Rosy Cole

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Rosy Cole was born and educated in the Shires of England. Her writing career started in her teens. Four apprentice works eventually led to publication of two novels. Life intervened, but she returned to authorship in 2004. She has worked as a Press Officer and Publisher's Reader and is a member of the Society of Authors. Among widespread interests, she lists history, opera, musicals, jazz, the arts, drawing and painting, gemmology, homoeopathy and alternative therapies. Theology also is an abiding interest. As a singer, she's performed alongside many renowned musicians and has run a music agency which specialised in themed 'words-and-music' programmes, bringing her two greatest passions together. Rosy's first book of poetry, THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether, was published in April 2012, National Poetry Month, and two other collections are in preparation. As well as the First and Second Books in the Berkeley Series, she has written several other historical titles and one of literary fiction. She is currently working on the Third Book in the Berkeley Series. All her books are now published under the New Eve imprint. Rosy lives in West Sussex with her son, Chris, and her Springador, Jack, who keeps a firm paw on the work-and-walkies schedule!

Losing The Peace

 

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A reflection on challenged borders, ancestral memory and formative experience in the wake of Brexit

In 1960, I was lucky enough to be taken by a friend's family to Bavaria. It was my first trip abroad and an exciting adventure at a time when few people on this island were able to travel to other countries. Britain was slowly rising to its feet after the body blow of two world wars. The first stretch of the MI had been opened between Crick and Watford. That, in itself, was an awe-inspiring development.

I will never forget a chill night spent crossing the Channel from Dover to Ostend on a heaving tide under ragged clouds and stars. Or the revelation of sunrise over Flanders which was haunting in way I still can't articulate. History rose from the grave peopled with ghosts. The mingled bloodshed of nations in the foreign fields of that long-embattled buffer zone of the Low Countries stirred elusive fragments of memory from a life that had never been mine. The eras of Hitler, Kaiser Wilhem II, Napoleon Bonaparte, and even further back, are scored deep in their psyche.

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Nor will I ever forget my first impression of the enchanted cities of Bruges and Ghent, their Flemish step-gables wreathed in a folkloric air. The new Brussels Atomium, gleaming silver, with its connected spheres, was a startling structure to someone who had never heard of it. And the glittering heights of Luxembourg where my first night was spent off native soil I clearly recall. Next day, a brief glimpse of Saarbrücken, renowned for coal, steel and glass, then only recently having been restored to Germany, the butt, like others in that region, of disputed borders and national identity through the centuries. (Strict border controls were in force in those days which sometimes involved a lengthy wait and, if you were unlucky, the vehicle you were travelling in might be taken apart and searched for contraband.) At Stuttgart, I braved the lift to the top of the new wonder that was the 500ft television tower and took black-and-white photos, woefully lacking in perspective, of the Swabian Alps.

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From there, we journeyed down to the otherworldly beauty of the Black Forest at the German end of Lake Constance. The lake has the peculiar distinction of being the only area in Europe where no borders exist since Germany, Austria and Switzerland can lay claim to stretches of its shores. Rules regarding fishing and the movement of goods appear to be honoured with reasonable amity.

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What can I tell you of Bavaria? This was the realm of that turretted castle on the calendar sent by a penfriend, of antelope carvings and cuckoo clocks, of those fairy tale white-spotted red toadstools I'd always assumed were make believe.This was the neighbourhood of the Swiss chocolatiers, Suchard and Lindt, who put English versions in the shade! It was the province of pumpernickel, sauerkraut, weisswurst and wienerschnitzel, of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, and an eye-popping array of layered torte with cream and chocolate and fresh fruit trapped in aspic, along with equally delectable apfelstrudel. Bavarian coffee and kuchen soon became a mid-morning ritual after a brisk walk.

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The towns were so quaint and characterful, evoking atmospheres of their multi-faceted history, with their cobbles and gables and half-timbering and green bottle-glazed windows, the exuberant diversity in their styles of architecture testifying to the salutary influences of other cultures. Aromas of garlic and spice, tarry coffee and baking rye bread, were all new and enthralling to an Englisch mädchen. Everywhere we went, the German people were warm and welcoming, determined to mend fences and forgive and forget. It was easy to soak up the nouns and phrases of daily currency.

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Heidelberg Old Bridge - Konrad Linck (more atmosphere than cropped photos)

The journey home took in some of the towns the cities of the Rhine, the spa resort of Baden-Baden with its springs and wells, its pleasure gardens and casino, haunt of the rich and famous. We visited Heidelberg Old Town whose venerable university was founded during the Holy Roman Empire, then on to Mainz, Coblenz and Bonn, spending our last night at Aachen (formerly Aix-la-Chapelle) before heading for Liège and the Belgian coast. At Bonn we saw the birthplace of the maestro, Beethoven, whose 9th Symphony gave rise to the European anthem based on Schiller's Ode to Joy.

