Some pictures from yesterday and this week. I have very little to say about the increased craziness that is the 21st century. Ali and I had a lovely walk round the Pentlands reservoirs yesterday, and yes, there were dogs.
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
W B Yeats
Today is the bicentenary of the birth of John Tenniel, artitst and cartoonist, noted for Punch and of course Alice in Wonderland. From the entry in Wikipedia:-
“Tenniel’s “grotesque” was one reason why Lewis Carroll wanted Tenniel as his illustrator for the Alice books, in the sense of imparting a disturbing sense that the real world may have ceased to be reliable.“
What on earth would he make of that world today?
There was a fresh rax for the dictionary when a friend in Italy reminded me of Candlemas, which was yesterday. As with many religious festivals it has been absorbed from previous belief systems, but is now honoured as the day when Mary took the baby Jesus to the temple and was herself purified. It’s 40 days after Christmas (which itself wasn’t settled as being on 25th December until waaay after the event) (leaving aside any discussion on the notion that a woman has to be purified after giving birth, especially when the prescribed method is to sacrifice a load of food, mmm, who’s going to eat that, I wonder?) and is also midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Candles are blessed in churches as a symbol and literal bringer of light. The pre-Roman festival of Lupercalia had similar purpose and connotations. Lupercalia itself derives from lupus or wolf, nominally the she-wolf of Rome who nursed Romulus and Remus, the city founders of legend/myth*. Wiki has a note of all the various festivals around this date, for those who are interested. Tenerife is in with a shout.
There is a weather lore saying relating to Candlemas, a friend of mine is going to remind me of the Fife one, but it’s along the lines of – if it’s a rubbish day weather wise, that’s winter done, but if it’s fair, there’s more winter to come^. A concordant notion exists in Italy. Please get in touch if you know of similar sayings. I know that older Universities name their terms after this and other religious festivals , which would have made sense to the teachers and students of the time.
“If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again.” It is also alleged to be the date that bears emerge from hibernation to inspect the weather, as well as wolves. If they choose to return to their lairs on this day it’s interpreted as meaning severe weather will continue for another forty days at least. The same is true in Italy, where it is called Candelora.
More Latin: due to the expiatory offerings made on this day it was also known as dies Februatus , from the Latin Februum, meaning “of purification” giving February its name.
Yet more Latin: candle of course comes from candere – to glow, giving us incandescent, the French chandle, from which we obtain chandlelier, and after that I looked up chandler, which I never realised comes direct from the man who used to sell candles. This was broadened into the person who sold everything**, and then narrowed back to ship’s chandler, the person who sold everything for ships. If you know us then you know why that’s interesting!
Candlemas is also the day for taking down Yuletide decorations, the day for payment of quarterly rents (still enshrined in Scottish law as recently as 1991) and a hiring day for servants. Elsewhere I read that the person who finds the bean in the Twelfth Night cake (and is elected Lord of Misrule) has to provide food for everyone on this day.
And if all that weren’t enough, it’s Groundhog Day, a popular tradition observed in Canada and the United States on February 2nd. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early. While the tradition remains popular in modern times, studies have found no consistent correlation between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather. (The film, with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell is well worth a watch.)
Many thanks to @elisabettabackstage on Instagram for explaining part of the above.
*distinction left to the reader
^ 2020 – it rained, a lot.
**I knew that bit.
It’s Fife’s worst kept secret that the 100th new Lidl* store in Scotland will be opened here. In a marketing coup they have nobbled Burns’ Night (Day?) for the occasion, and have also, allegedly, secured the services of musician KT Tunstall for the event. KT is indeed currently working with the brand Lidl Live, and is performing in Edinburgh that same night, so the signs would appear to be in alignment. If it were needed, this is a reminder of her first performance on Jools Holland …Later.
The Ballad of the Deluge by W D Cocker (1882 – 1970)
The Lord took a staw at mankind,
A righteous and natural scunner.
They were neither tae haud nor tae bind,
They were frichtit nae mair by his thunner.
They had broken ilk edic’ an’ law,
They had pitten his saints tae the sword.
They had worshipped fause idols o’ stane
“I will thole it nae mair” said the Lord.
“Ah’m weary wi’ flightin’ at folk
Ah’ll dicht them clean oot o’ ma sicht!
