When the War is Over

We are at war. It is not a conventional war. Unlike Wilfred Owen’s war we do not face the monstrous anger of guns nor are there any stuttering riffles pattering out hasty orisons; there are no shrill demented choirs of wailing shells, nor nightly rain of bombs.

Our adversary is a virus, our frontline troops those who provide essential services. As in any war we keep careful account of casualties; the news tells of another 385 deaths and the total rises to nearly 34,000; there is little else reported.

And at home in lockdown we make the best of it, hoping, fearing, waiting while all humanity appears concentrated on one thing, the war against COVID-19.

But there comes a glimmer of hope, the restrictions of lockdown are being relaxed, only slightly but it gives us greater hope that victory and normality is a little closer.

Looking forward to post pandemic life I think of these words by A.A.Milne:

“When the war is over and the sword at last we sheathe, I’m going to keep a jelly-fish and listen to it breath. When the war is over and we’ve finished up the show, I’m going to plant a lemon-pip and listen to it grow.”

A Lazy Day

A.M.

Indolent. Another lovely spring day with no laundry to hang on the line to dry. A shameful waste of such glorious weather.

P.M.

Still Bright and warm. After due consideration I decided to persist with my laziness and sit in the garden, making myself the very image of an idle Flâneur. Tried out one of the reclining chairs bought second hand at the end of last summer. Quite mesmerising looking upward through the leaves, tremulous in the gentle breeze, of a tree I have watched grow from a seedling to the point where it dominates my tiny garden. I warned H___ of the size it would grow to but she insisted it wasn’t to be cut down. Moments like these I know that I am lucky to be alive.

On the Importance of Laundry

Waking on a fine spring morning is one of life’s pleasures, it fills one with hope. It would be a shame and a waste if the fresh air and golden sunshine was not glorified by a washing line full of drying laundry.

But how quickly, how stealthily the cloudy skies of disappointment catch one unawares. But today I will not be disheartened and the laundry will be dried even though sun has been replaced by cloud.

“With just the smallest bit of neglect, the heart too can become neglected and begin to fill with worldly desires. This is why we must do the laundry.”

Shoukei Matsumoto: A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind

Disappointed again

Disappointed, though heaven knows why that should be a surprise to me. I suppose my intent to be creative was always going to end in failure, I have not one print to show for all my efforts, just many hopeful hours spent butchering Lino blocks.

Spoke to D___ today. Well we didn’t actually speak, we messaged each other. Mustn’t be so critical of technology (something I’m too often guilty of) , at least it enables people to keep in touch. Pity I was in such an aggravated mood. Must apologise tomorrow.

How Was Your Day?

Desultory .

adjective,without a clear plan or purpose and showing little effort or interest:.

That sums it up nicely and every day pretty much the same. It is shameful, maybe even sinful all this time wasting I have allowed myself to indulge in since lockdown began.

I was so determined not let it happen and to fill my time creatively, so far I’ve filled it with nothing more substantial than intentions and we all know what is said about good intentions and the road to hell. Even my passions have transformed themselves into a form of calvary. I fear the possibility I have followed this road to far.

“Facilis descensus Averno:
Noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis;
Sed revocare gradium superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est.”
(The gates of Hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this task and mighty labor lies.)

Virgil: Aeneid

Spot the Difference #2

Spot the difference. Maybe it’ll rain today, there are clouds in the sky, or maybe not. I have developed a profound laziness while in lockdown, I seldom leave the house now shunning even the garden and the lack of activity is becoming troubling. I really should make greater efforts.

VLADIMIR : How time flies when one has fun.

(Silence).

ESTRAGON: What do we do now? VLADIMIR: While waiting. ESTRAGON: While waiting. (Silence).

VLADIMIR: We could do our exercises.

ESTRAGON: Our movements. VLADIMIR: Our elevations. ESTRAGON: Our relaxations. VLADIMIR: Our elongations. ESTRAGON: Our relaxations. VLADIMIR: To warm us up. ESTRAGON: To calm us down. VLADIMIR: Off we go. (Vladimir hops from one foot to the other. Estragon Imitates him).

ESTRAGON (stopping). That’s enough, I’m tired.

VLADIMIR (stopping). We’re not in form. What about a little deep breathing?

ESTRAGON: I’m tired breathing. VLADIMIR: you’re right. (Pause). Let’s just do the tree, for the balance.

ESTRAGON: The tree? (Vladimir does the tree, staggering about on one leg).

VLADIMIR (stopping). Your turn. (Estragon does the tree, staggers). ESTRAGON: Do you think God sees me?

VLADIMIR: You must close your eyes. (Estragon closes his eyes, staggers worse).

ESTRAGON: (Stopping, brandishing his fists, at the top of his voice). God have pity on me!

VLADIMIR: (vexed). And me? ESTRAGON: On me! On me! Pity! On me!

From Waiting for Godot: Samuel Beckett.

Spot the Difference

Spot the difference. A brief moment of excitement yesterday when a duck walked down the street, now that has passed one day continues to slide seamlessly into the next. Ah, sweet ennui.

This wonderful book, The Consolation of Philosophy was composed by Boethius (c. A.D. 480-524) after being imprisoned by the Gothic emperor Theodoris.

Happy Lockdown

Wasting precious time looking out of the window, at parked cars and a brick wall. Oh, how happy I am! Well I must be. W.N.P. Barbellion in The Journal of a Disappointed Man writes:

“The true test of happiness is whether you know what day of the week it is. A miserable man is aware of this even in his sleep. To be as cheerful and rosy-cheeked on Monday as on Saturday and at breakfast as at dinner….”.

Well, having lost all sense of time I must be happy.

Loveliest of Trees

In recent weeks the emotional strain of caring for someone with dementia has been difficult to bear so I have returned to my adopted home town of Heckmondwike for a much needed rest. Once described by Elizabeth Gaskell as “a large straggling dirty village”, it is now an unassuming town. At the heart of the town is a small park which at this time of year is almost completely hidden by a delightful profusion of blossom. Sadly this colourful  spring display is short lived. As petals fall at the most gentle prompting from the spring breeze, I am reminded of the poem Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now by A. E. Housman.

On the surface it is a simple lyrical poem that enjoins us to appreciate the beauty of nature. But there is more here, it seems as though the poem also expresses a deep nostalgia, not a cosy nostalgia but a regretful nostalgia, and the poets message seems to be that we should seize the day. Yet no matter how tightly we try to seize the day the seasons will not wait for us. We grow old as surely as the petals fall and we will come to winter, but as the poem suggests there is beauty to be found even in that coldest of seasons.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now – A. E. Houseman.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Yesterday evening I had a conversation with S_ about the composer George Butterworth, sadly he destroyed much of his own work before his untimely death in 1916. Amongst his remaining works are settings of poems by A. E. Housman, including this setting of Loveliest of trees.