Category Archives: Wildlife and Nature

My Dad, Fred, and his favourite poetry (1)

My Grandfather, Will, had apparently always loved poetry, and in this respect, his son, and my Dad, Fred, was to follow willingly in his father’s footsteps. This burgeoning love of rhyme was nurtured and encouraged by the fact that, like many children in the British Empire, Fred possessed a set of  “The Children’s Encyclopedia” by Arthur Mee, a famous, familiar and popular book of the 1930s:

Arthur Mee believed that the English, and in particular the English boy, were the “peak of creation”, although my mother, well familiar both with me and her husband, thought he was a madman. Each volume of Mee’s ten volume set of encyclopedias contained sixteen different themes or subjects and great prominence was always given to the Poetry sections, which were selected by Sir John Hammerton, a famous contemporary historian. Fred also liked the dinosaur pictures too:

Fred would often quote poetry, and his three favourite lines were……

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness ”

This is a line of Keats which was automatically triggered by any mention whatsoever of autumn. Or by a walk into a wood in autumn. Or a TV programme about autumn.

Keats’ best pal, Shelley, wrote the lines which are in second place:

“Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!

Bird thou never wert,”

These words would invariably emerge should any sighting of a skylark occur, perhaps during a walk alongside a field of corn. Quite often, it would be just any bird seen to be doing skylarky type things:

In third place came the rather wise, and arguably, slightly incorrect ……

“What is this life if so full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare ? ”

The correct version has no “so” and, surprisingly, no question mark:

“What is this life if,  full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare. ”

The poem was written by William H Davies, a Welsh poet, who spent many years as a tramp or hobo, in the United Kingdom and the United States. Presumably my Dad did not know that he was Welsh. Being Welsh was never a plus point with my Dad.

Fred always professed that his favourite poet was John Clare.  You can read about him in one of my early and probably over long posts, here.

And this is John Clare, perhaps “before” and “after” the boiled egg hairstyle became popular:

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In retrospect, I have always felt that Fred saw Clare as the simple, agricultural working class man, held firmly in his place in a world dominated by the upper classes, who were, for the most part as poets, fairly worthless and useless aesthetes, lacking Clare’s poetic talents, his intelligence and his capacity for accurate observation of the world around him. Perhaps too, as a native of the simple country village of Woodville, Fred could recognise the truth of the statement by Ronald Blythe, the President of the Clare Society, that the impoverished poet was “England’s most articulate village voice”.

It is not a giant leap, of course, to say that Fred probably saw his own life as directly paralleling that of Clare, denied as he was for purely financial reasons, the chance to go to a grammar school, and to have the same education as the more successful, and much less talented, upper class people that he would meet during the rest of his life, particularly in the RAF.

Given this love of John Clare, therefore, every time that he physically saw one running about, perhaps in a school playground when he was on yard duty, Fred would always identify this black and white bird as the “little trotty wagtail”, a phrase taken from one of Clare’s most frequently quoted poems:

Little trotty wagtail, he went in the rain,
And tittering, tottering sideways he near got straight again.
He stooped to get a worm, and look’d up to catch a fly,
And then he flew away ere his feathers they were dry.

Little trotty wagtail, he waddled in the mud,
And left his little footmarks, trample where he would.
He waddled in the water-pudge, and waggle went his tail,
And chirrupt up his wings to dry upon the garden rail.

Little trotty wagtail, you nimble all about,
And in the dimpling water-pudge you waddle in and out;
Your home is nigh at hand, and in the warm pigsty,
So little Master Wagtail, I’ll bid you a goodbye.

 

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Filed under Bomber Command, History, Humour, Literature, my Dad, Personal, Wildlife and Nature

What would you do ? (13) The Solution

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys, and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation:

And here’s an enlargement of that box:

And the correct solution given on page 2 of the comic is:

So, the answer is taken, more or less, from that wonderful war film of 1958, “Ice Cold in Alex” with John Mills, Sylvia Sims, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews. All the four of them can think about in all that heat and all that sand is an ice cold beer in a bar in Alexandria, but at one point they have to wind the truck up a steep sand slope in exactly the same way, more or less, as the solution says:

 

 

 

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Filed under Africa, Film & TV, History, military, Wildlife and Nature