Impressions of alll the cities and regions of the holiday have enriched my life. I commemorated about forty of them by sewing their woven crests on my duffel sports bag.

I can't say that the iconic cliffs of Dover were altogether an anti-climax, but rolling through the pastoral landscape of home was like coming out of a dream.

In those early decades after the wars, we were made very aware of our blessings - and they were real enough! - but seeing what had been achieved on the Continent, the general tenor and relish of day to day life there, gave the lie to some of our homespun propaganda. The driving spirit that had kept up Britain's morale through conflict had still to be invoked through the Peace if our renewal was to keep pace with other countries. It seemed the halt in progress, the loss of manpower and the cost of two world wars had hit this country particularly hard.

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The later Fifties and the Sixties saw the rise of the nuclear family and a dynamic change in our mode of thinking. In a strange way, we were untethering ourselves from the past. Customs and attitudes we had taken for granted began to dissolve and people to forsake that focus of community for all of life's ups and downs and rites of passage, the church. Our sense of pilgrimage and instinctive dependency on God was lost. The days of pulling together for the common good, of kindness, courtesy and neighbourliness, were ebbing away.

1968 saw a recall to old values in a panic attempt to boost the economy and sink the national debt with its 'I'm Backing Britain' campaign. The Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, in his poem Now and Then, wrote this:

To work then, islanders, as men and women
Members one of another, looking beyond
Mean rules and rivalries towards the dream you could
Make real, of glory, common wealth, and home.

The whole thing proved a fiasco, a turbulent comedy of errors, misapprehensions and vying factions.

Ring any bells?

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Early in the next decade, when we persuaded Europe we had prospects, we were rescued by the European Economic Community and the strikes and demonstrations eventually died down. Whether ultimately for our good or not, it rapidly changed the face of Britain for the better, bringing our standard of living up to the mark in countless ways and opening up opportunities which, as more and more countries joined and the EU was formed, gathered momentum and sent our demands and expectations sky-rocketing.

Do we have what it takes, I wonder, in the present circumstances, to strive for the Laureate's vision?

As for me, I'm eternally grateful to those generous folk, now passed on, who took me under the wing and enabled that first excursion to the Continent. It triggered new perspectives that were to change my future.

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 Footnote: This is where we stayed in the Black Forest...in the main building. I don't remember the extension. It was the outpost of a convent and run by nuns who assist the staff of the present hotel. Its interior, if updated a little, looks very much as it did then. The local fare was wholesome and varied. It was here I had my first encounter with health-giving peppermint tea!

This is the first of two posts.

UPDATE: July 11, 2016  There have now been enough lamentations over Brexit. I feel that it is time to pull together and look to the future, so have decided to forego a second post on this theme.

 

Copyright

© Rosy Cole 2016

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
Oh, yes, Rosy – it certainly does ring bells! What a beautiful, and highly appropriate piece. Thank you!
Monday, 04 July 2016 08:01
Rosy Cole
Thanks kindly for reading and commenting. Perhaps what amazes me most is that Shakespearian appeal to the British people by the Po... Read More
Monday, 04 July 2016 12:40
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Cloud Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Image courtesy of Gerald England

 

 

There once were limpid skies
contrails ice-cut in cubic azure 
as if by skaters' blades

Dresden, Delft, and artisan
blue of bird's-eye speedwell
on gifted days of cloth-of-gold

Now scars crosshatch the heavens
each marred blank page of Grace
a grim rebuff, transcribing panic

Manic, lost-in-the-ether scrawl
whose turbid steam depicts
humanity's crushed vertebrae

It filters wide and stretches long
in jaundiced bruised-grey shrouds
screening a bewildered sun

The eye for paradise grows blind
remembered light is our epiphany
even as we breathe the chemistry

of oblivion...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright

© Rosy Cole 2016

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No Such Thing As Can't

 

My parents' wedding day

 

For better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health...when Britain joined the EEC (EU) in 1973, a whole mode of living slipped away unnoticed. Until then, attitudes, expectations and material wants had been stuck, broadly-speaking, in the Edwardian era, held in check by two world wars which reshuffled the cards completely.

Today (May 27) is my late parents' wedding anniversary. They were part of the moral and economic struggle to get the nation back on its feet during a decade or more after WW2. Hopeful newly-weds were scrambling to find properties, and I don't know to this day how my parents successfully landed a Georgian cottage when there were around four hundred applicants. The rent was ten shillings a week. That's 50p now, or .73 US dollars! The kitchen was neatly equipped with an ancient Belfast sink and built in 'copper' under which a fire could be lit for boiling laundry. The fireplace had a cast iron cooking range which, I suppose would be the forerunner of the Aga. Improvements were done at the tenant's expense and, although there was gas, it was some years before electricity was installed. One of my earliest memories is of my father reading by the light of a paraffin lamp. By then, he had a good job so they were on the way up, saving hard and aspiring to better things. My mother, who led a reclusive life, was highly skilled at half-forgotten domestic arts and was well-employed in making ends meet. She was a fine tailoress, cook, gardener, decorator, a cushion, curtain, bedspread and rugmaker, with a thousand ways to make do and mend. It was the closest she ever came to happiness, except, maybe, for the day of her marriage.

