November Rain

November 15, 2018 4 comments

A fellow blogger (I’ve forgotten who, sorry!) recently posted a very positive piece about November, extolling all its autumnal virtues. I’ve always thought of autumn as my favourite season but that is based on late September going into October, when the leaves turn all those wonderful shades of gold and brown. Saying that reminds me of a song:

The photos in that video show what I love about autumn, but I’m afraid that my positivity about the season tends to evaporate when November rolls around: I’ve always found November a dull month. The clocks have just gone back, heralding the onset of long, dark evenings, the weather usually starts to turn from autumnal to wintery, and everything seems to be on hold until December arrives, bringing the promise of Christmas and good times with family. Unlike the USA, who have Thanksgiving Day, for us it’s a kind of nothing month. I wondered if I was alone in that so I did some research, particularly into poems about November, to see what others thought of this month.

Before I share any with you, take a look at this from Google:

image

I must admit I hadn’t realised that death was a criterion by which poets were judged! That Robin Williams movie has a lot to answer for!

The first poem I’ve chosen to share is by Thomas Hood, and is simply called November:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
November!

He doesn’t really like this month either, does he! At least he has shown me that my feelings about November are nothing new: Hood lived from 1799 to 1845 so that poem is almost 200 years old. Encouraged by finding this I thought I’d expand on this theme, as it is fertile ground for some very descriptive (and dismal!) poetry. My apologies to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, who no doubt are basking in sunshine and increasing temperatures and must be wondering what I’m on about: I guess your equivalent must be May, when autumn turns to winter for you.

Not being poetic myself, and feeling short of inspiration to recall any more poems about this month, I returned to my main reference source: Google. If you do the same you’ll appreciate how much dreary doggerel I’ve spared you by not sharing them with you here! The great (?) William Topaz McGonagall seems to have been particularly taken with bad news stories from this month. Here’s a typical example of his (thankfully) unique poetic style. One thing most of his poems have in common is that their length is inversely proportional to their artistic merit. These are just the first four verses of his poem about the Funeral of the Late Ex-Provost Rough of Dundee:

Twas in the year of 1888, and on the 19th of November,
Which the friends of the late Ex-Provost Rough will long remember,
Because ’twas on the 19th of November his soul took its flight
To the happy land above, the land of pure delight.

Take him for all in all, he was a very good man,
And during his Provostship he couldn’t be equalled in Great Britain,
Which I proclaim to the world without any dread,
Because while Provost he reduced the public-houses to three hundred.

Whereas at the time there were 620 public-houses in the town,
But being a friend of the temperance cause he did frown,
Because he saw the evils of intemperance every day
While sitting on the bench, so he resolved to sweep public-houses away.

And in doing so the good man, in my opinion, was right,
Because the evils of intemperance is an abomination in God’s sight;
And all those that get drunk are enemies to Him,
Likewise enemies to Christ’s kingdom, which is a great sin.

There are actually ten more verses of that tripe, and you can probably see why (1) I’ve only given you an extract and (2) audiences used to throw fruit and vegetables at him when he performed his poetry in public. He doesn’t sound as though he’d have been much fun at darts night with the lads in the pub, but it’s a change from poetic perceptions of the changing seasons, isn’t it!

Thomas Hardy is probably better known for his novels, but he also wrote poetry. Indeed, his final novel, Jude The Obscure, was published in 1896, and from then until his death in 1928 he only published poetry – he is rated by many as one of the best twentieth century British poets. Here’s an offering from him, entitled At Day-Close In November:

The ten hours’ light is abating,
And a late bird flies across,
Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
Give their black heads a toss.

Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.

And the children who ramble through here
Conceive that there never has been
A time when no tall trees grew here,
A time when none will be seen.

There is the beginning of a theme developing here, I think: it’s rather bleak, isn’t it! One poem that did strike me in both its beauty and brevity was this one:

Listen…

With faint dry sound,

Like steps of passing ghosts,

The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees

And fall.

That is called November Night and is by a poet I’ll admit to not having heard of before. Let’s face it, if you’d heard the name Adelaide Crapsey you’d remember it! I rather like that little poem and didn’t just choose it so that I could mention the poet’s name, honest! I found this biography of her and it seems she lived a brief and tragic life. This poem was written when she was already aware of her own mortality, having been diagnosed with tuberculosis of the brain lining, and this makes it all the more poignant for me. The imagery of passing ghosts assumes extra significance when you know that she is one herself. In just 20 words she has captured perfectly the essence of November, as I believe it.

My final poetic choice is by Robert Frost, who was mentioned in the picture above as being one of those dead poets, so it seems only fair that I share his offering on this month, which is called My November Guest:

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise

After the older poems, here’s something a little more recent to finish off with – but no less poetic for all that, in its own way:

It rather fits the theme of this being a disappointing month, I think. Stay warm and dry, if you can!

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Remembrance Sunday 2018

November 11, 2018 6 comments

I know it’s probably a little greedy of me, but I support three football teams. The reasons for that are maybe the story for another time, but not today. One of those teams – Leyton Orient (the Os) – has a proud history which is relevant today. In its earliest incarnation the club was known as Clapton Orient, and players and officials from that club played a significant role in the history of recruitment for the First World War. I thought I would share their story as my mark of respect and remembrance today.

