(Creative Commons. Photo by 663highland, 19/2/11)
scholar and poet exile –
has to be appeased.
Geiko and maiko serve tea
beneath blossom and lanterns.
beaver lamb, Bhutan, bling, capybara, clutch purse, Everest, globetrotter, Goa, Guatemala, La Giocanda, leopardskin, Noel Coward, non-U, orang-utan, shagreen, shibboleths, Sikkim, tortoiseshell, wolverine
I am reminded of my encounter with a grande dame who had experienced the days of the Raj first hand. She measured out her widowhood in coffee spoons and cigarettes.
One lunchtime – (cloth: on ; dinner : cloth off)- she sat in a cloud of smoke, like mist rising from the Ganges, and I admired her leopard skin coat. She minimally acknowledged my obeisance.
A few evenings later, she was leaving a drinks party to which I also had been invited.
By way of something to say, I asked her where her fur coat was, as she was being solicitously wrapped in a stole by a favoured minion who was to see her safely across the road. She gave me a withering look and corrected my social solecism, resulting in this poem:
He placed the mink stole round her neck –
not the fur coat she’d worn on deck.
She saw my look and then observed
the riposte which I had deserved:
“You don’t wear leopard after dark!”
“Never? Not even for a lark?”
“Precisely. It’s not the done thing.”
“What about ocelot?”
It’s like cloth for luncheon, but NOT
for dinner? One just never ought.”
“Is there any jurisdiction
on camel? Any restriction
on beaver lamb, cashmere, fox-fur? –
shibboleths on which They concur? –
a consensus aimed at non-U?”
“The proles took to fake kangaroo.
In crepuscular hours of dusk,
outrageously they sported musk
and, as far as Guatemala,
riff-raff lounged in capybara.
Minxes out in the Sahara
had bikinis of impala.
One can pose as La Giocanda
in a thong of rare red panda,
but animal right protesters
wanted bobbies to arrest us.
They showed chagrin; I owned shagreen:
clutch purses, belts in wolverine,
tortoiseshell compacts – what’s the fuss?
Darling, they’re just not one of us.
In Sikkim some said, “That’s Betty.
She’s the one who’s wearing yeti”
I would sip a margarita,
naked, on a rug of cheetah.
(I was pretty well devoured
by a rampant Noel Coward.)
He quipped, ‘Little looks much snazzier
Than zebra pants and brassiere.’
In the mountains of Bhutan,
my tippet was orang-utan
and my favourite windcheater
was two hides of tanned anteater.
(At altitude on Everest,
one needs an extra tiger vest.)
At a barbecue in Goa,
I singed my flamingo boa.
To meet the Queen, I wore a hat
and had it trimmed with a fruit bat.
There was a tiny rigmarole
when footmen took my corgi stole.
She said archly, ‘Is that dodo?’
I checked my heel: ‘Madam, no, no.
I’m sure your carpets are quite clean.’
She glared: ‘Your headgear’s what we mean.’
Though denied my decoration,
I still caused a huge sensation.
I’m a seasoned old globetrotter.
I wear stoat and I wear otter,
I’ve worn porpoise, whale and shark –
But NEVER leopard after dark.”
( A very old one which I have not published before. Not a real romance.
Imagined ones are perhaps more thrilling.)
Where should we meet, except on Prospect Hill?
(Anticipation feeds sublimity).
Wan ray of hope gilds the smog-bound tiles. Thrill
of assignation’s anonymity
lifts me beyond pagoda roofs, above
blurred Beijing skyline. If by fate,
I flew with wings of that proverbial dove,
I’d soar forever on a Willow plate.
With brandished whip Time sets off in pursuit,
but cannot bring me down to earth. This day
forbidden cities and illicit fruit
seem tangible and not mere fantasy.
But you are many years too late. Oh, why
am I so punctual, self-aware and old?
You might well be eunuch; dowager I:
for while you’ve kept me waiting, I’ve grown cold.
For introduction, see previous post.
(Photo: by Ballista at English Wikipedia, May 2006)
(a monologue, as spoken by Mary Shelley…)
I remember he called me his veiled maid
and said I had a voice like his own soul.
Up what he termed the watery staircases,
we rose, emerging under a humped bridge.
Ostensibly, we sought the Isis source,
but were we really looking for the fount
of Inspiration… Imagination?
All the while, like Narcissus, he just stared;
reflected on the depths, till weeds choked us,
at Inglesham. We lodged at The New Inn.
Peacock encouraged us to eat some chops.
