Discovering New Poets

I may have mentioned before that I attend a Poetry Group at our local Library on the 1st and 3rd Thursday each month. This is not a writer’s group but more of an appreciation group, though we may read our own poems if we wish so long as they fit the topic. We have a yearly programme of topics suggested by members and this can be anything from, for example, simple ideas such as ‘Yellow’ through things like ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ to named poets, such as Milton, Shakespeare and of course more modern poets too. The topic can be interpreted how you like and is for guidance only.

One of the things I like about attending this group is that in researching poems to take along I often come across a poet entirely new to me, or maybe I’m introduced to such a poet by someone else’s choice, especially poets who may be less well known. I have found many a poet to admire this way.

Last Thursday was our first meeting after the summer break and the topic was ‘An Irish Poem’. This gave pause for thought about semantics – why not Irish Poets? What makes a poem an Irish poem? This was by-the-by, most people interpreted it as Irish Poets. I wished to avoid the obvious such as W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney whose books number amongst my collection and who I thought would be well represented by other members of the group so I set about researching Irish poets writing about Ireland. I came across Eavan Boland.

Although apparently well regarded as a poet I had never come across her before. I am lead to believe that she is somewhat better known in the US than in the UK. She was born in Dublin in 1944 but spent her childhood in London and New York (her father was a diplomat), returning to Ireland for secondary school and University at Trinity College, Dublin. She is married with two daughters and her poetry often takes on board the relationship with her daughters. Her subjects tend towards domestic life, myth, love, history and the Irish rural Landscape. Poet Ruth Padel refers to her ‘commitment to lyric grace and feminism’ and she is keenly aware of the troubled place that women hold in culture and history, including the difficulties faced by women in a male-dominated literary world. She endeavours to write an honest account of female experience in Ireland.

If you have never come across her before I thoroughly recommend you look her up. I was most taken with the samples of her poetry that I discovered on the Internet and choose two to read at the meeting, although in the event I only read one of them but I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of our other members had also brought a poem along by Eavan Boland – her chosen one was one of the family poems whereas I had chosen poems about Irish myth and history, poems that could only be set in Ireland. The poem that I didn’t get to read at the meeting I would like to share with you here. Since I found it on the Internet I hope I am safe in assuming it is in the public domain:

‘My Country in Darkness’ by Eavan Boland

After the wolves and before the elms
the bardic order ended in Ireland.

Only a few remained to continue
a dead art in a dying land:

This is a man
on the road from Youghal to Cahirmoyle.
He has no comfort, no food and no future.
He has no fire to recite his friendless measures by.
His riddles and flatteries will have no reward.
His patrons sheath their swords in Flanders and Madrid.

Reader of poems, lover of poetry—
in case you thought this was a gentle art
follow this man on a moonless night
to the wretched bed he will have to make:

The Gaelic world stretches out under a hawthorn tree
and burns in the rain. This is its home,
its last frail shelter. All of it—
Limerick, the Wild Geese and what went before—
falters into cadence before he sleeps:
He shuts his eyes. Darkness falls on it.

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On Camera

Hedgehog eating

 

Caught on camera,
hedgehog junior eats supper
unfazed by the flash.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Previously I have taken a photo of my hedgehog visitor on my phone and it didn’t come out very clearly so this time I used my camera. This is the young hedgehog and he didn’t seem upset by the flash at all, obviously not yet learned to be wary. Just after I retreated indoors one of the adults turned up and joined him at the bowl. I crept out again hoping to get a photo of the two together but the adult beat a hasty retreat into the undergrowth of the rockery. When I went back indoors it reappeared but I didn’t risk another attempt! How I would love to get all three visitors together.

High Peak

Late
August, driving
through High Peak.
Low cloud, mist, drizzle.
Autumnal.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
On Wednesday we drove through the Peak District National Park up to Holmfirth (home of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’) to collect a roof-rack carrier for our tandem which had been made for us by a little one-man business based there. A most interesting man he is too; he developed the carrier design himself and it is probably the best on the market. Now semi-retired he is an ex-bicycle frame builder who still repairs bicycles as well as producing his tandem carriers. He also restores motorcycles to show condition for his own use. For six years during the filming of ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’ TV series he had a contract with the BBC to maintain and repair the bikes used on set.