Whatever the problems and emotional constraints at home, she sent me into the world in beautiful clothes. She could never express affection or give hugs, but I do remember finely-embroidered little dresses made of bone-white parachute silk. She made pinafores edged with emerald bias-binding conjured from shiny blackout poplin, and coats with velvet collars and matching hats, pleated skirts on shoulder straps and cardigans with pretty 'fair isle' borders. Ration books were still in use and her industry with garden vegetables, salting and pickling, and the bottling of fruit, helped to stretch the budget. I remember the tangy-gold plums and glistening garnet damsons lining the pantry shelves and my father bringing home a rabbit he'd run into on his bicycle in the dark. He cycled twelve miles to the office in the summer,  worked long hours, and cycled back. In the winter, the journey was a mix of bike and train. That was before Dr Beeching axed all the branch lines which didn't pay. It certainly put car manufacturers into business! I think there were three, maybe four, families in our village who had cars. One was a taxi service.

Though the general approach to life was upbeat and the peddled wisdom was that 'there's no such thing as can't', there was what can only be described as a miasmic gloom in the atmosphere. The stench of something terrible lingered in the psyche which I later came to associate with the Holocaust. It tempered the euphoria of victory and must have emanated from Central Europe whose disintegrating cultures led to an exodus into neighbouring lands.

We may have lived in the backwoods with next to no transport, but the upheaval of war brought the world to our doorstep and was the beginning of our multi-cultural society. War hits a close-knit country especially hard and turns the demographic upside down and inside out. At the end of it, fathers came home to children they'd never seen, who viewed them as interlopers. Or fathers didn't come home, which led to many adopted and stepchildren. Evacuees returned to their parents, mostly having formed close bonds with their host families, sometimes stronger than the natural ones. Unwanted youngsters were shipped in their thousands to Australia to populate the country with 'good white stock' and provide hard labour. Allied troops hung around and started new families, else whisked off their English sweethearts to other parts of the globe.

I was too young to understand all this, but its spirit was vibrantly alive in the microcosm of the schoolyard.

The local children, bred from Danish and Huguenot stock, had the varied features and muted colouring of bloodlines mingled with Celtic, Gaelic and Saxon, as did the drawling, good-natured Americans who had the world taped and expected to be liked. Their very nationhood owed its being to the religious purges of the northern hemisphere during recent centuries.  But among this medley were those with a distinct look of exile, the raisin-eyed Jew from Golders Green who fitted anywhere and belonged nowhere but the foothills of Zion, the Italian half-caste whose father had been a POW, the Poles and Romanies with their broad cheekbones and dark and dolorous stare from the camp on the main road out of the village. They throve on rootcrops and their skin was tinged with their native soil.   Sometimes, during lessons, they were lifted on to chairs at the front of the class and encouraged to sing folk-songs in their own thrumming tongue. They sang with confidence and passion of things that were gone, of vintages that would never be repeated and dances whose measure they no longer trod, of costumes banished to the wardrobes of theatre.

I was drawn to the refugees. There was a wholeheartedness about them. They seemed to live on a metaphysical plane, imbuing every act with a tribal significance which kept their identity intact beyond their homeland. I understood the outsider’s plight, though there was no such thing as racial tension, then. The issue had not reared its head. Every child was familiar with the picture of Jesus gathering the youngsters of five Continents about his feet. We knew that the blood under the skin was one colour. Some of our soft toys were golliwogs in those days, and black dolls, which, paradoxically, were banned as un-PC to the next generation.

Then came the era of spending and shopping as a leisure pursuit. Household crafts were largely forgotten. Gypsies no longer knocked on the door to sell pegs and tell fortunes. Nor did the dapper 'man from the Pru' collect weekly insurance premiums.

They started to build motorways in Britain in the late fifties, and open supermarkets, and fit homes with central heating. The wonderful patterns woven by frost on the bedroom window on a winter's morning melted away. No more sitting around the fire as one, listening to the BBC Home Service, or reading quietly to the driven clicking of knitting needles, whilst, in another corner, the broadsheet was shaken pointedly behind which my father had retired to lap his tea in peace.

During those years, people developed a taste for going abroad. Our palate began to change. Air travel became cheaper. My parents never ventured further than the Isle of Wight, but for me there were short school trips to France and holidays on the Continent with the families of friends.

