Saturday, 26 March 2011

Going Postal: the Anti-Cuts March

Jenny, Will and I became honorary postal workers for the day and hitched a ride to London on the CWU coach.  Well, it is March, after all.  


One of these flags was part of the demonstration and one was on a souvenir stand. They made a intriguing combination.  





I'm going to post a selection of my favourite banners, placards and scenes.




Our honorary union for the duration.



On the Embankment.







Jenny interviewing a nurse from Cornwall for Student Radio.


A woman alongside me at one point asked about my Keep Elmfield Open badge, and it turned out that she was partially deaf and from Bristol, and we had many mutual acquaintances.  She spoke very eloquently and passionately to Jenny about the effect of the cuts on the Deaf community and disabled people as a whole.







    Jenny and Will on Whitehall.


Parenting disabled offspring can be a lonely job, and it was good to feel part of something much bigger than myself and my kids.

  



                   This implies that somebody somewhere once had expectations ...



Although we saw a series of police vans scream past as we were leaving Hyde Park, we didn't witness any of the trouble in Oxford Street and Piccadilly.  Hopefully the violence perpetrated by a very small minority won't detract too much from the message of 250,000 people peaceably marching together to draw attention to the threat facing this country's jobs and services.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Up the Stick

A pregnant tree near Priddy.

 

About eight and a half months gone, I'd say ...



Tuesday, 22 March 2011

St Arilda's daffodils

Having spent more years than I care to count staring at the plain walls of non-conformist churches (yes, I was that distractible), it was disappointing to discover that Oldbury-on-Severn Parish Church is in much the same mould – plain walls, minimal stained glass, pitch pine pews, and a memorial to the fallen of the Great War.  Only the painted organ pipes hint at allegiance to a more decorative (or decadent?) tradition.  




Turns out it was rebuilt in 1897 following a disastrous fire which left only the north porch and tower of the original church standing.  The exterior of the new building is pleasing, however, being very much in the Arts and Crafts tradition with massive buttresses bolstering its position on top of the man-made tump which is possibly a burial mound. 




Certainly, the circular churchyard indicates that this is pre-Christian holy site.  It’s also believed to be the eventual burying place of the bones of a local Saxon saint, Arilda, who, according to Leland, was 'martired at Kineton ny Thornberye by one Muncius a tiraunt, who cut off hir heade becawse she would not consent to lye with him'.  The church is dedicated to her.


In the surviving ancient porch there is a scattering of faint Crusader crosses.  Far harder to miss is the view over table top tombs and the Severn flood plain to the old bridge.  And the local nuclear power plant. 

            

And the lovely, starry daffodils blooming all over the tump. As is their wont.



Monday, 21 March 2011

Rearranging the Cosmos

I liked the idea of a cosmos, but in practice it didn't work.  Upon reflection, sitting on the settee with the weight of the universe on my shoulders was less than restful.  So yesterday I moved it in its entirety into the hall.

I like it better out here.  For one thing, the music of the spheres is more muted when I'm trying to relax.  For another, you get an astronaut's eye view when you're coming down the stairs.  It's a bit like having your own Hubble telescope.  



The only problem being that I now have a lot of black holes in the front room, waiting to be filled with polyfilla.


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Lunar perigee

In honour of the lunar perigee, a poem about the moon. 



A Moon Like This

You’ve called it a day.
Decided to settle
for a walk in the park
with the dog at twilight.
And this, you tell your dog,
will be enough.
And for a while it is
until, above the lollipop trees,
a lunatic moon hurls herself
in the sky’s blue well.
A tuppenny bit to wish on,
and a small wind rises,
riffles your blood.
You clear your throat,
it makes no sound,
but another night,
on a moon like this,
you might hear yourself
howling.




Deborah Harvey © 2010, 2011




My poetry collection, 'Communion', coming this spring from Indigo Dreams.


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Billy Cans and Bats

I knew there were caves in Avon Gorge but other than St Vincent’s (or Giant’s) Cave, which every local’s been to, I’d never visited any, nor did I expect to, being far too old and substantial these days to want to squeeze myself into any more tight spots, literally or metaphorically.  Dru, however, claimed that access to Burwalls Cave was easy and offered to take me there.  I wasn’t so sure it was a good idea after reading her account of her visit – anyone who can nonchalantly hop over the parapet of the Clifton Suspension Bridge is a far braver soul than I – but she assured me there was an easier, albeit illegal, route over university property, so Thursday saw us nipping through a hole in the fence and scrambling down the well-trodden path to the cave, perched about a third of the way down the steep cliffs of the gorge, while buzzards soared overhead. 
