Thus fortified, we strolled before the curfew,
through the ancient churchyard, which seemed to rouse
the Muse in him, for he became withdrawn
and it was only his echoing cough
which disturbed our tranquility. The spire
pointed heavenward, as if to raise heads
cast down by the dejection of their pasts.
I thought of Clara- and mother also-
and dwelt awhile on my estranged father.
Well, Wordsworth was quite right- the good die first.
What strange visions and dreams I’d had before:
my babe resurrected, but then more deaths.
Suicides ensued. Yet on that still night,
we watched the moon; heard the Angelus
and felt a kind of divine Immanence.
I wanted to drift forever on streams;
to exorcise my deep melancholy.
Harriet had threatened to prosecute:
she made his ‘atheism’ a pretext,
citing elopement and abandonment.
But he was only in love with loving:
like Augustine, he was not yet in love,
though he claimed to reject Beauty, Nature,
seeking to find full truth in a woman.
All that free love was, at times, fatiguing.
Why did I always have to share his love?
He even shared his father’s allowance.
We never made it to The Falls of Clyde,
for he could not produce the Severn fee
and Charles and Peacock could not contribute.
So, while he spoke of Lycidas and death,
I felt that I was drowning in sorrows.
Suddenly his ‘airy scheme’ seemed grounded.
I longed to return to Windsor Great Park,
but the gargoyles seemed to mock my desires.
So, what was I left with?
I edit work
and open the pages of ‘Adonais’,
gazing at that once strongly beating heart;
mummified now; wrapped around in white silk.
Is that all that remains of burning love?
No, for even among the crumbling tombs,
verse was produced on that late summer night
and his very heartbeat was metrical.
Now I hold the rhythms of his life- here-
not between the pages, but within them.
Adonais, Charles Clairmont, cor cordium, Cricklade, Douglas, dramatic monologue, Holamn Hunt, Isabella and pot of basil, Keats, Lechlade, Mary Shelley, Monty Don, Percy B Shelley, Protestant Cemetery, Robert the Bruce, Rome, Severn Canal, skiff, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Love Peacock, Tripadvisor, Valentine's Day, Walter Raleigh
(P B S’s gravestone in The Protestant Cemetery, Rome.
28/8/04 Author: carptrash Einar Einarsson Kvaran
transferred from en wikipaedia)
‘Cor Cordium‘ was inscribed on Shelley’s grave and means ‘heart of hearts.‘
Valentine’s Day seemed an apt time to look into what happened to his
Apparently Mary Shelley kept it wrapped up in white silk and it was
placed between the pages of a book, at her husband’s poem on
Keats: ‘Adonais.‘ It can’t have been the whole organ, so must have been
a sliver which was saved from immolation on the beach at Spezia.
It reminded me of Robert the Bruce’s heart being encased in a lead
casket. It was meant to be taken to The Holy Land, but Douglas failed to
dispose of it there, so it returned to Scotland.
Hearts were often removed and, like Thomas Hardy’s, were buried
separately from the rest of the remains.
It is rather ghoulish to ponder on what Isabella had in her pot of basil,
or what Walter Raleigh’s widow carried around with her in a leather bag.
Yes, sometimes it was a head and not a heart. People can be weird.
(I don’t know what you have to feed basil, the herb, with, but I never
seem to have any luck with growing it in a pot. Isabella seemed to be
quite successful, judging by Holman Hunt’s painting, but I don’t think
Monty Don would prescribe such an extreme compost.)
Anyway, my next dramatic monologue references Mary, in later life,
meditating on their September voyage up the Thames, in the
company of Charles Clairmont and the novelist Thomas Love Peacock.
They failed to reach Cricklade and the source of the river and, in any
case, did not have the £20 to pay the navigation fee for their skiff to
enter The Severn Canal. So, they stayed two nights in Lechlade and
P B S ( pernicious bowel syndrome- not) wrote a poem in the
Peacock called the inn ‘comfortable‘ so it would have had a good review
on ‘Tripadvisor,’ had such a site had been in existence.
The day before yesterday I traced the hostelry in which they stayed and
viewed a bedroom which MIGHT have been the one in which they lodged.
Then I walked through the churchyard of St Lawrence’s Church to admire
the snowdrops, which they certainly would not have done, their visit
having been in late summer, 1815.