What would you do ? (13) The Puzzle

What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s Ned again:

The pale box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation.  Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section. Here’s the overall view:

Here’s that box enlarged:

So, just in case you can’t make out that rather blurred blue box, it reads, roughly:

“You are out on an African safari when the truck swerves off the road and sets off down a steep slope. Eventually, the truck is stopped when it hits a large boulder. But that isn’t the problem solved. What on earth can they ding-dong-diddily do to escape death? The slope they are on ends with a thousand foot drop. All they have is a rope, and without help, they cannot haul the truck back up the slope. Food and water is limited, and they cannot possibly walk all the way to their destination because of dehydration.  What can do to save themselves?”

Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

 

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Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (6) or “The Cat”, after D.H.Lawrence

The famous novelist, David Herbert Lawrence, was a Nottingham County Council Scholarship pupil at Nottingham High School from 1898-1901.

For a number of reasons, despite his fame as one of the 20th century’s greatest novelists, Lawrence soon became persona non grata at his old school, and, even more so at his old university, which was then called University College, Nottingham.

The problem was that he wrote dubious books where the main characters indulged in naughty practices which embarrassed many of the good citizens of Nottingham and elsewhere:

Furthermore, in 1912, Frieda, the wife of  Professor Weekley, the Head of the Modern Languages Faculty at University College, Nottingham, had run off with Lawrence. She left behind her her three children, who, by the divorce laws of the time, she was forbidden to see. And it was all Lawrence’s fault, and everybody in Nottingham thought Lawrence was a cad and a bounder and they were all firmly on the side of the much wronged Professor Weekley.

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Given that Lawrence was an Old Nottinghamian, and had behaved so badly, the School had little choice but to condemn him whenever the occasion arose. And those negative feelings extended as far as everything that Lawrence had ever written. Well, how could a cad and a bounder write anything of any value? And exactly the same thing happened at University College, Nottingham.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened the July 1941 edition of the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian, and found the following poem:

 

CAT

(After D.H. Lawrence)

 

In the daytime,

She only sits licking her back with a rough, pink tongue

Like emery paper rubbing on a wooden frame.

Or curls up in a chair before the fire and mews.

Only milk can tempt her into the kitchen, and then she

Laps,

As gold-fish nibble ant-eggs, or cows munch grass,

With an insatiable longing for more.

Her tail, swishing gently to and fro ;

Her little black funny nose.

She purrs, purrs more gently than a ticking clock or than a baby

breathing in his sleep.

Her small, black feet and glossy shining fur,

Her dark-green eyes blinking in the bright day sunshine.

No more lively than a tired horse, or an old man sitting on a seat in the

park.

Only occasionally does she ring in a sparrow, clawed in a moment of

fiendish exertion ;

Or a mouse, mauled by those deadly cat-claws.

 

But at night, when the dark shadows hide the corners of the roofs and

people sleep,

She goes out and meets the other cats from down the road.

Then life begins, night-life of a thousand cats,

The cat life.

The black life.

They go and roll on the irises, and on the lilies, and hold a cat-

conference behind dark trees.

 

Life returns,

The cat life.

Squealing, scratching, and miaouwing and chasing one another through

the shrubs.

Squealing like naughty children, and then miaouwing again.

And then they squeal.

I wake, and wonder what the squealing  is,

Like a child strayed from its mother.

Cats in the garden, sitting on the lilies or chasing one another through

the green shrubs.

The night-life.

The cat life.

The poem was written by DE Rhodes of 6 Cl. That is to say, Dennis Everard Rhodes of 6 Classics. Dennis was born on March 14th 1923. He was the son of the schoolmaster at East Bridgford, a country village to the east of Nottingham, and he entered the High School, on a Nottinghamshire County Council Scholarship, on September 20th 1934, at the age of eleven.

He left the school on July 29th 1941 and went to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge with an Open Scholarship.

Dennis Rhodes lived to be 97, and he died only months ago. His adult life was on the academic world stage and some of it was so academic that a simple old codger like myself cannot even understand what he was doing. So, sometime soon, there will be a blog post about Dr Dennis Rhodes PhD, and what he got up to in the last seventy years of his life.