And there we were, ensconced in what is probably the oldest domicile in the city and still in use today – in fact, the ashes of the fire were still smouldering.  It’s hard not to feel as if you are intruding in someone’s private space when you are confronted with their sleeping bag, books and billy can, but there’s also a guest book (marked 'guest book') and a palpable feeling that this is a place which belongs to everyone, underlined by the presence of shrines to Buddha, Krishna, and Jesus, prayer flags, dream-catchers, a shaman stick, a little Aztec-style carving, and everywhere hearts - chalked, painted, hanging from crevices, or wedged on ledges. 

Dru brewed some tea and we contemplated the view, something which the well-heeled denizens on the opposite side of the gorge pay a fortune to enjoy.  It  wasn’t long before the white noise of the traffic-clogged A4 a good two hundred feet below us became the roar of an ice-age torrent cutting through rock, and a feeling of peace descended.  
‘Keep the secret,’ urges the guest book.  I resolved to do so, and managed for all of three hours, when a friend at a loose end stopped by and I found myself heading back over the bridge.  And this time we were lucky enough to get up close and personal with one of the inhabitants.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Full Circle



Full Circle

In ancient China
the moon is made of figured silk,
woven with the pattern of galloping hares,
three conjoined by a single ear,
together whole.

An eternal circle
embroidered on bolts of cloth,
carried by camel through singing sands,
the booming dunes of wind-whipped
Xhiang Sha Wan,

where Silk Road
frays to quick oasis, and
wondering artists paint three hares
on sacred temple cavern walls.
The Buddha’s wheel

of life and death
rolls through Persia’s burning plains,
eclipses sere, salt-desert suns: a brazen tray
engraved with hares, a stamped,
Islamic copper coin.

Crossing rivers, bridging rifts
in hidden groves of moss and stone,
these three hares chased on Jewish tombs
and makeshift tabernacle roofs,
the blackened beams

of Dartmoor churches
at the edges of the earth, bear
a trinity of hares, three in one, the risen son,
beneath a moon that pins
the universal oceans.


Deborah Harvey © 2011



Hares by Dru Marland, words by me.

More trinities of hares here



My poetry collection, 'Communion', coming this spring from Indigo Dreams.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Repenting at Leisure

It’s usually the case that my poems continue to evolve long after I think they’re finished.  I often find myself revisiting weeks or months later to tweak the odd word or line, even if they’ve been published.  Today, though, was the first time I’ve been assailed by a far more fitting turn of phrase before the envelope containing my competition entry has hit the bottom of the pillar box. 

From slightly manic euphoria at the creation of so pristine a poem I’d felt compelled to submit it ten whole days in advance of the closing date, I plunged into agitation.  Even the scent of blackthorn in the spring sunshine couldn’t distract me from my poetic inadequacy.  So the moment I left work, I returned to the scene of my hubris and waited for the next collection.  


In olden times, if it said on the pillar box that this would be at 10am, 12.30pm, 3.30pm and 5pm, that’s precisely what happened.  These days they put a final posting time which doesn’t necessarily bear any correlation whatsoever to when the postman will arrive.  Thus I lounged against a nearby wall, affecting nonchalance, for 35 minutes until a scarlet van came bowling up the hill.  

Not that I’m going to slag the Royal Mail off, as the postman in question found my predicament highly amusing and duly handed the envelope over (once I’d described it to his satisfaction).  Now, though, my poem seems – well, a bit crap.  Doubtless I’ll be resubmitting it at the very last moment, as usual … 



Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Arse, elbow ... elbow, arse. Try and work it out ...

Two hours before his tribunal to appeal against the decision not to grant my autistic/learning disabled son ESA it is cancelled because the ruling has been overturned already. This happened because apparently the appeals panel only looked at his case this morning. 

So good news, except that I, my son's careworker and, most importantly, my son have been put through huge amounts of unnecessary stress (and work, in the case of the careworker, the benefits officer at the local council, and me). I have rearranged working hours, cancelled appointments, 
called in favours, and driven miles to and from his supported accommodation for meetings for absolutely no reason. Good job I am just a parent of a young disabled adult and not a human being.