Two years ago, to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the British Legion published the story of those brave footballers who gave their lives. You can find the full story here but I thought I’d present it as a series of screenshots for you. (If they are too small to read on your screen, clicking on them makes them much larger, then you can press the ‘back’ arrow to return here):

That story holds a very special place in the heart of every Os supporter, and has been the basis for some very moving ceremonies when the team has been playing at home on the Remembrance weekend. It is also at the heart of a play called The Greater Game, which is currently playing a limited run in London.

The words on this poppy are very familiar: they have featured in those ceremonies and reflect the losses suffered by so many at that time – like the Clapton Orient lads – and in subsequent conflicts:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

(Taken from ‘For The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon, September 1914)

On Remembrance Sunday, those words by Laurence Binyon never lose their meaning or their simple power to remind us of the sacrifice made by so many to protect the way of life we enjoy today – above all, our freedom.

I believe war to be abhorrent. However, that does not stop me from marking my respect for anyone who has ever taken part in a campaign to protect my freedom. I will observe the official silence in my own way, and will give them my silent thanks.

This year marks the Centenary of the end of the First World War, and there is much publicity for it. But I fear that with the passing of time, and without this major anniversary to remind us, the significance of this act of remembrance is decreasing, as this little poem illustrates:

Wherever you are, however you do it, I hope that you will be able to spare a moment today to give thanks for those who have died to protect your and my way of life. We should never forget. We owe them so much.

 

#SaturdaySongs No.14 – Great Lake Swimmers

November 10, 2018 4 comments

When I reblogged my #SaturdaySongs post of songs for Bonfire Night last weekend, I had a slight pang of guilt, as I have posted so few of those recently. The idea for this post came about when, earlier in the week, I was having one of my late evening sessions watching YouTube videos. I was in the middle of a run of several by one of my favourite bands, the Canadian group Great Lake Swimmers, and was scrolling through the comments when I came across someone saying they were looking forward to seeing the band play in London. This struck a chord, as I went to that show, and I then had one of those D’oh lightbulb moments: the comment was by me! Here it is, in all its glory, second one down:

As this was six years ago I guess I can be forgiven for not recalling this, and in any event I rarely post comments on YouTube so wasn’t really expecting to see myself there! This brought back some lovely memories of the gig, which actually has a very special meaning for me, and it reminded me that I had written a post about it. After digging back into the darkest recesses of my library of posts, I found the piece. It was originally written on 23 April 2013 in response to that day’s WordPress Daily Prompt. I used to write a lot of those, until they spoiled it all by moving to single word prompts that did nothing for my limited imagination. These prompts have now stopped: it seems I may not have been the only one who didn’t like the change! I was going to do this as one of my reblogs but I thought the occasion deserved a fuller post, so I’m going to share the full text of what I originally wrote and will then round things up at the end. Here’s me in April 2013:

Daily Prompt: Earworm

“The question posed in today’s prompt is “What song is stuck in your head (or on permanent rotation in your CD  or MP3 player) these days? Why does it speak to you?”

The song which I have played most since the album it’s on came out last summer is unlikely to be known by many. It is ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ by the Canadian band The Great Lake Swimmers. Here’s the official video:

“Easy come and easy go

That’s what they say when they’re about to go broke

So try not to choke

And put your arms around me and don’t ever let go”

Have you even heard of them, let alone know their music? They have been together in various incarnations since 2003 and the album this song is on – ‘New Wild Everywhere’ – is their fifth. If you’d like to find out more about them they are at www.greatlakeswimmers.com

Apart from the fact that I love this band’s music, and this song in particular, there are two answers to the question about why it speaks to me. Firstly, the message is a simple one: “everything can be collapsing around you, but I’m here to look after you” – I know it’s more complex than that, but that’s what I take as the underlying message of the song. It’s a message I like and which I think we all want to have from a special someone if life reaches the point of being dismantled around us, as in the video, or should we be going through a difficult time. As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my previous offerings, I am in recovery from depression and started this blog to encourage others that things can and do get better. But I don’t just sail blithely through life, and I still have my black dog days. I had a spell of these last week and didn’t really start feeling better until yesterday morning. This was the first song I played – it is hard not to get carried along by the tune, and the words seemed comforting after a very rough few days. That’s what the song does for me.

The second level is that this band will always be special to me for a very personal reason. Before I was ill I used to love going to live gigs, usually at least once a month. I went through a period of nearly two years when I just didn’t feel like going to one – Great Lake Swimmers at Bush Hall in London, 26th November 2012, was my first after all that time. Being able to overcome my apprehension at going, on a horrible wet Monday night, to be part of a crowd and to enjoy losing myself in the music again is something that will stay with me forever. And just to prove I was there, a very quick snippet of ‘Ballad of a Fisherman’s Wife’ :

Just to finish that evening off, a final part of the story: on the tube home I tweeted the band and thanked them for a great show. Most bands don’t reply to fan tweets like that, but GLS did – I had a very nice tweet back from Miranda, the rather lovely red headed one, saying how much they appreciated that. The perfect end to my first show after the long break!

I hope you have a special song, piece of music, poem, painting or whatever that says something for you when you need a comforting ‘voice.’ Why not share yours via the comments box, it would be interesting to see what helps, comforts and encourages you.”

Back in the here and now: as a little bonus I thought I’d also give you the song on which I made my comment. It is the title track from what was then the band’s new album, referenced in the 2013 post, and the video is nice, too:

I still play that a lot nowadays. As I said: special band for me, with special memories.

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