But Noah, douce man, ah will spare,
For he ettles, pair chiel, tae be richt”.
So he cryet unto Noah ae day,
When naebody else wis aboot.
Sayin’ “Hearken ma servant tae Me,
An these, Ma commands, cairry oot.
A great muckle boat ye maun bigg,
An ark that can float heich and dry,
Room in’t for aa yir ain folk,
An’ a hantle of cattle forbye.
Then tak ye the fowls o’ the air
Even unto the big bubblyjocks,
And tak ye the beasts o the field
Whittrocks, an’ foumarts, an’ brocks.
Wale ye twa craturs o each,
See that nae cratur rebels.
Dinny ye fash aboot fish,
They can look after theirsels.
Herd them a’ safely aboard,
And aince the Blue Peter’s unfurled.
Ah’ll send doon a forty day flood,
An the de’il tak the rest of the warld”.
Sae Noah rocht hard at the job,
An searched tae the earth’s farthest borders.
An’ gaithered the beasts and the birds,
And telt them tae staun by for orders.
His sons, Ham and Japhet and Shem,
Were thrang a’ this time at the work.
They had fermed a wheen trees in the wid,
An biggit a great muckle ark.
Noo, this wisny done jist on the quait,
An’ neebors would whiles gaither roon.
Then Noah would drap them a hint, like
“Eh, the weather is gaun tae brak doon”.
But the neebors wi’ evil were blin’,
An little jaloused whit wis wrang, saying,
“Och, that’ll be guid for the neeps”, or
“Oh, the weather’s been drouthy owre lang”.
Then Noah, wi’ a’ his ain folk,
The beasts and the birds got aboard.
An’ they steekit the door o’ the ark,
And they lippened themselves tae the Lord.
Then boom! cam a lashin o’ rain,
Like the wattest wat day in Lochaber.
The hailstanes like plunkers cam stoat,
The fields turned tae glaur, and syne glabber.
An the burns a’ cam doon in a spate.
An the rivers ran clean owre the haughs
The brigs were a’ soopit awa’,
An whit had been dubs, becam lochs.
Then the folk were sair pitten aboot,
An they cried, as the weather got waur,
“Oh Lord, we ken fine we hae sinned,
But a joke can be cairried owre faur”.
Then they chapped at the ark’s muckle door,
Tae speir gin douce Noah had room,
But Noah ne’er headed their cries,
He said “This’ll learn ye tae soom”.
An the river roared loudly an’ deep,
An the miller was droond in the mill.
An the watters spread owre a’ the land,
An the shepherd was droond oan the hill.
But Noah and aa his ain folk,
Kept safe fae the fate o’ ill men.
Til the ark, when the flood had gien owre,
Cam dunt! on the tap o’ a ben.
An’ the watters rowed back tae the seas,
An’ the seas settled doon an’ were calm.
An’ Noah replenished the earth,
But they’re sayin, he tuik a good dram!
*Whittrocks, an’ foumarts, an’ brocks.
= weasels, and polecats and badgers.
v. To trust, rely or depend on, have confidence in a person to do something. With tae or wi: to entrust something to someone or someone with something. To expect, look for with anticipation, count on, reckon.
Note – badgers saved for posterity, most important.
Still on the poetry tack, another which always comes to mind at the turn of the year, deservedly much loved, written by old “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. * Particularly apt given the overnight weather conditions. WordPress has removed some of the spacing, apologies. (*Kirsty removed some of the grammar, likewise. )
Ode to the West Wind
Having at last arrived in a decade with a proper name, let’s see if the powers that be can arrive at any version of political and environmental sanity, although It’s already kicking off in a fairly non-positive way.
Here’s a hopeful poem for 2020.
Stop looking like a purse. How could a purse
squeeze under the rickety door and sit,
full of satisfaction, in a man’s house?
You clamber towards me on your four corners –
right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot.
I love you for being a toad,
for crawling like a Japanese wrestler,
and for not being frightened.
I put you in my purse hand, not shutting it,
and set you down outside directly under
A jewel in your head? Toad,
you’ve put one in mine,
a tiny radiance in a dark place.
from The Map and the Clock, A Laureate’s Choice of the Poetry of Britain and Ireland., ed. Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke, Faber and Faber 2016.