 

 

 

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Filed under Literature, Nottingham, The High School, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (4)

The author of the following poem which appeared in the Nottinghamian of December 1940 was Robert Norman Walters of VI Classics. Robert was the son of a “Master Fruiterer” and lived at 159 Cinder Hill Road in Bulwell. He was in the High School from 1930-1941. The winter of 1940-1941 was legendary for its severity and was excellent practice for anybody thinking of taking a winter break in Stalingrad a couple of years later.

SNOW

Snow shall fall and ice

Shall bind the lane in slithering shields

Of white and whitish blue.

Winds shall blow and howl and roar

And tiles shall fall.

Wood shall burst and split

Like statues known of old.

Rivers may cease to run

When snow shall whirl and swirl

And formless roofs gleam white.

Yet when this comes,

Let our strong, deep affections

Unfrozen, freeze not.

But with winter seen afar

Retain the burning heat

Of mid-June’s torrid air.

Robert left to go to Jesus College, Cambridge to study Classics. In the section of his poem :

“Winds shall blow and howl and roar

And tiles shall fall.

Wood shall burst and split

Like statues known of old.

Rivers may cease to run”

Robert has come remarkably near the words of Wace, who was possibly Robert Wace, a Norman poet, born in Jersey and brought up in mainland Normandy.

Wace was the first author to speak of the Round Table and the Court of King Arthur :

“Eventually

All things decline

Everything falters, dies and ends

Towers cave in, walls collapse

Roses wither, horses stumble

Cloth grows old, men expire

Iron rusts and timber rots away

Nothing made by hand will last.

I say and will say that I am

Wace from the Island of Jersey”

Wace lived, approximately, from 1100-1180.

James Theodore Lester was the son of a Leather Factor & Manufacturer who lived at 42 Bedale Road in Sherwood and then at Castleton House at 5 Castle Avenue in Arnold. The poem occasionally struggles for a rhyme, but the last verse is lovely.

“When I was six”

“When I was six I’d play at boats

And build a fort with many moats

Which I’d replenish with my pail

And put my little boats to sail.

 

 

Round and round and round they’d go

Till the water ceased to flow.

Then back home I would repair

And sit upon my rocking chair.

 

When it was time to go to bed,

Upon the pillow I’d put my head,

And think and dream of things I’d done,

And call the day a happy one.

 

We’ve already seen Frank Alan Underwood of 51 Charnock Avenue in Wollaton Park with his poem ““Evacuated”. This poem is a lot deeper and a lot more chilling. It was published in April 1943.

THE MIRROR

The dead man lay upon his bed

In the pause at dawn ere the Soul had fled,

And the Lamp burned dim as the East glowed red.

The Soul rose as the man had done

For twenty years at the beck of the sun:

But as yet it knew not that Death had won.

Then still as man and not aware

It looked in the mirror to brush its hair

–Looked in the mirror and found nothing there.

Ivan Keith Doncaster wrote a poem in The Nottinghamian in March 1937 which was pretty good:

 

THE FISHPOND

There’s a fishpond in our garden,

Not very big or wide ;

But fish just love to dart about,

Among the rocks inside.

And if you sit there on the bank,

You’ll see a sudden flash—

A big fat frog has just dived in,

And made a dreadful splash.

 

The frightened fish swim swiftly round

In search of safe retreat,

The frog looks at the golden line,

And croaks his sad defeat.

When ice seals up our gold-fish pond,

Neath winter’s frozen spell ;

We just catch golden gleams below,

To tell us all is well.

 

In summer when the fountain plays,

And sends forth silver rain,

The fish all frolic in great glee,

As cooling showers they gain.

 

We feed the fish with large ant eggs,

And when the days are warm

They jump to catch the flitting flies

Which o’er the pond do swarm.

 

Some happy moments there we spend,

Watching the fish at play ;

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter too,

They move in swift array.

 

Ivan Keith Doncaster only lived from 1923-1944 but he had already succeeded in the previous year in writing the most beautiful piece of poetry by any High School boy, bar none. It summarises how much we love our oh-so-beautiful lives, yet all the time are well aware of the price we will all one day pay as the distant bells toll our inevitable doom.

Keith paid his price in the mid-upper turret of a Lancaster over the German city of Kassel on October 22nd 1943, five days after his 20th birthday.

