Posts Tagged ‘crocus’

Back on my bike, John Clare podcast and crocuses

February 23, 2017

I had my first cycle on Saturday after being off the bike for 5.5 weeks with very painful sciatica i.e. intermittently, you get a sharp pain in your side and shooting pains going down your leg – and this can happen during the day or night. Okay, it’s a fairly minor complaint but it’s very annoying and frustrating, particularly with the knowledge that cycling will make it worse. When you look up sciatica on the web, the first thing your told by all the websites I looked at is: There is no cure for sciatica. You just have to wait until it calms down and do warm up and warm down exercises before cycling. So, on the bike – tentatively. When you come back to cycling, especially when you get older, there is a change in the environment. What used to be inclines are back to hills, and what used to be small hills are now biggish hills and as for the big hills – forget about them for a while. However, I know that after a few longer cycle rides, the inclines will return to their former status, as will the little hills and the big hills can be conquered – maybe at a painfully slow rate at first.

On Saturday’s bike ride and on today’s, it was refreshing to be out looking at the countryside again, passing clumps of snowdrops now at their peak and also emergent crocus and the odd daffodil in flower. Plus, many of the fields are going green again, while others, newly ploughed, have a sheen on the turned earth which the sun catches. So it was appropriate today that, while on the bike, I listened (safely, able to hear traffic behind me) to a podcast from Melvyn Bragg’s educative and informative series In Our Time on Radio 4. This podcast ( you can listen from anywhere in the world) was on the poet John Clare  and there was a fascinating discussion by three academic experts on Clare’s childhood. He was brought up in relative poverty in the village of Helpston in Northamptonshire, where his father worked on a local farm. Clare left school at 11 and was introduced to poetry by fellow farm labourer, who showed Clare a book of poems about landscape. Clare was published in his 20s and was marketed as a poor farm labourer (a la Robert Burns in Scotland) with a gift for poetry. The podcast reveals how Clare became a poet of the countryside – from the countryside’s and its animals’ point of view i.e. Clare on his walks delved into elements such as the Nightingale’s Nest. As one of the panel observed, Clare did not observe the rural landscape “from over a 5-barred gate” as other rural poets did, but included details – such as the composition of the nightingale’s nest. Clare’s fame did not last and he ended up in a lunatic asylum, but he still wrote poems which have endured until today, later in his life. Clare’s style fell out of fashion but there has been a revival of interest in Clare by poets such as Seamus Heaney and Tom Paulin, who admired Clare’s use of local dialect words. I would recommend this podcast to everyone, not just those interested in poetry.

We are two-thirds of the way through February and the crocus flowers have added a welcome splash of early Spring colour across the UK. Here in Dunbar, the local council have planted hundreds of crocus around the town. The photos that follow are from the council-planted crop just up the road from my house. It was very windy when I took the photos but the sun was out and the crocus glittered and swayed in the wind, which is not cold today. Tomorrow, however, the temperatures are to plummet and we may get gales and snow, which means a battering  for these attractive but flimsy flowers. In this photo, I like the combination of colours, yellow, purple and different shades of green.

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Crocus on Spott Road, Dunbar

In the next photo, a close-up (difficult to do in the wind), the crocus appear to be reaching up to the sun and opening their flowers to ingest the sun’s rays.

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Close up of crocus on Spott Road, Dunbar

In the final photo, which includes both yellow and purple flowers, the crocus are like open-mouthed choir boys, singing at the top of their voices.

Crocus on Spott Road, Dunbar

Crocus on Spott Road, Dunbar

John Clare refers to the crocus in some of his poems, such as this from Early Spring “The Spring is come, and Spring flowers coming too, The crocus, patty kay, the rich hearts’ ease;”. The patty kay is the hepatica flower and the photo below is included under the Creative Commons licence.

Hepatica flower

Hepatica flower

 

 

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Tracey Herd poems, crocus show and shiny sea

February 27, 2016

Last week, the new Poetry Book Society padded envelope came through the letter box, with the new Choice inside. I didn’t (and haven’t) opened it as I still hadn’t started the previous one, Tracey Herd’s Not in this World. I heard Ms Herd speak at the Royal Festival Hall in January – see previous post – at the T S Eliot Prize readings. Herd has some arresting images in her work which is often quite dark, not to say menacing. In the first poem What I Wanted “There was a muffled/ silence each night when/ darkness married with snow”. In the 3rd poem Little Sister, the younger sibling of the narrator from America’s Midwest is killed “in a moonlit road accident”. The final 2 lines are hauntingly ambiguous “She was pushed in front of a car./ I pray to God for my own salvation”. In The Living Library, a woman’s bookshelves are filled with crime novels and the books are “sitting/ well-mannered on the shelf,/ pushed in tight to keep/ their suave murderers inside/ their victims’ choked cries unheard”. I’m only at p20 of 73 pages, so I’ll come back to Ms Herd.