It all sounds so quaint, and barbaric, too! But I think my generation is the most privileged in history. We were linked to all that. Most of us knew we were well off. We rode the tide of economic prosperity in such a way it has followed us through to middle and later years.

If the apocalypse comes soon, if utilities fail and our method of living breaks down, we shall know how to set about re-inventing the world in an eco-friendly way, aided by developments in popular science. It behoves us to pass on our knowledge to our children and grandchildren and support those revivalist movements that are seeking a viable alternative lifestyle.

But our best gift must be the wisdom that there's no such thing as 'can't'.

The Leicestershire village of my first home. King Charles I was said to have taken refuge in this timber-framed cottage during the English Civil Wars. However, in latter years the legend has metamorphosed into one concerning Richard III on the night before the Battle of Bosworth. For many reasons, I think the latter defies credibility and the original is true.

(previously posted at pilgrimrose.com )

 

Footnote: As to the heated debate on the imminent EU Referendum, I devoutly hope voters will realise that the whole issue is bigger than party politics and nationalistic fervour.

Copyright

© Rosy Cole 2010 - 2016

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
I love reading about your childhood experience in the period after the war. You write it so well, I can almost smell, taste and f... Read More
Friday, 27 May 2016 20:17
Rosy Cole
Thank you so much, Katia, for reading and for your appreciative comments. That era seems like a different lifetime now. It's tru... Read More
Tuesday, 31 May 2016 12:32
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The Art Of The Nations

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have never belonged to a writers' group as such, but long ago attended a course run by an English Lit. lecturer where books were debated.

On one occasion, the subject of prevailing characteristics in various countries came up, how we use the shorthand of stereotypes to convey identity, and I remember a Welsh lady suddenly protesting: "But you can't nationalise human nature!'

This is something I have never forgotten because, although human behaviour arises from the drive for survival, it develops and is shaped by a myriad influences. Time, geography, prevailing climate, constitution of the ground, profile of the landscape, mythology, beliefs and social codes are just a few. These run deep in the psyche but are 'read' by the outsider through surface traits and dealings. Cultural values can differ widely and it is never safe to assume that we're all coming from the same place or envision the same desired outcome.

Years later, I came across Kahlil Gibran's interpretation of racial characteristics which provides much to ponder, and, perhaps, to disagree with. I thought it would be fun to add a few of my own and wondered if readers might like to suggest their impressions.

 

Kahlil Gibran

 

The art of the Egyptians is in the occult.

The art of the Chaldeans is in calculation.

The art of the Greeks is in proportion.

The art of the Romans is in echo.

The art of the Chinese is in etiquette.

The art of the Hindus is in the weighing of good and evil.

The art of the Jews is in the sense of doom.

The art of the Arabs is in reminiscence and exaggeration.

The art of the Persians is in fastidiousness.

The art of the French is in finesse.

The art of the English is in analysis and self-righteousness.

The art of the Spaniards is in fanaticism.

The art of the Italians is in beauty.

The art of the Germans is in ambition.

The art of the Russians is in sadness.

 

Rosy Cole

 

The art of the Americans is in sustaining the Dream.

The art of the Portuguese is in adventuring.

The art of the Antipodeans is in breaking new ground.

The art of the Romanians is in elusive presence.

The art of the Hungarians is in tribal aspiration.

The art of the Japanese is in landscape in miniature.

The art of the Scandinavians is in overcoming enclosure.

The art of the Dutch is in quiescence.

 

And to finish on a capricious note...

The art of the Sicilians, when life hands them lemons, is in the sublimity of Limoncello (de Sicilia)!

 

 

 

 

Copyright

© rosy cole 2016

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Interesting. Not sure I think art is the right word. Maybe essence though. Not that I know many Romanians. And for Japan I would s... Read More
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 03:52
Rosy Cole
You have some excellent points about those nationalities.It occurred to me some while back that St Francis of Assisi's lifespan o... Read More
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 22:21
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Latest Comments

Monika Schott Farm Reflections: The Migrant Camp
20 October 2017
Thanks, Stephen. It's an important part of history. It must be captured.
Monika Schott Farm Reflections: The Migrant Camp
20 October 2017
Thanks, Rosy, that's a lovely thing to say. I am enjoying it and why shouldn't I share the joy! The ...
Stephen Evans Farm Reflections: The Migrant Camp
20 October 2017
Wonderful that the story of this community is being preserved. Bravo.
Rosy Cole Farm Reflections: The Migrant Camp
19 October 2017
Your enjoyment of this project is infectious, Moni, and unusual and fascinating to read. It's not so...
Rosy Cole Down with Moonlight: A One-Minute Play
19 October 2017
'Course it is. I bet you calculated that when you were still in diapers, as you say over there, and ...

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