Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Happy Birthday dear Teddy ... ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬

As you can see, our dog Ted likes to be in the thick of things. 

He also happens to be in possession of a lusty baritone. 


Yesterday it was his birthday. It's a significant day in our family annals, but even more so this year because he was eight in human years and 56 in dog years, and that means I get to post this bitter-sweet poem by Billy Collins. 


















A DOG ON HIS MASTER

by Billy Collins


As young as I look,
I am growing older faster than he,
seven to one
is the ratio they tend to say.
Whatever the number,
I will pass him one day
and take the lead
the way I do on our walks in the woods.
And if this ever manages
to cross his mind,
it would be the sweetest
shadow I have ever cast on snow or grass.







Monday, 30 January 2017

Poets Against Vile Politicians I

Excellent turn out in Bristol tonight for the demonstration against Donald Trump's travel ban and Theresa the Appeaser's complicity.




There's something so British about chanting demonstrators picking their way round municipal wallflower beds in the dark.



I decided on a fairly generic placard. I've a feeling it's going to see a fair bit of use. 


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

A Poem for #WomensMarch



Somewhat belatedly, a poem from my collection, Breadcrumbs, for all the women who marched on Sunday in protest against a powerful man whose behaviour, attitude and language mirror the tactics of abusers.



Wildwood


It’s time to leave this house

Glancing up as I cut the grass
I see three apples, green in leaves,
the first-ever crop on the tree I grew
from the seed of the final fruit
picked in my grandmother’s garden

I’ll watch them swell and ripen
take the pips with me when I go,
plant a tree that might not blossom
in the years that are left

There are millions of seeds in pots and jam jars,
spilling from mouths of paper bags
one for each minute of each day lost, 
copses, forests, wildwood
falling through my fingers

I reach for the hands of my children, my sisters,
our dormant stories stir in earth
make for the light



©Deborah Harvey 2016  





























'These are important poems. They carry us through despair and hope, through myths and imaginings, through violence and insight to deliver us to a place where we are not only enriched but wiser. Harvey's poems are astute, well-crafted and delivered with a calm certainty that is hard-won by any poet. Witty, surreal and above all redemptive, this book uncovers truth after truth and, like stars, sets them shining.'                ALYSON HALLETT                                                                                


'I think very highly of Deborah Harvey's work. Her honesty draws you in because Harvey knows that honesty is itself an art form. It needs to be strongly crafted; it is a crafted matter; and she makes a persuasive poetry from the matter of experience.'               DAVID MORLEY



Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Tempest live streamt

Whoever came up with the idea of live streaming top theatrical performances into cinemas around the country and beyond deserves all the riches of Heaven bestowed upon her/him. If nothing else, it permits us masses to retain a fuzzy glow about something, even as our human rights are removed, the NHS and schools are sold off for profit, and our children's wages line the pockets of slum landlords.

The first live stream I saw was a 2011 performance of John Hodge's 'Collaborators'a satire based on the relationship between writer Mikhail Bulgakov and Joseph Stalin, in which Simon Russell Beale played the dictator with a (to me very familiar, and therefore terrifying) West Country accent. It was SRB again in a live stream of King Lear three years ago, also at the National, and again three nights ago, playing Prospero in the RSC's latest production of The Tempest.  


Guardian/Tristram Kenton

This time Beale's got his work cut out, being pitted against a jaw-dropping array of special effects that I'd never thought to see in a theatrical production (even one being shown in a cinema). How does an actor impose her- or himself on a whirl of bats, mad dogs, drowning fathers, and fiery spirits, while a pine tree imprisons Ariel before the audience's eyes, tightening and cracking its branches? Rough magic indeed. He manages it, however, as the commanding and mostly calm (but sometimes frighteningly rageful) eye of the storm, ultimately conquering his desire to control others and converting his need for revenge to pity. A humanity that trumps all digital wizardry.

Not all the casting was great. The courtiers were fairly forgettable, Miranda tended to bleat at moments of high tension, Ferdinand resembled Jimmy Carr and was similarly irritating. Stephano and Trinculo were hilarious, however, even though the latter's costume made him look as if he'd stepped straight out of the video for The Prodigy's Firestarter. I was even enthralled by the betrothal masque, through which I usually doze. As for Caliban - well, Caliban made me cry, though that's nothing new. 

In fact, the production stirred a seething of emotions. On a personal level, the settling of post-divorce legal wrangling a few days earlier also put an end to a baleful, 36-year enchantment, allowing me to inhabit fully my brave new world.  More broadly, the intimations in the play of Shakespeare's withdrawal from the theatre, mirrored by Prospero's breaking of his staff, recalled more recent losses, underlined by the first anniversary of David Bowie's death, and I wept a little for all our lost magicians.  And now that the Brexit button is about to be pushed and those who would turn this country into John Of Gaunt's island fortress hold sway, the rest of us must, like Prospero, find a new way forward, where every third thought shall (not quite yet) be the grave.   


Monday, 2 January 2017

New Year on Dundry

It was a sunny second of January in Bristol so I decided to carpere the lucem and go out for a walk with the hound. New Year forays are all the better for having a bit of a view, so we headed for Dundry right on the southern edge of the city.


Unsuprisingly, given its dominance of the skyline, the Church is dedicated to St Michael. Here's a glimpse of the view from the churchyard.


These days my favourite tomb up there is so overhung by holly that it's covered in moss. It's not as easy to make out the carved, apotropaic outlines of shoes as it once was ... 


... which might be why there was a Father Christmas perched on one end of it. Got to strike the fear of God into all those evil spirits somehow. 


In less sheltered spots it was still a bit frosty, though the sun was having a good go at melting it. 



Just as I was admiring the spectacular views from Dundry Down ... 


... a muckspreader turned up. The smell of slurry has never bothered me but this was something else. Ted and I hurried on our way ...


... and dived over a stone stile just as it came back up our side of the field. 


Barrow Gurney reservoirs













In Little Down Wood I saw a man lurking by a rabbit warren. As I hurried past, talking a bit too cheerily to Ted, I noticed he was holding a somewhat diabolical-looking albino ferret clutched to his chest, and that all the exit holes bar one in the warren had been covered with bright green and yellow nets. Happy New Year, rabbits.


Walking back up to the village, I spotted a consternation of jackdaws and rooks up in the tall trees. Then I noticed what they'd already heard ...
... the circumlocutory mew of a buzzard as it looped closer and closer.