This poem appeared in April 1936 and had Keith lived, he would have been a great poet. He has a masterful touch and is capable of the most astonishing subtlety.

GATHERING SHELLS

“Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

We think that gathering shells is fun.

Along the silvery beach we run.

And as we go beneath the sun,

We hear the distant bells.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.”

I have read that poem literally hundreds of times and I do not even begin to tire of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, France, History, Literature, My Garden, My House, Nottingham, Personal, The High School, Wildlife and Nature

Famous Adverts of Filmland (2)

Last time I talked about the American magazines which appeared in Albert Taylor’s newsagent’s shop from time to time during the early 1960s. They all had one thing in common. They had advertisements for what we all thought were rather bizarre products which were largely unobtainable in England. On the other hand, had a lorry arrived in our village, full of “Crawling Hands”, we would have been fighting each other for the chance to purchase this amazing toy for only $4.95, plus an extremely reasonable 50c for postage and handling:

Wow and double wow!! It walks across the room and the ring on the third finger sheds light over the floor. What a bargain.  I wondered how much $5.45 in 1960 might be worth today. Well, it’s between $45-$50. In English money, that’s around £34-£37. I repeat. What a bargain!

I’m not so sure about the next one though.  A whistle for dogs?

What kind of trick is that? You can’t hear it but the dog can? What rubbish. How do you know if it works?

And how will you know the dog has heard it if he is habitually disobedient? And why should he obey a whistle that you cannot hear when he can pretend he hasn’t heard it and you are none the wiser?? He’ll just carry on in the same old way and you’ve wasted your money.

This is a much better product. While my friends join the Boy Scouts, I can put on my black mask and become a member of the Judean People’s Front, or perhaps the Judean Popular People’s Front, or even the Popular Front of Judea.

What have the Romans ever done for us ? “Romanes eunt domus“:

As an adult, I can see now that the majority of the adverts appeal, for the most part, to two categories of customer. The first category is that of the person who is perhaps less intelligent, shall we say? He does not know the names of the simplest dinosaurs. He needs pictures to distinguish between a cave BEAR and a Giant BIRD, or between a GIANT WOOLLY MAMMOTH and a thirteen inch long JUNGLE SWAMP :

In the intelligent section of the magazine, however, much more technical language is used. And if you’re intelligent enough to know what a Styracosaurus is, you’ll definitely want one with a wind up motor :

It isn’t the most intelligent kind of person, though, who will pay money for an authentic fingerprint kit, but is unaware that it will be completely useless without access to the FBI fingerprint database and three years at Police College:

Other adverts just offer products for customers who want to frighten people. They want to scare the living daylights out of the last few friends they have. Perhaps they’ll do it with a monster fly:

They’d like a mask that makes them look like their movie heroes:

Or, the only full colour advert that I could find, a zombie mask:

Presumably, they will wear their mask with their eyeball cufflinks:

And what a slogan.

“NO–THEY’RE NOT REAL, BUT THEY LOOK LIKE IT !

Surely that has a future with a publicity hungry plastic surgeon. It’s certainly better than this excessively subtle 1950s ad :

I borrowed that advert from a website which boasts 39 more. Take a look. It certainly shows how attitudes towards women have altered over the years.

Or have they?

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What would you do ? (11) The Solution

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys, and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle.

It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation, as always, explained in the coloured box:

And the correct solution given on page 2 of the comic is:

“The crashed pilot took off his jacket and spread it across the swamp before him. He then leaned forward on the jacket, reaching for firm ground. In this way he eased his way to safety . For the jacket acted as a kind of platform, enabling the pilot to distribute his weight more evenly. Snowshoes act in much the same way on soft, deep snow.”

Now personally, I don’t think this would work. I think that the first time you put your jacket down it would disappear into the swamp and you’d lose it for ever. My solution, if it qualifies as such, was based on lying very still in the water/mud etc and hopefully finding a small log to act as a float. Even better would be to have an aircraft with a inflatable dinghy in the wing and to know how to find it, release it and paddle away.

I did a blogpost about this a good while ago. It was called “The Luckiest Man in the World” (4) and concerned Tom Weightman, an RAF rear gunner who survived a crash on a lake in Norway because he knew where the aircraft’s dinghy was stored, unlike his six colleagues who all perished trying to swim to shore. You can find the story here.

