Sunday, 27 July 2014

Laurie Lee and Lorca

Last night in Granada, Alice shouted out:
'Dad, we're going somewhere where Laurie Lee went!'
So today, high up near Orgiva's Alpujarras crossroads,
In the thunderous heat haze of the Sierra Nevada,
Far from Granada's streams and rivulets
(Lorca: 'a wasteland populated by the worst bourgeoisie in Spain'),
With dry as dust river beds and hard as rock
Sunburn crags for company,
We sat beneath the lemon trees,
Olive, palm and bamboo screens
To shelter us from an unremitting sun blaze,
Thinking of Almunecar, to where Lee first walked out,
Roaming through a country on the edge of civil war,
He, sans hat, sans water, sans language,
With just a violin to chatter and converse;
How far-fetched Stroud's green wooded spring lines
Must have been to a sun sick traveller,
Trudging through the arid, high heat of Great Depression Spain -
Cider, Rosie, Slad, Sheepscombe and Stroud,
A half-remembered dream, 
Drifting through the swirling smoke of the pistols
Of Lorca's fascist assassins.

Friday, 18 July 2014

100 Years of Apples: For Day's Cottage and Rosie's Kiss

100 Years of Apples: For Day's Cottage and Rosie's Kiss

I was re-reading Pat Barker's 'The Ghost Road',
But thinking about the apple tree trunks
In our old back garden, how thin they must have been,
When cold-wind planted almost a hundred years ago,
After grand-dad came back from the trenches,
With gran, auntie Kath and my dear old dad,
Scrumping for fruit up in Sapperton,
When a small boy knew nothing of how apple-alchemy
Could slake an autumn-orchard thirst
('Or by a cider-press with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours'),
Or conjure the world of Thomas Hardy and Laurie Lee:
See Bathsheba, Tess, Gabriel Oak, Sergeant Troy,
Granny Wallon, Granny Trill, Cabbage Stalk Charlie and Miss Flynn,
Gathering outside the Woolpack as the sun slips down,
Toasting Day's Cottage with a glass of 'Rosie's Kiss',
A century of apples in a bottled literary narrative:
Mellifluous, eponymous Cotswold cider.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Robin the Poet: Time Raft

Time Raft 

Feet on the grass,
walking a steep track,
up to the cow grazed common.
A raft when I reach,
its level plain, 
ferrying flowers,
over its rumpled turf,
and travelled tracks:
cowslips in spring, 
knapweed and orchids in summer. 
A raft as i trundle along needle slim ways,
embroidering the common,
a map of wayfarers ghosts.
Tinkers, drovers, gypsies, 
all passed over this high common,
as if carried on a raft,
taking them down to the valleys:
A raft those limestone bones,
a million sea creatures of deep antiquity,
crushed into Cotswold stone,
desired by the clothiers.
quarriers tramped up here, 
where i stand in a hollowed grassy scar,
imagining the horses pulling carts,
listening to the quarriers beating
out the chant of iron on stone. 
Over this common land,
i travel as a butterfly, 
from life story of one traveller,
to songs of creaking wagon wheels:
a pace that continues,
still today over the raft of Rodborough Common, 

Robin performed this on Rodborough Common on John Clare Day - a day of collaborative reading and walking through the landscape.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Rodborough Fields and John Clare Day, July 13th

Rodborough Fields and John Clare Day, July 13th

Living in Stroud, with common land all around
The hilltops above Stroud’s Five Valleys,
And living in a county with Royalty’s
Seal of approval, chocolate box second homes,
And reverence for quilt-work field hedgerows,
It’s easy to forget the novelty
Of this seeming, traditional landscape;
It’s not always easy to re-question
The picturesque ecology of a hedge,
To reframe the cultural meanings of ‘Olde Englande’,
And rant instead about enclosure’s wrongs,
The loss of freedom, and liberty to roam,
The criminalisation of wandering;
John Clare helps us feel this transgression,
He gives voice to the ‘village Hampdens’ -
Anonymous toilers in field and home -
He rescues them from the witheringly
‘Enormous condescension of posterity’:
There once were lanes that every valley wound –
Inclosure came, and every path was stopt;
Each tyrant fixed his sign where paths were found,
To hint a trespass now who cross’d the ground;
Justice is made to speak as they command;
The high road now must be each stinted bound;
Inclosure, thou’rt a curse upon the land…’