 

Herd

Tracey Herd Not in this World

Last month it was snowdrops, so this month it must be crocuses. There is some debate about whether it should be crocuses or croci as the plural of crocus, but as that word is mainly thought to be originally from the Greek then, as my Latin teacher Mr Jack Milne would have said, it can’t be croci. Around Dunbar over the past few years, there has been a welcome upsurge in the planting of spring flowers by the local council and, just up the road from me at Spott Road, there has been a sudden growth of bright yellow on the grass next to the pavement. The crocus flavus – to give it its Sunday name – originated in Greece and Turkey and the ancient Greeks saw it as a bringer of cheerfulness and joy in the late winter – it is thought, although I’m never too sure about the veracity of some websites on this. Emily Dickinson’s poem LXXXIV starts with “The feet of people walking home/ With gayer sandals go-/ The Crocus-till she rises/ The Vassal of the snow”. An interesting take on the crocus being a vassal as this was a feudal tenant who was granted land by a nobleman in return for loyalty and perhaps military service. Even although the crocus is in the earth, Dickinson sees the snow as its master – until of course, she rises.

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Crocuses at Spott Road Dunbar

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Crocuses at Spott Road Dunbar

Having taken photos of the crocuses, I walked back down Golf House Road, near my house, to the beach. You could hear the waves before you saw them – an incessant, unstoppable  thundering. When I got to the promenade, the late afternoon sun was shining on the waves a bit out to sea and there was a superb light on the waves. This is very hard to capture i.e. with my limited photographic skills, but I tried. Hart Crane in his poem Voyages writes “The sun beats lightning on the waves,/ The waves fold thunder on the sand” and this beautifully describes what I was watching. I met my friend John who was coming along the prom and he said “Look at this! How lucky are we to have this on our doorstep?”. Very lucky indeed.

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Sun on the waves

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Rocks and the incoming sun-kissed tide

“Poetry is the bomb”, making chowder and crocuses

March 15, 2014

I recently bought The Forward Book of Poetry 2014. I buy  this anthology  every year as it is a collection of poems which were considered for the Forward Prizes each year. The best collection, I was very happy to see, went to Michael Symmons Roberts for his book Drysalter which I have featured on this blog e.g. here. The foreword to the book, written by Jeanette Winsterston, has a dramatic start. Winterson writes “POETRY IS THE BOMB [original capitalisation] and the safe exploding of the bomb”. The author acknowledges that this may be “too violent an image” but argues that the world is besieged by the rich, environmental and religious problems, and by information overload. Winterson concludes that “The poem as the bomb is the poem as the flash of energy capable of blasting an opening into our private bunker”. You can read the foreword by clicking on the book cover here. Today, I read one of the poems At Llantwitt Beach by Oliver Dixon, which includes the imaginative lines “the sea itself now/ that giant loom/ perpetually unravelling/ the striped tapestry/ it’s just woven”. The book is a snip at £8.99, so buy it now.

There are many, many recipes for chowder including fish – just do a search. I’ve been making smoked haddock chowder for a long time, and I started off only including smoked haddock along with leek, carrots, potatoes (mashed and chopped), fish stock, milk and crème fraiche or cream. Recently, I have started adding salmon to the chowder and including some celery. So, my method is to sweat a large, thinly chopped leek, 2 carrots diced small and 2 sticks of celery. I then put the smoked haddock and salmon, cut into big chunks, on top of the vegetables. I turn the fish and cook until it’s steamed and then I add half pint of fish stock, made up to a pint with milk. To this I add previously cooked mash potato and chopped potato. To finish, I add the crème fraiche or cream and simmer for about 10 minutes. Serve the chowder with a crispy baguette warmed in the oven, and 2 servings of this constitute a full meal. You can of course, add prawns, mussels or other fish, as chowder is one of the most flexible of soups. It tastes delicious.

March sees the crocuses emerge from grassy areas here in Dunbar and there’s a magnificent display in the nearby village of West Barns, which is known to some of its former residents as The People’s Republic of West Barns. The photos below are from Spott Road in Dunbar, just up the road from my house. The crocus is one of the oldest known flowers and following on from the snowdrops, the crocuses provide a welcome splash of bright colours at (you hope) the end of winter. Thomas Hardy’s poem The Year’s Awakening asks how the crocus bulb knows that winter might be over and that there will be “mild airs that do not numb”. Once the crocuses are above ground, however, you have to admire their beauty because, as soon as strong winds arrive, their delicate petals are threatened.

Crocuses on Spott Road

Crocuses on Spott Road

Crocus close up

Crocus close up

 

Crocus bunches

Crocus bunches

Crocus close up

Crocus close up