Cor Cordium (a poem on Valentine’s Day)
see next post…
Abbots of Unreason, altruism, boy bishops, conceptual socialism, Dame Edna, damnatio memoriae, Dolce & Gabbana, Down Under, empathy, Francis Rossi, Gunnamatta Beach, Heliogabalus, Kylie, Lagerfield, Lee Mingwei, Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom, Mao, Melbourne, Mis-Rule, Moonee Ponds, NGV, Point Leo, Prince des Sots, Rick Parfitt, Saturnalia, The Moving Garden
Photo: Fir 0002/ Flagstaffotos
Still haven’t achieved my ambition to bump into Edna Everage,
in, or around, Moonee Ponds.
That great Lord (or Dame) of Mis-Rule should re-appear, as
we all have need of an indigenous stalwart of comedy, a she-oak
of satire, in these topsy-turvy times, when the rule-book has been
Yes, I am no longer Up Yonder, but am Down Under, escaping the
status quos in Europe and the USA, which seem to be presided*
over by Abbots of Unreason, Princes des Sots and other anti-
experts, who seem to be having a field day. We might as well be
governed by the likes of Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt, as our theme
tune seems to be ‘Whatever You Want.’
(* note the spelling, Donald.)
Bring back Boy Bishops!
Yet, this is no restricted time of daft usurpation, lasting till the 28th of
the month, when metaphorical steam would be released cathartically
and order restored – granted by some Saturnalian blood-letting of the
Yes, slaves becoming masters is no new concept. If you think nepotism
is novel, refer to Heliogabalus, who raised the women in his family to
senatorial titles. He used cosmetics to enhance his appearance and
saw himself as the sun god, before he was eclipsed from public memory-
damnatio memoriae. So perish all with such a degree of hubris!
But what to do while the black farce plays itself out?
Walk on Gunnamatta Beach, or Point Leo?
(You could still be sprayed by effluent from the discharge of over 40%
of Melbourne’s sewage from a nearby pipe. The surfers don’t seem to
You could eat wallaby on South Bank- surprisingly delicious with a confit
of beetroot and pickled red cabbage.
You could gawp at what I call Vulgari jewels at the NGV. Or enjoy a
confection of Kylie’s stage costumes by Dolce & Gabbana and Lagerfield…
There are plenty of distractions, I assure you. One can emulate Nero and
fiddle while everything is incinerated in a global bushfire to end all
On the other hand, you might enjoy participating in Lee Mingwei’s The
Moving Garden, a curiously apt installation and piece of conceptual
socialism which takes you out of yourself and reminds you of the intrinsic
hope of human altruism and expressions of empathy.
The cynic in Candia has to overcome alarm bells at the memory of
Mao’s Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom. Self-expression can be dodgy.
However, I felt constrained to write you a poem about this
meaningful experience, so be sure to read the next post!
Maybe there is hope for the future, possums.
Found this period piece in the garage:
(View of Zhaoqing- 7 Stars by Antoine Mouquet,
It’s just as well there are no Pearly Gates
in Spring Festival iconography,
such is the push to be the first one through.
Being British, we naturally wait,
believing that the last shall be first.
Chinese courtesy proves just as ‘Christian’
and stewards show tourists to the best seats-
or is it that we have a group booking?
Further enigmas for us to ponder.
From the Jetcat we hear the deep drum beats
of a Lion Dance; then we are whisked away
from Zhaoqing to Hong Kong, through a grey mist,
as dreich as any Calvinist devil
trafficking in foreign mud* could invoke,
to cover up his nefarious deeds.
Sampan fishermen float among lotus,
seeking a catch of mercury-tainted fry,
while passengers gorge pre-ordered noodles,
violent videos, or gawp at old films
of Yosemite’s winter wonderland,
with El Capitan’s giant monolith
more enduring than Communism.
I feel guilt, having experienced both:
the luxury of Winona Lodge and
mainland China’s dire sanitation.
My eyes stray to a peeling pagoda
while chipmunks skitter through the pristine snow
on screen. The only wildlife that I saw
in town was a dangling, threaded turtle
and two spiny creatures gnawing through mesh,
in adjacent cages outside a shop,
while all the little yellow trapped birds sang,
to celebrate the British Handover.
By the time we had reached the neon bay,
the children had grown bored by loud Kung Fu
and animal tracks in Adams country.
They were focusing on their next Dim Sum
and whether the Kitchen God, Tsao Wang,
would report favourably about them,
on his annual journey to Heaven
(which might have seemed like the United States
to those who had no hope of travelling there.)
Clutching their scarlet Lai See envelopes,
they sought Mongkok, their Chinese Paradise,
to eat mushrooms of opportunity
with relatives who must have pushed harder.
We waited politely and then disembarked.
The Star Ferry turned around and sailed back.
