CORNWALL COGITATION #5 Saturday 4 March 2017 Millie is an Alsatian (a large wolflike dog) we’ve seen in previous years with her owner, Inge. We saw them again out walking this week.
Millie seemed a bit distracted, pausing to have her ears scratched but then pacing and sniffing about. Inge said, “She’s looking for your dog.” Millie in her puzzlement even refused a treat from Inge. “Sorry, Millie.”
Casual greetings and exchanges are not uncommon here, especially when people hear our accents. A person we’ve met in previous years on Thursday was out in his garden for the first time this winter. We were walking home from St Ives and stopped for a brief chat. Terry has been reading some WW 2 accounts but is ready to spend more time out-of-doors.
In Penzance we chatted briefly with two workmen trimming six-foot tall saw grass. In St Ives we had a longer conversation with the groundskeeper at Treloyan Manor Hotel. The hotel has been cutting down trees on its large property to sell land for detached homes that will allow them to upgrade their grand estate. Campaigners opposed the changes for a number of years, but the hotel won approval to proceed.
The last Sunday before Lent. Thinking back across the week I recall the pleasure of singing the hymn, first line, “Brother, sister let me serve you,” by Richard Gillard (1977). Stanza 2: “We are pilgrims on a journey, / fellow trav’llers on the road; / we are here to help each other / walk the mile and bear the load.” I trust my thoughts, prayers and actions accomplish a fair measure of that privileged engagement during and beyond Lent.
Shrove Tuesday. On Tuesday evening we enjoyed the Shrove Tuesday Pasty & Pancakes, with Quiz, event at St Anta Church. In the 100-question quiz we did tolerably well, but not all that well. We were at a table with a couple who moved from Dubai to Carbis Bay last July. They are British citizens but have lived most of their lives in Singapore, Africa and the Middle East. The UK-specific questions relegated us to both puzzlement and laughter (our own, not others laughing at us). We had to come up with a name for our little group so we chose, “The Foreigners.”
A human voice better than a wakeup buzzer. If I hadn’t seen it in the newspapers, I’d have missed it. Families across the UK are being sought to take part in a study to test a new fire alarm sound, aimed specifically at waking children. The thought is that the recorded human voice, along with low frequency, intermittent beeps, will wake children better than just a loud buzzing sound. Research in 2013 exposed 34 sleeping children to the sound of industry-standard smoke detectors in their homes. More than 80 per cent of the children aged between two and 13 did not respond to the alarms.
A generous push for reading
Thursday was World Book Day. Book tokens were given to all school pupils to be turned in for a free book at any bookshop. One writer said that 15 per cent of UK children have no books of their own.
“I believe passionately that books are every child’s birthright. World Book Day exists to encourage children to read for pleasure, and, by letting them choose one of the 10 books, they can follow their own tastes and inclinations,” said Francesca Simon in The Guardian. Simon wrote Horrid Henry: Funny Fact Files, for Book Day. The 10 writers featured in this 20th anniversary event, receive no royalties for their books with publishers donating all their costs.
Among the books I’ve been dipping into are Occasions for Alleluia, by David Adam (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2012). Adam writes and speaks on themes of Celtic spirituality, He was for 13 years Vicar of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne
Also, The Celts: Search for a Civilization, by Alice Roberts, (Heron Books, 2015) is a fresh search for all things Celtic. She writes, “I’m going to explore a world where battles were fought with the mighty empires, where warriors were worshipped as gods, and where royalty were buried with dazzling gold treasure. I’m going in search of the Celts.” Roberts is an anthropologist, osteoarchaeologist broadcaster, author and professor at the University of Birmingham.
The book I brought from home to read on the plane is Dark Fields of the Republic, Poems 1991-1995, by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012). Rich was an American poet, essayist and radical feminist. I find her 1991 poem, In Those Years, starkly moving.
“In those years, people will say, we lost track / of the meaning of we, of you / we found ourselves / reduced to I / and the whole thing became / silly, ironic, terrible: / we were trying to live a personal life / we could bear witness to
“But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged / into our personal weather / They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove / along the shore, through the rags of fog / where we stood, saying I”
Rich left us with a poet’s appetite for celebrating the life force and warning about the forces that would extinguish the same. Her vision covers the past and present endangerment of democracy and love.
Here’s another evocative poem in the section, “Sending Love”: “Sending love is harmless / doesn’t bind you can’t make you sick / sending love’s expected / precipitous and wary / sending love can be carefree / Joaquin knew it, Eira knows it / sending love without heart / –well, people do that daily”
Rich is so present with her vision for a world where we build up the we and the you, where we in small, honest ways challenge the dark forces that scar the universe, and where real love endures.
Album of the week
An ode to marmalade. One source, sadly I’ve lost the writer’s name, had this to say about marmalade: “You see, good marmalade, endowed with hefty chunks of peel, is everything that bad food isn’t. In terms of flavor, it walks the tightrope between bitter and sweet with grace; in terms of texture, each mouthful is alive with possibility; in terms of ingredients it is simple and natural. Marmalade at breakfast is refreshing, invigorating, sharp; marmalade at tea is comforting, warming, restful; marmalade before bed is thrilling, subversive, transcendent. It is not a jam; it is not a spread; it is marmalade, and there is literally nothing in the world like it.”
What’s next could be an ode made into a marmalade opera.
Three items from today’s (Saturday) BBC Breakfast newscast deserve mention.
Some elderly people suffer from Pajama Paralysis. Solution? Get dressed. Get with the freshness of morning. Feel better. PJ Paralysis cured. Bravo to the new day!
The second was about a sport that has come to the UK from Scandinavia. It’s ice cycling. Round and round on an ice rink you go on a bike whose two back wheels have been replaced, you guessed it, by skate blades. Looks like loads of fun. A trike with a regular front wheel and outfitted on the back by two blades.
Third: Last winter we saw the finish of four moms from Yorkshire who rowed across the Atlantic. They were known as Yorkshire Rows. Now they’ve published a book, Four Mums in A Boat. They conquered an ocean and have now set out on a marathon trek in the desert. They see themselves as ordinary people, nonetheless with pluck, persistence and a new level of friendship, but they’ve achieved celebrity status, too.
Album of the week, continued
Quote to wind up the week: “There is nothing as strong as tenderness.” St Francis de Sales (1567-1622), French saint and bishop of Geneva.
Gallery of the week, concluded
What’s next? Today’s “heavy, blustering showers in Cornwall” are a come and go matter. At just a bit past noon the sun is shining on raindrops on the window, Looking out at the narrow view we have of the sky over the sea I know more rain will arrive in due time. All-the-same, we’ll probably venture out sometime this afternoon, No PJ Paralysis today.