For the Many Not the Few

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This weekend marked the 120th anniversary of the granting of freedom to roam on the footpath in Derbyshire known as The Snake. A recognition of the rights of the working man to enjoy at least a few hours away from the grime of factory or pit.

In 1932, barely thirty five years later the freedom had been rescinded.   The grandiose promise of ‘for ever’ was fragile.  Four or five hundred ramblers mostly from Manchester trespassed en masse,  having to fight a pitched battle with gamekeepers  especially enrolled by landowners to keep them at bay. The ramblers won. Trespass was not illegal, but men were accused of rough handling the gamekeepers and a handful were arrested.  Thanks to public outcry they were released and once again freedom of access to wilderness was restored.

The good things in life should be accessible, if not free, to the many not just the few.

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Dave Toft, himself a child of blackened back-to-backs of salford, and introduced to the life changing joy of the wilderness at an early age, read his poem to the 75 of us who had gathered on a grey Sunday to retread those footsteps into the wilderness of Kinder.

Climbing Kinder (for the 1932 Mass Trespass)

To these slopes

Here on the sides of this great and ancient plateau’s edge,

Where the curlew sings on a summer’s day

Its solitary, swooping note

Like a crystal drop of Kinder water –

A song far sweeter

Than any music humans ever made –

The walkers came

To claim for all who’d follow

The right to hear that song

To breath that air with smog- bruised lungs

To taste the sweetness of the open space

To pause a moment from the draining race

Of hard industrial existence

 

And they called those walkers ‘trespassers’

As if by claiming back these stolen treasures

By repossessing all these hard won pleasures

It was they who were the criminals.

 

But when you climb up Kinder now

And feel your legs strain hard against the earth

And fill your lungs with fresh free air

And watch the long white hare

Kicking its legs in the very ecstasy of life

Remember there are those who would have kept this from us

And those who even now would, if they could

Keep us from the silver stream and open moor

And windswept wood.

 

 

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Interlude in blogs

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Monday’s the day blog spots drift in like falling leaves clogging time. When it’s poetry though, it’s pleasant to kick through the traces.

Thanks to Lindsaystanberryflynn.co.uk for this Elizabeth Jennings Song at the Beginning of Autumn.

Now watch this autumn that arrives
In smells. All looks like Summer still;
Colours are quite unchanged, the air
On green and white serenely thrives.
Heavy the trees with growth and full
The fields. Flowers flourish everywhere.

Proust who collected time within
A child’s cake would understand
The ambiguity of this –
Summer still raging while a thin
Column of smoke stirs from the land
Proving that Autumn gropes for us.

But every season is a kind
Of rich nostalgia. We give names –
Autumn and Summer, Winter, Spring –
As though to unfasten from the mind
Our moods and give them outward forms.
We want the certain, solid thing.

But I am carried back against
My will into a childhood where
Autumn is bonfires, marbles, smoke;
I lean against my window fenced
From evocations in the air, kickin
When I said Autumn, Autumn broke.

They F*** you up

‘This be the verse’
They fuck you up, your government.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any qualms yourself.

After Philip Larkin

What with the general note of pessimism for what the future now holds, Philip Larkin’s poem springs to mind.

Dreams

 

 

icarus

 

I dreamed last night of Bruegel and Icarus falling into the sea.  Perhaps I was thinking of life or  the suffering of others and ‘how it takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along,’ as Auden (and Carlos Williams) noted too.

We had ambled past a minor media frenzy and armed police standing guard outside the law courts in New York.  We realised later that it was the trial of Abu Hamza, recently convicted of being Abu Hamza.

 

W. H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

 

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

William Carlos Williams

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Fascinating Lives

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It was interesting to hear how little is spent per capita, per annum on the arts in the provinces compared with the (princely) sum spent in London.  It is a fact that did not need confirming;  justifying, may be.

Perhaps it was ever thus, for there is a long tradition of community ventures in most small towns:  am dram, choirs, orchestras, art groups and exhibitions,  even in Stockport, Greater Manchester, that northern metropolis, where we used to live.  Only, when we did live there, the lure of the professionals, (heavily subsidised no doubt, but not as heavily as  in London) took us to places such as the Lowry and the Bridgewater Hall, rather than South Cheshire Operatic Society in Wilmslow Sports Centre. ( An example plucked  at random from thin air, and no disrespect intended to SCOS, if they exist, or to denigrate WSC as a venue for the arts.)  The point is, in a city, or even a large town, community ventures passed us by.

Here, in our north-western outpost, we need them.

I may have mentioned how blest we are with festivals but there are still the lean, mean, in-between times,  those long, dark and chilly nights to fill.

Theatr Fach, or Little Theatre, housed in a rescued and restored chapel in the old market town of Dolgellau at the foot of Cader Idris, is a community theatre, par excellence.  The other night there was a talk and film show called ‘Framing the Word in Film and Print,’ an illustrated talk about the late Vivian Ridler, amateur film maker and professional printer, given by his son.

That Vivian Ridler was printer to the University of Oxford for Oxford University Press for thirty years, was incidental to this talk. This was homage to the man as father who made beautifully shot shorts films using his sons, when boys, as actors  and an opportunity for the audience to handle  some of the books printed by Perpetua , Vivian Ridler’s  own  independent press,  including books  of Anne Ridler’s poetry, (Vivian’s wife of more than 60 years.)  We also heard extracts from a diary Vivian Ridler kept of the time he was an extra in the most magnificent flop/masterpiece western of all time,  Heaven’s Gate.

writing, poems and friends

The pleasant tap of a wood pecker that accompanies our outdoor breakfast most days has stopped of late.  Perhaps wood peckers migrate for the summer.  More likely the insistent tap of the roofer in our neighbour’s garden has drowned him out.  The roofer is more methodical in his tapping. He places  each slate deftly and then taps away.  Row after row, so neatly, the visual effect is pleasing:  new tiles like lines of typing on a page.

There is sun today and there will be a walk in the hills with views of the sea, and lunch  with a friend and I am reminded of a poem

Oxford Brookes promote poetry. A poem comes along each week, singing its way to the in box.  This one something special but then each one is the same: something special

Weekly Poem for 10 Dec 2012

My Friend Mary Stone From Oxford Mississippi

We know we ought to be enemies,
her voice perhaps,
thirty three years off the Delta and
still caked in mud or
my hair perhaps,
bushed for the warrior women of Dahomey,
we know we ought to be enemies, only
Oh Mr. Faulkner
to prevail is such an awe full responsibility
to “have a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and
endurance”
is an awe full responsibility but
we know we have to try it and
we are both trying to try it
we
red as the clay hills and blacker than loam
friends.

by Lucille Clifton

The sense of place conveyed by this so different from the back garden now overlooked by the eaves of an extension.  (Oxford, Mississippi.  where William F was from, no?)

A place gives shared history.  To come from the same place, to live in the same place.  Not necessarily of this world tho, can be the same astral plane.
I am a believer.  How else or what else would describe that feeling of kinship that two strangers or two friends feel for one another?