The wonderfully hot weather we have been having deserted us and it was a much cooler day. As well as the damp misty drizzle over the High Peak we also had some heavy downpours.

We were pleased to note that The Roaches, on the edge of the National Park not far from where we live and where there had been severe moorland fires last year, seems well on the road to recovery.

Steam Up

One of my husband’s hobbies is Model Engineering, predominantly steam engines. More precisely 7 & 1/4 inch gauge railway engines; the ones you can actually use to pull a train of passengers along ground level tracks. His most recent build is a  model called ‘Bridget’; for the technically minded among you she is a 7 & 1/4 inch gauge 0-4-2T, but don’t ask me what that means. I believe the numbers are something to do with the wheel arrangement and the ‘T’ stands for Tank Engine but don’t quote me!

He has been building this for several years now and it hasn’t been without its problems which have seen much head scratching in the workshop. However now it is pretty well finished. This model is somewhat similar in looks to ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ so my husband has painted it ‘Thomas-the-Tank-Engine’ blue and named it ‘Thomas’ after our grandson, who was a fan of those stories when the build began. (Originally we were going to call it ‘Tiny Tom’, which was his nickname at the time but he is not-so-Tiny-Tom now!) The first time Tom saw it assembled and painted he asked “Where’s the face?” but, of course, we can’t paint the face on the engine without paying a fantastic amount in Royalties.

Thomas Steam-Up

‘Thomas’ Steam-Up

Now ‘Thomas’ has passed his boiler test and his hydraulic test and all that remains is the steam test before he can go into potential service pulling passengers, probably at the local Model Engineering Society’s track up at the County Show Ground, where they ‘steam-up’ for private club sessions and also occasionally for the paying public when events are being held.

Yesterday saw ‘Thomas’ having his first ever steam-up and run along a length of temporary track laid along the back of our house. This was mainly a success, although it did throw up one or two minor tweaks that are needed before the engine is submitted for its official test run. Our son and his family came along to watch and grandson Tom got to squeeze behind Grandpa onto the small tender which provides the driver’s seat, to also have a few runs up and down the track, followed by some time spent scooting up and down the track on the tender alone. He is too young and the engine too complicated for him to drive just yet but the tender rolls freely and has its own brake for him to apply at the end of the track.

The engine is now back in the workshop for the few minor adjustments to be attended to. Perhaps next time I write about it I will be able to show pictures of it chugging around the club track at the Show Ground. I was hoping to post a video of the engine chugging across our yard but for some reason WordPress will not let me load it here so I have had to make do with a ‘still’. Meanwhile, if anyone can tell me how to post a video I would be most grateful!

Hedgehogs

I have mentioned previously that we have a visiting hedgehog and that he is part of the reason that I have created my mini pond (which you can read about here). I have not seen him every evening, but then I don’t spend all evening looking out for him. What I have noticed however is that he makes a beeline for the bird feeders.

One of the things I regularly put out at the bird feeding station is mealworms and I had taken to sprinkling some on the ground for the ground feeding birds. This is what the hedgehog was after, the ones missed by the birds! Hedgehogs love mealworms and although there is some benefit to hedgehogs from eating mealworms apparently eating too many is bad for them. One evening I managed to take a photo of him although it is not very good and a bit out of focus. Spike, as we have come to call him, obligingly stood still (or should I say froze in fear) and scuttled away as soon as I backed off.

Hedgehog Spike

Spike the hedgehog

Last Wednesday whilst shopping for more bird food I noticed some hedgehog food on the shelf nearby so I bought some. I put a small quantity out that evening. When I looked out later there was my hedgehog ambling away from the feeders. I did not see him feeding and I could still see feed in the bowl I had placed nearby, where I was sure he would find it. In the morning it looked as if some of the food had been eaten but quite a bit of it was still there.

So last night (Thursday) I put out some more hedgehog food in the same place. When I looked out after dusk, just as it was going, dark, I saw a shadow by the bowl, so I quietly opened our French Window to get a better look and could hear a small crunching sound. A hedgehog was eating the food. I quietly shut the door again and carried on watching. Soon I saw another shadow and a second, bigger hedgehog ambled round the back of the bird feeders and went to share the bowl with the first one – mother and offspring? They ate for a while together then the larger one trundled across the lawn towards the fence. The smaller one carried on eating for a while longer before following the same route and I stopped watching.