Not to mention the extra cost. Because how does outsourcing the process to decide who is entitled to ESA and who isn't to people who haven't got the first idea about the impact of that disability save money? They might get paid less than someone who knows their arse from their elbow, but this five-month long appeals process has cost far more than it would have done to employ someone with the requisite knowledge and intelligence in the first place.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Kings, Collies, Clevedon, the Wordsworths and World Book Night

I wish every week was like this last one.

Wednesday night I ventured to Bedminster to see Richard II at the Tobacco Factory – an excellent production, as always, with an outstanding performance by John Heffernan as the deluded and decadent king whose eventual self-knowledge is all the more moving for his former folly. One day I would love to see each play in the tetraology one after the other – Richard II, Henry IV Parts I (one of my O-level set texts) and II, which contains the funniest scene I’ve ever seen in the theatre, and Henry V, which has so much resonance for my uneducated war-veteran father that I would hold him up as an example to anyone who thinks Shakespeare irrelevant.  The Bristol Old Vic put on the two Henry IVs back-to-back some years ago and that was hugely enjoyable, but the whole sweep of story would be even better.

Thursday it was Can Openers at the Central Library, the guest poet this time Ros Martin. As usual there was an eclectic mix of poems.  Piece of the day for me was Dru Marland’s, about her border collie, Bessie.  It’s no mean feat to write an unsentimental poem about a pet; this one is touching but hilarious also. 

On Friday, having despatched both my poetry manuscript and the contract for my novel to Ronnie and Dawn at Indigo Dreams, and had a look at Dru’s progress re the artwork for the latter, it was off to Clevedon in her Morris Traveller - the perfect ramshackle vehicle for such a genteel watering-hole.


First, we visited the Sheela-na-gig at St Andrew’s, Clevedon, who was looking simultaneously acrobatic and self-possessed: 


Then, as the church was locked, we followed Poets’ Walk around the headland to Clevedon Pill (the poets in question being Coleridge, and Tennyson whose friend Arthur Henry Hallam, for whom he wrote In Memoriam, is buried in the church).  It was a sunny spring-like day and the views over the mud to Worle were magnificent.  Dru’s a great person to jaunt with because she knows stuff.  I’ve always envied people who can identify birds at 1000 paces and recognise their songs. Now, thanks for Dru, I can pick out the the yaffling of green woodpeckers and the lovely bubbling call of the curlew. 


Back at St Andrew’s the organist was practicing, so we sneaked through the door.  Unfortunately he’d almost finished and told us so, whereupon my brain immediately went AWOL and I didn't see anywhere near as much as I'd have liked, but apparently the church is open more often in the summer.  I only wish I’d listened to exactly when.   

Then on to Seeley’s Bookshop as Dru had some books to drop off.  What an amazing emporium!  It clearly hasn’t changed at all since the 1970s, inside or out.  The fittings, the flooring, even the stock is dated – when did you last see an old-style Dymo machine on sale?  


 Back to Bristol feeling as if I’d travelled 16 miles down the coast but decades back in time.  Before taking my leave of Dru, we stopped off in Shirehampton to see what she describes as  ‘the Co-op where the Wordsworths stayed’.  And it’s true, look!


Alack, another black hole in my Heducashun!

In Durdham Down Bookshop, whither I popped to pick up my copies of ‘The World’s Wife’ for World Book Night, I got talking to the owner, Kathryn, and she offered me a literary evening for my poetry collection when it’s published.  Pinch me someone, quick.

Finally it was off to Chepstow yesterday in the company of my old friend, Liz, for a poetry reading in the Drill Hall by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke – a very pleasing bit of synchronicity considering I was giving away 48 copies of the above mentioned collection.  Both Gillian and Carol Ann were very obliging in person, though I did cringe a little when the latter asked me how I’d settled on ‘The World’s Wife’ as my first choice of book for World Book Night.  George Washington-esque to the last, I blurted that actually, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ had been my first choice, on account of having autistic offspring and being keen to do what I can to raise awareness of the condition.  To her credit, our Laureate laughed heartily at this, and I was able to add, swiftly, that on the whole, I much preferred poetry to prose and it had been in no way disappointing to be able to scatter her poems far and wide. So hopefully I won't get sent to the Tower.

And I came away with eight signed tomes to intersperse with the others, so that some lucky recipients will get an unexpected bonus.  Though it’s going to be hard to part with this one: