d lay down, dead.
The hay was ripe, but it must wait; the scythes had wicked work to do;
grasped by evil hands they hid, until their prey came into view.

As she tripped round the bend, with slashing blades they cut her down.
While angels watched, she passed away, her beauteous face not marred by frown.
As her blood seeped through the earth, a spring appeared where she fell.
Pimpernels grew o’er death’s stains, to mark the place, and mark it well.
In bloody hue, they told the tale, and evermore, uphold the truth
of Chittlehampton’s martyr; Saint Urith, murdered in sweet youth.

I grew up one-and a-half miles from Chittlehampton, very close to the farmhouse Saint Urith was reputed to have lived in. I often walked along the public footpath which had been named for her. It was the path that, according to legend, she had walked. Saint Urith’s Holy day was the 8th of July, and our school mark it each year by visiting the well, en masse, walking in pairs, a snake of about seventy or eighty children, ranging from five to eleven years old, with the eldest at the front. I resented the glorification of this modest monument, as it wa my belief – and the belief of many others – through a tradition perhaps passed down through the centuries, that the well was elsewhere, on an unspoilt hill towards my home of Stowford, covered by scrubby gorse. To the edge of the hill was a small spring, and scarlet pimpernels grew all around it. They were the only scarlet pimpernels in the vicinity. I used to sit there and secretly imagine I felt the spirit of Saint Urith, dispite my atheist upbringing.

No scarlet pimpernels grew anywhere near the well to which we made our little annual pilgrimage.

This is my second attempt to do justice to the story of Saint Urith – I won’t give up until I get it right.

  ©Jane Paterson Basil