Later, just as I was about to go to bed I decided to look out again and as I did another hedgehog appeared at the bowl of food and stayed for a couple of minutes polishing off what little bit remained. Then, much to my delight he bumbled his way the few feet through the rockery and down to my mini pond where he stayed to drink for a minute or two before trundling off in a totally different direction to the first two. Success, my pond, created with the hedgehog in mind, had been discovered!

Then my thought was; have I got two or three hedgehogs? Was the later one the larger one returning or a different one? Which is Spike? Since the one on its own was a good while later in its visit and approached and left in different directions to the first two, who had come together, I’m inclined to think that it is a third hedgehog and this was probably Spike. I find this especially exciting as hedgehogs are considered to be in decline, yet here am I with at least two and probably three visiting my garden. I’m thrilled to bits!

A Very Mini Pond

It all started with a bee drinker. We are always being told that bees need water to drink in hot weather and every year I put some out for them. This year I had placed it on top of the stump of a tree that had been felled before we moved here, but then I decided to put it on the ground at the base of the stump so that our regularly visiting hedgehog could also have a drink.

This got me thinking about some more permanent arrangement such as a mini wildlife pond. Now hubby is not a fan of garden ponds so this was going to have to be something acceptable to him. It needed to be fairly small, preferably in a container of some sort and then there was the problem of where to site it. After much thought I decided the ideal place was at the base of our rockery where it is retained from the patio by a low wall which the ‘pond’ could sit behind.

Mini pond trialFor a container I remembered an imitation wood (plastic/resin) mini half-barrel which had originally been a small water feature on the rockery until the pump broke, at which point I had got hubby to drill some drainage holes in the bottom so that I could use it as a planter. This year I had not planted it up with anything but there was the small problem of the holes in the bottom. So hubby squirted some waterproof caulking glue into the holes and when it was dry I set it in position to see how it would look. I left it in position overnight and during the night it rained. In the morning there was about half an inch of water in the bottom. When I next went out to look, an hour or so later it was dry – obviously it was leaking. Hubby decided that the caulking stuff he had used was probably past its sell-by date and we would have to think again.

So it was back to the drawing board and I was re-thinking the whole project. Was this container big enough? Could I find another? Was that the best place for it? etc. etc. I spoke to my daughter-in-law (they have a proper garden pond, which my son built), mainly to scrounge a few small water plants and she told me that they still had some spare pond-liner if I wanted to do a bigger project. I didn’t think it would go down well but I ran it past hubby.  The answer? No, stick to plan ‘A’ and he would fibre-glass over the holes.

One week later the project was back on track with the original container. The plan was to place water plants through the holes in the covered section where the original pump had sat. This area would also provide some shade. I bought some aquarium gravel to go in the bottom and we were in business. It is preferable to fill ponds with rain-water but meanwhile we had had a problem with our full water butt – it was leaning over where the paving slab it sat on had sunk at one side. We had to empty the butt to solve the problem and all the water was sent down the drain as we had nowhere to store it – so no rain water! Second best is to leave some tap water overnight in a bucket or large bowl in order for the chemicals to evaporate and this is what I did.

nearly finished pondLast Friday I visited my daughter-in-law to collect a couple of small water plants. I set the container in place, filled and planted it up, adding some floating weed for purification (which came along with resident water-snail purely by chance!). The stones have been added to act as a bee/bug drinking platform and also to give access for ‘Spike’ the hedgehog to easily drink.

On Saturday morning I woke up to find that a Life Guard had turned up for duty, though Health and Safety would not be impressed as he was not wearing any headgear to protect him from the sun and nor was there a life ring for him to throw for critters in difficulty. However this was soon rectified and the pond is now complete and fully Health and Safety compliant. Some landscaping around it has been done but a little more is still needed. Hopefully, despite its miniature size, some wildlife will find it soon. When I commented to hubby that it may be a bit small to attract much do you know what he said? “You could have made a bigger one!” Sometimes you just can’t win. Maybe in another part of the garden…

Life Guard on duty

 

In Place


Bee hive

Bee hive now in place
in the corner of the field.
Anticipation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This morning my local bee keeper brought his ‘nook’ hive up to our field and set it up. A ‘nook’ hive is a small temporary hive in which to establish a colony. In a few days he will return to check on progress and then, if all is well, begin the transfer to a proper hive. On being let out the bees circled around close to the hive to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings and by the time of his next visit he will be able to see if they are returning to the hive and bringing in pollen. He expects to be able to tell if it is going to be a viable location within a few weeks so fingers crossed.

I had a good look round while I was up there with him and I am pleased to say there are a few brambles in the hedge along the roadside and may be more along the edges of the cattle/hay field, so hopefully if I take up some cuttings to plant they should take hold. I also noted that there were a few butterflies and hover flies settling on the clover and buttercups that are already in the field and this too is a good sign. Next job is to order the flower meadow seed and plan the sewing, although it will take at least until next year for positive results so I’m hoping there will be enough to keep the bees on site while the meadowland becomes established.

Bees

I have mentioned here before that we used to run a small-holding. Several years ago we ‘down-sized’, selling the house and some of the land whilst retaining a 9-acre field with a big new barn. We moved a mile down the road into the nearby small town. In the 9-acre field we fenced an area from the road gate down to behind the barn plus a bit and the rest of the field we now let to the neighbouring farmer for cattle gazing and hay making. The fenced-off area has an opening (which can be closed off) into the field that we sold with the house so that the sheep that graze there from time to time can also graze around the barn to keep the grass down.

Over the last few years I have often thought of finding a beekeeper to keep one or two hives on our field. We are always hearing how much the bees need our help and have been keen to do my bit – short of learning to keep bees myself! Earlier in the year I turned this idea into action and advertised to see if anyone was interested in having a hive or two on our land. I eventually had one reply, from someone with whom we are already acquainted but who I hadn’t thought to ask directly! After various communication problems, not helped by our long absence in the spring, we eventually managed to get together and meet up at the field last Friday to discuss the proposal.

To say I was a little disappointed in that he didn’t seem over enthusiastic about the possibilities is a bit of an understatement. It just shows how naïve a lay person can be. We had grassed the land many years ago after it had been used for a cereal crop and the grass mix contained clover – ideal for bees one thinks. No. Apparently the clover in modern grass mixes is good for fixing nitrogen in the soil but does not produce the right sort of nectar that bees like. Modern farming methods and grassland management are bee sterile and I do have to admit there is not much in the way of wild flowers in and around our field. He was not particularly hopeful that the bees would do well there, but he has a hive that is about ready to move onto a site and is prepared to give it a go for a season.

The upshot of this is that this morning my husband and youngest son have been fencing off the bottom part of the fenced-off area so that the sheep will not knock over any hives that might be there and with a bit of luck the first hive should arrive within a week, although the honey season is practically over for this year.

I have now been giving much thought to how to make the area more honey bee friendly. To be fair there are a few houses opposite and up the lanes near-by that have nice flowery gardens and I know that some the occupants of at least one of these houses has had a beehive in the garden in the past. Our field has damson and elderberry in the hedge which should provide some spring foraging and I noticed that in the hedge between our barn and our previously owned field there is some dog-rose growing. The beekeeper bemoaned the lack of bramble, which apparently is good for the bees, so I am thinking of collecting some bramble with roots from our home garden (where I can’t get rid of it!) and planting it in the hedges up at the field. Will it take? I don’t know. I don’t know why such a ubiquitous ‘weed’ doesn’t grow there anyway, so this will be something of an experiment.

Additionally I am researching into ways to turn the fenced-off area into a wildlife meadow, starting with the smaller area we have just fenced round for the hive and expanding it if it works. It looks like this is the right time to do it as September-October, I understand, is a good time to sew the seeds. I can order mixes on-line for the clay soil of our field which can be sewn in existing grassland (no need to plough up and prepare the soil). However you do still need to create ‘bare’ patches by raking or harrowing over the ground.