Absent Freinds, aperro, bachaqueros, Bolivar, Chipping Sodbury, Corbyn, Deist, Embers, Farrow and Ball, Ford Pinto, gloaming, Indian Summer, Malapropism, Pele Tower, River Camel, Sandor Marai, Snodland, The Cotswolds, Venezuela, Voltaire
Great-Aunt Augusta: RIP
Mrs Connolly, the housekeeper at Murgatroyd Syylk’s pele tower,
was exhausted. She had overseen the triple marriages- well, dual
marriages and one re-espousal- of Augustus and Virginia, Drusilla
and Nigel and her employers: Diana and the aforementioned Murgatroyd.
She had given Dru a lace-trimmed hankie when her mascara had
threatened to run, as the bride had welled up at the thought that dear old
Aunt Augusta would not be with them. The old curmudgeon had loved a
good wedding, funeral or general family crisis. She had been sorely
Gus had raised a toast to ‘Absent Friends‘ at the end of his father-of-the-
bride speech, by way of respect.
Curiously a feather had floated down onto the top table at this very point.
It was black, but was nevertheless pronounced a good omen as it
appeared to be exactly like one from Aunt Augusta’s feather boa which
she always wore- even in Snodland Nursing Home for the Debased Gentry, at
‘aperro-time‘ as she was wont to call that crepuscular, inebriation
Clearly, she was with them in spirit, if not spirits.
They had left a place at the top table for her, or for The Grey Lady whom
she had conversed with, though nobody else had had direct
communication with the resident phantom.
Mrs Connolly had kept a lid on the petulant Mrs Milford-Haven, mother
of Nigel, who had been confused by her lengthy, Corbynesque train
journey from Cornwall.
She had scarcely been over The Camel in her lifetime, but was naturally
acquainted with the concept of a hump. This was no crude allusion, but
merely indicative of her tendency to sulk when she was not the centre of
attention. Maybe it was some kind of physiological Radon effect.
Mrs Connolly had handled her robustly.
Whit’s the matter with yon wifie? she had enquired. Has she peed on a
Soon she had calmed the situation down by introducing her to a Farrow and
Ball paint chart, which gave the peevish guest big ideas for Nigel’s post-
honeymoon guilt trip, to finish off the decoration of her bathroom.
Even Gus had been a tad emotional about his more-or-less step-brother,
Hugo, who was stranded in Venezuela. He had been unable to leave the
country to take up his proffered teaching post at St Birinus Middle, even
after all the hard work Virginia had put in with visa application and so on.
A black market hawker was unlikely to be able to afford a trip to The
Bachaqueros was a romantic collective noun, but everyone knew that it was
Dru had been exasperated: Why doesn’t he just add billions of zeros to a
Bolivar note and turn up at the airport with a wheelbarrow of them?
It’s not that simple, darling, sympathised Diana. We should have opened a
‘Generosity’ site to raise funds for him, I suppose.
Oh, I hadn’t thought of crowd-funding, Dru sighed.
Or he could have sold his Ford Pinto, muttered Gus. Though we have lived to
see Voltaire’s comments on paper currency come true.
The Rev Finlay Armstrong had been aroused at the mention of this notable
Yes, it returns to its intrinsic worth, Snod explained, as if he was back in the
Flickr-Voltaire (marble) by Houdon. Nat Gallery Art, Chester Dale,
Author: Sarah Stierch
But he was not back in the classroom. He was now to be a married man
and Virginia had suggested that he burn all his old teaching notes in the
new trendy, fire pit which Murgatroyd had installed so that his guests
could sit al fresco in the midge-ridden gloaming on the few Indian
summer evenings which were dry.
That was quick! she had remarked. There was a few singed curls of paper.
Where is all the rest? Had you shredded them?
No, Snod replied. I am of the old school. All my lessons were, and indeed still
are, in my head.
At least she was assured that there had been no incineration of erstwhile
love letters. She still had a little explorative rake-through with
Murgatroyd’s self-wrought poker.
She was right about the non-incineration of the amatory epistles. Diana
still possessed them- including the Valentine card which had gone astray
like many a Messianic sheep, all those years ago and which had led to the
But this seemed to be all in the past. Virginia had been reading Sandor
Marai’s book Embers and an apposite quotation from it had come to mind:
Time is a purgatory that has cleansed all fury from my memories.
We shall subsequently see whether this is indeed the case.
Meanwhile Mrs C was showing her fatigue in her usual Malapropistic
manner: So, when will you be back from Chipping Snodbury? she asked
Murgatroyd and Diana, who had planned a little antique-hunting
expedition in The Cotswolds.
Sodbury! they had exclaimed.