This was not the first time that Tom had been the only survivor. Read how he escaped a fatal crash at Dilhorne near Stoke some time previously here.

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What would you do ? (11) The Puzzle

I’m sure that you all remember the feature called “What would you do ?”. It used to appear on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and it ran from January 26th 1963 to  October 3rd 1964 when “Eagle”, itself not in the best of financial health, merged with it. The last issue of “Boys’ World” was No 89, and any of its fans left by then would have struggled to find any trace of their favourite comic in Eagle:

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Let’s take a look:

And here’s the situation, according to the blue box:

“I’m sinking and I can’t get out!”

That is the first terrifying thought in this flier’s mind. He ha escaped from his blazing plane, only to find that the ‘lake’ he has plunged into, is really a swamp. Slowly, he is being sucked deeper and deeper…within minutes, he will be completely covered. What can he do?

Here’s the Blue Box, just to prove that I’m not making all this up:

The blue box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation. Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

So…..it’s one “Dilly of a pickle”.  Sinking into the swamp. Sucked down deeper and deeper.. Only minutes left.

What can  he do??

And don’t cheat by asking an expert!

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What would you do ? (9) The Puzzle

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, and this was mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation:

Do you see him? Middle of the left hand side? The orange box. The worthless orange box, the father that the poor little orange arrow has been looking for ever since Big Box, as he then was, walked out and fled to Canada to escape the war.

The orange box sets the scene, and the task is for you to solve the situation. Perhaps you might like to write your idea in the “Comments” section.

Here’s the orange box enlarged:

So…..it’s one “A dilly of a pickle”.

A climber is trapped half way up the rock face. The rock was covered in ice, but now there’s rain pouring over the already treacherous surface.  His friend below is next to useless. He hasn’t even brought an umbrella.

So what can the climber do? To go up is as difficult as going down. And his rubber soled boots are next to useless too.

What can  he do??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pictures from my past (3)

Last time we looked at the Romano-Scottish discussions of 148 AD about the height of the New Wall . Some limited progress was made towards a solution: As promised, though, here is “Where’s Wally?” on his visit to a famous battlefield, the “Battle of the Little Bighorn” where George Armstrong Custer finished a close second to the Lakota warriors led by Crazy Horse and Tatanka Yotanka or Sitting Bull :

Wally takes some finding because he hasn’t got his usual shirt. Instead he is masquerading as a Lakota horseman on the far left of the picture. Bare chested, he has been forced to paint his skin with his trademark hoops, on this occasion in blood red:

Today though, I wanted to tell you about some pictures which were very important to me as a child, as I ploughed through the ten volumes of the Arthur Mee’s Encyclopedia which had been owned by my Dad when he was a boy in the early 1930s. Arthur Mee was a wonderful contributor to the education of children:

The encyclopedias contained a good deal about dinosaurs. I was very struck by the picture of Mary Anning, the 11 year old girl who, in 1811, found the first ever ichthyosaur skeleton:

I hadn’t realised what an incredibly hard life Mary had. She was oppressed for six things she couldn’t help. She was working class. She was poor. She was a Dissenter, a group who were not members of the Church of England. Her father died when she was eleven. She was a woman. Furthermore she was not allowed to join the Geological Society, because she was working class, poor, a Dissenter and a woman.

I didn’t ever realise that, in order to supplement her income, Ann used to sell those delightful Henry de la Beche scenes from prehistoric life. There were some beautiful ones in Arthur Mee’s “Children’s Encyclopædia”:

The first image occupied only the top part of the page, and on the lower half there was a representation of the fossils created by those splendid creatures:

To help children learn the names of the dinosaurs, they were added to the second picture. There were Ammonites, Cetiosaurus, Chelonian, Rhamphorynchus,  Scelidosaurus and Teleosaurus. Go on, have a go, you know you want to!

Every volume of the Arthur Mee encyclopedia had a full colour frontispiece. For this volume, not surprisingly, there was a picture of an Iguanodon. It is probably the most striking image of my childhood:

I love the way that this iguanodon has exactly the same enigmatic smile as the Mona Lisa. And as an added bonus, his eyes follow you all round the room, just like the world’s greatest artists do in all their pictures. Such greats as Michelangelo. Raphael. Leonardo. And Donatello.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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