As it happens we already have a bare patch where, until recently, an old shipping container used for storage was standing – I just need to loosen the soil and, before any unwanted weeds get hold, sew the mix there for a quick and easy start-up. I can’t wait to get started and am really excited about the idea of creating a new area of traditional wild-flower meadowland for birds and butterflies as well as, of course, the honey bees.

Cycling Again!

No Haiku today as I have now finished posting all 10 of my Holiday Haiku (the 10th, about falling off my bike was posted first!). This has actually worked out quite well as I shall be away for the weekend so I can start afresh on my return.

By the time you read this we will be in York for Cycling UK’s ‘York Rally’ which takes place from Friday 21st to Monday 24th June. We attended last year and enjoyed it so much that this year we are going as volunteer helpers from Thursday 20th – a day earlier than the official start of the Rally. This is making it rather confusing for me as I am writing this post on Wednesday to schedule for today, Friday (we have an early start on Thursday morning!).  We will be in our Motorhome with no electric hook-up or much in the way of WIFI so I am not even bothering to take my computer with me; I will not, therefore, be posting anything here for Monday but should be back on-line on Wednesday next week.

Being helpers does not mean we will miss out on the cycling and we are particularly looking forward to the Retro Ride which is a new addition to the programme on Saturday. We have our classic road racing bikes with us for this, but we also have one of our tandems for any other rides. The Rally offers a choice of several rides each day and other than the Retro Ride we have not yet decided which others we might do. We’ll wait until we get there to choose from the full programme and as usual I will report on the event on our return.

 

Travellers Return

I’m back. We have returned from approximately 8 weeks travelling through France and Spain in our motorhome. We have had a mixed bag of weather – snow (yes, snow), rain, thunderstorms, strong winds and I admit, some hot days with sunshine – enough to at least show some slight signs of a suntan (I’m fair skinned and don’t tan easily at the best of times), but generally a lot colder than we are used to when visiting this time of the year.

Family at La Pedals de CLip

Photo from La Pedals de Clip website

I now have an awful lot of catching up to do so I don’t intend to give you chapter and verse of my time away. However one thing we did do is take part once again La Pedals de Clip, a rally for classic road-race bikes, together with our daughter. I have reported on this event in the past (here) so there is no need for me to fully explain it again. Basically it is a fun event that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’, very friendly and enjoyable. My husband and I both rode our Henry Burton classic bikes (built locally to our home in the UK) and our daughter rode her James Fothergill which was built in Liverpool. At one point I thought I might not be able to take part, having taken a tumble from my bike a couple of weeks before the event and hurt my elbow rather badly – beware of pedestrians in Spain, they have right of way apparently and do not always look before stepping out to cross the road! (Hubby stopped suddenly to avoid hitting the pedestrian and I crashed into hubby’s bike.) Fortunately the pain had subsided sufficiently by the ride day, although I did ache a bit afterwards!

Always a fairly tough ride, up and hill and down dale with a final 1Km hill climb to the castle of Sant Marti Sarroca where the event finishes, this year’s ride was tougher than last time we did it due to an almost continuous strong headwind all the way round. (I gather that last year’s event, which we didn’t do, was worse as the weather was very cold and wet.)

We made one or two interesting observations at the cycling event. First we got the impression that there seemed to be slightly fewer participants than previously – possible due to last year’s weather – but there did seem to be more younger people in evidence, which must bode well for the future of the event. I also got the impression that there was not as many females this time and in fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was probably one of the oldest females, if not the oldest, taking part.

Before we went away I challenged myself to write at least one poem a week during the holiday. Usually when on holiday I do very little writing other than keeping a journal so I decided I wanted to make better use of some of my ‘spare time’. Although I didn’t literally  write a poem every week, (some weeks I wrote two and then maybe nothing for the next week) overall I wrote 9 poems plus 2 Elfje, 2 Tanka and 10 Haiku or Senryu and I wrote my usual journal. I have impressed myself – not bad for just under 8 weeks away! Most of the poems do need some further polishing (I didn’t say they were good poems!) but I hope to share the Elfje, Tanka and Haiku/Senryu with you over the coming days, starting here with one about my little accident:

Falling off my bike
the road bites my arm and leg.
My elbow swells up.

 

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